Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CVIII

Steve Bull (
5 min readMar 13, 2023
Teotihuacan, Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

‘Hope’ Is A Two-Edged Sword

The following Contemplation arose from two brief responses to comments left by readers on my last two Contemplations.

Conversation on this post:

JT: It’s just (sadly not yet enough) common sense, really.
SB: Much has been lost for a variety of reasons, perhaps most notably because of our ‘success’ in leveraging fossil fuels to do much of our heavy lifting.
JT: You mean much of our common sense has been lost?
SB: Going to respond in a longer way via a future Contemplation. Thanks for making me think about/reflect upon this topic with your question.

My response:
The term ‘common sense’ and its meaning seems to depend very much on the sociohistorical context one finds oneself in. While typically referring to ‘sound judgement based upon a careful consideration of the facts’, the interpretation of ‘facts’ can be as fuzzy as what is ‘normally’ thought of as ‘sound judgement’.[1]

What one might think of as ‘common sense’ therefore depends greatly on one’s interpretive lens.

I may believe it makes great ‘common sense’ — based upon the ‘facts’ as I know them — to relocalise all of our basic living needs (i.e., water procurement, food production, shelter needs).

But someone who holds a different set of ‘facts’ — such as that human ingenuity and technological prowess can solve any problem/predicament that arises — may hold it is ‘common sense’ to ‘spend’ all of our remaining finite resources looking for some technological solution to address ecological overshoot and its many disastrous symptoms.

Our past successes in addressing apparent problems, primarily as a result of leveraging fossil fuels, has led a sociohistorical context in which most of humanity — and certainly the vast majority in so-called ‘advanced’ economies — perceive problematic issues as entirely ‘solvable’ via our sociocultural institutions (e.g., economics, geo/politics, science, etc.). There is little consideration for the physical, biological, and ecological aspects of the situation. When such acknowledgement arises, it is typically in the form of problem-solving via sociocultural manipulations — particularly using complex technologies — or narrative management to deny/bargain with/rationalise away the issue.

I suppose all of this signals an increasing divergence among humans in what is perceived as ‘common sense’. Which, it would seem to me, is a direct consequence of almost 8 billion of us living in complex societies with a wide variety of sociocultural phenomena impacting our interpretation of our universe. Sometimes it’s hard enough to get just two people living in the same dwelling to view things the same way…

Conversation on this post.

RL: well, if you put it like that then they’ll believe there is zero point in trying. why give up all that privilege if it’s for a lost cause? if there is no hope there will be no response.

My response: ‘Hope’ is a two-edged sword, and can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

For some it is as you suggest: the only reason to carry on. But this way tends to lead to the belief that others (especially those within our political systems) and technology will ‘solve’ the predicament of ecological overshoot and its various symptoms. I consider this to be false hope and a form of hope that often, if not always, results in a lack of positive action/behaviour: it leads to prolongation of the status quo, business-as-usual systems that includes continued ecological destruction and putting the planet further into overshoot.

For others it is a clarion call resulting in a change of behaviour. For if we acknowledge that the complexities and energetic conveniences we currently depend upon have a very limited lifespan that is quickly approaching their expiration date, and prepare ourselves for that eventuality, then behavioural changes and actions — that can help mitigate the simplification that will accompany this — can be pursued.

Without moving to acceptance, people tend to continue to remain in the denial/bargaining stages of grieving. And this is not what we likely need to address the coming storm. In fact, it seems to be exacerbating our predicament as we chase the very technologies that have significantly contributed to it in the first place.

JT: the issue is mitigation….we are very privileged people….there are billions who are not, and they live in the worst areas for what is coming. so, the goal, imo, is to try and make life as liveable for as many as possible for as long as possible. take away hope, and regardless of what anyone says, psychologically people will give in and it will result in chaos and anarchy sooner rather than later.

also, I think it would be wise for the sharpest minds who have done the math and can see our Predicament very clearly to try and hold some place in their vision of the future for the extraordinary, the inexplicable, or the bizarre…..that alone will keep hope alive

JT: fake hope until we make it…

My response: The biology, physics, and pre/history spells out pretty clearly where we are in all likelihood headed (obviously no 100% guarantees on what the future holds). And while I understand the desire “to try and make life as liveable for as many as possible for as long as possible”, depending upon what this means and requires, it may end up making things far worse in the end not only for any humans that might make it out the other side of the ecological bottleneck we’ve created for ourselves but for all the other species on our planet. Only time will tell how this latest evolutionary experiment will play out…

JT: “in all likelihood” — nothing is guaranteed, therefore….give hope a chance….why not….if there is an element of doubt, and there always is, why give up on hope?

My response: I think we interpret and define ‘hope’ differently. In fact, I spell out very clearly what I ‘hope’ for.

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). Encouraging others to read my work is also much appreciated.

[1] See this.



Steve Bull (

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...