It’s time to be blunt: Humans are headed towards disaster.
Most of us already know this. Some consciously, others unconsciously.
Those aware to the many predicaments we face may understand them intellectually, such as through the data provided in The Crash Course. Or they may sense them intuitively as a feeling in their gut that “something is wrong." Many experience a combination of both.
Those operating at the unconscious level may only experience a pervasive sense of dread encroaching into their lives. Many of these people are confused because they are aware of the context and are increasingly either checking out via numbing behaviors such as drinking and opioid addiction, or they're acting out via violence and protest.
No matter if it's consciously or unconsciously, everybody who ‘knows’ that something is terribly wrong is correct.
A Very Different Future
The data is obvious and the logic is clear. We cannot continue as we have been. The system is simply unsustainable.
Unfortunately, "continuation" is the one and only plan of the state. Let's get back on track doing what we always have been (and use increasingly blunt techniques to saturate the populace with this message). That’s the whole plan. It boils down to: More of the same.
But ‘the same’ is killing the planet.
Species are disappearing at horrifying rates that have few comparisons over the past 500 million years. Soil washes to the sea creating dead zones, while humans and the animals they eat are now 95% of the terrestrial animal biomass.
Oceans are acidifying, causing phytoplankton to disappear. Glaciers are melting and sliding away, with those in Greenland and Antarctica contributing to sea level rise, a phenomenon that is not somewhere out in the future, but right here, right now.
The impact [of sea level rise] is already being felt in South Florida. Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock.
Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply. The area’s drainage canals rely on gravity; as oceans rise, the water utility has had to install giant pumps to push water out to the ocean.
That’s not a future scenario, that’s right now. When utilities are installing giant pumps, they are not doing that because of what might happen, but because of that which is already happening.
Pro tip: If you own coastal property worth a bundle that’s at risk, sell now and avoid the rush. That’s the conclusion of the Bloomberg article above, and something that insurers and underwriters might render moot by pulling your insurance coverage. How much is an uninsurable property on the coast of a rising sea worth? The answer is: Less than its current price.
A (very) little bit of study reveals that exponential growth on a finite planet is a bad idea, which means that perpetual exponential growth is an even worse idea, insanity defined practically. Unfortunately, and quite obviously, perpetual exponential growth lies at the very heart of every so-called ‘modern’ economic model. It’s what we seek as a culture, and is lauded and rewarded in every possible way.
But it turns out that debt-based money coupled to the insatiable human desire for ever more is a very toxic combo. Both to ourselves, individually, as well as the planet as a whole -- as the historically-brief past 150 years of rampant human feasting on fossil fuels has been devastating to our ecosystems.
While you’ve probably read a dozen articles talking about the death knell of fossil fuels and demand destruction due to substitution and technology, the reality is that (outside of severe economic downturns) each year humans quite reliably consume more oil than the year before:
This is just the what the data tells us. More oil consumed this year than last. While demand destruction from new technology and different choices may show up in the future, that dynamic is nowhere to be seen in the actual data yet.
Even more worryingly, there are at least 10 and possibly as many as 20 fossil fuel calories embedded in each single food calorie we eat. Our diet is made possible only by today's surfeit of fossil fuel energy. Yet there seems to be no replacement plan and no concern for this fact outside of a few ‘fringe’ blogs and academic arenas.
But on our current course, 8 or 9 billion people will soon be trying to produce more food from degraded soils even as fossil fuels begin to wane, in both aggregate and especially in terms of net energy.
And that’s not some super far off date in the future. That’s in as few as 15 years, which really isn’t a lot of time given the seriousness of the predicament.
My point here is that The future has arrived. There’s no more waiting required for those who dare to look. Or to feel what’s in their hearts, or gut, or wherever your intuition registers.
Our Giant Canoe
Think of our situation as if humanity were all together in a giant canoe and nearly everybody is paddling as hard as they can. After all, we’re trying to get somewhere: to improve ourselves, to grow our economy and increase our prosperity. There are goals to be met!
Along the way we’ve convinced ourselves that this canoe is the best one ever built and it cannot fail us. It is the very pinnacle of achievement. It looks great, and there are creature comforts and pleasant distractions galore. Food has never been more abundant or easier to obtain, new gadgets keep showing up, and (in theory, at least) you can determine for yourself where you want to sit in the canoe.
The people in the front love being there, as they feel powerful and in control. Ironically, though, it's the few people in the stern who are actually secretly and rather effortlessly steering, but nobody in the rest of the canoe seems to notice or care.
There's only one thing wrong with this canoe. It’s headed for a gigantic waterfall, and if it tips over the lip, very few will survive. It will be like going over Niagara Falls without a barrel.
A few in the canoe have woken up and noticed this. But their protests are limited to either pulling their paddles out of the water and refusing to propel the canoe any faster, or even trying to futilely paddle backwards against the rest of humanity’s combined efforts.
Neither approach is a solution, mind you. But at least for these 'awake' souls, it feels better than paddling mindlessly towards the roaring falls.
As it stand today, humanity’s canoe is destined to speed right over the edge. Unless we consciously do something about it. Which we could, if we really wanted to.
As there’s nothing preventing us from steering the canoe safely to land, I find this one of the most interesting and fascinating times to be alive. We are currently playing the role of our own destroyer, but the savior role is still there for the choosing.
But what stops us? What keeps us paddling furiously ahead even as the sound of the roaring falls gets louder and louder? The answer is at once both very simple and devilishly hard.
It’s our egos.
To save ourselves from ourselves, we have to begin doing things very, very differently. Truthfully, the only way we can save ourselves is to shift our consciousness.