American novelist Jack Kerouac wrote, “If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime.”

Don’t blink now, but U.S. debt just grew by $11 trillion. If you’re keeping track, that amount exceeds the financial value of all currency in the world plus all the gold mined in history. Americans respond with the usual indifference.

U.S. banks are told to make plans for preventing collapse, sans help from the government or central banks. They can’t, of course.

Across the pond, the European Central Bank is printing money and giving it to Greece. Why? So Greece can make interest payments on its debt to — wait for it — the European Central Bank. This approach qualifies as a solution for neoclassical economists and the consumers who believe them.

Across the other pond, the “hard landing” anticipated for China’s industrial economy has arrived. As I’ve pointed out in this space before (and also here), the interdependency of the industrial economies of China, Europe, and the United States guarantees they all fall together. Collapse has been under way for more than a decade, and we’re a single step away from its completion.

It’s small wonder yet another expert concludes the next shock will shatter the world’s industrial economy. His detailed explanation appears here.

Meanwhile, actually studying climate change — instead of merely pontificating about it — forces skeptics to change their minds. We’re headed for hellish conditions within a decade or so on the climate front, and undoubtedly sooner with respect to the industrial economy. Americans respond with the usual indifference.

In the face of this information, police state Amerika ratchets up the madness. Barack Obama issues yet another Friday-night executive order, in this case giving the president control over communications. All of them. Americans respond with the usual indifference.

Obama and Congress should be arrested under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (among others). In fact, Obama has claimed the authority to imprison, torture, and kill people without charge for what he and Congress have done. Recently, Obama put out the hit on a 16-year-old boy. He has no conscience, an attribute consistent with his position of power and inconsistent with statements such as the one he made in 2007: “The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional.” So far, Americans have responded with the usual indifference.

There is no need to wonder when the apocalypse will arrive. It’s here. Yet most people I know claim it will never happen. We drive about 200 species to extinction each and every day on an increasingly depauperate planet. We proceed further into human-population overshoot at the rate of more than 200,000 people each and every day on an overcrowded planet. We ratchet up climate chaos on our only, overheated home so that it threatens our species — and, according to some scientists, every species on Earth — with near-term extinction. We destroy clean water, clean air, and healthy soil at an insane and accelerating rate. We oppress people throughout the world while making protest practically illegal. The Constitution and Bill of Rights have been shredded and turned to ash. As I’ve come to expect, Americans respond with the usual indifference.

Were he alive, Jack Kerouac would be pointing out the criminal nature of our indifference. Instead, we’re leaving the job to politicians, who are themselves criminals.


This essay is permalinked at The Refreshment Center and Counter Currents.


My monthly essay for Transition Voice was published yesterday. It’s here (and it is permalinked at Counter Currents)

Comments 71

  • Thank you for this Guy, very insightful and thought provoking as always.

    Indifference is a silent epidemic, it is as if everyone around us have been turned to zombies and we somehow didn’t get the memo. I am beginning to understand why the BIble describes indifference as the thing God hates the most. At this rate it will kill us all.

    I tried reading this essay out to my husband, he listened for maybe two seconds before becoming totally distracted by sport on TV.

    I believe that people will eventually wake up. When pop idol stops broadcasting and the supermarket stops selling twinkies.

    By then it will be too late.

    Then all hell will break loose.

  • One catch phrase we are hearing a lot now is that this summer may be the “new normal”. Very deceptive IMO. This is not the new normal, this is the start of a ratcheting up of climate change. We are not at new high temps and will sit here for years we are at the beginning of a steeper climb than we have had so far.
    On the last topic I posted the news of a cyclone that hit the arctic this month at and the ways in which it might further ratchet up the feedbacks already asserting an effect on warming.

  • an attribute consistent with his position of power and inconsistent with statements such as the one he made in 2007: “The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional.” 

    The inconsistency can be claimed only on the presumption presumption that His Majesty gives a flying eff about the constitution.

  • Guy—
    You’ve said it before. There are no viable political solutions to peak oil, global warming and inconceivable debt. In public our politicians fight over how to arrange the deck chairs. In private they’re building their well equipped lifeboats. Media-induced soma keeps most of us unaware, which I suppose translates into indifference. Everything and almost everyone continues to follow script. Those who don’t; those who stick out and bravely try to raise a warning cry; are being hammered back down. “So it goes.”

  • I am sure Guy is right..we have had a heat wave and drought in Okla and No one talks of Global Warming,even at “environmental” meetings,so you know worse case scenarios will happen..Still I am getting a high water bill..I water my old Oaks,who have a canker from Last year’s drought and I thing I am comforting the birds..I hate to see all the birds panting..

  • Ugo Bardi’s take on indifference in his latest post to his blog “Cassandra’s Legacy”:

    The planet burns and nobody gives a damn

  • Right on Guy…, write on. But I am not so sure that it is “indifference”…, so much as it is “denial”. Nicholson’s movie line, “You can’t handle the truth !!!” is quite apt here. Much easier to deny what is happening now than it is to accept it…, and make the personal sacrifices necessary to deal with it. Not to worry…, it will be forced upon us soon enough.

  • I have a suspicion that Australia may be the bolt-hole of the rich and elite in the know.

  • This summer – particularly the last few weeks – I’ve seen a remarkable about face in many of the people here in Arkansas. We are known for our hot muggy summers not searing hot and bone dry. And yet, here we are, way more than a foot below our typical rainfall for the year while setting record highs and record high lows. Crops are withering in the fields, trees are dying everywhere, and even our beloved Buffalo National River has dried up completely. This summer has served as a wakeup call for many in our area. Many and more patients have commented, tentatively just in case I’ll ridicule them, of how this must be what global warming is all about. Of course, I don’t ridicule them. I try to use it as an opportunity to educate – for exactly what, I’m not quite sure.

    Then the sad realization dawns on them that we don’t really have anything we can do about it. We’re all stuck in the same car-dependent society. We can’t walk anywhere – even if it wasn’t so hot and dry, it’s still too far – miles from home to store. We can’t turn off our air conditioners or we’ll roast in our houses built for looks not cooling efficiency. We can’t even reduce our carbon footprint back to a 1990s level as we’re all addicted to the internet, smart phones, Wii game systems, etc. After all, we can’t do anything outside – it’s too hot.

    So, I think indifference is rapidly disappearing – at least around here. But, as Sue mentioned above, most realize it’s already too late and indifference is being replaced with despair.

  • Somewhat off-topic, but relevant to the NBL theme:

    ASPO2012 Conference Presentations”

  • For the doomsayers amongst us:

    Disasters Plague U.S.

    (Copious links to “cheer” up doomsayers.)

  • Comment in “Disasters Plague U.S.” includes the following note on the Hansen link:

    Regarding Hansen’s new study:

    “The frequency of “3-sigma” Extremely Hot Summers has gone from 0.1~0.2% to 10% in 50 years, a 50X or 5000% or more increase! Therefore, the probability that a particular recent 3-sigma heat event is due to natural variation is ~1/50 or 2% and the chance that it is caused by climate change is ~49/50 or 98%! Note that 4 and 5 sigma events — which essentially were unheard of in the past — and now happening a few percent of the time. The chances that these events are due to natural variation is close to zero.

    Also note that this study is not based on climate models nor is it a prediction. It is a simple statistical analysis of measured temperature data from the past 60 years. The 5000% increase in Extremely Hot Summers already happened! And we can expect the frequency of these events to increase this decade and the coming decades.”

  • Guy

    I don’t dispute a word of what you write. I am certain most of the population will remain indifferent to everything that is going on until it impacts on them personally. What I still don’t get is what you expect anyone to do about corrupt politicians, financial collapse or climate change. Unless you spell out what you think the plan of action should be then I don’t think you should complain about others not doing anything, whatever the reason for their inaction.

    I am not trying to land you in trouble with the authorities. If you think people should be engaging in illegal activities it would seem to me a simple matter to phrase a response in such a way as to ensure you don’t get into trouble.

  • @Yorchichan….LOL

    You took Guy’s refrain of “Americans respond with the usual indifference” as complaining. I took it as a simple observation of fact.
    Your rule of public discourse appears to be that no one should sound the alarm unless they have a blueprint of the solution to this impending disaster. Just shut up and follow the herd over the cliff? Considering the psychology of people to shut out information of such magnitude, perhaps there is no viable solution at this point.

  • xraymike79

    It’s Guy’s blog and I don’t make the rules. I have every right to pose the question just as Guy has a right not to answer. He has written before that he does not feel the need to justify his position to people. Fair enough and I’m not even asking him to do so. I really wish he would humour me with an answer to what I feel is an important question.

    It all comes down to my wanting to know the motivation of those who sound the alarm. If Guy’s motivation is merely to forewarn people so that those willing to listen can make preparations then that is a noble enough aim as of itself.

    I’m not sure if “the herd” as you kindly refer to them haven’t got the right attitude anyway. At least they get on with trying to be happy rather than worrying all the time about the end of the world. If life has a purpose at all then it is to seek happiness while this is possible.

  • Yorchichan said:
    “I’m not sure if “the herd” as you kindly refer to them haven’t got the right attitude anyway. At least they get on with trying to be happy rather than worrying all the time about the end of the world. If life has a purpose at all then it is to seek happiness while this is possible.”

    Is ignorance bliss? Is an unexamined life worth living?
    Surely you have missed the message here and fallen for the opiate of self-delusion.

  • Is stupidity a blessing? Nope! These are the same losers that want their ‘way of life to be non-negotiable’ like their fearless liar/leader tells them they are ‘entitled’ to. America deserves to fall. These same people have allowed their government to take them to war through most of the 20th century and the first 12 years of this one and never complained. You know, a war cannot happen if no-one shows up, but the brainwashed, dumbed down ‘patriots’ still line up to die. We have failed as a species. Mother Nature is going to get rid of us and move on and about time.

  • Scott, didn’t Nicholson’s character use that line as an excuse to justify ordering his troops to beat someone to death?

  • Guy, I share both your assessment and your frustration (frustration is too mild a word, but it will have to do). The one consolation I find is that maybe, just maybe, the economic collapse that seems to be on our horizon will bring a halt to planet trashing activities and allow something to be saved. Of course, there will be ugly consequences, and social chaos is likely to be one of them. Government crack-downs, armed resistance from angry mobs, random violence — all are well within the realm of probability. At such times, the best advice comes from Dimitry Orlov who has said, in effect, keep your head down and make yourself more valuable alive than dead. I still think that humanity has a chance to emerge from the coming crisis having learned a valuable lesson and ready, at long last, to live in a way that honors nature instead of exploiting it.

  • Yorchichan, I write for many reasons. For example,, I write and speak as a public service to those who want to know the latest data, models, and forecasts about climate change and energy decline. Similarly, I live as I do for several reasons, among them to serve as an example outside the mainstream. And I know this is, to a great extent, a failed experiment.

  • Guy

    Thank you for your reply. I have never doubted either your desire to help those who wish to escape the system or your desire to help the living planet.


    Is ignorance bliss?

    Clearly not because we are all pretty ignorant but I don’t see much bliss around. Whether those who are more ignorant are happier than those less so, I honestly don’t know, but if I had to get off the fence I would answer “Yes”. Certainly if I was to be offered knowledge of the date and time of my own death I would politely decline.

    Is an unexamined life worth living?

    That’s easy: “Yes”. To argue otherwise would be to argue all life on the planet other than human life is worthless.

    Surely you have missed the message here and fallen for the opiate of self-delusion.

    Don’t know if I have fallen for the opiate of self delusion because I most surely have missed the message here. Please tell me what the message is. I genuinely want to know.

  • xRayMike79

    Actually, having thought about it more I’d like to change my answer to the question Is an unexamined life worth living? to “I don’t know”. All I can say is that if not all non-human life is worthless and that if a life has value at all then I do not believe the value changes with whether that life is examined or unexamined.

    Could I turn the question around and ask you why you think an examined life is more worth living than an unexamined life if this is, indeed, what you believe?

  • Guy

    I beg to differ. Some old quote…

    “So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” And it is a naughty world right now.

    If I could convince you of one thing it is the capacity of individuals to change.

    The key to this is encountering others who are doing remarkable things in the most unlikely of places. Growing plants on rock? Feeding the multitude? People loving each other? It’s all possible and it will happen, but only if WE do it. That is the action we require, local and fast. It would help if the financial system crashed real soon because then, as you write, everyone could have a home debt free, and then could start growing their own food. Sounds corny, but if you want to survive you will pick up a shovel and ask an elder what is deeded.
    If three houses in every street started doing it what effect would it have?
    The main obsticle is aspiration of no effort for comfort and convenience. If you can convince people to work with their body on a communal project then every faculty is stimulated. They enjoy it.
    From what I can see you are doing it.

    You have helped me cover the final hurdle in a 28 year cycle of working toward giving. And it is pure poetry when you establish a way of cultural transformation based on biological energy, and everyone around you thinks you are crazy. That’s how you create the space that is filled by a different set of actions. You just do it and they keep getting wierded out and don’t understand how someone can be so motivated and committed, and in time they come around and see what you are doing. That gets it started, especially if you ask them for their help. I havn’t had anyone shut the door on me yet.
    My neighbours have all seen me drag some debris along tha road at some stage in the last 3 years, and they would have seen an increase in the last 3 months too. That gets them wondering. But when you turn up with a gift of free service they can’t figure it out. So they have to think.
    Why is this guy doing something for nothing? It’s counter egoic and counter to Empire capitalism. So it shocks people into feeling good.

    You gotta keep the faith, but maybe it is because you see so many data confirming sets per week for TWCS that it hits you hard. Let it hit you hard, and get up and scream much louder.
    I have previously said I think the community I live in has a chance.
    But I am planning to go into the suburbs on the plains, where the car is king and get it g(r)owing. Another key is not to assume you need to do it all yourself. I advertise with self made notes on noticeboards for people willing to give their time fto a radical sustainability project to build community resilliance. Those who answer are the ones to help get it g(r)oing.
    Your argument to intentionally collapse the industrial economy is sound if you wish to halt the mess, but that is not mutually exclusive to agitating for people to transform their way of life now. And I don’t mean some expensive solar panels or a compost bin that they don’t understand. I mean collecting everything people throw out and turning it into gold!
    No one knows the answer to the crunch and bottlneck ahead, but if people voluntarily give up FUBAR living then it has a cascade effect.
    Communicating happiness, and I mean real happiness, (rare I’ll grant) is another key to transformation, even as things get worse, and life forms die around us, because it is only by inducing calm and a feeling of happiness that people are attracted away from themselves and their obsessions, pain and consolations.
    I’m giving it a bloody good go.
    Don’t beat yourself up.
    It can’t happen overnight, but it can happen.

  • Ozman “It can’t happen overnight, but it can happen.” What changes in human behavior do you think can happen in time to prevent positive feedbacks from making climate change irreversible? (Assuming that we are not already into irreversible climate change) What other transformation matters if we have runaway climate change?

  • Kathy C:
    What other transformation matters if we have runaway climate change?
    Good question!

  • “We cannot escape ourselves.” ~Henri

  • Yorchichan
    Hello again

    Your first question: Please tell me what the message is. I genuinely want to know.

    The message is that despite our cleverness (such as trips to the moon, exponential advancements in computing power, machines that can extract energy from deep within the earth, etc…), we have failed to recognize our interdependence with the natural world which serves as the foundation for our economy and our very survival.

    To quote another blogger:
    “We are in the process of destroying a great many things which are real — air, soil, water, energy, resources, other species, our health — for the sake of something that exists chiefly in our imagination: money.”

    And to quote from biblical text:
    For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 3:19

    Your second question: Could I turn the question around and ask you why you think an examined life is more worth living than an unexamined life if this is, indeed, what you believe?

    Aristotle said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” What he meant was that only through self-examination, studying others in society, and seeking truth can a person find meaning and happiness. Without such self-reflection, young men go to war to sacrifice their lives for corrupt oligarchies. Without such self-reflection, people live their entire lives on a treadmill of debt chasing after materialism. Without such self-reflection, a society remains atomized and alienated, degenerating into violence and self-destruction.
    An unexamined life is a life lived in blindness and without purpose or direction and easily exploited by corrupt forces.
    Read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” for further explanation.

  • I’m still trying to persuade even one liberal (oh, I mean “progressive” don’t I) friend to not vote for Barack Obama, not even the lesser of two evils.

  • One of the looming positive feedbacks for climate change is the Amazon forests. They have been a sink up to now for carbon and apparently according to this video have been increasing their absorption of carbon. Not only can’t that increase ad infinitum, they are being cut down and have become threatened by drought and forest fires. This vid (link to first segment below) covers that and the looming methane releases. I think it was made in 2001, so the recent discoveries of 1 km wide methane plumes in Siberia hadn’t been discovered yet.

    Segments 2 and three should show up in the vids next to this on the youtube page.

    The music is a bit overmuch, but worth the listen for the content IMO.

  • Here is a story on the Amazon deforestation with rather stunning satellite pictures.


    Just for fun – Romney introduced Paul Ryan as the Next President of the US. Hmmm maybe the plan is for him to get assassinated before the election and this was not a blooper but a slip of the plan. If so nice for him to be so cheerful about it. :)

  • The ecological cost of wind energy and electric cars as well as
    From the air it looks like a huge lake, fed by many tributaries, but on the ground it turns out to be a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond nearby factories discharge water loaded with chemicals used to process the 17 most sought after minerals in the world, collectively known as rare earths.

    The town of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, is the largest Chinese source of these strategic elements, essential to advanced technology, from smartphones to GPS receivers, but also to wind farms and, above all, electric cars. The minerals are mined at Bayan Obo, 120km farther north, then brought to Baotou for processing.

    The concentration of rare earths in the ore is very low, so they must be separated and purified, using hydro-metallurgical techniques and acid baths. China accounts for 97% of global output of these precious substances, with two-thirds produced in Baotou.

    The foul waters of the tailings pond contain all sorts of toxic chemicals, but also radioactive elements such as thorium which, if ingested, cause cancers of the pancreas and lungs, and leukaemia. “Before the factories were built, there were just fields here as far as the eye can see. In the place of this radioactive sludge, there were watermelons, aubergines and tomatoes,” says Li Guirong with a sigh.

  • I just wonder what would of happened if John, Bobby, Malcom and Martin would of lived, perhaps human behavior would of been different?

    Maybe we can’t do a damn thing about runaway climate change…not now anyways, but if we’re taking up room on this planet that’s not to blame, don’t we owe it to others who are trying (if not ourselves) to continue keeping on?

    ‘You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.’, ‘Gandhi …

  • we should focus on what to do. Spread information, grow own food, start ecovillages, stop consumption. To stop the machine we have to quit working for it and change wages for self sufficiency and cooperation. Do you think this is right? Greetings from Chile, excellent blog!

  • Kind of off topic:

    So we talk about peak oil, peak water, peak resources, peak technology, pretty much peak everything (except peak bullshit and stupidity – those DO seem to be in infinite supply), but it occurred to me today that I haven’t yet heard anyone talk about peak population (unless I missed that discussion). Obviously, we’re in overshoot, but short of a drastic increase in the loss of life, peak population could still be quite a few years away.

    If Guy and others are right about lights out this year, even still the population will still climb – if only for a little while longer.

    So, anyone have any thoughts on just how far our population will climb before we hit peak? (Of course, we’ll probably only know if we were wrong if we underestimate.) For me, I don’t think we’ll go much higher than 8 billion.

  • Yorchican, I’m still thinking about your question regarding what motivates those who sound the alarm (directed at Guy in particular, but it got me thinking). I can only speak for myself, and I often choose not to talk or write about alarming topics for a number of reasons (trying not to squander my energy or burn myself out; maintaining a relatively calm environment for my child while possible; probably also a good hefty dose of attempting to adapt to insane conditions through internal suppression and self-censorship). But when I do choose to talk/write about alarming topics, what primarily motivates me is the possibility of encountering empathy and solidarity. If I can inspire others to radically change their behavior, it’s a bonus, or if I can gain inspiration from others’ wisdom and experience, that’s also great, but for me what it comes down to is human connection as a balm for despair. I don’t believe we can extricate ourselves from this predicament. As one who has not transcended ego and attachment, I think despair is a reasonable response to collapse, but it’s an excruciating thing. It’s even harder to cope with when I feel this simultaneous call, an obligation really, to be joyful while there’s still life to be lived, and to model joy for my child rather than despair. I don’t have it figured out, that’s for sure. So much of my thinking and sense of personal mission revolves around this idea of “integrity” and part of that is seeking and embodying truth and authenticity, even when the truth is unbearable and my authentic reactions are often anguished. Being able to communicate with others about this is important.

  • xRayMike79

    If the message is that we are destroying the natural world on which we depend then I already knew this as a child and I’m not living in self delusion. I don’t question the truth of this message at all, only whether knowing the message is a good thing given the knowledge is unlikely to change anything.

    In general, whether knowledge is a good thing or a bad thing depends on what the knowledge is and the use we put it to (similar to technology). Knowledge that empowers someone and does not cause that person to be unhappy is likely to be a good thing. If someone will not or cannot act on knowledge and it causes unhappiness then I believe it’s better not to know.

    I totally agree with you on materialism. I wish I could convince my wife and children that the latest iPhone will not make them any happier.

    I don’t agree with Aristotle that an unexamined life is not worth living. I would rather say that a life without joy is not worth living.

    I first came across Plato’s allegory of the cave in an excellent and entertaining book called “The Fourth Dimension and How to Get There” by Rudy Rucker. I highly recommend this if anyone is interested.

  • Yorchichan,
    you said: “If the message is that we are destroying the natural world on which we depend then I already knew this as a child and I’m not living in self delusion. I don’t question the truth of this message at all, only whether knowing the message is a good thing given the knowledge is unlikely to change anything.”

    Very few people have truly internalized what that means – extinction of our own species. I have not come to grips with that. Humans are wired not to think about such things.

    Jennifer summed up the journey to Truth, the outcome of which cannot be fully anticipated or bargained with:

    “So much of my thinking and sense of personal mission revolves around this idea of “integrity” and part of that is seeking and embodying truth and authenticity, even when the truth is unbearable and my authentic reactions are often anguished.”

    Perhaps for some, knowing you could be gone tomorrow makes every minute of the day something to truly appreciate. In this consumer culture of ours, much of what people strive after becomes meaningless. The trivialities of life melt away and core values emerge.

  • I really like this article even though it makes me quite sad.

  • I live in Northern Wisconsin, in a small town on Lake Superior. We didn’t have a true winter this last year. Minimal snow, minimal lake ice, and temperatures in the 80’s in March. This summer has been hot. We had crazy flooding in early July but overall we are having a drought.
    And yet, the big, fast, super gas-guzzling cigarette boats came this last weekend to zip around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It was a celebration of the fast boats. People oohed and awed at the big, fast, loud boats. They called the boats beautiful. The boaters stayed at the new casino-resort on the tiny rez nearby. The people on the rez celebrated this event. They enjoyed the boats and the business it brought to the casino.
    I’m feeling pretty depressed right now.
    For awhile now, I have understood that humans will not stop killing the planet, but I’m feeling extra sick about it right now.
    I desperately want industrial civilization to collapse.

    I just had to vent. I know this is one of the few places where what I feel can be understood.

    Thank you Guy for all you do.


  • It is home to a quarter of the planet’s oil and natural gas reserves, yet humans have hardly from the Guardian, from a link through Dr. McPherson’s link.  

    To a people famishing and idle, the only acceptable form in which God can dare appear is work and promise of food as wages. – Mohandas Keramchand Gandhi

    To an industrial civilisation ravenous and rapacious for growth, the only acceptable form in which God can dare appear is resources and promise of energy as fossil fuels.

  • In my local village, pop’n 4600, I have seen a growing determination to get on with the campaign to tackle global warming since 2006-7. We have someone here who got their picture on the local telephone book with a title of ‘Sustainability Visionary’ in part because she met Al gore at one of his wet camps.. err I mean climate change shindigs. Something about training up nodal individuals who will bring maximum impact to communities or something.
    Through a series of incremental changes the village community has been polarised by this individual and her retinue because they attempted to ‘control’ the direction of local community gardens, working bees, support for a number of projects. As a result that persons sustainable-permaculture-course-through-me, buy-your-solar-panels-through-me business model, that persons business is fading fast because whatever they did did not build community, but destroyed some of it.
    I have rocked up at the a local failed community garden to offer free labour and am learning a lot there, but what I have discovered is that this half acre patch is built on a quarry site and it fell to the owner, a very committed local and her family because, amongst a few other side considderations, the sustainable visionary I mentioned coralled others to lacate the community garden at the local elementary school. That school is 4 mins walk from the visionary’s house.

    Also, another story element is that the local community centre also runs the after school childcare centre across from the school. The community centre backed the half acre garden site at the old quarry, and now the child care people suffer being left out of any integration with the school garden parients. One of the parients came over and took all the garden beds, which I helped build 18 months ago, topsoil and mulch and went to the school and deposited it there.
    Because I have decided to get involved, without any financial stake, and not by joining groups, I have gradually pieced this together.

    Here is my piont, this village community was very motivated to work together to do whatever it can to work for a better future for their children, and others children. But the profit and ego motives got in the way, as they most often do. I think it is probably up to me to do some bridge building, because I am familiar with most parties, although perhaps not in high estimation with everone because I wear shorts and pick my nose if it needs it when I walk.
    I’m not talking about happy families with the community spirit, I’m talking about giving without a return for the ego. A new experience for many. In trying to get some individuaal support for some of the movable no dig garden projects I have discovered a significant number of parient with children at the school who are stressed and a bit frustrated as to what to do. I asked a new coffer shop owner what he did with his coffer grounds and he said he tried to pass them on to the school garden group but was overruled because they operate like sand in the soil. A real community facilitator would have taken some and used it, enough so it was not an oversupply to the garden, but also to accept a contrabution.
    If people give and feel a real contribution their wellbeing improves, and their higher funtions come in to play and they are more creative and alive, and happier. In that situation an individual can find many ways to reduce their use of centralised power and water and gas.
    “It’s too late”, I hear many shouting. You don’t know that it is too late, you only know it seems likely, very likely. And I say that is not the same thing.
    There may be a problem in North America in that you guys may have had a dog eat dog culture for a lot longer than we have here. We are rapidly acquiring it, but it is not yet complete.
    You see, I just don’t think it is realistic to say what is the point in all that communojumbo if it’s all over red rover. It’s not over red rover until you are dead. All this resignation is I feel an excuse not to trust others.
    If many people gave up their cars and jobs and bank accounts etc their life would change, very fast. The struggle would not be with an illusory lifestyle and false aspiration, it would be with yourself and the elemental world to satisfy your needs and those of your dependents. Many are too far in debt to considder it, but rather than accept that folly, and work towards freeing themselves of that shackle, they gripe it is too late.
    Have some guts and be free.
    I’m not saying forget keeping an eye on the stats. I’m saying that nothing is certain about how the biosphere will actually react and change over time.
    Biological energy is not being used as a source of first resort. Only when the escalator is shut off do we walk the stairs.
    When the external energy sources fail, we have pretty much our bodies to do the work, and as others have posted perhaps horses again. Without the illusion of progress, we will be happier to accept community engagement again.
    Some neighbours have a new baby, just 10 days ago. I can’t think of a worse thing to do in this time than to have a baby, but there you have it.

    Kathy C

    Do you want the baby to cry constantly or to be loved, protected and nurtured? I don’t think your question is a bad one, it could be explored better than I have, but I don’t feel I have to ask it.

  • i’m not indifferent, but i definitely feel more and more hopeless as we careen over the cliff of climate change, overpopulation, resource depletion, and state-sponsored terrorism and militarization. i’m doing what i can in community awareness, fracking, and taking down the Citizens United decision. i’m trying to help with petitions on many issues including those of women, the transgendered community, minorities, and the non-enforcement of voter i.d. at the (meaningless)election here in PA (in fact, just in my county). Though i put out a bit of energy in all these areas and many more DAILY, i’m seeing absolutely no “gain” or “win” in any area so far. It’s really disheartening and there’s quite a bit of incentive to just stop worrying about it all and “enjoy life while you have it.”

    Something keeps me coming back and hitting these topics again and again, keeping up on the news and trying to make a difference. It’s the same for the little adjunct job i hold down at a small college here – i rarely see anything improving (besides the appearance of the place) on the social or academic level.

    It’s all a becoming meaningless exercise in futility.

    i’m not “prepping” for the collapse of industrial civilization and will welcome whatever form it takes. It’s probably going to be violent and awful, but i don’t expect to live through it anyway, and will hopefully go out tending my garden.

    Thanks for keeping me updated on the rapid decline, Guy. Keep up the good fight.

  • On Zero Hedge an interesting article. Don’t know if the figures are right much less the conclusions. But thought provoking
    “Iran. Because according to a just released analysis by the Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation, the price at which oil (read Brent) must trade for Iran’s budget to balance has soared to $127/barrel, the highest among all OPEC members,”

    Obama needs to talk tough but a full fledged war would drive oil prices out the gazoo, not good for getting elected. Iran may need oil prices higher than they are now so they might want a little war to cut output across the region and push prices up. The games beneath the rhetoric are complex, but it is looking like there are less and less moves available for any of the players to make that are clearly beneficial to them. Perhaps because Nature Bats Last.

  • Grow your own food – problem solved

  • Oz man – “Do you want the baby to cry constantly or to be loved, protected and nurtured? I don’t think your question is a bad one, it could be explored better than I have, but I don’t feel I have to ask it.”

    When I was in Haiti one of my joys was holding baby Johnny and feeding him. He was born AIDs and at 6 mos was not long for this world. Still when I held him he snuggled in and we both felt better for it.

    Holding the baby is what you do when the world is out of control and there is nothing left to do. If we are in runaway climate change already it is the only thing to do. Well there is the Masada solution…

    After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, additional members of the Sicarii and numerous Jewish families fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountaintop, using it as a base for harassing the Romans.[1]

    In 72, the Roman governor of Iudaea Lucius Flavius Silva headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada. The Roman legion surrounded Masada, and built a circumvallation wall and then a siege embankment against the western face of the plateau, moving thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth to do so….
    The rampart was complete in the spring of 73, after probably two to three months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram on April 16.[3] According to Josephus, when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed a mass suicide.

  • an obligation really, to be joyful while there’s still life to be lived – Jennifer Hartley. 

    It is a good approach to extinction, both personal and universal.  However if seen as an “obligation”, the joy will be forced and in a very real sense, artificial, like the smiles on the faces of airline steward/s/esses. 

  • Dawn,

    I live in a “border town” of one of our local rez’s about a couple hundred miles e.s.e. of your islands. Our area also plays host to tourists from chicago, milwaukee, etc… I know how your feel. As TVT says, “surreal.”

  • Jennifer and xRayMike78

    Knowledge of our predicament doesn’t affect my mood in everyday life at all. It really doesn’t. I sometimes used to be a little sad when I’d pick my kids up from school and I’d watch all the young children playing and wonder what future those children would have, but now I don’t think about it so much. It’s not denial, it’s simply not worrying about what I cannot change. I’ve done all I can do for my own children for the time being by moving to Thailand where I don’t have to worry about maintaining body temperature, where there is currently a food surplus and where people live closer to the land than in the West. I believe that Thailand will cope with industrial collapse better than the West, but I may be wrong and being a foreigner anywhere will be dangerous if things start getting tough for the locals.

    I’ve told pretty much everyone I know about peak oil and financial and industrial collapse. When I meet strangers, it usually doesn’t talk me long to bring it in to the conversation too. I expect many on this blog are familiar with the reactions. Some people look at me as if I might be dangerous, some think technology will come to the rescue, many agree it will happen but think not in their lifetimes. Whatever the reaction, it doesn’t bother me. I feel I have a duty to warn people but once I’ve done so whether they choose to accept or act on the knowledge is up to them. I don’t labour the point and I will rarely mention it to the same person twice.

    Despite their lack of years, my own children don’t get spared. If they see a car they like and tell me they want to drive it when they are older I’ll tell them that I don’t think there will be cars around by the time they are old enough to drive. I don’t know if they believe me but they are certainly not upset when I say things like this to them. Children live very much in the moment and don’t worry about anything even a few days away. I quite like this attitude as it makes it easier to be happy, but of course lack of thought for the future is part of what has led to the position we now find ourselves in and something many who contribute to this blog find dislike in the adult population.

  • Yorchichan said:
    “Children live very much in the moment and don’t worry about anything even a few days away.”

    That’s exactly right. I have learned to do this and separate the knowledge of approaching catastrophe, compartmentalizing it. I had to learn to do this in order to function on a daily basis— to learn to live in the moment like children do. Would I go back and undo the depressing knowledge I now have? Hell no. I needed that knowledge in order to be able to live the way I do now and appreciate things as they are in the moment. What kind of person would I be if I only watched MSM and formulated my thoughts and beliefs from what I was spoon fed by corporate media. I would be a mirror of the system — emotionally, intellectually, and cognitively blind just as Socrates warned.

  • Guy,

    What the hell is going on? I look away for a couple of weeks and return to:

    *Cynthia McKinney-who is not the real Cynthia McKinney but a 2008 web site.

    *Morocco Bama– cute!

    *And Bob Dylan censored by something called the SME– (“This video contains content from SME, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”) So get me up to speed here, who is/are the SME? It is probably not the Society of Mechanical Engineers. And if it is blocked in the USA is it available in other countries? Which ones?

    By the way, great essay.

    Michael Irving

  • Hi Mike, glad you are back – missed your input :)

  • xray mike, i see u have a very impressive extensive blog. congrats.

    ‘They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 3:19’

    in the short term we do have a great advantage, as gaia’s dominant domesticator and predator among large animals. ask kathy if she has an advantage over her chickens in determining life and death on a daily basis. ask many of the 7 billion sheople around the world who exist because of our species ecological dominance. ask the world’s farmers, who appropriate the land’s fertility as much as possible for the sole purpose of making money by catering to exclusively human needs and desires. everything humans can exploit they will, it seems, as a group, under present circumstances, regardless of scientific (and one would hope ‘commonsense’) concerns of unsustainability and looming disaster. the gaia damned elite dominators among us, who became royalty, dictators, and ‘financial giants’ (filthy rich), among other things… as i’ve observed before, they may lack respect for and knowledge of pure science, but they know how and are able to dominate, exploit, and domesticate the ‘99%’, through a variety of tactics/abilities ranging from machiavellian/orwellian deceit to having greater willpower and ruthlessness, to employment of lethal violence and intimidation. human social evolution favored such traits for the short term, unfortunately for us, the long term is an entirely different beast. sometimes what’s most advantageous in the present spells future disaster.

    i think we lost the battle when dogmatism won out over independent, critical thought, however gradually and haltingly it came to be. perhaps it could have turned out no other way. it doesn’t matter. what matters is how little our fellow humans in general think critically and independently. how few have caught on to the charade behind ‘democracy’ and ‘representative’ government. and how this lack of critical independent thought in matters of life and death for the long term extends all the way up to the pinnacles of power. lack of wisdom, if u will. lack of sanity. lack of vision. myopic vision. too egocentric.

    i wonder if it’s possible to attain power and not be corrupted. we all know myriad ways how corruption and power are intertwined near the top of human society, but is it even possible in surreality to become a benevolent domesticator/dominator? kathy makes an arguably good case regarding her relationship with her chickens. perhaps on a modest scale, a little domestication is durable/desirable, but it’s surely a slippery slope between a little personal domestication and a great deal of impersonal domestication as occurs with industrial corporate agriculture and business, with ecocide the end result.

    i wonder if any of the rest of u feel a similar angst over the notion that maybe, just maybe, a relatively utopian ‘modest durable’ culture is possible on the chance that relatively short term extinction isn’t fated. perhaps with civilization gone in physicality but not in spirit, a fortunate few who survive the crash will achieve a better culture of anarchy intimate with nature. otoh, perhaps it is all vain wishing.

    not a bad biblical quote, xray. cool mysterious name, too. glad to have made your cyberspace acquaintance.

    ‘Aristotle said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

    i disagree. the unexamined life is most desirable, because if u’re not spending time examining life, your living it, and enjoying surreal freedom as a wild creature. just like ‘beasts’ who aren’t domesticated. ah, to be free!

  • From this blog’s early days: “Socrates famously concluded that the unexamined is not worth living. I’m surprised it took two millennia for somebody — that somebody being Schopenhauer — to realize that the examined life is far, far worse.”

  • TVT, you are quite insightful in your comments, thank you! 
    You are probably aware, though you do not mention it, that the “sheople” are also domesticated. This domestication began about 10,000 years ago at the time of the adoption of agriculture and the domestication of (non-human) animals.

    Domestication makes animals (including humans) more compliant, and is associated with a shrinkage in brain size. This shrinkage in human brain size goes back to 20,000 years, suggesting that the beginnings of “civilised” society  date to that time. Domestication makes for a greater compliance with the vertical dictates of hierarchy, dictates which over time seek control over the horizontal interactions between individuals that form the cohesion of community. Intensely hierarchical systems such as in the former Soviet Union, which do not offer even an illusion of participation, do result in the formation of sub rosa horizontal interactions “under the table” as was so ably described by Dmitry Orlov. These form a community that exists within the strictures of the hierarchy/society.

    Where an illusion of participation (i.e. “democracy”) is maintained, the urges to interaction are channelled from the horizontal to the vertical, with the loss of community, as is seen in ‘mericuh. Grass-roots action is not likely where the grass has withered away and humans have progressively become compliant “sheople”. 

    Climbing the hierarchy requires, amongst other things, an atrophy of empathy, which when combined with social skills makes a psychopath – particularly dangerous because they fit so well into society. In the absence of those social skills one has a sociopath, fitting poorly into society, becoming common criminals, serial killers and (illegal!) mass murderers. That is how a person who steals ten dollars goes to jail, while one who steals a billion dollars is respected and adulates by the system. Or one who murders a dozen people is a criminal, while one who murders a few hundred thousand is a defender of “freedom”. 

    But of course the system with its built-in need for perpetual growth on a finite planet has its doom preordained. What is regrettable is that the attendant despoliation will leave behind an unliveable world. 

  • I haven’t read this long comments thread in its entirety, but I want to say that Yorichan’s question to Guy about why he sounds the alarm is not the impertinent question it appears to be. Years into having begun to understand our predicament, I still don’t quite know what to do with the knowledge. I don’t favor denial or panic, but at this point, I don’t know that taking action is worthwhile, either. My ability to change anything about our trajectory is effectively nil, and I fear my ability to change my own personal situation is mostly that I can only worsen it. I’m just along for the ride now, but I’m watching the scenery rather than burying my head in a screen watching fiction.

  • ‘So, anyone have any thoughts on just how far our population will climb before we hit peak? (Of course, we’ll probably only know if we were wrong if we underestimate.) For me, I don’t think we’ll go much higher than 8 billion.’

    just a guess: peak population in about a decade, around 7.5 billion. i’m also revising my summer olympics prognostication to only one more, in 2016 in rio. no more after that. world will either be at war or in too much economic distress.

    ‘for me what it comes down to is human connection as a balm for despair. I don’t believe we can extricate ourselves from this predicament. As one who has not transcended ego and attachment, I think despair is a reasonable response to collapse, but it’s an excruciating thing. It’s even harder to cope with when I feel this simultaneous call, an obligation really, to be joyful while there’s still life to be lived, and to model joy for my child rather than despair.’

    my heart goes out to u, jennifer. ditto to dawn. and cynthia mckinney, former u.s. congresswoman from georgia and 2008 u.s. green party presidential candidate who got about 1% of the vote, including mine (probably the last vote in an establishment election i’ll ever cast): welcome to the wild side of cyberspace. it’s been quite some trip, hasn’t it, from the halls of congress to the social fringe of ‘doomersville’. i hope u can handle the sadness. thanks for working hard to change things. u’re in good company here with guy.

    ‘Knowledge of our predicament doesn’t affect my mood in everyday life at all.’

    yorchichan, most of the time i’m the same way. i’d be nuttier than i already am if i didn’t forget about ‘doom’ while going about the business of life.

    michael irving, how do u know that the person who posted as ‘cynthia mckinney’ is not the surreal cynthia mckinney?

  • robin, i take it for granted that everyone understands the term ‘sheople’ means domesticated people. thanks for the kind comment. live free and die. chop wood and carry water too, don’t forget!

  • Hello Guy,
    Thanks for the link to your speech from 2007.

    You said:Contrary to society’s general disregard for the common good, I have to believe that the greatest measure of our humanity is found in what we do for those who cannot take care of themselves: the myriad species, cultures, and yes, even impoverished individuals in our own country, who never stood a chance in the face of American-style capitalism…
    I have to believe, in other words, that our humanity is measured in our willingness to protect the common good. And, by pursuing and protecting the common good, we become friends in the Aristotelian sense…

    I agree wholeheartedly. Neoliberal capitalism and the ‘free market ideologues have done such a great job of securing the common good (heavy sarcasm). A recent news article illustrates this quite well: For-Profit Hospital Chain Pushed Unnecessary Heart Operations

    You said:Hope is our humility overcoming our hubris in the face of long odds.

    I love that line. I’ll put that in my bag of great quotes.

    You said:How do we, as a species, use our hope and our friendship to address the urgent issue of Peak Oil while simultaneously solving the problem of runaway greenhouse? These are the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. Tackling either of them, without the loss of a huge number of human lives, will require tremendous courage, compassion, and creativity.

    I agree wholeheartedly. Giving the power of oil to man was like giving a five year old the keys to the family car.

    You said: The momentum of civilization is powerful. Resisting those in power will almost certainly lead to imprisonment, torture, perhaps even death. Those are pretty good excuses to forego action.

    This is an interesting and disturbing subject to follow -the rise of the security and surveillance state in America. In conjunction with that is the development of the prison industrial complex. Both are meant to protect the capitalist hierarchy.

    You said: …the worst possible outcome would be a battle to the death in a game of Last Man Standing. Our focus on the common good precludes a mentality of Us vs. Them; with the common good, there is no “Them.”

    Richard Heinberg’s “Last Man Standing” hypothesis, as stated in his February 2010 blog “China or the U.S.: Which Will Be the Last Nation Standing?”: “I thought that world leaders would want to keep their nations from collapsing. They must be working hard to prevent currency collapse, financial system collapse, food system collapse, social collapse, environmental collapse, and the onset of general, overwhelming misery—right? But no, that’s not what the evidence suggests. Increasingly I am forced to conclude that the object of the game that world leaders are actually playing is not to avoid collapse; it’s simply to postpone it a while so as to be the last nation to go down, so yours can have the chance to pick the others’ carcasses before it meets the same fate.”

    You said: In One with Nineveh, the ecologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich describe the American social system as, “capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich.” Our socioeconomic system is designed to subsidize the wealthy and pulverize the downtrodden. And, of course, to pulverize our precious resources.

    I agree wholeheartedly. I say that the marriage of Industrial Civilization with Neoliberal Capitalism is a destructive force so potent that nothing will stop it except ecological collapse.


    Hello Virgin Terry. Nice to meet you as well.
    When I quoted that biblical line I was thinking of the ongoing 6th Mass extinction which, in and of itself, would eventually take down mankind. This anthropogenic-induced mass extinction event is analogous to a person randomly pulling bricks from the first floor of a tall building. Humans don’t fully appreciate how interconnected and interdependent the web of life truly is.

  • VT, yes in our chicken yard we reign as life givers and life takers. Already we are contemplating the merits of various young roos from this year’s hatches, who will become soup and who will get to pass on their genes. They are in fact our slaves, but as domestic chickens go they live a very good life.

    However we have bred some (fighting) game blood into our flock, not because they make more meat or lay more eggs but because they are bred for strength and vigor and are the closest things to wild jungle fowl. They are the birds that go feral in places where predator population is low, Hawaii particularly.

    When the crash comes we will not be able to feed our flock of 100 or so birds. We will probably have a big slaughter of the meatier birds and invite the neighbors, pick a few to try to keep without the grains of the midwest, and let some go. For all our desire to have plenty of fresh eggs, the birds we love are the ones that have the sleek tight look of a wild bird, the protective coloring, browns and blacks with patterning that helps one hide, the ones that can fly up in trees with ease. They don’t lay as well, hide nests from us and give us chicks we didn’t plan on (but that are beautiful), edgy and not sure they like us humans. Perhaps they will make it, probably not due to foxes and coyotes, but they will have their day of freedom. The rest like domesticated humans would not do well on their own.

  • I think the population has peaked, it starts going down this year. With food prices rising how well do you think the 1 billion that live on $1 a day, already undernourished, are going to do. The mainline is not covering it much, but it is dire. Cattle farmers, dairy farmers, hog and chicken farmers are starting to cull. Hog magazines are advising on culling early before the price goes down, cutting feed to a minimum and substituting. Head of Smithfields foods, the largest hog manufacturer, is asking Congress to change the ethanol mandate – Senator Grassley called him Chicken Little – but he is a businessman and is joined by the head of Hershey’s (think corn syrup to make candies) is urging a change to the law.

    Disease stands ready to cull the population, H5N1 and H3N2 are again on the rise. Suicides are up in many countries, babies are being abandoned in Europe in higher numbers. I think we are at peak population.

  • xraymike79 Says: …the worst possible outcome would be a battle to the death in a game of Last Man Standing. Our focus on the common good precludes a mentality of Us vs. Them; with the common good, there is no “Them.”

    When there’s more CO2 ppm,
    Folks will find blame and condemn:
    With times more demanding,
    The last people standing
    Change others from “us” into “them.”

  • btd: i think violence will very likely play a large role in the tragedy to come, but cooperation will be critical to survival. it’s wrong to assume that competition for increasingly scarce life necessities will tell the whole story. surreality is full of surprises, and human nature is not as dark as present circumstances indicate. however, nature bats last, and maybe i’m just being vain.

    good poem as usual.

  • Thank you so much, tvt!

    Yup, agree with Kathy, population can’t go up much more if time is as short as we’re starting to think around here. Unless we’re going crazy in an echo chamber haha…. :D

  • Extinction’s not hard to explain,
    But it hasn’t convinced my whole brain:
    I’m persuaded it’s true
    That our end is in view,
    But it still seems completely insane.

  • It seems I got a small detail wrong in my last post.
    It was another community garden that was in competition with the elementary school garden, not the garden at the quarry, which was always intended as a private garden. The rest of my views there are acurate.
    Sorry, checking facts isn’t always easy but it came through.

  • Dramatic lessons from the Arctic big melt of 2012: It’s already too hot, as Greenland melt record is smashed

    by David Spratt, 16 August 2012
    Greenland melt index (2012 red bar) Source: Marco Tedesco

    News today of a dramatic increase in melting of the Greenland ice sheet this northern summer, and the likelihood of a new record low in summer Arctic sea-ice extent, demand a new look at what safe climate action means.
    Today, Marco Tedesco, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York, reported that melting over the Greenland ice sheet shattered the seasonal record in the modern era, a full four weeks before the close of the melting season. The melting season in Greenland usually lasts from June – when the first puddles of meltwater appear – to early September, when temperatures cool. This year, cumulative melting by 8 August had already exceeded the record of 2010 (chart above, year 2012 in red). “With more yet to come in August, this year’s overall melting will fall way above the old records. That’s a goliath year — the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979,” said Professor Tedesco.