Hot Money

I watched the new documentary Hot Money by Susan Kucera tonight.

An intelligent world-wise father (General Wesley Clark) and his son discuss some of the problems we face with many smart participants. I don’t think they interviewed a single idiot, which was refreshing.

They know something is seriously wrong and make an honest attempt to connect the dots. They come tantalizingly close to a complete picture of reality, but miss the all important overshoot drivers of over population and declining returns from non-renewable energy.

Which of course means they understand everything, except what matters.

Nevertheless, Hot Money is excellent and worth watching because it has a lot of intelligent substance.

I also think it indicates a growing mainstream awareness of how close we are to collapsing, and I suspect herd awareness (coupled with denial of the real causes) may be the trigger.

Some of the important points made:

  • the financial system is a bomb waiting to explode, climate change may be the trigger
  • climate change is real and very serious
  • droughts, floods, and fires are a big problem now
  • it now takes more than 3 dollars of debt to create 1 dollar of growth, it used to take less than 1 dollar of debt to create 1 dollar of growth
  • farmers are struggling and failing due to climate change, debt, high input costs, and low crop prices
  • real incomes and living standards are falling despite lower taxes than the 50’s
  • some young couples are not having children because they see a terrible future
  • it was much easier to make a profit in the good old days, doubly so if you were early enough to steal land from the aboriginals
  • companies now invest more money in stock buy-backs than R&D
  • there is no such thing as trickle down economics
  • the financial system is now too complex for its players to understand – it’s like trying to understand quantum mechanics when you don’t have high school physics
  • the planet is a finite physical system and the financial system is unbounded – the two systems are incompatible
  • Venezuela is a preview of where the USA is headed
  • if the government isn’t competent enough to deal with homelessness in L.A., how can it possibly deal effectively with COVID?
  • Americans live under the illusion that they are different and could never descend into the savagery they’ve witnessed elsewhere in the world
  • the Kosovo genocide was committed by and against people with homes, refrigerators, cars, kids in college, and who spoke the same language
  • people are turning on each other because the capitalist system is breaking down and climate change is causing scarcity
  • there will be a billion displaced people within 30 years
  • it’s unlikely the Romans could give us advice on how to avoid collapse
  • the wealth gap increases as a civilization collapses
  • many nest eggs will be wiped out when insurance companies won’t insure homes because of sea level rise
  • much of the oil industry’s infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise
  • rich people are not investing enough in renewable energy because they can make better returns elsewhere
  • governments must step up to invest in what needs to be done
  • most authorities think we have 30 years to act before civilization collapses, some people think it’s already too late
  • the most valuable thing in the world is oil reserves in the ground, but the damage burning oil causes is even higher – we must tax carbon energy
  • we need a cultural change to accept less – but that’s hard
  • nothing comes for free, everything costs energy
  • renewable energy cannot replace fossil energy and satisfy our greed, but it can help us survive
  • the food system is a huge consumer of energy (lots of interesting detail here)
  • our energy system is highly dependent on water which is being disrupted by climate change
  • we need to democratize the electric grid to accelerate renewable energy, but that requires a long range plan which we don’t have
  • we should tax pollution and use the funds to improve the grid and to pay farmers to sequester carbon
  • we will not be able to re-order our system until it crashes, but if we wait until we crash we’ll be too poor to fight climate change – it’ll be like asking Somalia to fight climate change
  • the final scene has the son arguing that we’re not facing reality; and the father arguing that we can use our democracy to solve the problems, fade to “The End?”
  • there is no one driving the bus, our leaders don’t have a plan
  • no mention of population reduction or peak oil, not even a whisper

P.S. Ugo Bardi is featured in a couple clips discussing the collapse of the Roman empire, how we may be starting down a Seneca cliff, and the viability of renewable energy.

P.P.S. My favorite central banker, Canadian Mark Carney, has a clip in which he says the main role of central banks is to pull wealth from the future into the present.

P.P.P.S The cost of insurance for the small farm I assist more than doubled this year to over $6,000, I suspect due to climate change. We have to sell a lot of lettuce to earn $6,000. 😦

You can download Hot Money here:

With wit, satire, and historical context, Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, General Wesley Clark and his son Wes Clark Jr. take us on a journey through the financial circulatory system connecting farmers, homeowners, bankers, academics, and business professionals in a tale that explains the knot of economic forces that can lead to collapse and how to untie it.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, General Wesley Clark and his son Wes Clark Jr. take us on a journey through the complicated realities of our financial system and its profound exposure to climate change. Hot Money outs the whole game, the whole charade, the whole crapshoot of the money system with all the humor and intelligence of a New Yorker cartoon. Combined with the wisdom of international business experts and academics, Hot Money is rich with historical context. It severs the knot of economic and political forces that may lead to societal collapse.

I met General Clark and his son Wes Jr. while filming Living In the Future’s Past, then met the General again at a speaking engagement two years later and the kernel of a film planted itself in my mind – a conversation between a father and son on how climate change will affect our financial system. It seemed logical to follow up to the introspective Living In The Future’s Past with a nuts and bolts view of how the machinery of our money system contributes and reacts to climate change. We lined up a broad and diverse cast of experts who’ve spent their lives doing the work. What we could see emerging was an easy to understand story whose depth is masked by its light-hearted breeziness. The Covid 19 pandemic cut short our filming and I turned to a New Yorker cartoonist to visualize concepts so somebody like me, who doesn’t have an MBA or ever worked in finance, can be simultaneously entertained and enlightened about one of the prime forces driving our world – debt.

Hot Money is an important film for right now as America stands on the brink of conflict. Many people lack context interpreting the world and this documentary delivers it. Conversations taped more than a year ago about wildfires making homes impossible to insure and the ripple effect that will roar through the financial system seem as startlingly prescient as the scenes describing populist breakdown in a country like Venezuela and how it can happen here. Hot Money offers a glimpse into our future and a chance to avoid the dangerous course we are on. To solve a problem we have to understand it.

37 thoughts on “Hot Money”


    Interactive Brokers chairman Thomas Peterffy told CNBC Wednesday that the U.S. financial system faced greater stress during the GameStop trading frenzy than is generally recognized.

    “We have come dangerously close to the collapse of the entire system and the public seems to be completely unaware of that, including Congress and the regulators,” Peterffy said in an interview on “Closing Bell.”


  2. “To solve a problem we have to understand it.”

    Understanding is a helpful, perhaps necessary, condition, but it’s not sufficient. When the earth quakes, and you see the water drain out of the harbor, you may understand that it’s going to rush back in as a tsunami, but that doesn’t solve the problem that you need to find high ground before it happens. You might “solve the problem” of saving your life, but not the saving of your beachfront property. And you don’t really need to understand where the earthquake struck, or exactly when; it’s enough to understand that when the water goes out, it comes back in.
    I look forward to watching the film with my family.


    1. Bingo. Great example. I understand many problems I cannot fix or respond to. Sometimes the scale of the problem is too big, too complex and too deterministic to fix. And “communication” is not always key either to straitening out misunderstandings, ending conflict or solving problems. Communicating better is not necessarily going to fix things. Many problems do not exist because of a failure to communicate.


  3. please stop with the hopium nonsense about so called “renewable energy”. solar and wind and the high tech electronic devices to enable their use (charge controllers, batteries and inverters) are not renewable as these technologies are 100% dependent on the underlying, hydrocarbon powered, industrial mining and manufacturing foundation. they cannot support the luxurious lifestyle of 7.8 billion rapacious humans. at the best they offer a tiny buffer of resiliency for a select few.

    it is time to face the reality that we have reached the peak of our species 250,000 year growth phase and now are transitioning to “degrowth” and the longer we pretend to not see that reality, the deeper we dig the unsustainability hole we will have to dig ourselves out of.

    the future is one of a much smaller population and severe austerity and the longer we pimp technocornucopian nonsense, the harder the unfolding transition will be.


        1. Thanks. Caris is a very good writer and his essay said many wise things.

          I have one criticism. If you’re going to discuss all the things we should do but won’t do, then you should mention the one thing that would actually help, which is population reduction policies.

          We’ve got to get population reduction into mainstream dialogue. Same sex marriage was once a taboo topic, but today it’s accepted and frequently protected by law.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. I get why people that denial overshoot don’t discuss population reduction.

              I don’t get why overshoot aware people don’t discuss population reduction. Perhaps they are more worried about what others think of them than doing the right thing?

              What’s the big deal?

              We love our pets and manage their populations because we know it’s the right thing to do to prevent unnecessary suffering.

              The taboo barriers might break down if more people simply started casually talking about population reduction policies as if it was an obvious thing to do when non-renewable resources are predicted to decline soon. Just like a farmer discusses his herd size when drought threatens his grass.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. “What’s the big deal?”

                it is a paradigm shift to understand we are not special animals, exempt from natural laws. we like to think we are superior and therefore immune from and divorced from reality. there is a myth that our technology “god” can mitigate anything, so we ignore the repercussions of our behavior which will of course be our undoing. 😦


                1. A paradigm shift is not necessary and probably not in the cards for Humankind. Shanna Swan in “Countdown: How the Modern World is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race” lays out a compelling tale of how chemicals in the modern environment are changing fertility for the worse. Total sperm count in the Western world has fallen 59% between 1973 and 2011 and continues to fall.


                  1. Foot note: By “not necessary” I do not mean “not desirable”, but rather that endocrine disrupters and behavioral sinks are reducing human fecundity.

                    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good title.

    Texas Trip
    Once again, the moral and intellectual degeneracy of the failing US Empire has resulted in science being subordinated to politics. This time it is the freak freezing weather and its aftermath in Texas which has provided the pretext for division. First came the knuckle-dragging wing of climate change denial; asking the infantile question, “If global warming is real, how come it’s so cold?” (the answer, by the way, is because the polar vortex which used to contain extreme cold within the Arctic Circle, has broken down in recent years; causing extreme cold weather to drift much further south). Then there was the viral photograph of the – Canadian as it turned out – helicopter de-icing a wind turbine. Those on the right responded with videos – which, this time really were from Texas – showing – older – frozen wind turbines standing idle. Those on the green new deal left quickly countered with the claim that power outages were the fault of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, whose water intakes had frozen in the cold. In any case, according to the primarily neoliberal mainstream media, anyone who found fault with wind turbines was clearly a climate change denier and probably a racist, sexist or transphobe to boot.


  5. What doesn’t seem to be discussed in the doc, (didn’t see it so can’t say for sure but…) is the fact that the US deficit really does not matter. As long as I have been alive there has always been doomsayers talking about how much debt there is and how eventually it will collapse the system. All need to read or watch Michael Hudson to understand but even he dances around the critical issue of the fact that any threat to the US dollar is perceived as a direct act of war and will be dealt with accordingly. Hudson points this out as well just not in such open terms.

    If any country stepped up and challenged the world reserve currency, the monetary unit used for 90% of all world transactions, the US dollar, they would be attacked within 24 hours. The value of the US dollar is backed by the largest military in the world X 10 and the only one that has shown that they have no problem bombing an entire country back to the stone age. Now if the top 10 countries of the world economy orchestrated a shift in world trade away from the dollar all at once it just might happen but most of them have a vested interest in keeping the dollar intact, that and fact that they can’t really be sure the belligerent US might not still nuke them if they feel like they don’t have anything more to lose.

    The ongoing collapse will manifest in the economy but like peak oil it won’t be like most of these economic pundits believe it will. Money has not had any connection with the physical world for a very long time which is why us folks living in the Western World have it so good. As Hudson puts it we have had the greatest, longest free lunch in human history. No one who truly understands all the facets of collapse will allow the dollar to fail as it is the last and only thing that will make collapse slightly better for them. Don’t get me wrong, none of us can possibly make enough money to help our situation for us and our loved ones but then again we don’t matter one iota as clearly illustrated over the last year or so.



    1. I did a quick scan of Hudson’s work and saw no evidence that he understands the relationship between energy and money, nor that he understands that economic growth is now constrained by declining net energy, which means he understands nothing.

      Please send me link to his relevant work on energy if I missed it.


  6. Just tried to share on Facebook and got denied because of the current FB restrictions in Australia on sharing news items. First Ugo, now you. Fed up!


      1. But it’s the only place I can connect with people who aren’t in denial. Now I’ve discovered I can’t even watch the video……the trailer, yes, but that’s all.


      2. Only a company with monopoly powers would treat its customers ( “just” all of Australia) that way. Problem is, Zuck is both Chairman of the Board and CEO, so he gets virtually no push-back from the sycophant orcs working for him. I doubt it even occurred to the baby tyrant the effect it would have on public safety. He pulled the plug during a PANDEMIC. The man is a monster.


  7. I received the second dose of the Moderna vaccine last Friday (February 19th) afternoon. I had mild swelling and pain at the injection, which is now almost gone. I developed a fever Friday night/Saturday morning which spiked to 101.4 F Saturday evening and which is now gone. I had a headache, muscle aches and pains, and mild chills all day Saturday. As of now, Sunday afternoon, I’ve almost fully recovered (a bit of fatigue still). I just wanted to follow-up on my initial post to provide one person’s experience of receiving both doses.


  8. Irv Mills today on population and consumption.

    I guess it’s no surprise that richer people consume more, but how much more is pretty shocking.

    Based on this graph, 59% of consumption is done by the top 10% of the richest people in the world. The bottom 50% of the people, the poorest people in the world, do only 7.2% of the consumption. If we were to get rid of the bottom 50% of our population, it would have very little effect, leaving our impact at 153% of carrying capacity( .928 times 1.65 = 1.53). On the other hand, if we were to get rid of the richest 10%, it would reduce our impact to 68% of carrying capacity(.41 times 1.65 = .68). Of course, I am not proposing that we set out to “get rid” of anybody, but this does show why I think that we should be looking at reducing consumption as well as population. And why I think people who want to stop poor folks from breeding are barking up the wrong tree.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mac10 turned a sharp phrase today…

    He’d be less angry if he understood Varki’s MORT theory.

    When the sheeple realize they got conned into human history’s biggest one way pump and dump and obliterated on the eve of global economic depression, I predict there will be considerable societal “acrimony”. The only benefit of imploding in human history’s biggest moron bubble is being able to claim no one saw it coming…

    Historians won’t understand how the worst global pandemic in 100 years spawned the biggest asset bubble in human history. After all it’s a well known fact that the economic dislocations from the pandemic are four times worse than the global financial crisis, however stoned gamblers have been fully euthanized by central bank monetary heroin. This manic RISK ON party only makes sense in the context of the non-stop monetary bailouts since 2008. Dopium stoned gamblers have been conditioned to believe that the decimation of the economy is “good news” for stocks. The hangover from this final delusion will be brutal.

    History will show that this COVID rally was the blow-off top in the risk rally that began back in 2008. Useful idiots bought the story that last year was late cycle, and the blowoff top was early cycle. You have to be brain dead to believe this shit, which is why few people questioned it.

    They got conned by the usual psychopaths. What’s new?


  10. Rob, re your Hot Money download link, I have tried several download approaches including different browsers, Private Window, VPN and Torrent but all have failed. I always end up with a file of only 24.0 KB or browsers waning about downloading this file.

    Any hot tips for Hot Money? (no urgency)


  11. Overall I thought this was a pretty well done, sort of a Systemic Risks 101 for Republicans who would otherwise tune out from the message. If it means peddling a bit of hopium and retro-commie bashing to wake up the Sons of Reagan then I’m for it.

    Liked by 1 person

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