By William Rees – Climate change isn’t the problem, so what is?

Thanks to friend and retired blogger Gail Zawacki at Wit’s End for bringing this excellent new talk by professor William Rees to my attention.

Rees discusses our severe state of ecological overshoot and the behaviors that prevent us from taking any useful action to make the future less bad.

Rees thinks there are two key behaviors responsible for our predicament:

  1. Base nature, which we share with all other species, to use all available resources. Most people call this the Maximum Power Principle.
  2. Creative nurture. Our learned culture defines our reality and we live this constructed reality as if it were real. “When faced with information that does not agree with their [preformed] internal structures, they deny, discredit, reinterpret or forget that information” – Wexler.

I don’t disagree with Rees on the existence or role of these behaviors, but we also need Varki’s MORT theory to explain how denial of unpleasant realties evolved and is symbiotic with our uniquely powerful intelligence, and other unique human behaviors, such as our belief in gods and life after death.

Some interesting points made by Rees:

  • The 2017 human eco-footprint exceeds biocapacity by 73%.
  • Half the fossil fuels and many other resources ever used by humans have been consumed in just the past 30 years.
  • Efficiency enables more consumption.
  • The past 7 years are the warmest 7 years on record.
  • Wild populations of birds, fish, mammals, and amphibians have declined 60% since 1970. Populations of many insects are down about 50%.
  • The biomass of humans and their livestock make up 95-99% of all vertebrate biomass on the planet.
  • Human population planning has declined from being the dominant policy lever in 1969 to the least researched in 2018.
  • The annual growth in wind and solar energy is about half the total annual growth in energy. In others words, “renewable” energy is not replacing fossil energy, it’s not even keeping up.
  • The recent expansion of the human enterprise resembles the “plague phase” of a one-off boom/bust population cycle.
  • 50 years, 34 climate conferences, a half dozen major international climate agreements, and various scientists’ warnings have not reduced atmospheric carbon concentrations.
  • We are tracking to the Limit to Growth study’s standard model and should expect major systemic crashes in the next 40 to 50 years.
  • This is the new “age of unreason”: science denial and magical thinking.
  • Climate change is a serious problem but a mere symptom of the greater disease.

P.S. Stay for the Q&A session, it’s very good.

132 thoughts on “By William Rees – Climate change isn’t the problem, so what is?”

  1. “We are tracking to the Limit to Growth study’s standard model and should expect major systemic crashes in the next 40 to 50 years.”

    um, make that 5 to 10 years.


    1. Last year I had a little tête-à-tête with a clairvoyant Madame Sosotris impersonator. I asked her when TEOTWAKI was goin’ to happen and she said “soon. soon.” That will be five dollars. Disappointed by her vagueness, I visited the lady who throws the chicken bones and she said 2030. Ahhh…yes! Just as the Meadows have been predicting. The chicken bones never lie! As I walked away I heard her say, “Maybe longer.” I would really like to figure out the timing of this crash so I can calendar when to get my Lasik surgery.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i don’t see it as an “event” but a process which… if you look around, it is pretty easy to see this has already begun.


      1. Two points —

        1) Re slides, I have added to my blog my complete transcript of Rees’ keynote address, including images of all 36 slides — not perfect but good enough.

        2) In case folks have not already seen this, REES AND HAGENS participated in a Jan 31 discussion titled “OMEGA – Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future”

        Info about the event opens with this note:
        “We are joined by Paul Ehrlich, Joan Diamond, Gerardo Ceballos, Nate Hagens, Bill Rees and others. The conversation will be hosted by Michael Lerner to discuss the recently published scientific article entitled Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future. An international group of 17 leading physical and social scientists, including OMEGA Advisory Board member Joan Diamond, have produced a comprehensive yet concise assessment of the state of civilization, warning that the outlook is more dire and dangerous than is generally understood. “

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Rob, you’re very welcome.
            Re the slides, for those who may not know how to capture images from my transcript, here’s the “how to” —

            Two Notes —
            A) I gave all 36 slides simple number names from 1 to 36 with a .jpg file type to signify an image file — e.g. “1.jpg”, 24.jpg, etc
            B) You MAY find some slides with a .webp extension, e.g. “5.webp”. See step 4b below on what to do.

            How to capture the slides and save them to your PC —
            1) Move your mouse pointer to the slide you want to capture
            2) Right click on the slide you’re capturing to open a menu of options
            3) Find the option “Save image as…” in the menu list and left click on it
            4a) A window opens and you will see “File Name: 3.jpg” (for example). And below that “Save as type:” (*.jpg). Below that you see the buttons Save and Cancel. You can keep the File name as is or change it.
            4b) If the slide’s File name has a “.webp” type CHANGE THE NAME TYPE to .jpg (No need to change “Save as type”, just leave it as)
            5) Click on the “Save” button
            6) You should find the saved file wherever you have chosen downloaded files to be saved.
            That’s it. Good luck.


        1. I observe that not one of the OMEGA participants was willing to risk their reputation by calling for population reduction policies.

          Everything else is blah blah blah.

          They know it but won’t say it.

          Shame on them.


    1. Bad prepared for the coming. Even Feminismus has slept, nearly only way to get status for a woman is to choose a male that is acting in risky behaviour(Denial) and with MPP, so it seems financially potent enough to help to replicate Gens.


  2. Rees’ 14-page October 2010 paper might be of comparative interest to some. (Source: “What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial”, by William Rees, Sustainability: Science, Practice, and Policy, October 2010 — URL:'s_blocking_sustainability_Human_nature_cognition_and_denial )
    In his opening paragraph he writes: “The modern world remains mired in a swamp of cognitive dissonance and collective denial seemingly dedicated to maintaining the status quo. We appear, in philosopher Martin Heidegger’s words, to be “in flight from thinking.” Just what is going on here? I attempt to answer this question by exploring the distal, biosocial causes of human economic behavior. My working hypothesis is that modern H. sapiens is unsustainable by nature—unsustainability is an inevitable emergent property of the systemic interaction between contemporary technoindustrial society and the ecosphere.”
    Rees organizes his content under 10 headings:
    The (Un)sustainability Conundrum
    Looking Ourselves in the Eye
    The Human Nature of Unsustainability
    Hypothesis: Humans are Unsustainable by Nature
    The Biological “Presets”
    Sociocultural Reinforcement
    Beyond Carrying Capacity: The Ecofootprints of Technoexuberance
    Reason, Emotion, and Instinct: Understanding the Triune Brain
    Toward Resolution: Can Humanity Become Sustainable?
    Can We Reframe the Future? — Survival 2100, Inevitable Pushback

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I simply cannot see how we ever come to know, much less respond ably to, the primary cause of human population growth if we ignore sound ecological research of human population dynamics that explains clearly why that unbridled growth continues as it is now. That is to say, if we choose to keep denying scientific evidence that discloses a root cause of the extraordinary increase of absolute global human population numbers occurring on our watch, we cannot be expected to respond ably to the worldwide climate and ecological challenges that are directly precipitated by an continuously exploding human population.

    Corporate overproduction of too much food and unnecessary stuff, unfathomable per capita overconsumption of limited natural resources, and unbridled overpopulation actions of the human species are occurring synergistically in a recursive positive feedback loop. These distinctly human activities that compose the human enterprise writ large are primary causative factors of the Global Ecological Predicament.

    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
    AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population
    established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Albert Bates today with an essay on peak dog.

    Dogs diverged from wolves on the evolutionary tree about 100,000 years ago so they have been around, biologically, for about half as long as modern humans. One change that distinguished dogs was the gene WBSCR17 that mutated into its present form around the same time as dogs’ domestication. It is thought that this gene, and two more, GTF2I and GTF2IRD1, were responsible for the difference in sociability between dogs and wolves. Different breeds of dogs possess different versions of these three genes, to varying degrees consistent with the typical descriptions of breeds as friendly or aloof. The same genes transplanted into mice yield the same sociable effect. These genes in humans are associated with a form of autism known as Williams syndrome that is characterized by “hypersociability” or “extreme gregariousness.”

    In the US, dogs and cats consume about a third of the animal-derived food produced. They produce about 30%, by mass, of the feces of USAnians (5.6 million tons vs. 19 million tons), and, through their diet, constitute about 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impacts from farm animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and toxic agro-chemicals. Dog and cat foods are responsible for release of up to 80 million tons of CO2 and CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide. Globally, pets are responsible for 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions each year. To reach a carbon footprint of net zero by 2050, the US will need to cut its pet population by some 10 million dogs and 10 million cats every year for a decade and then by some 200,000 per year in the out years towards mid-century. We’ll have to get to one dog and one cat for every 300 people — about like Joshua on The Farm. Other countries will need to do the same.

    Their ancestors made a choice, although a random mutation — perhaps a zoonotic virus — may have compelled it. Those who stayed as wolves may have had the harder time, but now can look forward to inhabiting a better future, as we eliminate more of man’s best friends to make room for them.

    And maybe, just maybe, there is hope that some day a virus might cause a mutation in us that makes us friendlier and more empathetic, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: mutation to make us friendlier – You should read Stephen King’s scifi short story “The End of the Whole Mess,” first published in Omni Magazine in 1986.


  5. How much methane can we expect from permafrost thawing under the Arctic sea? Scientist Sara Sayedi asked world experts. In December 2020 Sayedi & more than 20 coauthors published: “Subsea permafrost carbon stocks and climate change sensitivity estimated by expert assessment”. Sayedi was educated in Iran, coming to Brigham Young University to complete her PhD in plant and wildlife science. Why has this formerly quiet science become so controversial?


    1. Weird that it’s controversial. Natalia Shakova at the University of Alaska has been sounding the alarm about methane hydrates/clathrates in the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) for a long time. I think it was back when my dog George was still able to jump on the bed. I guess 2012 at least. I had nightmares for weeks worrying the planet was going to have a big methane fart that would put global warming on steroids.


  6. I wish the proposals from scientists like myself would get heard, for how to steer the world economy to safety using natural principles. Bill points to the social basis of knowledge that appears to be centrally at fault and then says we of all species have the mental ability to change course. I agree with both, of course. What he leaves out, though, is a practical strategy for addressing the whole multifaceted tragedy of the commons as a whole.

    The economic root of the OVERGROWTH problem is what’s more directly controllable, the financial practice of using profits to multiply investments. It’s that practice of driving maximum growth and its ever-growing impacts that are making the whole human enterprise unprofitable. That practice is the very center of the problem could be controlled by a MUCH SIMPLER STEERING SOLUTION than social movements persuading governments to control the economy directly.

    FAIR_Money is a proposal to steer the economy as a whole to safety, mimicking the natural system design for climaxing growth… by SHIFTING ENERGY FROM PROFIT TO NON-PROFIT ENTERPRISES. That could be done by requiring MORE PROFITS TO BE USED IN THE COMMON INTEREST INSTEAD OF FOR CONCENTRATING WEALTH, …or be taxed. That is complicated enough but mimics the natural system steering to a thriving climax, and is already seen in IMPACT INVESTING social movements acting on much the same principle. What is needed is to focus the attention on applying the principle for the sake of the world as a whole.


    1. I think you’re right that changes to our monetary system would be an effective lever for reducing overshoot. For example, to reduce growth and consumption (and CO2 emissions) within our existing debt-backed fractional reserve system, all we have to do is raise the interest rate. If we want a long term sustainable civilization then we should change to an energy backed full reserve monetary system. Accompanied of course with democratically supported policies for rapid population reduction.

      I was unable to find anything about your FAIR_money proposal on your home page:

      You might want to consider a different name for your proposal because there is a new emerging market bank with the same name:


      1. Thanks much for the comments. Sorry I didn’t give a proper link to the #FAIR_Money proposal. It is on my Journal, “Reading Nature’s Signals” at

        The key to me is using the market system’s own natural steering mechanism to copy nature’s pattern of starting growth for getting ever bigger to finishing growth getting ever better. I don’t know why others don’t seem to recognize that familiar strategy of natural growth, coupling a first phase, of extractive exponential growth with no goal, with a second phase, of goal oriented qualitative and integrative growth.


      2. “Accompanied of course with democratically supported policies for rapid population reduction.”
        How would you want to achieve that?


        1. It’s too late for a one child policy. We need something more aggressive like a birth lottery.

          1) I try to raise awareness that population reduction is our best path forward via this blog.
          2) I speak to local politicians.
          3) I write letters to the newspaper.
          4) I try to influence friends and family.

          I’ve not had any success, which has reinforced my belief that nothing can or will change in a positive direction until we confront our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities, as explained by Varki’s MORT theory.

          I’ve also not had much success at increasing awareness of genetic denial despite 7 years of effort.

          It seems we are fucked.

          But I will probably keep trying.


  7. As with most analysis of our predicament it is very Western Civilization centric thinking. A lot of denial is attributed to the vast majority of the population of the planet that simply doesn’t have the information they are being accused of denying.

    Thoughts on denial.

    I have a saying I cobbled together some years ago;

    Some are truly ignorant.

    Some choose to be ignorant.

    Some have ignorance thrust upon them.

    Then others like me
    Reject all three
    And live with a degree
    Of misery.

    Many accuse me of choosing to be miserable but I simply can not choose ignorance and denial.

    Denial implies having knowledge then denying it therefore denial only resides in choosing to be ignorant. By choosing to be ignorant and in denial one abdicates ones freewill and becomes more sheep than man. This is not meant as an insult but a simple observation. There is, in my opinion, no possible positive element of choosing to be ignorant and in denial, not even in an accidental or roundabout way.

    Choosing to be ignorant and in denial is a luxury only affordable to maybe 10% of the population. Over 80% of the population of the planet lives on under $10 a day. Half of them on less than $2. They predominantly live day to day and fall in either the first or the third category of ignorance and then too like me many are unable to choose to be ignorant and in denial and live in misery.

    It is said that ignorance is bliss and this seems self evident for the truly ignorant for they do not have the knowledge of things that might interrupt that simple pleasure. Those who have ignorance thrust upon them may also experience this pleasure as they to do not have the correct knowledge, instead they have the wrong knowledge designed to allow them to feel pleasure. Choosing to be ignorant and in denial is usually done in order to seek pleasure and I suppose it works for many but for me it is a bit like masterbation, it might feel good but it pales in comparison to close, intimate, intense love making with a loving partner. I receive great pleasure from seeking understanding and coming as close to truth as I can. For me misery comes from not knowing and while there is plenty that I don’t know I actually find that interesting and exciting and encouraging. What ever I don’t know it is not because I choose to be ignorant of, it is just that I have not yet gained that knowledge.

    As far as denial of death, this too, based on my research and experience of the world, is a luxury engaged in primarily by the wealthy Western civilizations. In fact most countries, cultures and indigenous peoples include death in every aspect of their lives. They worship it, celebrate it and many even embrace it.

    Regarding the current and future situation it seems clear that all three categories of ignorance are increasing but the third category is taking the lead by far. With all the lies and manipulation coming from all sides it seems that most are simply giving in to the ignorance de jour and accepting it as theirs. I honestly believe, again based on my research and experience of the world, that the problem today, the reason we humans are not doing anything about any of the converging catastrophes of collapse is less from denial and more from being told either that none of these problems exist or that if they do exist its not anything that we clever monkeys can’t solve with technology.

    The real reason we have not done anything either as individuals or collectively as any of the nations is for the exact reason that everyone says when asked. For the individual it is because they “have to go to work in the morning”, as for nations it has been stated over and over again “we are unwilling to do anything that will negatively effect our growing economy that allows everyone to go work in the morning”.

    Very few people in the real world believe that we can cut FF use, consumption, and population and still grow an economy at the same time. A very definitive non-denial position if you ask me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Despite having promoted Varki’s MORT theory for many years it’s been rare for anyone to engage in a meaningful debate about reality denial.

      I’ve responded in detail to your comments below but my overview response is that I do not think you understand Varki’s MORT theory. Here is a good place to go if you are interested in learning more about MORT.

      Many accuse me of choosing to be miserable but I simply can not choose ignorance and denial.

      Denial implies having knowledge then denying it therefore denial only resides in choosing to be ignorant. By choosing to be ignorant and in denial one abdicates ones freewill and becomes more sheep than man. This is not meant as an insult but a simple observation. There is, in my opinion, no possible positive element of choosing to be ignorant and in denial, not even in an accidental or roundabout way.

      Denial is the mechanism we evolved for blocking the acquisition of unpleasant knowledge. It is not about choice.

      You live with a degree of misery that comes from overshoot awareness because you, like me, and a small minority of our species, were born with defective genes for reality denial.

      Choosing to be ignorant and in denial is a luxury only affordable to maybe 10% of the population. Over 80% of the population of the planet lives on under $10 a day. Half of them on less than $2. They predominantly live day to day and fall in either the first or the third category of ignorance and then too like me many are unable to choose to be ignorant and in denial and live in misery.

      You are correct that the high intelligence of our species requires knowledge from education to understand many of the complex overshoot issues we face, and education is only available to the lucky minority of us born into rich countries. But you are missing a key point here. Our rich country education systems (primary, high school, university) mostly deny and do not teach anything about human ecological overshoot. Nor do our leaders or popular news outlets promote awareness.

      As far as denial of death, this too, based on my research and experience of the world, is a luxury engaged in primarily by the wealthy Western civilizations. In fact most countries, cultures and indigenous peoples include death in every aspect of their lives. They worship it, celebrate it and many even embrace it.

      I think you may have misunderstood what I meant by denial of death. I mean that the vast majority of our species believe in some form of life after death ranging from paradise in heaven, to burning in hell, to reincarnation, to various forms of vague spirituality. A small minority accept the unpleasant reality that the lights simply go out.

      Denial of death is central to Varki’s MORT theory. Our more general tendency to deny all things unpleasant is an artifact of how evolution chose to implement denial of death.

      Regarding the current and future situation it seems clear that all three categories of ignorance are increasing but the third category is taking the lead by far. With all the lies and manipulation coming from all sides it seems that most are simply giving in to the ignorance de jour and accepting it as theirs. I honestly believe, again based on my research and experience of the world, that the problem today, the reason we humans are not doing anything about any of the converging catastrophes of collapse is less from denial and more from being told either that none of these problems exist or that if they do exist its not anything that we clever monkeys can’t solve with technology.

      I disagree. Try approaching a friend that trusts you and explain the unvarnished facts and implications of fossil energy depletion, or climate change, or our debt bubble. Watch their eyes. You will see a curtain come down blocking acquisition of this knowledge. It’s not a willful choice. It’s a powerful subconscious behavior as explained by Varki’s MORT.

      We are told that the problems do not exist, or that we can solve the problems with technology, because that’s what we want (and pay) to hear, and because that’s what the sources also want to believe.

      The real reason we have not done anything either as individuals or collectively as any of the nations is for the exact reason that everyone says when asked. For the individual it is because they “have to go to work in the morning”, as for nations it has been stated over and over again “we are unwilling to do anything that will negatively effect our growing economy that allows everyone to go work in the morning”.

      I think you are obscuring the denial that we swim in. We do not discuss and compare the suffering that will occur when our growing overshoot bubble pops versus the suffering that will occur with a managed deflation of the bubble. We only think about “going to work in the morning” to keep and grow what we’ve got. Our brains block any thoughts about unpleasant realities.

      Very few people in the real world believe that we can cut FF use, consumption, and population and still grow an economy at the same time. A very definitive non-denial position if you ask me.

      Probably true, but that’s not what most people think. Most people think we can cut FF use and continue growing consumption and population.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am not arguing that people engage in denial. Obviously they do. What I argue is that it is universal, that it is the basic behavior and has so saturated homo sapien”s psyche that it has defined our evolution.

        Basically my position is that for as long as I have been aware of and studying human behavior as it pertains to our dominant position on the planet I have heard person after person going into extreme detail about how one behavioral characteristic or another is the ONE that defines ALL humans and all human nature, punctuated with the proclamation that that is just who we are, we will always be that way, and there is nothing we can do about that so the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can move on, ease your conscience, not do anything about it, and pursue your own pleasure such as it is.

        This is all B#!!$H!T! ALL human behavior is elicited and we humans have known for thousands of years exactly what conditions will elicit what behavior.

        I am so tired of reading about how (insert bad human behavior example here) is the crux of the issue and that is just how it is, and nothing can change that.

        Humans are;
        Self centered
        Living in denial
        Power hungry
        Mindless slaves to base instincts
        The list is endless.

        What has become abundantly clear is that a relatively tiny handful of individuals have manipulated the situation is such a way as to bring out the worst in human behavior then point at that and say “ see, this is just who we are and you need us to to keep these issues in check. Since the beginning of civilization certain individuals with a twisted sense of reality have seen this and have understood how easy it is to trigger bad behavior then point to it and proclaim that they need to be given the power to constrain this bad behavior for the good of mankind. Which on the face of it seem reasonable but what they do not do, and have no intention of doing is laying it out in the terms I have just described above, they have no intention of making the conditions that elicited bad behavior known and making sure these conditions can never arise and thus never eliciting said bad behavior. No they would never do that because that would eliminate their power, make them superfluous.

        So instead of pouring immense amounts of energy into exploring the minutia of on or another human bad behavior PLEASE can we put the same energy into acknowledging that humans, just like Dogs, just like all other life on the planet have a whole list of completely well known bad behavior traits along with a whole list of completely well known conditions that elicit that behavior and we need to structure ALL of humanity around this well known fact.

        I am absolutely certain that no one here has seen the full extent of the potential of human depravity. I truly don’t give a phuck about examples of bad behavior, not one of them defines us, …they are meaningless in the big picture of life on this one and only Jewel of a planet in the Universe. The only thing that matters is that we do not optimize humanity to bring out the worst.

        What does define us, and in FACT defines all of life on the planet is Mutual aid. Not a single species would exist without it. I am not some rainbow skittle eating utopian saying this. It is fact and I defy anyone to prove otherwise.

        We can and should treat humans as well as we treat our dogs.


        1. This site is about trying to understand the science behind the human overshoot predicament. I don’t know what it is, but you seem to be interested in something else. I don’t think we have any common ground to continue this conversation.


          1. I understand. I challenged your years long established perspective and that has triggered the expected behavior of denial and dismissal. Human overshoot has been the side effect of a small faction of the population using manipulation and violence to destroy any possible development of a people and nature centric system of structure. In short Imperialist Capitalism which has destroyed every effort around the world to husband resources and develop slowly in a sustainable fashion by either financial terrorism or failing that “bombing them back to the stone age”. There is a lot more to it obviously but it is also that simple.

            Read William Blums “Killing Hope”.

            Why is it that only the evil phucks of the world get to understand and exploit the cause and effects of human behavior and “we the people” can’t touch that?

            I will now leave you all alone in peace.


            1. Imperialist capitalism no doubt has contributed to an unfair wealth gap, exploitation of less developed countries, and a push for economic growth regardless of cost to the environment. But other “isms” have had similar problems.

              Imperialist capitalism (or any other “ism”) has nothing to do with us having a population that far exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet. Haber-Bosch is the main reason there are 8 billion people rather than a more sustainable 1 billion.


              1. One last thought.

                In that scenario where you explain the predicament to someone and their eyes go blank, it seems to me that you are the one in denial. You basically tell someone they are buckled into the back seat of a car that is about to go off a cliff and there is nothing they can do about it. What could you possibly expect from them? Or lets say you explain it further and basically tell them “you know all that stuff that you do all day, everyday to make enough money so that you and your loved ones don’t have to suffer and die prematurely? Well you have to stop doing that”. Well Thats a nonstarter. What is it you expect from them? Almost everyone I read around the subject of limited to growth and overshoot are essentially telling everyone to just accept the ugly truth, get comfortable with it and move on.

                What would work is if after explaining the situation you tell them we will now pay you to not consume, to not fly, to not commute, to not pollute, to not procreate. We will pay you to go to school your whole life, to stay home and garden, to go on long walking, biking, train trips couch surfing your way around the world with a minute carbon footprint, to eat healthy and exercise, and to help others in your community do all these things too. I guarantee you, as the last year has illustrated in a way, 90% of people would respond with a resounding Hell Yes!

                From what I have read here on your blog the theory is that it was denial that optimized human existence allowing us to reach great heights, while at the same time stating that it is denial that is destroying all life on the planet.

                I believe that it is clear that there is denial on all sides but it neither allowed us to evolve or succeed as a species nor is it the reason we are destroying the planet. It doesn’t seem to me that you are interested in the “science of overshoot” but instead are committed to defending one hypothesis.

                Humans are capable of a whole spectrum of behavior but you can’t single one out and claim it as the crux of the issue.

                Imperialist capitalism has defined life on the planet and destroyed any chance of reasonable existance. It was Imperialist capitalism that created the Haber Bosch process and the need for it.


                1. Could you please use correct words Jef. If you mean bullshit say bullshit because putting in $ and !! is ridiculous. If you can’t manage that then phuck off.


  8. Just two days after WaPo said it was “plausible” and “must be investigated”, and less than week after finally getting access to Wuhan’s high security virus lab (for the first time in over a year), WHO investigators have reported preliminary “independent” findings that the COVID virus came from animals, confirming China’s heavily promoted narrative and dismissing the likelihood of any leak from the lab in close proximity.

    According to AP News, the WHO team visited the lab and spoke with officials for three whole hours (!) which is precisely what a thorough and comprehensive investigation probing the criminal leakage of a pathogen that has killed millions around the world should be.

    The WHO should have read this before visiting China:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How many “whole hours” should the inspection take?

      How many whole hours do the experts at zerohedge usually take when they inspect a bio lab?

      The entire article is cheap rhetoric written at a snot nose 5th grade level.

      So now there is nowhere on the internet that is not poisoned by loud mouth scumbag Americans.


      1. I picked the Zerohedge article because it echoed my thoughts after hearing the WHO announcement on the radio this morning, not because it was particularly insightful. I have spent more than 3 hours in one sitting on more than one occasion just trying to decipher someone else’s analysis of the virus origin that probably took them many days of work to complete. For the WHO to announce anything definitive after a short visit tells us all we need to know.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Blair Fix is a young, bright, idealistic, Canadian, PhD economist, who is aware of overshoot, and is trying to apply his academic training to understand what we might do to improve our future, given our finite energy & material constraints. He put a ton of work into his most recent paper to prove the obvious:
    1) economic de-growth is a certainty;
    2) de-growth will reduce complexity and hierarchy but will not reduce inequality;

    I observe that despite his awareness of overshoot he was unable to even mention the need for population reduction policies.

    What should we do to fix the problem? Here the tools of science are in some ways inadequate. Never before has an industrial society reverted to a more sustainable format. And without concrete examples, science cannot tell us for certain what we should do. What seems clear, though, is that we must curb our fossil fuel habit. Barring some new Promethean technology (like nuclear fusion), the transition to renewable energy will likely also require using less energy. It will require degrowth.

    Once unthinkable, the idea that we should voluntarily consume less is becoming more popular [7,8,71]. Most degrowth research, however, focuses on reducing individual levels of consumption. How such a reduction would affect the structure of society has been less discussed [72].

    Looking at historical trends, I have argued that degrowth will likely entail a reduction in social hierarchy. The causal direction, however, remains unclear. It could be that reducing energy consumption will automatically lead to less hierarchy. Alternatively, it may be that reducing hierarchy would cause society to use less energy. This latter possibility deserves more research, because it suggests an indirect tool for achieving degrowth — replace large hierarchies with smaller institutions.

    Regardless of how we reduce energy use, we should also seek to mitigate inequality. That is because it is equity that will make a sustainable society worth living in. Unfortunately, an equitable future is not guaranteed.

    This fact is worth emphasizing. With its focus on the future, degrowth research often misses an important fact about humanity’s past. The agrarian societies of old consumed far fewer resources than modern industrial civilization. And yet these agrarian societies were among the most unequal in history [73]. If we are not careful, future societies may retrace these early missteps. In other words, degrowth may lead not to an eco-utopia, but to neo-feudalism.

    The key to limiting inequality, I have proposed, is to enforce accountability within hierarchies. Without this bottom-up flow of power, the hierarchical chain of command will tend towards despotism. On that front, we are surrounded by worrying signs. Today, the far right is resurging, bringing with it growing acceptance of autocratic rule (in the name of the people, of course). This hearkens to the fascism of the early 20th century. But the celebration of autocratic leaders probably has far deeper roots, dating to the origin of civilization itself.


    1. All living systems, organisms, cultures, economies, and others begin their development with exponential growth. Science and society have just not realized that all those forms of growth provide working models of what we need to do to be among the lucky ones of nature’s upstarts to survive our own growth.

      I write about it in my papers and describe the financial transformation required in my journal. (Systems thinking for Systems making)


      1. I’ve scanned your site and paper but do not understand how what you propose can help us safely deflate our overshoot bubble. Maybe you could write a couple sentences summarizing your idea for laymen?


        1. Rob, thanks so much for the question. You said, “I’ve scanned your site and paper but do not understand how what you propose can help us safely deflate our overshoot bubble.” The main trick is to recognize that the growth of new lifeforms in nature is the first stage of a three-stage process, first divergent then convergent development to create and perfect the new form, followed by long life.

          The way nature transforms growth systems to become long-lived sustainable systems is by repurposing the small then larger amounts of energy it controls for use in its transformations (from stage 1 to 2 to 3); stage one used for multiplying scale then stage two for coordinating and integrating, to mature the design, then finally for engaging in a long life. Every new life has its end too, somewhat unwinding what growth built, but I usually leave that out of the description.

          What that means for us, using money to steer the energy for development, is switching from compounding profits to multiply concentrations of wealth to impact investing for a more perfect world. That would, if done at the right scale, make it quite possible for us to transform our economic growth and development in the way all other living systems do, graduating from compound growth in scale to qualitative growth in perfection… The worry is the strange absence of study of the transformational stages of natural growth. It appears we are culturally not looking for how to open the door out of our mess in plain sight… Does that help?

          I have a list of 100+ world crises growing with growth that might help outline the real dimensions of our tragic situation, FYI.


          1. Thanks. If I understand you correctly you want to shift capital investment from growth businesses to sustainable businesses.

            I see two main problems with this. First we are already too large for the carrying capacity of the planet and need to shrink, not just stabilize at our current size. Second, most sustainable business are not sustainable because they are dependent on depleting non-renewable fossil energy and minerals. I think any viable plan intended to reduce overshoot and future suffering must focus on population reduction.

            It seems the elites that rule our world share your view. They recently appointed Mark Carney, ex-head of the Canadian and UK central banks, to lead a UN initiative to craft economic policies to address climate change. Carney’s a very smart guy with good intentions and ethics, but he’s an economist and does not understand the laws of thermodynamics that govern our economy.



            Carney explains his plan in 4 one hour lectures here:



  10. Interesting essay on the sustainability of bicycles. Walking it will be. Skip the conclusion in which they deny their own analysis.

    How much energy is required in all to produce a bicycle? The data is scarce and does not distinguish between various types of bicycles. According to an MIT study,[15] the manufacture and maintenance of a bicycle over its entire lifecycle represents 319 MJ of energy per mile traveled (or 199 MJ per kilometer). This type of study assumes that a bicycle has a useful life of 15,000 km.[16] This would amount to a total consumption of 830 kWh of energy. But this figure seems optimistic, or based on the manufacture of very simple bikes.

    Another life cycle study of a high-end bicycle estimates its energy bill at 2380 kWh for the frame manufacturing stage alone.[17] Add to that 325 kWh for the wheels and 50 for the chain, not counting the other parts. The total could therefore come to about 3,000 kWh. The average Québec household consumes 72 kWh of electricity per day[18] (compared to 13 in France[19]), so those 3,000 kWh are the equivalent of 41 days of electricity consumption in Québec or 231 days in France. It also adds up to to the equivalent of about 750 kilos of firewood.


    1. My brother once rode his bike from Germany to Australia. It’s amazing how much shit wears out and brakes over that sort of distance. I’m inclined to agree with your assessment that the future will be one of walking (and running).

      I enjoyed your reply to jef. I can really associate with you in trying to tell people about some of the world’s predicaments and having them just glaze over.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Not surprised with how things are playing out. There is a key misalignment between official WHO statements and the circumstantial evidence suggesting this was a lab accident. But we’ll never know right? Forget about a forensic let alone a criminal investigation. Collapse 101. Institutional failure. The low-grade loss of capability by a key institution like the WHO qualifies. They are not even keeping up appearances. Their pronouncements seem more performative than substantive – like kids, playing the role left by their predecessors. Output is deteriorating, institutional integrity is failing…and so it goes.


    1. Peter Daszak was apparently on the WHO team that visited Wuhan. I think he’s one of the key influencers on how research dollars are allocated to labs like that in Wuhan. Even to an amateur eye this looks like a conflict of interest that should have been avoided if the investigation was legitimate.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I watched the new documentary “Marketing the Messiah”. It’s very interesting and entertaining.

    How much do you really know about how Christianity got started? Whether you are a Christian, atheist, or member of another faith, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that Christianity has had on Western civilization. But most people, including many Christians, don’t have a solid grasp of the history of early Christianity – even though it’s hinted at in the New Testament. Many people still think the gospels were written by the people whose names adorn the books. Many people still think those people were eyewitnesses of Jesus. Many people don’t realize how much Paul of Tarsus reinvented early Christianity to suit his own vision, and how much tension he created with the original disciples. Over the last century, New Testament scholars have examined the text word by word to tease apart the true history from accepted tradition. In this light-heated but factual film, we tell the “true” story of early Christianity with the help of twelve biblical scholars, Renaissance masterpieces and humorous animation. It’s neither a film about faith nor a film attacking or making fun of Christianity. It’s an honest attempt to piece together a very complex and fascinating story that everyone will enjoy.

    You can stream it from various sites or download it from

    Here’s a clip with the concluding summary.


    1. The history of Christianity is an important topic for people that study overshoot because we need a new global social movement that influences human behavior, and Christianity is the fastest growing, longest lived, and most influential social movement ever invented.

      So how did they do it?

      A nice complement to the above documentary is Bart Ehrman’s 2018 book “The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World”.

      Ehrman explains that Christianity’s success at outcompeting all the other religions hinged on 3 main strategies:

      1) Low entry barrier. New members were welcomed regardless of wealth or race. No need to cut your penis. No need to wear different clothes or eat a different diet.

      2) Exclusivity. Unlike other religions, Christianity required new members to abandon their old religions. This increased the flow of new members since family members often joined to maintain family solidarity, and undermined the membership of competing religions.

      3) Magic tricks. It seems the early promoters of Christianity were skilled at performing magic tricks to demonstrate that the Christian god was more powerful than the other gods. This was important because life was very hard and a main reason people joined religions was the hope that its gods would improve their lot in this life and the afterlife.

      So how can we apply these strategies to creating a new social movement that focusses on population reduction?

      It will be difficult because Christianity’s goal was to push things in the direction of the Maximum Power Principle that governs all life.

      The new social movement we need today must push in the opposite direction which means it must oppose behaviors that evolved over billions of years.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I saw the short video but I disagree with their conclusion. From what I read, yes christianity made a lot of converts among the slaves and the poor but there were plenty of other growing religions (collapse of empires does that).

        What made christianity last this long was the power of the state. Picked by Constantine as a tool for control of the army and stifling dissent, it was integrated into the powerful Roman bureaucracy and maintained a strong bureaucracy (from the pope down) after the imperial collapse.
        One example is “basilica” (church, used in all romance languages) – the meaning in antiquity would have been city hall or maybe courthouse.

        So my advice if you want to start a social movement is to ally with the powerful (Davos, WEF, FB, Google etc) and make sure they make your religion part of their bureaucracy.

        Now that I think about it, there is a religion that is already there in the HR depts – woke. So maybe you can talk to them?


        1. Amen brother! Thanks for the gut busting laugh.

          I don’t disagree that uniting with the state was key, much like the religion of infinite growth has merged with the state today, but I think Ehrman’s thesis explains how Christianity got enough momentum to qualify for merger negotiations with the state.

          Christianity’s central case was our god is more powerful than the other gods, and you’re all welcome as long as you abandon your other gods.


      2. I cannot envision a new social movement capable to doing what you ask…and believe me I have thought about it.

        Life reproduces. That is what life does. You think we can outwit or defy our source code? We are not a thinking ape. We are a feeling ape that happens to think.


        1. Robert Sapolsky in the interview above agrees with you, and he has a much better mind than me:

          You can’t reason somebody out of a stance they weren’t reasoned into in the first place.

          Nevertheless I’m not so sure. Governments have never tried frank honesty by saying to citizens that they need to reduce breeding because a lot of children will starve if they don’t. I wrote more about this approach here:

          For humans, denial is the problem, because denial makes humans behave like bacteria, despite having a uniquely powerful brain.


  13. Thanks to Gail Zawacki for bringing Michael Graziano to my attention. I’ve queued up his books and plan to look for synergies and conflicts with Varki’s MORT theory.

    Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has been the grand unifying theory of biology. Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Maybe that’s why so few theories have been able to tackle basic questions such as: What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve and what animals have it?

    The Attention Schema Theory (AST), developed over the past five years, may be able to answer those questions. The theory suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: Too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others, and in the AST, consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence. If the theory is right—and that has yet to be determined—then consciousness evolved gradually over the past half billion years and is present in a range of vertebrate species.

    If AST is correct, 300 million years of reptilian, avian, and mammalian evolution have allowed the self-model and the social model to evolve in tandem, each influencing the other. We understand other people by projecting ourselves onto them. But we also understand ourselves by considering the way other people might see us. Data from my own lab suggests that the cortical networks in the human brain that allow us to attribute consciousness to others overlap extensively with the networks that construct our own sense of consciousness.

    Language is perhaps the most recent big leap in the evolution of consciousness. Nobody knows when human language first evolved. Certainly we had it by 70 thousand years ago when people began to disperse around the world, since all dispersed groups have a sophisticated language. The relationship between language and consciousness is often debated, but we can be sure of at least this much: once we developed language, we could talk about consciousness and compare notes. We could say out loud, “I’m conscious of things. So is she. So is he. So is that damn river that just tried to wipe out my village.”

    Maybe partly because of language and culture, humans have a hair-trigger tendency to attribute consciousness to everything around us. We attribute consciousness to characters in a story, puppets and dolls, storms, rivers, empty spaces, ghosts and gods. Justin Barrett called it the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device, or HADD. One speculation is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. If the wind rustles the grass and you misinterpret it as a lion, no harm done. But if you fail to detect an actual lion, you’re taken out of the gene pool. To me, however, the HADD goes way beyond detecting predators. It’s a consequence of our hyper-social nature. Evolution turned up the amplitude on our tendency to model others and now we’re supremely attuned to each other’s mind states. It gives us our adaptive edge. The inevitable side effect is the detection of false positives, or ghosts.

    And so the evolutionary story brings us up to date, to human consciousness—something we ascribe to ourselves, to others, and to a rich spirit world of ghosts and gods in the empty spaces around us. The AST covers a lot of ground, from simple nervous systems to simulations of self and others. It provides a general framework for understanding consciousness, its many adaptive uses, and its gradual and continuing evolution.



      Consciousness doesn’t happen. It’s a mistaken construct. The computer concludes that it has qualia because that serves as a useful, if simplified, self-model. What we can do as scientists is to explain how the brain constructs information, how it models the world in quirky ways, how it models itself, and how it uses those models to good advantage.

      The study of consciousness needs to be lifted out of the mysticism that has dominated it. Consciousness is not just a matter of philosophy, opinion, or religion. It’s a matter of hard science. It’s a matter of understanding the brain and the mind—a trillion-stranded sculpture made out of information. It’s also a matter of engineering. If we can understand the functionality of the brain, then we can build the same functionality into our computers. Artificial consciousness may just be a hard problem within our grasp.


    1. Thank you. I’m not very impressed with Ehrlich. He’s come to the same conclusion as Garrett Hardin that the solution is more education and awareness. We’ve had 50 years of education since the Limits to Growth study and it has not worked. Clearly something else is going on. I think it’s denial. It might be something else, like say for example, people don’t give a fuck about anything except maximizing their personal wealth today (i.e. MPP). But it’s definitely not a lack of education.

      In summary, the biggest question is how to get from where we are to where we want to go? That means the first task is to get a substantial portion of society to understand where we are, humanity’s current situation, to recognize the growing barriers to sustainability. Then if people can agree they want to go to a peaceful and equitable future world where everyone has a reasonable level of well-being.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I finally got around to watching the 2015 documentary “Ten Billion” based on the book with the same name by Stephen Emmott.

    It’s a little heavy on the drama, and a little light on understanding the energy/debt component of overshoot, but otherwise pretty accurate.

    He explores most of the options and concludes we won’t do any of them.

    The last words spoken are “we are fucked”.

    Don’t see that too often in documentaries. 🙂


    1. I have Emmott’s book in my library. You can read it in 20 -30 min. In sum – Human history told by 10 billion idiots.
      He also has a YouTube lecture on the state of biology that I highly recommend. It is called,
      “We need a new kind of Science.”



    Toasters are Toast

    Thomas Thwaites’ book, “The Toaster Project” illustrates why it will be so hard, if not impossible, to bounce back from collapse in the future to anything like what we take for granted today. Thwaites set about trying to make a simple toaster from scratch. How hard could that be? Well, toasters, it turns out, are not so simple. The most basic toaster Thwaites could find had 404 parts, consisting of steel, mica, plastic, copper, and nickel.


    1. I’m not going argue with the conclusion in the first sentence.

      However, the implied conclusion that post-collapse toasters will be impossible to make is logically flawed. The evolution of toasters did not leap from holding bread over a fire with a stick to a shiny plastic device with springs, thermostats, timers, and hundreds of parts. I.e., toasters did not leap full blown high-tech out of nowhere. Check out
      It might not be easy to redo the 1909 version of the toaster, but it will be lot easier than the 2009 version. And the 1809 version will be even easier:

      Toasters are such a useful cliché.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Tim Morgan refines his SEEDS model.

    The problem with all of the consensus forecasts seems to be that forward energy use projections are a function of economic assumptions. Thus, if the economy is assumed to be X% bigger by, say, 2040, then its energy needs will have risen by Y%, and the deduction of non-fossil supply projections for 2040 leaves our need for fossil fuels in that year as a residual.

    This, of course, is to take things in the wrong order. What we should be doing is assessing the future energy outlook, and only then asking ourselves how much economic activity the projected level (and cost) of energy supply is likely to support.

    Broad observation across the thirty countries covered by SEEDS indicates that complexity determines the level of ECoE at which prosperity per capita turns downwards. In the sixteen advanced economies group analysed by the model (AE-16), the inflection point occurs at ECoEs of between 3.5% and 5%. The equivalent range for the fourteen EM (emerging market) countries (EM-14) runs from 8% to 10%.

    This has meant that EM countries’ prosperity has continued to improve as that of the AE-16 group has turned down. This in turn has meant that global, all-countries prosperity has been on a long plateau, with continued progress in some countries offsetting deterioration in others.

    Now, though, the model indicates that the plateau has ended, meaning that, from here on, the world’s average person gets poorer.


    1. Surely even this doomy outlook from Tim M is optimistic. Whenever I read any energy articles I always go back to basics and for me the base is the Garrett Formula. We need more energy each year (the amount based on GDP) just to maintain existing connections. We cannot deal with non increasing energy output (let alone declining output) without existing connections breaking – and we won’t know which connections are systemically important until they break or the order in which connections will break until they do.

      I think of the Morandi bridge in Genoa that collapsed from poor maintenance after only 50 years usage. It has now been rebuilt after a huge effort and large material expenditure but it still only does what the old bridge (connection) did. It boosted GDP but will now need more energy expenditure to maintain it – and so it goes.

      The Garrett Formula seems to be the one ring to rule them all.


  17. Joe Rogan interviewed Elon Musk yesterday. It’s worth watching if you want a better understand of what makes Musk tick.

    He seems to be a good man with good intentions, doing what he thinks is necessary to get civilization past the climate change and peak oil threats, which he discusses. I of course don’t think migrating to a different planet will work or makes sense, nor do I think batteries can replace diesel, but at least he’s trying to do something rather than simply saying we’re fucked.

    I liked that he criticized the Biden administration for campaigning on climate change and then backing away from a carbon tax. Not because a carbon tax will shift us to renewable energy as Musk assumes, but rather because if properly implemented a carbon tax could be a good way to shrink the economy.


    1. Better yet, his fossil fuel gobbling enterprises will collapse civilization that much faster. He believes in infinite surplus energy; I have read nothing to the contrary


        1. He’s brilliant, and your comment is spot on, yet…

          I have now listened to all but the last 45 minutes. Musk thinks we can electrify everything except rockets. Rogan was too much of a fanboi to discuss 18 wheelers. Perhaps Alice Friedmann should do an interview.

          Musk is very optimistic–1% chance of civilization ending this century. Again, Rogan did not push as to why it’s 1%. I take it as a throw away line.

          Hearing Musk talk about the range of these cars was interesting. It seems likely he is overstating the case, perhaps a little fraudulent.

          He is excited that lithium can be extracted from seawater, so net energy isn’t on his radar. At least he realizes we need “a shit ton of batteries.” All the while, Rogan muses about the military using solar power. Musk doesn’t go along with that dream.

          All in all, it may be the brilliant that throw the last bit of dirt on humanity’s grave.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. He also told Rogan that physics makes self-charging cars with built-in solar panels impossible, forever. So he’s definitely grounded in some reality.

            He touches on electric 18 wheelers in the last segment claiming they are feasible, but does not get into any detail. Ditto for electric planes.


    1. Part of the stockpile you keep in your hidden door panel next to the Tang? Don’t tell me. The Twinkies did not make it either. So much for surviving an atomic blast. My advice. Stockpile honey. It’s acidic and has natural hydrogen peroxide…will not spoil as long as you keep it away from water. Plus you catch more flies with honey…


  18. Nice brief summary today from Gail Tverberg on how her theory differs from the original peak oil story.

    The “peak oil” belief is that we can extract whatever oil is in the ground. They believe that the reserves are an important amount, because we can extract them. In fact, this holds for coal and natural gas as well.

    They believe that oil will run short first, because it is so versatile. They believe that prices will rise, allowing the oil that seems to be available to be extracted, thus “cushioning” the downslope. Also, the high prices will allow the natural gas and coal reserves to be extracted. There are about 50 years of coal reserves, so these should last a long time. Even if oil supply peaks, we will have plenty of supply left for a transitions to something else. They tend to believe that perhaps renewables can be helpful, because even with high prices, renewables will look good compared to the very high prices of oil.

    The story just doesn’t work that way. The cost of extraction rises on everything at the same time. Wages don’t rise correspondingly, so inflation-adjusted prices can’t go up. It is low prices, rather than high, that bring the system down.

    I think that oil production peaks at the same time as collapse starts to get seriously worse. The highest year for oil production will probably be 2019. We are on the downhill now for oil and for the economy as a whole. Once collapse starts, it seems to continue on its own. For example, people decide they like staying inside to stay away from COVID. They really don’t like commuting to work. supply chains start breaking. There are more and more empty shelves.


  19. Another good overview of central bank QE policies and their consequences by Doug Nolan.

    When you read Nolan you have to remember that he is not overshoot aware and does not understand that economic growth is coming to a permanent end. Nevertheless he’s still a good source for analysis of central bank policy.

    The consensus view of overshoot aware people is that we should expect a series of stairsteps down as the economy adjusts to biophysical limits. I’m coming around to a different view that because the central banks are so determined to prevent any correction in asset prices, when the next correction inevitably occurs, it will be much more like falling down an elevator shaft than taking a step down. In other words, any preparations must be complete before the next crash.

    The world is now in the throes of history’s greatest experiment in central bank doctrine and operations. It’s easy to forget that the Federal Reserve is only about 13 years into experimental QE activism. Indeed, central bankers have minimal history for a well-founded assessment of how QE operates, its various impacts and consequences, both intended and unintended. The lack of clarity beckons for circumspection.

    It’s also clear that observation and evaluation of QE is left to us. Wall Street, of course, is bewitched by the Fed’s powerful tool. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is these days uninterested in assessing either QE’s effects or risks, while the economic community remains reticent. After doubling its balance sheet to $7.4 TN over the past 74 weeks, the Fed is now locked into a policy course that will see an additional $120 billion of liquidity injected into the markets on a monthly basis well into the future.

    I thought this comment was insightful…

    Of the Trillions of fiscal spending, only a trickle finds its way toward investment in our future. Instead, most will be directed at redistribution measures – a policy approach viewed as necessary to counter systemic inequality. How crazy has this all become: Trillions of monetary stimulus stoke Bubble Dynamics and resulting inequality, while Trillions of fiscal stimulus are employed to counteract the inequities promoted by central bank activism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rob,
      Couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a Seneca cliff that falls straight down. If you continue to inflate a balloon sooner or latter it pops – it doesn’t deflate in steps! I’m amazed by the people around me who want a stimulus check – where do they think the money is coming from? Do they know anybody paying more taxes to cover it? Nah, just give me more and we’ll be happy. Someday soon (I think) the bill will come due. And in deference to JMG I don’t think we’ll go back to anything organized – even “state-lets” or small kingdoms is probably to much for a collapsed world to muster when the FedEx truck stops arriving and the diesel is unavailable. We’ll all be eating a lot of squash and loving it when the few chickens we have give us an egg.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s analogous to our response to the virus:
        – no focus on understanding the cause;
        – no focus on prevention;
        – no focus on cheap and effective treatments;
        – no willingness to accept any level of hardship;
        – all of our hopes hinge on new unproven technology.

        As a consequence we’ve made the outcome much much worse than it needed to be.

        We’ve collectively turned our brains off and become soft.

        Liked by 2 people

  20. Fellow British Columbian Megan is a little younger and a little better looking than me, but she has exactly the same motorcycle as me as loves it as much as I do.

    In another month or so we’ll be reunited with better weather.


    1. LOL, great video. That sure is a wonderful motorcycle. I must say (again, I might have said this before? 😙) I’m jealous of the gorgeous BC landscapes you get to explore.


      1. If your priorities are low purchase cost, fuel economy, reliability, and having just enough power to travel on the highway, and you don’t care about looking cool, or having a status symbol, or having more power than you need, then the Honda CB500X is perfect.


  21. Albert Bates today (I think) tried to show that the politics of requiring people to change behavior is the main impediment to preventing a climate incompatible with civilization.

    I think instead he (unintentionally?) shows that WASF because in my opinion both net zero and carbon capture are physically impossible fantasies at our current population level.

    The chart on the left is the Net Zero 2050 pathway of annual emissions for the US and the path on the right is that same pathway’s cumulative emissions. The chart on the left has its own challenges, as I will discuss in a minute. It is the chart on the right, however, that is going to cause the problem. Once we stop emitting greenhouses gases, the insulation of the atmosphere, and global temperature, will stop growing, but where we stop is where we stay.

    Between 2020 and 2050 we expect to load the atmosphere with another 100 billion tons of greenhouse gases from the United States. Those will eventually go away. They will be absorbed by the ocean, space, or break down chemically. Unfortunately, that process does not take years, or even centuries. The natural drawdown process takes thousands of years.

    MR. KERRY: I really hope this is not the whole story and you have something you are saving to tell us.

    MS. MCCARTHY: Yes, John, thank you. There is. If, in addition to merely substituting clean energy for fossil energy we invest in a strong program of carbon dioxide removal, there is a 50–50 chance we can switch off that future and move into to a better one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My feelings exactly. I read his whole post very early this morning and I kept thinking – Here is a guy who understands overshoot and all the climate change heading at us full speed. He has in the past pushed biochar/regenerative ag but doesn’t seem to get that too many people are incompatible with any sustainable future. Last week he trashed the dog/cat loving culture of the west – and surely many have to many animals but far better to have a pet than a child. All his solutions don’t seem to understand that Jevon’s paradox screws you unless you have far fewer people and their economic growth/technological fantasies (of which carbon capture has to be the stupidest – next to going to Mars).

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Gerard d’Olivat with a first hand account of the early 90’s Soviet Union collapse…

    As I happened to be in Petersburg during that winter working on a film project, I experienced up close what that meant. In a relatively short period of time there was a great deal of chaos because the inflation figures were literally getting worse by the hour.

    The “ordinary” Russians lost their accumulated pensions and savings in one fell swoop.

    Gasoline/diesel was for sale for practically nothing. The city changed in no time into a very unsafe place with many armed gangs. Everyone offered literally everything for sale from antiques to sex.
    The black market flourished instantaneously within a system that was already in place anyway.

    With trains you could no longer safely travel to Moscow and cities towards Latvia, Estalnd and Poland. On the trains armed gangs robbing everyone etc. The planes overcrowded with ‘standing places’ where you had to hold on tight.


  23. Contrast gloomy William Rees with optimistic Bill Gates. Rees thinks we need to focus on overshoot awareness and population reduction. Gates thinks we need to innovate new green energy. Both men are very smart. What’s the difference between them? One has normal denial genes and the other has defective denial genes. Which man would a female prefer to make babies with?


    1. Sadly, one is one of the richest humans alive and the other, I suspect, is not. SO, the sheep in denial will listen to the one that appears most “successful” and deny the advice from the other BECAUSE money passes for intelligence and wisdom (evolutionary fitness?) in this society rather than being assigned to the category of LUCK (where the acquisition of money belongs). Hopium is eternal to the human condition.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Interesting interview today with Robert Sapolsky on human behavior.

    A common argument against free will is that human behavior is not freely chosen, but rather determined by a number of factors. So what are those factors, anyway? There’s no one better equipped to answer this question than Robert Sapolsky, a leading psychoneurobiologist who has studied human behavior from a variety of angles. In this conversation we follow the path Sapolsky sets out in his bestselling book Behave, where he examines the influences on our behavior from a variety of timescales, from the very short (signals from the amygdala) to the quite ancient (genetic factors tracing back tens of thousands of years and more). It’s a dizzying tour that helps us understand the complexity of human action.

    Robert Sapolsky received his Ph.D. in neuroendocrinology from Rockefeller University. He is currently the John and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at Stanford University. His awards include a MacArthur Fellowship, the McGovern Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Wonderfest’s Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.


  25. Charles Hugh Smith today wrote about Jimmy Carter, my favorite political leader of all time.

    On Presidents Day 2021, I invite you to read/watch President Carter’s Farewell Address from 40 years ago.

    Carter was the first and only president to address DeGrowth, though the word had yet to be coined: DeGrowth is the idea that resources would eventually become scarce and thus unaffordable, and rather then pursue the insane fantasy of eternal growth on a finite planet, a new arrangement that did more with less would be needed.

    “There are real and growing dangers to our simple and our most precious possessions: the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land which sustains us. The rapid depletion of irreplaceable minerals, the erosion of topsoil, the destruction of beauty, the blight of pollution, the demands of increasing billions of people, all combine to create problems which are easy to observe and predict, but difficult to resolve.

    But there is no reason for despair. Acknowledging the physical realities of our planet does not mean a dismal future of endless sacrifice. In fact, acknowledging these realities is the first step in dealing with them. We can meet the resource problems of the world–water, food, minerals, farmlands, forests, overpopulation, pollution if we tackle them with courage and foresight.”

    I wrote about Carter here:

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Tim Watkins today on the decline of cities.

    For the best part of three centuries, fossil fuels have made modern city living far more bearable than it would otherwise have been. But it has come at a cost in the form of permanent growth. Economies of scale – some made on a global level – have allowed for technologies to be developed at far lower cost than would otherwise have been possible. Global communications networks, for example, are only possible because they are used by billions of users around the world. It would be impossible to manufacture an affordable smartphone or tablet if there were only a few thousand consumers worldwide. Mass consumption is only possible because the costs are borne by billions of people. The same goes for the oil we depend upon and for the electricity and clean drinking water we – in the west – take for granted.

    But all of those economies of scale depend upon eternal growth to sustain them. In a sense, the modern, fossil fuel-powered city is like a soufflé – the moment the energy declines, the entire structure collapses in upon itself. There is no “steady state.” Only growth sustains, while some form of managed deflation – or de-growth – is the most optimistic version of collapse. And this is an issue for two reasons. First, fossil fuels are an energy-finite resource. That is, while there are plenty of fossil fuel deposits beneath the ground – perhaps as many again as we have consumed in the last three centuries – the vast majority would cost more energy to extract than they would provide in return. And so – with a handful of limited exceptions – they are going to stay beneath the ground. What this means is that – whether we like it or not, and despite the deployment of non-renewable renewable energy-harvesting technologies (NRREHTs) – the amount of energy available to grow our soufflé cities has begun to decline.

    Second, the consequences of consuming fossil fuels – pollution and climate change – are creating the kind of conditions which brought an end to the Bronze Age civilisations of the Eastern Mediterranean sometime around 1186 BCE. Climate change is causing or exacerbating a range of natural disasters including flooding and forest fires, while spreading animal and crop diseases, lowering harvests and killing fish stocks. Meanwhile, pollutants and insecticides have decimated the insect life at the base of the food chain. It may well be that we are already too late to save the human habitat. But even if we are not, we would need to dramatically lower the amount of fossil fuel energy we consume to have any chance of surviving in the longer term. So allowing the soufflé cities to collapse may be our only option… damned if we do and damned if we don’t, as it were.

    In the broadest terms, what we are living through is the point at which industrial civilisation falls over the net energy cliff:

    Put simply, the more energy that we have to use to generate future energy, the less energy remains to power the – currently – much larger non-energy sectors of a modern economy or a modern city. Since, until recently, fossil fuels have provided more than 20:1 energy returns on the energy invested, this has not been a problem. Once the energy return on investment falls below 15:1 – as is the case with fracking, tar sands and biofuels – things rapidly fall apart as ever more energy has to be diverted away from the wider economy.

    Traditionally, this was expected to result in shortages which would, in turn, cause prices to rise uncontrollably. In practice though, upward spikes in price have proved temporary simply because the increased cost of energy is balanced by a loss of consumption across the wider, non-energy economy, with the result that general demand for energy actually declines because we can no longer afford it. In the absence of sufficient low energy-cost energy, since the crash of 2008 we have witnessed a situation in which the price of oil is too low for producers to remain profitable, but still too high to be affordable to consumers:


    1. “But all of those economies of scale depend upon eternal growth to sustain them.” I am skeptical about this claimed causal relationship. On what basis are economies of scale dependent on “eternal growth”? I’d like to see some analysis of this claim.

      Furthermore, assuming that “billions of people” are needed to support high tech economies of scale appears to me to be an “either:or” fallacy. Why not just 1 billion? Was Henry Ford’s “economy of scale” in his Model T factory unaffordable for the few millions that were produced and sold? Or that iPhones wouldn’t be profitable at sales of a couple hundred million (10% of the 2+ billion made so far)?

      I agree that dependence on fossil fuels is highly likely to lead to collapse, but grounding an argument on poor logic is not helpful.


      1. Good points. I interpreted his thoughts a different way. Watkins may be confusing issues here.

        I think it’s a true statement that many technologies we value (steel, machines, electronics, etc.) require large up front capital for research, design, and manufacture. A lot of this capital today comes from debt, and plentiful debt requires economic growth.

        With a smaller steady state economy we would have to accumulate savings over time to invest in technology.

        Technology would be smaller and move slower, probably a good thing.


        1. Slower would be good! Have you read Ivan Illich’s “Energy and Equity” — “only a ceiling on energy use can lead to social relations that are characterized by high levels of equity. … Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology.”

          I’m not sure I agree with “plentiful debt requires economic growth.” If money is viewed as a proxy for “power to allocate energy and resources,” then we can conceive of economic systems that sever current undemocratic systems for allocation of energy and resources. I think assuming that debt is essential to a functioning economic system buys into inherent inequity and thus undemocratic politics (political-economy). But I’m not an economist, so what do I know?


          1. Thanks, I’ll check out Illich.

            We are able to enjoy 100% of a home after saving only 5% of its value because we have a debt backed fractional reserve monetary system, and that system requires growth to function. If you are aware of a monetary system that does not require growth and that also supplies plentiful debt, please tell me what it is.



            1. You continue to assume the existence of both fractional reserve and debt as essential elements of an ‘economy.’ I’m suggesting that in a truly democratic socialist society, decisions regarding major energy and resource allocations are made without using those made up structures. For example, if a hydroelectric project is determined to be a beneficial action, the decision is made to put the human and energy and material resources in play to ‘make it so.’ Why does that physical activity require the fiction of money? My answer: because money as a stand in for the power to allocate resources (including human labor) is required to maintain inequitable social and political and economic systems. I.e., classism, racism, etc.—caste systems. Sure, it’s very difficult to image how to implement such a truly democratic system for decision making at scale, but if we don’t imagine it, it will never happen.


                1. Yes; one form was called “hunter gatherer” and I believe early pastoral cultures (e.g., numerous (North and South) American pre-European contact groups) maintained many of the same qualities of equity in their “political economy.” Clearly, translating those features into a high density high tech civilization is not easy. Collapse isn’t fun either. What are the alternatives that don’t rely on high throughput of energy? I’ve seen models that say high tech/high density civilization could be maintained (“sustainable”) for a small percentage of current global population. Chances of transition to that seem mighty slim to me.

                  And BTW, I don’t think I’m suggesting a “preferred system”; I’m just trying to describe the features that need to be included in a post fossil fuel supported system. If we don’t succeed in somehow avoiding the negative consequences of our addiction to growth—whatever the systemic causes of that growth might be—the survivors will be living in the proverbial cave, right? IMO, there are far worse things than a fall back to some form of pastoralism.


      1. Do you have a VPN? That can sometimes get you around these sort of things as you can change your location to the country of origin.


    1. Crikey means gee whiz, wow! I think the show is available on Amazon. Big, huMONgous fan of Tazzy Devils, so I’ll be reading up on these fellows too. I found a possum in my compost bin last year. He hissed at me and I very slowly put back the cover. An honor to be visited by North America’s only marsupial.


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