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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXXXII–Tech ‘Solutions’ Are Us

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXXXII–Tech ‘Solutions’ Are Us

Pompeii, Italy (1984). Photo by author.

Tech ‘Solutions’ Are Us

I wanted to share another one of those conversations I have been involved in. It is not unlike many I see occur (and sometimes get involved in) when someone posts definitive support for the pursuit of complex technologies to sustain our current energy-intensive and resource-extractive living arrangements. In this particular case, it was a link I shared to an article by energy writer/researcher Alice Friedemann. The original post and comments that lead to my final response can be found at the end of this introductory few paragraphs and my final response.

First, I wanted to highlight that I am about half-way through reading and summarising another archaeology research article, with some of the arguments made in it finding its way into my final response during the conversation about technological ‘solutions’ to our energy/resource predicament. 

It’s most interesting to see how the archaeological evidence regarding past society’s adaptations to resource and environmental issues is not significantly dissimilar to modern-day attempts, except perhaps in scale (and we can thank significant surplus net energy from hydrocarbons for this). Technological innovations are pursued to help problem solve and adapt, but not all are successful and can lead to ‘collapse’. This ‘collapse’ may take centuries or, if the innovations are unsuccessful, only a generation or two.

The April 2010 article entitled Complexity and Sustainability: Perspectives From the Ancient Maya and the Modern Balinese by V.L. Scarborough and W.R. Burnside was published in the journal American Antiquity. It concludes that “Both of these complex societies used labortasking to adapt to local ecological limitations in semi-tropical settings. These societies used heterarchical organizations to accretionally engineer and manage their environments, strategies that promoted long-term resilience. Case studies such as these provide a nuanced picture of different paths to social complexity and highlight their relative costs, benefits, and potential for long-term sustainability.” 

I’m perhaps halfway through the article and its summarising (already over 15 pages of typed notes) and hope to get through it sometime in the next few weeks; the unusually high amount of precipitation our region north of Toronto has received so far this growing season has led to phenomenal growth in my garden requiring constant maintenance and most of my time. I think the unusually high humidity has also contributed to some disease issues in a few of my fruit trees that has me needing to ‘problem solve’ a bit more than usual–leaf curl in my peach trees, mosaic virus in my apple trees, and no blossoms on my cherry tree (but no sign of cherry aphids this year, a win). 

In the meantime, here’s my final response in that conversation from the following post:

Original post that I put out back on March 24, 2024: 

Peak hydrocarbons. If you’re not aware of why the peak of hydrocarbons (especially diesel) should send warning sirens blaring through our world, you need to read this article (and most of the other articles on the linked site) by energy researcher and writer Alice Friedemann.

My final response with previous commentary immediately afterwards: 

LB, We will have to agree to disagree, especially as it pertains to the feasibility and consequences of chasing complex technological ‘solutions’ to our energy predicament. 

Pre/history is pretty clear that virtually every complex society over the past dozen millennia or so has eventually ‘collapsed’. This ‘collapse’ appears to result from diminishing returns on societal investments in complexity along with overexploitation of the natural environment, especially the resources required to support growing complexities. 

Further, those societies that pursue novel technological innovations to sustain their growth tend to ‘collapse’ faster than those that do not. In fact, adoption of a misguided innovation can lead to ‘collapse’ relatively quickly, in just a generation or two. The most ‘sustainable’ societies are those that focus upon ‘labourtasking’ that leverages human and draft animal power (as opposed to technology) which serves to severely limit ecological destruction and drawdown of resources.

Rather than pursue a more sustainable path (although labourtasking is still not fully sustainable since complexities of large human groupings, even if based upon manual labour, are still resource/energy dependent and encounter diminishing returns as they grow leading to eventual ‘collapse’), we are increasingly pursuing complex and heavily resource-dependent technologies–a sure recipe for a quick and broad ‘collapse’.

Not surprisingly, this approach (and the narrative that it’s fully doable, clean/green, and sustainable) is being heavily marketed and pushed by those at the top of our power/wealth structures that stand to profit immensely from the pursuit (including academia)—to say little about the geopolitical resource wars this path spawns and that seem to be growing and spreading as we bump up against biophysical limits evermore seriously. That many (most?) support this approach is not surprising given the vast propaganda/marketing machine of our ruling caste and the vilification of dissenters.

Further, our current experiment with a global, industrial-based society has turbo-charged this ‘technotasking’ approach via its leveraging of hydrocarbons and economic machinations (i.e., debt/credit creation to pull growth from the future). The past two centuries in particular have witnessed incredible population and economic growth. While some view this as positive, this one-sided perspective completely ignores the ecologically-destructive enterprises involved and that have spread to almost every corner of the globe. And all of it, of course, depends very much upon exponentially-increasing energy/resource extraction and production, the pursuit of which has already encountered significant diminishing returns.

Part of the reason so many buy into the technotasking approach is because of the perceived ‘success’ our species has encountered over the past dozen or so millennia in using it, but this completely ignores/denies so much of the negative impacts; impacts that are metastasizing as our population and energy/resource demands grow exponentially—consider for a moment the requirements being bandied about to support the AI ‘revolution’; a pursuit that is estimating energy needs that far, far surpass current abilities and are calling for a tripling/quadrupling (or more) of our current energy/resource production/extraction.

As for a 2050 plan for a “world of 7 billion middle class affluent consumers”, we can make all sorts of ‘scientific’ predictions based upon possibilities founded upon our technological prowess and human ingenuity, but the hope of exponential growth of our exploitive and extractive consumption has already bumped up against the limits to such a path and we are increasingly seeing the negative impacts and consequences. It’s just that in our unique story-telling way we have created a world where inconvenient reality to our wishes/hopes are denied/ignored/rationalised away. 

Untestable mathematical models of the future can be devised to support anything. Sure small-scale prototypes might suggest some marginal possibilities but use one flawed assumption in the modelling to propose global adoption and the conclusions that suggest success are less than meaningless–they are dangerous, especially if we adhere to the precautionary principle.

Yes, we will likely continue to pursue these damaging and unattainable ‘solutions’ since the world’s profiteers (especially the media, financial institutions, and political systems) are pushing/supporting them. And many (most?) will support them because the idea of limiting our growth/expansion has been broadly vilified and we have been conditioned to believe such a path is our ‘right’ and that everything has a ‘solution’—if just enough resources are thrown into them–we just need to believe.

 War over resources? Never. Wars are simply some ‘other’ wishing to destroy our ‘democracy’ and living standards because they hate us. We need to protect ourselves by imposing our will upon them and then we’ll make sure their natural resources are used judiciously–especially for green/clean tech.

Overloaded planetary sinks? Exaggeration. We just need to consume more clean/green products. In fact, let’s replace every industrial product currently in existence with these ‘sustainable’ products while bringing the entire population up to ‘advanced economy’ standards. What’s not to love? Ponies and lollipops for everyone.

Sociopolitical roadblocks? Nothing the election of the ‘correct’ individual/party with the ‘proper’ regulations and policies can’t rectify. The political caste has only the best interests of the citizens and planet in mind in their decision-making.

Planetary overshoot and toxic legacies? Nonsense, we can have 7+ billion middle class consumers if we just do things ‘right’ and in a sustainable and non-polluting way. And if there are negative side-effects, we’ll figure out a way to deal with them.

Resource limits? Non-existent concern. With human ingenuity and ‘free’ markets there are no limits. In fact, if some important resources–say water–becomes scarce we’ll simply mine passing asteroids or leave our solar system for other habitable planets. Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos will get us there.

Financial machinations? Balderdash. We can fully trust the banking industry and political systems that run them. All that debt requiring even greater growth is a great thing. Just ignore all that evidence that inequality has been increasing significantly and the middle class eviscerated over the last several decades as greater and greater amounts of debt pile up resulting in increasing price inflation. 

And then there’s the notion that the so-called overwhelming support could be as ‘simple’ as a misguided paradigm/worldview that has yet to be ready for broad criticism and overturning. Paradigms have a way of protecting themselves, especially if they have the backing of the-powers-that-be and serve their interests. 

As the saying goes, however, Nature bats last. Given it’s the ninth inning, the bases are loaded, there’s no out, we’re up by only a run, and our pitcher is struggling to find the strike zone with a 3-0 count, things are looking dicey. Just believing it is possible to win because it’s in our best interest isn’t enough to prevent the walk-off hit Nature has in store for us. 

The Laws of Thermodynamics, especially Entropy, are unforgiving no matter how ‘intelligent’ our species might be. And, frankly, we’re not looking very smart given what we’ve been doing…

Commentary that began June 25, 2024:

If you are familiar with “final stage ERoI,” fossil fuel is on an energy cliff. The ratio of useful fossil energy in application to the energy required to produce it has fallen to 1.0 useful unit per 6.0 input units. Society needs about 10.0. Renewables are over 40.0.
Alaska oil has been energy negative for years. North Sea oil is marginal at best.
LFP battery is now “lifetime” warranty and cost drops another 50% yr/yr in 2024.

Perovskite tandem pv cells (made at room temperature from common recyclable materials) has passed durability field tests and is in MW installation phase of commercial production. That is a 40% efficiency gain with, again, a 50% price drop yr/yr in 2024.

Alice Friedemann
LB, LFP batteries and PV cells require fossil fuels for every single step of their life cycle, from mining, to ore crushing, smelting, transportation to hundreds of factories to make parts, more transportation from these hundreds to the single place something will be made, transport to destination, and so on, plus the electric grid can’t stay up without Natural gas

Oh, contraire…

Alice Friedemann
LB, energy storage doesn’t scale up

Alice Friedemann, energy storage scales up.

Steve Bull
LB, Sure, and to hell with the ecological destruction left in its wake.

Alice Friedemann
LB, what exactly scales up?

Alice Friedemann, every grid integration analysis by qualified scientists…. in all journal literature.
That includes the synergy of solar primary by day and wind primary by night. Their complementary production overlay to both load follow and peak match… both daily and seasonally.

Steve Bull
LB, Simon Michaux’s work challenges this assertion that EVERY analysis supports the idea of the possibility of a successful scaling up.

Steve Bull ….Michaux’s challenge has been blunted. He is a lone wolf. The literature doesn’t support his notions. Here are literally 19 thousand 2024 journal articles on the matter, including 4300 review articles.

…and where are the comprehensive and numerically detailed studies for a 2050 world of 7 billion middle class affluent consumers that do not feature RE, EV, electrification, and transactive hypergrids? Where is a master plan other than the 195 nation Paris Accord as aligned with the 195 nation IPCC?
The real plans all look like this:
ABSTRACT: “The roadmaps call for a 100% transition of all-purpose business-as-usual (BAU) energy to wind-water-solar (WWS) energy, efficiency, and storage, ideally by 2035, but by no later than 2050, with at least 80% by 2030. Grid stability analyses find that the countries, grouped into 24 regions, can exactly match demand with 100% WWS supply and storage, from 2050–2052. Worldwide, WWS reduces end use energy by 56.4%, private annual energy costs by 62.7% (from $17.8 to $6.6 trillion per year), and social (private plus health plus climate) annual energy costs by 92.0% (from $83.2 to $6.6 trillion per year) at a present-value cost of $61.5 trillion. The mean payback times of the capital cost due to energy- and social-cost savings are 5.5 and 0.8 years, respectively. WWS is estimated to create 28.4 million more long-term, full-time jobs than lost worldwide and may need only 0.17% and 0.36% of world land for new footprint and spacing, respectively. Thus, WWS requires less energy, costs less, and creates more jobs than BAU.”

Simon Michaux
LB, Soon my work comes out in peer reviewed journal. Full calculations. So I call bullshit on every one elses work and we can have a discussion. I don’t mind being different to evryone else as long as I have data to support my points.

Simon Michaux …fair enough. Thanks.

Alice Friedemann
Simon Michaux, Can’t wait to see it!

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 or the link below — 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).

Attempting a new payment system as I am contemplating shutting down my site in the future (given the ever-increasing costs to keep it running).

If you are interested in purchasing any of the 3 books individually or the trilogy, please try the link below indicating which book(s) you are purchasing.

Costs (Canadian dollars):
Book 1: $2.99
Book 2: $3.89
Book 3: $3.89
Trilogy: $9.99

Feel free to throw in a ‘tip’ on top of the base cost if you wish; perhaps by paying in U.S. dollars instead of Canadian. Every few cents/dollars helps…


If you do not hear from me within 48 hours or you are having trouble with the system, please email me: olduvaitrilogy@gmail.com.

You can also find a variety of resources, particularly my summary notes for a handful of texts, especially Catton’s Overshoot and Tainter’s Collapse: see here.

It Bears Repeating: Best Of…Volume 1

A compilation of writers focused on the nexus of limits to growth, energy, and ecological overshoot.

With a Foreword and Afterword by Michael Dowd, authors include: Max Wilbert; Tim Watkins; Mike Stasse; Dr. Bill Rees; Dr. Tim Morgan; Rob Mielcarski; Dr. Simon Michaux; Erik Michaels; Just Collapse’s Tristan Sykes & Dr. Kate Booth; Kevin Hester; Alice Friedemann; David Casey; and, Steve Bull.

The document is not a guided narrative towards a singular or overarching message; except, perhaps, that we are in a predicament of our own making with a far more chaotic future ahead of us than most imagine–and most certainly than what mainstream media/politics would have us believe.

Click here to access the document as a PDF file, free to download.

If Wishes Were Fishes — a Teachable Intermezzo

If Wishes Were Fishes — a Teachable Intermezzo

“Together we can finish the job.” — “Joe Biden”

This is the most significant reality of the world picture now: the wishes of the manager class are going in one direction while the actual dynamics of economy and politics go in the opposite direction. The managers wish for their management of systems to become as centralized and top-down as possible; but the very systems they manage are breaking down and seeking to reorganize at smaller scale, distributed locally. The tension entailed is explosive.

Forgive me for reiterating a basic principle driving this moment in history: everything organized at the gigantic scale is steaming toward failure: big governments, giant companies, the huge capital investment firms, global shipping, energy production, chain retailing, mass motoring, big electricity, big medicine, big education, big anything. They are all fixing to fail while our politicians and economists make plans based on consolidating them into one super-gigantic mega-system that will run flawlessly on computer tech magic.

The failures of each giant system will only amplify and ramify the failures in all the other systems. Take that as axiomatic. For instance, the fantastic failures in higher education now on display, largely due to the Marxian defeat of excellence, will implant a generation of incompetents in all hierarchies of management. That will result in an insidious matrix of bad decision-making. The Pareto 80-20 principle will ensure that 80-percent of all institutional energy will focus on propping up failing institutions with bad decisions that add up to broken business models (while 20-percent goes into actually carrying-out the bad decisions as policy). That explains how Pete Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation spent $7.5-billion to build seven electric car charging stations.

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

Musings on the Nature of Technology

Musings on the Nature of Technology

A picture taken during the trip (own photo)

Recently I have been on a four-day hiking trip, completing another 80 km (~50 mile) stretch of the 1171 km National Blue Trail running across my tiny country. This gave me plenty of time to tune into and ponder on the many podcasts I downloaded previously, but never had the time to listen to. One of them was a pretty long one, but it was definitely worth the time; every single minute of it. Out of the many concepts and ideas thrown out there the one that really captured my imagination was the distinction between regenerative and degenerative technologies. While this might sound abstract and theoretical at first hearing, nothing could be further from the truth. As you will see, this dichotomy explains a lot about our past, present, and yes, our future too.

Without further ado, let’s start with degeneration, as known as the decline or deterioration of things. Needless to say, everything we build or make degenerates over time. Paint peels off, rust starts to develop. Abrasion eats away machine parts. Break pads, batteries, bearings etc. all need to be replaced from time to time. Water enters concrete structures, and rusting rebars throw off large chunks of cement. Without constant maintenance and repair both buildings and machines become unusable then dangerous, until they finally break down and collapse.

Compare this to regeneration: the renewal, regrowth, or restoration of body parts. Notice the difference, how even the definition itself refers to ‘body parts’ — not machine parts. Everything in nature is in constant recycling: either growing and living, or decomposing. Nothing is exempt or goes to waste, and everything has its place and its role to play…

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

Musings on the Nature of Technology

Musings on the Nature of Technology

A picture taken during the trip (own photo)

Recently I have been on a four-day hiking trip, completing another 80 km (~50 mile) stretch of the 1171 km National Blue Trail running across my tiny country. This gave me plenty of time to tune into and ponder on the many podcasts I downloaded previously, but never had the time to listen to. One of them was a pretty long one, but it was definitely worth the time; every single minute of it. Out of the many concepts and ideas thrown out there the one that really captured my imagination was the distinction between regenerative and degenerative technologies. While this might sound abstract and theoretical at first hearing, nothing could be further from the truth. As you will see, this dichotomy explains a lot about our past, present, and yes, our future too.

Without further ado, let’s start with degeneration, as known as the decline or deterioration of things. Needless to say, everything we build or make degenerates over time. Paint peels off, rust starts to develop. Abrasion eats away machine parts. Break pads, batteries, bearings etc. all need to be replaced from time to time. Water enters concrete structures, and rusting rebars throw off large chunks of cement. Without constant maintenance and repair both buildings and machines become unusable then dangerous, until they finally break down and collapse.

Compare this to regeneration: the renewal, regrowth, or restoration of body parts. Notice the difference, how even the definition itself refers to ‘body parts’ — not machine parts. Everything in nature is in constant recycling: either growing and living, or decomposing. Nothing is exempt or goes to waste, and everything has its place and its role to play…

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

Money’s Grim Future

Money's Grim Future

Money’s Grim Future

Prepare for total control of your economic life. That is the message from Brownstone Fellow Aaron Day at his 4-hour workshop in San Jose, California last Saturday, May 11th.

Day has written the excellent book The Final Countdownwhich carefully describes the increasingly aggressive assaults on our freedoms by our government and by the global elites. He has just begun a series of workshops around the country to deliver that message and to show us a way to resist. The book was published just last year, but Day acknowledges during the presentation that he had to make alarming updates to his slides from current news, not even weeks old – more government intrusion, more legislation, and more spurious arrests, all attacking our ability to interact freely and transact our business.

As in the book, the presentation begins with a fictional account of a family set in the near future in a Western democracy, but perhaps all too familiar to current denizens of China, with their controlled currency and social credit scores. The image is easy to dismiss; it could never happen here. And yet, Day goes on to show how it actually is happening here. With a litany of article after article, official statement after statement, and video after video he makes his case. It is happening – he leaves no doubt.

Day gives ample historical reference points as well. How did we get here? It has been a long time coming. The constant push of globalist powers to remove our freedoms and control all resources has been in the works for a century. Perhaps it has never been different; the powerful seek more power, and the levers of technocracy make that easier than ever. The difference now is that the reach is truly global. There has been ever-increasing control over food, water, energy, and even the space we occupy and the air we breathe.

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

NASA Shares Photos Of Massive Explosions On Sun That Unleashed Solar Flares

NASA Shares Photos Of Massive Explosions On Sun That Unleashed Solar Flares

NASA Shares Photos Of Massive Explosions On Sun That Unleashed Solar Flares

NASA has recorded two explosions on the surface of the sun which unleashed powerful solar flares on Friday and Saturday. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory meticulously documented the solar eruptions which sent ripples of electromagnetic energy hurtling towards Earth.

“The Sun emitted two strong solar flares on May 10-11, 2024, peaking at 9:23 p.m. EDT on May 10, and 7:44 a.m. EDT on May 11. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the events, which were classified as X5.8 and X1.5-class flares,” NASA said in a statement.

What followed was a cosmic spectacle, as Earth braced for the impact of these solar storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued alerts as the first of several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) surged towards our planet.

For skywatchers across the globe, this celestial drama unfolded in stunning auroras that painted the skies with vibrant hues of pink, green, and purple. From northern Europe to Australia’s Tasmania, sky-gazers were able to capture stunning photos courtesy of the rare phenomena.

Solar storms, while mesmerising, pose potential risks to technological infrastructure. Fluctuating magnetic fields induced by geomagnetic storms can disrupt power grids, communication networks, and satellite operations.

Solar storms, while mesmerising, pose potential risks to technological infrastructure. Fluctuating magnetic fields induced by geomagnetic storms can disrupt power grids, communication networks, and satellite operations.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Starlink, acknowledged the challenges posed by the solar storm, noting the strain on satellite operations. Despite concerns, Musk reassured that SpaceX’s satellites were well equipped to handle the solar storm.

The Threat of a Solar Superstorm Is Growing—And We’re Not Ready

The Threat of a Solar Superstorm Is Growing—And We’re Not Ready

Someday an unlucky outburst from our sun could strike Earth and fry most of our electronics—and we’ve already had some too-close-for-comfort near misses

A solar flare, as seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

Powerful outbursts from the sun—like this bright, flashing solar flare and the adjacent eruption of hot glowing gas—can wreak havoc with Earth’s power grids, computers and telecommunications

The sun is ramping up for a big year.

In one sense it already had a big year, thanks to the April 8 solar eclipse. But that was a terrestrial phenomenon. What we’re gearing up for is a decidedly solar one—our star is nearing the peak of its magnetic activity cycle, which means more sunspots, more storms and, potentially, more danger to Earth.

The sun’s magnetic field is generated in its interior, where conditions are so hot that electrons are stripped from their host atoms, forming an ionized gas. A basic law of physics states that moving electric charges generate a magnetic field, and it’s this ionized-gas-induced magnetism that so profoundly affects the sun’s behavior.

Unlike Earth, which has a fairly strong and well-organized magnetic field similar to that of a single gigantic bar magnet, the sun is dominated by countless locally generated fields. Each one shapes its own parcel of the solar interior. The actual dynamics of this magnetism are fiercely complex, but to simplify, you can think of our star’s overall magnetic field strength as waxing and waning over a period of about 11 years—what we call the solar magnetic cycle.

Hot material inside the sun rises to the surface and, once cooled, sinks again in a process called thermal convection, in a very similar way to water in a boiling teakettle…

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

Everything You Need to Know About EMPs from a NASA Expert

EMPs (Electromagnetic Pulse) are a trope that is often used in prepper fiction. We often think of an EMP attack as the worst-case, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario that is just around the corner. There’s little doubt that it would change everything, but what’s the truth?

Here’s what an expert has to say about EMPs

Nobody knows this better than Dr. Arthur T. Bradley. Dr Bradley is a NASA engineer and the leading expert on EMPs in the preparedness community. He’s the author of Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness and the must-have Disaster Preparedness for EMPs and Solar Storms. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him before myself, and you couldn’t ask for a nicer, more down-to-earth person. He really knows what he’s talking about and he shares information without hyperbole. He is the person I trust the most for information in this genre.

In this compelling interview, Brian Duff interviews Dr. Bradley to get the real answers. If you want to separate fact from fiction, watch this video.

What are your thoughts about EMPs?

After watching the video, did any of Dr. Bradley’s information on the result of EMPs surprise you? Based on this, are you making any changes to your long-term preparedness plan?

Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

Is There a Road Map for What’s Ahead?

Is There a Road Map for What’s Ahead?

One of our primary survival traits is the ability to anticipate the future to avoid threats and reap higher yields. We seek a vantage point to view the road ahead, or even better a road map to what’s ahead.

Is there a road map to what’s ahead?  An enormous amount of research and projections are issued daily, proposing answers to the question: what happens next?

In my view, a good starting point is to recall that there are critical differences between open systems and closed systems. A clock is a closed system, and so its functions are predictable.  An ecosystem is an open system, and so predictions are contingent on an unknowably large number of potential changes in inputs, processes and feedback: new invasive species may arrive and displace native species, predators might be decimated by a new disease, etc.

But even open systems operate according to principles we can discern, and so they are not entirely unpredictable or chaotic. For example, when a keystone species is wiped out, the entire ecosystem collapses.

The immense powers of modern technology, engineering, cheap energy and mass media have created an illusory aura of human agency, that we can control our future in the same way we control machinery. This aura has also created a sense that human leaders or elites control our world with god-like powers of precision. This too is an illusion, as the contingencies, forces, feedbacks and second-order effects of open systems are beyond the control of any human leadership.

Consider the collapse of marriage and birthrates globally; leaders recognize the threat this poses and have tried to reverse the tide, with little effect.  Some propose that these dynamics are the result of secret agendas to reduce the human populace, but the causal links required by this theory are not persuasive:…

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

Draining the World of Fresh Water

Draining the World of Fresh Water

Two recent studies show human activity is drying up the planet’s lakes, rivers and aquifers.

“When you drink the water, remember the spring.”
— Ancient Chinese proverb

The thirst of humans and our technology for water, according to two important studies, is bottomless and accelerating, even if the precious liquid itself is finite on this planet.

One study shows that human activity has massively altered the world’s flow of surface water and imperilled water cycles critical for life as varied as fish and forests.

The other confirms that in many places on Earth aquifers and groundwater wells are being pumped and mined faster than they can be replenished.

The concept of the technosphere helps to explain the forces in play. U.S. geologist Peter Haff has described the technosphere as a parasitic offshoot of the living Earth, or biosphere. This largely autonomous force, committed to endless consumption, wields a “matrix of technology” that directs the flows of energy, materials, water and waste across the globe. It leaves in its wake enormous streams of pollution: plastic, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and the foulest of water.

Haff observes that “humans have become entrained within the matrix of technology and are now borne along by a supervening dynamics from which they cannot simultaneously escape and survive.”

But the technosphere grinds on, damming, pumping, mining, harvesting and supporting all manner of artificial environments supposedly on behalf of the world’s eight billion people, who remain largely blind to the vast amounts of water needed to sustain it all…

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

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCVI–Technological ‘Breakthroughs’, Ponzi Schemes, and ‘Green’ Energy

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCVI

February 3, 2023 (original posting date)

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

Technological ‘Breakthroughs’, Ponzi Schemes, and ‘Green’ Energy

A collection of my recent comments on posts/articles that have been shared with me via FB groups/pages. I share these to provide further ‘insight’ into where I am coming from in my understanding/learning but also to share the differing opinions/beliefs that exist (see the last/third conversation).

January 31, 2023

Post by CM via Peak Oil FB group: Article posted (https://www.freethink.com/space/space-planes?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#Echobox=1675103347) and introductory paragraph:

“On January 19, Washington-based startup Radian Aerospace came out of stealth mode, announcing that it had secured $27.5 million in funding to develop the Radian One, a first-of-its-kind space plane that flies into orbit after taking off horizontally from the ground.”

CM’s introduction: I doubt, it’ll ever be developed.

My comment: Almost all such projects, breakthroughs, magical solutions, etc. are never developed or become a literal money pit. This is one of the ways ‘hope’ is kept alive, but also how many fund their careers. Near-limitless cheap and clean fusion energy is one such animal. Always just another handful of years away. Keep funnelling funds to the industry/research teams and we can achieve it…nothing is impossible for humanity if we put our collective minds to it.

January 30, 2023

Some back and forth dialogue between SC and me in response to my last Contemplation via Degrowth FB group:

SC: The high immigration growthist policies of Canada and Australia amounts to a continuation of colonization. It seems indigenous people are so caught up in the rhetoric of diversity that they don’t call it out as such. ??

Me: That’s true. I do believe, however, that the primary purpose of such immigration policies is not for the virtue-signalling reasons provided to the masses by the government but to keep the Ponzi that is the economic system sputtering along for a few more quarters/years. With domestic populations not reproducing at a fast enough rate to keep an economy expanding, so-called ‘advanced’ economies need to steal ‘consumers’ from other countries. Much tougher for the ruling caste to extract their profits from the ‘national treasury’ when an economy is contracting.

SC: Very true. I’m glad you don’t fall into the fallacy of fearing an aging population, too, btw. https://population.org.au/discussion-papers/ageing/

Me: I would argue that the fears around a demographic cliff are mostly held by and perpetuated by economists that know (but cannot divulge openly) that our monetary/financial/economic systems are little more than a complex and very fragile Ponzi scheme (that they have helped to create and inflate). In fact, the truth of the matter is probably closer that everyone knows these are little more than Ponzi schemes but given we are all caught up in them and completely dependent upon them we all look the other way…

SC: Yeah, I’m not so sure there are so many aware people… mixed feelings if it’s true ay…

Me: I think it’s part and parcel of our ability and tendency to deny reality. See the work of Ajit Varki https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2020-08774-006

A rather contentious back and forth (with several others involved as well that I have not included) with one individual on the Peak Oil FB group we are all members of. The comments are in response to an announcement by AZ that he is interviewing Geological Survey of Finland geologist Simon Michaux and seeking questions to ask:

SP: Perhaps ask him why his assumptions on the amount of infrastructure required for energy transition is so radically different than other professional energy system modelers (who have actually had their work peer reviewed). Specifically, he assumes 150X the level of stationary battery storage requirements of others. This error then drives his other (now spectacularly incorrect) conclusions about the levels of resources required. https://twitter.com/aukehoe…/status/1594084375972712448…

Me: Auke Hoekstra’s career depends almost entirely upon the narrative he is peddling. All his income appears to come from the idea that investment in renewables is well worth it. Research grants (as a university researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology). Capital investments (as program director of Neon Research and Zenmo.com). He is highly incentivized to persuade others that investment in renewables (and his research) is worthwhile; and that critics of this are wrong. Not sure I see such bias in Simon Michaux’s work.

SP: it’s not just Auke. He just compiled the most articulate single response I have seen. It’s pretty much every single professional energy systems designer. The utilities, the capital, the whole space. Not one single professional thinks multiple days of battery storage are necessary. Let alone weeks. But then along comes Simon with his PowerPoint, and a bunch of media articles start popping up about how energy transition is not possible because we can’t build enough batteries, based on Simon’s bad forecast. At best, it wastes everybody’s time debunking his nonsense. More likely it adds enough fear uncertainty and doubt that we lean on fossil a while longer, with all the associated ecological impacts. He isn’t helping.

Me: What I find ‘interesting’, given you raise the issue of ecological impacts, is how often (always?) the ecological destruction that accompanies ‘renewables’ is left out of the equation; especially given its destruction has led to extreme biodiversity loss, probably our more and most pressing negative impact of our ecological overshoot. Those who cheerlead a shift from fossil fuels deny/ignore/rationalise away those impacts from the huge amount of fossil fuels that are still required (and may be in perpetuity) to produce alternatives and all the mining for the mineral resources to make them functional. Rare (in fact, mostly nonexistent) is the recognition by renewable cheerleaders (most who claim to be supporting it for its positive environmental/ecological aspects) that they too would destroy our natural world — particularly given how much destruction would be required to even replace a fraction of what fossil fuels currently provide.

SP: the “ecological destruction” from (most responsible) renewables (meaning not palm oil, gen 1 biofuels, etc) is minuscule compared to the fossil sources they are replacing. These impacts are not ignored. They are just a whole lot less worse. The ugly trend of the last year is that when new cleaner tech shows up, all the sudden the hard right “come and take it” types that will not stop burning oil for any reason, are suddenly environmentalists that give a sit about child labor in the Congo. Over just that one specific thing. It’s a delaying tactic, and somebody is paying for a campaign to signal boost that narrative over the last few months.

Me: As Upton Sinclair has been credited with stating: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” You seem to have (conveniently?) overlooked the dependency of non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies upon fossil fuels; so, if your argument is based upon ‘renewables’ being less destructive then fossil fuels, there is a huge gap in your logic…and you are simply rationalising away the environmental/ecological destruction that accompanies complex technologies.

SP: let’s make it crayon-level simple: I assert that renewables are capable of making more renewables, and enough net energy in top of it to keep something resembling civilization running. Others on here assert that because the systems are currently running in fossil, when they switch to renewables they will somehow cease to operate, and therefore transition to renewables is impossible. I find this assertion absurd on its face. We have and will go around in circles in this until so much of the system is transitioned that folks like Eric have to find a new asteroid or something else to profess the imminent collapse of civilization over. All of this is a distraction from the OP, which is about Simon’s work. I pointed out an error, and so far the only refutation of that has been character attacks on me or the authors I cite. Not anything to do with the actual substance of the argument.

Me: Having renewables capable of making more renewables is an assertion that may be true on a small-scale level but there is no proof in the pudding that this can be done at a scale required to support much of anything, and certainly not what most would consider ‘civilisation’. For the sake of argument, let’s assume this is possible. This does nothing to address the continued ecological destruction that would result from it. Nothing. The mining. The processing of materials. The transportation. The construction. The after-life disposal/reclamation. All are destructive and will simply compound negatively the already fragile situation we have created over the past couple of centuries of unfettered growth.

SP: really? Because we extract many orders of magnitude more fossil fuels (which cannot be recycled at end of life) than we do the minerals required for energy transition. The amount of mining required will be vastly reduced. You could counteract all new mineral requirements for energy transition by reducing the amount of land used for cow pasture by 1%.

Me: As for pointing out that those who tend to push for ‘renewables’ tend to have a vested interest (almost always economic in nature) in that narrative is not a character attack. It is a reminder that ‘objectivity’ is rare, if even at all possible, when attempting to support one’s beliefs…this is true for all of us. Now ramp up ‘renewable’ resources to ‘replace’ fossil fuels and take a different look at the chart you shared. I am not arguing in favour of fossil fuels. I am arguing both are destructive and we cannot continue to do anywhere close to the damage we are already doing. Pushing for renewables to replace fossil fuels is attempting to sustain the unsustainable while continuing to destroy the planet.

And finally, let’s not lose sight of the inconvenient fact that almost every promise of decarbonising/cleaning up/electrifying/net zeroing the industrial processes needed for ‘renewables’ are not based upon present, at-scale realities but upon accounting gimmicks, laboratory or small-scale prototypes, and as-yet-to-be-hatched chickens. There is nothing presently in place that comes remotely close to the promised land of “…in the future…” (and by the way, please invest in our research…)

SP: You just aren’t paying attention. Here is a good starting point on green steel. There is a ton out there on cement too. https://twitter.com/valenvogl/status/1620085082718617603…

Me: We all believe what we want to believe…including magical solutions that will allow humanity to continue pursuing our utopian dreams on a finite planet. I think we will leave it at agreeing to disagree. In a world of quickly declining surplus energy, continuing population growth (many with aspirations to achieve higher economic ‘prosperity’), significant diminishing returns on increasing resource scarcity, a complex yet gargantuan Ponzi-type economic system predicated upon hundreds of trillions of dollars of unplayable debt (quadrillions if we include derivatives and shadow banking), escalating geopolitical tensions, building totalitarianism, overburdened planetary sinks, massive biodiversity loss, increasing frequency and power of extreme weather events, etc., etc., I have a very, very, very difficult time having faith in all the as-yet-to-be-hatched techno-promises (especially at scale) particularly since they tend to be coming from those who profit from the continuation of the narrative that all problems are solvable — as long as we believe and divert lots of money/resources to them…


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.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCI–Mainstream Green Narratives: It’s About Selling More Industrial Products

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCI

January 16, 2023 (original posting date)

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

Mainstream Green Narratives: It’s About Selling More Industrial Products

A follow-up to Contemplation LXXXIX that responded to the idea that if enough people found true contentment and happiness by cooperating with others, humanity would discover a ‘oneness’ that could ‘achieve truly coherent action’; all within the context of pursuing a ‘sustainable’ future. The individual that shared this notion added a link to a UK House of Lords publication as a follow-up, suggesting it demonstrates ‘an evolution of ideas’. The following is my response after reading the document.

Skimmed through the document. Here are a few clues as to why what is written will not and cannot work, and, in fact, will exacerbate our overshoot:
“…through adopting new technologies…[that] will bring…economic benefits.”
“… through technological innovations and their uptake…[by] making it easier…to adopt new technologies…”
“…focus [upon]…adopting ultra-low emission vehicles…low-carbon heating technologies…”
“…several positive trends such as…growing uptake of electric vehicles…”
“…stimulate investment and innovation…”
“…focus on the rollout of low-emission vehicles…”
“…new developments [of public transportation]…”

Then there’s the entire mythical narrative around ‘net zero’ and achieving it via non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies and their associated industrial products (when really it’s about dependence upon unproven technologies and manipulative accounting). And one way of achieving this is the ‘phasing out’ of fossil fuel-based products (conveniently leaving out the inconvenient facts that ‘green/clean’ energy products rely heavily upon fossil fuels both up and down their production, maintenance, and disposal/reclamation industrial processes).

While there is much, much more in the document, these examples point to the undeniable fact that much of what is being proposed relies upon the (mandated?) adoption of ‘green/clean’ industrial products, and the continuation of, for the most part, our status quo systems. They’re simply tweaked a bit to reduce our cognitive dissonance.

Much of the document relies upon marketing/propaganda to drive behavioural change, learning from what was achieved without much pushback during the pandemic. In fact, I get the sense that the document is a stepping stone (slippery slope?) towards what some analysts have predicted: widespread pandemic-type lockdowns in the guise of combatting climate change.

And I cannot help but interpret this as further confirmation of my growing belief that this is primarily (totally?) about narrative control and forced adoption of industrial products by those who own/control the industries and resources as they attempt to consolidate/maintain/enlarge their slice of an ever-shrinking economic pie as we increasingly bump up against the limits to growth on a finite planet. To say little about the blindness to the many layers of our predicament, especially when it comes to energy and other finite resources.

My ‘fear’ is that we will do almost exactly what is outlined here because rather than challenge or disrupt the status quo power and wealth structures of the globe’s ruling caste it actually enhances them; but, as demonstrated in this document, can be wrapped up in a veil of ‘green’ and marketed to the masses as another beneficent policy/action by the ruling class for the masses. Perhaps this image sums it up best:

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXVIII–Collapse: Just Like Boiling A Frog

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXVIII

January 2, 2023 (original posting date)

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

Collapse: Just Like Boiling A Frog

As I continue to work on my multipart contemplation regarding our energy future (Part 1; Part 2), thought I would throw out this ‘brief’ one that shares my comment on the most recent post by The Honest Sorcerer, whose writing in general continues to parallel my own (probably not surprising given the increasing evidence regarding the trends in the topic(s) we discuss).

Great article. As the saying goes: it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future[1]. We mostly look at current trends and extrapolate them into the future, believing that tomorrow will unfold much like today — and we do this for pretty sound reasons but mostly because our primate brains have extreme difficulty comprehending complex systems and their nonlinear feedback loops and emergent phenomena. In a time of flux/chaos/transition, such an approach is not always such a good strategy — to say little about all the Black Swans circling overhead[2].

One of the places I default to when hoping to give some certainty to the future (something homo sapiens strongly desire[3]) is the past. This is likely because of my ‘brief’ educational background and work in pre/history (aka archaeology)[4].

While technology has dramatically changed some aspects of how we re/act (i.e., adapt) to our changing environment through our problem-solving abilities, we tend to follow a similar path to our distant ancestors by way of leveraging our tools and ingenuity to help us survive and adapt (agriculture being perhaps the big one that resulted in food surpluses, sedentary lifestyles, exponentially increasing populations, and eventually organizational structures that led to differential access to resources, sociopolitical complexity and, perhaps finally, territorial competition[5]); but these solely human abilities can only take us so far in a world of biogeochemical limits — particularly when the energy required to sustain all our complexities have encountered significant diminishing returns and resulted in catastrophic ecological systems breakdown.

Mix in cognitive and social psychology, biological principles, and physical limits and laws, and we humans can more or less get a better picture of the path(s) we are likely to take in our societal evolutionary journey. One only need review the business-as-usual scenario painted by Meadows et al. in The Limits to Growth for a fairly accurate longer-term prediction of how a world with hard limits will unfold[6].

Based upon all previous experiments with complex societies over the past ten millennia or so, ‘collapse’ appears unavoidable. This decline in complexity (which is what ‘collapse’ is when one gets right down to it and ignores all the emotional baggage we’ve tied to the term) manifests itself in less; less in terms of: social differentiation/stratification; occupational specialization; centralised control by political elite; behavioural control/regimentation; investment in the epiphenomena of complexity — i.e., monumental architecture, artistic and literary development; flow of information between groups; sharing, trading and redistribution of resources; and, coordination between polities[7]. This is a simplification (or Great Simplification as Nate Hagens has termed it[8]) of our adaptive complexities, something that likely would have happened much sooner had we not leveraged fossil fuels to hyper-complexify human adaptations and extend/expand — temporarily — the planet’s carrying capacity for homo sapiens.

Given how far we’ve overshot our natural environmental carrying capacity and consequently degraded our much needed environments and ecological systems — and overexploited virtually every corner of our planet — this inevitable simplification may actually end up being even more dramatic than previous experiments as Catton has pointed out in Overshoot[9].

The journey to this endgame of a substantially simpler future is sure to be the hard part. Increasing geopolitical tensions between competing polities for scarcer resources is sure to occur. Concomitantly, the ruling caste is certain to tighten their grip on their domestic populations by way of authoritarian tendencies (e.g., behavioural and narrative control via increased mass surveillance, militarisation of police, media influence). We are going to witness a continuing breakdown of ecological systems and environmental degradation yet be told these are temporary or reflective of ‘natural’ change. Our Ponzi-type financial/monetary/economic systems are going to be further manipulated from their current highly-manipulated states and any ‘temporary’ deviations from the economy-is-great narrative will be blamed on some evil ‘other’ rather than our own ruling caste and their ongoing machinations.

Like the story about being able to boil a frog alive because of minute temperature changes that go unnoticed, we may miss the little steps that take us to an entirely different world than the one we currently exist within and accept that everything is ‘normal’ despite evidence to the contrary. The ruling caste has learned to be quite adept in manipulating our beliefs about life and their abilities to ‘protect’ us.

All of this said, the future is both unknowable and unpredictable. It will hold many surprises, particularly for the vast majority of people who are just struggling to get through another day/week/year and tend to defer to the ‘authority’ figures that promise them this, that, and everything…

[1] See this.

[2] See this.

[3] See this.

[4] Although my career was in education, I spent a handful of years in university studying and practising archaeology — graduating with a Master of Arts in the subject.

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

[6] See this.

[7] See this.

[8] See this.

[9] See this.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXVII–Limitless, ‘Clean’ Energy: More Magical Thinking

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXVII

December 29, 2022 (original posting date)

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

Limitless, ‘Clean’ Energy: More Magical Thinking

A brief contemplation that shares my comment on the latest post by The Honest Sorcerer regarding the recent fusion energy ‘breakthrough’ that has been making the rounds on many media sites. My current ‘bias’, given my last post, has me viewing this particular topic in a focused way that I outline below.

You’ve hit the nail on the head of the dominant narrative and mass magical thinking that goes on in our world around notions of limitless and ‘clean’ energy: given time (and funding/resources), our human ingenuity and technological prowess can ‘solve’ any problem thrown our way. Limits imposed by our existence on a finite planet are minuscule compared to our unfettered imaginations and abilities provided by our opposable thumbs. Finite limits? Meh. Ecological destruction? Who cares. Global collapse? Nothing to see, look over here…

And you ask a pertinent question: “Who in their sane minds approved the budget for all this?!”

I think energy analyst Art Berman highlights the nefarious actors that have done just this (see here). As he argues, not only are the claims about the ‘breakthrough’ a big nothing burger (since the energy-return-on-investment is about 0.005, or basically zero) but the announcement just happened to coincide with an announcement by the U.S. Congress to fund to the tune of $624 million this type of research.

Given the ties to the military that lay in the shadows of the event and the media propaganda about this fusion energy ‘miracle’ that ignores this connection, we should all be asking some hard, critical questions. Like: is this all just a form of ‘money laundering’ by the government to divert funding in a roundabout way to its military while marketing it as ‘energy research’; and, is this just a funnelling of wealth to the elite that own/control the industries necessary to carry out the work? (Questions that should also be asked about the billions (if not trillions) of dollars heading to Ukraine, NATO, various military and quasi-military establishments around the globe; as well as all the other ‘clean/green’ energy research and industries.)

This certainly plays into one of the themes I’ve been writing about: the actions of our ruling caste is driven by the primary goal of controlling/expanding the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. Having control (or at minimum overriding influence) of the politicians/government aids this immensely.

Mix this up with the competition between polities that occurs (and is discussed by archaeologist Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies; and that I have just written about here) and one can well imagine the shenanigans that goes on amongst politicians (i.e., those allocating a society’s resources in the name of ‘citizen prosperity’), industrialists (i.e., those that ‘own’ the needed industries and resources), and the media (i.e., those that own the propaganda machinery and guide/influence societal narratives) to fund ‘research’ (especially military-oriented) and other wealth-extraction/-generation systems in the name of citizen welfare.

But let’s be frank, the ruling caste cares not one iota for the hoi polloi or the ecological systems destruction this pursuit is causing. Their concern is to maintain the rigged game with them at the apex of the pyramid (an apt description given the entire scheme is little more than a gargantuan Ponzi-like structure predicated upon infinite growth on a finite planet). And as Tainter concludes regarding the peer polity competition that arises as an epiphenomenon of this:

“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 LXXVI–Roadblocks To Our ‘Renewable’ Energy Transition: Debt, Resource Constraints, and Diminishing Returns

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXVI

November 12, 2022 (original posting date)

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

Roadblocks To Our ‘Renewable’ Energy Transition: Debt, Resource Constraints, and Diminishing Returns

Today’s contemplation is a quick rundown of three of the roadblocks I see preventing us from achieving the utopian dream of a seamless ‘clean’ energy transition from dirty fossil fuels, or at least one as marketed by the ruling caste and leveraged by many (most?) businesses to sell their products/services (and virtue-signal their ‘progressive’ nature).

These few items have been percolating in my mind this past week or so with a number of articles I’ve perused during my morning coffee. If readers can add to these in the comments (with appropriate supportive links), I will begin to create a more comprehensive list to share periodically down the road…

Here, in no particular order, are three of the issues I’ve been pondering:

2.5 quadrillion in debt/credit[1]

For all intents and purposes, and by most observable accounts, our financial/monetary/economic systems are Ponzi-type systems requiring constant expansion/growth to keep from collapsing[2]. Many lay the beginnings of this treacherous trend upon Richard Nixon’s abrogation of the Bretton Woods Agreement that hammered the final nail in the coffin of a precious metals-based monetary system[3]. Others point to the introduction of fiat money/currencies as the initiation point, when the ‘constraint’ of physical commodities was removed from money and government/ruling elite solidified their monopoly of its creation/distribution. If one looks back even before modern fiat currencies, however, there is much written about how the Roman ruling elite were engaged in such manipulation of their money[4].

The Ponzi nature of these systems requires that perpetual growth be pursued. That such a pursuit is impossible on a finite planet should be self-evident but as I have highlighted previously we walking, talking apes are story tellers whose imaginations are creative at weaving tales to reduce anxiety-provoking thoughts — such as our ingenuity and technological prowess allows us to ignore/deny/rationalise away physical laws and biological principles and pursue infinite growth despite any bio- and geo-physical limitations.

That we have created and depend significantly upon such increasingly complex and fragile systems should give us pause, but this is rare and typically frowned upon. There seems only three basic means of dealing with such a situation: 1) inflate away the problem[5]; 2) debt jubilees[6]; 3) growth[7]. All of these approaches seem to have been used individually or in combination in history, and yet the endgame tends to be the same every time certain tipping points are reached: rejection of the monetary system of the time.

There’s been a boatload of analyses on what such a repudiation of a society’s currency system means to a people and their society[8]. While a currency ‘collapse’ does not necessarily lead to societal ‘collapse’, it does appear to throw economic systems into chaos for some time and destroy much in the way of societal ‘wealth’ and thus investment capital; and contributes to the eventual fall of a society — especially if there’s no lender-of-last-resort to ride to the rescue.

Such a situation would seem to negate the possibility of achieving the dream of transitioning to some ‘clean/green’ energy-based society given the magnitude of the debt that is currently present, the ‘wealth’ this represents, and the huge investments that would be necessary for a shift from our primary source of energy (fossil fuels).

Perhaps the most significant impediment going forward from a currency collapse would be the general lack of trust in government and financial institutions. And it is ‘trust/confidence’ that keeps these fragile systems from being totally abandoned; when it is lost, there’s no telling how quickly more widespread ‘collapse’ may occur. As archaeologist Joseph Tainter argues, it is when the economic benefits of participating in a complex society fall below the costs incurred that a populace begins to abandon its support of the various systems and ‘collapse’ can soon follow[9].

Mineral/resource constraints

That we exist upon a finite planet should also give pause to those cheerleading a ‘renewable’ energy transition in that geophysical realities limit what we can physically accomplish in terms of resource extraction and use.

Simon Michaux, Associate Professor Mineral Processing and Geometallurgy at the Geological Survey of Finland, has for some time been highlighting the impossibility of replacing our fossil fuel-based systems with non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies (NRREHT)[10].

The main hyped-up narrative surrounding the utopian future we are constantly promised by our societal leadership (both political and corporate) is that of a clean-energy future that not only sustains our present-day energetic conveniences, but allows continual expansion, technological progress, and prosperity. Dr. Michaux asserts that this is a pipe-dream because there do not exist the needed minerals to carry out such a transition from fossil fuels. Not even enough to replace and thus sustain the current level of energetic needs, let alone continuing to pursue growth.

Advocates dismiss this inconvenient reality — to say little about the environmental/ecological system damage that would result from the mining and processing of all the minerals and products required — by suggesting this can be overcome by reducing our energetic consumption/needs to a far lower level such that the finite materials can meet our needs, or developing many as-yet-to-be-hatched energy-production chickens. They also raise the arguments that recycling will guarantee perpetual resource requirements failing to understand that this is a very energy-intensive process and not as effective in reducing energy-use and pollutants as marketed[11] and are even being abandoned in many regions due to increasing costs[12].

Diminishing Returns

The human tendency in addressing resource requirements (in fact, to solve most problems) is to utilise the easiest-to-access and cheapest-to-extract ones first, leaving the more expensive and difficult ones to a later time. This, of course, means we must invest greater and greater amounts of labour/energy into extraction and processing as time passes, even to simply maintain current levels. In economic parlance, this reality has become referred to as the law of diminishing returns/productivity.

In energy circles, this tendency has been used to develop the concept of energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI)[13]. Basically, this is the ‘net’ energy that one derives from energy production. The greater the EROEI, the greater the amount of energy that can be used for purposes other than accessing/extracting/producing the energy in the first place. But as EROEI falls, there is less and less energy available for non-energy extraction/production systems.

We have witnessed a significant and precipitous drop in EROEI for fossil fuels[14], and the EROEI for NRREHTs is quite a bit lower than the legacy oil/gas fields that our globalised industrial world has used to grow to its present complexity; in fact, some argue that the EROEI of NRREHT is so low as to be incapable of supporting today’s globalised civilisation at anywhere near the current level of complexities[15].

A Few Other Hurdles to Our ‘Renewable-Energy’ Utopia

Here are a few additional issues that would seem to make the dream of a ‘clean’ energy future anything but doable, especially to the degree some (many? most?) imagine.

1. Current advanced-economy lifestyles require more energy than can be provided by ‘renewables’[16].
2. ‘Renewables’ require significant fossil fuel inputs[17].
3. Significant industrial processes cannot be carried out via ‘renewable’ energies[18].
4. And, perhaps most importantly, both the upstream and downstream industrial processes necessary to create, maintain, and reclaim/dispose of ‘renewables’ wreak havoc on our environment and ecological systems[19].

I could write much more on each of these roadblocks to the idea of our complex global society transitioning to NNREHT. Whether one accepts these as insurmountable or not depends very much on one’s interpretation of the data/evidence — and probably to a greater extent on one’s hopes/wishes (i.e., personal biases).

Keeping at the forefront of one’s thinking the fact that the future is unknowable, unpredictable, and full of unknown unknowns, anything is possible. But I would argue we do ourselves no favours in participating in and believing without full skepticism our various narratives about endless growth and technological ingenuity as the saviours that will make our utopian dreams/wishes of a ‘clean/green’ future come true.

Such magical thinking keeps us on a trajectory that increasingly is looking to be suicidal in nature, or, at the most promising, deeply ‘disappointing’ and broadly chaotic/catastrophic.

Time, of course, will tell…

And please note, as I have had to emphasise with others whom I’ve disagreed with regarding this ‘clean’ energy transition and NRREHTs: “… it is not that I ‘hate’ renewables or am a shill for the fossil fuel industry (the two typical accusations lobbed at me); I simply recognise their limitations, negative impacts, and that they are no panacea.”

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

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

[3] See this and/or this.

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

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

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

[7] See this and/or this.

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

[9] See this.

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

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

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

[13] See this and/or this.

[14] See this and/or this.

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

[16] See this.

[17] See this and/or this.

[18] See this. It’s imperative to note here that all rationalisations of ‘clean’ industrial processes rely upon as-yet-to-be-hatched chickens such as Carbon Capture and Storage or untenable energy production such as that based upon the use of hydrogen.

[19] See this.

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