Today we have a heartfelt post by marromai from Germany sharing his experience of becoming overshoot aware and how he deals with the knowledge. The essay was written in German and translated to English.
Life is wonderful – sometimes at least. But most of the time it is a very monotonous thing. And the older I get, the more often I wonder about the purpose of it. Every day, every week, every year the same procedure – enjoy the little moments, but for the rest of the time, hope that it passes by as soon as possible. Most days consist of a typical routine like getting up, sitting at work for what feels like an eternity, having a short and stressful time with my family, and then either doing chores or attending social gatherings now and then. Get the house in shape on Saturdays, and on Sundays rest or do something with the family. Rinse and repeat, every day is groundhog’s day.
Although one could think I’m blessed, because I live in the best Germany ever1. I’m married to a wonderful wife – as wonderful as they can get in their late 30s – I have four adorable children whom I love very much but who often get on my last nerve, a house and a garden where there is always plenty of work to do for which I have neither time nor money nor desire, and my dream job as an electrical engineer, which nowadays is unfortunately all too often just another bureaucratic clerk who only sees the soldering iron from afar. So basically, I should be doing very well, you would think. I just sell a bit of my lifetime for money and can enjoy a decent life.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Personally, my biggest problem is this: Working as an employed engineer has lost its magic – it often doesn’t even make sense to me, it just sucks. For the most part, it consists of bureaucratic stuff that doesn’t solve any problems but is just to be done for its own sake. Consequently, I complete tasks at the last minute with minimal effort, which you can’t even call work to rule. Everyday work is dull, lacking real tinkering challenges and practical problems to solve. The “always having to be there” and the resulting disproportionate amount of wasted life time kills any motivation and makes me strongly question the purpose of the whole mumbo jumbo called “gainful employment”. Maybe work makes life sweet – but in this respect I have diabetes… Now and then I think about self-employment and alternative income possibilities, combined with more personal freedom – but the chance to earn enough money to support a family is close to zero. Especially since the difficult economic times that are looming mark a very unfavorable time for this. How nice it would be to have a 4-day half-day job, with full pay, of course. Or even better, if they would just transfer my salary to me, I would know what to do with my time, wouldn’t I?
Since a while it feels like I have no time at all for personal activities. Even on days off I don’t really know what to do with myself. Apart from the tasks on the house and garden, which absolutely have to be done, I often don’t manage to start anything, although I have so many ideas – but rarely the motivation to actually begin. Or too little time, that starting is not worth it – at least that’s what I tell myself. So, I end up just like at work, where I spend most of my time in front of a computer, trying to avoid getting bored while reading in some online forums. As it turned out afterwards, this was the point, where my problems began, resulting in a total destruction of any purpose in life.
You may ask, what is it, what one could read, that is so depressing?
Beside electronic forums (for new ideas, which I will never implement) I read mainly alternative news and discussions about current events. This made me realize a long time ago that official media are nothing but propaganda channels – and I really can’t listen to them anymore. Russia here, Ukraine there. Evil Putin will destroy us all. Corona is so dangerous, be sure to get vaccinated… I can’t understand how the majority of the population can believe this bullshit – but that’s another topic. It will soon matter little anyway, once you understand that all of this are just side effects to a superordinate set of issues I came across while browsing over some threads of my favorite forum.
Most people will dismiss the following problem as absurd and unrealistic. Some will understand it but will not feel affected by it or will not want to admit it. And the tiny remainder? They are left with no one to talk about a matter, for which the great majority will laugh at them as end-time prophets and declare them crazy. It is the realization that our entire civilization could only grow so fast with the help of fossil energy – and that we are running out of this energy source now. Not because we planned it so or think we can replace it to get a grip on the ridiculous CO2 climate change issue. (I think it is rather presumptuous and a huge farce to try to control the temperature of a whole ecosystem and save the planet by reducing a single trace gas in the atmosphere, while not being able to provide a solid weather forecast for more than 2 days.) But the decarbonization that politicians are longing for will happen anyway. Just not in the way they envision. That’s because fossil fuels currently still cover the main demand for energy, and the much-vaunted renewables can’t even replace a fraction of that. Now we have reached the limits of what our planet can provide. What we are currently experiencing with our gas and electricity prices is only the beginning of the coming shortages. The Ukrainian-Russian war, which actually is driven by the USA, is in fact an economic war – and the economy only works with energy. Without energy, all the money in the world is useless: “Our main problem is a caloric one. We can print money like hay, but not a single drop of oil”2. The coming lack of oil will tear everything apart and cost billions of people’s lives by cold and hunger.
How it could come so far is what nobody dares to speak about: There are simply too many people on this planet who have already consumed too much raw materials and energy and always want more. It is only through coal, oil and gas that humanity has been able to multiply so enormously. But without maintaining these energy flows, the population numbers cannot be sustained. There are 10 calories of fossil energy in every calorie of food. But the soils are depleted and no longer yield anything without artificial fertilizers, agriculture is so thoroughly industrialized and complex that it can no longer be run on pure muscle power, certainly not to feed a country as densely populated as Germany. And now, of all times, we are running out of fossil energy?
The promised rescue by renewable energies is just window dressing and cannot free us from this predicament, nor can nuclear power plants. They supply only a fraction of electrical energy, but no raw materials for industry, as can be seen well in the current European gas shortage situation. No fertilizer can be produced from solar cells, and we cannot melt steel with wind energy, not even with 10 times the number of windmills. In addition to oil and gas, many other natural resources are now depleted that are required to build alternative energy sources. Fossil energy has enabled exponential population growth and unprecedented prosperity with ever increasing complexity and interconnectedness. Likewise, future energy shortages will cause an abrupt reduction in complexity – which is called collapse. And no, this will not be in a distant future, we are already in the middle of it. The coming times will be bleak. And it can go much further down very quickly when “winter is coming”, as the current situation in Europe shows.
All in all, a huge complex of topics, in whose importance I have no doubt – but the momentous realizations from it are simply devastating and destroy any further motivation and search for meaning in life – a nihilistic vicious circle of demotivation, effects see above. And the worst thing is, that one suffers all alone from this knowledge. Because the majority of people are not able to even see this unpleasant reality, let alone understand: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.
So how to continue? One may try to convince as many others as possible of this reality and build a low-tech community. With a group of collapse-aware people, surviving could be much easier, when the crisis fully hits. Unfortunately, in Germany this is very difficult, since most people are totally brainwashed by official media. So, for me, I have decided to just try to enjoy as much free time and remaining prosperity as possible – while it’s still possible. Since I need money for this, I have to work, which is contrary to “Carpe Diem”. So I go to work, but don’t really do work – not perfect, much more like business as usual. What a shame – denying the un-denial… not knowing in the first place would have been much easier.
But as long as the hamster wheel turns and turns, you inevitably have to run with it. You have to learn to control the speed, otherwise you die of exhaustion. For someone who has recognized being in a hamster wheel, one may eventually be inclined to consider a premature exit. But that should not be a solution – especially not if you have a family, which you don’t want to leave in the lurch. Besides, aren’t you too curious to see what happens next? How bad will the crisis get? How long does such a collapse take? And what will life be like in the future? Maybe there will be challenges and problems to solve that you missed so much in your current job, for example finding food every day? Doesn’t this give you an ultimate purpose in life? You’ll probably miss the days spent in the warm office, browsing through internet forums and dreaming up gloomy fantasies about the future…
I leave you with a favorite quote from a relevant episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation:
Seize the time Maribor. Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
 German Bundespräsident F.W. Steinmeier on German Unity Day 2020: “We live in the best Germany of all times”.
 https://archiv1.dasgelbeforum.net/index.php?id=193123 (A German forum of critical thinkers)