Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXIX

Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)
4 min readJan 3, 2023
Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

We’re Knee Deep In Ecological Overshoot

Another brief contemplation this morning that I put together in response to a post that appeared on a Facebook Group I help to administer. One of our moderators works diligently within the ‘system’ in an attempt to persuade some of the ruling caste to embrace degrowth strategies. While a very noble endeavour, we disagree on the ability of this to bring about meaningful changes.

She posted the following introduction to the image below:

“This is a quote from a friend with an exceptionally high IQ, he has encouraged me ever since I started my Degrowth divining efforts. His Twitter feed is both fascinating and thought provoking, look for JamesCMorrow; he is an expert in Nudge theory and he assures me that the paradigm shift to a united aspiration for altruistic Degrowth is already well underway. Your feedback on the idea expressed in the image below is invited.”

My feedback:

While a lovely sentiment that many will certainly grasp onto and embrace in their attempts to reduce anxiety-provoking thoughts, the harsh reality is that we are probably far too deeply into ecological overshoot that even if we reach a tipping point in the population whereby a cooperative (and agreed upon — the truly difficult (unachievable?) part) mentality sweeps the planet — and not one the ruling caste develops/implements since their plans are always simply a leveraging of crises to control/expand their positions of power and prestige, despite the constant propaganda/marketing that what they do is for the benefits of the hoi polloi — the fact is we are in a predicament that can only be mitigated, not solved (not even, as some argue, if we were to experience an even more drastic population reduction than the 50% as was Thanos’s plan in the Marvel Comics Universe movies).

We have painted ourselves into a corner from which there appears no escape (as I would argue most evidence suggests). Rather than focus our energies (and resources) on unattainable ‘enlightenment’, I’d prefer to see — while we have the quickly diminishing resources — a decommissioning of the dangerous complexities we’ve created (e.g., nuclear power plants and their waste products; biosafety labs and their pathogens; chemical production and storage facilities and their toxins; armament factories and their weapons; etc.) and a concerted effort to push self-sufficiency based upon local and truly renewable resources for as many as possible to help them weather the coming storm. Unfortunately, I no more see this coming down the pike than global cooperation — apart from a few small communities pursuing self-reliance.

Whether any of humanity makes it out the other side of the ecological bottleneck we’ve created is in all likelihood well out of our hands for the biogeochemical limits, physical laws, and biological principles will always, in the end, trump human ‘ingenuity’, ‘technology’, and ‘cooperation’ — especially if the last 10,000 years of our existence is any indication. Human societies grow, increase in complexity, over-exploit their surroundings, encounter significant diminishing returns on their investments in complexity, then eventually (and always) decline and perish. This time, however, this recurrent phenomenon is global in nature — thank you fossil fuels.

We do not and have never stood apart from, outside of, or above the biosphere and its biophysical nature (especially the limits imposed by a finite planet), no matter how much we would like to believe or wish otherwise. For as Guy McPherson has argued: Nature bats last. And nature’s method for rebalancing a species that has shot well past its natural environmental carrying capacity and the waste products produced from its expansion and existence cannot, no matter how much we’d like, be avoided or put off indefinitely. The piper must always and eventually be paid, and s/he is getting ever closer…

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...