By Gaia Gardener: On Our Hall of Denial Mirrors

Today we have another guest post by a member of the un-Denial community, Gaia Gardener, who posted these thoughts on denial as a comment. I thought they were interesting enough to warrant promoting them to a more visible post.

Hello friends, thank you for a very interesting discussion about the realities of denial and how we humans seem to be able to manipulate all perceptions to fit our chosen narrative, whether or not we are consciously aware of our programmed beliefs however they were initialised and ingrained.

I am wondering if we can look at another subject, removed from overshoot, in which denial plays a big role in our actions/inactions so we can step back and dissect out a bit more how denial originates and becomes intrenched without us even realising our immersion in it, just like we in the small minority see happening to the masses and even polymaths in regards to overshoot denial.

The topic I think can fit the bill is the question of the ethics of eating animals, namely farmed animals which we consume in the billions every year. I won’t cover using animals for our labour and experimentation as the ethics of these actions can be construed to be justified in benefitting humankind which the majority of human beings would be in favour of. But the eating of animals in the modern world is not only unnecessary (and we can be spared the example of Inuits or other very minority population cultures who rely solely on animal products for sustenance, we do not have their situation in the least) but in fact there is convincing evidence that it is harmful to both our physical bodies and the planet, but for the sake of this argument, one need not consider either of those reasons to engage in a discussion of why we cannot eat animals nor their products if we believe we have a moral obligation to another sentient being. Let’s face it–we eat meat because we were brought up to do so and it tastes good (to most human taste buds) and it’s readily available without much effort on our part. However, the fact that animals suffer solely for our pleasure, tradition, and convenience is not enough moral ground to do so, for one can easily see how this disconnect can apply to any sentient being, including other humans, which is so obviously not an ethical choice. And yet, we are in complete denial that it is okay to eat chicken, cow, and pig but outrageously wrong to eat dog, cat, or horse. It is fine for us to imprison a member of a food species in the most horrendous conditions but we can be charged with abusing and neglecting other species we call our domestic companions. We can kill a food species animal way before their natural life span in a most horrific manner (everyone knows a slaughterhouse isn’t a happy place) so we can buy our sanitized plastic-wrapped packages of pork, beef, and healthy white meat chicken, but if we organise a dog fight and enjoy it, that is disgusting and shameful. You’re right, it’s not about education (most of us know that a live being had to be killed to get meat on the plate), or even more extreme forms of presenting the facts (how many of us would volunteer to witness what happens in a slaughterhouse, or even more tellingly, choose that as our job?). Yes, we have been lied to about happy free-range chickens or happy cows enjoying being milked on the happy dairy farm, but how many of us actually have spared more thought for what really happens in these industries, we’re only too happy ourselves to buy the more expensive organic or free-range option as if that absolves us from the guilt we still harbour knowing that no matter how happy the picture of the old MacDonald’s farm, we know this is a fantasy. Every animal still comes to an end in a way far from their natural choice and inclination.

I can sense the mounting justifications and counter-arguments–we need meat for our health or else we would get sick and die, if we didn’t raise the food animal they wouldn’t have a chance at life at all, what about if we were stuck on an island with only rabbits to eat, you can see how inane these points are, and generally stated to obfuscate the moral issue at hand. I am talking about modern day humans who now have access to a wide range of very suitable and healthful plant-based protein, and the methods we use to obtain our meatstuffs, even the question of whether or not it is our evolutionary diet (very debatable) isn’t the point here. The point is our denial of other factors which should be considered when making the choice of whether it is ethical to eat farmed animals, or even a beloved family pet lamb (just these words should put it in perspective that it isn’t but somehow we still do it–is that denial? ) What is it that keeps the majority of people still reaching for their burgers and steaks and fried chicken and bacon and eggs despite knowing what everyone should know? Is it denial of the truth because to face the ethical question front on would demand a choice and most humans just cannot overcome the continuation of pleasure, tradition, and ease of living, especially if it means realising it is a morally wrong thing to do so. So it is far easier to adopt cognitive disconnect, join the masses who are in your camp, degrade and exclude those who are not, and just keep doing what you want for one more day after day as long as it can last because at least you got to enjoy it and no one can take that away. Sound familiar? See how easy denial becomes just our way of perceiving our reality, and that is why I chose this example to prove that point. Every thought that is possibly going through your head now is a function of denial, one way or another, and none of it was even conscious before I brought this so called controversial topic up–if one can deem supporting active suffering of sentient beings just because we like it, to have any controversy attached.

I guess what I’m trying to express, which is in full agreement with what has been discussed, is that all of us have the capacity for denial (whether or not MORT is the primal reason) but we can’t see it as denial when we’re in the thick of it because that is just our chosen narrative. The way we dichotomise over overshoot, population control, Covid, Russia, just about any topic you can name, all confirm this. Only others outside that narrative (and usually the minority) can see that there is another perspective (because it’s their reality) and then call out the majority as in denial, which is exactly what the majority thinks of the outliers! It’s like that endless hall of mirrors reflecting back to you ad infinitum, whichever way one looks, there’s another image looking away from you, too, with the prime cause of the illusion being your own presence and perception of your reality. I think denial is a bit like that–it’s what holds us in our place, and helps define our sense of self by creating another version of possible self to bounce off of. I’m not saying there’s any right or wrong in this, it just seems to be how we are wired and until now, it has kept us on the survival ascendancy (that and a whole heck of fossil fuels!)

I think a good question to always be ready to ask ourselves in any situation to draw out denial is “What knowledge or understanding or different perspective that I may not have now but is available to gain or learn, would change or enhance the way I see the situation? ” Try it, it is very hard to allow oneself the possibility of overcoming our deep-rooted beliefs but yet that is precisely the attitude it will take for us to change them. Forcing education upon others doesn’t work as we have seen, it has to come from a self-directed intention to fill the knowledge gaps (isn’t that how we all arrived at our overshoot awareness and acceptance? We didn’t find this site because we were lectured into it, we found it because we sought it out) and then an even more entropy defying self push to change our actions to match our new insights. If the motivation is great enough, this can and will happen, but everyone has a different threshold before the fire is lit under our bums. Maybe that is why we need to head hell-bent towards full-on collapse, perhaps the only way to save ourselves is to first come within a nanometer of destroying ourselves. I still take comfort and security from the once inviolable Newton’s third law and trust that is will prove true for this case, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Let us pray for calamity that we will reach that opposite reaction with the same energy swinging us out of our doom as going into it, and preferably very soon!

Namaste, everyone. Thanks for bearing with another Gaia attack.

By wis.dom project: Regress in Progress: My state of mind

Dire Evolutionary Timeline by Blu

This is an essay from reader wis.dom project who describes his painful personal journey of connecting dots to achieve awareness of our overshoot predicament.

I was born in 1969, at a time when everything still seemed possible. On July 20, two people walked on the moon, which is probably the greatest technological achievement of man to this day. In my youth, I devoured novels by Asimov, Clarke, Lem, Dick and Herbert. The galaxy’s colonization seemed within reach.

45 years later, I realized that I was a victim of mass hypnosis, what I refer to today as techno-utopia – a belief in the limitless human development, genius and almost divine uniqueness of Homo Sapiens. I realized that industrial civilization, like any other dissipative structure, is doomed to inevitable collapse.

In 1972 – 3 years after my birth, a book titled The Limits to Growth was released by the Club of Rome. It was the first scientifically compiled report analyzing future scenarios for humanity. It indicated that unlimited development is not possible on a finite planet. The book was published in 30 million copies and was one of the most popular at the time. Surprisingly, despite the wide range of my readings, the book did not appear on my horizon for a long time. As if it was covered by another intellectual  “Säuberung”. In fact, it was the subject of an intellectual blitzkrieg and relatively quickly evaporated from the media circulation. I experienced this myself by talking to several university professors. Every one of them dismissed the LtG concept with a shrug and an unequivocal, non-debatable conclusion that the theory had long been discredited.

Since then, there have been many other events that have offered an opportunity to change consciousness and thus the trajectory of industrial civilization.

On June 15, 1979, during the ongoing second oil crisis, President Jimmy Carter gave a famous speech in which he announced: “The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them”. Photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof of the White House to symbolize a new trend – energy conservation and an attempt to develop alternative sources.

American people responded by choosing Ronald Reagan as the 40th president of the United States, who had the panels dismantled. Before he did so, he announced: “There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.” As a result of the use of “intelligence, imagination, and wonder” American analysts probably came to the conclusion that if we do not have the resources ourselves, they should be organized from a different source. Therefore, on his first overseas trip, Reagan traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he probably proposed the following alternative: petrodollar, protection and weapons for cheap oil… or American aircraft carriers will stay anchored in the Persian Gulf for longer – as in the Al Capone quote: “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone”. Same logic. Following, we got post-colonial globalization with all the necessary tools like the IMF, World Bank, BIS, and Washington Consensus. Pax Americana in full release. A decade of crises had begun.

In 1980, a group of “loyal Americans” constructed Georgia Guidestones, “The American Stonehenge”. On 4 granite slabs, in 8 languages, the authors recommended 10 commandments of a healthy civilization, including limiting the global population to 500 million. This humanist monument was recently destroyed by fanatical terrorists and then demolished by the county authorities for “security reasons”.

In 1984, the publisher of George Orwell’s famous book, which regained popularity as a result of events at that time, advertised it with the slogan “maybe not 1984, but there is always 1985”. We solved the waves of hunger that engulfed African countries with “Live Aid”. The eastern block began to fall apart.

For the growth protagonists, their optimistic belief in progress was confirmed in the 1990’s, after the collapse of the Eastern bloc and another “gold rush”, this time in the oil fields of Western Siberia. Another wave of globalization had begun. The ceiling of the ecological capacity of mankind was raised again, and the extraction of natural resources accelerated to planet limits. China joined the WTO and “the sky was the limit” again.

The digital revolution restored belief in unlimited development, and Hollywood started showing “happy endings” again after years of dystopian themes. However, the honeymoon of unipolar globalization was short. In 2001, cracks started to appear. US president, George W. Bush, announced that the prosperity of the Americans was not negotiable. Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan clearly showed the intentions of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s  “The Grand Chessboard” strategy. After all, the 9/11 organization required remarkable synchronization, and its presentation to the public was another masterpiece of the hypnotic power of mass communication. Undoubtedly, its organizers were aware of the challenges ahead. In 1998, Colin J. Campbell, a highly respected geologist dealing with oil field analysis for companies such as BP, Texaco, Amoco, together with Jean Laherrère published an article titled The End of Cheap Oil. Shortly after, he recalled, gentlemen from the Pentagon / CIA visited him with a proposal to cooperate. They wanted to know more about the impending peak-oil. They knew the matter was serious. Campbell’s relatively precise predictions materialized in 2006, when we reached the peak of conventional oil production.

However, also this time the convulsions of civilization were prolonged. For optimists, the shale revolution, fracking, deep and arctic oil were another confirmation of human genius and the possibility of unlimited expansion of the species. Changing the definition of oil production to ‘all liquids’ and the inclusion of bizarre products such as biofuels once again gave the impression of unlimited resources. For the more inquisitive observers, it was more like “last drops from the bottom of the barrel.” The IEA’s prediction of production scenarios, with a price of $300 per barrel, did not seem to scare the public. For some, they were another opportunity for tempting profits. The oil price reached $147 a barrel in 2007 and has yet to be beaten. However, it had far-reaching consequences in the form of a global financial and economic crisis. In November 2018, we probably achieved the final peak of production of all liquid hydrocarbons.  Peak oil has become a fact.

Germany’s Bundeswehr 2010 publication on the consequences of the peak extraction of critical resources has not reached a wider audience. Instead, we got another installment of mass hypnosis in the form of such oxymorons as “renewable energies” (which for semantic precision are not renewable) and “sustainable development” (whatever that means). The energy transformation, changed by all cases, was called a revolution by its followers. Apparently, none of them noticed that revolutions are by nature bottom-up. The current attempt at energy transformation, on the other hand, is a top-down, elite-bureaucratic decree forced into the economy with an enormous organizational, financial and propaganda effort, and has nothing to do with the revolution. Except perhaps the inevitable failure.

Further memes of the Holy Grails of energy appear in the widespread public perception. From nuclear fusion projects, new categories of nuclear reactors, SMRs, large-scale energy storage to the recently very popular multicolored forms of hydrogen. Already every moderately educated inhabitant of Western countries can cite further possibilities of increasing our chance for a vacation on Mars in the near future, a vision presented by Elon, the most popular techno-utopian messiah. The knowledge on this subject is usually so shallow that it only causes confusion. After all, if all these solutions are at hand, why are we living in times of a global energy crisis? Undoubtedly, if not terrorist inclinations, this can at least provoke rage against such inept politicians. Greta is disappointed, as are her millions of unsuspecting millennials. False hope is a source of frustration expressed by aggression. This generation will inspire a wave of radicalism and eco-terrorism in the near future.

So here we are. Pandemic, wars, revolutions, hunger, migrations, financial crisis, stagflation, new cold war, de-globalization – we got a jackpot in this draw.

In 2011, a public opinion research company surveyed Western countries’ populations on the threats to human civilization. 11% expressed the opinion that events that threaten civilization will occur during their lives. I wonder what the result would be today, but I have no doubt it would be significantly higher. Still, the wider population was not frightened by the fact that in 2018 Sweden mailed instructions to its citizens on how to prepare for war, which was also a pocket prepper plan. The city of New York is preparing for a nuclear attack right now. A day like any other, nothing to see here. Yet all over the world there are no reactions, no demonstrations, no prayers for peace. The masses are  hypnotized. Most of the younger generation of Western societies fear climate change. Nobody told them that the greatest threat to their welfare is, paradoxically, an end to environmental rape.

A breakthrough on the legendary World3 Model Standard Run is happening right before our eyes. Except the fall, like in Hemingway’s novel: How did you go bankrupt? Bill asked. “Two ways”, Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly”. “Gradually” was already there, now “suddenly” begins. As if we were watching Seneca Cliff live. Yet most people believe this is just a temporary stumble on the way to permanent happiness and prosperity. Almost every statement of people in the media contains hidden optimism when they make plans for 10, 20 or 30 years, visions of smart-cities, hydrogen-economy, electric cars and universal happiness. Even the so-called pessimists that see the crisis and the forthcoming World War III, believe in the following reconstruction and further progress after the victory of the only right one, i.e. OUR SIDE. Spes decedit ultimo, amorem non moritur.

The pandemic, the genesis of which should be sought in biological weapons laboratories, was presented efficiently and with amazing media synchronization as a natural zoonotic epidemic. At the same time, the health service suffered global Münchhausen’s surrogate syndrome and concluded that injecting 5 billion people with experimental gene therapy is a good idea. And this despite the fact that for the vast majority of them the disease is relatively harmless, while gene therapy turns out to be ineffective and risky. I mean, safe and effective. How the “vaccine”, which should be injected in your body 4 times in 1.5 years is effective, no one explained and few asked.

Meanwhile, the frequency of meetings between political elites, presidents, prime ministers, ministers and a whole host of other notables in various configurations has drastically increased. This could hypothetically indicate greater international cooperation, but I am betting that the number of fires to be extinguished has increased instead. And I’m afraid this is just the beginning. Groups from WEF, G7, G20, BRICS, AUKUS, NATO, B&RI, QUAD, RCEP, ASEAN, to the Bilderberg Group meet to agree current positions, preferences, transactions, exchange information and confirm alliances. The chessboard is dynamically reconfigured. Global industrial civilization, like any dissipative structure, bifurcates. The world will divide. We go back in time. Another Cold War has arrived, and as one California senator noted, the truth is its first casualty. The level of propaganda is so advanced that, as in my youth, we will soon be seeing “TV is lying” graffiti. And this is justified. The elites are trying to prepare for the coming crisis, and this requires the right tools of indoctrination, surveillance and control. We can expect more riots, protests, strikes and demonstrations. More state control. More power of brute force. More epidemic passports, debt, digital currencies, vaccinations, bankruptcies, unemployment and migrations. Less money, food, travel, vacation, products, freedoms, and rights. The polarization of opinions is growing, and the spectrum of the narrative is intensifying the schizophrenia of paradigms. Social discontent will grow. As William Gibson stated, “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.  Sri Lanka is the proverbial canary in the mine. It’s just a matter of time before it will also show up in my neighborhood. Klaus Schwab from the WEF is supposed to keep me happy, but I only see it in the scenario of Futurological Congress. I can handle “less meat” with pleasure, but a lack of property is a fresh implementation of techno-fascism based on the proven model of CCP. National Socialism has the same imperative regardless of the flag. Klaus’ pupils, the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Canada, are already eagerly implementing the plan heading straight towards Soylent Green. The new techno-utopian prophet Yuval Noah Harari (Noah is quite symbolic in this context) and at the same time faithful to the Great Reset sect defines the challenges facing humanity as, among other things, providing adequate entertainment for these billions of “useless people”. 4th industrial revolution – biotechnology, automation, geoengineering, brain-computer interface, remote control, complete elimination of privacy, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, transhumanism and singularity will save us. In which metaverse, Mr. Harari? Techno-fascism? It looks more like smart-depopulation than smart-dictatorship.

Meanwhile, the war in Europe became a breeding ground for hysterical psychosis, in which a billion people of the Western world decided that  preparations for WW3 should begin. Europe has been organizing Seppuku type economic crises on an unprecedented scale since 1929, followed by the depopulation scenario of the anonymous white intelligence agency deagel.com. These two events are another masterful operations on the open brain of global population. Simultaneously the UN forecasts the size of the human population by 2300, and the optimistic scenario predicts 36.4 billion inhabitants of the planet. Are they already implementing Stanislaw Lem’s scenario in their canteens? Is this a pilot?

The process of absorbing this knowledge was painful. The closest analogy is DABDA (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) described by Elisabeth  Kübler-Ross in the book On Death and Dying (also published in 1969). In her description, the stages of dying may occur many times, and their sequences are individual for each person becoming aware of their own mortality. I saw it myself in my loved ones who passed away. This happened to me also in relation to the revelation that industrial civilization is dying. Such awareness is an extremely difficult experience. In addition to its own emotional consequences, it also brings deep alienation. It becomes a natural need to share your knowledge with others, including your loved ones. As much as I could, I tried to avoid it, knowing from the descriptions of others who had previously had such experiences. Sharing such information brings only isolation, mockery, and being labelled as a “depressive-manic supporter of conspiracy theories”. Despite my sincere desire, I did not avoid ostracism and contempt, like many others before me. Kassandra, the social nickname that had been given to me half-jokingly in my social circle, turned out to be only a sign of intellectual gaps of my friends. After all, Kassandra was right in predicting the fall of Troy. I was doomed, like her, to a consciousness that no one would accept. No wonder,  eschatology has a long history and the list of Armageddon prophets is long.

As part of my personal DABDA I am trying to decipher the history and its mechanisms. The question “how did this happen?” is lingering. How is it possible that we have brought our species and the planet to the brink of collapse? And there is the question of who was responsible.

The story leading to the LtG conclusions seems quite obvious from my current perspective. David Attenborough provides the simplest explanation:

We have a finite environment— the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.

After 30 years of studying economics, I came to a similar conclusion. Modern mainstream economics is a scholastic sect that created pseudo-science describing economic mechanisms without considering any environmental factors in their models. Economists rationalized that any limitations related to demographics, resources and pollution will be resolved by the market, and ultimately by another sect – academy of scientific progress in cooperation with mammon wizards, i.e. rulers of the financial system. I am writing this with great respect and admiration for thousands of great scientists. We are also a brilliant species after all. Without them, we would still be jogging through the Central African savannahs. And probably the debt-engineers also deserve gratitude, because as Lloyd Blenkfein, president of Goldman Sachs said at the height of the previous global GFC financial crisis, “I’m doing God’s Work”. In fact, I cannot disagree. Without sophisticated debt magic the pyramid of industrial civilization would have collapsed much sooner.

The population of the planet grew exponentially, and we just recently surpassed 8 billion people on the planet for a while. Paul R. Ehrlich published The Population Bomb in 1968. The book received similar intellectual reception to LtG and was recognized as a Malthusian propagation of fear and defeatism.

In 1959, Aldous Huxley published New World 30 years later: The divergence report. Even then he feared the consequences of overpopulation. His conclusions are being realized before our eyes. The mixture of Orwell’s 1984 and the original Brave New World is more and more obvious, only the proportions change. Orwell is increasingly dominating though, and “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength” is increasingly evident in current mass media hypnosis.

So who was responsible?

Politicians? People with sociopathic narcissistic disorders voted in to solve short-term problems? The Kissinger Report  was published in 1974 for the President Nixon administration reads:

23. The central question for world population policy in the year 1974, is whether mankind is to remain on a track toward an ultimate population of 12 to 15 billion – implying a five to seven-fold increase in almost all the underdeveloped world outside of China – or whether (despite the momentum of population growth) it can be switched over to the course of earliest feasible population stability – implying ultimate totals of 8 to 9 billions and not more than a three or four-fold increase in any major region.

24. What are the stakes? We do not know whether technological developments will make it possible to feed over 8 much less 12 billion people in the 21st century. We cannot be entirely certain that climatic changes in the coming decade will not create great difficulties in feeding a growing population, especially people in the LDCs who live under increasingly marginal and more vulnerable conditions. There exists at least the possibility that present developments point toward Malthusian conditions for many regions of the world.

The politicians knew perfectly well, at least the well-informed ones. As Deng Xiaoping, chairman of the Communist Party of China and architect of modern China, probably concluded that if China does not join the global economy relatively quickly, it will no longer have a chance to end the Age of Humiliation and “take a central position on the world stage”. In 1992, Fidel Castro delivered this speech at the Rio Environmental Conference.

Hunger and riots have been feared by politicians since ancient Egypt. Because who wants to end on the guillotine? Today, an eclipse is not enough to pacify riots. There are much better methods, as progress can be seen in every area. Alternatives to the horsemen of the apocalypse remain. Eugenics, euthanasia, and birth control were supposedly not humanistic enough.

Financial elites? These people were destined to make more money and power. They try their best playing in the sandbox of techno-utopia. The WEF Great Reset does not look promising either. Rather desperate, though logical. Likewise their contingency plans.

Scientists? In search of clues pointing to our destiny, we can also go back to the discoveries of Prigogin, Odum, Georgescu-Roegen and Lotka, great scientists who brought us closer to the knowledge of what life is. And modern authors describe with high precision our dependence on fossil energy to keep the population alive. Joseph Tainter, Matthieu Auzanneau, Craig Dilworth, Charles A.S. Hall, François Roddier, and many others, described how the world really works and the state it is in. They also failed. Apparently the printings were too small. Science has its own limits, regardless of the symptoms of progressive degeneration to which it is subject, like any large organization. Contemporary philosophers, however, dreamed of this future, but apparently they were not invited to breakfast TVs. Yet they were destined to rule Plato’s state.

Humanity? Each of us with internet access had the opportunity to find this knowledge. Some of us, however, preferred to watch cute cats or modern gladiators running on the trimmed lawn. Panem et circenses.

Philosophers? After all, philosophy, as a love of wisdom, was perhaps the most responsible for the awareness of human destiny. The philosophers were proto-scientists, only with progressing specialization migrated to the role of provincial humanists with an inclination to determine the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin. They also failed. As a result, most of humanity lives in Plato’s cave, waiting for the looming vengeance of Thomas Malthus, the first professor of political economy. What an irony.

Or maybe nobody is to blame, and humanity – as in the Greek tragedy – was destined to follow this last journey of Icarus from the beginning?

George Orwell in Shock

By Gaia Gardener: On Suffering

Buried in the comments of the last post we discussed human overshoot and what should be done about it. I proposed our goal should be to minimize suffering and that the best path to achieving this goal is awareness of Ajit Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory.

My view, in summary, is that when fully aware of the reality and implications of human overshoot, our best personal and collective responses become self-evident and require no coercion to implement. Conversely, when overshoot is denied, all of our best personal and collective responses are vehemently rejected as assaults on our rights and entitlements.

Unfortunately, our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities, as explained by MORT, blocks overshoot awareness. Therefore any progress in a good direction requires an understanding of MORT.

Put more bluntly, all environmental activists, climate changers, peak oilers, Gaia lovers, population reducers, etc. should be focused with Zen-like precision on MORT, and any other activity is a complete waste of time, as demonstrated by our zero progress on any substantive issue over the last 50 years since Limits to Growth was published.

Reader Gaia Gardener responded with some beautiful prose that I thought was a good reason to clear the decks and create this new post.

For useful background, the comment thread that motivated the following essay by Gaia Gardener begins here.

Upon gazing up at the starry night sky thoughts like these come to my mind–there must be some sentient life form and civilization somewhere in this vast universe that broke through this barrier of denial that causes suffering to self, other life forms, and their ultimate destruction of their planetary home. Just being able to internalize this gives me much peace and acceptance of my infinitesimally small but still conscious being. If I keep gazing, sometimes I can lose sense of self completely and just melt into a time/space/no and every mind. Fermi’s paradox may be the most probable explanation for our seemingly unique manifestation but in a near infinite cosmos, there is still a chance that we may not understand everything!

If we are not here, or even if we were never here, the vastness of the universe continues to be, the ultimate laws of physical construct still stand as foundational building blocks to all matter and life, and life forms will continue to evolve even if given the most minute opportunity. In light of these critical truths, our knowledge of it is an ego awareness and recognition of what always was and will be and which has been already recognized by eons of cultures in their own way of expression. From creation myths to quantum equations, it is all a finger pointing at the moon, a way of reaching the untouchable but the real mystery and awe lies in the experience of just being. I suppose what is most tragic to our species is that we may lose our own consciousness to reflect back on our understandings of our world, in a word, annihilation. But can we take solace in the knowledge that we are elemental stardust to begin with and will return to that state, and since our guiding laws tell us matter and energy are constantly changing form, that is what we must be also, moment by moment, if even there is something called time. Then it is not a far reach for me to accept death, but suffering is another matter. Our ability to experience suffering ourselves is the prerequisite of consciousness and to be aware of suffering in others and make a choice for relief is the core of our humanity.

I have of late, at this crossroad of our civilization, find myself asking “Has it all been worth the suffering?” The knowledge gained, the art expressed, the structures erected, the technology exploded, has it been worth what we have also wrought with the same force and energy, the destruction and injustice to our planet and other life forms, starting with our own species, closer kin than any other stardust in this vastness of space. For example, for JS Bach to be born and for us to experience the incomparable beauty of his music, was it worth whatever else had to pass for our civilization to bring forth such genius? Can another member of our Homo sapiens family, in destitution and hunger for generations oppressed, can they say our enjoyment of our highest pinnacle achievements was worth their suffering and their ancestors suffering and their children’s suffering at the hands of our dominant culture? What of their choice to relieve suffering if only we had used our energy in a different way that may have allowed them to reach their own developmental potential? I cannot lie to a deepest truth that it is only my judgment that deems one being more worthy than another, the universe has none. If we are uberconscious, then we will also know that the universe has no judgment on our beingness or existence, it is only us looking at and contemplating ourselves in the mirror for this briefest of constructs called space and time. But since we have developed this mind and we have created our microuniverse within the macro, it is our responsibility to finish what we began, on every level. Overshoot and its repercussions is the stage set for our generations, we cannot shirk from finishing the show we have written, directed, and acted in. But there is also more to our human existence, and from the earliest times our inner desire has been to find our meaning and place in this cosmos. The present is the only time we ever have to continually seek and refine for ourselves what resonates, only now it seems of greatest urgency, at least to me. Maybe being born in the age of overshoot collapse has refocussed this for all of us here. And I do agree that reduction of suffering is a noblest goal and can manifest in myriad ways; kindness is always our choice.

By Bill Rees: On the Virtues of Self-Delusion—or maybe not!

Dr. Bill Rees, Professor Emeritus from the University of British Columbia, gave a presentation on our overshoot predicament earlier this month to a zoom meeting of the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR).

I’m a longtime fan of Dr. Rees and consider him to be one of the most aware and knowledgeable people on the planet.

This is, I believe, the best talk I’ve seen by Dr. Rees and he covers all of the important issues, including topics like overpopulation that most of his peers avoid.

Presentations like this will probably not change our trajectory but nevertheless I find some comfort knowing there are a few other people thinking about the same issues. This can be a very lonely space.

The Q&A is also very good. I found it interesting to hear how much effort Dr. Rees has made to educate our leaders about what we should be doing to reduce future suffering. He was frank that no one to date, including the Green party, is open to his message. Not surprising, but sad. Also inspiring that someone of his stature is at least trying.

Summary

Climate-change and other environmental organizations urge governments to act decisively/rapidly to decarbonize the economy and halt further development of fossil fuel reserves. These demands arguably betray:

– ignorance of the role of energy in the modern economy;

– ill-justified confidence in society’s ability to transition to 100% green renewable energy;

– no appreciation of the ecological consequences of attempting to do so and;

– little understanding of the social implications.

Without questioning the need to abandon fossil fuels, I will argue that the dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion. Moreover, even if it were possible it would not solve climate change and would exacerbate the real existential threat facing society, namely overshoot.

I then explore some of the consequences and implications of (the necessary) abandonment of fossil fuels in the absence of adequate substitutes, and how governments and MTI society should be responding to these unspoken biophysical realities.

Biography

Dr. William Rees is a population ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus, and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning.

His academic research focuses on the biophysical prerequisites for sustainability. This focus led to co-development (with his graduate students) of ecological footprint analysis, a quantitative tool that shows definitively that the human enterprise is in dysfunctional overshoot. (We would need five Earth-like planets to support just the present world population sustainably with existing technologies at North American material standards.)

Frustrated by political unresponsiveness to worsening indicators, Dr. Rees also studies the biological and psycho-cognitive barriers to environmentally rational behavior and policies. He has authored hundreds of peer reviewed and popular articles on these topics. Dr. Rees is a Fellow of Royal Society of Canada and also a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute; a founding member and former President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics; a founding Director of the OneEarth Initiative; and a Director of The Real Green New Deal. He was a full member of the Club of Rome from 2013 until 2018. His international awards include the Boulding Memorial Award in Ecological Economics, the Herman Daly Award in Ecological Economics and a Blue Planet Prize (jointly with his former student, Dr. Mathis Wackernagel).

I left the following comment on YouTube:

I’m a fellow British Columbian and longtime admirer of Dr. Rees. Thank you for the excellent presentation.

I agree with Dr. Rees’ prescription for what needs to be done but I think there’s a step that must precede his first step of acknowledging our overshoot predicament.

Given the magnitude and many dimensions of our predicament an obvious question is why do so few people see it?

I found a theory by Dr. Ajit Varki that provides a plausible explanation, and answers other important questions about our unique species.

The Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory posits that the human species with its uniquely powerful intelligence exists because it evolved to deny unpleasant realities.

If true, this implies that the first step to any positive meaningful change must be to acknowledge our tendency to deny unpleasant realities.

Varki explains his theory here:

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-030-25466-7_6

A nice video summary by Varki is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqgYqW2Kgkg

My interpretations of the theory are here:
https://un-denial.com/denial-2/theory-short/

https://un-denial.com/2015/11/12/undenial-manifesto-energy-and-denial/

By Andrew Nikiforuk: Energy Dead-Ends: Green Lies, Climate Change and Chaotic Transitions

Canadian author and journalist Andrew Nikiforuk addressed our overshoot reality on November 17, 2021 at the University of Victoria.

It’s a brilliant must watch talk that touches on every important issue, except unfortunately Ajit Varki’s MORT theory and our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities. Nikiforuk does acknowledge that denial is an important force in our predicament.

It’s refreshing to find a journalist that understands what’s going on and that speaks plainly about what we must do.

Nikiforuk introduced a new idea (for me), the “technological imperium”:

…our biggest problem is a self-augmenting, ever-expanding technosphere, which has but one rule: to grow at any cost and build technological artifacts that efficiently dominate human affairs and the biosphere. The technological imperium consumes energy and materials in order to replace all natural systems with artificial ones dependent on high energy inputs and unmanageable complexity.

Nikiforuk seems to be implying that technology is the core problem and is driving the bus. Maybe. I think more likely advanced technology emerges as a consequence of unique intelligence (explained by MORT) coupled with fortuitous buried fossil energy, driven by a desire for infinite economic growth that arises from evolved behaviors expressing the Maximum Power Principle (MPP), all enabled by our genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities, which causes us to ignore the costs of growth and technology. Regardless of which is the chicken and which is the egg, Nikiforuk is correct that technology has made our society very fragile, and is harming our social fabric.

An example Nikiforuk provided of the technological imperium is British Columbia’s trend of replacing sustainable natural salmon runs in rivers with fish farms that are totally dependent on non-renewable fossil energy and advanced technology. I’ve witnessed this first hand on the coast of Vancouver Island and it makes me sick to my stomach. I also witnessed how hard it is to oppose the technological imperium when a political party here was elected on a promise to close fish farms and then reneged after being elected.

As an aside, the technological imperium idea gave me a new insight into the covid mass psychosis of most rich countries and their obsession with a single high tech “solution” to covid while aggressively opposing all other less energy intensive, less risky, and lower tech responses.  

Nikiforuk began his talk with a quote I like from C.S. Lewis:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

I observe sadly that this must watch video has only 160 views, 3 of which are mine. 😦

Here are a few other ideas and quotes I captured while watching the talk:

  • “We have all but destroyed this once salubrious planet as a life support system in fewer than 200 years mainly by making thermodynamic whoopee with fossil fuels.” – Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Our political class is in a complete state of denial and will not act until things get much worse. You can expect more blah blah blah.”
  • “Energy spending determines greenhouse gas emissions. We only want to talk about emissions, we need to talk about energy spending.”
  • “We must contract the global economy by at least 40%.”
  • “We can choose a managed energy decent, something few civilizations have ever achieved, or we can face collapse.”
  • “People who do not face the truth turn themselves into monsters”. – James Baldwin
  • “In sum, expect extreme volatility and political unrest in the years ahead along with atmospheric rivers, heat domes, and burning forests.”
  • “We are now at revolutionary levels of inequality everywhere.”
  • “We are being fed 5 green lies because we do not want to discuss economic growth and population:
    • dematerialize the economy;
    • direct air capture;
    • carbon capture and storage;
    • hydrogen;
    • electric cars.”
  • “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert
  • Conversations we avoid or deny:
    • Population
      • “There is no problem on earth that does not become easier to manage with fewer people. We don’t want to admit this, we don’t want to talk about this.”
      • We are currently using up the renewable resources of 1.7 earths and unless things change we’ll need 3 earths by 2050.
    • Energy Blindness
      • Our energy is so cheap and convenient it has blinded us to its true ecological, political, and social costs.
      • “Energy has always been the basis of cultural complexity and it always will be.” – Joseph Tainter
      • A single tomato today requires 10 tablespoons of diesel to grow it.
    • The Technosphere
      • An energy dissipating superorganism that destroys natural systems and replaces them with artificial systems dependent on high energy technologies.
        • Wild salmon running in rivers are replaced with fish farms.
        • Wetlands are replaced with water filtration projects.
        • Old growth forests are replaced with tree plantations.
      • Technology is to this civilization what the catholic church was to 14th century France, the dominant institution that controls every aspect of your life.
      • “A major fact of our present civilization is that more and more sin becomes collective, and the individual is forced to participate in collective sin.” – Jacques Ellul
      • “A low energy policy allows for a wide choice of lifestyles and cultures. If on the other hand a society opts for high energy spending its social relations must be dictated by technocracy and will be equally degrading whether labelled capitalist or socialist.” – Ivan Illich
    • Civilizations Do Collapse
      • Life is a cycle, it is not a linear path.
      • We have peaked and are now entering a phase of incredible volatility.
      • Every citizen needs to know the consequences of bad policy. Percent death on the Titanic by class was:
        • 39% first class
        • 58% second class
        • 76% steerage
  • What should you do with this awareness?
    • Withdraw from the fray of the Technosphere.
    • Do something to help preserve the natural world.
    • Get your hands dirty doing real work in nature.
    • Insist that creation has a value beyond utility.
      • “Think, less” – Wendell Berry
    • Build refuges and prepare for the storms ahead.
    • Wake each morning and ask yourself what you can give to this world rather than what you can take.
  • Comments and answers from the Q&A:
    • “The worst thing about the pandemic was that so many people and so many children were forced to spend so much time with colonizing machines.”
    • “We have to get a political conversation going about contracting the economy.” This won’t happen at the central government level but might happen within individual communities.
    • “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
    • “The only way we can get out of this mess without sacrificing millions and millions of people is to power down.”

Two weeks later, Nikiforuk reflected on his talk and responded to questions:

https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/12/06/Andrew-Nikiforuk-Getting-Real-About-Our-Crises/

Two weeks ago, I gave a talk at the University of Victoria arguing that our morally bankrupt civilization is chasing dead ends when it comes to climate change and energy spending.

I argued that by focusing on emissions, we have failed to acknowledge economic and population growth as the primary driver of those emissions along with the unrestrained consumption of natural systems that support all life.

I added that people plus affluence plus technology make a deadly algorithm that is now paving our road to collective ruin.

As Ronald Wright noted in his book A Short History of Progress, civilization is a pyramid scheme that depends on cancerous rates of growth.

I also explained that many so-called green technologies including renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage are not big solutions. Because they require rare earth minerals and fossil fuels for their production and maintenance, these technologies shift problems around.

In addition these green technologies cannot be scaled up in time to cut emissions or require too much energy to make any difference at all.

I also emphasized that our biggest problem is a self-augmenting, ever-expanding technosphere, which has but one rule: to grow at any cost and build technological artifacts that efficiently dominate human affairs and the biosphere. The technological imperium consumes energy and materials in order to replace all natural systems with artificial ones dependent on high energy inputs and unmanageable complexity.

This technological assault on the biosphere and our consciousness has greatly weakened our capacity to pay attention to what matters, let alone how to think. The result is a highly polarized and anxious society that can’t imagine its own collapse let alone the hazards of its own destructive thinking.

The best response to this constellation of emergencies is to actively shrink the technosphere and radically reduce economic growth and energy spending. Our political class can’t imagine such a conversation.

At the same time, communities and families must re-localize their lives, disconnect from the global machine and actively work to restore degraded ecosystems such as old-growth forests. Anyone who expects an “easy fix” or convenient set of solutions has spent too much time being conditioned by digital machines.

My cheerful talk generated scores of questions. There wasn’t time to answer them, so I selected five representative queries submitted via Zoom in the interest of keeping this heretical conversation going.

Growth in population tied to consumption is a big problem

Many listeners expressed disquiet about population growth being an essential part of the problem. “I am disappointed that once again Malthus has entered the room when the difference between per capita emissions for GHGs between the Global North and Global South are significant. Isn’t it how we live not how many of us there are?” asked one.

The real answer is uncomfortable. How we live and consume matters just as much as the growing density of our numbers combined with the proliferation of our machines that devour energy on our behalf. (Roads and cell phones all consume energy and materials too.) All three demographic issues are increasing at unsustainable rates and feed each other to propel more economic growth, more emissions and more fragility.

The world’s current population is 7.9 billion and grows by 80 million a year. It has slowed down in recent years because the affluent don’t need the energy of children as much as the poor. Even so civilization will add another billion to the planet every dozen years. Redistributing energy wealth (and emissions) from the rich to the poor will not avert disaster if human populations don’t overall decline.

Our numbers also reflect a demographic anomaly that began with fossil fuels, a cheap energy source that served as Viagra for the species. Prior to our discovery of fossil fuels, the population of the planet never exceeded one billion. Our excessive numbers are purely a temporary artifact of cheap energy spending and all that it entails — everything from fertilizer to modern medicine.

Isn’t capitalism the real threat?

Many questions revolved around the nature of capitalism. “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to denounce the capitalist organization of technology rather than technology as such for problems like polarization and fragmentation?”

No, it would not. Technology emphasizes growth and concentrates power regardless of the ideology.

Capitalism, like socialism and communism, is simply a way to use energy to create technologies that structure society in homogeneous ways. Removing capitalism from the equation would not change the totalitarian nature of technology itself. Or the ability of technologies to colonize local cultures anywhere.

Every ideology on Earth, to date, has used technologies to strengthen their grip on power by enmeshing their citizens in complexity and reducing humanity to a series of efficiencies. All have supported digital infrastructure to monitor and survey their citizens. As the sociologist Jacques Ellul noted long ago ideologies don’t count in the face of technological imperative.

What comes next?

Many listeners asked if “there is a sequel to the energy-rich market economy?” I have no crystal ball but here is my response.

There will always be some kind of sequel and it is not written. But there is no replacement for cheap fossil fuels and their density and portability. They made our complex civilization what it is. As fossil fuel resources become ever more expensive and difficult to extract (a reality the media ignores), the “rich market economy” will experience more volatility, inequality, disruptions, corruption and inflation. It is rare for any civilization to manage an energy descent without violence let alone grace.

“Can you say more about the connection between the technosphere and totalitarian societies?” asked one listener. “How do you see connections between dictatorships and the technosphere?”

This is a subject for a much longer essay. The technosphere, by definition, offers only one system of thinking and operating (triumph of technique over all endeavors) and has been eroding human freedoms for decades. It simply creates dependents or inmates. Social influencers now tell its residents what to buy and how to behave. As such the technosphere has become an all-encompassing environment for citizens whether they be so-called democracies or totalitarian societies.

The major difference between the two is simply the degree to which techniques have been applied to give the state more total control over its citizens. In both democratic societies and totalitarian ones, technical elites actively mine citizens for data so that information can be used to engineer, monitor and survey the behavior of their anxious and unhappy citizens in a technological society. (You can’t live in a technological society without becoming an abstraction.) The Chinese state does not hide its intentions; the West still clings to its illusions of freedom.

The technosphere corrupts language

One listener wanted to know “more about the empty language” employed by the technosphere as I mentioned in my talk.

Just as the technosphere has replaced bird song with digital beeps, the technological imperium has increasingly replaced meaningful language with techno-speak.

A world dominated by reductionist and mechanistic thinking has produced its own Lego-like language completely divorced from natural reality. Decades ago the German linguist Uwe Poerksen called this new evolving language “plastic words.”

They include words like environment, process, organization, structure, development, identity and care. All can be effortlessly combined to convey bullshit: “the development of the environment with care is a process.” This modular language creates its own tyranny of meaningless expression.

Experts, technicians, politicians and futurists employ this plastic language to baffle, confuse and obfuscate. Poerksen notes these words are pregnant with money, lack historical dimension and refer to no local or special place. This language, divorced from all context, does to thinking what a bulldozer does to a forest. It flattens it.

Hope is not a pill you take in the morning or a crumb left at the table

Last but not least many listeners asked how do we maintain hope in the face of so many emergencies, abuses and appalling political leadership?

“How do you get up in the morning?” typically asked one.

This frequent question confounds and puzzles me. My humble job as a journalist is not to peddle soft soap or cheerlead for ideologies and futurists. My job is not to manufacture hope let alone consent. I have achieved something small if I can help readers differentiate between what matters and what doesn’t and highlight the power implications in between.

Yet in a technological society most everyone seeks an easy, canned message pointing to a bright future. I cannot in good conscience tell anyone, let alone my own children, that the days ahead will be happy or bright ones. To everything there is a season and our civilization has now, step by step, entered a season of discord and chaos. History moves like life itself in a cycle of birth, life, death and renewal.

Jacques Ellul, who wrote prophetically about the inherent dangers of technological society, also addressed the need for authentic hope because it does not reside in the technosphere. The technosphere, a sterile prison, may promise to design your future with plastic words, but what it really offers is the antithesis of hope.

Ellul, a radical Christian, wrote deeply much about hope and freedom. He noted that hope never abandons people who care about a place and are rooted outside the technosphere for they will always know what to do by their real connection to real things. He adds that hope cannot be divorced from the virtues of faith and love. Like all virtues they must be quietly lived, not daily signalled.

For Ellul, hope was a combination of vigilant expectation, prayer and realism. “Freedom is the ethical expression of the person who hopes,” he once wrote.

Hope is living fully in a place you care about and acting against the abuse of power every day. Hope, in other words, is using every initiative “to restore the possibility of people making their own decisions.”

P.S. This talk inspired me to make my first donation to a news source, The Tyee, for which in 2010 Nikiforuk became its first writer in residence.

book review by AJ: Our One and Only Spaceship: Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis by Eric Pianka & Laurie Vitt (2019)

Thanks to AJ for contributing this book review.

https://oneandonlyspaceship.com/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/our-one-and-only-spaceship-eric-pianka/1133496721?ean=9781733030533

Publisher’s Summary

Ecologists Eric R. Pianka (University of Texas) and Laurie J. Vitt (University of Oklahoma) provide a scientific summary of the overpopulation crisis facing humanity and itemize its many consequences, including climate change (global warming), conservation biology, economic systems, energy and resource shortages, human instincts, immigration conflicts, politics, pollution, poverty, technological problems, and solutions needed. Their underlying thesis is that denial and delusion work synergistically to undermine our ability to confront these serious issues, and unless we undertake proactive measures now, overpopulation and its impact on resource competition and climate change will ultimately lead to the collapse of civilization.

Authors’ Overview

In Road to Survival 70 years ago, William Vogt tried to call attention to the human overpopulation crisis, but failed. Paul Ehrlich raised this issue again 20 years later but was also widely ignored. We wish to re-open this long overdue and much needed discussion about population, a toxic topic that politicians globally avoid. We have written a book “Our One and Only Spaceship:Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis.” We are two well-known ecologists Eric R. Pianka (University of Texas) and Laurie J. Vitt (University of Oklahoma).

Our book is based on a great deal of research that we have conducted into the topic and on a course that Pianka taught. http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/THOC/

We have edited and written books together, both scientific and semi-popular. Using fact-based analyses, we make the case that human population size and growth is the greatest threat to human survival, and that most if not every major global problem (including spread of AIDS and other communicable diseases, wars and other conflicts, climate change and in particular global warming, food water and energy shortages, poverty, political unrest, pollution, extinctions, etc.) are all direct results of overpopulation. Our birth rate far exceeds our death rate and the current global population of 7.7 billion in itself is unsustainable even without additional growth. This has put us on a collision course with disaster. It is perilous to remain in denial about all of the threats emanating from overpopulation.

As we become ever more and more desperate in trying to provide resources necessary to meet critical demands, our environmental problems will only worsen as we continue to deregulate thus allowing increased exploitation of dwindling natural resources. The thin skin of life on our planet is seriously threatened by the actions of a single species, Homo sapiens. Remarkably, even with our putative high intelligence, we don’t seem to be able to even admit that the problem is population such that discussions can begin on how to stop population growth. One thing is certain, it must and will stop—either we can do it through a series of logical steps (educating the public, coming up with a global plan, implementing the plan), or it will occur as the result of a combination of wars over resources, spread of infectious disease, or even famine. Such a discussion will have a greater impact on human survival than any of the many news stories currently dominating our media.

Overpopulation has only one outcome, and we have all seen it when mold takes over an orange—unlike mold growing on an orange, we do not have another “orange” to which we can send our offspring (There is no planet B). We are fully aware that discussions on population are “politically incorrect” and will be extremely sensitive to many people (especially religious groups) who take up arms in response to any discussion to limit reproduction. The ultimate biological reason for this response is simply that our genes control much of what we do, and reproduction is the currency of future generations. A more proximate reason is simply that our hormonal systems kick in when we reach puberty and all reason is washed away in the maelstrom of hormonal activity pushing us to reproduce. We must do something — ignoring our pressing problem and expecting it to go away is like hoping in vain to win the mega-lottery.

AJ’s Review

This is my brief review of the book, “Our One and Only Spaceship” subtitled “Denial, Delusion and the Population Crisis” written by Drs. Eric Pianka and Laurie Vitt. Copyright 2019.

I came across this book through one of the comments on your website. Since it was one of the few books that concerned population (in the title) I decided to buy it and read it.

The authors are ecologists. Dr. Eric Pianka is a Professor at UT Austin and Dr. Laurie Vitt is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. The forward was by Paul & Anne Ehrlich.

I overall liked the book. My feeling is that it is somewhat like Tom Murphy’s book and was intended for an intro college course in ecology/sustainability (without the math). That said I never had the impression that the authors were talking down to the reader.

There is some hope in this book. “This generation will be the last with decision-making powers to save our spaceship for all future earth-lings, including human beings.” But as the authors state in the Prologue, “The problem can be easily framed in three words, population, population, and population.” Human civilization is in overshoot and that we in the west are living far beyond the carrying capacity of the planet is covered in detail. So, the problem is both overshoot and population.  

There is an acknowledgement that denial and optimism bias are part of our problem. But, I think that the authors are also in a little denial, “If humans are to survive into the next century, we need to reduce population growth, convert to renewable energy sources, use much less energy overall, and develop a plan for the future this is based on fact and not on fiction.” Their opinion is that we can maintain much of our technology (through “green” tech transition) and slowly reduce population with education and enlightenment. I don’t know if they really believe this or like Tom Murphy need to give students something positive to live for in the face of a depressing predicament.

Don’t get me wrong. This book touched all the right notes and I only disagreed with a tiny bit of it. I thought that the preface/into to the last chapter was perhaps the best quote I have seen on our place in the universe (other than Rob’s quote):

“Man did not have forever to harness the forces of the sun and stars. The Sun was an elderly light, long past the turbulent heat of youth, and would some day join the senile class of once-luminiferous bodies. In some incredibly remote time a chance collision might blow it up again into incandescent gas and start a new local cosmic cycle, but of man there would be no trace. In Balfours’s terms, he “will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a brief space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at rest. Matter will know itself no longer. ‘Imperishable monuments’ and ‘immortal deeds,’ death itself, and love stronger than death, will be as though they had never been. Nor will anything that IS be better or worse for all that labour, genius, devotion and suffering of man have striven through countless generation to effect.” –Homer Smith (1952) “Man and His Gods” and Earl Balfour (1895) “Foundations of Belief”

Eric Pianka on Kurt Vonnegut‘s Requiem:

From a presentation by Eric Pianka:

By Neil Halloran: A Skeptical Look at Climate Science

I haven’t had time to write a new essay, and I wanted a new post so newcomers don’t assume un-Denial.com has shifted its focus to Covid, which is a confusing space populated by crazy people assigning complex global conspiracies to a bunch of incompetent and sometimes corrupt leaders.

Thank you to reader Frank White for providing a good reason for a quick post with a new video by Neil Halloran on climate change.

It’s my first exposure to Halloran and I’m really impressed. He targets people that are skeptical of climate change and does an amazing job of leading them to conclude we are in serious trouble and must act.

I left this comment on his YouTube channel:

Brilliant content and production! This is best video I’ve seen for persuading climate change skeptics that we are in serious trouble. Thank you.

Your next step should be to address the human genetic tendency to deny unpleasant realities.

https://un-denial.com/denial-2/theory-video/

By Jean-Marc Jancovici: Will technology save us from Climate Change?

Brilliant new talk by my favorite alien engineer, Jean-Marc Jancovici.

If you only have 90 minutes to spare, and you want to understand everything that matters about how the world works, and the nature of our overshoot predicament, and what we need to do to minimize future suffering, then this talk is the best use of your time.

spoiler alert: the answer is no

https://www.media.mit.edu/events/will-technology-save-us-from-climate-change/

Bio: 

Jean-Marc Jancovici is an advisor to the French government on climate change and energy as part of the French High Council for Climate. He is a founding partner of Carbon 4, a Paris-based data consultancy specializing in low carbon transition and the physical risks of climate change (www.carbone4.com). He is also the founder and president of The Shift Project, a Paris-based think tank advocating for a low carbon economy (www.theshiftproject.org). Jean-Marc Jancovici also serves as an associate professor at Mines ParisTech.

Abstract:

The thermo-industrial development of our society has been possible due to resource extraction and the transformation of our environment. Unfortunately, it has led to severe environmental consequences that humanity is experiencing around the globe: shifting and unpredictable climate, extreme weather events, and biodiversity collapse. Humanity is paying the consequences for technical and technological progress. Thus, can technology still save us from climate change?

Jean-Marc Jancovici will address this question through the paradigm of energy. He will first detail how modern society is structured around thermal and nuclear energies, and will then discuss the impact of this structure on global climate and society. Finally, Jean-Marc Jancovici will conclude by exploring the trade-offs between economic growth and sustainable climate stewardship.

Slides: https://fr.slideshare.net/JoelleLeconte/jancovici-mit-media-lab-23022021/1

By Tim Garrett: Jevon’s Paradox: Why increasing energy efficiency will accelerate global climate change

CO2 vs. COP

Thank you to X for finding this new talk by professor Tim Garrett.

Garrett has developed the most significant and useful theory for explaining the relationship between climate change and the economy.

In this talk, Garrett explains his theory and tears a strip off climate scientists for their unscientific beliefs.

Garrett, in the Q&A, discusses the disgraceful manner that climate scientists have responded to his theory. I think the fact that almost all climate scientists ignore or deny Garrett’s theory is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence in support of Varki’s MORT theory.

Paraphrasing Garrett, an educated person would not infer from the above plot that human agency has an impact on climate trajectories. Instead, a naive person might reasonably conclude that CO2 emissions are caused by COP climate change accords. 🙂

Garrett used to summarize the conclusion of his theory as:

US$1 (1990) = 9.7 mW

Garrett is now expressing the same conclusion as:

5.8 gigawatts = US$1 trillion (2010)

Garrett observes that a single atmospheric chemist stationed on Mauna Loa would more accurately measure global GDP than the tens of thousands of idiot economists we employ.

GDP vs. CO2

One component of Biden’s climate change plan calls for more efficient appliances, machines, and buildings. Garrett shows that this piece of Biden’s plan will make climate change worse because the more efficient we are, the more we grow.

Garrett does not discuss it, but Biden’s plan would help if we tax away all of the savings that result from improved efficiency and use the taxes to pay down public debt. Biden of course would not have been elected if he included this in his plan.

Garrett also does not discuss the simplest solution for reducing CO2 emissions, which one person at a keyboard can implement: increase the interest rate. Garrett’s theory predicts a higher interest rate will reduce emissions because our wealth would reduce through defaults.

Garrett correctly observes that our current path of trying to switch to renewable energy will increase the combustion of fossil energy, but he doesn’t add the important caveat, until fossil energy depletion collapses our economy.

Garrett remains blind to one key piece of the puzzle: The depletion of affordable fossil energy has created a global debt bubble because the cost of extracting fossil energy is now higher than what consumers can afford. When this debt bubble pops, our wealth and CO2 emissions will decline, a lot. Curious minds want to know if the bubble will pop soon and fast enough to retain a climate compatible with a much poorer civilization.

My take away: The only path to maintaining our wealth and reducing CO2 emissions in time to possibly prevent a climate incompatible with civilization is to switch to nuclear power more quickly than we can possibly afford. And so our wealth will decline regardless of what we do.

One path, if we somehow breakthrough our genetic tendency to deny reality, might be a managed and civil decline. The other path will be chaotic and uncivil.

The Homer Simpson Climate Change Plan

You can find more work by Garrett that I’ve posted here.

P.S. I note from the title slide that economist Steve Keen was a collaborator. Steve Keen, in case you’re not aware, is one of the only economists on the planet with a clue. The behavior of economists differs from climate scientists in that idiocy explains the former and denial the latter. Here is some of Steve Keen’s work that I’ve posted.

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.