Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLV

Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)
7 min readOct 23, 2023
Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Planetary Boundaries, Narrative Management, and Technology

As I continue to work on Part 4 of my multipart Contemplation regarding energy blindness (see: Part 1 Medium, Part 2 Medium, Part 3 Blog Medium), I offer a handful of recent comments I shared on a variety of posts I’ve been reading.

One posted to a Degrowth Group I am a member of:

AP: It is the carbon risk that is existential. All the others are nice to have after you have reduced the carbon risk. Don’t allow this sort of propaganda to divert or dilute the required focus.

CS: obviously emissions are a significant threat but when we focus on climate change as the most significant we end up, as the majority currently do, looking to technology for solutions. Ecological overshoot is the master predicament. This means degrowth in energy and material consumption (less technology) and population reduction should be the key ways forward.

I highly recommend this talk by Bill Rees of Ecological Footprint fame. Cheers

https://youtu.be/QhhI9TF8K2k?feature=shared

MK: William R. Catton…

SE: Economic and then the following fertilizer/ pumped water/ food availability collapse as energy and materials slip away will tend to hurt us first. Many countries are already in the early stages of collapse. Lebanon, Argentina, Pakistan, etc.

Me: There are a number of planetary boundaries that have been broached because of our ecological overshoot. They all pose an existential risk and a number have been identified as being worse off than carbon emissions…the focus needs to be on all of them.

There’s this one on an oilprice.com article posted in the Peak Oil Facebook Group I am a member of:

Me: I have to wonder about the ‘accuracy’ of the article and its ‘conclusions’ (well, actually, prognostications as it’s about possibilities, not actualities). Bloomberg and Reuters, the two mainstream media outlets cited, are both extremely Western-biased. And we know the West would love to see cracks in the BRICS growing alliance so why not float the ‘news’ that such divisions are appearing based, naturally, on unnamed/anonymous sources. If we have learned anything from the recent decades of mainstream media reporting, it is that it has become little more than a propaganda arm for our ruling elite…

And this one in the same group:

Me: Just as fracking was, the profit-makers/-takers have spun several narratives to entice investments — both capital and retail. Believers have, once again, trusted the untrustworthy and fallen for the con failing to understand that our energy-intensive living has never been sustainable on a finite planet regardless of our ingenuity and technological prowess. All we’re doing by chasing the unicorn of ‘renewables’ is expediting our journey over the energy cliff while contributing evermore to our ecological overshoot. Sad on so many levels.

LM: totally agree with that. The question is…what’s next

Me: Economic collapse. Rise of authoritarian/totalitarian government. War. Increasingly degraded ecological systems. Destitution for more and more people. See these: https://stevebull-4168.medium.com/todays-contemplation-collapse-cometh-lix-800413db180a; and, https://stevebull-4168.medium.com/todays-contemplation-collapse-cometh-lxxxv-ffe437ffd811.

My question posted in this group:

Wonder how long it will take for the discussions about Peak Oil to go fully mainstream once the Strait of Hormuz is closed off???

Comments:

SH: I expect the many manifestations of natural limits will likely end up being used as vehicles for scapegoating, to promote non-sequitur ideological agendas, and with examples of Overshoot being seen as isolated phenomenon, rather than part of a broader problem. People are already seeing global climate that way, so it stands to reason that Peak Oil will just give them one more thing regarding which they can petition governments and big corporations to solve for them. I have yet to encounter a climate activist who has seriously considered what people can do to address the problem by way of changing personal behaviors, as opposed to technological fixes and policy changes offering a “plug and play” solution. The notion of a wicked problem in which mitigation might involve a paradigm shift in collective behaviors and expectations is not on anyone’s radar.

Me: Yes, I agree that all sorts of narratives will be constructed — especially by the ruling elite and associated profit-makers/-takers — to leverage our energy fall/descent in advantageous ways to their goals. They will certainly be a lot of ‘othering’ going forward as our ‘leadership’ attempts to deflect blame/responsibility/focus on them and their wayward ways.

LM: predicament

DI: We blame the symptoms not the disease.

Me: True enough. A lot will be blamed on those ‘undemocratic/despotic’ regimes that are keeping us from their hydrocarbons…you know, because they ‘hate our freedom’.

SMK: It will never go mainstream. Anything but it will be blamed for conserving of remaining reserves: climate change [sic], unfolding warfare in Middle East, Biden falling down some steps, Swift and Kelce, whatever…NEVER peak oil.

Me: Perhaps. There are and have been a growing number attempting to raise the concept and implications of Peak Oil but as will likely continue to be the case the ‘influential’ narrative managers of society (those that work on behalf of the world’s elite and can shout through our politicians and mainstream media outlets) will continue to weave their competing stories, especially those flaunting human ingenuity and technological ‘solutions’ to our dilemma. That is, until the truth of PO and the insanity of chasing infinite growth on a finite planet are eventually so obvious that they can no longer be pushed to the margins and the saner voices of warning begin to turn more and more heads; not all, probably not even a lot, but I wager to guess at least increasing numbers.

I don’t believe our ruling elite will ever admit to PO and the inadvisability of chasing the perpetual growth chalice or turn towards degrowing our existence for that would mean removing the gravy train that provides their revenue streams and thus positions of power/influence and prestige. No, they will likely insist on the path of exacerbating our Overshoot while getting their propagandists to double/triple down on the tales of a technologically-based transition to a ‘clean/green’ utopia.

I think we can see part of the narrative plan going forward is to highlight the concept of Peak Demand as opposed to Peak Supply. Demand for hydrocarbons has peaked because everyone is already transitioning to the ‘Electrification of Everything Plan’ with their electric vehicle purchases and investments in non-renewable, renewable energy-harvesting technologies…only the reality indicates that this tale is nonsense and hydrocarbon extraction and use is increasing along with these technologies resulting in an exacerbation of our overshoot predicament.

Throw our currently increasing morass of geopolitical gamesmanship on top of an already deadly dead-end trajectory and that jump off the Seneca Cliff of energy decline seems further and further in the rear-view mirror — along with all the ecological systems destruction we can’t help but compound in our desire to control our destiny.

But, yeah, let’s all go see the Taylor Swift movie to deny the death of our world just a bit longer and sing along, holding hands as gravity takes hold. Such is the way of these story-telling apes who will do and believe almost any and everything to avoid/deny reality and the anxiety-provoking thoughts it raises.

Recently released:

It Bears Repeating: Best Of…Volume 1

A compilation of writers focused on the nexus of limits to growth, energy, and ecological overshoot.

With a Foreword and Afterword by Michael Dowd, authors include: Max Wilbert; Tim Watkins; Mike Stasse; Dr. Bill Rees; Dr. Tim Morgan; Rob Mielcarski; Dr. Simon Michaux; Erik Michaels; Just Collapse’s Tristan Sykes & Dr. Kate Booth; Kevin Hester; Alice Friedemann; David Casey; and, Steve Bull.

The document is not a guided narrative towards a singular or overarching message; except, perhaps, that we are in a predicament of our own making with a far more chaotic future ahead of us than most imagine–and most certainly than what mainstream media/politics would have us believe.

Click here to access the document as a PDF file, free to download.

If you’ve made it to the end of this contemplation and have got something out of my writing, please consider ordering the trilogy of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai (PDF files; only $9.99 Canadian), via my website — the ‘profits’ of which help me to keep my internet presence alive and first book available in print (and is available via various online retailers).

You can also find a variety of resources, particularly my summary notes for a handful of texts, especially Catton’s Overshoot and Tainter’s Collapse: see here.

NOTE: Beginning to post these thoughts of mine also on my website. I began a couple of years ago posting them on Medium exclusively but have found that their subscription practices are somewhat restrictive. I will attempt to post one of my previous Contemplations per day on my website until I am caught up…in the meantime, I will be posting all new Contemplations in both locations.

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Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)

A guy trying to make sense of a complex and seemingly insane world. Spend my days pondering our various predicaments while practising local food production...