By Chris Martenson: Collapse is Already Here

Charles Mackay quote


Chris Martenson is a rare journalist with a wide view and deep understanding that is able to connect the dots between ecology, economy, energy, and human overshoot.

Martenson’s free video course titled “The Crash Course” is the best place to start for someone wishing to get educated on our predicament.

Martenson yesterday published an excellent essay surveying the collapse of ecosystems that is underway around the world.


Many people are expecting some degree of approaching collapse — be it economic, environmental and/or societal — thinking that they’ll recognize the danger signs in time.

As if it will be completely obvious, like a Hollywood blockbuster. Complete with clear warnings from scientists, politicians and the media.  And everyone can then get busy either panicking or becoming the plucky heroes.

That’s not how collapse works.

Collapse is a process, not an event.

And it’s already underway, all around us.

Collapse is already here.


Be very skeptical when the cause of each new ecological nightmare is ascribed to “natural causes.”

While it’s entire possible for any one ecological mishap to be due to a natural cycle, it’s weak thinking to assign the same cause to dozens of troubling findings happening all over the globe.

As they say in the military: Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. But three times is enemy action.


Martenson covers a lot of territory in his essay:

  • million fish die-off in Australian rivers
  • one third of bats dead in Australia
  • wild horses and camels dying in Australia
  • kauri trees in New Zealand dying
  • baobab trees in Africa dying
  • squid catches collapsing in Japan
  • 98% decline of insects in Puerto Rican rainforest
  • 86% decline of Monarch butterflies in California
  • seabird collapse in the Baltic Sea
  • 50% decline of ocean phytoplankton
  • seagulls gone in Maine
  • worldwide amphibian collapse
  • depleting the Colorado river to grow cotton in a desert
  • elites denying all of the above

I’m seeing a similar ecological collapse in my front yard that I documented here.

Martenson concludes with some wise words:

The bottom line is this: We are destroying the natural world. And that means that we are destroying ourselves. 

I know that the mainstream news has relegated this conversation to the back pages (when they covered it at all) and so it’s not “front and center” for most people.  But it should be.

Everything we hold dear is a subset of the ecosphere. If that goes, so does everything else. Nothing else matters in the slightest if we actively destroy the Earth’s carrying capacity.

At the same time, we’re in the grips of an extremely dangerous delusion that has placed money, finance and the economy at the top spot on our temple of daily worship.

Any idea of slowing down or stopping economic growth is “bad for business” and dismissed out of hand as “not practical”, “undesirable” or “unwise”.  It’s always a bad time to discuss the end of economic growth, apparently.

But as today’s young people are increasingly discovering, if conducting business” is just a lame rationale for failed stewardship of our lands and oceans, then it’s a broken idea. One not worth preserving in its current form.

The parade of terrible ecological breakdowns provided above is there for all willing to see it. Are you willing?  Each failing ecosystem is screaming at us in urgent, strident tones that we’ve gone too far in our quest for “more”.

We might be able to explain away each failure individually. But taken as a whole?  The pattern is clear: We’ve got enemy action at work.  These are not random coincidences.

Nature is warning us loudly that it’s past time to change our ways.  That our “endless growth” model is no longer valid. In fact, it’s now becoming an existential threat

The collapse is underway. It’s just not being televised (yet).


From here, there are only two likely paths:

(1) We humans simply cannot self-organize to address these plights and carry on until the bitter end, when something catastrophic happens that collapses our natural support systems.

(2) We see the light, gather our courage, and do what needs to be done.  Consumption is widely and steeply curtailed, fossil fuel use is severely restrained, and living standards as measured by the amount of stuff flowing through our daily lives are dropped to sustainable levels.

Either path means enormous changes are coming, probably for you and definitely for your children and grandchildren.

12 thoughts on “By Chris Martenson: Collapse is Already Here”

  1. Those of us who are aware of the ideas of limits to growth, ecological collapse, etc., tend to be biased to “see” things that prove our particular mental model about how all this goes down (and maybe ends.) Being somewhat conscious of this bias, I have learned to temper my reactions to particular pieces of news that seems to portend a darker future coming sooner than later. I tell myself that the economic and social decline resulting from resource limits, or from the damage from the waste products of industrial civilization, will probably happen over decades. (Existential risks aside)

    The above said, the recent science articles on insect (and other species) declines are shocking. The mind reels . I am no ecologist, but the ecosystem decline no longer feel like a process, but an event that is happening now.

    Various causes are offered for these die-offs. None seems to provide a fully satisfactory explanation. (Why 97% insect decline in Costa Rica for example.)

    So here is my theory. The declines are the result of the result of aggregate and cumulative impact of everything about human industrial civilization.

    Here is my short list how industrial civilization diminishes the natural world: Pesticides; other industrial chemicals; habitat destruction/fragmentation; Global Average Temperature Increase and Rate of increase over last 30-50 years; light pollution and loss of dark skies (80% of human world now without night?); ground level ozone pollution from more than 1 billion cars and trucks traversing many thousands of miles of roads; atmospheric Ozone Decrease/ increasing UV-A and UV-B radiation, maybe UV-C (?) ; radiation from now ubiquitous wireless communications systems; thousands of airplanes crisscrossing the skies and emitting jet pollutants; plastic pollution (down to very small particles); thousands of ships traversing oceans and seas; nuclear radiation; ocean acidification (resulting in plankton die-off etc.); vehicle tire dust; water-way and ground water contamination, etc. etc. etc.

    Ok, so I am just popping off a bit today in writing this comment to your blob. But something does really feel amiss out in what is left of the natural world. I did see a few birds today on this bright and blue sky day. But how many would I have seen 30 years ago? I cannot remember.


    1. I agree with both of your main points Shawn.

      It’s taking much longer for declining net energy and rising debt to collapse our economy than many of us predicted. That doesn’t mean we were wrong. It just means there’s a lot of creativity and momentum created by 8 billion people all working hard on economic growth.

      In the grand scheme of things, however, a severe economic depression is trivial compared to ecological collapse. As you point out, the speed and range of ecological collapse is breathtaking. I see it every day on the beach I walk which went from exuberant abundance to desert in 50 years. And this in a region of the world that is relatively unpopulated with strong environmental laws.

      It all comes down to too many people consuming too much. Our species is in severe overshoot and is outcompeting all other species for the finite resources of a small planet.

      There is only one good path forward, rapid population reduction, and we are collectively unable to even discuss it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Could the decline in species simply be down to layoffs in the species counting sector? Less people looking and counting due to ‘austerity’


  3. Kenya’s first high speed railway is being built by a Chinese company. Of course it goes right across Nairobi national park. It’s development, folks.


  4. This is such a wise site.

    Apologies, you must think I’m some sycophantic fool because I keep popping up all over your site leaving positive remarks. But it’s extremely rare to find a place that sets out why we, as a species, are so very much in denial. I’m a 74 year-old Brit living with his wife and six dogs and two horses on 13 acres in Southern Oregon. I’m also a writer having published a book Learning from Dogs in 2015 (plus a blog of the same name).

    We are surrounded by forest, mainly pine, that has yet to show signs of distress. But it’s burning! Last summer was terrible and this summer we anticipate it will be worse. This evening we are at a local meeting discussing how to protect our homes.

    Two weeks ago we had record rain.

    What I am saying is that we are already experiencing a whole new, uncertain world. It’s scary! Very, very scary!


    1. Hi Paul. Nice to meet you. Yes it is scary.

      No matter how many times I revisit the issue I always find it fresh and amazing that most people are unable to connect the dots between economic growth, and resource depletion, and ecological destruction.

      We need a big explanation for why an intelligent species can behave so irrationally. If Varki’s MORT theory on reality denial is wrong, then we need another powerful theory.

      Liked by 1 person

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