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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.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXV–Decoupling Energy Use From Growth: More Bargaining


Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXV

November 9, 2022 (original posting date)

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

Decoupling Energy Use From Growth: More Bargaining

Today’s short piece is a comment I shared on an article by Nathan Surendran that highlights a debunking of the idea that energy can be decoupled from growth and thus reduce carbon emissions whilst supporting continued economic expansion. Nathan has a number of great articles to read on our energy conundrum and related topics; if you’re not familiar with his writing, I recommend it.


Great piece, Nathan.

I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that all such narratives (those that argue for the continuation of ‘growth’) are readily accepted by most since they are part and parcel of our denial/bargaining of the bio- and geo-physical limits of existence on a finite planet.

More ‘nefariously’ these stories are simply marketing/propaganda by the ruling caste and its sycophants to support their primary motivation: the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige. Everything, and I mean everything, is leveraged to meet this overarching goal.

For example, the idea that a massive transition to ‘green/clean’ energy and related industrial products and processes — that are marketed as ‘net zero/carbon-free’ — can alter our climate trajectory completely overlooks the significant environmental/ecological damages that such a shift would entail.

That the ruling elite has created an Overton Window such that most people buy into this tale and cannot think outside the box created is not surprising. Carbon is our enemy and can be overcome via ‘carbon-free’ thinking and products; anyone who points out the flaws in this narrative are climate change deniers or shills for the fossil fuel energy.

Nowhere in the discussion is a realisation that the knock-on effects of the significant industrial processes that are involved or necessary to transition away from fossil fuels are problematic — in the extreme. Or, that land system changes[1] created because of our constant expansion are detrimental to our hydrological systems and thus creating the extreme weather events we are experiencing — perhaps even more so than ‘climate change’[2].

That land system changes are having a significant impact on our weather patterns cannot be considered at all since the idea that we need to stop altering the landscape of our world runs in a diametrically-opposed way from the expansion and growth of our human experiment. And this, of course, undermines the ruling caste’s power base. Better to leverage crises in a way that allows status quo power/wealth structures to be maintained and/or expanded, just as the idea of decoupling does.

The growth imperative must be maintained at all costs and perhaps as importantly the idea/belief that it can be must be adhered to by the significant majority of the population (or, at least, passively accepted) so that there is little to no rejection and thus counter-narratives to it.

For despite the seeming strength of the concept that infinite growth on a finite planet is entirely possible (because of technology and human ingenuity), if a tipping point of the populace comes to understand that our pursuit of growth is what has destroyed vast portions of our planet and other species leading us deeply into ecological overshoot — and subsequently rejects its pursuit — then the entire foundation of the ruling elite crumbles. And we can’t have that!

Better to double or triple down on the propaganda and censor/ostracise counter-narratives, thus allowing the game to go on just a bit longer…

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

[2] See this.

Ignorance, Hubris, and Stupidity

Ignorance, Hubris, and Stupidity

Artwork from Ken Avidor

As I frequently point out, we face a series of predicaments all brought to us as a result of our own behavior of using technology, which has produced the predicament of ecological overshoot. When a species goes into overshoot, it always faces the same outcome: collapse. There is quite literally no way to avoid this; it is baked into cake, so to speak. I frequently hear people talk about avoiding collapse to which I can only chuckle and explain that attempting to avoid collapse and extend civilization is a fool’s errand because all this does is steepen the Seneca Cliff once the ability to extend civilization dries up. Civilization exists upon the surplus energy provided by technology use such as that furnished through agriculture; this then provides the ability of humans to develop permanent settlements which is the beginning of a civilization. Sadly, civilizations are unsustainable and each one that has ever come into being has also collapsed. Today’s civilization is no different and there will never be a sustainable civilization. Talk of such ideas is no different than “sustainable” development or “green” growth (see greenwashing).

I genuinely want people to understand the truth about where we are within these systems and predicaments and what can and cannot be done about them. Most people’s responses are fueled by a desire to “fight” one of the symptom predicaments such as climate change or energy and resource decline. Sadly, a considerable number of those folks read or hear something about stopping or reversing climate change or emissions or any other symptom predicament and get the incorrect idea that this is actually possible…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Eagle Ford Shale–A Preview of Permian Decline

Energy Aware II

The Eagle Ford Shale was the hottest play in the United States a little more than a decade ago. In mid-2012, there were twice as many rigs drilling horizontal wells in the Eagle Ford as there were in the Permian basin.

U.S. Shale Plays
Figure 1. Map showing U.S. shale plays. Source: EIA.

Now its decline is probably a preview of what to expect from the Permian basin a few years from now.

The Eagle Ford still produces more than a million barrels of oil (mmb/d) and 5 billion cubic feet of gas per day so that’s the first thing to expect about the future Permian. Plays don’t crash and burn but follow an undulating path downward over years or decades.

Eagle Ford production climbed steeply after 2010 and peaked at 1.6 mmb/d in September 2015 (Figure 2). Much of its decline over the years that followed were because of low oil prices. Although output increased again in 2018 and 2019, it never reached its 2015 level. The Pandemic in early 2020 resulted in a second period of decline and recovery. Production has fallen about 6% since August 2020.

Many people think that advances in technology and ingenuity will somehow reverse the inevitable decline of shale plays like the Eagle Ford. Indeed, those factors have made some difference. The estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) for the average well increased through 2021 despite falling field production levels (Figure 3). That was mostly because operators drilled longer laterals and used more effective fracking methods. The advances were impressive but the technology wasn’t free and well costs increased.

Since then, however, well performance has fallen below levels before 2021. Wells that began production in 2022 will produce about 26% less than 2021 wells and the most recently drilled wells will probably produce more than one-third less oil.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Capitalism Cannot Turn Into Anything But Autocracy

Capitalism Cannot Turn Into Anything But Autocracy

…only to disintegrate altogether soon after

The history of capitalism has an arc of its own. It has a beginning, a high point, and yes, an end — with or without revolutions, climate change or ecological destruction. Capitalism follows a trajectory of natural evolution culminating in a Orwellian dystopia, right before its quick demise. Join me in this short review on the origins of capitalism to understand why every attempt made at dismantling it has failed — and will continue to do so — until the authoritarian technologies making it possible disappear in the not so distant future.


According to Investopedia “Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production, with labor solely paid wages. Capitalism depends on the enforcement of private property rights, which provide incentives for investment in and productive use of capital.” What is sorely missing from this definition — as always when it comes to economics — is the role of technology and energy. Both factors have played a crucial role in the conception of this idea, let alone its growth into the hydra it has become. Contrary to common wisdom, I argue, neither of these critical inputs — energy and technology — were brought about by capitalism itself, it was completely the other way around. It was the use of technology and an ever growing availability of energy which has made capitalism possible, and thus the loss of these will be the cause which will eventually bring it to its knees.

Capitalism can never hoped to be dismantled without abandoning technology.

I know that is a harsh statement, perhaps prompting some of my readers to point out how anti-technology I am, and how a socialist revolution / green technologies / Bitcoin / gold / or fill in the blank could turn things around overnight. Well, all I ask is this: bear with me for a few more minutes.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

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

https://youtu.be/QhhI9TF8K2k?feature=shared

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???

Comments:

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.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLIII–Carbon Tunnel Vision and Resource/Energy & Ecological Blindness, Part 3

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLIII

October 6, 2023
Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Carbon Tunnel Vision and Resource/Energy & Ecological Blindness, Part 3

As ecologist Howard T. Odum argues in the quote above, human ‘progress’ has been the result of our species’ leveraging of available ‘power’[1].

Humans are not unique in this but for a variety of evolutionary reasons, our species has taken this principle to a new (and extremely dangerous) level. In the case of our modern industrial societies and their many complexities, this power has been derived primarily from a finite cache of easily-accessible, -transportable, and -storable hydrocarbon deposits — and continues to rely significantly upon these non-renewable resources.

Rather than attribute much (most? all?) of our modern and very complex society’s ‘progress’ to the fortuitous biogeophysical circumstance of these energy deposits — particularly as it pertains to the commercial exploitation of petroleum that began in the 18th century — humans have created a mythos that it is our ingenuity and technological prowess that has led to all of the ‘advancements’ we consider as modern human progress[2].

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress)

And while there is a partial truth to this belief (as Odum points out, since we had to develop/innovate means of extracting and refining these deposits to ‘power’ our industries and various technologies) it is not the entire truth since we have come to discount/deny the importance of these hydrocarbon deposits to our ‘progress’ and the fortuitous biogeophysical circumstances that were required to create them — to say little about the importance of the planet’s ecological systems to all of this as well.

We have, instead, looked in the mirror and declared what a remarkably wise and intelligent ape we are; in fact, truth be told, we’re meant to rule and lord over the entire planet — including the lesser of our own species. A result of collective narcissism? It would seem partially so.

As I stated at the close of Part 2 of this multi-part contemplation (Part 1):

“Blindness to the importance of hydrocarbon energy to almost all of our complex systems is leading us to offer narratives that most assuredly are making our predicament of ecological overshoot worse. They mostly depend upon tales that highlight human ingenuity, especially with respect to technology, and offer ‘solutions’ to maintain for the most part our status quo systems and complexities…

Why do we do this? Why do we construct stories that, depending upon one’s perspective, could be considered suicidal in nature?”

Let’s now unpack some of the psychology behind this phenomenon.

Story-Telling Apes

Narrative psychology is that branch of psychology that focuses upon the story-telling aspect of our species. It operates “…under the assumption that human activity and experience are filled with ‘meaning’ and stories, rather than lawful formulations…[studying] how human beings construct stories to deal with experiences.”[3]

Basically, in our attempts to make sense of our exceedingly complex world and then give it meaning, humans develop stories that they then share with others[4]. Needless to say, our sensemaking via shared stories is a uniquely human behavioural attribute that is due to our communication abilities and exceedingly complex cognitions.

(https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2018/10/17/the-power-of-sharing-stories)

This storytelling to help us understand and make sense of our experiences is influenced by self-identity, retrospection, sharing, social milieu/audience, feedback (both internal and external), referential cues, and plausibility.[5]

And what is interesting about the final influence here, plausibility, is that this tends to be favoured over accuracy — what is ‘plausible’ becomes far more important than what is ‘accurate’. In other words, story-tellers tend to be more concerned with the ‘acceptability’ of their story, especially to the audience they are sharing it with, rather than with whether or not it reflects ‘reality’. Basically, we tend to be far more interested in whether the story we are telling resonates with the audience to whom we are sharing our story with than whether the story is accurate or not. Reality takes a back seat to getting our audience to accept, believe in, and react positively to our story.

The audience of a shared story also tends to put the plausibility of the narrative ahead of any evidentiary aspects. When exposed to the story from another person, we look for fit with our personal beliefs and biases. If what is being shared aligns with our preconceived expectations, we tend to believe it since we also tend to seek confirmation of our beliefs[6]. We absorb that which aligns with our preconceived view of things, reinforcing our beliefs. However, if the narrative does not corroborate our view of things, we tend to ignore/rationalise away it and its evidence.

(https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/reject.html)

This confirmation bias has a powerful impact upon our beliefs and our acceptance of another’s story, particularly its ‘plausibility’ and whether it is considered as reflective of ‘reality’.

Imagine, for a moment, an audience made up of financiers/economists verses one made up of ecologists/environmentalists, or of physicists. The validity or persuasiveness of a story depends greatly on the message being shared and how well it confirms or challenges beliefs.

For example, if one were discussing the finiteness of a resource to these different groups and arguing that the possibility of infinite substitutability (a mainstay of many economic viewpoints) is impossible due to certain biogeophysical constraints, the plausibility of this view would be either accepted or rejected depending upon which audience such an argument is being presented to.

Within the context of plausibility lie a number of factors that impact an audience’s acceptance of a story, confirmation bias being but one. Does the tale align with our experiences? Does it follow a stereotypical sequence of events or make use of ‘anchors’ that trigger one’s worldview? Does it use examples/precedents that appeal to the listener?

What is also important to our understanding of our story-telling nature and a significant contributing factor to our blindness to particular aspects of reality is attribution theory[7]. This theory focuses more intently upon the processes involved and suggests that humans infer causes and motivations that may or may not accurately reflect reality because of a rather large number of assumptions, heuristics, and cognitive biases that influence our interpretations.

Our tendencies are to attribute behaviours, motivations, and causes in certain ways; not always, but most of the time. And this tendency seems to play a very significant role in our blindness to the importance of energy to our sense of progress.

(https://helpfulprofessor.com/attribution-theory-examples/)

According to attribution theory some of the ways we tend to think about behaviours, because of cognitive biases, include:

1) Assigning the behaviour of others to internal causal factors such as personality, motive, and beliefs (i.e., fundamental attribution error, which is more common in ‘individualistic’ cultures);

2) Assigning the behaviour of ourselves to external factors such as the situation or environment (i.e., self-serving bias, which serves to protect one’s self-esteem);

3) Putting ourselves in the best possible light when telling a story to acquaintances/friends (i.e., interpersonal attribution).

Of particular importance to our stories around energy, resources, human ingenuity, and technology is the self-serving bias. This bias involves taking personal credit for successes (and blaming others when experiencing negative outcomes) and can be influenced by one’s age, motivation, culture, and locus of control.

Perhaps the most influential aspect of this bias with respect to our blindspots about energy and our ecological systems importance is the last one mentioned above: locus of control.

This aspect of our psyche or self-image deals with our beliefs about our ability to control events impacting our life. Do we believe our actions influence our experiences? Or are these events and their outcomes outside of our control?

Such beliefs exist within a continuum from no control to complete control, with people tending towards one end of the scale or the other but also shifting their beliefs based upon the context/circumstances. Add this to the tendency to want to put oneself in the best possible light, and we can begin to see why humans orient towards stories that elevate the importance of our ingenuity and technological prowess when viewing the world in terms of ‘progress’.

We not only want to take credit for perceived ‘advances’ as it builds our self-esteem, but we want to believe we have such control and influence upon the sociocultural ‘evolution’ of our species.

My next post will continue to look at some additional psychological mechanisms as well as belief system development and the role of marketing propaganda to influence our beliefs about energy and what is or is not possible for a species bumping up against (or, should I say, having surpassed) biogeophysical limits on a finite planet.

NOTE: Beginning to post these thoughts of mine also on my website. I began a couple of years ago posting them on Medium exclusively but have found that their subscription practices are somewhat restrictive. I will attempt to post one of my previous Contemplations per day on my website until I am caught up…in the meantime, I will be posting all new Contemplations in both locations.

Recently released:

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 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).

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.

_____

[1] See this recent article for a summary of the Maximum Power Principle that is behind this assertion. Also see this one by Erik Michaels.

[2] Let’s keep in mind that the word ‘progress’ is extremely loaded in its meaning. Depending upon one’s perspective and/or focus, what might be considered ‘progress’ to one person may be quite different to another — for example, an economist’s interpretation verses an ecologist’s.

[3] See this.

[4] See thisthisthisthis, and/or this.

[5] See this.

[6] See thisthisthis, and/or this.

[7] See thisthis, and/or this.

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh II; Feeding the Growth Monster: Fiat Currency and Technology

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh II

August 8, 2020

Monte Alban, Mexico (1988) Photo by author.

Feeding the Growth Monster: Fiat Currency and Technology

My response to an ongoing discussion regarding debt-/credit-based fiat currency and it’s impact on our pursuing the infinite growth chalice.

_____

Yes, credit-/debt-based fiat is certainly one of the most significant causes of our pursuing the infinite growth chalice. Not the only one, but one of the main ones, certainly. And having ‘sound’ money that was not created and distributed by private interests may help, but there are no guarantees especially if it were in the hands of the political class who, much as they do now, would very likely use such ‘power’ to ‘buy’ votes, ‘pay off’ supporters, and fund boondoggles.

I honestly don’t know if there is any ‘solution’ to this monetary conundrum. In the words of Men Without Hats in their song ‘Unsatisfaction’: I’m never satisfied when the answers could be real. I may not know what’s right but I know this can’t be it.

Regardless of what change occurs with our monetary system, I’ve reached the conclusion that if we don’t begin pursuing degrowth strategies as of, like yesterday, we are destined to experience the collapse that always accompanies overshoot.

We are well into the diminishing returns fiasco that archaeologist Joseph Tainter outlines in his monograph Collapse of Complex Societies, and sets the stage for sociopolitical (and economic) collapse; and it is likely no amount of ‘tinkering’ in our business-as-usual trajectory is going to prevent collapse/decline at this point.

All of our debates are probably quite academic and moot at this point. Making one’s local community/neighbourhood/family as self-sufficient/-reliant as possible may be the only way to ensure some of us make it through the other side of the inevitable transition since our society’s collapse will be unlike every other one in pre/history as virtually none of us have the skills/knowledge to survive without modern society’s energy-intensive technology and long-distance supply chains.

This is one of the main motivations for me to transition our yard towards food production rather than monoculture grass and begun helping family and neighbours do the same.

We have painted ourselves into a corner from which there is unlikely any escape route and we are beginning, quite vociferously and violently in some cases, to fight over a shrinking economic pie.

Arguments over how to ‘fix’ things abound (the ruling class has latched onto infinite money printing to ‘paper’ over things, much like the Romans did when they began clipping coins during their decline) but most of these are not ‘fixes’ to our unsustainable trajectory but part and parcel of our attempts to reduce the cognitive dissonance that arises from realising we cannot continue business as usual but the path we need to follow is ‘unthinkable’ for it would mean sacrificing almost everything we hold dear in ‘modern’ society.

Most of us want to believe that technology and human ingenuity will ‘save’ us (thus arguments from academics/educators about focusing more resources into education, not realising that there isn’t the time nor agreement over ‘solutions’ for education to play a role) but it is most likely that our efforts at greater and greater technological ‘solutions’ are just expediting our journey over the cliff since technology speeds the exploitation of finite resources, much as money printing does, and creates a host of negative consequences we conveniently ignore.

If people believe the world is in chaos now, just wait a few years…

_____

Please consider purchasing my novel trilogy to help support my continuing online presence. Click HERE.

Stop Using the Word ‘Sustainability’ for God’s Sake

No. This is not sustainable. Photo by Appolinary Kalashnikova on Unsplash

For millions of years us, humans, were part of Nature. We were born in the wild, lived in the wild, died in the wild. We ate what we found, drank the waters of rivers and streams, breathed air purified by trees. Just like any other mammalian species on Earth. The false belief, that we’ve somehow moved above and beyond that thanks to our ingenuity is just a fantasy. Or rather: pure unadulterated hogwash. We still eat plants and animals feeding on grass and seeds. We still drink the waters of rivers and streams. We still breathe air purified by trees. The only difference is, that today there is a massive blob of buildings, roads, machines, mines and supermarkets — now weighing more than all things living — placed between us and Nature.

All technology did, in its narrowest technical sense, is that it has enabled us to extract raw materials, clear-cut forests, harvest fish and food beyond all sustainable levels. Sustainability in its original sense means: an ability for something to go on unabated forever (or at least long enough not to matter). All I’m writing about on this blog since its inception, is that nothing — not a single thing — we do and call ‘civilization’ today can go on for much too long, let alone forever.

Extracting resources (especially by mining) destroys ecosystems, takes a lot of energy and precious fresh water, poisons rivers and the soil, and ultimately depletes the very resource it is going after. It is a self-destructing and thus a self-limiting activity. Mining is by definition unsustainable. Now, the problem is, that everything we call civilization today from buildings to roads, from agriculture to distributing food, from machines to electricity starts with extracting resources from the ground. No exceptions.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Climate Change Has Come Full Circle

Photo by Mike Newbry on Unsplash

Our modern technological civilization was born out of fossil fuels. Coal. Oil. Natural gas. To this very day most of our industry, transportation and agriculture is still powered by these incredibly dense, portable, storable sources of energy. There is a fly in the ointment though: the burning of these ancient accumulations of carbon comes with releasing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. So far so good, however, I still regularly stumble upon commentators (and commenters) who question whether all this burning of fossil fuels is the cause of climate change (if it is changing at all). According to some this is a recent “woke” theory emerging from backroom discussions of the World Economic Forum, in order to make us all obedient and to deprive hard working people of the great gift of fossil energy. Well, let’s have a look at the history of the topic, to see if it’s based on actual measurement data and science in its classical sense or its indeed just a recent scare. Who knows, we might even gain some insight into some of the conspiracy theories while we’re at it.

Upuntil the late 1980’s the state of our climate didn’t seemed to be too much of a concern. One could even believe that we were headed towards another ice age without being labelled a climate change denier. Fossil fuels were deemed to be a universal good and very few thought that their use could put an end to human history. This state of blissful ignorance didn’t mean that there were no ominous warnings given beforehand. After all who could recall all the scientific studies made a hundred years earlier…?

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Futurus Interruptus

Futurus Interruptus

Most of the time, in writing these essays, I try to treat the decline of industrial society with the seriousness that it deserves. Sometimes, though, the plain raw absurdity of our current situation rises to a point that only raucous laughter can address. I ran into another of those points a few days back, while reading an article on Yahoo News sent to me by a longtime reader and commenter—tip of the hat to David By The Lake. The article is by Hasan Chowdhury, and its title is “Humanity is on the brink of major scientific breakthroughs, but nobody seems to care.” You can read it here.

Chowdhury’s article points out that recent news stories about the latest heavily promoted claims of a breakthrough in nuclear fusion research, and the much-hyped announcement by two South Korean researchers that a room-temperature superconductor had been discovered, didn’t get the response the media expected.  By and large, people yawned. To Chowdhury, this is appalling, and he argues that two factors are responsible.  The first is that people in the hard sciences need to be better at publicity. The second is that too many people out there suffer from an irrational fear of progress, and simply need to be convinced that the latest gosh-wow technologies will surely benefit them sometime very soon.

Yeah, that was when I started laughing too.

Let’s start by talking about the two supposed breakthroughs Chowdhury talks about. The first is the claim that yet another team of fusion researchers has achieved net energy gain—the point at which the energy coming out of a fusion reaction is more than the energy put into it…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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