Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CXXVII

Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)
3 min readMay 8, 2023
Mexico (1988). Photo by author.

Local Self-Reliance Is Imperative To Pursue In Light Of Ecological Overshoot

Today’s Contemplation is the sharing of a brief comment I made to The Honest Sorcerer’s latest post.

Yes, it seems increasingly clear that we are in a predicament with only outcomes ahead of us — there is no ‘solution’ to ecological overshoot and its myriad of symptoms that we think we can solve via our ingenuity and technological prowess regardless of how much we wish to.

Our biological imperative to procreate and expand coupled with our tendency towards denial of reality via magical thinking has led us down an unsustainable path from which there seems to be no escape from Nature’s inevitable wrath (i.e., corrective measures to bring us and the planet back into some form of ‘balance’ from homo sapiens’ destructive overshoot that has been ‘energised’ by our leveraging of fossil fuels).

Emboldened by our ‘successes’, particularly the past couple of centuries and very much due to the surplus net energy fossil fuels have provided, we have lost sight of our connections to and dependence upon the natural world. Not only the constraints of thermodynamic laws and finite resources, but the biogeophysical ones that impact all species.

Throw on top of this the psychological mechanisms that keep us from perceiving these phenomena and the tendency of the dominant, story-telling apes amongst us to leverage them in their own self-interests by creating magical narratives of ‘hope’ (all the while increasing their revenue streams), and we have the perfect storm of pursuing maladaptive practices that simply exacerbate our situation.

This doesn’t mean that mitigating actions cannot be pursued but there does seem to be nothing that can be done to maintain modern, industrial civilisation and/or all of its energetic conveniences (i.e., modern, finite resource-dependent technologies). Pre/history has shown again and again that it’s only a matter of time before a complex society that has encountered diminishing returns on the resources that sustain its complexities returns to a far more simple existence. And this time we have the additional predicament of ecological overshoot to complicate our journey into an uncertain future.

Finally, your post reminds me of my conclusion at the end of a two-part post (That Uncertain Road) I penned several months ago on this very topic and that also suggests that the perception of ‘collapse’ is very much dependent upon one’s interpretation (Part 1; Part 2):

“Depending upon one’s perspective and thus interpretive lens, these various changes could be viewed as shifts for the better and not cataclysmic as many suggest. For example, less stratification and social regimentation may appeal to many who perceive our governing elite as far more on the authoritarian/totalitarian end of the political spectrum than they would like, and/or hope for a more equitable world in which social class plays a reduced or nonexistent role.

On the other hand, less economic and occupational specialisation, sharing, trading, redistribution of resources, and overall coordination and organisation necessarily implies that not only will populations depend far more on the skills and knowledge of their more localised communities/regions but also upon the local resources and organisational abilities.

This local self-reliance aspect I can see as a problem for many communities. And it may be especially so for modern society and its dependence upon technologies that will break down and/or become unusable due to their fuel/power requirements. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of regions depend significantly upon trade (or energy-averaging systems) to ensure such necessities as potable water, food, and regional shelter needs, and few if any people hold the skills/knowledge for self-sufficiency and it seems certain mass chaos will ensue.”

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.

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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...