Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XXIII

Steve Bull (
4 min readJun 28, 2021
Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

‘Clean Energy’ and the Stages of Grieving

Today’s thought was motivated by another Tyee article that carries on the notion of ‘clean energy’ and the ‘magical thinking’ needed to buy into such narratives.

As long as language is being manipulated (e.g., ‘clean energy’ is a gargantuan oxymoron), magical thinking employed (e.g., ‘green hydrogen’ or some iteration of it has been on the books for 2+ centuries and is still far, far away, if ever, given the physical and economic hurdles/roadblocks), and fundamental causes of our dilemmas conveniently ignored (e.g., our pursuit of the infinite growth chalice on a finite planet), the ‘solutions’ we so desperately seek will always elude us (if they even exist).

Despite relatively general recognition of humanity’s impending ‘challenges’, we continue to follow the ‘Business-As-Usual’ (BAU) scenario painted for us by Meadows et al. in their 1972 Limits to Growth. Our ‘leaders’ talk a good talk but the reality (given the obvious lack of ‘progress’ in mitigating our issues and their increasingly probable negative consequences) is that we have painted ourselves into a corner from which we apparently cannot extricate ourselves (except through some very convoluted narrative creations).

There is overwhelming and increasing evidence that there is a significant reckoning in terms of energy decline (and various other resources) in our future, regardless of our wishes, ingenuity, and technology. The complexities of our globalised, just-in-time, and highly resource-dependent industrialised societies are losing their support systems in terms of the resources they require. We have encountered significant diminishing returns on our investments and can no longer ‘afford’ them. All the talk of ‘solutions’ is, at this point, seemingly reflective of the first four stages of grief outlined by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

We are very keen on avoiding the final acceptance stage. Instead, we listen and accept faulty narratives about how this will all work out just fine. We create and propagate misleading phrases like ‘clean energy’ and ‘net zero emissions’ which are primarily marketing slogans. We allow ourselves to believe in ‘promising’ technological ‘fixes’ that require us to ignore or dismiss the constraints and physical impossibilities that are involved. And perhaps the worst of all, we look the other way when our ‘leadership’ completely ‘jumps the shark’ and whispers in our ears that we indeed can pursue ‘sustainable growth’ (a phrase that totally twists the concept of sustainability and ignores the biophysical constraints of a finite planet) and live, for the most part, happily-ever-after.

Such a fairy tale ending is indeed possible, but only in our imaginations. The momentum of our complex systems and the reality of a finite world straining under the exploitation of cognitively ‘advanced’ walking-talking apes are taking us down a path that is best described by William Catton Jr. in Overshoot: a species that overshoots its environmental carrying capacity is destined to encounter a population ‘collapse’ and any response that increases the drawdown of the fundamental resources upon which the species is reliant only speeds up the process. And this seems very much to be exactly what we are doing as we ‘debate’ ways in which to sustain our living standards and most of our energy-reliant and -intensive sociocultural practices.

Our best option may be to, in the words of author and social commentator John Michael Greer, “Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush”. Degrowth is coming. We can have some say in how this occurs but the longer we delay (and we’re very, very good at delaying our encounters with ‘reality’), the less ‘control’ we will have in meeting the coming challenges.

My suggestion is to detach from the ‘Matrix’ as much as possible by relocalising production of necessary goods but particularly shelter needs and organic and regenerative food production, and ensure the procurement of potable water. The government/politicians/ruling elite are not coming to the rescue; that is not their primary concern despite everything they say. The way in which they have met these challenges (that have been known for a number of decades) is evidence of that. We have continued to follow the BAU path set out in 1972 and simply managed to put ourselves further and further behind the eight ball. It’s perhaps no exaggeration to suggest that the planet burns while our ‘leaders’ are fiddling. Rely on yourself, family, and like-minded community members; not some politician promising more of the same actions that brought us to where we are.

Please visit my website and consider supporting my work via the purchase of my fictional ‘collapse’ trilogy, Olduvai.



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...