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« Is This a Radical Idea, or What? | Main | if (length(day) == length(night)) HappyEquinox(); »

September 10, 2012


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Guy McPherson

Thanks for this essay. I think we've reached the zenith of selfishness. At least I certainly hope so.

From my June 2012 essay at Transition Voice: "As we leave the Age of Entitlement and transition into the Age of Consequences, everybody will need to make a contribution to his or her community."


Just to make one correction. There is no "Tragedy of the Commons", only the "Tragedy of Private Property." Any place where any private property cannot be had by penalty law looks relatively amazing: US national parks and until recently the previously owned Spanish Mexico, Central America, South American Continent filled with lush rain forest.

João Neto

This is what some people talked about for decades. Cassandras like Herman Daly, William Catton, Al Bartlett, Joseph Tainter and many others, at least since "The Limits to Growth" publication. Now, and sadly, we will see that they were right. This will not be a pretty sight.

In a way I understand that they were not listen. It is very hard to grok what is going to happening.

Anyway, great post. I also use the analogy of the Zombie Apocalypse. A eerie coincidence that Zombies became such a media fashion recently...

Bodhi Chefurka

I don't know how I've been able to set down my burden of grief over all this so completely, though I know it all so well. It feels as though I'm seeing past the shallow attachments that our culture encourages - past our media-mediated attachments to things, activities, ideas and concepts. In the place of attachments to stuff and structure, what I see developing are deeper, more authentic relationships: with other people, with the natural world, and with core concepts such as our place and purpose in the universe.

Those relationships have nourished humanity since the dawn of our species. Even though stripping the veneer of artificiality will be painful, it will allow us to move closer to the unvarnished truth of who we really are. And as always, we will die trying.

Our global cultural narrative is teetering on the brink of change, and I'm excited to watch it preparing us for the transition, even if most people aren't yet conscious of the shift that has arrived.

I've shed all my tears, and now I can't get this smile off my face...


Tying what happened today (9/11) 11 years ago to the trajectory we're following - it's pretty obvious that people in positions of power will sacrifice everyone beneath them for their own gain. Our government is the apex of corruption now with our "watchdog" agencies underfunded or headed by insiders from the very interests they're supposed to regulate. Congress is useless, the president is a corporatist and the Supreme (kangaroo) court makes it all "official" though none of it is Constitutional. We're spied on, foreclosed on, and our jobs are disappearing. Our standard of living and our infrastructure will soon follow. We're on our way out as a civilization and as the collapse picks up speed many more will figure this out for themselves. In the coming years, i completely expect martial law and absolute chaos.

Thanks for the essay George. i'm afraid that politics is not going to save us and that those in power are looking out for themselves. Humanity, it would seem, is a failed experiment to date. Maybe your hypothesis regarding a super sapient remnant of humanity surviving to rebuild and become the next evolution of humanity, but they won't have much to work with and the hardships will be spectacular. i sincerely hope i'm wrong and that none of this comes to pass.

Robin Datta

And then there are those like me who simply hang our heads and weep.

No reason to do so for those with unremitting  cynicism.

Time to forswear the candy: to leave aside the M&Ms - mulatto and Mormon.

Bodhi Chefurka

My position on the political aspects of the global clusterfuck is summed up with the following bumper-sticker philosophy:

Representative democracy is one of the most deceptively disempowering social institutions ever invented.

People who vote deserve to be governed.

Politics is not part of the solution, it's part of the problem.

If I were to create a "Don't do this, it doesn't work" list to send through the bottleneck in a time capsule, it would include representative democracy right up there with monocrop agriculture, fiat money, growth-based economies, the use of fossil fuels or nuclear energy, and religions that place humanity apart from the natural world.


George (and all), have you seen this yet?

Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion:
a study in global systemic collapse.

David Korowicz

It's a kind of "how the collapse is going to happen" (or is likely to) through analysis of the interconnectedness and complexity of our modern world. Fascinating read (75 pgs.)


 Thanks for this essay. I think we've reached the zenith of selfishness. At least I certainly hope so.

From my June 2012 essay at Transition Voice: "As we leave the Age of Entitlement and transition into the Age of Consequences, everybody will need to make a contribution to his or her community."-Guy McPherson

Guy, given that you are convinced most of the ecosphere faces an Extinction Level Event by mid-century, the contributions anyone makes here will be pretty short lived.  Or have you changed your mind about an ELE coming down the pipe?


Doomstead Diner

step back

I suspect the following is mostly an expansion on what Tom (9/11) already said upthread:

We have entered the political age of SPOUTR

SPOUTR= Sweep Peak Oil Under The Rug

If we see Oil as a bundle of energy slaves and Post-Peak as shrinkage of energy slaves, then something has to give as that pie shrinks.

The Elite are going to make sure they continue to get their "entitled" part of the pie. They merely have to convince the "Lazy 47%" that its their own fault their shrinking share is their (the 47%er's) darn fault.

That dialog is already out there one way or another.

Democrats are no less guilty than the Republicrats. The R's tell the 47%, "Your lazy". The D's tell the 47%, "You need to re-educate yourself for the New Economy". That's just another form of SPOUTR politics: telling the victims that shrinkage is their own darn fault (it's not)

George Mobus


Thanks for the comments and links.

Tom I did see that report. Little by little truth will out!


Steven Earl Salmony

What no one is looking at..

For too long a time human population growth has been comfortably and pseudoscientifically viewed by politicians, economists and demographers as somehow outside the course of nature, somehow disconnected from the population dynamics of other evolved species on Earth. The possible causes of human population growth have seemed to them so complex, obscure and numerous, so they have said for many too many years, that an adequate understanding of the cause of human population growth, much less a strategy to address the emerging and converging ecological problems posed by the unbridled growth of the human species, has been assumed to be unapproachable. Their preternatural grasp of human population dynamics has lead to widely varied forecasts of human population growth. Some forecasting data indicate the end to human population growth soon. Other data suggest the rapid and continuous increase of human numbers ad infinitum, and like the endless expansion of the global economy, without adverse impacts. The dogmatic adherence of these politically correct experts to erroneous, unscientific theory regarding automatic population stabilization around the midpoint of Century XXI and a benign demographic transition to a good life for the human community at large cannot be accepted any longer as if it is based upon the best available evidence.
Recent scientific evidence appears to indicate that the governing dynamics of absolute global human population numbers is knowable as a natural phenomenon. Despite all the misleading, intellectually dishonest and deliberately deceptive ‘scientific research’ to the contrary, Homo sapiens can be shown to be, and now seen, as a species that is a part of and definitely not separate from the natural world we inhabit. Experts in politics, economics and demography have consciously fostered and continue obdurately to countenance a perilous disconnect between ecological science and political economy. Perhaps politics, economics and demography are themselves disciplines that are fundamentally disconnected from science. They appear to have more in common with ideology rather than science. To suggest as many too many politicians, economists and demographers have been conveniently doing that understanding the dynamics of human population numbers does not matter, that the human population problem is not about numbers, or that human population dynamics has so dizzying an array of variables as not to be suitable for scientific investigation, seems wrongheaded and dangerous.
According to research of Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D., and David Pimentel, Ph.D., global population growth of the human species is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop in which food availability drives population growth and the recent, skyrocketing growth in absolute global human numbers gives rise to the misconception or mistaken impression that food production needs to be increased even more. Data indicate that the world’s human population grows by approximately 2% per year. All segments of it grow by about two percent. Every year there are more people with brown eyes and more people with blue ones; more people who are tall as well as more short people. It also means that there are more people growing up well fed and more people growing up hungry. The hungry segment of the global population goes up just like the well-fed segment of the population. We may or may not be reducing hunger by increasing food production; however, we are most certainly producing more and more hungry people.
Hopfenberg’s and Pimentel’s research suggests that the spectacularly successful efforts of humankind to increase food production in order to feed a growing population has resulted and continues to result in even greater human population numbers worldwide. The perceived need to increase food production to feed a growing population is a widely shared and consensually validated misperception, a denial both of the physical reality and the space-time dimension, a colossal misunderstanding. If people are starving at a given moment of time, increasing food production and then distributing it cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? Without food they would die. In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane. The produced food arrives too late. Even so, this realization does not mean human starvation is inevitable.
Consider that the population dynamics of humankind is not biologically different from, but essentially common to the population dynamics of other species. Human organisms, non-human organisms and even microorganisms have similar population dynamics. In all cases the governing relationship between food supply and population numbers of any living thing is this: food is independent variable and population numbers is the dependent variable. We do not find hoards of starving roaches, birds, squirrels, alligators, or chimpanzees in the absence of food as we do in many “civilized” human communities today because non-human species and what we call “primitive” human communities are not engaged in food production. Please note that among tribes of people in remote original habitats, we do not find people starving. Like non-human species, “primitive” human beings live within the carrying capacity of their environment. History is replete with examples of early humans and more remote ancestors of “civilized” people not increasing their food production and distribution capabilities annually, but rather living successfully off the land for thousands upon thousands of years as hunters and gatherers of food. Prior to the Agricultural Revolution and the production of more food than was needed for immediate survival, human numbers supposedly could not grow beyond their environment’s physical capacity to sustain them because human population growth or decline is primarily determined by food availability. Looked at from a global population perspective, more food equals more human organisms; less food equals less human beings; and no food equals no people. The idea that food production must be increased to meet the needs of growing human population has been actually giving rise to skyrocketing human population numbers, not only since the Industrial Revolution but even more recently and intensively with the onset of the Green Revolution that began sixty years ago.

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