The natural world runs on finite nuclear power. While the sun's light and heat energy supports life, it can't support the energy hungry world that we've created.
This world harnesses energy flows created by burning1 finite, affordable, energy dense matter. This world is a threat to the natural world.
Both worlds are subject to the laws of thermodynamics et al.
Both come to an end when the sun extinguishes conditions for life. That's a long way off we're told.
Our constructed world comes to an end when we run out of affordable dense energy surpluses2. This will be soon. The issue of energy depletion has been in full view for half a century but we've chosen to deny this unpleasant reality.
If private debt wasn't created out of thin air, and freely available, we'd already know that dense energy surpluses are unaffordable, and that economic collapse is inevitable.
Private debt has reached levels where any increase in energy prices will trigger economic collapse, and any reduction in energy prices will bankrupt producers, leading to the same outcome.
How might we avoid some of the pain that's coming our way?
They could write off private debt that can never be repaid. We could ration remaining affordable dense energy surpluses for the good of all. We could make nuclear waste safe before capability is lost. We could introduce and enforce drastic measures around contraception and population lotteries. We could teach people to grow their food in local communities.
But I'll stop there. We're not going to save ourselves.
Humans are uniquely genetically disposed to deny unpleasant reality. It's a key factor in our domination of other life forms. The flip side of this coin is our optimism bias. The belief that we'll find a way out because we're so clever.
A subset of us has created a world that's largely incomprehensible to most of us. But, we've taken most of the credit for this apparent success. Owning a smartphone doesn't make you smart. Hubris isn't doing humankind any favours.
Energy consumption, food production and population growth are highly correlated. Take out dense energy, and the latter collapse.
Nature's playing rope a dope3 with us. Eventually, we'll fall to the laws of physics, an opponent that can't be beaten.
How will we react to the loss of dense energy?
In our ranks, at the top of our power hierarchies, are the parasites. The rentiers. The militarists. The sociopaths. The politicians. Their dirty work is undertaken by the management classes with their separate education and health systems, and by the armies of robopaths.
Orlov's technosphere4 is another component in this web of control, destruction and extinction. That's a discussion for another day.
The parasites exploit the primitive wants and desires of their host, while keeping their hands firmly on the levers of power. Unintended consequences follow them around like a bad smell.
This is the lot of nearly 8,000,000,000 lives caught in the hierarchies, regulations and borders. They're kept barely alive by their parasites - educated by corrupt government and religion, controlled by robopaths5, drip fed on credit lines and welfare created out of thin air, pacified by job insecurity and bullshit jobs6, brain washed by omnipresent screens... etc etc.
So what will happen? The craziness is already evident. It's the stuff of revolution but whether that happens remains to be seen. The elites have been waiting and preparing for that outcome since the seventies. We've helped them out by telling them everything about us, borrowing from them, and letting them subvert our democracy etc etc.
In a universe which is inherently anti-life, our beautiful, precious, life giving planet is experiencing a plague of rampaging, dumb primates.
The problems are global and insoluble. Cooperation and leadership is required, but absent. That's foreign to parasites.
Humans are simply incapable of taking pre-emptive, evasive action in the face of such problems. It doesn't matter that a few of them have some answers. Humankind is going to smack into the wall without a sideways glance.
Hopefully, from the wreckage, a simple, compassionate and sustainable way of living will emerge. One that recognises and provides a place at the table for all living things.
It takes energy to get energy. Only an affordable dense energy surplus is useful to our complex world. It's measure is Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). Returns have been going down, and Investment has been going up, signalling the end of the big burn, and civilisation as we know it.↩
rope-a-dope refers to "a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches." It was "coined by Muhammad Ali, referring to a tactic in a boxing match with George Foreman."↩
Dmitry Orlov - Shrinking the Technosphere.↩
"The robopaths are the people who pull the triggers at My Lai, Kent State, and Attica, make policy in Washington, and live next door. Dehumanized by regimentation, bureaucratization, and indiscriminate violence, they are growing more numerous in today's society." - Robopaths: People as Machines by Lewis Yablonsky↩
the late David Graeber.↩
- 2 toasts