The un-Denial Decision Tree

This post was inspired by a comment from reader Kira. She asked if denying climate change was the same as denying death. I answered as follows:

“I suspect there are 2 main groups of people:

One group is the 95% of the population that doesn’t really understand the science or the severity of the problem. They see bad things happening with the weather, but they also hear on the news that countries have signed an agreement to prevent the temperature from rising more than 2 degrees, and they see neighbors buying solar panels and electric cars, which they’re told by experts are solutions to climate change, so their optimism bias that comes from genetic reality denial leads them to conclude that the climate problem is being addressed, and they put it out of mind.

The other group is the 5% that does understand the science and the severity of climate change. These people have enough intelligence and education to conclude that we are already screwed regardless of what we do, and that any effective mitigation effort must involve a rapid decrease in population and/or per capita consumption. It is within this group that genetic denial of unpleasant realities is operating in full force. Most of these experts genuinely believe that climate change can be safely constrained, and economic growth can continue, by replacing fossil energy with solar/wind energy and by using machines to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. These beliefs are so absurd, and so contrary to basic high school level science, that there can be no other explanation than genetic realty denial. In this group, maybe it is death that is the main thing being denied.”

Kira said she agreed and then suggested it might be better to let people, and especially young people, remain in blissful ignorance so that they do not become depressed and lose a sense of purpose.

I thought about it and created the following decision tree of possible paths to answer her question.

  1. Humans are in serious trouble
    1. Disagree (I believe in God or Steven Pinker)
      • path: Carry on and oppose anything that threatens your beliefs and lifestyle
    2. Agree (I believe my eyes)
      1. It’s too late to do anything useful (nature’s forces now dominate human forces)
        1. Agree (a reasonable position given the data, but only if you think other species don’t matter, and 8 billion suffering humans is no worse than 8 billion minus 1 suffering humans)
          • path: Try not to think about it and enjoy the good days that remain and/or do some prepping to extend your good days
        2. Disagree (there’s still time to make the future less bad, even if all we do is reduce harm to other species and/or total human suffering)
          1. Humans can’t or won’t change their behavior in time
            1. Agree (most of history says we only change when forced, and the coming debt/energy/climate collapse will be too severe for any good to come of it)
              • path: Try not to think about it and enjoy the good days that remain and/or do some prepping to extend your good days
            2. Disagree (I believe Sapolsky that behavior is plastic and we have enough energy left to build a softer landing zone)
              1. Genetic reality denial blocks any useful change
                1. Disagree (I deny that I deny reality)
                  • path: Make yourself feel good by recycling your garbage, shopping with reusable bags, buying an electric car, and voting Green
                2. Agree (it’s not possible to act optimally without understanding reality)
                  1. Awareness of genetic realty denial will increase awareness of reality
                    1. Disagree (most people just want to pay their bills and watch TV)
                      • path: Try not to think about it and enjoy the good days that remain and/or do some prepping to extend your good days
                    2. Agree (most people want to learn)
                      1. Awareness of reality will cause positive behavior changes
                        1. Disagree (if the majority understood reality it would be Mad Max)
                          • path: Try not to think about it and enjoy the good days that remain and/or do some prepping to extend your good days
                        2. Agree (most people want to do the right thing, especially if pain is shared fairly)

This tree of (usually subconscious) decisions a person must make to decide which path to take about human overshoot results in 7 possible paths.

Six of the paths do not improve the outcome. One of the paths might improve the outcome, but has a very low probability of success because it’s currently occupied by a single old uncharismatic antisocial engineer.

Most people who really understand our overshoot predicament would probably discard my complicated decision tree and focus on a single issue: humans can’t or won’t change.

This view was recently voiced by reader Apneaman in a comment:

But can’t/wont. Have not.

Why? Like Sabine says…………

Now, some have tried to define free will by the “ability to have done otherwise”. But that’s just empty words. If you did one thing, there is no evidence you could have done something else because, well, you didn’t. Really there is always only your fantasy of having done otherwise.

No plan, no matter how spiffy & technically feasible, or logical argument can convince me that the humans are capable of collective change. I’ll need to see it to believe it. Same as God. Only Jesus floating down from the firmament & performing 10 miracles that are so spectacular they would make illusionist David Copperfield blush could convince me of the supernatural.

While true that it’s difficult to cause people to collectively do things they find unpleasant, or that conflict with the MPP objectives of their genes, it’s not impossible and not without precedent. I gave the following examples:

When the Canadian government says to its citizens:

  • Everyone must pay about 50% of their income as tax to operate the country.
    • Most citizens comply, and those that don’t are usually caught and forced to pay an extra penalty.
  • Germany has attacked our friend and we need our young men to risk their lives by fighting a war on a different continent.
    • Most eligible young men volunteered.
  • A virus threatens to overrun our healthcare system and we need citizens to stay at home except for essential activities which must be conducted with a mask.
    • Most citizens will comply.

Now if the Canadian government said to its citizens the combined threats of climate change and diesel depletion threaten our food security within 10 years, so we are putting in place incentives to encourage local food production and processing, and to decrease food imports, I think most citizens would support the plan.

If then after a couple years of further study and communication on the threat, the government said we don’t think there will be enough food to support our population in 10 years so we are stopping immigration and requiring families to have no more than one child, I think most citizens would comply.

The issue of course is that the Canadian government is not going to acknowledge or act on our overshoot threat in this manner.


I think it’s due to our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities, whenever we can get away with it.

Taxes, war, and viruses are very unpleasant, but they’re in your face and impossible to deny.

Food shortages 10 years out are easy to deny.

How do we change this?

It has to start with discussing and trying to understand our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities. Hence the path I’ve personally chosen in the above tree.

205 thoughts on “The un-Denial Decision Tree”

  1. Hey, no fair! You need a 1% category, even if just to include that single old uncharismatic antisocial engineer. There are others like him y’ know. I’m with Apneaman….I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL

      “There are others like him y’ know.” Please provide a link to anyone else on the planet that thinks awareness of MORT is a prerequisite for meaningful positive change (aka rapid population reduction). I’ve been watching now for several years and found no one. Very strange. I’m pretty sure I’m right. Or perhaps crazy? 🙂

      Varki, the respected scientist who co-discovered MORT, thinks our only hope is legitimate fear mongering to motivate change. This means, I think, governments would need to scare the shit out of their citizens with the hard truth. I don’t see how that would work given that governments are as deeply in denial as their citizens.


  2. Sorry for reposting my comment on this new thread but I felt this is better for having a conversation.

    I agree with you and I suspect that Manning’s last comment is meant for the latter 5% because the other 95% won’t even make it till there.

    The comment referred to is in this video at 51:35

    That raises another important issue which has to do with whether it is right to pull someone from blissful ignorance and bring them into the doomer group, especially if they are in their 20s. This could push them into depression as they realize that everything they have been told about the world is essentially just a cultural construct detached from reality of physics and thermodynamics. It would cause them to lose a sense of purpose. It seems almost cruel to inflict this on someone. For someone who is in their 60s or 70s it would be a little easier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in my 70’s and it’s definitely a lot easier for me. I can’t even begin to think how I’d cope with the understanding I have now, if I were in my 20’s. However I think young people need to be made aware of what is coming. Some will fold up under the stress, but there are some who will find the energy and committment to do something towards positive change. Ending denial is a prerequisite.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Here’s a link on how to lower the risk of dementia (and maintain reality) for cranky, old engineers and anybody else for that matter. This is not the first time I’ve come across somebody saying the famous food pyramid is not just plain wrong but in fact bad for your health.


    1. Tried intermittent fasting early this year. Did it for a month or so but lost motivation. Now I just skip breakfast many days. I know refined carbs are bad but I really don’t want to quit ice cream. I’m one of the family home care givers for an uncle with early dementia. It sucks but seems to be harder on the family than the individual.


  4. I am surprised you did not mention the worst part of climate change crisis – how it is used by different power centers for their own purposes.
    CC excuse has been used by US to try to force China to join unfair trade agreements. Big banks used the same excuse to extract even more wealth from the regular people ( carbon credits).
    Even your examples – electric cars and solar panels have nothing to do with solving the CC crisis. It’s all about increasing consumption in a society saturated with useless products.
    Is it any surprise then that some people reach the conclusion that it’s all a hoax?
    That is why the only way to deal with CC is at the individual level, in other words -cultivate your garden (Voltaire). You never know if one insect or bat species might survive because of that.


    1. Excellent find. That’s a very good essay. I’ve extracted some of it here.

      I’ve been criticized by friend and very smart guy Nate Hagens for being alarmist about climate change. He thinks depletion of fossil energy will prevent worst case climate scenarios. I observe that Lukas Fierz makes his case without even mentioning fossil energy emission continuance or growth.

      If our bees die, this is not a beginning but the end, because they have been poisoned already for a long time.

      First illusion: The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) takes 1850-1900 as the starting point which gives a temperature rise of more than one degree. But industrialization started 100 years earlier, and starting from the lower pre-industrial values we have already reached the 1.5 degrees.

      Second illusion: From the start it was clear that the Paris 1.5-degree target would be missed. James Hansen speaks of a fake deal. If it were kept, the temperature would rise above 3 degrees, over land twice as much. Moreover, the Paris Agreement assumes large-scale sequestration of CO2 from the air, which Hansen describes as illusory.

      Third illusion: Hardly anyone keeping the Paris Agreements we are underway to global warming of 4-5 degrees by 2100, again meaning about the double over land.

      This is official mainstream, i.e. the predictions of the IPCC.

      The fourth illusion assumes that this is hysterical alarmism. Even the greenhouse effect is denied although he has been proven more than 150 years ago.

      But in fact, all statements made so far are not alarmistic, but rather too tame,

      Fifth illusion: Many think that the temperature increase is linear. But it becomes faster, as one sees with the naked eye:

      Even the IPCC suffers from this illusion: Before 2015 they talked of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees by 2100. In 2018, the IPCC moved this to 2040. American climatologists immediately objected: The IPCC had forgotten that greenhouse gases continue to rise which takes the 1.5 degrees to 2030, a shift of 70 years in some years.

      The sixth illusion holds that the greenhouse mechanism is the whole story. This would be bad enough, but the many positive feedback mechanisms are even worse because according to Hansen they were always match-deciding in the previous history of the earth and they can cause tipping points.

      The IPCC neglects these feedbacks, because precise predictions are impossible. However for a physician, they are more frightening than anything else: All go in the wrong direction, each can become uncontrollable, and their effects can not only add, but possibly multiply. And then, developments can be shortened to years.

      The seventh illusion imagines that the CO2 concentration only depends on how much we blow into the air. However almost a third of the CO2 emissions have been absorbed by the ocean and a warmer ocean no longer absorbs, but releases CO2.

      Similarly with trees and vegetation: So far, they also absorb almost a third of the CO2 emitted. Most CO2 compensation programs work with actual or alleged reforestation. But we are already losing forest through logging and fires. And with a temperature increase of four degrees by the year 2100, the trees will die off over large areas, like the coral reefs, and thus trees will change from being a CO2 buffer to CO2-production. The German Climate Pope Schellnhuber says: “We kill our best friends”. CO2 emissions will increase, even with zero emissions by humanity! Not counted by the IPCC either.

      In the eighth illusion the ice melts slowly, but things accelerate in the Arctic. Wadham, the Pope of Ice, believes that without snow and ice, the reflectivity of the earth decreases and warming becomes 50 percent greater. That may bring us to six degrees by 2100, twice as much over land. Not counted by the IPCC.

      The ninth illusion was that the permafrost would not thaw until the end of the century. But it is already thawing, and methane is bubbling there and elsewhere and rising rapidly in the atmosphere. This short-lived but very powerful greenhouse gas can acutely accelerate warming with self-burning becoming a matter of years. Not counted by the IPCC.

      The tenth illusion: At a higher temperature, the air stores more water vapor, also a greenhouse gas. Several models predict a decrease in cloud cover, which could further accelerate warming. Not counted by the IPCC.

      The eleventh illusion is that everything goes slowly. But geologically, the pace of the current changes is unprecedented, ten times faster than the fastest changes in the last 65 million years.

      Twelfth illusion: It’s not only the climate that endangers us, but also the extinction of species, at an extraordinary pace in terms of earth history. It’s still rather climate-independent, mainly caused by hunting and by the loss and poisoning of habitats due to expanding human population and activity. E.O. Wilson thinks that half of the earth should be reserved for wildlife if one wanted to stop this extinction.

      The 1,5- or 2-degrees goal is out of question. The Paris Agreement is fake, the governments reactions inadequate or contra productive. Only with luck will we reach four or five degrees at the end of the century, but this is improbable, because the self-reinforcing feedbacks have already all kicked in. Some experts expect six or seven degrees, meaning twice as much over land, which human civilization cannot survive.

      For Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, with four degrees of global warming the earth can only feed four billion people. This means widespread wars for a living space that will become increasingly scarce.

      Because death is tabooed in our consciousness we are unable to see him, even if he stares directly into our eyes. I don’t blame idiots like Trump. But rather the climatologists, who do not tell the whole truth. And the Greens, who are raving about the 1.5 degrees, a lie to the voters.

      Last but not least, we come to the second taboo: Nobody wants to see the fact that we are too many. We are reproductive machines and reproduction is programmed into us as the most sacred goal. Therefore many – e.g. our benevolent Greens – prefer to believe into the illusion that reduction of consumption is enough.

      Admittedly, only the wealthy produce the pollution: The ten percent of the wealthiest probably fifty percent, the 50 percent of the wealthier almost all the rest. But a large part of resource consumption and pollution is forced because we have to live in megastructures, which need energy-guzzling transports.

      Some want to solve the problem by eliminating the privileges of the top 10 percent or even – according to old revolutionary customs – by eliminating the top 10 percent of the privileged, guillotine. But even half the burden is too much. Therefore one would have to guillotine the wealthier half. This would work if the remaining half would not want to multiply and become wealthy, with industry, meat consumption, cars, airplanes. This they are already trying to do all over the world, e.g. in India, for the noble savage is just another illusion.

      Many whose birth is not avoided by birth control will be killed by manslaughter, starvation and disease. That’s the reality we should face. Two generations of one-child family would be more humane.


      1. Ron, I have followed the work of Nate Hagens and he believes that as soon as oil production starts declining people ( I think he means the people who matter and make decisions) will realize what is happening because decline will be irreversible. I like the work Nate is doing but on this point I disagree with him. This is the likely scenario.

        First the net energy from oil begins to decline (some would argue it has already begun).
        Then after a few years the total amount produced will begin to decline as well. Fortunately (or unfortunately) we have a lot of gas and coal (relative to oil at least) which can be converted into oil or used to generate electricity.

        Furthermore oil can be displaced by electrifying light vehicles like personal automobile which will require enormous amounts of lithium, cobalt and other rare earth metals.
        I should add that diesel engines are fiendishly difficult to electrify because of energy density.
        All that the above exercises do is shift our Achilles heel from oil to minerals, natural gas and coal which also happen to be finite. This will definitely buy us a few decades just like fracking has, but when these begin to inevitably decline it will be a very hard crash as climate change will have become much worse and the planet would have been completely trashed.
        This is when the global economic and trade system which has prevented another world war by facilitating open markets for all resources (especially energy) will collapse, opening the path to resource wars.

        I think Nate underestimates the power of human greed and how far we would go to maintain status quo. We will do everything thermodynamically possible to maintain our present way of life.


          1. I have not seen or read every material Nate has put out so I cannot say definitively what his views are on population reduction but from what I have seen he leans in the direction of providing women with contraceptives and education to reduce fertility rate in developing countries.
            Another strategy he suggests is reducing consumption in developed countries. For instance if an average American reduces his/her consumption by 80-90% he/she would still be able to enjoy all the benefits of modern civilization like education, modern healthcare and nutritious diet, but will not have access to things like smartphone, personal automobile and other energy guzzling stuff which are mostly unnecessary. On paper this sounds doable, actually it is very much possible at least physically and thermodynamically. Problem is that Americans would rather nuke the world than give up all these things. So it becomes a behavioral problem and not purely physical one and impossible to reach a conclusion on where things will head.


      2. So Lukas Fierz is arguing that positive feed back mechanisms alone can take the climate beyond 4 degrees C? 3 or 4 degrees Celsius will end civilisation and many species will go extinct. While this would be catastrophic there will still be places of refuge. Beyond 4 degrees and things start to become more dire than just catastrophic. With 7 or 8 degrees of warming I doubt there would be any places of refuge. It will be end of nearly all life. A total apocalypse.


  5. My responses to the decision tree come to an abrupt halt after three steps.

    Humans are in serious trouble – Agree
    It’s too late to do anything useful – Disagree
    Humans can’t or won’t change their behavior in time – Agree …

    … BUT the reality is that we don’t need to change the behaviour of the humans, we just need to change the behaviour of the system, and it can change rapidly.

    There is no third option at this point in the decision tree that acknowledges this reality, so I think the decision tree can and should be improved. In fact, an evolving decision tree that changes as new and better arguments are proposed is a very good potential model for a new type of media, one that can distinguish between good and bad arguments for supporting various world views.

    But back to just needing to change the behaviour of the industrial system, rather than the behaviour of humans:

    Sure, we still face the mammoth task of persuading enough humans that any particular proposal to significantly change the behaviour of the system has considerable merit and should be supported, but that is really just a question of marketing … not an obstacle to engineering effective systemic solutions.

    So just because people have yet to see a well marketed systems solution, one that is powerful enough to change the behaviour of the industrial system quickly enough to avert the collapse of industrialised human civilisation, does not mean that no effective solutions exist.

    Take just climate change for a significant example. The world’s most powerful solution would be a global agreement that includes a price on carbon emissions to create an enormous pool of funds to be paid out for carbon sinking. This would drive profound change in market behaviour, and would mean that governments, businesses and other organisations would no longer benefit from ignoring the effects of their carbon emissions on the planet; instead their very survival would depend absolutely on them doing everything within their power to reduce their emissions footprint, and to drive it negative where possible.

    Think about this for a moment. What would happen if carbon sinking was the most lucrative industry on the planet, as it would become with even a small initial emissions price under the model I propose?

    Governments would be falling all over themselves trying to protect and restore their natural carbon sinks like rainforests, mangrove systems, forests and wetlands, in desperation to get a bigger share of massive global revenue streams for carbon sinking. They would rapidly reshape public policy so that the domestic industrial system would have frantic innovation and competition to serve exactly that national goal to maximise carbon sinking revenues.

    Governments would also be falling all over themselves trying to drive a rapid shift to regenerative agriculture, which sinks vast amounts of carbon into soils while dramatically improving productivity, profitability and drought and fire resistance of farmlands. Industrial methods of agriculture generally deplete soils, use great volumes of fossil fuel based chemicals that pollute farms, landscapes and ecosystems, and generate nutrient poor food products, but regenerative systems retain vast quantities of water in rich healthy soils, and build up rich ecological systems that increase agricultural productivity while sequestering vast amounts of carbon.

    These two things, the restoration of carbon sinks and the switch to regenerative agriculture, have the potential in themselves to remove from somewhere between half and all of the necessary carbon from the atmosphere in order to reverse climate change. Again pause and think, a simple carbon pricing and reward for sinking system could rapidly change the market dynamics so that the problem of climate change is eliminated or halved by a single publicly supported innovation.

    And this is before you even consider the other impacts on the other sectors of the industrial system of the scheme, where a simple price on carbon emissions would ensure that all market players are obliged to minimise the emissions intensity of all their goods, services, operations, and processes. Energy efficiency would be aligned with increased profitability and reduced costs, and where innovation can be achieved, competition will ensure that those who manage those increased efficiencies are rewarded with increased profitability and market share, and those who can’t find better emissions intensity will start to disappear.

    This simple scheme would automatically create a ferocious global race to solve climate change, by dramatically increasing carbon sinking via natural systems and agricultural soils, while at the same time and with the same incentives driving the industrial system to dramatically decrease its emissions inefficient inputs and processes, and in the process profoundly changing the impacts industrialised human civilisation has on climate stability, from a net negative to a net positive.

    This is not complicated. It is just simply eliminating perverse market incentives, by using pricing signals to align market profitability with our collective goals.

    The very same simple approach can be used for any of the crises plaguing humanity that is caused or exacerbated by perverse market incentives. The solutions enabled by this pricing signal approach do not need any individual human individual to change their habitual behaviour or thinking.

    They just need to be awoken momentarily so that they can see the potential such solutions have to make governments and the businesses and organisations that make up the industrial system actually want to serve the needs of the people and the planet, and then endorse the particular model of system reform. The usually uninterested or otherwise disengaged consumers can then go back to their careless and unwitting consumption that previously led to the destruction of the real world, and be totally ignorant to the frantic innovation and competition in markets and geopolitics to exploit the new market incentives, inadvertently solving the world’s crises as they do so.

    Hopefully, readers will be open to the point that we don’t have to change human behaviour, just system behaviour, and that simply requires some clever marketing of the best possible systemic solutions, which can rapidly lead to the building of political will for the necessary system reform.


    1. I’m glad you’re engaged and thinking. We need more people like you.

      I can’t see how to change the system as you propose without having more people see reality. It’s very hard to make fundamental changes to our economic system. One person’s incentive is another person’s cost.

      I note that you do not mention the need for rapid population reduction policies. This must be the top priority for any mitigation effort as the essay above your comment explains.


      1. “Having more people see reality” is exactly the point of my comment about The Century of the Self here:

        “One person’s incentive is another person’s cost.”

        This perception is overcome by the setting of collective goals. Once we have agreed on the outcomes we collectively want to see, the costs of the necessary change are justified, and market players will need to innovate and compete in order to avoid those extra costs, and to take advantage of the new opportunities created. The last thing we want to do is protect “business-as-usual.” Instead we can reinvigorate markets to drive the necessary change.

        Global population could be controlled in exactly the same way as net carbon emissions. Put a penalty price on nations for increasing their birth rates, and use the revenues to reward nations for reducing their birth rates. The pricing signals can change up and down according to how well global population is following the desired and agreed trajectory.

        I suspect that the low hanging fruit in controlling population growth would be the education of women and the availability of contraceptives in ‘developing’ countries, but ultimately we do not need to know in advance which changes in public policy will prove most effective. We just need to set the market incentives in line with our goals, and the natural pursuit of efficiency and profitability by market players will deliver the optimal mix of changes.

        So, a simple global agreement using pricing signals can solve climate change, and a simple global agreement on population growth can bring that under control too. These are now given truths, so as I said, the problem is not a lack of effective solutions, but a question of successfully marketing the message, with the singular goal of creating the necessary global agreements.


      1. “humans ARE the system”

        That is the very first presumption that needs to be reconsidered and overcome. Systems are famously “more than the sum of their parts.”

        Systems have emergent properties and behaviours, things that do not exist within individual elements.

        The global economic and political system is itself composed of many complex systems, like multinational corporations, powerful global banks and other financial organisations, political parties in government that are compromised by ideology or vested interests, and so on. The behaviour of this vast and complex system is not driven by what humans do as individuals, but by what markets do as a collective, under the influence of a great variety of powerful players with various goals and self interests.

        In order to change the outcomes the system produces, we have no choice but to change the forces acting on the system, and this necessarily means changing the financial incentives and disincentives that drive the behaviour of all market participants. If we align those incentives with our collective goals, in cases where we can actually negotiate collectively agreed global objectives, then markets will automatically achieve those goals, whether individual humans, or individual businesses, or individual governments want to achieve those goals or not.

        Pricing signals to drive market change are the greatest power humans have to decide the outcomes the system generates. They are our greatest agency … our power to change the way the world works.

        Anyone who struggles to grasp the concept that systems are more than the sum of their parts, or the reality that we only need to change the system, not human behaviour, might do well to Google the phrase “systems thinking” and read everything you can find. Better still perhaps is to read “The Systems View of Life” by Capra & Luisi, the all encompassing text on systems.


        1. It’s just a hunch but I’m guessing that you are young and recently graduated from an engineering discipline. I remember those heady days for me back in 1979. They taught us how to solve hard problems and we believed we could tackle any issue.

          For me at that time I read Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard and thought Libertarianism was the obvious solution to the world’s problems. It seems you have discovered a very important idea that we live in a system and you trying to find ways to influence the system. Good on you, but you’re talking to a pretty seasoned crowd here so maybe a little less lecturing and a little more inquiry might be in line.

          For example, you could ask what do you think about educating and improving the standard of living of all poor women in the world as a means of lowering the birth rate? I would reply, excellent idea, it will probably work, but we don’t have enough low cost oil left to generate the required wealth, and it’s probably too slow give the urgency of our predicament.


          1. Actually, I am a retired systems engineer, and I built a career and business out of engineering simple solutions to complex problems.

            Like I said, there is no need for emotional elements like optimism, not when you have pragmatism and proper insights into the systemic cause and effect at work. When you zoom out and see how the global political and economic system actually operates, and find the root cause driving system dysfunction, the solutions practically reveal themselves.

            Apologies if the tone seems a little like lecturing, it is not meant to, but can appear that way when simple truths are not dressed up in niceties. I can’t promise the tone will improve, but I will try. The reason I am pleased to have recently discovered this blog is precisely because of the well informed and articulate contributors here, so there is at least potential for real intelligent engagement on world changing ideas.

            There is no pecking order in my mind, and never is.


        2. Brandon; I agree with some of what you say, but what I see are emergent behaviors that are unpredictable, often malignant, and beyond our control. I’m afraid that the MPP is an underlying driver that is hard to subvert with tweaks to incentives. I hold up the U.N. efforts through the IPCC lo these 32 years as an example of attempts to create system incentives that has still not done anything to change behavior.


          1. Doing something meaningful to reduce CO2 emissions is remarkably simple and can be implemented by one person at a keyboard:

            Raise the interest rate.

            When was the last time you heard an expert even mention this as an option?


          2. Market incentives work regardless of individual people, businesses or governments that might be “unpredictable, often malignant, and beyond our control.”

            Market incentives work at the aggregate level. Some market players might be big and powerful enough to defy the incentives and disincentives, and to pursue other agendas. But overall, self interest rules, and the majority of market players serve only one purpose, to maximise their own profits.

            Under the model I advocate, the market incentives are free to rise to any level needed to drive outcomes along the desired trajectory, so those who defy the incentives to serve other priorities will not survive.

            The UN is probably the best example of what not to do. The veto powers make it a useless organisation with no real control over anything. Humanity would be profoundly better off without it.


    1. Never heard of Sabine Hossenfelder until you featured her.

      There’s many well understood reasons why people deny or minimize climate change.


  6. Here is a textbook example of reality denial by a smart guy who takes a detailed look at the challenges Tesla faces in scaling up lithium-ion battery production to solve climate change.

    Count the number of times he mentions diesel depletion and falling consumer discretionary income.


    1. “We Will Coup Whoever We Want” Elon Musk (lithium) on twitter regarding the US empire orchestrated right-wing coup Of Bolivia’s democratically elected government.

      Musk is a parasitic piece of shit. An imperialist.

      Elon & all the fake Greens will have to pay full price for Bolivian lithium now. Ba ha.

      The fake 1st world greens & their spawn can burn for all I care. Fuck em. No free will, but they still deserve to burn.

      A big part of our white 1st world lives has & still is predicated on the oppression, enslavement of others & much more resources will be needed for green dreams which won’t work.

      November 15 2019, — The Coup That Ousted Bolivia’s Evo Morales Is Another Setback for Latin American Socialism

      A socialist president from Bolivia is sent into exile as another member of the Latin American left is freed from prison in Brazil.

      Bolivians Return Evo Morales’s Party to Power One Year After a U.S.-Applauded Coup

      Right-wing forces cheered by the U.S. tried to destroy one of Latin America’s most vibrant democracies. Voters just restored it.


  7. The “Canada Brand”: Violence and Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America

    What we found about the degree of violence and criminalization from 2000-2015

    This Report documents incidents that are corroborated by at least two independent sources. We found:

     incidents involving 28 Canadian companies;
     44 deaths, 30 of which we classify as “targeted”;
    403 injuries, 363 of which occurred in during protests and confrontations;
    709 cases of “criminalization”, including legal complaints, arrests, detentions and charges; and
    a widespread geographical distribution of documented violence: deaths occurred in 11 countries, injuries were suffered in 13 countries, and criminalization occurred in 12 countries.

    In addition, our research shows that Canadian companies that are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange do not include reports of violence in their mandatory reports on company performance. Between 2000-2015:

    publicly listed companies reported 24.2% of the deaths and 12.3% of the injuries listed in this report; and

    larger companies tended to report incidents in general terms, using blanket statements, whereas smaller companies tended to report in more detail

    What is significant about this study?

    This report on violence and criminalization associated with the Canadian mining industry in Latin America is the first to:

    compile information on reported violence over a 15-year period;
    name the companies involved and seek company comments on the incidents; and
    provide details and sources of the incidents, so that third-parties may reproduce our results.

    The incidents documented in this report appear to be the tip of the iceberg

    Canadians don’t care. Pensioners don’t read their pension fund prospectus. I browsed my mom’s work pension prospectus in 2011 -‘ Altria Group Inc’ which owns Marlboro tobacco (cancer).
    Canadians don’t care. Gimme my fucking cheque!

    It’ll never change. I just hate the ceaseless lying-pretending-denial.


      1. I just pray our American Sisters & Brothers in Doom take all necessary safety precautions on their national election day.


  8. Steve Pinker’s Mom played this song 3 times a day, everyday, while pregnant with Steve.

    It’d make a fine theme song for


    1. It’s the exploding consequences that are new. Getting so obvious even Usain Bolt, the fastest denier on the planet, can’t outrun them.

      It’s a social chimp peculiarity that our greatest truth tellers have always been musicians & other artists.

      Today we have the likes of Baba Brinkman & “Alex da Kid” pointing out that it’s happening. 48 years ago (1972), Ian Anderson wrote one predicting it will happen.

      1972 the year ‘Limits To Growth’ was published. Hmmm


  9. The thesis of is that genetic denial of reality blocks positive behavioral change.

    I was poking around in some of my old essays and forgot I wrote a counter argument.

    Maybe we do see reality and don’t care.

    Perhaps we see our predicament and don’t give a damn if it means we have to sacrifice something for someone else, even our own children.

    Maybe the reality we’re denying is our own human nature.


  10. Gail Zawacki is a friend and now mostly retired blogger who focuses on the global decline of tree health due to rising ground level ozone that results from industrial combustion. It’s a problem that almost no one discusses because it’s very depressing, and there is no solution except to make modern civilization much smaller. I originally thought Gail was a whack job until I started to pay attention to tree health in my local area, and to more carefully read the research she’s compiled.

    There are some new visitors to so I want to bring to your attention some of the excellent work by Gail that I’ve posted in the past:

    If you prefer to watch than read, here is a nice video Gail produced 5 years ago:


    1. It is certainly a powerful and beautiful video. It is really important that people understand just how crucial healthy forests are to creating rainfall, especially here in Australia where we have decimated the forests and suffer great droughts and fires as a consequence.

      I am not sure what your preferences and rules are here for posting links and making off topic comments, but I will paste an excerpt from one of my posts to try to get people interested in a deeper appreciation for the role of forests in stabilizing climate and making agricultural lands sustainable and productive:

      More green growth means more bacteria and more rain

      We need more than cloud, because we need rain to feed the soil-carbon sponge. It takes about 1 million of the cloud micro-droplets to form a raindrop, because it has to coalesce together to make a raindrop that is big enough and heavy enough to fall out under gravity. There are three things that can lead to the formation of rain drops, and these are called precipitation nuclei.

      The first is ice crystals, which are very important at high latitudes where water vapor gets colder and colder and eventually forms ice. The second is salt, which accumulates over the oceans and sucks up water, because it is hydroscopic. Salt is also what we use for artificial cloud seeding, where we use silver iodide to increase rainfall from certain types of cloud by a consistent 20 to 30%.

      But by far the most important source of precipitation, particularly in inland, tropical and warmer areas, is bacteria. Bacteria is by orders of magnitude the most effective means of nucleating clouds into raindrops. These bacteria are produced in nature. Forests are not just transpiring water vapor, they are also putting up bacteria.

      From radio isotope studies, half the rain in the Amazon is precipitated by the bacteria transpiring upwards every day, and each afternoon it comes back down in a thunderstorm. Everyday you have this hydrological cycle, taking heat from the surface, dissipating it upstairs, and returning rain back to the sponge. Five times more water falls as rain over the Amazon each day than flows out from the Amazon River into the ocean, which demonstrates the sheer volume of the process of cycling water to and from the atmosphere on a daily basis.

      Vast areas of forest have been cleared, and we have already mentioned the 8 billion hectares of primary forest that we have reduced by 6.3 billion hectares of clearing, so what have we done with our rain?

      By regenerating landscapes, we can actually start restoring these hydrological dynamics, especially the bacteria that rise from forests to seed rain, which is critical to replenishing the soil-carbon sponge. It all comes down to cooling, more cooling, rain, and more cooling. These are powerful, natural, simple, and safe processes to cool regions and the planet.


      1. Everyone is welcome to discuss and link to anything here provided it’s not woo-woo, partisan politics, or racial.

        I did not know that bacteria plays a role in rain formation, very interesting.


  11. Mac10 compares the 2000 Y2K bubble to today’s tech bubble.

    The reason gamblers are willing to write off the entire economy is because Tech stocks are now viewed as safe havens. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and the rest of the Tech oligarchy are now being priced as constant annuities. With interest rates at 0%, the theoretical present value of these annuities approaches infinity. Judged vis-a-vis companies having cyclical risk, these Tech monopolists are now perceived as “safe havens” from collapse.

    Way back in Y2K, the exact opposite economic situation attended that infamous Tech bubble. GDP was booming at 7%, the employment-population rate was the highest in U.S. history. The Federal government was running a surplus. Everything was going great, and then the bubble collapsed. Why? No reason other than overvaluation and a Fed taking minor steps to tighten liquidity.

    Today, Tech stocks are not booming due to extreme reflation, they are booming due to extreme deflation. The belief that today’s Tech earnings are immune to the economy and therefore deserve infinite valuation.

    As always, the dumb money comes in at the end of the party.


  12. I’ve mostly tuned out on the virus these days. Everyone has an agenda. Don’t know who to believe. I’ve simply decided to do my best not to get it so I’m prepped and being careful.

    I’m not a regular reader of Charles Hugh Smith because he’s a little too much a for profit doomer for my taste, but his essay today spoke to me.

    It’s widely held that the Covid pandemic is fundamentally a power-grab by elites. Fair enough; crises have long been the excuse given for “temporary emergency measures” that become permanent power-grabs.

    But to accept that the pandemic is the cover for a power-grab by elites does not mean the Covid virus is a harmless chimera. The virus can be dangerous in ways that aren’t measured by counting deaths and the pandemic can still be the excuse for “emergency powers” becoming permanent, i.e. a power grab. One conclusion (a power-grab) does not require a second completely different conclusion (the virus is not dangerous to anyone under the age of 70 and therefore it’s no big deal).

    As the global tsunami of Wave 2 sweeps away the sandcastles of denial, fantasy and magical thinking, it’s worth recalling that the Covid-19 virus has four features that make it difficult to control:

    1. It is highly contagious.
    2. Carriers with no symptoms can infect others.
    3. A significant percentage of older / compromised patients develop severe symptoms that require hospitalization.
    4. Once the healthcare system is overwhelmed, the system cannot provide care to everyone who needs it. As a result, the death rate rises the moment the healthcare system is overwhelmed / breaks down.

    We’ve drawn a gravely false conclusion from central bank money-printing and technology: we now assume that central banks can print up as much money as we need to buy whatever we need in whatever quantity we need. The magic of technology essentially guarantees that there will always be a substitute, “cure” or “solution” available whenever we need one.

    Unfortunately, central banks can’t “print” experienced doctors or nurses. When the front line of healthcare workers is depleted by illness and burnout, there are no substitutes or Big Tech robots-to-the-rescue.


  13. The real reason we want growth is not because it makes us a little richer tomorrow, it’s because it allows us to live a much richer life today via plentiful credit.

    Nehemiah says the same thing in a different way.

    I think they are treating this like an emergency such as a major war. After it is under control, then the austerity needs to begin. Austerity is just reducing your consumption so you can afford to pay back some of your debts. It works very well, but it is not pleasant or fast. Everybody today wants a free lunch: use debt to enhance their living standards, but when it comes time to pay it back, they want “free money” or debt forgiveness.

    The problem from a macro-economic viewpoint is that when credit is easy, everyone piles in and borrows, which stimulates faster than average economic growth. But later, everyone will also find themselves servicing those debts at the same time too, and that will produce below average economic growth. If you want to keep unemployment low under these conditions, then wages need to fall across the board, but, besides there being a lot of resistance to wage reductions, it also makes it even harder to service debt. However, if we would let CPI go negative and then require that all creditors write down the payment owed them proportionately to CPI decreases, then we might get through the austerity phase of the credit cycle with minimal pain (not “no pain”).

    Unfortunately, I don’t hear anyone even discussing this solution. Everyone wants to put off the unpleasant consequences of aggregate debt reduction for as long as possible. It’s like doing everything you can to delay the next forest fire for as long as possible. Eventually, you get a huge conflagration. It’s a good thing we don’t know how to prevent earthquakes. If we could, we would probably let the pressure build up until one day California would just fall into the sea in an unnaturally large megaquake.

    Note that the only reason we are even having this discussion is because reduced growth (which is what austerity produces) is perceived as too painful to bear. Getting to a no growth, steady state economy is like coexisting with the consequences of austerity forever, austerity as the norm of human existence. If people were comfortable with a no-growth economy, austerity would not be perceived as a problem.


    1. “Everyone wants to put off the unpleasant consequences of aggregate debt reduction for as long as possible.”

      The problem is that the banking system depends on exponential growth of private debt for its own stability. In normal times, when debt growth slows, financial crisis begins. Nicole Foss puts it like this:

      “Credit is now of the order of 99% of the money supply, which means that 99% of the money supply is excess claims to underlying real wealth. We took a small amount of collateral, and we backed an enormous number of loans with it, so we now have a crisis of under-collateralisation. This means we are all playing a giant game of musical chairs, there is about one chair for every hundred people playing the game, and as long as we are all up and dancing to the music and enjoying ourselves, we don’t really notice how few chairs there actually are, and not all of us entirely understand the rules of the game we are playing either. But, when the music stops, the people best positioned to understand the rules of the game are going to grab a chair as quickly as they possibly can. The great collateral grab will be on, and everybody else’s excess claims to underlying real wealth will be rapidly and messily extinguished. This is deflation, by definition, and that is what we stand on the verge of today. So, the expansion phase lasts quite a long time, but the contraction phase can actually be quite rapid, and that is what we stand on the verge of, globally.”

      Of course we are not in normal times, and there seems to be no limit yet on how much money governments are willing to pump into the system, so who knows how long the charade may last. I think if markets get the sense that the world will never return to the growth trajectory that it was on pre-covid19, then the music will stop.

      People are generally very reluctant to speak up about the absurd model of finance. I think a good portion struggle to get their head around the idea that the banks create money out of thin air when they make loans, and another good portion simply loses interest when they learn that governments do not have any control over the money supply, and that the banking system ultimately rules the roost.


    2. “Getting to a no growth, steady state economy is like coexisting with the consequences of austerity forever, austerity as the norm of human existence.”

      I think there is a better way to put it than as a simple choice between growth and austerity. If we can learn to differentiate between constructive and destructive economic activities, then the overall strategy becomes very obvious: grow the constructive activities while letting destructive activities wither and die.

      Constructive activities would be those that push outcomes towards system goals, and destructive activities would be those than harm system goals. And if the system has no explicit goals, and no differentiation between constructive and destructive activities, the only goal is growth at all costs, and the only possible outcome is the continuing depletion and inevitable destruction of the natural world, and the end of the industrialised human civilisation that depends on it.

      If we do get it right, and set some specific goals for markets to deliver, and the mechanisms to make it happen, then it wouldn’t really matter whether GDP was growing or shrinking overall, presuming we would also transition to a sane model of finance with sovereign control of the money supply, in accordance with the actual needs of the real sector of the economy.

      People would not need to worry about austerity, because it would be the market players competing vigorously to make their activities more constructive and thereby more profitable. With a price on carbon to deliver the first and most important goal of zero net emissions, a lot of excessive consumption will be eliminated, as people learn to live with ‘enough’ rather than always wanting ‘more’, as Martensen frames it in his crash course.

      So rather than austerity versus growth, I think the clear choice is between ‘prosperity and sustainability’ versus ‘growth and collapse’.


      1. Can you give some examples of constructive activities that do not rely on resource extraction?

        I volunteer on a small organic farm and am shocked how dependent it is on plastic, diesel, and steel.


  14. Here’s a link to a John Mayall song from 1970, Nature’s Disappearing. The information was out there in the 70s but the powers that be were completely wedded to the idea of endless growth.


  15. Tim Watkins’ essay today on energy and other non-renewable resources is superb. Perhaps his best ever and a great primer for anyone trying to understand our overshoot predicament.

    The whole essay is essentially an argument for why our top priority, and perhaps our only priority, must be rapid population reduction, which interestingly Watkins does not mention, and so his essay is also a good example of reality denial.

    I wanted to paste the whole essay here but it’s too long so you should go to his site and read it.

    The one thing that green campaigners share with economists is (with a few notable exceptions) complete blindness to energy. This may seem an odd claim, given that most green campaigners spend their waking hours arguing for a shift from one source of energy – fossil fuels – to another – renewables. Dig beneath this veneer, though, and it is obvious enough that the majority of green campaigners have given little thought to the enormous value that fossil fuels have generated since the dawn of the industrial age.

    By “value,” I don’t just mean the various financial chicaneries which dominate most contemporary debates about the economy. Rather, I mean just about everything that we are able to do in a modern and largely urbanised society. The fact that I am able to write – and you are able to read – this simple post, depends on the burning of vast quantities of fossil fuels in data centres, in delivery trucks that keep replacement parts flowing, in the various machinery and vans that allow maintenance to take place, and in the factories, refineries and mines that provide the components and the raw materials. Less obviously, without industrialised agriculture and transportation, neither you nor I would have been able to eat; leaving us with little time or energy to read or write posts. In short, energy determines everything that we do… and yet we treat energy as just another low-cost input to our daily lives.

    The reason is simple enough. We pay only the cost of producing fuels and generating electricity and heat, not the equivalent of the value that they deliver to us. Moreover, we take no account of the environmental costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels or, indeed, of the manufacturing of solar panels and wind turbines. Since most of the manufacturing these days takes place in someone else’s country – usually in Asia – we treat the pollution as someone else’s problem. We, on the other hand, can virtue signal our green credentials by erecting non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies in the pretence that this is doing something to wean the global industrial economy off fossil fuels.

    One consequence is that national politicians and campaigners can make wildly inflated promises about how some kind of “green new deal” or “fourth industrial revolution” is going to usher in a new round of “clean” growth and prosperity. The reality though, is that the world is no less dependent upon fossil fuels today than it was twenty years ago. Massive subsidised investment in modern renewable energy technologies (i.e. excluding hydroelectric and wood burning) has carved out a four to five percent share (depending upon how reliable you think Chinese data is) of global primary energy. But this energy has been added to the global mix rather than substituting for the fossil fuels we are supposed to be turning our backs on.

    The blithe assumption is that we just need our politicians to subsidise and invest even harder so that we can multiply that renewables base twenty-fold in order to finally dispense with fossil fuels. But that would only work if we were prepared to give up all economic growth, since without additional energy input the real economy cannot grow; and while this might be covered by growth in the financial sectors of the economy, the debt we have already accumulated means that the mother of all reckonings awaits us long before we get around to de-carbonising the economy. So maybe we need to multiply our renewable energy forty-fold in order both to maintain growth at a level high enough to service the debt and to replace fossil fuels. This though, comes with show-stoppers of its own.

    In the same way as economists down the ages have simply assumed that we can treat Planet Earth like a sewer without consequence, so they also take for granted that raw materials will always be available in quantities and at a price that we require. But we “civilised” humans have learned nothing since our hunting and gathering ancestors wiped out the large mammals on every new continent they migrated into. As with woolly mammoths, we used up all of the cheap and easy mineral deposits so that we now find ourselves exploiting ores containing tiny fractions of the metals we need. This, in turn, requires us to redirect ever more of the energy available to us to powdering and smelting those ores or, in the case of copper and aluminium, to recycling the metal we have already produced.


  16. On another forum Brandon Young ends his post this way: “Capitalism can easily solve the problem of climate change, without intervention by governments, as long as market outcomes are controlled with incentives on the global scale to produce the optimal mix of economic activities.” Hallelujah! So John Lennon didn’t have a clue and all you need isn’t love. It’s capitalism!

    Please read all about the human condition at


    1. The problem with assuming that a price on carbon will solve climate change is that it assumes there is a non-carbon source of energy that can keep 8 billion people alive, let alone comfortable. Such an energy source does not exist. So we are forced back to the only solution, population reduction, which is “ism” agnostic.


      1. “The problem with assuming that a price on carbon will solve climate change is that it assumes there is a non-carbon source of energy that can keep 8 billion people alive, let alone comfortable.”

        The problem with that argument is that it doesn’t account for the fact that much of the energy is used to fuel the massively excessive overconsumption of goods and services, primarily in the most consumerised societies.

        The presumption that we need to replace fossil fuel based energy with another source, and do it unit for unit, simply has to go. It does not stand up to even a simple look at how the world would change with a significant price on carbon, especially one that is used to fund carbon sinking in a frenetic global race to negative emissions targets.

        An adequate price on carbon emissions would end the excessive overconsumption of goods and services in the most consumerised societies. It would dramatically reduce both the emissions intensity and the energy intensity of all goods and services, and all business processes, and all production techniques, and all choices that people make as to what to consume.

        A carbon price large enough to solve climate change is an absolute brake on energy waste. It would trigger the greatest wave of innovation in human history, demanding that every market participant dramatically improve energy efficiency.

        We may not be able to predict the overall volume of energy that will be required to power a negative emissions economy, but it doesn’t really matter. As long as the carbon price is dynamic, and can rise to whatever level is necessary to drive emissions negative, the mix and volume of energy sources will be continuously tested and determined by the market, changing with each wave of innovation and competition.

        Most of what the global economy currently produces is waste. It is consumer products that are designed to be thrown into landfill. It is garbage manufactured food. It is all sorts of toxic chemicals used for personal and household products that people don’t actually need and that systematically drive disease like cancer. It is the consumption of goods and services that people don’t need in reality to be safe or happy, but they consume anyway, because they have been conditioned by consumerism to crave things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t know, financed by money they don’t have.

        A significant price on carbon can cut away maybe 80% of the consumption in consumerised societies without making a dent in the quality of life. In fact, it would dramatically improve the quality of life, as consumer crap is replaced by more expensive but more durable, more serviceable, and more carefully produced goods.

        With a significant price on carbon, energy becomes precious, and will be optimised by markets. Those businesses that do this best will survive and prosper, and those that don’t will disappear. The overall volume of energy consumption will be dramatically reduced.

        The higher the price on carbon, the more circular the economy becomes. Products will necessarily be designed to be recyclable, over and over again, because of the energy costs involved in all of the resources used in the product. Every single thing produced by the industrial system will have the value of the energy used to create it as embedded value.

        The presumption that the amount of energy that we need is the volume of energy that we currently consume is dead wrong. The higher the price on carbon grows, the less energy the industrial system will use, and the smaller the fraction of energy coming from fossil fuels will become.

        All of this is just on one side of the net carbon emissions ledger. On the other side is the power of nature to sink vast volumes of carbon in natural carbon sinks and agricultural soils, both of which will expand profoundly under a carbon sinking reward price. This is very important, because the more that nature sinks carbon, the less the industrial system needs to cut its net emissions. It is estimated that a 5% increase in green plant growth across the planet will be enough remove the excess heat building up in the Earth-atmosphere system, and that a 10% increase in green plant growth would be enough to reverse climate change and bring atmospheric carbon concentrations back to sustainable levels.

        Even if these estimates are way off the mark, under a dynamic global carbon price, one which is fully distributed to accelerate carbon sinking, the markets will ultimately determine how much negative net emissions are driven by increases in nature’s carbon sinking power, and how much is driven by reductions and efficiencies in energy consumption by the industrial system.

        The energy we currently use is far greater than the energy we need to use. It is just that we have been conditioned to presume or believe that energy comes from a well that will never run dry. But as soon as we put a dynamic price on energy that is significant enough to control how much carbon we add to the atmosphere, that presumption goes straight out the window.

        The estimates of our ability to exploit nature’s power to sequester carbon come from this long but enlightening and hopefully fascinating article:


        1. I agree with you that the developed world consumes much more than we need to survive and that deep cuts are possible. But it won’t be painless because a good chunk of the excess consumption creates income for poor people that they depend on to survive.

          To retain a climate compatible with civilization the IPCC says we need to reduce CO2 to 50% from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The real targets are much more aggressive because:
          1) emissions have gone up, not down, since 2010
          2) the IPCC ignores many factors that worsen climate change

          We should not count on carbon sinks. Oceans lose their ability to absorb CO2 as they warm. Forests are being cleared for agriculture, or are sick and burning. Agricultural changes to sink more carbon are possible but are slow and will increase food prices creating other problems. Machines to suck carbon out of the atmosphere are bad science fiction.

          A human economy with net zero emissions by 2050 means we are extinct. It’s not going to happen regardless of the incentives.

          A telling example is that the virus provided perfect cover for us to do something meaningful about emissions by letting many high carbon emitters like airlines and cruise ships go bankrupt but instead we chose to bail them out.

          Rapid population reduction is the only good path. It improve every single problem we face and we only need to focus on one thing worldwide.

          In addition, if we don’t succeed in reducing the population quickly enough to outrun the coming collapse, we’ll still have reduced total suffering and maybe saved a few other species, which is a worthy accomplishment.


          1. “But it won’t be painless because a good chunk of the excess consumption creates income for poor people”

            True. There will certainly be a need to a redistribution of employment in an economy that consumes a lot less throwaway crap. The beauty of a market based solution is that different jurisdictions can try different public policy measures, and whichever mix of policies proves most effective and best value can be adopted by others. It might include things like a 3 day work week, or a universal basic income, or other ideas yet to be imagined.

            But overall employment might increase rapidly under a carbon price that is distributed for carbon sinking. All of the natural sinks that have been badly depleted will need armies of workers to go in and restore them, so that governments can reap the enormous rewards. All of the farmers that make the transition to regenerative agriculture will need expert guidance at least, and if they want to do it in a single growing season they will need lots of extra labour. Renewable energy sources are far more labour intensive than fossil fuels. There are almost endless opportunities for growing employment under a negative emissions economy.

            “the IPCC ignores many factors that worsen climate change”

            Yes, the IPCC is ultimately a political organisation, and is not at the leading edge of science or technology. It took decades for it to even acknowledge the carbon captured into agricultural soils, or the role that soil plays in generating the heat fluxes that remove heat from the system.

            “Oceans lose their ability to absorb CO2 as they warm.”

            Yes, oceans are going to be a complex source of emissions for the foreseeable future. Even the hydrologists are unwilling to speculate how much balancing there will be when global emissions are driven negative. For every ton of carbon sequestered by nature on land, there might be half a ton released from the oceans, as the system tries to rebalance.

            “Forests are being cleared for agriculture, or are sick and burning.”

            Because they are not valued for the carbon sinking capacity. Once there is a reward for this global good, the revenues generated will be enormous, and the process will be reversed.

            “Agricultural changes to sink more carbon are possible but are slow and will increase food prices creating other problems.”

            Regenerative practices can be adopted within a single growing season, and the benefits to soil and the amount of carbon captured can play out over 10 to 15 years, until the capacity to grow the soil is limited by other factors. One thing is certain, if a carbon price was used to reward carbon sinking, the reward price for sinking in the beginning will be substantial, but it will slowly come down over time as the volume of carbon being sequestered increases. There will be great urgency to be first in the queue, and to take advantage of those bigger returns. The bankers would actually be out there on farms pleading with farmers to get it done.

            Food prices will rise for meat, because of the high embedded carbon footprint in industrial practices, which are probably the dumbest and most destructive thing we humans are currently allowing. They are burning down the Amazon to produce meat for export. If meat were to cost even 10 times what it does now, the world would be just fine, but even if prices doubled it wouldn’t do any harm. Meat prices for pasture fed animals within regenerative farming might rise a little, or fall a little, depending on the volume and speed of the shift to sustainable practices.

            Food prices for products grown under regenerative agriculture will actually fall, because regenerative practices are far more productive and profitable than the old destructive chemical based systems. In most cases farmers will save about 80% of their input costs on chemicals alone, and as a result carry a lot less debt.

            “Machines to suck carbon out of the atmosphere are bad science fiction.” Agreed, depending on how we define things. Healthy ecosystems are nature’s perfect machines for sequestering carbon.

            “A human economy with net zero emissions by 2050 means we are extinct.”

            Not necessarily, although the debate on climate needs to be much broader and better informed for this truth to rise to prominence. The excess heat building up in the Earth-atmosphere system amounts to about 3 W/m2 of surface area, or about 1% of incident solar radiation. That same amount of heat can be expelled from the system with a 5% increase in green plant growth. Obviously, the switch to regenerative agriculture generates enormous volumes of green plant growth. One of the basic tenets is to never have bare ground, and always have cover crops. This simple change would be enough at scale to address the imbalance.

            Sure, the problem we face is monumental, but so is Nature’s capacity to solve it, if we choose to guide it wisely, rather than continuing to treat it with contempt.


            1. A key to your plan is to dramatically increase the carbon stored in agricultural soils.

              I’ve taken a 1 year course on small scale farming. I’ve studied permaculture. I had summer jobs on large industrial farms when I was younger, and for the last 10 years have worked part time on small organic farms. I think you are being wildly optimistic about what is possible.

              Do you have any farming experience?

              Population reduction is much simpler and improves all of our many overshoot problems, not just climate change.

              BTW, some of what you think needs to happen with farms will happen anyway later this century when diesel and Haber-Bosch nitrogen fertilizer are no longer available and farms are forced to return to livestock for labor and fertilizer.


              1. If you read the post I have been quoting figures from (and it is quite comprehensive), you will see that the argument is not just about soils and farming. It is about the water and carbon cycles that operate at all scales, from the chemicals in the rocks, the microbes in the soil, the vast complexity of organisms in the soil, and plants and animals above the soil, to the global phenomena like Hadley Cells which redistribute heat and water around the planet.

                It is a systems understanding of the web of these various systems and the cause and effect that operate between them. It is a systems understanding of the world that we humans inherited, a systems understanding of what we have done to and why, and a systems understanding of what we can and should do to repair it.

                Most importantly, it is about the most powerful thing in the climate system that we humans can control, which is the volume of healthy soils and the volume of green plant growth that it can sustain. That, believe it or not, is the best weapon humanity has to fight climate change.

                There is a giant soil-carbon sponge beneath all of the productive land on Earth, and it is what drives the planetary heat dynamics and climate stabilisation, at least until we came along and starting corrupting the atmospheric chemistry. We can decide how much we let it be depleted allowing the climate to become essentially unregulated, or how much we restore it, so that the natural climate regulating processes can again dominate and stabilise the system.

                It is our choice, but me just writing this is not going to persuade anyone of anything. People may or may not be fascinated by the details, but I would be surprised if anyone who truly absorbed the whole understanding of the way that the life, soil and climate system evolved and operates did not have at least one light bulb moment of sudden realisation of deeper connections.

                Climate change is ultimately a symptom of the damage we have done to the soil-carbon sponge, the thing that retains vast volumes of water and drives the daily heat and water transfer cycles. It should not really surprise anyone that fixing climate change requires repairing some of that damage.

                I am going to test if the formatting code that works on my site works here too …

                Fixing Climate Change – Boosting Nature’s Cooling System


              2. “And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry
                And the nights are seen to draw colder
                They’ll beg for your strength, your gentle power
                Your noble grace and your bearing
                And you’ll strain once again to the sound of the gulls
                In the wake of the deep plough, sharing”


            2. I did a little reading on regenerative agriculture. It’s the same stuff I was reading 10 years ago by the same people, dressed up with a new name, still without hard evidence to support the claims.

              Here is a nice paper debunking the claims. There’s good discussion and more links to papers in the comments section.


              We are to believe that biodiversity-powered microbes free up large amounts of phosphorus, fix large amounts of nitrogen from the air, while plants produce 31 tons of biomass in a short North Dakota season, while also producing harvested crops and livestock?

              I cannot say that this scenario is impossible, but I find it highly improbable, because if this is true, then it means that science has missed an astounding, extraordinary process. And it has been missed by not just agricultural soil scientists, but also those who work in prairies and forests, because, according to regenerative agriculture, this is how it works in nature. And we have been studying nature for a long time. And this is not just about a claim made by Gabe Brown; similar claims are commonplace in regenerative ag circles. If this and similar claims are true, then we are talking about a revolution in agriculture, which is what regenerative farmers and their supporters say it is.

              However, there is another principle here: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What counts as evidence are peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals – I have looked for the evidence to support the claims of regenerative agriculture. What I have found are lots of YouTube videos, testimonials, articles and interviews. None of these sources are extraordinary evidence.

              Extraordinary claims also require scrutiny, which is why I wrote this piece. I cannot disprove with words and calculations what Brown says he has observed in the field, but words and calculations can show that this is extraordinary, and so demand more evidence. I also wrote it to show the regenerative agriculture community the reasons why people like me, scientists and researchers, and those who believe in the scientific process, are skeptical of their claims.

              If the claims of regenerative agriculture are real and repeatable, then they are of such magnitude (i.e. 1.7 to 11.1% SOM) that they should be easy to measure. So here is a challenge to regenerative agriculture. Provide the extraordinary evidence. If it exists, let me know and I will post it here. If the research still needs to be done, connect with researchers to start the process. Don’t let regenerative ag become the cold fusion of agriculture. Pursue rigorous science to demonstrate its value.

              Here’s another good review of regenerative agriculture by Chris Smaje discussing in detail each of it’s claims…


              I won’t try to summarise what I’ve said above. All in all, my traffic light assessment of the RAPs’ claims suggests to me a few greens, rather more reds, and a lot of ambers. There are numerous reasons why moving towards a regen-ag approach and sequestering some carbon in soils probably makes sense, but there’s a distinct lack of convincing empirical evidence to support many of the stronger claims made by the RAPs. For now, I feel like I’m waiting on amber.


              1. What I get from that is Andrew McGuire has not got his head around the exponential growth of organic soil matter. As roots and fungus spread out the microbes get ever increasing access to the nutrients locked into particles in the ground. An excerpt from soil microbiologist and hydrologist Walter Jehne:

                Rich soils exponentially increase the capture of water and carbon

                What is powerful about healthy soil, and it really is the central element of the whole sponge discussion, is that now we have 66% of the volume of the matrix which is available for infiltrating and retaining water. That retained water is what can sustain plant growth. Because of these voids, and the increased surface area exposed by them, this healthy soil can vastly increase the availability of nutrients. Now we have the phosphorus, the calcium, and the zinc all exposed for microbial activity.

                So the bio-productivity of that soil increases exponentially, simply by creating those voids. The rootability of these soils vastly increases, that is the roots can grow, and penetrate and proliferate. Instead of 6 inches, they can grow down to 6 feet, or 20 feet, so the volume of soil resource that is now available for plant growth, and the drawdown of carbon that we mentioned earlier, is exponentially increased.

                McGuire hasn’t debunked anything, in fact he has had a good and honest crack at figuring it out, and admits he is impressed with the numbers, even if he can’t prove or disprove them.

                To answer your question elsewhere, I have no farming experience, but I have a good understanding of the whole system, as will anyone who absorbs the whole argument. And, yes of course it is harder to do in practice than on a TED talk, which is why most of the farmers looking to make the switch reach out to the thousands of regenerative agriculture organisations around the world. It can be the wild west in terms of how some commercial interests operate, but that is how every emergent sector operates in the beginning.

                I have also seen and read countless case studies of successful regenerative agriculture projects. Landline is a great television program on Australian agriculture and often reports on what the most innovative farmers have been able to achieve. By the way, I am not asserting that there is anything especially new about regenerative agriculture, as some advocates do – in a way it is returning to older methods that were used before fossil fuel based chemicals and energy became available, and it is definitely about working with nature rather than against it.


                1. I am working through the comments and the experts are saying what I said. The poor bugger McGuire just has to cop it sweet, and accept that he is not completely up to speed with the latest science, knowledge and evidence.


                2. It may already be obvious enough to some readers, but I just want to emphasise a single point, whether this discussion is already over or not.

                  We humans now have the science, the knowledge, and the evidence needed to exponentially increase the volume of carbon sequestered into agricultural soils.

                  That is one hell of a powerful tool to solve climate change, and it doesn’t cost a thing.

                  In fact it saves a lot of money on imported toxic chemicals and comes with a list of great benefits, including increased agricultural production, cooler landscapes that produce more rain, far less pollution of natural environments, and food that has much greater density of nutrients.

                  We would be very unwise to ignore it or dismiss it.


    2. I can’t remember where I wrote that. Can you add a link please?

      In the absence of proper context, it might be constructive to be careful with wording, and to distinguish between two very different models of capitalism.

      The old capitalism has uncontrolled markets. Sure it has regulation of sorts, but these are almost never properly enforced, and are usually so complex that workarounds and loopholes abound. This is the form of capitalism that is driving the natural world and human civilisation towards catastrophic collapse.

      In contrast, the new capitalism has clever markets, which are designed to deliver an explicit set of system goals. The set of goals can grow and change over time, but the mechanism to deliver them is always the same, a penalty price on the activities that move outcomes away from the goals, funding a reward price on activities that contribute to delivering the goals. The outcome is that everything in the system pushes in the direction of the goals. The politics and economics are no longer at odds, because what is most profitable is also what delivers the outcomes we seek. The dynamic nature of the pricing signals (meaning they increase when the market response is too slow, and decrease when the market response is too fast) forces the market outcome along a very specific desired trajectory for each goal.

      This new clever market capitalism is probably the only thing that can return stability to the natural world and human civilisation. We must not be foolish enough to dismiss it without genuine consideration, and engagement. I am here to answer all questions and doubts, or on my site, so let’s have them.


      1. Brandon, since you ask, you recently wrote at the damnthematrix blog that climate change is easy to solve by new (sic! really?) clever market capitalism. Emperor’s new clothes, anyone?
        I disagree and in my opinion (I’ve always been the underdog, the lone wolf, the one with Asperger’s syndrome) climate change is difficult to solve. Physicists say that it’s difficult to solve, economists say that it’s easy to solve. Let’s pray that economists know better.


        1. There is no “solution” to climate change due to self-reinforcing feedback loops and system inertia.

          If we’re lucky we might still be able to prevent bad from becoming worse. But that will require awareness that human civilization is totally dependent on burning carbon, and that our low cost carbon reserves are depleted, so we must reduce our population.

          With a smaller population we will reduce harm to other species, reduce total human suffering, and increase the chances of a reasonable life for the remaining people, many of whom will have to relocate due to climate change and sea level rise.

          We should also do what Brandon is proposing because industrial farming practices are harming soils and are totally dependent on diesel for machinery and nitrogen fertilizer made from natural gas. Some of the old farming practices we will be forced to re-adopt in the future, like fallowing fields and growing feed for plough animals, will reduce total food production, which is another good reason to reduce the population.


          1. “fallowing fields and growing feed for plough animals”

            Fallowing fields is definitely out. All that does is bake the soil and starve the ecosystem within it.

            I think there is no chance we will return to using beasts of burden in farming. I think we either solve climate change and restabilise nature’s climate regulation processes, not necessarily to 100% of the stability that we inherited, or we end up with a scenario very much like in the film The Road, where all plant and animal life has been destroyed, so the only currency is violence, and the only thing left to eat is other humans.

            Without the regulation of the climate via the soil-carbon sponge, life on land will not be viable, and the land masses will return to nothing but rock.

            I have asserted that we can solve climate change, by using pricing signals to achieve several goals: (1) to drive a transition to regenerative agriculture, (2) to preserve and restore natural carbon sinks, (3) to dramatically improve the emissions efficiency and energy efficiency of all activities of the industrial system, and (4) to dramatically reduce the total volume of energy consumed.

            So far, not a single argument has been presented to directly refute any of these assertions. Sure people express a feeling that things cannot be done the way I assert, fine, but a feeling is not an argument. There must be someone looking on here, or drifting by in the near future, who is actually prepared to deconstruct and refute my argument or the underlying resources which support it: here and here.


            1. We face 2 primary problems: climate change and the depletion of affordable fossil energy, plus many other lesser problems caused by human overshoot such as species extinction, deforestation, mineral depletion, aquifer depletion, fisheries collapse, nitrogen cycle imbalance, etc. etc.

              Fallowing means giving the soil a rest by planting a nitrogen fixing cover crop. It does not bake out the soil. Farmers will be forced to used this technique again later this century when industrial fertilizers made from fossil energy are no longer available.

              Ditto on using animals instead of tractors when diesel is unaffordable and/or unavailable.


              1. It actually turns out that you are more optimistic than I am, because I don’t think we will actually reach “later this century.” I can’t see how civilisation can remain stable if we don’t at least take the first step now, which is a global agreement on solving climate change with a simple and infinitely powerful pair of pricing signals. Once the model of control over market outcomes is proven, we can add other goals to address some of the crises you list with exactly the same mechanism.

                The reason I think the collapse is far closer than most are willing to admit or contemplate, is because the unravelling is already underway on so many fronts. I wanted to link the classic Capra Plan B map of the interconnected and interdependent systemic crises and the processes of our great undoing, but it seems to have been removed from the public domain.

                We will have to make do with this crappy set of images, zooming, squinting, and scrolling to see the cause and effect flowing around and driving the unravelling of civilisation.


                For each label on the map we can see degrees of decline in global systems or parts of the world where the crisis is already playing out.

                We have to reverse or dramatically reduce all of those flows of destructive cause and effect, and if we don’t make a start on fixing climate change immediately, and demonstrate a powerful model that can solve the other crises too, then tipping points into collapse will be passed in some parts of the system, and will almost certainly result in cascading collapse throughout the entire system, because of the high degrees of interconnectedness and interdependence.

                Add to that background the cov19 pandemic and inevitable global depression and financial crisis and we may already be in freefall, just not aware of it yet.


                1. Thanks Brandon. Now I understand where you are coming from.

                  Reasonable people can disagree on these matters because we live in a complex system and it’s impossible to predict exactly how things will unfold, so I respect your opinion but I have a different view.

                  I think there is no “fix” to climate change and we face other serious problems, one of them, peak cheap energy, is and will do more damage in the short term than climate change.

                  The only action we can take that reduces the threat and harm of every single problem we face is to rapidly reduce our population.

                  Let’s end the discussion now. We understand each other and neither will change the mind of the other.


                  1. OK, happy enough to leave it at that.

                    For next time though, I would like clarification on one point. You say “I think there is no “fix” to climate change,” so my question would be how is my proposal not a fix to climate change?

                    You have questioned the volume of carbon that could be sunk into soils, and the time that it would take to do it, but I think that simply comes down to the same unwillingness or inability to perceive the exponential growth of organic soil carbon that we covered earlier.

                    I would not like to presume that your reluctance is based on illogical circular reasoning, that because you have decided that there is no fix to climate change, then every possible fix to climate change that comes along is necessarily not a fix to climate change.

                    Anyhow, I appreciate the opportunity to engage here. Thanks.


        2. Thanks for the link. Yes new market capitalism, something never seen before, where system goals are delivered with precision guided market signals.

          You have made it clear that you reject the conclusion, which is fair enough, but now you need to say why, and for that you need the context of the whole comment:

          I think it is ultimately pointless going through the 6 scenarios proposed here. Instead we need to stop worrying about the details of which technologies and strategies will play a part in a transition to a negative emissions economy. We can leave that up to the markets, if we are clever enough to impose market incentives that drive overall emissions along any trajectory we might choose.

          With a simple global price on all emissions, which creates an enormous pool of revenues to fund rebates for all activities which sequester carbon from the atmosphere – including the preservation and restoration of natural carbon sinks – the overall mix of strategies and technologies will optimise itself, without any need to try to pick winners at the collective level.

          Businesses and investors that back successful new initiatives will profit while making great contributions to driving down emissions, and those that back old technologies and inefficient options will disappear over time. Capitalism can easily solve the problem of climate change, without intervention by governments, as long as market outcomes are controlled with incentives on the global scale to produce the optimal mix of economic activities.


  17. One of my favorite hobbies is cooking and I like to understand the history and science behind recipes. The bible for cooking science is Harold McGee’s book but for YouTube video you can’t beat Adam Ragusea. His video today on the history of pork is very interesting.


  18. I thought maybe my essay on Eric Weinstein as a case study in denial might of shamed him off the internet since he stopped publishing podcasts shortly thereafter, but he’s back with a new 5 hour podcast in which he thrashes around trying to explain why all of our institutions have gone crazy, without ever once mentioning the word overshoot.

    He’s not an idiot, so it must be genetic reality denial.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Arctic Ocean: why winter sea ice has stalled, and what it means for the rest of the world

    “In the last 40 years, multi-year ice has shrunk by about half. At some time in the next few decades, scientists expect the world will see an ice-free Arctic Ocean throughout the summer, with worrying consequences for the rest of the climate system. That prospect got much closer in 2020, due in part to the exceptional summer heatwave that roiled the Russian Arctic.”

    ‘Sleeping giant’ Arctic methane deposits starting to release, scientists find

    Exclusive: expedition discovers new source of greenhouse gas off East Siberian coast has been triggered

    “Scientists have found evidence that frozen methane deposits in the Arctic Ocean – known as the “sleeping giants of the carbon cycle” – have started to be released over a large area of the continental slope off the East Siberian coast, the Guardian can reveal.

    High levels of the potent greenhouse gas have been detected down to a depth of 350 metres in the Laptev Sea near Russia, prompting concern among researchers that a new climate feedback loop may have been triggered that could accelerate the pace of global heating.

    The slope sediments in the Arctic contain a huge quantity of frozen methane and other gases – known as hydrates. Methane has a warming effect 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years. The United States Geological Survey has previously listed Arctic hydrate destabilisation as one of four most serious scenarios for abrupt climate change.

    The international team onboard the Russian research ship R/V Akademik Keldysh said most of the bubbles were currently dissolving in the water but methane levels at the surface were four to eight times what would normally be expected and this was venting into the atmosphere.”


  20. Summary of Art Berman interview today:
    – diesel consumption is the best barometer of the economy and it’s down 30%
    – the recovery has stalled
    – situation today is much worse than the 2008 GFC
    – it took 5 years to recover from 2008, it’ll take longer this time because we fixed the 2008 debt problem with more debt
    – even if the virus goes away, the economy is toast for a long time
    – money is a claim on energy, debt is a lien on future energy
    – the world is a bank risk because we don’t have the oil to repay our debt
    – the system must reset (or collapse)
    – the endgame will be deflationary
    – we won WWII because Germany and Japan didn’t have enough oil
    – it will become painfully obvious that replacing fossil energy with renewables results in a world we’re not willing to accept
    – the only reason we have 7.5B people on the planet is because of fertilizer that is 100% reliant on fossil energy
    – if the world standard of living drops even 10%, billions will starve
    – there will be another phase change back towards support for fossil energy
    – politicians are only motivated to keep their jobs
    – our leaders are energy morons


  21. I hope this post is okay, I’m a very bad writer. I don’t see how Brandon’s well meaning plan could possibly work. I like Jack Alpert’s plan but it is way too unpopular; we won’t do it and hydroelectricity has its problems too. Jean-Marc Jancovici (a well-known French consulting engineer and teacher in energy and climate) supports nuclear energy, despite its problems. My on-line translated summary of his 2020 interviews (at is as follows.

    The industrial revolution has consisted in abandoning renewable energies for fossil fuels. If renewable energies were equal or superior to fossil energies, there would have been no reason to switch from windmills to oil. Oil is extremely energy dense, it is easy to transport and store; behind it, a few other energies are not far behind: coal, gas and nuclear power.

    Intermittent and diffuse energies (wind and sun) have been abandoned to build our civilization of controllable machines. Today, wind turbines are inexpensive because we have fossil fuels and globalized chains! Their masts are made with coal, their studs with cement made with gas, inside there is copper made with coal, all this is transported from the other side of the world with oil… The low price of wind turbines and solar panels is based on fossil fuels. When these fuels are no longer there at all, the price of anything and everything will become much higher, including wind and solar collection devices…

    Back in 1500 the world was 100% renewable. An “all renewable” world is the only one that our species has known between its appearance, 20,000 years ago, and … the beginning of the industrial revolution. So there is no physical problem to go back to it. What is not possible is to return to it with 500 million inhabitants in Europe, and 35,000 euros of GDP per person per year, and paid pensions until the age of 85.

    The industrial revolution is to have added to men, thanks to fossil fuels, the ever-growing strength of an ever-growing fleet of machines, which process matter instead of our arms and legs, and which now do everything in our place: crops, clothing, housing, roads and bridges, transportation, and the billion different products that can be found in the world.

    Continuing to power the same over-powerful machinery with just renewable energies will not be possible. A 100% renewables world is therefore a world where the number of machines that can be added per person will be considerably smaller, and the economic translation of the business is a much smaller GDP per person as well. This is what politics has not understood, or pretends not to understand (it’s hard to know!): a 100% renewables world is a world where purchasing power has decreased a lot. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying that it’s lying to promise it without a strong contraction of consumption…

    Let’s now compare nuclear power to hydroelectricity, a renewable energy. It is necessary to drown sometimes impressive surfaces to create the reservoir. For example, the lake of the Guri dam in Venezuela has an area of 4500 km2 (as much as a French department) for a power of 6 EPR, which would require 2000 to 3000 times less space for the same power. Hydropower is also much more deadly than nuclear power. According to the UN, the deadliest nuclear accident in history is that of Chernobyl. There were a few dozen deaths at the time of the accident, there will be a few hundred cases of premature deaths among children at the time of the accident who developed thyroid cancer, and finally there are the premature deaths due to evacuation, resulting from the stress that increases risky behavior such as alcohol or tobacco (the figures are hard to find, say a few thousand in order of magnitude). On the other hand, the world’s deadliest dam accident in China in the seventies caused between 20,000 and 100,000 deaths. In Europe, the rupture of the Vajont-Longarone dam (Italy) in 1963 caused 2,000 deaths and destroyed many villages in the valley downstream. And the evacuation for the Three Gorges Dam, perfectly renewable, affected one million people, six times more than at Chernobyl!

    Then let’s take the criterion of waste: nuclear power produces it, like all forms of energy (there is no energy without waste), but, since very small quantities of material have been used to power the plants, at the end of the day there are very small quantities of waste. They are dangerous, but in very small quantities. All of the truly hazardous waste that the French nuclear power plants have produced since they began operating is in a pool at La Hague. It is certainly junk, but it is managed, whereas the “junk” of fossil fuels is dispersed in the atmosphere, and for “modern” renewables (wind and solar), the multiplication of mines and upstream industry also generates waste.


    1. “I don’t see how Brandon’s well meaning plan could possibly work.”

      Fair enough. Why not? What are the obstacles you see?

      Maybe your doubts are justified, and I will need to consider how to adjust my argument once I am made aware of those obstacles. Or maybe your doubts are the result of miscommunication, and I can eliminate them with better explanations, and answers to more detailed questions.

      I am happy with either outcome, because both represent opportunities to improve the argument for positive change.


        1. Provide evidence of what? That carbon prices work? No rational mind could conclude that they don’t. There are lots of resources linked or mentioned here to explore and ponder:

          I think it is pretty clear that if you were willing to debate my argument you would find the weakest point and challenge it.

          Never mind, there are plenty of other bloggers on the list. It was always going to be a huge challenge to maintain a debate with people who have invested part of their identity in the brotherhood of doomers, but I am up to that challenge if you change your mind and decide to debate the argument, rather than dismiss the conclusions without reason. Cheers.


    2. Thanks X, good quote. I have huge respect for Jean-Marc Jancovici. He’s a rare individual that speaks clearly and accurately without denying reality.

      This is a very good talk by Jancovici:


      1. Jancovici, born in 1962:

        [Wikipedia] He is married and has two daughters.
        He eats little meat, uses public transport, has no cellphone and avoids air travel whenever possible.
        His efforts are better than nothing, I suppose, since he obviously didn’t take the concept of overpopulation seriously.


          1. I rather doubt he was that poorly educated, Rob. As with most of these experts, he probably complied in order to keep the spouse happy.

            I like this cranky comment from Gene K. on YouTube concerning another expert with three kids:

            “So if I don’t have a kid, I can make 36 round trip flights to Europe every year? Well, I never had any kids but I’ll be satisfied with one round trip a year, OK? I knew when I was 13 years old that the Earth was overpopulated and that was in 1963. I had read Silent Spring and some of Aldous Huxley’s essays on the subject. So I don’t want to hear the excuse “I had kids before I was aware of environmental problems”. Just don’t ever lecture me if you’ve had kids.”


            1. I subscribe to the theory that most people deny reality. In my case, I was highly educated but in complete denial for the first 50 years of my life, until a sabbatical from the matrix allowed me to think about the depletion of non-renewable resources, and then the flood gates of awareness opened.


              1. I’m poorly educated by society’s standards. ‘Dropped out’ after grade 9 (15 years old). Started drinking & smoking weed & cigarettes two weeks into grade 8. Was not to attentive those last two years, but I passed.

                6-7 years later I studied for 2 week then took & passed the GED so I could attend trade school at BCIT. I also attended free maths tutoring classes for enrolled students at BCIT in the evenings for a few months to catch up on 8-12 maths. Had to pass a mature student entrance exam to get in computer tech school.
                Most everything I’ve learned about history, science, finance, Overshoot, etc is from reading, free lectures (mostly internet) & listening to y’all high dollar educated folks ideas & doing the recommended reading. I’ve been turned onto the most interesting stuff with the greatest explanatory power from little blogs like this one, megacancer & many more. Both the blog owners & the commenters. I’ve been a super curious reading fool since grade 2-3 & pestered my folks with endless why? why? questions. My folks went to university & we had plenty of reference books – encyclopedias, atlases, dictionaries, War chronologies, etc. This is long before the internet. I’d say, ‘Dad, what’s the capital of Sweden? Dad – ‘look it up’. Dad, what’s another word for “angry” Dad -‘look it up’…’in the thesauruses’. I knew a bunch, but doomer folks pointed out connections I never thought of or had ever come across in reading. I still learn ever day. It’s obsessive like. It’s connected our survival drive. Some men accumulate money, some pump iron or buy gunz & some arm themselves with knowledge.

                Higher Ed & denial are hitched. Same for anything status & authority related. Big investment – degree, years of ladder climbing, mortgage, marriage, kids, etc. Indoctrinated at every level & trapped by your responsibilities. I’m guessing highly vocal doomers get that ‘talking to’ at work & either zip it or go bye bye.


                  1. Today? History is riddled with dead, banished, black mailed & imprisoned critical thinkers & truth speakers.

                    Educated white people like to brag (cherry pick) how western society & democracy are (cue dramatic music) rooted in the glorious past of the noble & wise ancient Greeks.


                    The public’s hatred of Socrates

                    Part of the fascination of Plato’s Apology consists in the fact that it presents a man who takes extraordinary steps throughout his life to be of the greatest possible value to his community but whose efforts, far from earning him the gratitude and honour he thinks he deserves, lead to his condemnation and death at the hands of the very people he seeks to serve. Socrates is painfully aware that he is a hated figure and that this is what has led to the accusations against him. He has little money and no political savvy or influence, and he has paid little attention to his family and household—all in order to serve the public that now reviles him. What went wrong?


                    They also avoid mentioning socially acceptable pederasty in Ancient Greece or that many great (true) Greek warriors were openly bi sexual. Spartans, Alexander the Great – liked to fuck each other on those cold nights while on campaign.

                    Thousands of schools adopt The Spartans as their athletic teams symbol. Think they tell them? No, but only because we must protect the children. From what? The truth. Denial is baked into chimp civilization. The higher one climbs the ladder the more sophisticated pretending they must do. Hell we have even medialized those who, through no fault of their own, lack the game playing software – autistic.

                    Liked by 1 person

            2. You’re the only doomer/site creator, Rob, who welcomes discussion about human overpopulation, with the exception of Sam Mitchell, whom I find unwatchable. Everyone else is too personally defensive to allow much conversation, so kudos to you.

              Here is an Aldous Huxley interview from 1958, ignored by the herd, as usual:

              [Quote from article] Overpopulation, manipulative politics, imbalances of societal power, addictive drugs, even more addictive technologies: these and other developments have pushed not just democracy but civilization itself to the brink.


              Liked by 2 people


    In an attempt to recover some of its former glory, last night Exxon announced that it would be keeping its precious 87 cent/share dividend, which many had expected would be cut amid the ongoing devastation in the oil sector. Keeping the dividend, however, meant that Exxon would have to trim fat and/or muscle elsewhere, and on Thursday Exxon unveiled the latest unprecedented cost-cutting measure when it said it slash its global workforce by a record 15% over the next two years, an unprecedented culling by North America’s biggest oil explorer as it struggles to preserve dividends. According to Bloomberg, the cuts include 1,900 U.S. jobs, mostly in Houston, as well as an undisclosed number of positions around the world.


  23. Hi Folks,

    Brandon Y quoted Walter Jehne saying,

    “Rich soils exponentially increase the capture of water and carbon.”
    This is accurate, to a point.
    That point being when soils are saturated with Carbon they will no longer be a sink.

    Assume 350PPM Carbon is the goal to keep global temps to 2 degrees centigrade, 

    we need to take 200 billion tons of Carbon out of the atmosphere.
    With best farm, forest and wetlands management practices,
    we could sequester in soils a net one billion tons of Carbon per year, or
    30 billion tons by 2050.
    Soil IS part of the Carbon sequestering solution, but many billions of tons will have to come from other efforts.

    A wide variety of efforts are needed:

    Carbon pricing CAN be a useful tool, assuming the system is reasonably well managed and 

    REAL money goes to farmers and others for effective sequestration efforts.

    I read  The Population Bomb, etc.  and fathered one child, as

    I saw this as a simple, reasonable effort to lowering my footprint on Earth.
    My understanding is population reduction is going to happen, and
    I would like to see this as a conscious process rather than
    just letting nature take its course.
    For millemnia farmers/ranchers have understood the concept of
    sustainable stocking density on a bounded, finite piece of land.
    Humans need to understand this on the scale of our finite planet, and that
    we will only live healthy lives when biodiversity is healthy, meaning we leave
    significant amounts of land and ocean for other animals and plants.

    Thanks and good heath, Weogo


    1. Thanks.

      The scale of our overshoot predicament is the issue: 30 billion tons out of the required 200 is a rounding error. Even if we magically capture 200 billion tons the Arctic won’t re-freeze. We’re going to have to adapt which will be much easier with fewer people.

      A meaningful carbon tax will reduce emissions by shrinking the economy, but it will be sold as neutral or positive for the economy, which will cause a public backlash. Much better to be honest and simply tell people we must shrink the economy and the population.

      Raising the interest rate would accomplish the same thing as a carbon tax but is much simpler.

      Nate Hagens here provides additional reasons a carbon tax is a bad idea:


      1. The Hansen proposal is a half solution.

        Hansen is championing a ‘fee and dividend’, where carbon is taxed and the revenue is then given to the poor (or other areas of society – not the government).

        For it to be a full fee and dividend solution, the dividends must be paid out for carbon sinking, otherwise there is no driver of the switch to regenerative agriculture, and no driver to protect and restore natural carbon sinks.

        Using the dividend for any purpose other than carbon sinking only addresses one side of the ledger. It will exploit the power of pricing signals to reduce the volume of emissions created by the industrial system, but completely fail to recognise and exploit nature’s enormous power to sink carbon.

        Both Hansen and Hagens need to be made aware of the full argument for carbon fee and dividend, because there is no point debating a half measure. I would like to debate and improve the argument for the full carbon sinking solution that I have proposed before putting it Hansen and Hagens, but you have made it clear that you don’t want me to do that here, because it would expose truth that violates your existing beliefs.

        So, in the spirit of wanting to be constructive, or to at least appear to be constructive, if you can’t get Hansen and Hagens to come and debate the full solution here, you could at least point me towards whichever forum you think might be most open to free and fair debate. It would be tedious for me to have to make the case from scratch on say 15 to 20 different blogs.


  24. I think the symptoms of overshoot, like declining standards of living, a widening wealth gap, rising debt, impossible to deny climate change, etc., are at the root of why civilization is going crazy simultaneously everywhere on the planet.

    In the second must watch interview by Joe Rogan this week, his guest Tristan Harris makes an excellent case that social media amplifies and accelerates inherent human lunacy, and in some cases, is at the root of the lunacy.


    1. Social media is a big amplifier, but history is filled with societies under big pressure losing their shit. 1930’s Germany had no internet & look at all the the myths & cultish horse shit they gladly adopted & used to justify their aggression & slaughter. They were culturally & technologically sophisticated. As good as any others, yet they lost their shit big time.

      The ideology, religion & scapegoating are pretextes. The humans need to rationalize their hate & blame so as to justify rubbing out the other tribes….which they’ll do anyway. It’s about power & survival. When overshoot consequences & the fear they produce are wide spread their dark side comes out. Not a word need be spoken.

      How many bourgeoisie American boomer doomers have you seen lose their shit & objectivity & jump on one or the other tribal band wagons and spew the dogma with all the hate & passion typical of new converts. Kuntsler & Cohen are standouts. All that research on energy decline, past collapses, anthropology, evolution, thermodynamics, complex systems, etc — out the fucking window. Now their fear has reduced them to barking out dumb American canned MAGA slogans. now the only explanation is it’s the libtards & super vague Deep States fault. Fuck them. Primitive terrified chimps. Contradicting 15-20 years of studious collapse analyse – books, blogs, interviews. Their tribing up is endemic & was 100% predicted in Jay Hansons overshoot loop because Jay knew our history.

      Ever wonder why conspiracies are Americas #1 manufactured product? Because only people who truely think they are exceptional could attempt that level of self flattery.

      I’m so fucking special that 20 million operatives from multiple evil cabals have dedicated their entire lives to try & fool me-N-steal my freedom(imaginary). They all wake up at 4am to get the jump on me, but I see all…………………….I have youtube.

      Me me me…I’m American look at me me me….I’m so fucking exceptional & important…me me me give me more attention. Me & my sub-tribe are 100% innocent. It’s the other sub-tribe & this super long list___________________of foreign countries & secret organizations who are to blame for America going from 1st to worst in under 2 generations.

      When there’s almost no one left who has not fallen prey to fear – that’s pretty much social collapse.

      Save me….. from BLM, Proudboys, Antifa, MAGA-tards & the rest of the Meth Lab nutters. 54 years of listening to those cunts endless LOUD babble. I’m blacking out for a month. I’m tired of their clown show & meaningless political theatre. If they have another civil war, text me when it’s over.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Everything’s normal, let’s deny reality and remember it’s Christmas time, (sarcastic) the season of love, happiness and spending like there’s no tomorrow (because there isn’t!!).


  26. Living in the USA, I can attest to what Apneaman has to say about us. The fact that 62 million people voted for Trump the first time around and a similar number will again says a lot about the mental state of the nation. The main problem with both parties and just about everyone else is that they don’t have a clue about the issues discussed on your website. Instead they’re mostly concerned about day to day living and are pulled along by the internal momentum of what Nate Hagens called the “super organism”. I’ve considered myself an aware person, having read the Population bomb, The Limits to Growth, and many more when I was young. It’s only since I stopped working 14 years ago that I’ve taken the time to immerse myself in systems thinking. The problem is that this is hard work mentally. It’s a lot to take in. There’s always more to learn. The overwhelming majority aren’t suddenly going to do their homework and realize that we are living in overshoot and that we better change direction. The bottom line is that we are all along for the ride wherever it takes us.


  27. It is sort of fun and sad at the same time to sit back and watch what happens here. I am coming to a view that this site is a metaphorical ship of the dead.

    You guys are shit scared and powerless, and you use doomer humour as a coping mechanism. You give up on the world, and huddle here in shared misery, like a bunch of bar flies in a run down corner of town.

    You are fed a constant stream of reasons to be fearful, reinforcing the habituated presumption that there is nothing we can do as a collective – even as a tiny minority – to change our fate. Constructive comments are as unwelcome as an outside intruder into that dark and dingy hideaway, the door opening and allowing bright sunlight to highlight the decrepitude of the place.

    I can see directly that not all of those paying attention here are totally convinced that nothing constructive can be done. I see the numbers of people in the statistics on my site that many have at least explored the constructive resources on offer.

    Let me suggest a theme song:

    Crank it up …


    1. Show me how to make a solar panel, a wind turbine, and a nuclear reactor without any fossil fuel and I will believe in consumption forever


    2. I love our rare gig on this planet and am horrified about our situation. I went deep into the science of every action we might take and concluded there is only one good action: population reduction.

      Rapidly reducing our numbers improves every threat we face, and for those threats that can’t be fixed, will reduce suffering and create a better life for those that remain.

      You can’t even say the words “rapid population reduction” preferring to promote some green fantasies that will not help.

      The fact you cannot accept population reduction as a focus reinforces my belief that Varki’s MORT theory is correct and you are the one that is scared.


  28. About those machines that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Peter Wadhams says that direct CO2 capture from the atmosphere must be carried out on a massive scale and that other “solutions” even in combination will be insufficient.

    My quick reality check on DAC is as follows.

    The minimum energy required by the the second law of thermodynamics is around 500 kJ/kg for CO2 separated from ambient air. We’re putting 42 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year. Taking the same amount out by DAC would require a theoretical minimum of 21 EJ of energy per year.
    However, scientists writing in 2011 at
    assume a second-law efficiency of 5% for air capture systems. Thus around 420 EJ of carbon-free energy per year is required for DAC. But because we want to remove net CO2 from the atmosphere, we need more energy. World primary power production is 650 EJ/year, of which I think perhaps 100 EJ/year is carbon-free. In the unlikely case that I did the maths right, DAC doesn’t seem feasible unless its energy efficiency is much improved.


      1. Rob, could you please elaborate why CO2 capture by machines is in your opinion crazy. Is my maths correct? I don’t see a mistake. Those magnificent men with their carbon capturing machines would require about 420 EJ/year of carbon-free energy which is several times more than we are producing today with nuclear/hydroelectric/wind/solar and would amount to two thirds of the current total primary power production. Then there is the obvious problem with logistics: we would have incredible amounts of carbon near those energy-hungry machines.


        1. LMAO, I think you answered your own question.

          The interesting questions are, how is it possible that so many intelligent people with impressive educations consider this carbon capture lunacy to be a serious option, and why don’t they focus on the obvious thing we should do, rapidly reduce our population?

          I think Varki’s MORT theory provides the answer: humans evolved to deny unpleasant realities.


    1. Hi Gail, nice of you to stop by with kind words that mean a lot because you’re such a good writer.

      Thanks for the poem. I’m sure it’s a good one but you know me and poetry. I liked the pictures but struggled to understand what he’s saying. Something (I think) about wishing wolverines would strike back at us before we destroy all of nature. A good editor could remove 90% of the words in that poem and much improve the clarity of his message. 🙂

      Tsakraklides is good on the what but weak on the why:

      So the verdict is out: we are not necessarily evil, but simply cognitively limited. We have not realised and will probably not realise the role we have been thrusted into, as guardians of the planet. Although one can argue this is an issue of intelligence, it may be much more fundamental: one of biology. Because so far we are demonstrating that we simply were never gifted with the cognitive capacity to understand our new roles and responsibilities, and the consequences of continuing down the current path of destruction.

      Apollo 11 proves that we are extraordinarily intelligent. The key question is, how is it possible that our extreme intelligence is not able to override our gene’s desire to execute the Maximum Power Principle? The answer as explained by Varki’s MORT theory is that our unique intelligence emerged because it co-evolved with a tendency to deny unpleasant realities. I think it’s likely that high intelligence cannot exist in the universe without reality denial.

      I enjoyed participating in your Facebook group but I feel pretty good since I quit social media 16 months ago. If you ever move your group to a platform that doesn’t profit from manipulating it’s members I’d like to rejoin.

      You should watch the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma”. Social media is really fucking up society.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Just another reason I don’t follow the usual “experts” within whatever this community is . . . Martenson, father of three, despite professing deep knowledge concerning Alfred Bartlett’s work before the kids were even born, ha ha!

    Quote from Rodster on OFW:

    Hooray, Chris Martenson has finally spoken that Covid 19 is a bunch of BS. This is the same Chris Martenson who was getting all lathered up when Covid 19 started and hyping the situation. Now he’s admitting that Covid 19 is just an excuse to bring about “The Great Reset”. It’s a damn good article Too bad it took Chris nearly 9 months to figure it out.


    1. Yes thanks, Martenson’s essay 2 days ago is very good. I focused on a different issue he discussed that interests me.

      After all, you live in a system whose managers either are too dumb to understand the Vitamin D data (very unlikely) or have decided that they’d rather not promote it to the general populace for some reason. It’s a ridiculously safe vitamin with almost zero downside and virtually unlimited upside.

      Either they’re colossally dumb, or this is a calculated decision. They’re not dumb. So we have to ask: What’s the calculation being performed here? It’s not public safety. It’s not your personal health. So… What is it?

      This is our line of questioning and observation. It’s like the short story by Arthur Conan Doyle in Silver Blaze that many of us informally know as “the case of the dog that didn’t bark”. As the story goes, because of a missing clue – a dog who remained silent as a murder was committed – this conclusion could be drawn: the dog was already familiar with the killer!

      The silence around Vitamin D alone is extremely telling. It is the pharmacological dog that did not bark.

      One true inference suggests others. Here, too, we can deduce from the near total silence around Vitamin D that the health managers would prefer not to talk about it. They don’t want people to know. That much is painfully clear.

      Such lack of promotion (let alone appropriate study) of safe, effective treatments is a thread that, if tugged, can unravel the whole rug. The silence tells us everything we need to know.

      Do they want people to suffer and die? I don’t know. My belief systems certainly hope not. Perhaps the death and suffering are merely collateral damage as they pursue a different goal — money, power, politics? Simply the depressing result of a contentious election year? More than that?

      In addition, I will not forget:
      – the World Health Organization being criminally incompetent and lying
      – China not doing the right thing to protect the rest of the world
      – my government not closing the airports months after it was clear they should be closed
      – my government telling me not to wear a mask and then changing its mind without explanation


    2. Martenson completely loses the plot in that rant. He says:

      I don’t know why human nature decided to invest so much in developing a tight wall around the belief systems that control our actions and thoughts. But it has.

      Nature didn’t do that to the population, consumerist propaganda did, via relentless repetition of the same basic underlying lies. This corrupts a population, and quite deliberately, to subdue the masses and make them follow imposed desires that are actually not possible to satisfy.

      The people are dumb because the system wants them dumb, so that they consume and carry debt, rather than having them understand the system of power that stands over them and exploits them. If they were to escape the Matrix en masse, revolution would quickly bring the system of power down.

      It seems that on this aspect of consumerism at least, Martensen is himself in denial. He puts a conspiracy theory first, and a realistic view of reality second. I guess every single one of us is capable of being duped, and not just by ourselves, but by the system of power.


    3. Bill, Rodster’s reading compression leaves much to be desired. American?

      Nowhere does Martenson say covid is BS or, as dumb typical American Rodster implies, it’s a plandemic.

      If Martenson thought covid was BS then why would he be discussing medications & supplements to prevent or shorten the illness and not die?

      If you’re quoting an idiot as ‘proof’ of something, what does that make you?

      Amerisplaing. Americans are so certain. They know the truth of everything. If that was true how did America end up going from 1st to worse is a great many categories in under 2 generations?

      Why should anyone listen to Americans? Americans have lost all creditability, nay ceded it and joined various crisis cults.

      America the basket case shit-hole teetering on the edge of collapse & they are the last people anyone should be listening to.

      If it was up to me, I’d block a shitload of American media, social media & blogs from Canadians because it’s fucking poison.


  30. Canadian science rapper Baba Brinkman with a new video on the history of climate change science.

    I tried unsuccessfully a few years ago to educate Baba on the thermodynamics of the economy and why we must focus on population reduction. He didn’t want to hear it.


  31. Tim Morgan today explains that continuing to borrow $5 to achieve $1 of growth will no longer work.

    The first take-away here is that no amount of financial gimmickry can much extend our long-standing denial over the ending of growth in prosperity. The energy dynamic which drives the economy has passed a climacteric. The pandemic crisis may have anticipated this inflexion-point, and to some extent disguised it, but the coronavirus hasn’t changed the fundamentals of energy and the economy.

    The second is that the downtrend is going to squeeze the prosperity of the average person in ways that are likely to be exacerbated by governments’ inability to understand the situation, and to adjust taxation and spending accordingly.

    Third, this squeeze on household disposable prosperity is going to (a) have severely adverse effects on discretionary (non-essential) consumer spending, and (b) put at risk many of the forward income streams (mortgages, rents, credit, stage payments, subscriptions) that form the basis of far too many corporate plans, and have been capitalized into far too many traded assets.

    Barring short-lived exercises in outright monetary recklessness, most discretionary sectors are set to shrink, and asset prices (including equities and properties) are poised for a sharp correction.

    This enables us to summarise three of the more direct and immediate implications of de-growth.

    First, there will be adverse consequences for any business supplying discretionary purchases. We’ve been seeing a foretaste of this since 2018, with downturns in the sales of everything from cars to smartphones. The discretionary category doesn’t just apply to goods, of course, and service sectors particularly exposed include travel, leisure and hospitality. Just as households scale back non-essential spending, businesses are likely to trim discretionary outgoings such as advertising and outsourcing.

    Second, the increasing strain on household budgets is going to put income streams at risk. This is extremely important, for two main reasons. One of these is the expanded prevalence of sales techniques which cultivate streams of income in preference to outright purchases, whether by consumers or by business customers. The other is the capitalization of income streams, a process pioneered by the securitization of future mortgage payments. A significant part of the capital markets now consists of capitalized streams of income linked to everything from car purchase and higher education to the supply of gadgets and domestic appliances.

    Third, the public is likely to become increasingly focused on economic issues, demanding, not just lower taxation but pro-active measures to bolster household circumstances. We should anticipate growing pressure for nationalization (notably of utilities), combined with calls for greater redistribution from ‘the rich’ to the ‘ordinary’ voter.

    For government, business and investors, this poses challenges that have, in many instances, yet to appear on the ‘radar’ of forward planning.

    Governments, whilst unwilling to scale back their activities to affordable levels, will nevertheless find that their scope for expenditure falls a long way short of previous expectations.

    At the same time, the priorities of the public can be expected to undergo a sea-change, swinging resolutely towards the economic. As a result, many of the cherished ambitions of policymakers will become of diminished importance to the voters, just as they become ever less affordable.


    1. Lex Fridman has interviewed Sheldon Solomon who talks at great length about Death Anxiety and Death Denial and the extraordinary measures we take to avoid thinking about it. He seemed to agree with everything Solomon told him. Does that make sense to you?


      1. Many people throughout history, including Solomon, have observed the powerful human tendency to deny death.

        Ajit Varki expands on this common observation to explain the underlying evolutionary mechanism that causes humans to deny all unpleasant realities, not just death, and how this enabled the emergence of unique intelligence.

        So to answer your question, a person can acknowledge denial of death and completely miss what is important.


        1. I guess what I am trying to ask is that acknowledging or accepting the denial of death seems to have no effect on a person’s behavior and their way of life, so what is the point of acknowledging it other than to may be momentarily reflect on your life and panic a little? As soon as you return to the world of supernormal stimuli, you will forget all about it even if you have accepted it.


          1. For me there is no point to accepting that death is final, other than perhaps some religions that block population reduction policies might go away.

            The bigger issue is that we deny everything that is unpleasant, and it is very important that we acknowledge this behavior because it is making our overshoot predicament much worse than it needs to be.


            1. If the end result that is desirable is that people must acknowledge the overshoot predicament then I don’t think that acceptance of mortality is an absolute requirement since I know many people who understand issues like resource depletion, climate change and other pertinent issues and have altered their lifestyle with meaningful changes not just superficial ones. Many have also decided to not have children and have instead opted for adoption.


  32. Martenson’s coverage today of the election that should have been is mostly good.

    caveat: I’m not sure about his demonization of central bank monetary policy. It feels like he has picked an easy target to grow subscriptions. Martenson knows credit must grow or our system collapses by design. So if not into financial assets, then where?


  33. Alice Friedemann today reviewed Tom Nichols book “The Death of Expertise”. Skipping over her partisan crap, I like the quotes she summarized from the book. They make a lot more sense when you understand that denial is proportional to the unpleasantness of the reality.

    – What I find so striking today is not that people dismiss expertise, but that they do so with such frequency, on so many issues, and with such anger.
    – The death of expertise is not just a rejection of existing knowledge. It is fundamentally a rejection of science and dispassionate rationality, which are the foundations of modern civilization.
    – We have come full circle from a premodern age, in which folk wisdom filled unavoidable gaps in human knowledge, through a period of rapid development based heavily on specialization and expertise, and now to a postindustrial, information-oriented world where all citizens believe themselves to be experts on everything.
    – Some of us, as indelicate as it might be to say it, are not intelligent enough to know when we’re wrong, no matter how good our intentions.
    – There’s also the basic problem that some people just aren’t very bright. And as we’ll see, the people who are the most certain about being right tend to be the people with the least reason to have such self-confidence. The reason unskilled or incompetent people overestimate their abilities far more than others is because they lack a key skill called “metacognition.”
    – the root of an inability among laypeople to understand that experts being wrong on occasion about certain issues is not the same thing as experts being wrong consistently on everything. Experts are more often right than wrong, especially on essential matters of fact. And yet the public constantly searches for the loopholes in expert knowledge that will allow them to disregard all expert advice they don’t like.
    – We all have an inherent tendency to search for evidence that already meshes with our beliefs. Our brains are actually wired to work this way, which is why we argue even when we shouldn’t.
    – Colleges also mislead their students about their competence through grade inflation. When college is a business, you can’t flunk the customers. A study of 200 colleges and universities up through 2009 found that A was the most common grade, and increase of 30% since 1960.


  34. Nate Hagens with a new essay published on November 2, just before the election.

    Nate does not see any merit in Varki’s MORT theory, and yet most of his essay is about reality denial:

    The situation is this: various demographics now quite vocally (and reasonably) want a larger share of the economic pie, but the pie itself is about to shrink, which is something few are aware of – and don’t like to hear/think about.

    Let’s unpack this using an overused analogy – the Titanic. On the Titanic were 3 classes of passengers – First Class, Second Class and Steerage (or 3rd Class). You can imagine the conversations, hopes, dreams and concerns of the various people on that ship over a century ago. And, history tells us that the tragedy did not befall each class equally – 39% of 1st class passengers perished, 58% of nd class and 76% of steerage passengers drowned. The same demographics exist today and are probably having similar conversations within and between groups, focused on maintaining status, moving up in class, or demanding better conditions.

    And then there is someone like me – shouting (to all 3 classes) that we just hit an iceberg and need to use science, discourse, reason and planning to find the best solution to navigating what’s ahead. You can imagine the reaction – indeed you see it in the news and in your town hall meetings. The ‘first class passengers’ publicly decry that there is no iceberg that technology would never allow the ship to hit an iceberg let alone sink (but privately they are looking to ‘lifeboats’ aka gated communities and the like). The second class passengers are scrambling like mad to ingratiate themselves to the first class passengers to get crumbs of surplus lest they slip into steerage. And the steerage passengers – a full 50%+ of American society today have 2 common responses: 1) “Ok sure there may be an iceberg, but we need to solve our more immediate concerns like our current unacceptable living/working conditions, because we’ll drown from those before any freaking iceberg” (they are mostly right) or 2) “Ya right, an iceberg -that is just another story by elites and governments telling us what we have to do and taking away our rights and freedoms”. The difference now (vs on the actual Titanic) is that the steerage class (economically) houses both the far left and the far right, effectively creating an additional ‘iceberg’ within the ship. The people in ‘steerage’ can’t really conceive that in addition to their current troubles, society ALSO has hit an iceberg (see below).

    The point here is that the narratives (and religions) that make people feel good are often not based on reality. Which makes discussing, planning and responding to ‘the iceberg of the 2020s’ a very difficult task.

    No matter who wins the election we will be faced with multiple non-overlapping memes and explanations for the upheaval that is coming. Our plight is biophysical (biology and physics) in nature but will be blamed on class, race, politics, and ideology. Navigating this is going to be exceedingly difficult. A new captain can change the morale and surround himself by great minds to make the best civic decisions, but he/she cannot change the fact that our economy and culture has hit an iceberg.

    Nate now thinks complexity may prove to be our most significant risk. I agree. I frequently think about things that make my life pleasant, like for example a light bulb, and how many links in a long chain are required for me to walk into Costco and buy a light bulb at a reasonable price.

    Increasingly I think it’s not oil nor finance, nor social disruption that is our core risk but declining returns to complexity. Historian Joseph Tainter famously studied how ancient civilizations collapsed due to the inability of resources/productivity to keep pace with complexity. In today’s world, this can be seen in myriad ways, from the unemployment software in US States being written in COBOL and FORTRAN, to APIs for majority of our medicines made in India and China.

    Nate explains that energy remains the biggest issue that almost everyone denies:

    If you took a poll and asked people what the single biggest casualty was from the pandemic, very few people would respond with ‘oil’. But no matter who wins the election, US oil production, including shale oil, is about to fall off a cliff, with massive consequences for society.

    In aggregate, US production is so far down -2.28 mmbpd from a 2019 monthly average high of of 12.86 mmbpd. Assuming rig counts and prices stay roughly where they are (and with no stimulus they may get worse), this implies a level of about 7 mmbpd by late summer 2021 – nearly a 50% drop. Globally, the reduction in travel, leisure and transport due to COVID effectively squeezed upstream investment- we are down to 72.8 mb of crude and condensate from 84.6 in November 2018, -which date is highly likely to be the all time peak in global production. Note: this will likely never be recognized as such because there will always be a non-biophysical reason articulated as to why we aren’t getting more oil. E.g. ‘the chinese’ or ‘the environmentalists’ or ‘the war’.)

    Nice. I’ve added this to my sidebar of favorite quotes:

    To label this geologic phenomenon as ‘peak demand for oil’ is the economic equivalent of saying the reindeer on St Matthew Island faced ‘peak demand for lichen’.

    This data confirms my belief that our decline, once it gets going in earnest, will be quick, meaning any personal preparations must be completed beforehand. <– hint

    If governments guarantee high prices to oil companies, or there are other incentives, production might be higher than indicated here – but here is a glaring statistic – if we were to stop drilling in USA entirely we would lose around 40% of our entire oil production in 1 year – we have to keep investing/drilling in more difficult and costly spots to avoid such a decline. (the 1 year decline rates are: Texas 40%, ND is 52%, Oklahoma 50%, GOM/deepwater 32% New Mexico 45% – these 5 regions are 80% of US production).

    This is not remotely being discussed in our culture.

    Nate concludes with a nice analogy:

    Society right now is dancing – and fighting on the roof of an A-frame with the winds blowing hard and a storm shooting lightning at our heads. We need to keep dancing (less fighting) while we climb down to more stable ground.

    Unfortunately there’s no mention, again, of the need for democratically supported rapid population reduction policies.


    1. You talk about your “Costco” moment. Some 6 months ago I was driving with my wife and adult daughter down the highway in rural forested Oregon. I said to them, “. . . when you think of it everything you see around us is oil . . .”. I tried to explain to them that everything in our modern civilization, even the trees in the forest represent the fossil fuels we have used to grow, harvest, feed, manufacture, transport and run that civilization. They are both extremely well educated people and they were silent in response. With my wife most is denial, with my daughter it is willful blindness because she has heard me talk about our bleak future. Without rapid population reduction, this civilization, and probably the human species is gone.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Very nice primer today from Tim Watkins on the history of oil and the consequences we are experiencing of having depleted the low cost reserves of oil. It’s a must read for people trying to understand how the world actually works.

    Watkins is a very good writer. It’s a lot of work to write a brief but comprehensive essay like this. Good on him. Few do it, or do it as well.

    Watkins proposes an interesting new twist on the core cause of the 2008 financial crisis that I’ve not seen before:

    The story of the 2008 crash is usually told in financial terms; and is used to blame the victims. The cause of the crisis, we are told, was so-called sub-prime borrowers taking on mortgages that they couldn’t possibly pay back. Except, of course, prior to 2008 they had been paying them back. So what happened to change their circumstances so that they could no longer repay debts? The answer is interest rate rises. The banks had based their lending on the assumption that the economy was stable; that inflation would grow at around two percent; and that interest rates would remain relatively low. With house prices supposedly guaranteed to keep rising, and having securitised the risks, banks – with the assistance of governments – could extend home ownership to the masses. But from 2006, central banks had been raising interest rates; tipping borrowers into default.

    Why had the central banks been raising interest rates? Because from 2005, inflation began to break out of the 1 to 3 percent band that they were charged with maintaining. According to all of the textbooks they had been brought up on, the central bankers had been taught that the way to bring inflation back under control was to raise interest rates. But they – and the economics textbooks – were wrong. What they believed to be inflation – too much currency chasing too few goods – was actually an economy adjusting to its first supply-side shock since the 1970s.

    This is not an obvious distinction, because to most ordinary people the result of both demand-side and supply-side shocks is the same; rising prices. But the cause of a demand-side shock is merely that too much currency is circulating (or is flowing at the wrong velocity) to remain in balance with the real economy. Most often when governments and banks create more currency than there is economic activity to absorb it. In such circumstances, consumers seek to spend the excess currency and cause prices to rise. By raising interest rates, the currency supply can be cut and prices brought down. In a supply-side shock, in contrast, the stock of currency remains stable while some factor of production runs short; forcing up the price of everything that depends upon it. When this occurs, raising interest rates cannot solve the problem because the shortage persists irrespective of how much currency is in circulation.

    The 2005 supply side shock was particularly profound because it impacted our primary energy source – oil. Look around your home and you will be hard pressed to find a single thing which was not made from oil; constructed using machinery powered with oil; or transported on vehicles that run on oil. The same is true for every household and business in the developed world. So that when the price of oil increases so, too, does the price of everything else. And the solution to it is not to raise interest rates, but to let the economy adjust to the new conditions.

    In putting up interest rates in the face of a supply-side shock that they did not understand, the central bankers set off the chain of events that caused the entire global banking and financial system to unravel. The correct – but painful – play would have been to allow the peak oil shock to work its way through the economy. The result would have been a dramatic shift away from discretionary consumption as businesses and households were obliged to spend more on essentials like food, utilities, housing/rental and, of course, energy. After all, that is where we eventually ended up… only with the added cost of bailing out and more or less permanently having to underwrite the financial system.

    An important take-away from this is that the people who run our world are basically idiots in nice suits. Don’t be fooled by their smooth confident talk. They don’t have a fucking clue. Trust your own judgement and trust the laws of physics. Watkins also concludes with this advice but uses a more politically correct tone:

    For the moment, however, the continuing slump in oil prices will be treated by economists, politicians and establishment media journalists as proof that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is gathering pace. As a result, instead of making serious attempts to mitigate the damage that severe energy shortages will cause, they will continue to push the narrative that their mythical fourth industrial revolution is well under way.

    Yes, humanity will eventually revert to “green energy,” but not in the way techno-utopian fantasists imagine. Rather, as the energetic basis of the industrial economy collapses, those who survive will mainly be left with energy technologies like water wheels, windmills and sails to supplement human and animal labour power at an economic level not dissimilar, at best, to the early nineteenth century… that’s just what happens when you run out of gas!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Kurt Cobb on mutant minks.

    Unfortunately for the minks and the mink industry, the Danish government has now pledged to kill every mink in Denmark is order to eradicate a mutant strain of COVID-19 carried by mink that is transmissible to humans. That would mean dispatching some 17 million animals in short order.

    Why are the Danes so panicked? Because this mutant strain “is not readily stopped by antibodies to the dominant strain of the virus.” That could mean that vaccines currently being developed for this dominant strain will be of little or no value in treating people with the mutant strain.


  37. Dear Rob,

    you advocate for population reduction, which I very much agree with, but would like to know how this should be done. The common solutions I come across are the education of woman, smaller families and the rising of living standards. While one of them is simply absurd in the face of our predicament the other two are long shots at best and ignore cultural complexities. Given that they even work, do you think we have the time for these soft measures to take effect? Again, if you would be so kind, please elaborate on your ideal solutions to the population question.


    1. I think the common solutions are too slow given the severity of our overshoot predicament. In addition, there isn’t sufficient affordable fossil energy left to raise the standard of living of 8 billion people. The standard of living for most people has already peaked and is now in a permanent downward trend.

      My preferred solution is a democratically supported birth lottery in which any woman wanting a child must apply for a permit. Permits will be randomly allocated in a transparent and totally fair manner, and may not be sold or transferred. I haven’t done the math to confirm the exact numbers but I think about 1 in 200 women will receive a permit for 2 generations, after which the lottery can be abandoned.

      A couple generations need to make a big sacrifice so future generations can have a decent reasonably modern lifestyle. The alternative is that future generations will experience a lot of suffering with medieval lifestyles, at best.


    1. I think Tverberg’s argument can be used as the basis of a global solution to the reality of Peak Energy, as long as a couple of unstated presumptions can be cleverly thought through and then put aside altogether.

      The argument pretty much starts from the presumption that there is a fixed relationship between energy prices and the health of the economy. It states that one way to boost energy prices would be “a truly booming world economy. This is what raised prices in the 1970s and in the run up to 2008.”

      The boom over that period was fuelled by two factors, oil and debt. The oil part of the equation expanded the real economy, but most of the expansion was not creating useful real world capital, but in overconsumption which destroys real world capital. The debt part of the equation expanded a giant bubble of speculation and asset price inflation, which persists to this day, even after the near crash of the GFC. This financial bubble has no benefit whatsoever to the real world or the real sector of the economy, it only serves the parasites that feed on the bubble from the inside.

      The boom was a dud. It was a completely inefficient use of available resources to produce something with no lasting value. The last thing we should want is to return to such recklessness and waste. But the first piece of good news is that the boom can not be restored anyway. The consumerised societies which do the vast majority of overconsumption, and therefore deplete most of the world’s resources, are already saturated with debt. The debt fuelled portion of growth is pushing up against real constraints.

      Also, real world capital has been depleted and destroyed to such an extent that the exploitation of real world capital comes with diminishing returns, and threatens a total collapse of natural processes and systems that keep the biosphere stable. So the oil fuelled portion of growth is also pushing up against real constraints, because nature no longer has the capacity to expel the excessive heat trapped in the biosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels.

      So the relationship between energy prices and economic activity is nowhere near as simple or fixed as the starting presumption would have it. It is certainly not linear, and almost approaches chaos as we push the system closer to the limits to growth.

      Oil prices will indeed rise as more and more excess money comes into the system as banks create debt, as long as that debt is funding real world activity. If instead debt is created for the sake of speculation and the search for marginal yields in the financial sector, then the new money entering the system does not push oil prices upwards.

      The second piece of good news is that we can have control over the amount of money and debt coming into the system, if we are willing and able to change the model of finance, from one that presumes infinite growth is possible, to one that remains stable through periods of economic contraction. In other words, if we go from an insane model of finance that pretends that there will always be enough future growth that no level of indebtedness is a problem, to a sane model of finance where only enough money and debt are created to serve the needs of the real and productive sector of the economy.

      The third piece of good news that we can also have much greater control over the energy efficiency of the industrial system, by placing a penalty price on the consumption of fossil fuels equal to the cost of reversing the carbon emissions involved. The enormous revenues collected would fund a competitive global carbon sinking industry.

      Such a price would change everything. People might need to really slow down and think about it before the magnitude of this point is truly understood and appreciated.

      This is exceedingly important, because it will become crystal clear that all other arguments about what can and should be done, for the economy and for the planet and the human civilisation that it supports, become either redundant or excessively trivial.

      A price on carbon emissions fully funding a price on carbon sinking would completely transform the world, not just the economy but also how the industrial system interacts with the natural systems of the planet. It constitutes a fundamental realignment of the most powerful forces acting on Earth, and makes them finally all push in the same direction, which if we set the goals correctly means towards prosperity and sustainability.

      See an outline of how the system would work and how it would completely transform the outcomes markets generate here:

      So, this concept of a global carbon sinking industry is a great opportunity for all of us to see how our situation can be radically improved. Essentially there seem to be just two presumptions that prevent otherwise capable people like Tverberg from seeing what is possible: (1) That we have to work within the model of finance that we have now. And (2) That we have no power to control what markets do.

      Both of these are not necessarily true. There are no rules of physics, or thermodynamics, or economics that stand in the way of a sensible model of finance and control of market outcomes using pricing signals.

      Yes there are enormous psychological and political barriers to these fundamental system improvements, but they are only virtual barriers, which can be overcome with vision, argument, and building of political support for reform.

      All I am asking is that those who are willing and able to zoom out to the bigger picture, and to question some of the fundamental presumptions that generally leave us powerless to change the system, at least have a read and a think about it. It just might expand your perspective and improve your outlook.


      1. Today we are emitting carbon ten million times faster than its natural sinking time. Thus Brandon’s plan would entail something like slashing emissions by a factor of ten and boosting the natural sinking time by a factor of a million. To make that reality we would have to skip 90% of our meals or 90 % of population would have to switch to breatharianism. (There are ten calories of fossil fuels behind every calorie of our food.) We should also plant each year 180 billion km2 of new forests which is over a thousand times the land surface of the planet. (Today we are losing 180,000 km2 of tree cover each year.)

        That way we would become carbon neutral. However, global warming would unfortunately continue because there is already too much carbon in the atmosphere. Maybe switching to negative food and planting even more trees would do the trick.


        1. Clearly you are overlooking Nature’s tremendous power to sink carbon via natural carbon sinks and agricultural soils. The reality is more like a 5% decrease in total emissions coupled with a 5% increase in carbon sinking in order to stabilise the climate at net zero emissions, and with a 10% increase in carbon sinking to reverse the accumulation of heat in the system and drive significant negative net emissions.

          No need to panic about this oversight though. The answers are all already here in comments on this thread. Just look around for “Boosting Nature” and you will find a link to comprehensive resources with all the explanations.

          The link in the comment you are responding to explains the very public policy mechanism we can use to guarantee we get the outcome we want, over whatever reasonable time scale we choose.

          You are free to challenge any of the specific assertions in either argument, and that would certainly be more constructive than simply failing to absorb the arguments, and misrepresenting conclusions because of a failure to be across the details.

          You seem to have no idea about the relative scale of the problem. The excess heat being trapped within the Earth-atmosphere system is only 1% of incident solar radiation. The political task of solving climate change might seem enormous and beyond any reasonable capacity for system reform, at least at first glance, but the technical task of solving climate change is actually quite simple. Nature knows what to do, and we know exactly how we can work with nature rather than against it.


          1. Nature has indeed tremendous power to sink carbon via natural carbon sinks and agricultural soils. That’s why fossil fuels exist. But it takes a lot of time. Carbon released since 1994 equals to over 50 million years of plant growth which was needed to sequester it.

            Liked by 1 person

        1. Here is a nice explanation of regenerative agriculture. The claims made are acknowledged to be controversial, and no attempt is made to prove or disprove the claims. I am certain we should and must move in this direction as diesel and natural gas based nitrogen fertilizer depletes. I have not yet seen any evidence that it can “solve” climate change.


    2. Humans are in serious trouble – but warming is among the LEAST serious of our problems. Sure, it would be highly destructive (eventually) to our global economy, but that’s already doomed from other factors, and probably much sooner.
      It’s our ongoing and accelerating general resource destruction that’s going to trigger the crisis, and our denial and blame system is going to turn that crisis into global warfare, as we point fingers and blame the wrong things for the problems – because we are STILL in such total denial that it’s simply a consequence of overpopulation in a species incapable of adequate self-restraint.
      The problem is the same NO MATTER the ambient temperature!! A warmer world will be fine once we adjust to it – but that’s not even the issue we are facing, it’s just a distraction!


  38. Some elegant prose from James today…

    I look at the same reality and marvel at how lucky we are to have evolved a unique brain, and to be alive with it in a very narrow window of time, when it can understand its origin, and what it’s doing to the rare planet that enabled it. Except of course for those majority of brains that deny reality.

    Humans and all other life forms are the most appalling means for facilitating the creation of entropy. To achieve the electromagnetic state of maximum entropy through consuming each other is an abysmal creation of the universe. Let no tasty nugget go unmetabolized. Even after initially exhausting the energy of a primeval pool of molecules, the game was kept going by a daily dose of electromagnetic manna from heaven which eventually gave rise to algae, vascular plants and the like. Poor bastards, full of delicious and energy-packed molecules, their efforts at accelerating the passage of the sun’s rays into space was inadequate. Their bodies contained too much reducible fuel to let go unmolested. And so was born the species of gnarly-toothed grazers to accelerate their conversion into feces and heat. And so began the Lotka-Volterra two-step, a state of eternal hell. And so it went for many years with one species after another coming into being to help the universe in its on-going expansion of space and time by consuming each other. Often the appetite of the universe was so great that the component cells of a dutiful dissipative being would start a cancerous fire of self-immolation.

    And finally the universe produced the human, the greatest earthly consumer of them all. They stuffed fuel into their metabolic furnaces at the most prodigious rate and through a twist of fate, in mixing a diamond with a pearl (Kid Charlemagne style) they turned their technology on the world. “Marvelous”, said the universe. “Not only are you my top predator, you have reinvented life at a scale that will most assuredly consume everything in sight.” And so they did. They spent day and night building furnaces and conduits into which they fed all sorts of fuels. To speed things up they created money and loaned it to anyone with an idea for burning more. It was a marvelous bonfire for the insatiable Gods with each pop and crackle of the fire echoing into vast empty space. The human minions of entropy could not get enough, their portfolios of potential were vast, their homes large, their jets ready to make entropy upon demand. They even went to war and killed each other to gain access to more fuel. Their egotistical self-worth was expressed in the amount of entropic success they could achieve. But eventually, after many years of stunning radiation, there was not so much to burn. Very sad for a being whose whole life is about burning things. And as they finally depleted the potential of their gradients the universe let out a great burp of methane and hydrogen sulfide thereby marking the end of the era of humans. The sun continued burning for billions of more years until its fuel too was exhausted, having provided many more generations of unconscious and unwitting beings the spark of life to propel them along the entropic highway to nowhere.


  39. Thanks to James @ for this tip.

    Even Extinction Rebellion can’t discuss the need for rapid population reduction policies. Instead let’s pretend we’re doing something useful by being a vegan. Idiocy or denial?

    I left this comment on YouTube:

    Very good summary of the threat. Very poor understanding of what to do about it. Burning carbon is the human economy, and renewable energy depends on burning carbon. Two things must be done. First, increase the interest rate which will shrink the economy and make everyone poorer so we burn less carbon. Second, implement democratically supported rapid population reduction policies. Population reduction reduces burning carbon, but in addition, if it is too late to prevent a climate incompatible with civilization, then we will still have reduced total suffering, and perhaps saved a few other species.


    1. In the next installment, we find out how to make glass, concrete, and Teslas without fossil fuel. As an alternative, there will be substitutes that require no fossil fuel.


    1. I wouldn’t characterise it like that. I would suggest that every single challenge to my argument that is worthy of a response has been successfully addressed. My main comment on page 6 starts a long subthread that I have just continued on the latest page … so many comments that it gets awkward to navigate.


        1. Fertilizer and steel should be added to the list of important examples. But I challenge anyone to identify a single material thing in their lives that does not depend on non-renewable, finite, and depleting (low cost already depleted) fossil energy.


              1. Geese mow and fertilise grass and I can cook without any fossil fuels where I am (though getting the fire going is a major pain with flint stone). Once cooked the bird falls apart.
                Thanks for the great posts you do Rob.

                Liked by 1 person

  40. Interesting post this morning by Alice Friedemann on why so few people (1 in 10,000) understand peak oil (aka human overshoot).

    Dozens of peak oil aware people speculate on why limits to growth and overshoot are never discussed or acted on. Not one of them has a clue that the unique human brain exists because it evolved to deny unpleasant realties.

    So how many people understand Varki’s MORT theory? I’d guess 1 in 100,000,0000. Readers here belong to a very elite club.

    Obviously the planet is finite. We’re using many times more oil than we’re discovering, and therefore at some point global oil production will peak and decline. Yet even in 2019 this reality is denied by most, so much so that low prices after the last financial crash caused by high oil prices, has led to the public buying gas guzzling light trucks and SUVs.

    What follows are the experiences of members of several peak oil groups (energyresources, runningonempty, sfbayoil, and so on, most of them from 2000 to 2005) about their experiences of trying to tell friends and family about peak oil and limits to growth.

    If Joe-Six-pack knew about the peak; knew that everyone in authority and most of academia had been lying to him for at least 20 years; knew the best his kids could hope for was a painless death; the resultant rioting, looting, and total breakdown in infrastructure would make any solution impossible. That’s the best reason NOT to tell the public.

    FYI, I disagree with the idea that our leaders are lying to us. I think they’re as much in denial as the people they lead.


    1. Rob,
      I found all the comments on Alice’s post interesting in a very depressing sort of self-identifying way. So many of the comments consisted of the writer coming to the conclusion that we are in terminal overshoot due to easily available energy depletion (along with other industrial inputs) AND then their trying to communicate that to friends, relatives, etc. They all got rejected (denial for sure) by the people they tried to educate and for many like myself were made very lonely by the experience. I don’t think I saw anyone make the leap (perhaps there were a few?) to the conclusion that we need vastly fewer humans very rapidly. I am in a constant state of depression (maybe its the lack of sunshine in the PNW?) about this and the denial all around me. As Albert Bates stated today, McPherson is probably right about NTHE due to catastrophic climate change and even though he says there is a slight chance we could do what is necessary to avoid extinction he is not very hopeful. Bad news all around.
      Sorry to always be such a downer.


      1. Hi AJ,
        I used to be depressed but am feeling much better these days. You might try one or more of the things that have helped me:
        1) Take pleasure from understanding what others do not even see. It’s feels good not to be an idiot in denial.
        2) Be grateful for being alive at the peak of what may be possible in the universe. What other point in the life of the universe would be better to be alive?
        3) Take advantage of the near infinite free resources that are available to learn.
        4) Use your awareness to prepare for what is coming. Doing something proactive feels good.
        5) Do some hard physical labor on something useful.
        6) Walk in nature as often as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

  41. Gail Tverberg’s answer to a few simple but important questions…

    LWA on November 14, 2020 at 12:57 pm said:

    Hi Gail,

    I just recently began reading your blog and I think it’s really interesting. I have a couple of questions:

    1) Why do you expect total world energy consumption to plunge the next decades until 2050?

    2) Why do you think that the world population will drop to 2.8b in 2050? (The UN for example expects a population of 9.7b in 2050)

    3) Do you think it’s possible to replace fossil fuels entirely with renewable energies? Why or why not and what are the consequences for developed world societies if energy isn’t abundantly available? (This could probably be an entire blog post)

    Thank you and have a good weekend!

    Reply ↓

    Gail Tverberg
    on November 14, 2020 at 3:18 pm said:

    It is hard to explain these thing is the space of a comment.

    1) Regarding why world energy energy consumption is likely to plunge, it is only possible to use energy if we have a healthy world economy to utilize the energy. We need to have consumers who can afford to buy houses and cars. We need airlines to be operating, so people can visit far-off lands, if they choose. We need schools to be open so children can learn the things we expect them to learn, and also so that they provide “free” child care services, so that their mothers can work.

    A big issue is diminishing returns, in other word, extracting resources required more and more energy, because fossil fuels (and other mineral resources) are deeper, or are in thinner seams, or are more diluted with materials we don’t want. There is a similar problem with growing food, which is another type of energy resource. The amount of arable land doesn’t go up, but the population does. We can work around this problem by using more irrigation and soil amendments. “Fished out” oceans can be replaced by fish farms, which require fossil fuel energy to operate. Desalination can be used to provide water, if deeper wells are not sufficient.

    Because of diminishing returns, the true “cost” in terms of the energy required to keep the whole system operating keeps increasing, but the benefit we get from a given amount of resources tends to fall. Fortunately, increases technology and specialization (“complexity”) can fix the situation for a while. Added debt at ever-lower interest rates can hide the problem as well.

    Economists have convinced themselves and others that there will never be a problem. Scarcity will cause prices of energy products to rise, and we will be able to extract all of the fossil fuels that seem to be available. This is not really the way it works, however. Energy products are well-hidden within everything we buy. Except possibly for gasoline used for personal transport, the cost of energy is usually deeply buried in things we buy regularly. A great deal of oil goes into growing food, for example, and we don’t stop eating food. Oil is also used in paving roads, and we are required to pay taxes to cover this cost. <While the cost of extracting energy products rises, the price oil that the consumers of the economy can withstand at some point stops rising, and starts falling. The many poor consumers especially get “priced out” of buying discretionary goods. An important point that people miss is that energy is what allows people to have jobs that pay well. When oil consumption gets cut back, even if it is because of a government “stay at home” mandate, people (waiters and waitresses; airlines personnel) lose their jobs.

    Once prices fall too low for energy producers, this tend to lead to a self-reinforcing system. More and more of them go out of business, because they cannot make a profit, reducing energy consumption further. More people lose their jobs, indirectly because there is not enough energy to go around. It might be because governments cannot collect enough taxes, and because of this lay off workers (or there could also be a temporary spike in energy prices that leads to cutbacks by consumers). Drilling rig companies that have gone out of business cannot easily come back, even if prices temporarily spike. The many women who were able to work because the schools provided free child care discover that they need to be at home, until their children can take care of themselves. The economy is essentially making fewer and fewer goods and services, so in the aggregate, everyone can buy less and less. The financial system cannot really handle a declining economy. Debt defaults will cause huge problems for banks.

    We know that historically, many economy have suffered from overshoot and collapse. In fact, the base model described in the book “The Limits to Growth,” by Donella Meadows et al in 1972 said that this collapse would happen about now. But this is an uncomfortable finding. No one wants to even consider this possibility, but it seems to be exactly what is happening. Pandemics were often part of prior collapses, because poor people did not get adequate diets, making them vulnerable to communicable diseases. This seems to be happening again this time.

    2) Why do you think that the world population will drop to 2.8b in 2050? We know that before fossil fuels were used extensively, world population was no more than 1.0 billion, so perhaps that might be a reasonable estimate. In the academic book, Secular Cycles, the “crisis” period seemed to go on between 20 and 50 years.

    I took the benefit of the doubt and said that perhaps we would still have quite a bit left in 2050, which would be only 30 years. This may be wishful thinking.

    3) No, I don’t think that it is possible to replace fossil fuels entirely with renewable energy. In fact, renewable energy cannot even stand on its own for very long, without fossil fuels. I suggest looking through my website for some of my many posts on this issue. Transmission lines fall down. Wind turbine parts frequently break. A whole system of roads need to be in place.

    I will leave it to your imagination as to how we deal with this mess. Current governments fail fairly early, as far as I can tell. We will need a much cheaper system, such as kings overseeing minimal local governments. International trade will shrink in importance.

    Reply ↓

    Norman Pagett
    on November 14, 2020 at 3:33 pm said:

    No matter how much fossil fuel is available, it will stay in the ground if people can’t afford to use it.


  42. I recently bought a 6 piece sheet set for my bed for $30 which is about 90 minutes of minimum wage labor. I was curious how something so useful for a comfortable life can be so inexpensive.

    This is how fabric was made before fossil energy:

    This is how fabric is made today:


    1. Rob, As someone that lurks here, I think that’s the best example I’ve ever seen of where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re returning to. Thanks for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  43. Wise and aware countries would move to re-localize economic activity critical to survival.

    Instead countries continue to increase their fragility because they deny the reality of energy depletion.

    China and 14 other countries agreed Sunday to set up the world’s largest trading bloc, encompassing nearly a third of all economic activity, in a deal many in Asia are hoping will help hasten a recovery from the shocks of the pandemic.


  44. Another smart guy with a very good understanding of the threat, and very deep denial of what to do about it. Worth watching for an update on what’s going on in the Arctic.

    The question is no longer if methane will be released in large volume, but when.


  45. Worth watching.

    Another smart guy that understands economic growth has stopped for some “structural” reason, but does not understand (or denies) the cause.

    How is it possible that there are no smart guys in the mainstream that understand what’s going on?

    It’s not, without Varki’s MORT theory being in play.


    1. Our universe fosters dissipative structures that maximize profit, growth, reproduction and entropy production. That’s us in a nutshell. There is no other “way of life”. If there is another way of life the universe will get rid of it in favor of one which maximizes. “We’re number one” and “I’m gonna get rich.” resonate throughout the land. All of the dissipatives like the guy above are obsessed with getting money (energy) and how much they’ll get to burn. Stocks, bonds, gold, they want to turn it into a “burn” in one way or another. They can’t question reproduction or even capitalism and conveniently ignore and deny the perils of climate change. To facilitate even greater profit and growth the evolving Big Tech even wants to upgrade its RNA (that’s us). It’s no longer possible to be a human, we must be functionally changed to eliminate those parts of humanity that do not contribute to profit and growth. A good example is concentration on STEM programs in colleges. More science, more engineers, more growth, faster, faster……………………….

      There are over a trillion dissipating stars in the Andromeda Galaxy. The universe does not need our contribution to entropy and technological race to nowhere.


  46. So we are in very deep denial of what to do about this nice mess. But does it matter if we are in denial or not? Should we vote? Rob says he votes no more because it doesn’t matter. Indeed, according to physicists, we are nothing but ephimenomenal collections of elementary particles that obey only the four laws of physics. So to be a denialist or not to be a denialist, that is surely a question, but it is a poor question asked by an idiot. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. Cheers!


    1. If I said voting does not matter I misspoke. Voting matters very much, provided rapid population reduction policies are on the menu of choices.

      If it’s important I understand the poetry you’ll have to translate it for me. To me poetry is a word salad created by someone being obtuse to appear intelligent, rather than simply saying what they want to say with a few clear words.


  47. “Our universe fosters dissipative structures that maximize profit, growth, reproduction and entropy production. That’s us in a nutshell.” Sounds reasonable. That’s something easy to understand, like wrestling and Ronald McDonald. But what exactly is “our universe”? According to Erwin Schrödinger, a founding father of quantum physics, there is no such thing and there is no such thing as “we”. We’re all hypnotized. My experience with engineers (I have a MSc in Chem. Eng) is that they are arrogant and stupid. What if the engineering brain is wrong? I could write about this on and on but no one is interested. I’m on my own.

    Click to access What-is-Life.pdf


    1. “What if the engineering brain is wrong?”

      What point are you making? If you think there is a better explanation than Varki’s MORT theory for the emergence of the uniquely powerful human brain, and it’s denial of everything that is important, then please state what it is so we can discuss.


      1. I’m in still in a stalemate and so are you. Here’s our stalemate: In our contemporary neurobiology and much of the philosophy of mind post Descartes we are classical physics machines and either mindless, or mind is at best epiphenomenal and can have no consequences for the physical world. If we are mindless, then we are zombies and have no consequences for the physical world. If our mind is epiphenomenal, it can have no consequences for the physical world. In either case, Varki’s MORT theory has absolutely zero causal powers and there is nothing less useless than his MORT theory. Dr Kauffman is one of those who tried to solve this ancient problem, perhaps without much success.


        1. I was about to dismiss your comment as woo-woo but decided to give you the benefit of the doubt and I dug into Kauffman to find that he is controversial but not an idiot.

          I do not share your views or his. I don’t think there’s any big mystery about consciousness. And I do think Varki’s MORT theory, while maybe not helpful for our overshoot predicament as my efforts to date have shown, does explain much about the uniqueness of the human brain, and the insanity we swim in, which is of value to those interested in understanding why high intelligence is so selective about what it understands.


          1. So you don’t think there’s any big mystery about consciousness. However, science does not at all understand what is consciousness. Does it have causal powers? Can it bend spoons? In that case consciousness should be written in the laws of physics, but it is not there and spoons just sometimes bend, usually in the factory. I hate woo-woo too and I don’t want to spoil this thread. Perhaps we could discuss these things in a new ‘consciousness’ thread? If not then I will begin my long silence. I agree with physicist Mensky who says that there is a single quantum world that consists of a huge set of alternative classical worlds that are described by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. These coexisting parallel classical worlds are separated by (I think singular) consciousness so that subjectively the illusion appears of only a single world existing. Here’s his woo-woo, but is it really woo-woo?


  48. Alice Friedemann rocks today. You go girl!!

    Overshoot is THE issue.

    Climate change is one of many symptoms of overshoot.

    Climate Change dominates news coverage at expense of more important existential issues

    I’ve noticed that in the half dozen science magazines and several newspapers I get practically the only environmental stories are about climate change. Yet there are 8 other ecological boundaries (Rockstron 2009) we must not cross (shown in bold with an asterisk below) and dozens of other existential threats as well.

    Global peak oil production may have already happened in October of 2018 (Will covid-19 delay peak oil? Table 1). It is likely the decline rate will be 6%, increasing exponentially by +0.015% a year (see post “Giant oil field decline rates and peak oil”). So, after 16 years remaining oil production will be just 10% of what it was at the peak.

    If peak oil happened in 2018, then CO2 ppm levels may be under 400 by 2100 as existing and much lower emissions of CO2 are absorbed by oceans and land. The IPCC never even modeled peak oil in their dozens of scenarios because they assumed we’d be exponentially increasing our use of fossils until 2400. They never asked geologists what the oil, coal, and natural gas reserves were, assumed we’d use methane hydrates, and many other wrong assumptions.

    Meanwhile, all the ignored ecological disasters will become far more obvious. They’re papered over with fossils today. Out of fresh water? Just drill another 1,000 feet down. Eutrophied water? Build a $500 million dollar water treatment plant. Fisheries collapsed? Go to the ends of the earth to capture the remaining schools of fish.

    The real threat is declining fossil production, yet climate change gets nearly all the coverage. And I’ve left out quite a few other threats, such as “nuclear war” with 17,900 results since 2016 in

    Table 1 shows that in all of scholarly literature, NON-climate change issues comprise just 1.2% of research, USA Today 11%, WSJ 9%, & NYT 6.8%.

    The rant continues. The reason I am so annoyed with the attention to Climate Change is that it became THE PROBLEM and THE SOLUTION was to generate electricity with wind and solar power to lower emissions. But as we all know, there have been no closures of fossil fuel plants (coal plants were replaced with natural gas plants double their size) because of lack of energy storage for renewables, the inability of wind and solar to scale up, and because fossil plants still supply two-thirds of generation and peak power. Since rebuildables require fossils every single step of their life cycle, they were never were a solution. They were simply a distraction from reality.

    If the actual problem is that finite fossil fuels power our civilization and their peak production is near at hand, then carrying capacity will be far less. Pimentel (1991) estimated 40 to 100 million without fossil fuels in the U.S. So we should have been reducing LEGAL immigration to far less than the one million a year since the 1960s, made birth control and abortion free and easy to get, and have high taxes on more than 1 child.

    Most importantly, by far, is that since peak fossils is the problem, rather than CC, we need to return to organic farming and stop using pesticides, build up the soils with composting and cover crops, plant windbreaks so that soil on thousands of square miles can’t wash and blow away so easily, stockpile phosphate, start growing multiple crops everywhere locally, and so on. We need to train the youngest generation how to do this, since eventually 90% of Americans will be farmers. And anyone who can grow a victory garden should be doing it since less consumption will lower standards of living until a new economic system not dependent on endless growth develops.

    There needs to be less consumption across the board, and very high taxes on the top 1% to redistribute wealth.

    There needs to be a year or two of mandatory service after high school to do infrastructure and other worthwhile projects in agriculture, irrigation, and more to prepare for a low energy world and to lessen the need to create private sector jobs in an economy that is shrinking.

    Planting of hardwood trees and no more export of forests to Europe to burn for their “renewable” energy since we’ll need a lot of trees when we return to biomass as our main source of energy and infrastructure for ships, buildings, and charcoal to make bricks, metal, ceramics, glass, etc.

    Just look at and transition towns for ideas, the reason for their existence.

    Climate change efforts have done nothing and distracted us away from what needs to be done. CC activists didn’t even try to lower the speed limit or ration gasoline usage or days when people could drive or mandate less consumption, and just about every single paper on anything to do with energy was how to lower emissions rather than energy efficiency.

    I’ve collected reasons for why people deny a future energy crisis in “Telling others about peak oil and limits to growth”. Here’s an excerpt:

    1. It’s impossible because whad’ya mean energy crash, never heard of it.
    2. Because we’re doing fine. Just some hiccups in the supply.
    3. Because they know what they’re doing and would have told us by now.
    4. Because I haven’t got time for an energy crash right now.
    5. Even if I had time, I couldn’t afford one. Look at my credit card.
    6. The oils wells have never run dry before, so they never will.
    7. Rain refills water wells. For oil wells: acid rain or something.
    8. Because oil wells are big slot machines, put money in, get oil out.
    9. Because they’ll think of alternatives-ha-ha-silly-billy.
    10. The oil companies have things up their sleeve they’re going to bring in.
    11. Because God looks after me.
    12. I need a car for work so it’s impossible.
    13. Impossible because you’re just trying to scare us.
    14. It’s impossible because you’re crazy.
    15. It’s impossible because ya have to stay positive.

    No wonder everyone preferred Climate Change. With windmills and solar panels we could continue our lifestyle and be squeaky clean and green.

    Meanwhile, we’ve wasted decades of preparation on Climate Change instead of the energy crisis.


    1. Rob,
      I read this and was somewhat confused by her statement, “If peak oil happened in 2018, then CO2 ppm levels may be under 400 by 2100”. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the concern right now that we have tripped positive feedback loops in the Arctic (albedo, methane release, ocean temp.) that no matter if civilization collapsed today and literally all fossil fuel emissions ceased we would still be looking at NTHE in the near future? My deficient understanding(??) is those feedback loops have never been incorporated into IPCC modeling??
      I agree with her basic premise that there are other biological/physical constraints that we are pushing that can collapse civilization but unsure if she is giving sufficient weight to climate.


      1. Yes, I glossed over that possible (probable?) mistake.

        She’s in the same camp as Nate Hagens that believes peak oil will prevent the worst climate change scenarios from happening.

        I’m not a NTHE guy. I think the data says the future will be bad no matter what now, but we may still have some influence on how bad. Emphasis on “may”.

        On the other hand, I know with certainty that if we reduce the human population we will reduce total human suffering, and harm to other species.


    2. “Meanwhile, we’ve wasted decades of preparation on Climate Change instead of the energy crisis.”

      Alice is a typical deluded American. Who is this we & what/where is all this preparation? Talk is not preparation.

      Windmills (wind turbines) and solar panels have fuck all to do with AGW. Just another capitalist venture along with bio fuel, wood pellets & NatGas as a ‘bridge fuel’ (bridge over the river Styx).

      American denial – nobody does it better.

      South Dakota emergency-room nurse says some patients insist COVID-19 isn’t real even as they’re dying from it

      ‘When they should be spending time FaceTime-ing their families, they’re just filled with anger and hatred. I just can’t believe those are their last words,’ says nurse Jodi Doering

      “‘The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine and that Joe Biden is going to ruin the USA. All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm. They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that “stuff” because they don’t have COVID because it’s not real.’ ”

      “Some patients are so convinced the virus does not exist that, when they test positive, they insist it must be flu, pneumonia or even lung cancer, said Doering.

      Nurses, for their part, are watching patients get sick in the same ways, receive the same hospital treatment and then die in the same way — and then the nurses come back the next day as the cycle repeats. “It’s like a movie where the credits never roll,” Doering said.

      The Dakotas are currently the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic with the fastest moving per capita case numbers, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University and the states’ own health departments. Experts says the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which took place with the encouragement of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in August, was likely a superspreader event, as about half a million bikers are reported to have attended and many gathered closely in bars and restaurants without wearing face masks.”

      Thanks be to the exceptional people from the exceptional nation for providing me with so many exceptional schadenfreude moments. Keep up the good work.


  49. Today’s roundup of climate news from Panopticon was a doozy. One sample follows.

    Greenland’s largest glaciers are currently melting at levels close to what scientists had previously expected under a future “worst-case scenario”, a study has found.

    Using a combination of aerial photographs and field data, the study found that current rates of mass loss from Greenland’s three largest glaciers are higher than once thought.

    The melting of these three glaciers added the equivalent of around 8mm to global sea levels from 1880 to 2012, according to the research.

    Previous research had estimated that the same three glaciers would contribute 9-15mm to global sea levels by 2100 under a “worst-case scenario”.


  50. Tim Watkins today on greenwashing…

    It is for this reason – and despite the likely personal hardship – that I am hoping that for once the Daily Express prediction of a Big Freeze comes true. As we found out during the pandemic, we – the public, media and politicians – only take crises seriously when we have to cope with them for real. Simply issuing warnings and running table-top emergency planning exercises are not enough. And so, with the UK now dangerously over-dependent upon wind power, only a 1982 type of cold snap in which temperatures plunge below zero for several weeks as the cold air above the country refuses to budge, will bring home to the proponents of the race to green Never Never Land just how many technical problems have to be resolved before we can even begin to implement the transition away from fossil fuels.

    Perhaps, after we have collectively shivered in the dark (maintaining strict social distancing, of course) for a couple of weeks, with intermittent access to everything from television and the internet through to food and… dare I say it… toilet paper, we can at least have a debate about the feasibility of green growth, and whether we might need to do far more to shrink our energy dependence and de-grow a large part of our economy.

    It’s a vain hope. As I said, climate change has more or less ended the prospect of the kind of winter that was common a lifetime ago. Wishing for a prolonged cold snap is likely to be about as fruitful as wishing for politicians brave enough to tell the public uncomfortable truths about the unsustainability of our current way of life. Nevertheless, sooner or later the lights will indeed be going out across Europe. And unlike a century ago, they may not come back on again.


  51. Yet another brilliant polymath in denial of everything that matters.
    “The Selfish Gene” is actually the “The Denial Gene”.


  52. Nice exchange on Megacancer today…

    James: “It seems like going forward with “progress” is untenable and going backwards without losing many people will be like tip-toeing through a minefield. After the first mine goes off everyone panics and starts running willy-nilly, the system breaks down and very few make it to safety.”

    JMS: “Very good, but ah … individuals, that’s such a rare item in this world. In fact people able to affirm the truth as they perceive it against their group’s illusions and pressures are so rare that it makes us suspect that they suffer from some genetic malfunction or mutation (or maybe a curse!).

    The fact is most people like to be liked, and an easy way to achieve this is undoubtedly to support the consensual ideology in your community.

    Going against the flow, just because it seems to be the path of truth, only brings frustration, disillusionment, loneliness and lower returns than would be obtained by following the flow. It’s not a healty occupation. To say the least.

    The only compensations available to critical minds are psychological. For example, the awareness of being a large foot closer to the truth than the herd. But inquiring and suspicious minds cannot simply do it other way. They are driven to “think against themselves” (E. Cioran), against their own interests (ie the interests of their genes).”

    James: “Being a money-grubbing, true-believer is akin to painting life’s picture with white-wash using a broad brush. On the other hand, a wide selection of colors, mixed and matched, applied with fine brushes can result in a masterpiece. When the group thinkers look inside what do they see? A pile of gold? A replay of a job that robbed them of most of their life? When the individual looks inside what do they see? A spellbinding revelation of nature in shadow and light that lays to rest any doubt that they should have done anything else with their life.

    We’re here to serve the Master, the Universe, in creating entropy and most people do just that, slavishly running on hamster wheels, stacking gold, and burning gradient in as many ways as possible. The final destination, death, is hidden from consciousness less they fail in their sacred mission which is followed shortly thereafter with collapse and oblivion.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave Lysak: I would probably say that there is no recognizable “purpose” in any of this. I would also probably say that both entropy and life are simply consequences of an expanding, decaying, universe. however, of the two, life and entropy, entropy is universal, and life is rare. so, if there is a universal “purpose” it is to create entropy, in order to achieve equilibrium. life is a minor side show.

      “life is rare”

      And eukaryotic life is rarer.

      And having a brain with an extended theory of mind that (must) deny reality is even rarer.

      And having this brain with an improbable store of fossil energy to leverage is even rarer.

      And having this brain at the peak of complexity when the fossil energy extraction rate starts to decline due to depletion is even rarer.

      And having this brain with a defect that has enabled it to break through its tendency to deny reality and to discuss all of this on is even rarer.

      What a priveledge to be alive here and now!

      What other point in the life of the universe would be better to be alive and aware?



    The Incredibly Spiking US National Debt has soared by $3.75 trillion since March 1, powered by stimulus and bailouts, and by $4.2 trillion over the past 12 months, to $27.3 trillion, after having already spiked by $1.4 trillion in the final 12 months of the Good Times. Trillions are zooming by so fast it’s hard to even see them.

    In Q3, the Fed added $240 billion to its Treasury holdings, bringing the pile to $4.44 trillion (blue line, left scale), a record of 16.5% of the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt (red line, right scale). This is the portion of the US debt that the Fed has monetized. Over the 12-month period, the Fed added $2.4 trillion in Treasuries to its holdings, most of it since March, doubling its pile, and increasing its share of the US debt from 9.3% in Q1 to 16.5% in Q3.


      h/t Panopticon

      The coronavirus crisis pushed global debt levels to a new high of over $272 trillion in the third quarter, the Institute for International Finance said, as it warned of the “attack of the debt tsunami.”

      The institute said global debt would break new records in the coming months to reach $277 trillion by the end of the year. This would represent a debt-to-GDP ratio of 365%.


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