Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XVII

Steve Bull (
3 min readJun 1, 2021
Teotihuacan, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

‘Renewables’ and the Overton Window That Ignores Biophysical Realities

‘Renewables’. They will save us! This is one of the most common beliefs being bandied about by the ruling class and especially those that stand to profit from a shift to them in an attempt to power our complex society. I would argue, however, that we are not being told some uncomfortable truths about such a shift. Here is my comment to a Tyee article that discusses the city of Vancouver’s plan to address air pollution.

“…shifting industrial power sources from coal to renewables…”

As Mike Tyson is credited with saying: “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.”

And the face punch here is the fact that many industrial processes cannot be shifted to renewables — to say little about the fact that renewables also rely heavily upon the industrial processes that depend upon fossil fuels and simply externalise the pollutants/ecological destruction required to ‘energise’ technology.

Here are a handful of articles that explain why alternatives are inadequate for significant industrial processes we rely upon:

But let’s be frank, the Overton Window being forced upon this discussion (i.e., the only choice for our energy-intensive society is to shift from fossil fuels to ‘renewables’), including by many journalists, completely ignores some harsh realities, such as biophysical limits on a finite planet and thermodynamics. The assumption seems to be always that we can only fight climate change (ignoring all the other ecologically-destructive consequences of our constant pursuit of growth) by shifting away from fossil fuels (a high-density and easily transportable fuel that supports almost everything about our globalised and industrial complex world) to ‘renewable’ forms of energy (that are not truly renewable and especially not ‘green/clean’).

Where is the discussion about NOT pursuing a business-as-usual pursuit of growth and an energy-intensive society? Where is the discussion about degrowth? Where is the discussion about our fundamental problems, especially overshoot? Where is the discussion about perhaps moving towards a low-tech society that requires little to no environmentally-destructive energy sources and finite resources? Where is the discussion about challenging the pursuit of the infinite growth chalice? Where is the discussion challenging the constant refrain by the ruling class that growth is only beneficial? Where is the discussion about maybe, just maybe, we need to rethink quite seriously our entire way of life and not pursue business-as-usual with just a simple ‘tweak’ of energy sources? And, where is the discussion that our media and its journalists in ignoring these hard questions are contributing to our dilemmas by proliferating false, misleading, and very likely quite harmful beliefs?

Most (all?) discussions about reducing fossil fuel use are comforting narratives that help to reduce our mass cognitive dissonance that is created when one realises that our lifestyles/complex society cannot continue as it is on a finite planet. We tell ourselves and others that our human ingenuity (especially via technology and ‘science’) will save us without realising that all we are doing is avoiding the really tough decisions that need to be made, individually and collectively.

I would argue most of this is because of the constant propaganda by the globe’s ruling class that is working hard to control/expand the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams (one of the most ‘profitable’ here being taxation — something every society sees increase significantly as it nears its collapse due to increasing diminishing returns and the powers-that-be’s attempt to keep their privileges intact), with the latest approach here to shift capital from an unsustainable and ecologically-destructive enterprise (fossil fuel use) to another enterprise (‘renewable’ energy use) but that is equally unsustainable and ecologically-destructive — but it will increase profits considerably for a time.

The masses are being sold a story. It is a comforting story and most will accept it without question. But scratch below its surface even gently and you will see that the emperor has no clothes.

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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...