By James: Merry Christmas from the Big Bang

D060-433
Kwai lake, Strathcona Park, Sep 2019

James, proprietor of the insightful Megacancer blog, is a rare individual who understands the energy flows that drive the issues that matter:

  • why we exist
  • why we behave as we do
  • why we are in deep trouble
  • why nothing will stop our demise

His year-end essay is brilliant and I have pasted it in full below.

I agree with everything James said but I thought I would add a few Christmas bobbles that help me to be less angry about our predicament.

When our leaders, scientists, friends, and family do not support the only actions that might reduce future suffering, namely rapid population reduction and a planned contraction of the economy, I know the reason as James explains, is that we, like yeast and all other life, evolved to maximize energy flows.

While true this is not, at least for me, a sufficient explanation because unlike yeast, we are highly intelligent and capable of impressive intellectual feats. How can such an intelligent creature not use its brain to at least try to do the right thing?

The answer, of course, was provided by Dr. Ajit Varki and his Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory.

The smart ethical people we see doing the wrong thing each and every day, despite obvious science and evidence they are capable of understanding, do so because their brains evolved to deny unpleasant realities.

When I look with despair, for example, at COP25 where our best and brightest not only accomplished nothing (except burning a bunch of carbon to get there), they didn’t even honestly discuss the problem, we know that thermodynamics, as James explains, is driving the insanity, but we also know that it is evolved denial of reality that blocks their intelligence.

Denial makes our intelligence ineffective on every issue that matters, and thermodynamics, expressed through genetics, does not permit intelligence to exist without denial, so it is what it is, and there is no way out.

Humans are not evil, nor are they stupid, they just can’t see reality.

This holiday season I am grateful to be alive to witness and understand a rare event in the universe, and I’m thankful for good health, good food, a warm dry home, and caring friends and family.

Merry Christmas!

http://megacancer.com/2019/12/16/merry-christmas-from-the-big-bang/

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun…….. John Lennon

Undoubtedly you have struggled to consume some gradient and produce some entropy. Or maybe I should say “you all – plural” since its all of your cells that have created the shape-shifting and often grandiose “you “ within your brain to help your skin-enclosed system get around and get what it needs.

Hope your system is consuming much gradient this holiday season, your homeostasis is hunky-dory and your condition is one of great comfort and peace. I’m sure the new year will bring many surprises as you maneuver through the competitive landscape in search of new wealth-enhancing and energy-consuming opportunities. Provided below is a little commentary on our current predicament (also known as a rant).

The Universe as a single dense point of energy can be seen as the initial gradient. The Big Bang and inflation reduce the initial gradient as time and space expand according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Time and space are impossible without gradient dissipation. Gradient dissipation produces time and space and change. You can see this in a wrist watch which must dissipate gradient (battery/spring) to move and create a progression along a circular time line. The events of time can only occur because gradient can be dissipated and the heat can escape into the inflation of the Universe. Time is not possible without change (movement) or change in position which is inherent to the gradient dissipation process. Humans create time by burning energy gradient and dissipating it as heat. Like magnets aligning with the magnetic poles, all of life has evolved to align with the initial massive dissipation (Big Bang) as residual dissipating phenomena. There is no other way for life to behave than the way it does, consuming gradient. If species deviated from their role as reducers of gradients, they would simply disappear. They are constantly being realigned as gradient reducers in order to remain as dissipative structures and stand-out from the less active background. An individual’s “success” in life, in acquiring and consuming resources or having many offspring is the thermodynamic success of the Universe which uses and shapes humans and other life for its dissipative bidding. You think you are successful, but you have been used to further the apparent goals of an expanding Universe. It’s no accident that successful dissipation bolsters your self-image and gives you a good feeling as your homeostasis is maintained. More money, more food, more investments, more children, more dopamine, more………. it all feels good and that’s no accident. The Universe leads you through life in an endless quest for more free energy gradients and after each acquisition the happiness seems to fade until another is found.

Big Bang – NASA

All behavior and structure of life comes from and aligns with the Big Bang and expansion of the Universe which humans have logically described with the laws of thermodynamics and entropy. Humans and all other life are captives of these laws and struggle daily to acquire energy to create motion, structure and time with the hydrosphere, atmosphere and open space acting as willing heat sinks. Any organism that attempts to practice “freewill”, that somehow deviates from the program, will find itself realigned with reality or eliminated from existence. Freewill is bounded overall by the requirement of reducing gradients and humans have evolved to eliminate gradient as quickly and efficiently as possible (deriving profit) for reproduction or growth. These requirements can be summed-up in the Maximum Power Principle and/or Maximum Entropy Production principles. Faster, more powerful vehicles, faster computers, faster jets, more economies of scale, burn more faster, more profit, more growth, more gradient reduced and electromagnetic radiation sent into space. Humans have evolved to be such intense competitors for energy that they can’t seem to “just say no” to save themselves. It was never meant that they would be able to “just say no”. Extinction takes care of dissipative structures that run their course through extinction. It is only natural that capitalism should be the dominant economic system when the collapse occurs since it slavishly maximizes growth even making spurious promises of future gradient availability in exchange for burning gradient today and creating population overshoot conditions. Some people wonder what -ism comes next. I believe it will be a pervasive state of natural “terrorism”, the type observed in nature where all life forms are one mistake away from becoming someone else’ s meal.

To name itself “Homo sapiens” is only indicative of the hubris of humans as they slowly commit suicide by gradient reduction. “Smart” or “sapient” is defined by most humans as the ability to create tools to break open new gradients for dissipation while depriving other living organisms the same opportunity. Humans seem unable to imagine any other parameters of success besides consumption, growth and reproduction. No surprises there, it’s what complex dissipatives do. So, as the chimps fight in Washington, D.C. (mostly about power and money – dissipative matters) and the average family wonders how much money (gradient) they’ll have to spend to travel (motion) to Disney World and have a good (time), the biosphere degrades into a lifeless necrosphere similar to the slime found at the bottom of a yeast petri dish that has eaten itself into oblivion. Eventually only dust devils and their larger brethren, the hurricanes and typhoons will raise the formerly vital dust beyond its gravitational resting place as the Universe continues to expand without even tallying the insignificant contributions from the Earth’s extinct dissipative spinbots.

Humans should never think of themselves as smart or intelligent, they’re simply a thermodynamic event maintaining homeostasis through gradient reduction. Their entire mentality serves energy/wealth acquisition, consumption and reproduction. Being a social mammal (obtaining energy as a group) they are hierarchically organized and are constantly striving to improve their social standing by whatever means possible (if they haven’t yet seen the futility in such efforts). Those able to control the most money/energy are admired and envied by their sycophants while those with less success are regularly scorned and often deemed unworthy of reproduction or even living. Just as the human civilization will enslave, consume and/or deprive other species of their ability to live and reproduce, so too wealthy humans will enslave less avaricious humans and use them for self-enrichment.

Have you been transported to the nucleolus (school) for the last twelve-years to have your brain refined for information and tool use? You are an RNA destined for one of the the technological cells. Don’t be late. Did you get your college degree? Are you ready to function as an RNA “job” within a civilizational cancer for the rest of your life before you can retire to await the personal cancer your toxic “sapient” system has given you? I assure you that your local medical establishment and undertaker are ready to provide in your time of need and desperation if you can provide a life’s worth of savings in exchange (usually extracted in the form of monthly health insurance premiums the paying of which has put you into an early grave.) Are you satisfied that an oligarchy of bankers, government and corporations have initial claim upon society’s nutrients and thin the blood currency for the remainder of society which struggle to feed themselves, their cells and their vehicles? Is that the cost of survival vis-a-vis other equally exploitative nations? Perhaps if the thinning of the blood by inflation was not enough, the taxes and interest, fees and penalties are acceptable costs for enduring life as an expendable, productive molecule attached to an hedonically enhancing smart (not sapient) phone. And now that there’s not enough to share with the worker dissipatives, the electronic prison takes shape with various surveillance, monitoring, compliance, social credit, FICO scores, 5G and facial recognition.

Pleasant Valley State Prison in California where bad people are kept while the good people destroy the biosphere and themselves.

Since the energy horizon is shrinking, those endowed with rights from which the rest have been alienated, will try to compensate for the loss of energy by introducing new “savings” to the system, a few low-cost behavioral and structural changes to hold society together for a while like a rationing of essentials and sharing. As the existing system is already strapped for metabolic energy and any major disruptions threaten collapse, a full conversion to “renewable energy” is not seen as workable, especially when we will likely need even more energy to heal wounds inflicted by an increasingly chaotic climate. We will eventually be overwhelmed by the inflicted damages and inherent contradictions of our “Black Friday” hyper-dissipative existence. Our slowly disintegrating arrangement will go extinct one way or another without a source of clean energy that meets current metabolic needs and provides enough net energy to re-stabilize the climate. The resource bill (if the technologies even existed) to accomplish this self-saving task will grow faster than the interest on the Federal debt and in any case the climate destabilization has likely already achieved positive-feedback, escape-velocity, well beyond any feasible means of addressing it. In the meantime those at the universities are earning their six-figure salaries arguing over political correctness as if being nice to each other and erasing or rewriting sordid chapters in human history is the challenge of the day.

And where will we find our CEOs, government officials and military when push comes to shove in the international competition for food and energy? With all the courage they can muster they will scurry into their fortified bunkers to wait-out the “winnable” nuclear war only to re-emerge when the stinkadelic cheese of next years’ appropriations comes wafting through their gold-standard air purification systems.

The rest of us will need to use our imaginations.

Let’s hope for a happy new year with smart algorithms, lightning fast trading computers, a massive pump-and-dump and lots of resources stripped away from those that can least afford it. I recommend working harder in the new year so we can eliminate the gradients and get to where we’re going faster.

I may have posted this before but it’s worth another watch.
Older but still good – David Korowicz

84 thoughts on “By James: Merry Christmas from the Big Bang”

  1. Chris Martenson interviews one of my favorite humans, Dennis Meadows, co-author of the 1972 Limits to Growth study.

    Meadows discloses that he decided not to write a 4th update to his Limits to Growth study, after the 3rd update was published 15 years ago, because there are no longer any options available for us to avoid collapse.

    Like

  2. Good on ya Rob.

    Give this audio book a try. I normally don’t go for American self help books that are popular with the masses, but a number of ‘philosophy’ people recommended it. Nothing new just a personal re framing, but it’s humorous & the narrator does a good job. Good for chuckles & reminders. Much of it applies for Doomers.

    ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life’ – Mark Manson

    http://audiobookbay.nl/audio-books/the-subtle-art-of-not-giving-a-fck-a-counterintuitive-approach-to-living-a-good-life-mark-manson-2/

    Like

  3. Steve Keen, the only economist on the planet that understands money and debt, which is a remarkable fact, and strong evidence in support of Varki’s MORT theory, was interviewed by James Howard Kunstler today.

    He presented some interesting new ideas for how we might respond to debt overshoot, peak oil, and climate change.

    He argues for a debt jubilee and a command economy with carbon rationed by the military.

    Keen also mentioned that he is collaborating with Tim Garrett on some research. It’s encouraging to see the only climate scientist who understands what’s going on is working with the only economist that understands what’s going on. Now if we could just add a celebrity to the team that the public listens to, like say PewDiePie.

    https://kunstler.com/podcast/kunstlercast-323-chatting-with-economist-steve-keen/

    Like

  4. Tad Patzek shares a small success he had in teaching one of his Saudi students about overshoot.

    Our anthropocene world is rapidly becoming a post-industrial wasteland, in which big chunks of populations are impoverished, left behind, and may not know how to live with dignity. These desperate people need a framework to counteract the bad things that are happening in their lives, and they need basic means of survival: a functioning family, home, medical care and decent education for their children. In too many countries, including the US and UK, poverty and desperation lead to voting decisions that are suicidal. Educated and affluent people are disoriented and are running scared, because they too do not understand the deep and complex connections between the human economy and nature.

    Over the last twelve years, my small-scale solution to this overwhelming problem has been to teach a class that brings many of the elements of human-nature interactions together and roots them in science, mostly in thermodynamics. This semester I had 25 graduate students in my class, plus 2 graduating PhDs, who audited the class. One of these two senior students explicitly disobeyed her thesis advisor, a well-known marine biologist, who did not want her to sit in my class. Hmm…

    For so many of you out there seeking enlightenment and guidance, it might be helpful to learn how in three months my class has changed the young lives; all for the better I hope.

    What follows is a slightly edited essay of one of the female students, a biologist….

    https://patzek-lifeitself.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-essence-i-suppose-part-i.html

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    1. Thanks, Rob. I like Tad Patezk.

      “Educated and affluent people are disoriented and are running scared, because they too do not understand the deep and complex connections between the human economy and nature.”

      No surprise there. So someone has a degree. I consider that schooling as much as education. No doubt it’s an accomplishment, took a great deal of work and they have a bunch of knowledge in one area, but true education is life long, eclectic & requires no approval/accreditation from the system. Curiosity can’t be taught. In my experience, most observant doomers are big time generalists whether they have an engineering degree like you, a trade ticket like me or went from high school graduation to employment right away. I have a handful of people in my family who are intelligent, good at their jobs, decent parents, but a fucking clueless to how the world really works. The central purpose of the education system is to churn out worker bees & plug them into the hierarchy of the workforce. If true critical thinking & skepticism was taught it would be a much different system or none at all. A certain level of conformity & faith is required for a society to function. Yes it’s denial + self interest + societal conditioning. All of us were taught that finishing K-12 then going to college or trade & vocational school or into the military is what a good citizen does & it’s good fer ya – good for the economy! Btw, “good for the economy!” is the modern secular version of “God wills it!” Both are uncritical blanket justifications & debate enders.

      I think more people will come to understand as the pain becomes more wide spread, but it won’t stop civilizational & biosphere collapse that will result in a mass die-back at the very least. It’s possible that a greater understanding could result is a gentler fall, but the blaming & need to punish when things go south is very powerful & it is ubiquitous in human history.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Today’s essay from Tim Garrett is an excellent complement to James’ essay above, and explains Garrett’s theory which I am certain is the second most important theory developed in the last century, after Varki’s MORT of course, in that it quantifies the relationship between wealth and energy.

    As with Varki’s MORT, almost no one knows about Garrett’s theory, including the people that must understand it, like our leaders and the economists that advise them.

    https://nephologue.blogspot.com/2019/12/economic-growth-engine-of-collapse.html

    In the two decades following World War II, a remarkable period of rapid gas and oil discovery created an epoch of super-exponential growth. More recently, new extraction technologies and discoveries of fossil fuel reserves have only barely kept up with previously created demand. GDP growth is stagnating and individuals, professions, and nations are increasingly competing for their share.

    Inevitably, there will come a point where collectively we can no longer access sufficient resources to sustain the current period of expansion. The question is not whether civilization is ultimately in trouble, but instead whether we will gradually subside or crash like a wave on the beach.

    The negative impacts of past growth are already clear with accelerating climate change and environmental degradation. They will become particularly pronounced when resource depletion makes it challenging to self-repair, as flooded cities and drought-stricken farmland is abandoned. In biological and physical systems, when growth stagnates, fragility sets in. Following even small crises, recovery times slow, and there arrives a tendency for larger-scale collapse.

    Of course, predicting the future is hard. But there are always going to be basic physical limits on what can and cannot happen. We can say with confidence that if civilization maintains current rates of economic growth over the next 30 years, within just one generation it will need to double its current rate of energy consumption, extracting as much total energy from the environment as it has since the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

    Can we really do this? Perhaps. Maybe we will continue to find the energy and raw materials on our finite planet to accomplish this extraordinary feat, but with the trade-off that sustaining “economic health” now means more potentially catastrophic consequences of global climate change later. Absent an extraordinarily rapid metabolic shift away from carbon based fuels, persistence of growth implies that we will face a likely 4 °C to 9 °C temperature rise within the lifetimes of those born today.

    To all but Nobel Prize winning climate economists, such warming seems impossible to survive. Smaller civilizations have been through collapse before so looking to history may provide lessons for what actions are required to avoid the worst of what is to come.

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  6. I am sure that you may be familiar with Chris Clugston and his “Scarcity – Humanity’s Final Chapter?”. His new book Blip – ‘humanity’s self-terminating experiment with industrialism’ is exceptional.

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  7. I think I’ve posted this excellent talk by Sid Smith in the past.

    Smith wrote a complementary essay which is also very good. (h/t Sam Mitchell)

    http://bsidneysmith.com/writings/essays/all-the-bunnies-in-the-meadow-die

    It is difficult to summarize the consequences of human overshoot, and even more difficult to draw specific conclusions about its final outcome. As the physicist Niels Bohr remarked, prediction is difficult, especially of the future. However, if you see someone stacking blocks one atop another into a high tower, and if that tower gets many times higher than the base that supports it, you can say with certainty that if blocks keep being added it will topple over. You can’t say exactly when it will topple. You can’t say in what direction. You can’t say whether the collapse will begin at the bottom or somewhere in the middle. But—you can still know with a certainty that it must fall, and fall soon.

    It is also true that the sheer number of people on Earth is not by itself what determines the severity of our overshoot; it is the average rate of consumption multiplied by the population. In this respect Americans have much to answer for, because our ecological footprint is several times larger than most of the rest of humanity’s.* If everyone on Earth consumed as much as the average American, all would have perished long before now.

    So there are two things we can say with certainty. First, the size of the human population will drop very substantially. Estimates of the carrying capacity of the planet vary widely, but those estimates that take account of the facts presented here are much lower than the current population.* When we also take into account the severe degradation of the planet’s ecosystems that is likely yet to occur, we must be even more pessimistic.* How the drop in population will occur, when it will begin to occur, how long it will last, and what the population will be afterward is impossible to know. It may be disease, or war, or (the default) famine. It is likely to be a combination of things. But it cannot be avoided.

    The second thing we can say with certainty is that the rate of human consumption must decrease to a small fraction of the current average in the developed world. In particular, anything like the current consumer culture will be quite impossible.

    Human ecological overshoot is the defining fact of life on Earth for the foreseeable future. This issue doesn’t just dwarf other issues; it absorbs every issue—political, cultural, economic, and environmental—into itself. Far too many people are still asking how we can avoid the consequences of overshoot. This is like someone who is already falling asking how to avoid hitting the ground. The right question is, how can we best cope with and mitigate the consequences? How do we shape our lives to fit the future we have made for ourselves? Or rather, not our lives, for that die is cast. What can we do now so that our children’s children’s children may have a world to live in, in freedom, dignity, and peace?

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  8. Steve St. Angelo on debt and energy. For the record, I’m not as bullish about gold as he is, but I do agree with his views on debt and energy.

    https://srsroccoreport.com/the-global-debt-ticking-time-bomb-the-reason-to-own-gold-silver

    “The U.S. economy isn’t even in a recession, and the Fed is acting as if it was 2008-2009 all over again. What happens when the U.S. economy finally rolls over??”

    “In just ten years since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the world added another $100 trillion in debt. Now, the majority of that debt went into the Stock, Bond, and Real Estate Markets. This is precisely why the U.S. stock market has reached an all-time new high. Unfortunately, when the U.S. and the global economy finally enters into a recession-depression, the asset values will crash while the debts remain.”

    “Let me provide the reader with a good piece of advice. Ignore the WHITE NOISE coming from the Mainstream and Alt-Media and pay attention to what’s happening in the oil industry and market. If you spend a lot of your time trying to figure out the “Manipulation” of the precious metals, including all the new conspiracy theories about the Elite, etc, you are wasting your life away.

    The entire Political Circus from the LEFT or the RIGHT is a complete waste of time. If you have been watching the Impeachment hearings hoping and praying that President Trump is forced out of office, you are WASTING YOUR LIFE AWAY. If you are listening to the RIGHT or Alt-Media about all the conspiracies in regards to the DEEP STATE, you are WASTING YOUR LIFE AWAY.

    The two political parties are not going to help you survive the next financial and economic collapse phase that is coming. Thus, the extreme Left AOC New Green Party and the extreme Right-Wing Divide and Conquer Regime of Global Dominiation will become totally meaningless when the ENERGY CLIFF arrives.

    The coming ENERGY CLIFF isn’t biased. It doesn’t care about the color of your skin, your religious preference, your political brainwashing, or if you are rich, middle-class, or poor. The ENERGY CLIFF will change the way of life for everyone. “

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  9. Dmitry Orlov on what’s going on behind the scenes with the the repo problem that started in August. He thinks its a serious structural problem. I don’t know but something doesn’t smell right. Thanks to Apneaman for finding this.

    https://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-final-act.html

    Previously, when it was clear that an overburden of bad debt could trigger financial collapse at any moment, the Federal Reserve (which is in charge of printing money) engaged in something it euphemistically called “quantitative easing” (“QE”). It printed lots of US dollars in exchange for various bits of USTs, along with other financial garbage, with the goal of later selling the USTs while hiding the garbage, thereby preserving the appearance that USTs are sovereign debt supported by the full faith and credit of the US government rather than just some waste paper clogging up its vaults. But when it declared “quantitative easing” to be over and tried selling the USTs, all hell immediately broke loose and it was forced to go right back to buying them up, in a scheme that has been sarcastically referred to as “not QE.” Euphemisms aside, what is happening is properly called “debt monetization”: it’s when a government “borrows” money not by selling its debt in exchange for money that already exists but simply printing the money using paper and ink, or magic digits inside a very secure computer.

    Let’s go over some of the relevant details. “Not QE” actually started well before it was announced and proceeded in stealth mode. Over six weeks starting in September 2019, the Fed monetized an average of $20.5 billion per week. This rate is compatible with the extent of its previous efforts at “quantitative easing” at their height. It was forced to do so because the REPO rate on USTs spiked to 10 times the rate set by the Fed. (REPO stands for “repurchase agreement”; it is where one party borrows short-term from another party, using USTs (and other supposedly very safe debt instruments) as collateral, much as a pawn shop will give you money for a watch and then allow you to buy it back.) The huge spike in interest rates signaled that USTs were no longer seen as particularly safe collateral and the Fed had to step in and start throwing freshly minted dollars at the problem. And it never stopped. In fact, the problem grew larger; so large, that now, at the year’s end, the Fed has committed $500 billion of printing press output to making sure that nobody runs out of cash.

    It is commonly thought that the Fed’s action has to do with short-term debt, and is therefore a short-term problem, but that’s simply not the case. Since early August (the start of stealth-mode “not QE”) the Fed has vacuumed up $179 billion with of USTs, of which USTs with terms longer than a year made up $108 billion, or 60%. Compare these numbers to the total borrowing by the US government over the same period, which amounted to $659 billion, of which $368 billion was short-term debt and $291 billion long-term. Thus, over this period the Fed has monetized 29.4% of new long-term debt and 24.4% of short-term debt. This should help put your mind at ease if you suspected that this isn’t a short-term problem but weren’t sure. It’s a long-term, structural problem.

    Next, let’s consider whether the problem is being solved or is getting worse. Rest assured, it is getting worse. Looking at the numbers for October and November, the Fed monetized over half (50.7%) of new US government debt. A straight-line projection is that if it took the Fed to go from 0% to 50% in four months, then it will go from 50% to 100% in another four—by April Fool’s 2020. But who’s to say that the increase will be linear rather than exponential? Whichever it is, the trend is unmistakable: the market in US government debt—once the deepest and most liquid market in the world—is dead. The only thing propping up the value of USTs is the Fed’s printing press. And the only thing propping up the value of the output of the Fed’s printing press is… what is it, exactly? Exactly!

    Let’s add one more salient detail. Over the course of 2020, $4.665 trillion of USTs will mature and will need to be rolled over into new USTs. This is an all-time record, and this is on top of new debt that will have to be issued in order for the US government to be able to stay open. Over the past year the US budget deficit has amounted to $1.022 trillion, which is a 15.8% increase over the previous year. If this trend continues, the new deficit will be around $1.183 trillion. In order to keep the wheels of finance from grinding to a halt, over 2020 the Fed will have to monetize, or print, close to $6 trillion.

    It appears likely that at some point over the coming months Fed chairman Jerome Powell will have to announce “not not QE,” and then “not not not QE,” and then “Milk-milk-lemonade, ’round the corner fudge is made!” and run for the unigender restroom sobbing inconsolably. And then Donald Trump will be forced to channel Boris Yeltsin, who, on August 14, 1998, summoned all the presidential gravitas he could muster and spoke the following sage words:

    «Девальвации рубля не будет. Это твердо и четко. Мое утверждение — не просто моя фантазия, и не потому, что я не хотел бы девальвации. Мое утверждение базируется на том, что все просчитано. Работа по отслеживанию положения проводится каждые сутки. Положение полностью контролируется».

    “There will be no ruble devaluation. This is my firm and clear position. My assertion is not just a product of my fantasy, and not because I don’t want devaluation to happen. My assertion is based on the fact that everything is taken into account. The work on reassessing the situation is being conducted daily. The situation is entirely under control.” (My translation.)

    And then three days later the Russian government declared sovereign default. The ruble dropped by 2/3 against the US dollar and the Russian economy, which was at that time extremely import-dependent, crashed hard. In a similar scenario, the US economy will crash much harder. Like Russia in 1998, the US is extremely import-dependent. But here the US government is not the only large borrower: most of US corporations are zombified corpses bloated with debt. For many years they have been borrowing at artificially low interest rates in order to buy up their own shares and prop up their value in a ridiculous effort to maximize shareholder value in the face of stalling economic growth. If they become unable to roll over their debt at artificially low interest rates (which will go away once the Fed definitively loses control of the situation) then they will automatically be forced to declare bankruptcy and liquidate.

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  10. Tim Morgan’s year-end summary is excellent (and wise).

    https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/2019/12/20/160-new-years-revolutions/

    The best place to start is with the deterioration in prosperity, and the simultaneous increase in debt, that have already destroyed the credibility of any ‘business as usual’ narrative in the Advanced Economies (AEs).

    Starting with Japan back in 1997, and finally reaching Germany in 2018, the prosperity of the average Western person has hit a peak and turned downwards, not in a temporary way, but as part of a secular process which conventional economics cannot recognise, much less explain.

    This process is now spreading to the emerging market (EM) economies, most of which can expect to see prior growth in prosperity per person go into reverse within the next three years. The signs of deceleration are already becoming apparent in big EM countries such as China and India.

    Thus far, global average prosperity has been on a long plateau, with continuing progress in the EM economies largely offsetting deterioration in the West. Once decline starts in the EM group, though, the pace at which the average person Worldwide becomes poorer can be expected to accelerate.

    If deteriorating prosperity is the first point worthy of emphasis, the second is that a relentlessly increasing Energy Cost of Energy (ECoE) is the fundamental cause of this impoverishment process. ECoE reflects that fact that, within any given quantity of energy accessed for use, a proportion is always consumed in the access process.

    ECoE is a direct deduction from the aggregate quantity of energy available, which means that surplus (ex-ECoE) energy is the source of all economic activity other than the supply of energy itself.

    In other words, prosperity is a function of surplus energy.

    The key point about rising ECoEs is that there is nothing we can do about it. This in turn means that global prosperity has entered de-growth. The idea that we can somehow “decouple” economic activity from the use of energy is utter wishful thinking – not surprisingly, because the economy, after all, is an energy system.

    This presents us with a clear choice between obfuscation and denial, on the one hand, and acceptance and accommodation, on the other. Our present position is one of ‘denial by default’, in that the decision-making process continues to be based on the false paradigm that ‘the economy is money’, and that energy is “just another input”.

    These issues take us to the fourth critical point, which is the threat to the environment. Let’s be clear that this threat extends far beyond the issue of climate change, into many other areas, which range from pollution and ecological damage to the dwindling availability of essentials such as water and food.

    Conversion to renewable energy (RE) isn’t the solution to these problems, if by “solution” we mean “an alternative which can sustain our current level of prosperity”. RE, despite its many merits, isn’t going to replace the surplus energy that we’ve derived hitherto from fossil fuels. RE might well be part of the solution, but only if we take on board the inevitability of degrowth.

    This brings me to my final point, which is choice. For well over two centuries we’ve been accustomed to an energy context which has been so favourable that it has given us the ability both to improve personal prosperity and to extend those benefits across a rapidly increasing population.

    With this favourable context fading into the past, we have to find answers to questions that we’ve never had to ask ourselves until now.

    The faculty of choice requires knowledge of the options, and this we cannot have whilst we persist in the delusion that “the economy is a financial system”. It isn’t, it never has been, and it never can be – but our ignorance about this fundamental point has been one of the many luxuries afforded to us by the largesse of fossil fuels.

    This seems pretty depressing fare to put before readers at the start of the festive season. The compensating thought has to be that the connection between prosperity and happiness has always been a falsehood.

    A lack of sufficiency can, and does, cause misery – but an excess of it has never been a guarantee of contentment.

    In the coming days, Christians will recall with renewed force that Jesus was born in a humble stable. He went on to throw the money-changers out of the Temple, and to instruct people to lay up their treasure, not on Earth, but in Heaven. I hope it will be taken in the right spirit if I add that He never earned an MBA, or ran a hedge fund.

    The single most important challenge that we face isn’t deteriorating prosperity, or the looming probability of a financial catastrophe. Rather, the great challenge is that of how to jettison the false notion that material wealth and happiness are coterminous.

    ‘Value’ may indeed be heading for mass destruction.

    But values are indestructible.

    Like

  11. Doug Nolan’s obituary for Paul Volcker.

    In the good ol’ days, short term pain could make the future better. Today that’s not possible. It’s too late to avoid future pain. We need short term pain to reduce future pain. Still a wise exchange. But we have no brave leaders. We don’t even have any aware leaders.

    http://creditbubblebulletin.blogspot.com/2019/12/weekly-commentary-last-of-great-central.html

    Volcker is a true policy hero whose virtues and accomplishments have withstood the test of time. He was willing to inflict acute short-term pain for the prospect of long-term gains. Volcker accepted being a villain with no expectation of vindication. He steadfastly followed his moral and ethical guiding light. In a financial world colored with seductive variations of gray, Paul Volcker’s “sound money” framework readily distinguished right from wrong.

    Mr. Volcker’s passing is a sad reminder of how severely the world has lapsed. It’s similar for individuals, corporations, governments and the markets: add a significant amount of debt and you lose flexibility – you sacrifice freedom, independence and more. Well-tested traditional values and principles are too easily abandoned. The corrosion starts subtly only to end outrageously. Pushing short-term rates these days to 20%? Ten-year Treasury yields above 15%? Inconceivable. But almost as farfetched today would be any imposition of tight monetary conditions. At this point, 3% Fed funds and 4% ten-year yields would surely spark financial crisis.

    Like

    1. What Mr. Nolan (Noland?) won’t recognize, because he loves capitalism, is that capitalism is good and dead. The rich are Federal Reserve socialists. The best way to achieve our blogger’s goals is to abolish the Fed. The financial system would soon collapse and we’d discover that no one is a wealth creator.

      Like

      1. I don’t take quite as cynical a view. Most people (not just the rich) can enjoy 100% of a home after saving a 5% down payment because we have central banks that implement a fractional reserve debt backed monetary system, and that system requires economic growth. Most people won’t like a world with no growth and market driven interest rates, but it’s coming. Problem is that by denying and fighting reality, we make the future much worse and risk everything.

        Like

        1. More than “no growth,” contraction, permanently. Imagine no Fed but a fiat currency. No one covers your ass in the repo market. Shale drillers have to be positive cash flow most of the time. Hedge fund managers cannot make many bad bets. With market driven interest rates, how far would home prices fall? 80%? If so, no such thing as credit cards anymore. And not nearly as much Texas tea coming out of the ground, nor construction of solar panels and wind turbines. A steady state we will reach, after widespread destruction. Maybe contraction isn’t permanent.

          Like

  12. Dave Collum’s annual review is up. Collum can be a little too much rich white guy, but he does compile an interesting set of non-mainstream media observations. This year of note he makes the case that climate change science is not settled. My view? I believe my eyes.

    https://www.peakprosperity.com/2019-year-in-review-part-1/

    https://www.peakprosperity.com/2019-year-in-review-part2/

    Chris Martenson writes the first comment, and offers the mother of all conspiracy theories:

    As the data stands, I see there are two ways to see climate change.

    (1) Political power and money grubbing banks have been accumulating around the topic of climate change for their own benefit AND it is real.

    (2) Political power and money grubbing banks have been accumulating around the topic of climate change for their own benefit BUT it is not real.

    I think Dave has done a superb job of raising the degree to which legitimate scientists have been ostracized and stifled as they try to bring forward their research that might not fit the dominant narrative which, as pointed out above, has a lot of very interested power players on board.

    What if…what if the power structures have known about peak oil as a reality for a long time. What if they didn’t know about shale oil like the rest of us and that goes a long ways towards explaining the many lies and falsehoods behind attacking Iraq?

    What if their plan has always been to be “on top” of the heap that scrambles for the last dregs of oil as things wind down? What if they rightly concluded that fighting for the oil was not an option, not in this world of hypersonic missiles and the fact that China has a land route to the Middle East while the rest of the OECD has to sail there?

    What if given all that they settled on another strategy for getting that oil for themselves? What would that strategy look like?

    There really aren’t that many ways to get it “peacefully” but one of those would include “convince the rest of the world that they cannot afford it.” This is especially awesome if you can simply print up hundreds of billions of dollars per month without any seeming consequence because you and your locked-in central banker ring have got all the financial “”markets”” under complete control.

    I’ve often wondered something similar. What if our leaders are not in denial and not stupid? What would they do about peak oil? Using climate change as an excuse to force down consumption and to deny the reality of peak oil might be a good plan. But it seems to me the facts do not support this theory. The lowest interest rates in 5000 years are, in my opinion, primarily intended to keep unprofitable oil flowing and a little “growth” (bought with debt) going. CO2 emissions continue to rise. Our leaders, like everyone else, are screwed once growth stops, and once the temperature rises 2 degrees. So I don’t buy it. I do agree with Martenson that the Iraq war was motivated by peak oil and the fact that fracking was not yet a thing.

    Like

    1. Well, if climate change were settled, we’d agree Earth has finite resources and, moreover, we cannot emit much carbon. In addition, Mr. Collum couldn’t give us insightful comments about markets because they’d be going in one direction, unless we still had a Federal Reserve.

      Like

    2. What if the laws of physics, chemistry & biology are all part of the hoax, put in place centuries in advance by the ancestors of today’s scientists so their great great grand kids could could cash in on $50,000 science grant money hoaxes (after 10 years of post secondary education that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars).

      Fuck Chris Martenson, his guest & all deniers. Martenson is just another typical American huckster, ( aww shucks’ variety). How to get rich as the world collapses by Chris Martenson – $19.99 a month.

      Like

      1. I’m sure Martenson pivoted from Energy/Economy/Environment to “central banks are evil” because it’s better for subscriptions. It took him years to admit climate change was a thing and to allow it to be discussed on his site. On a positive note, before deciding to make a living from doom, his early work like “The Crash Course”, was outstanding.

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  13. Well deserved kudos from Albert Bates.

    “Every few days or weeks, Rob Mielcarski posts to his Un-Denial blog some or another nuance to the Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory of Varki and Brower (2013). If you are not aware of MORT, the idea in a nutshell is that somewhere in the evolution of human neurobiology there came a moment when we were so freaked out by recognition of our own mortality (after ritualistically consuming a paranoia-inducing mushroom like Amanita muscaria perhaps), that we hard-wired a capacity to deny our own mortality and take on blind faith that every-day-reality is too unreliable to put complete trust in.”

    https://peaksurfer.blogspot.com/2019/12/our-genetic-timebomb.html

    Like

  14. A new record high for 2019.

    2019 was a disastrous year for efforts to conserve the world’s tropical rainforests, capping a difficult decade where deforestation increased substantially over the 2000s.

    A team led by Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland updated their annual tree cover loss dataset and added a new dataset on primary forest loss, a breakthrough development for monitoring global forests. According to the data, the tropics lost around 12 million hectares (around 46,300 square miles) of tree cover last year, of which 3.64 million hectares was primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense type of forest. 2018’s tree cover loss was down nearly 30 percent from its 2016 high, but 2019 may well break that record given the extent of forest fires across the Amazon, Indonesia, and Africa this year.

    https://news.mongabay.com/2019/12/2019-the-year-rainforests-burned/

    Like

  15. Chris Martenson’s year-end/decade-end essay is good. The main topic is reality denial, although Martenson is not aware that’s what he’s writing about, which is itself fascinating and more evidence in support of Varki’s MORT. Ditto on the fact that Martenson does not even mention the most important problem, by far: over population.

    Here are a few quotes that make my case.

    https://www.peakprosperity.com/good-riddance-to-the-twenty-teens/

    On negative interest rates…

    I badly underestimated the system’s ability to perpetuate obvious frauds and swindles without causing a social rebellion. And worse, to watch so many otherwise intelligent people participate with glee.

    Paying any government to lend it money is a swindle. Buying Greek national debt with a lower rate of return than US Treasury debt is a swindle. These and a thousand others completely obvious swindles, and yet here we are with the vast machinery of state and corporate journalism aligned to tell you how good and right they all are.

    On shale oil…

    I also underestimated the longevity of the recent shale oil “boom”. I studied it intently early on, concluded it was a money-losing enterprise, and then patiently waited for investors to wake up to that reality. This realization has been slow to dawn on them, but it’s finally becoming understood. Slowly, grudgingly. However, that’s after 10 years of massive losses for hapless investors in the shale oil space. Shale company bond and equity holders have been slaughtered, though those vast losses are yet to be recognized.

    It still doesn’t make sense to me that the obvious cash-destroying financial math of shale oil has proven so difficult to explain that an entire decade has passed before the media and Wall Street have started to catch on. It’s truly a mystery. Usually people with money are more alert than this. I chalk it up to the insanity stoked by the Fed in their “yield starved” captive audiences.

    On climate change….

    Meanwhile, I see a lot of people fretting about if/how various carbon emission targets are going to be met. Let me alleviate the suspense; they’re not. Every single economically-retrievable lump of coal and molecule of oil and gas is going to be extracted and burnt before we give up our addiction to fossil fuel. Why? Because without energy, nothing is possible. Especially our ridiculously comfortable lives of massive over-consumption. And fossil fuels remain unmatched in their net-energy returns compared to today’s alternatives.

    Even Australia’s current shattering of all its heat records, with growing swaths of the continent literally aflame, hasn’t managed to trip any alarms in the skull of the Australian PM Scott Morrison, whose single major policy initiative on the matter was to enact harsh new penalties on any Australians who might protest against the coal industry.

    On central banks and journalists…

    One thing I never, ever, not once, EVER foresaw was the markets being A-OK with the massive distortions the world central banking cartel has saddled the world with over the past decade. $15 Trillion in new currency printed from thin-air. The cramming of interest rates to 5,000 year lows. Negative interest rates. The complete perversion of price discovery. All in the service of making a very, very few wealthy people even wealthier. All while absolutely screwing the (former) middle classes, slow-roasting pensions, and destroying the retirement dreams of millions living on a fixed income.

    Despite the fact the 99.9% of all journalists are decidedly not in the camp of the “winners” here, they nonetheless take pains to never ask a single tricky question of the Fed, nor ask anything about its stated policy of robbing from the many to give to the few.

    At this point you really ought to be asking yourself, “why exactly are the world’s central banks, led by the Fed, freaking out so badly right now?” As we close out the ‘twenty-teens’, all I can say is, you’d better start working on providing the basics for yourself and your family, because when this credit cycle finally ends, it’s going to be horrible.
    Which is precisely what the central bankers know, too. While you and I may share in that knowledge, it remains unacceptable to talk about in public.

    The Overton Window does not allow for such talk anywhere and certainly never in the mainstream media, which is on track to close out the twenty-teens having failed in its Fourth Estate duties more comprehensively than any other press cohort in history.

    Concluding remarks on denial…

    There’s a great emergency happening right now, but society is not acknowledging it.

    The social mood is darkening Fourth Turning-style and people are protesting and risking life, career, and limb to express their anxiety and frustration with the policies of Team Elite™. But don’t expect to hear about that on the nightly news or in the mainstream press.

    The economy is doing so “great” that central banks are applying record-breaking amounts of funny-money stimulus to counter…something. Or, more accurately, to avoid something.

    What will the 2020’s hold? More of the same likely, though also some very sharp differences because the effects of a lot of our current bad decisions will come home to roost very soon.

    Like

  16. Kunstler’s money quote from his year-end essay…

    This naturally leads to the question: what drove the American thinking class insane? I maintain that it comes from the massive anxiety generated by the long emergency we’ve entered — the free-floating fear that we’ve run out the clock on our current way of life, that the systems we depend on for our high standard of living have entered the failure zone; specifically, the fears over our energy supply, dwindling natural resources, broken resource supply lines, runaway debt, population overshoot, the collapsing middle-class, the closing of horizons and prospects for young people, the stolen autonomy of people crushed by out-of-scale organizations (government, WalMart, ConAgra), the corrosion of relations between men and women (and of family life especially), the frequent mass murders in schools, churches, and public places, the destruction of ecosystems and species, the uncertainty about climate change, and the pervasive, entropic ugliness of the suburban human habitat that drives so much social dysfunction. You get it? There’s a lot to worry about, much of it quite existential. The more strenuously we fail to confront and engage with these problems, the crazier we get.

    My paraphrasing, “the more we deny reality the worse things will become”.

    https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/forecast-2020-whirling-and-swirlin/

    Like

    1. Good stuff but the picture could be even worse than JHK paints. Have you seen this little beauty from Dr Richard Nolthenius aka Stainless Steel Rick who wrote the excellent guide to Tim Garrett’s work and the Garret relationship, for those of us who are a bit lacking up top.

      Happy New Year and thanks for keeping up your work on Undenial.

      Like

      1. Thank you and best wishes for the new year to you too.

        I have not seen this presentation by Richard Nolthenius but I am an admirer because he seems to be the only climate scientist on the planet that understands and assigns merit to Tim Garrett’s theory linking wealth and energy, which is the first and most important theory every climate scientist must understand before they are qualified to discuss “solutions”. It is head-shaking unbelievable that only one out of tens of thousands of scientists understands the only thing they must understand. I consider this observation strong evidence in support of Varki’s MORT.

        I have posted other work by Nolthenius here:
        https://un-denial.com/?s=Richard+Nolthenius

        Like

  17. You can count on Steve Ludlum to provide unique and wry insights into our insane financial markets and their obfuscated but critical links to energy. His year-end essay is really good.

    https://www.economic-undertow.com/2019/12/31/the-gift-that-keeps-on/

    Keep in mind all industrial businesses are credit dependent. There is very little difference between having to borrow a certain amount, like every industry does, and having to borrow that amount- plus a whole lot more like the frackers are doing. This industry isn’t a bagatelle, it can’t be walked away from and abandoned by the side of the road like carry traders. Frackers account for the entire increase in world petroleum extraction since 2010 as well as 100% of the increase of US natural gas. They’re too critical to fail! At the same time, lenders are looking at an open-ended commitment to an enterprise that never makes money. No wonder lenders might appear queasy lending to each other; nobody knows which bank is going to be on the hook for the next hundred billion. Under the circumstances, lenders are going to look for guarantees, if not from the government then from the Fed.

    Since 2014, frackers in the US have pumped something on the order of five billion barrels, the equivalent of another North Sea or Prudhoe Bay. Ample supply and low prices during this period are a reason why US economic activity has been strong; not interest rates (and not who is president). Economic gains overall going forward would seem to be worth the cost of subsidizing drillers and holding prices down, if only for a little while.

    See also his (likely correct) prediction that Chinese debt is the pile of firewood, and bad Chinese debt is the match.

    Like

  18. Every week or so I clean out hundreds of spam comments that are sent to this blog. The vast majority of spam is selling cheap Viagra knockoffs. One can imagine thousands of ways to make money in the gray zone of legality, and yet everyone chooses to sell Viagra. How can this be? What does this say about our society? Maybe it’s because this blog is owned by a 60+ male, but I doubt it because if they were profiling you’d think they’d be selling Nembutal.

    Like

  19. On Thursday night, Trump ordered the assassination of Major General Qassim Suleimani, a top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, without any notification nor authorization from Congress. The drone strike also killed four others outside Baghdad’s international airport. To attempt to put this in context, imagine China or North Korea assassinating the US Joint Chief of Staff outside the airport in Mexico City.

    http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2020/01/03/this-week-in-doom-january-3-2020/

    Like

  20. More evidence that the people that run our world deny we have hit limits to growth. They are clearly laying pipe to print more money to force some inflation. Unfortunately the outcome will be much worse than it needed to be because they are too stupid to understand the consequences of printing money when growth is constrained by the energy cost of energy.

    SAN DIEGO, Jan 3 (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve could find itself fighting too-low inflation for years to come, San Francisco Federal Reserve President Mary Daly said on Friday, and may need a new policy framework to lift inflation back up to the Fed’s 2% goal.

    “We don’t have a really good understanding of why it’s been so difficult to get inflation back up,” Daly said at the annual American Economics Association meeting in San Diego.

    But with global growth slowing and the populations of most advanced economies aging, Daly said, “this new ‘fighting inflation from below’ is going to be with us, I would argue, for a longer period of time than just a few years.”

    As a result, she said, “a new policy framework will likely be required” to boost inflation.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-fed-daly/update-1-fed-may-need-new-approach-to-boost-inflation-daly-says-idUSL1N2981IE

    Like

  21. Nice “big history” paper by Fred Spier. (h/t James @ Megacancer.com)

    Spier missed the key point explained by Nick Lane that the singular (and improbable) emergence of eukaryotic cells increased the energy per gene which enable all complex life. He also missed the singular (and improbable) emergence of reality denial which enabled high intelligence. So he got everything right except the important stuff.

    UNIVERSAL EVOLUTION: How Big History Works: Energy Flows and the Rise and Demise of Complexity
    https://www.sociostudies.org/almanac/articles/files/evolution_1/030-065.pdf

    Like

  22. If you want to deny that the rising energy cost of energy is the reason we have lowest interest rate and largest financial bubble in 5000 years of history, then this year-end summary by Doug Nolan will provide comfort.

    If you want to deny that the low interest rate is abnormal, or that markets are in a bubble, or that we are in a severe state of overshoot, then turn on any television channel or read any newspaper for comfort.

    http://creditbubblebulletin.blogspot.com/2020/01/weekly-commentary-2019-in-review.html

    Like

  23. Brilliant. Alberta is flying more firefighters half way around the planet to help fight the fires in Australia, thus creating more CO2 that caused the fires in the first place. If Albertans really want to help they should just wire cash. But then they wouldn’t get a a free winter trip to a warm destination nor the satisfaction of fellow monkeys thinking they’re heroes.

    Like

  24. Kunstler today on repo and oil is good.

    The repo market represents trillions of dollars in overnight lending in which bonds (or other “assets”) are used as collateral for ultra-short-term loans between large banks. Theoretically, this flow of supposedly secured lending acts as mere background lubricant for the engine of finance, like the motor oil circulating in your Ford F-150. You don’t notice it until it’s not there, and then all of a sudden you’re throwing rods and sucking valves, and the darn vehicle is a smoldering goner in the breakdown lane.

    The strange action on the repo scene suggests that some big banks are in big trouble, and probably because the “innovative investments” they’ve engineered — as a substitute for the true purposes of capital, such as enabling production of real goods — are proving once again to be little more than swindles and frauds, like last time. Things like interest rate swaps and credit default “insurance.” Have your eyes glazed over yet? The bottom line is an impressive potential for losses to go critical, multiply daisy-chain style, cascade wildly, and then start wrecking real things — like the supply lines to your supermarket.

    When you cut through all the esoteric crap, what’s likely behind all that is the dynamic of a failing affordable global energy supply. Yes, really. It’s not working to run the global economy anymore. That must seem crazy to Americans especially, who look at our all-time record oil production of nearly 13 million barrels-a-day now and behold the blue sky of “energy independence” as far as the eye can see. The trouble is, it’s a hologram of a mirage of a Ponzi scheme. Suffice it to say that shale oil just doesn’t make any money and all the other regular oil around the world is harder and harder to get to. A lot of that other oil is in the Middle East.

    https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/some-other-people-do-some-other-things/

    Like

    1. https://tubitv.com/movies/498169/playing_for_time (free to watch)

      That 1980 true-story film shows a common type of denial by “othering,” which only the main character rejects as false comfort. At several points, her cohorts dismiss their captors as monsters, but she tells them they’re biologically no different from bad people under the spell of ideology.

      Granted, you can’t take any random human and bring them to that stage of evil, but enough will always comply to cause big trouble. It should be clear that apathy about the environment is a shoo-in by comparison.

      Happy Doomer Year!

      Like

  25. Hi Rob,

    I found your blog a couple of months ago via reddit collapse. I’d not seen Varki’s work before that, and I’m in agreement with whoever said his theory is up there with Darwin’s when it comes to explaining humankind and its various foibles (to understate a little). I’ve very much enjoyed what I’ve read here, comments too (Apneaman, take a bow), and learnt a lot. I spent many years trying to shake people from their (apparent) stupours, and never could quite understand why it was I could point out something that appeared to me to very obvious, offer lots of evidence and still find that people overwhelmingly rejected what seemed to me to be reality. I understand that a little better, thanks to you and Varki.

    I noted with interest that a back cover review of one of Varki’s book came from Simon Baron-Cohen, generally acknowledged as a leading expert on autism. I’ve found that of the vanishingly few people in my life who are willing to look at a difficult situation and not shy away, the autists tend to be all of them. This is spoken as a self-diagnosed (via Baron-Cohen’s diagnostic test) Aspie (autistic but capable of faking normality, as a brief definition of that syndrome). One of my earliest forays into the world as it actually works was a now defunct forum called Gold is Money, and in those days I remember finding it interesting that fully half  (versus what should be 2 or 3% of the population) of the participants were INTJs (Myers Briggs personality test); I suspect now that a lot of them would fall on the autism spectrum, too. I’ve found the condition to be both a blessing and a curse over the course of my life, though I would not become neurotypical, given the choice.

    “What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”

    I found this talk by Baron-Cohen interesting in regards to autism, as he touches on its evolutionary aspect, and the function it serves the allegedly wise, wise ape in his and her pursuits of…gradient dissipation?

    A long-winded thanks for your work, in other words.

    Like

    1. Hi Simon, thanks for stopping by with the kind words. I was the first person to suggest Varki’s theory ranks with Darwin’s and I believe you are the first person to publicly agree with me.

      Apneaman has frequent excellent insights. He hangs out mostly at http://megacancer.com/ if you’d like to see more frequent posts by him.

      I read with much interest your comments about autism. I’ll check out Simon Baron-Cohen and I intend to do a self-diagnostic on myself and may report back the results. In support of your speculation, I’ve heard people say that Greta Thunberg is on the spectrum.

      There is much density and mystery packed into the 4 words “extended theory of mind” that reality denial enabled. Perhaps autism is one flavor of an abnormal or defective theory of mind?

      Like

      1. I scored 31 out of a possible 50. Apparently the range 26-32 indicates some Autistic traits. Not sure if this is good or bad but I do really like understanding what’s going on. All my life I have been obsessed with the question “why?”.

        Like

    2. More possible evidence of the link between autism and non-conventional thinking from Bill Bryson’s latest book “The Body”…

      Peter Mitchell was an eccentric self-funded scientist who worked from his home lab and was awarded the Nobel prize for figuring out how cell respiration works, possibly the most important (and non-intuitive) discovery ever made in biology, excepting of course Darwin’s and Varki’s contributions. 🙂

      He was also famously forgetful. At his daughter’s wedding, he approached another guest and confessed that she looked familiar, though he couldn’t quite place her.

      “I was your first wife,” she answered.

      Like

  26. Hey Rob,

    Yes indeed, I’ve seen Thunberg refer to Asperger’s syndrome as her super power. One of the positive traits of autism is a tendency to study a subject in depth; it can be a bit obsessional, but again for me that’s been something I’ve enjoyed over time, if one has the freedom to pursue one’s own interests.

    And agreed again, I suspect that autists are working without such a well-functioning extended theory of mind. It’s common for people with Asperger’s to note that while they are able to socialise and appear normal to others, it’s a great effort to do so, and most would rather spend their time alone (studying their particular obsession!). I find this myself, while I can put myself in others’ shoes, I don’t like to do so, as it’s exhausting to do so, and I recognise that one of the key skills that this enables is deceit. I’d rather just be honest and straightforward. I’ve spent a little time in recent months studying autism; I’d recommend this and this video, as well as Baron-Cohen’s evolutionary take, as informative and quite eye-opening for someone on the spectrum.

    I’m on the low end of significantly autistic, according to that test. I don’t know whether it’s a good or a bad thing, but in the final analysis, most autistic people that I’ve seen writing about their experiences have noted that while there are great challenges, especially in childhood, to being neuro-atypical, they wouldn’t change given the choice. The Guardian has some thoughtful pieces on this subject.

    “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

    I suspect a lot of technological innovations over human history have come about due to people with autism. Hans Asperger, who identified autism in 1944, once said, “It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential. The necessary ingredient may be an ability to turn away from the everyday world, to rethink a subject with originality so as to create in new untrodden ways.”

    Like

    1. Thank you. I’ll read your links.

      I spent 25 years in senior management roles where my main task was to judge and reward or punish the competence of people, and to influence people to do what I wanted them to do by putting myself in their shoes and telling them what they wanted to hear. It was hell and I self-medicated with alcohol. Then I got clean and couldn’t do it any more.

      Stay well.

      Like

  27. Steve St. Angelo on the non-renewable waste and other problems associated with “green” wind power.

    It’s nice to see him advocating degrowth as the only rational response to our predicament. I wish he would now discuss exactly how we could degrow our economy without blowing everything up and enabling despots given the extreme level of debt and deficits in our global system.

    The wind turbine blades are a toxic amalgam of unique composites, fiberglass, epoxy, polyvinyl chloride foam, polyethylene terephthalate foam, balsa wood, and polyurethane coatings. So, basically, there is just too much plastic-composite-epoxy crapola that isn’t worth recycling. Again, even though there are a few small recycling centers for wind turbine blades, it isn’t economical to do on a large scale.

    https://srsroccoreport.com/the-renewable-green-energy-myth-50000-tons-of-non-recyclable-wind-turbine-blades-dumped-in-the-landfill

    Like

  28. Wow. The leader of the most powerful country in the world is encouraging his citizens to buy more stocks at the peak of the biggest bubble in 5000 years.

    Is this gross irresponsibility or does he know that central banks will print as much as it takes to prevent a market correction and therefore in the end it will be better to own stocks than a destroyed currency?

    I honestly don’t know.

    Like

  29. Gail Tverberg’s essay published yesterday with her predictions for 2020 is good. Among other things it’s a quick refresher and summary of what’s happening in the global energy market.

    My key takeaways:
    – oil production began to fall (0.5%) in 2019 and will probably fall faster (1.0%) in 2020
    – world population continues to rise (1.1%) so “real” per capita wealth will fall more (1.6%) in 2020
    – if a serious recession occurs oil production (and wealth) will fall even faster
    – 2020 may be the start of a permanent decline in energy and wealth unless something happens to increase consumer purchasing power
    – the only candidate I can see to (temporarily) increase consumer purchasing power is printed helicopter money

    Other observations and predictions by Gail:
    – the ongoing collapse of the global recycling industry is having wide ranging repercussions
    – electric car sales will fall
    – expect warlike behavior by governments trying to increase oil prices (kind of obvious when you think about it but I completely missed this as a probable cause of Trump’s recent drone assassination)
    – expect social unrest and a possible rebellion in Alberta 🙂

    https://ourfiniteworld.com/2020/01/08/expect-low-oil-prices-in-2020-tendency-toward-recession/

    Like

  30. I love this quote by Doug Nolan. He’s talking about the global extended theory of mind with reality denial in its full glory.

    “What really makes this so dangerous? Markets know that policymakers know the system is acutely fragile. Central bankers are not only trapped, the situation is so dire that they have no choice but to move early and aggressively to ensure Bubbles can’t begin deflating (no corrections or adjustments allowed).”

    http://creditbubblebulletin.blogspot.com/2020/01/weekly-commentary-issues-2020.html

    Like

  31. The democratic government of Iraq recently voted to expel the US military from its soil.

    The democratic government of the US replied “no”.

    “America is a force for good in the Middle East. Our military presence in Iraq is to continue the fight against ISIS and as the Secretary has said, we are committed to protecting Americans, Iraqis, and our coalition partners. We have been unambiguous regarding how crucial our D-ISIS mission is in Iraq. At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership—not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East. Today, a NATO delegation is at the State Department to discuss increasing NATO’s role in Iraq, in line with the President’s desire for burden sharing in all of our collective defense efforts. There does, however, need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership. We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq.” – US State Department

    Like

  32. K Dog today on denial.

    CO2 is rising fast. Half a percent a year now. A rather important thing to know. A fact that should be known by more than a few people. People who don’t know what to do with the information once they have it it. Thinkers who do not act. Half a percent a year should be common knowledge and the subject of talk everywhere we go. In another culture it would be. Not in America. This culture prefers to die.

    By weight people outweigh wild animals. By weight livestock outweigh people. Cows, pigs and goats, outweigh people and we outweigh all wild animals put together. Wild animals are now 4% by weight of all animals on Earth. The weight of poultry is three times more than the weight of all wild birds. Oceans have been 90% depleted of fish. Facts undeniably prove human population overshoot. But humans deny such facts. Humans have a special talent for denying facts.

    Fossil fuels caused people to breed like bunnies in a meadow after shooting all the wolves. Now the meadow is full of bunnies. Soon nothing done, the bunnies will start to eat each other. I fear nothing will be done before it is too late.

    http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2020/01/12/collapse-of-global-industrial-civilization-is-nigh/

    Like

  33. I think a wise society faced with physical limits to growth would reduce it’s use of debt to lower the elevation from which it will fall, thus reducing suffering that will be experienced as it contracts. We of course are doing the exact opposite by ramping up debt to resist limits to growth.

    Steve Ludlum has a unique and different view on debt. He thinks debt never was “sustainable”, even when we didn’t face limits to growth. He might be right, I don’t know.

    One of the many concepts economists fail to explain clearly is how people become rich. One would think in a capitalist-friendly system such as the one we live under, how wealth begets itself would be well understood. The popular narrative suggests tycoons are heroic, farsighted innovators who will into existence products and services that people don’t realize they need. They offer these in enormous quantities at a profit. which occurs when returns exceed factor expenses. Given enough profits entrepreneurs reward themselves with luxury cars, mansions, drug habits and mistresses. And pay cash. This is the narrative found in economic doctrine, outlined in excruciating detail by Adam Smith to Friedrich Hayek to John Maynard Keynes and it’s nonsense.

    At scale industrial enterprises don’t create profits because they are unable to. That this is so is self evident: if firms were productive there would be no debt because business returns would retire it. Instead, commercial expansion carries along with it an almost unimaginable accumulation of unpaid loans; a metaphoric Everest amounting to hundreds of trillions of dollars. The only thing that can even service this amount is continual additional borrowing and the reduction of debt’s burden by inflation.

    Default or repudiation does cure indebtedness but passes repayment obligations onto third-parties including lenders, themselves.

    All Earthly processes produce entropy, a topic conveniently absent from mainstream economics. The real, physical sum-total of all sector inputs is always greater than the sum of outputs. Regardless of what we do, including nothing, there are losses. That economists claim the opposite is a myth, enabled the purposeful mischaracterisation- and underpricing of inputs.

    Because industrial enterprise is fundamentally unprofitable, debt is required for us to ‘fake it’. Debt is ubiquitous, it is a ‘factor in production’ along with land and labor. A gigantic, interconnected finance sector needed to create- and manage it. All money is debt, even the kind that is dug out of the ground or conjured into existence on a computer. Cash paid in hand is a loan made by a bank somewhere to someone which proceeds may have changed hands hundreds of times subsequently. There is no ‘investment’ that did not begin its existence as a loan.

    People become tycoons by borrowing their fortunes and having third parties service and retire the loans. The technical term for this process is ‘theft’: I buy the house, you pay for the house … you can’t live in it. This sort of thing is possible because the unremarkable taking on of debt allows entrepreneurs to divert some of it to themselves. Another reason is social orders are built around shared narrative myths that have compulsive power, such as the heroic innovator myth, the profitable large business myth or the efficacy of technology. Abandoning these narratives represents an enormous risk, after all, it’s unthinkable what might happen if people stop believing in entrepreneurs or the moral necessity of repaying debts or the ability of technology to solve our problems? (There is no debt-repaying technology in the pipeline, by the way.)

    https://www.economic-undertow.com/2020/01/12/bailing-out-the-rich/

    Like

  34. The roaring 20’s are, well, roaring.

    Notice the last sentence. The idiots in the United Nations, like all the other idiots, think we can spend money to reduce CO2 emissions. The reality is that fewer people spending less is required to reduce emissions.

    The world’s already huge debt load smashed the record for the highest debt-to-GDP ratio before 2019 was even over.

    In fact, it broke that record in the first nine months of last year. Global debt, which comprises borrowings from households, governments and companies, grew by $9 trillion to nearly $253 trillion during that period, according to the Institute of International Finance.

    That puts the global debt-to-GDP ratio at 322%, narrowly surpassing 2016 as the highest level on record.

    “Spurred by low interest rates and loose financial conditions, we estimate that total global debt will exceed $257 trillion” in the first quarter of 2020, the IIF said.

    The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates three times last year, and the European Central Bank’s benchmark rate is still at its post-financial crisis lows.

    Despite favorable borrowing conditions, the refinancing risk is massive. A total of more than $19 trillion of syndicated loans and bonds will mature in 2020. It’s unlikely that all of these will be refinanced or repaid.

    Another issue that the report brings up is the financing needs for urgent climate change action.

    The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals require $42 trillion of infrastructure investments by 2030, but “countries with limited borrowing capacity could face severe challenges in meeting development finance needs,” the IIF said.

    https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/13/economy/global-debt-record/index.html

    h/t Panaopticon @ https://climateandeconomy.com/2020/01/14/14th-jan-2020-todays-round-up-of-economic-news/

    Like

  35. Professor Richard Nolthenius explains that if we somehow manage to stop all CO2 emissions by 2050, the temperature will probably still rise by more than 8C, which means survival of civilization now depends on geoengineering, because civilization cannot survive either zero emissions or 8C.

    Like

  36. Nate Hagens was interviewed by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock today.

    It’s a good interview but unfortunately Nate still does not acknowledge that awareness of genetic reality denial is a requirement for any positive outcome after the big reset. With denial most people will blame another tribe rather than overshoot of the superorganism, and blame will probably lead to a dark place. Any viable plan must begin with awareness of reality denial.

    Hagens tells us a breakdown or “recalibration” could be a blessing-in-disguise, pushing us into “the birth of a new ‘systems economics’.”

    He’s definitely right that thermodynamics is in charge…

    According to Hagens, Capitalism did not choose the superorganism as a vehicle, but the other way around.

    https://www.ecoshock.org/2020/01/nate-hagens-the-collision.html

    You can find other work I’ve posted by Nate Hagens here:

    https://un-denial.com/?s=Nate+Hagens

    Like

  37. Alice Friedemann on steam powered tractors and the challenges civilization will face when the diesel cost of extracting diesel becomes so high that diesel is no longer available.

    Steam engines weren’t very efficient, 10 to 20% at best, which is why they went away beginning around 1920 when oil-powered engines came along. At the very best steam engines for transportation reached 10 to 20% efficiency. They were almost universally powered by coal, mostly by locomotives and stationary engines in factories. Only in America for a few decades was there so much wood that steam boats and locomotives burned wood rather than coal, until deforestation east of the Mississippi forced coal to be used, and a few decades later around 1920 oil combustion engines became more powerful, efficient, far less dangerous, and cheaper and the steam engines that remain are steam turbines used to generate electricity, not to move vehicles.

    Steam turbines to generate electricity are very efficient — the best can be 45%. But since trucks run on diesel fuel and can’t be electrified with batteries or catenary, and biomass doesn’t scale up enough to produce electricity, I am mainly interested in steam engines burning biomass as a long-term replacement for diesel-engines for trucks in the future.

    Biomass won’t scale up for vehicle and factory steam engines in the future for the same reason it didn’t in the past, the wood will run out quickly. Forests can take decades to grow back, since photosynthesis is inefficient, with about a half percent of new biomass added per year.

    Further limiting biomass steam engines is that post carbon they will depend on horses, like they did in the past, to haul biomass fuel and water to the steam engine. Each horse needs an average of 5 acres to provide its food, land which is now used to produce human food.

    Meanwhile, post fossil fuels, wood will also be needed for nearly everything – heating and cooking, homes and buildings, furniture and flooring, tools, roofs, and so on. It will be needed to make charcoal to make iron, bricks, metals, ceramics, and so on.

    In fact, biomass depletion (especially deforestation) is one of the main reasons past civilizations have failed for the past 5,000 years (see one of my favorite books: John Perlin’s “A forest journey”. And not just because there isn’t enough biomass. When you cut down forests, topsoil blows and washes away, and agricultural production declines. War ships can no longer be built to trade or steal trees elsewhere.

    Steam-powered vehicles are so inefficient I wasn’t going to ever cover them. But after several interviews about my book “When Trucks Stop Running”, several readers commented that we’ll use steam engines in the future. I agree. Until the forests are depleted, civilization crashes again, the forests grow back, and steam engines are made again, for a while.

    Which reminded me of that one reason why the energy crisis isn’t feared by anyone is that it’s like Bop-a-mole. Even if you succeed in convincing someone that solar PV power won’t be able to replace oil because it has a low EROI (too low to replace itself let alone provide power for everything else), is too seasonal, requires too much non-existent energy storage, and so on, most people will reason: but there’s still wind power, hydrogen, geothermal, wave and tidal, hydropower, natural gas and so on. Given the reduction of news and conversation to ten-second soundbites, the pressure to be optimistic about everything all the time (the scientists will come up with something!), and lack of scientific education, I don’t expect to ever make a dent in the general ignorance on energy and natural resource matters, but I don’t mind. This site is meant for the very small percent of people who, like me, want to understand reality regardless of how depressing it may be. An even smaller subset of them will actually make different choices about career and where to live than they might have otherwise, choices that may save their lives in the bottleneck ahead. Good luck to anyone who has read this far!

    http://energyskeptic.com/2020/steam-powered-farm-tractors/

    Like

  38. Mac10’s checklist:

    U.S. and Global Economy: Far weaker today than two years ago
    Per share earnings: Peaked 3rd quarter 2018
    Stock buybacks: Peaked 4th quarter 2018
    Overvaluation: Highest in U.S. history
    Fiscal and monetary safety net: Depleted
    Safe havens (Recession stocks): Overbought
    Index bubble/Mega cap overweight: Unprecedented
    Safe havens (Recession stocks): Overbought
    Breadth: Peaked October 2018
    Speculative positioning: More extreme than January 2018
    Complacency/risk exposure: Extreme
    RSI/Overbought: Same as January 2018
    Deflation will be extreme.
    Political discord will be even more extreme.
    Central banks won’t be able to stop the global asset crash. That realization will lead to further panic.
    Weak banks are at risk.
    Weak currencies are at risk.
    Weak nations are at risk.

    My checklist:

    everyone’s in denial

    https://zensecondlife.blogspot.com/2020/01/riding-out-system-failure.html

    Like

  39. Mac10 with another rant on genetic reality denial without knowing that’s what he’s ranting about.

    “After the debt ceiling was suspended in early August 2019, the US Treasury quickly set out to rebuild its dwindling cash balances, draining more than $120 billion of reserves in the 30 days between 14 August and 17 September alone, and half of this amount in the last week of that period”

    When did the repo crisis strike? September 16th.

    https://zensecondlife.blogspot.com/2020/01/a-world-run-by-idiots.html

    Like

  40. Tim Watkins today with a nice essay on why what can’t continue, won’t continue…

    https://consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2020/01/22/be-careful-what-you-wish-for-2/

    At the beginning of the new decade, most of us had believed that the energy cost of energy problem was – for the moment – limited to expensive unconventional oil such as Canadian tar sands and US fracking. It had been assumed that big oil companies like Exxon and BP still had access to sufficient conventional oil deposits to remain profitable. However, a recent report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has found that the oil majors are experiencing similar free cash flow problems to the fracking industry:

    “Since 2010, the world’s largest oil and gas companies have failed to generate enough cash from their primary business – selling oil, gas, refined products and petrochemicals – to cover the payments they have made to their shareholders. ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Total, and Royal Dutch Shell (Shell), the five largest publicly traded oil and gas firms, collectively rewarded stockholders with $536 billion in dividends and share buybacks since 2010, while generating $329 billion in free cash flow over the same period.

    “The companies made up the $207 billion cash shortfall—equal to 39 percent of total shareholder distributions—primarily by selling assets and borrowing money.

    “This practice reflects an underlying weakness in the fundamentals of contemporary oil and gas business models: revenues from the supermajors’ operations are not covering their core operational expenses and capital expenditures.”

    Like

  41. James today on gradient reduction….

    It doesn’t seem irrational to believe that mankind will continue to be an irredeemable gradient consumer. The environmentalists continue to be demonized for standing in the way of gradient reduction and this has been the case since environmentalism arose. Humans and other dissipatives are basically putty to be manipulated by the Maximum Power Principle and therefore have not been endowed with the free will necessary to control themselves nor save themselves.

    Currently Greta Thunberg is the whipping girl for the unrepentant “business” dissipatives. Trump is as much of a dissipative robot as I’ve ever seen and unfortunately so are most of his supporters. But the others are no different, occupying a green cornucopia fantasyland which is just what we should expect from a dissipative. The stark reality is not welcome to the mind of the dissipative that motivates itself with visions of ever more pillage and plunder of whatever kind.

    If truth be told and as experience has borne out, nothing will be conserved voluntarily and as the gradients become depleted there will be a call for eliminating any vestiges of consumable gradient (including all hoarded or previously protected wealth). The only things that will remain when the fire is done burning will be those things that fail the EROEI test. This regularly happens in nature in the predator-prey dynamic when prey becomes so scarce as to initiate predator starvation and population collapse. The energy return on typical hunting behavior becomes negative and the predator starves to death until the prey population bounces-back (fossil fuels will not bounce-back.) Humans can change their tools and behaviors more rapidly than a natural predator but this only allows the capture of the last few prey (fracking) with an even more severe collapse when the technology and behavior modifications must ultimately fail. Some things may cost more in energy/resources to consume than they provide in return and therefore will be spared as the dissipative world civilization starves to death. This won’t be a simple business cycle or “fourth turning” where a brief cessation is followed by a recovery. The energy that keeps the human and technological metabolisms moving will be completely consumed or greatly reduced and the matrix upon which biomass has historically grown will have been depleted, poisoned and/or be threatened with flooding or desertification.

    http://megacancer.com/2019/12/26/clean-your-room-and-take-out-the-trash/#comment-8080

    Like

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