Preparing for Collapse: Why the Focus on Climate/Energy Sustainability Is Destructive

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In the later part of this post, I am reproducing a new article from Yale Climate Connections, ow to talk with (just about) anyone about climate and the 2024 elections, because it illustrates how fatally off track well-meaning Green New Deal and others advocating various climate sustainabilty strategies are.

Mind you, the piece does give some good tips on how to engage individuals with political beliefs differing from yours and hopefully chip away a bit at them. But the bigger issue is that we are well past the point where that amounts to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It leads people who are worried about the grim future for planetary health and what that means for civilization to think that there are various fixes that can prevent very bad outcomes. We are way past that.

Lambert and I have regularly talked about the Jackpot, from the William Gibson novel The Peripheral. People from about 70 years in the future have figured out how to mess with the present (Gibson does point out that that creates forks in events, rather than people from the future being able to meddle with the present so as to change the reality they are in). Here Wilf from the future speaks to heroine Flynn in the present (which is actually the nearer future):

[The Jackpot] was androgenic, [Wilf] said, and [Flynn] knew from Ciencia Loca and National Geographic that meant because of people. Not that they’d known what they were doing, had meant to make problems, but they’d caused it anyway. And in fact the actual climate, the weather, caused by there being too much carbon, had been the driver for a lot of other things. How that got worse and never better, and was just expected to, ongoing. Because people in the past, clueless as to how that worked, had fucked it all up, then not been able to get it together to do anything about it, even after they knew, and now it was too late.

So now, in her day, he said, they were headed into androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad sh*t, like she sort of already knew, figured everybody did….Wilf told her [the Jackpot] killed 80 percent of every last person alive, over about forty years…

No comets crashing, nothing you could really call a nuclear war. Just everything else, tangled in the changing climate: droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves. And all of it around people: how people were, how many of them there were, how they’d changed things just by being there. ….

But science, he said, had been the wild card, the twist. With everything stumbling deeper into a ditch of sh*t, history itself become a slaughterhouse, science had started popping. Not all at once, no one big heroic thing, but there were cleaner, cheaper energy sources, more effective ways to get carbon out of the air, new drugs that did what antibiotics had done before…. Ways to print food that required much less in the way of actual food to begin with. So everything, however deeply fucked in general, was lit increasingly by the new, by things that made people blink and sit up, but then the rest of it would just go on, deeper into the ditch. A progress accompanied by constant violence, he said, by sufferings unimaginable. ….

Bear in mind that Gibson depicts his story as romantic, and not just because the major characters get happily hitched at the end. Gibson recognizes that a Hail-Mary-pass level techno-save is vanishingly unlikely, even with decades of horror during the transition.

We have some readers who are going in a survivalist direction, including retirees who have gotten arable land in areas that look to have water and energy sources that are secure and are well on the way to subsistence farming. How one contends with injury and ill health is another matter (how do you enlist medically knowledgeable people in your effort? What regularly used medications have long self lives? What do you do when supplies run out?). This exercise is likely productive for individuals and communities for a while, but again, the profile of the problem is markedly worse.

Key sections from the must read, The Collapse Is Coming. Will Humanity Adapt? from the MIT Press Reader, an interview by science fiction writer Peter Watts, with Dan Brooks, co-author of A Darwinian Survival Guide:

Peter Watts: In this corner, the biosphere. We’ve spent a solid year higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius; we’re wiping out species at a rate of somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 annually; insect populations are crashing; and we’re losing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, no matter what we do at this point. Alaskapox has just claimed its first human victim, and there are over 15,000 zoonoses expected to pop up their heads and take a bite out of our asses by the end of the century. And we’re expecting the exhaustion of all arable land around 2050, which is actually kind of moot because studies from institutions as variable as MIT and the University of Melbourne suggest that global civilizational collapse is going to happen starting around 2040 or 2050.

In response to all of this, the last COP was held in a petrostate and was presided over by the CEO of an oil company; the next COP is pretty much the same thing. We’re headed for the cliff, and not only have we not hit the brakes yet, we still have our foot on the gas….

Daniel Brooks: Well, the primary thing that we have to understand or internalize is that what we’re dealing with is what is called a no-technological-solution problem. In other words, technology is not going to save us, real or imaginary. We have to change our behavior. If we change our behavior, we have sufficient technology to save ourselves. If we don’t change our behavior, we are unlikely to come up with a magical technological fix to compensate for our bad behavior. This is why Sal and I have adopted a position that we should not be talking about sustainability, but about survival, in terms of humanity’s future. Sustainability has come to mean, what kind of technological fixes can we come up with that will allow us to continue to do business as usual without paying a penalty for it?…

To clarify, when we talk about survival in the book, we talk about two different things. One is the survival of our species, Homo sapiens. We actually don’t think that’s in jeopardy. Now, Homo sapiens of some form or another is going to survive no matter what we do, short of blowing up the planet with nuclear weapons. What’s really important is trying to decide what we would need to do if we wanted what we call “technological humanity,” or better said “technologically-dependent humanity,” to survive….

Put it this way: If you take a couple of typical undergraduates from the University of Toronto and you drop them in the middle of Beijing with their cell phones, they’re going to be fine. You take them up to Algonquin Park, a few hours’ drive north of Toronto, and you drop them in the park, and they’re dead within 48 hours….

What can we begin doing now that will increase the chances that those [desirable] elements of technologically-dependent humanity will survive a general collapse, if that happens as a result of our unwillingness to begin to do anything effective with respect to climate change and human existence?…

It is conceivable that if all of humanity suddenly decided to change its behavior, right now, we would emerge after 2050 with most everything intact, and we would be “OK.” We don’t think that’s realistic. It is a possibility, but we don’t think that’s a realistic possibility. We think that, in fact, most of humanity is committed to business as usual, and that’s what we’re really talking about: What can we begin doing now to try to shorten the period of time after the collapse, before we “recover”? In other words — and this is in analogy with Asimov’s Foundation trilogy — if we do nothing, there’s going to be a collapse and it’ll take 30,000 years for the galaxy to recover. But if we start doing things now, then it maybe only takes 1,000 years to recover. So using that analogy, what can some human beings start to do now that would shorten the period of time necessary to recover? Could we, in fact, recover within a generation? Could we be without a global internet for 20 years, but within 20 years, could we have a global internet back again?

There is more to this discussion, but I hope that is sufficient to sober you up.

Contrast this with the so-well-meaning-that-the-treaclyness-hurts-my-teeth article from the Conversation we mentioned at the outset. I don’t mean to sound as if I am singling out the author. The piece exemplifies a pervasive school of PMC-think, that if enough people have “conversations” and reach sufficient agreement, that solves problems. It’s pure symbol-manipulator behavior, as if a shared vision is tantamount to action. Not only are plans not action, when formulated this way, they are often too general and/or abstract to serve as adequate guides for action. And that’s before considering the elephant in the room of greatly underestimating the scale of what needs to happen.

By Osha Davidson, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Scientific American, National Geographic, the New York Times, Discover, Sierra, High Country News, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, and Grist, among others. He served as contributing editor at Earthzine, a NASA-funded journal covering remote sensing, and blogged about the emerging clean energy market for Forbes. His books include “The Best of Enemies,” which was a finalist for the NYPL’s Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism and was later adapted into a film starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson. “The Enchanted Braid” was shortlisted for the UK Natural World Book Prize, often called the “Green Booker.” “Under Fire” was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and appeared on several “best books of the year” lists. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections

Climate change may not officially be on the ballot this November, but the climate and energy policies of the two major parties couldn’t be further apart. President Joe Biden has taken a number of historic steps toward a clean energy economy. While far more needs to be done, a Trump victory “would become an all-out assault on any possible progress on climate change,” according to Pete Maysmith of the League of Conservation Voters.

For people who are concerned about how the election could affect climate action, one of the most effective ways to have an impact is by talking about it with other voters. Here are some tips for how to talk about the climate stakes of the 2024 election with friends, family, and neighbors.

Start by Listening

In her more than two decades as director of the Sierra Club’s chapter in purple-state Arizona, Sandy Bahr has plenty of experience talking with voters from across the political spectrum about the impact elections can have on climate policy. The most important advice she has for these dialogues is the one most frequently neglected.

“A big part of a conversation is listening,” she says. “What do they think about climate change? You have to know where the other person is coming from to move the conversation forward.”

Jane Conlin, co-leader of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby in Tucson, agrees. “You have to approach people with an open mind and with respect.” People don’t want to be lectured to.

“We always begin by searching for common ground,” explains Conlin. “It’s just talking about the things that you see and experience every day. There are so many ways to have a conversation because we know that climate change is affecting every aspect of our lives.”

All Climate Politics Is Local

Where people live determines what they care about most. In Arizona, for example, nearly everyone is concerned about water. In rural areas, the issue may be agriculture.

“Ranchers and farmers know that there’s less water coming down the Colorado River,” Bahr says.

In the southern part of the state, the Sonoran desert, the fast-growing urban centers have long relied on the Colorado and on groundwater, which, Bahr says, is shrinking due to both over-pumping and slower recharging from a decreasing amount of rainfall.

“Not all water issues are attributable to climate change,” she points out, “but it’s making a situation that was already bad much worse. So leading with water is a good way to connect with people here.”

No place is immune from extreme weather linked to the changing climate, as demonstrated by 2023, the warmest year for the planet in recorded history. Along the Gulf Coast states, climate change is causing sea level rise and more powerful and more frequent hurricanes. Last year, triple-digit temperatures across the Plain states to the southeastern U.S. in August were associated with the formation of massive heat domes linked to hundreds of deaths. Increased humidity from a warming ocean fed “atmospheric rivers” causing massive destruction across the West Coast. For weeks the northeastern seaboard was blanketed with smoke from Canadian wildfires exacerbated by climate change. Whatever form weather extremes took, the people who lived through them won’t forget their impact and will likely be eager to talk about them.

Talk about Electrification

Because over 75% of climate change is caused by burning fossil fuel for power, electrifying the grid and transportation is critical to a sustainable future. Fortunately, transitioning to a clean energy economy offers a variety of issues that are engaging.

As Sandy Bahr points out climate change “is a pocketbook issue. Even if it’s just higher prices for electricity, that’s a big concern for almost everybody.”

With the cost of solar panels dropping by 85% over the last decade, Conlin says that clean energy is a hot topic in Tucson, where residents experienced a record 14 days of 110-plus degree temperatures last summer.

“We talk about the economic benefits of installing solar panels because people already have sky-high electricity bills from air conditioning in the desert. And then we can talk about voting for candidates in November who support clean and cheap energy.”

Electrification on such a massive scale is pushing technological innovations that fascinate people regardless of their politics. Conlin recalls a discussion she had recently with a man doing maintenance work on her house.

“He was interested in new technologies so I showed him my induction stove. I didn’t tell him the climate reasons for getting the stove. I just showed him how fast it heated water through magnetism.”

He was enthralled. When the conversation moved to cars, Conlin asked if he’d ever seen an electric vehicle up close.

“He had,” she says, “and he talked about how cool they are.”

Conlin’s under no illusion that the conversation will necessarily move the man to vote for climate-positive candidates.

“But,” she says, “I am hopeful that he has become more receptive to hearing about a transition from fossil fuels to an electricity-fueled economy. We expanded the conversation from the stove to cars to just, you know, how electrons are our friends! It’s an example of meeting people where they are and moving them along.”

Provide an Antidote to Feelings of Powerlessness

“With climate change, sometimes people feel a bit helpless and that creates inaction,” Bahr says. “It’s not always that people don’t care. It can be that they’re just overwhelmed.”

Even small actions can be an effective antidote to feelings of powerlessness, she says, pointing to a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that provided millions of dollars for a program in Phoenix where volunteers plant shade trees to make the city more livable as temperatures increase.

“Things like the tree-planting program,” Bahr says, “where people can go out and physically do something, helps them overcome that feeling of helplessness. It can be a powerful motivator to get involved.”

That personal participation can lead to voting for candidates who understand the issues and provide solutions.

How to Talk to Young Voters

All the above points hold for talking with younger voters, but there are additional factors to take into consideration, says Taylor Conley, an 18-year-old high school senior and climate activist in Tempe, Arizona.

“Personally, I’ve always felt a lot of concern about Arizona’s changing climate,” Conley says, “especially the worsening heat. So when a neighbor brought me to the Youth Climate Strike at the state capitol building in March 2019, I really liked both the community of youth there and the opportunity to do something to help the climate.”

Conley joined the Arizona Youth Climate Coalition and while helping organize events she had an epiphany.

“I realized I could actually have an impact,” she says. “I discovered that there’s power in working with others.”

Today, Conley codirects the Arizona Youth Climate Coalition, where her duties include talking with other students about voting for climate policy. It’s not always an easy conversation.

“A lot of kids are just absorbed in what they have going on in their lives right now,” she says, “and they don’t really want to think about it.”

Others know that climate change is real but they don’t believe that they can have an effect. When speaking with them, Conley brings up Tucson’s climate action and adaptation plan and mentions that Arizona Youth Climate Coalition’s Tucson team helped write the plan.

“Some of those students are surprised by what we’ve already accomplished. It’s empowering and it can lead to the next step: voting for candidates who support policies that align with our values.”

Conley, Bahr, and Conlin are all gearing up for the November election, and each is optimistic that a combination of proper messaging and hard work will lead to decisive action on climate policy.

“It’s a scary time for the environment,” says Bahr, “and a scary time for our democracy. But I don’t believe in trying to motivate people out of fear. I hope that people will be motivated by love for their fellow humans, for their communities, and for the other creatures we share this planet with.”

However the conversation begins, Bahr personally believes climate change itself has to be part of the conversation for several reasons.

“Some voters may not be engaged on the issue of climate change because no one has taken the time to talk with them about it in terms they can understand,” she says. “People don’t care about what they don’t know.”

Bahr adds that because the pace of warming is increasing, climate change has to be addressed directly.

“We really need to get this ball rolling faster,” Bahr says. “We need to reduce emissions as rapidly as possible while we’re also making ourselves more resilient to the impacts of climate change. We can’t afford to wait.”

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  1. GramSci

    I must have missed the part about how to talk with just about anyone about the Jackpot. What I want to know is how to talk to my ten-year-old grand children.

      1. Lee

        I never knew my grandparents and other kin due to early deaths and estrangements, the cause of the latter being a forbidden topic, as well as a general scattering of kin across the vastness of several western states. Even so I have maintained strong connections with my descendants. Just this morning I was instructing my 17 month old granddaughter on the breath control method required to successfully blow soap bubbles. In turn she teaches me that delight is still with us in this world.

  2. MFB

    Yes, your point is well taken. The choice is between the implosion of human civilisation and the implosion of most of human civilisation. Gibson’s Jackpot is actually the best of all possible worlds (although it is perfectly clear that Gibson does believe in it – in the sequel to The Peripheral, the world is saved because Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 election and makes everything all right again).

    A good friend, a zoologist, once said that she was so glad she was not going to live to see the hell the governments of the world were turning the planet into. (Ironically she was murdered a few years ago by a couple of local junkies, but there you are.)

    The trouble that Watts raises, though, remains. Are we going to be able to actually reverse the current trends? Because the biosphere (at least the smaller animals and most sea creatures) will survive, but we are not small animals and not aquatic, and we don’t have thirty million years to wait for the climate to stabilise again. And changing our behaviour-patterns without changing technological processes will not prevent ninety percent of the population from dying – it’s very likely that the behaviour-pattern changes, if we retain current technologies, will help to kill off that ninety percent.

    I don’t see a good answer to any of these questions, but I’m not absolutely sure that we’re asking the right questions anyway. And I don’t mean by this the people who are floating on a sea of WEF fantasies about how everything can be saved with clean coal, gas and Californian thinfilm solar panels – such people, including most environmentalists, are beyond the scope of any possible solution to the problem. But how do we keep ourselves alive? Can we do it? What real changes do we need to make?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Perhaps I am hallucinating, but I recall Gibson making some downer statements about the future, basically saying the future he depicted in The Peripheral was actually optimistic. Recall the book was published in 2014, before he could have acquired a case of TDS and resulting Clinton worship.

      1. Alex Cox

        Gibson didn’t invent the Jackpot concept. He borrowed it from Robert Heinlein, whose short story Day of the Jackpot, published by Galaxy in 1952, depicts a cascading sequence of (mostly man-made) catastrophes.

        It’s fascinating to revisit SF stories from the 1950s, as many of them describe in detail the disasters we face today.

    2. Joe Well

      The TDS and Hillary worship in the Agency, the sequel to The Peripheral, destroyed my respect for Gibson. The Russians manipulated the election, preventing Hillary’s magisterial ascension to office whence she would have warded off the Jackpot, or at least the worst of it. And his Twitter account was full-on hard TDS. How can you trust anything the man writes after that?

        1. JBird4049

          Yes, but the best fiction especially science fiction is done by a writer who has a firm grasp of reality and a personal understanding of his blind spots. Having a clear understanding of the now and then extrapolating. TDS and hoping for Mama Clinton makes for poor extrapolation.

      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        Even smart people are not right about everything. They can be right about some big things and wrong about some other big things.

        And if ” TDS” becomes a card which is played to ward off any criticism of Trump, then bad things about Trump will go missed or overlooked. Clinton “bad” does not make Trump “better”.

        Actually, it occurred to me that in psychomental terms, Trump is the Republicans’ “Hillary” in terms of nothing being his fault. Never. Ever. And everything being someone else’s fault. Always. Every Time. It is all part of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy to get Donald Trump.

        Quite Clintonesque, actually.

  3. Samuel Conner

    > What regularly used medications have long self lives?

    Just starting in to this piece, but this question caught my attention.

    I wonder whether there might be a resurgence in interest in traditional plant-based medicinal approaches, which might be enhanced in terms of issues of precise application and dosing by the “science is popping” background. People who are growing (at least some of) their own food could grow (at least some of) their own medicine, too. Living plants, if one can propagate them, have infinite “shelf life.”

    If one is going to invest time, $$$ and water in suburban landscaping, at least get food and medicine out of it. It might be a good idea to plant drought-tolerant trees, too.

    1. ISL

      I use for my herbal seeds. To name one, a strong feverfew tea works as well as an extra strength excedrine (and grows like a weed – put it in planters!). Obviously not going to grow an epi-pen or the equivalent of modern antibiotics (which will probably not work in a decade – but that is another topic)….

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        I use that seed source too and grow Fever Few, along with a few dozen perennial or self-seeding annuals (e.g. Chamomile) with medicinal or food-enhancing properties. Many of them are also beautiful plants like Hyssop (see Psalm 51) or Valerian, whose root is a primary ingredient in the heavily advertised Relaxium. Some are also not so beautiful like Burdock whose root is sold in health food stores to cleanse the liver but whose seeds are like cockleburs and are no fun to remove from a pet’s fur. (
        So you remove the seeds which also keeps the burdock from spreading beyond where you want it.)

        Some of these plants may be sold in your local nursery, but many will require you to buy seeds from somewhere like Strictly Medicinal Seeds or Annie’s Heirloom Seeds and grow the plants yourself. Some of them will also require cold stratifying or scarifying to help them germinate. The good news is that most are perennials.

        1. old ghost

          I was a little kid in the early 1950’s when I went with my mom to get her fever few plant from an old German farm wife. Every time we moved, the plant came with us. I am still growing it. It likes a well drained soil, and thrives in full sunlight. It can banish my migraine headaches within 15 minutes. It may also help with arthritis.

          Another plant every survivalist should grow is rhubarb. Once established, this vegetable is a prolific producer. It is not as popular as it used to be, but it can survive any winter up here in the frozen north..

          Both plants produce a lot of seeds, are pest free, and thrive on neglect.

        2. Cassandra

          The aerial parts of feverfew are a good source of parthenalide, subject of many recent studies for its effects as an anti-inflammatory and a promoter of apoptosis in malignant cells. There are other active ingredients (nb feverfew also affects clotting, so be careful out there).

          A reading list for those interested:

          For migraines, lemon balm (melissa) is supposed to be helpful in addition to feverfew. Lemon balm is a source of rosmarinic acid.

          Rosmarinic acid (rosemary and oregano) has antimicrobial and antifungal properties and seems to act synergistically with antibiotics against resistant bacteria:

          Also see carnosic acid in rosemary, sage, and oregano as a neuroprotectant:

          Finally, if you grow oregano, have several plants in your herb garden and allow some to flower in order to attract pollinators. It is very easy to grow, spreading and self-seeding. Another favorite of pollinators, especially honeybees, is wild catnip (warning: garden thug) and for late season flowers, borage.

        3. thousand points of green

          Burdock is a biennial. Year one it produces its long tap root. Year two it uses its tap-rooted food reserves to flower, seed and die. In year two one could cut off most of the flower branches up the side of the main stalk as they form, and let just a few flowers form at the top. Then after the plants have set their seeds and died, one could pick off and scatter those seeds around the target area for new plants to start the next season. That’s what I do.

          There are somewhat domesticated selections of Burdock. Here is a source.

          How would one dig up a root that long? Do the Japanese pre-prepare super deep soft-soil beds for it to grow in so that getting the root up is easier?

          ( And I notice that this seed-source claims that the “leaves and stalks” can also be eaten. Maybe I will write that company and see how they are prepared. Or maybe there is info online about that.)

    2. Ben Joseph

      If I’m reduced to eating dandelions and squirrels, I might not need my statin.

        1. Ben Joseph

          It’s better for stroke prevention than cardiovascular. I’ve heard cardiologists aren’t so sure but stroke prevention is above and beyond effects on cholesterol.

          Generic medicine getting bad press makes me suspicious. Alzheimer Association has been downplaying safe and somewhat effective generics for dangerous and somewhat effective immunotherapy for several years.

      1. Adam Eran

        For cardiology / stroke, see Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s talk here. Even if you don’t agree with his dietary advice (I do) you’ll know more about the heart and stroke than 99% of the population. Eat whole foods, plant based…save the planet and your statin money. (Sorry to bring up something so controversial…but not that sorry)

  4. Steve H.

    From A Darwinian Survival Guide:

    Sustainability is founded on a belief that what humans are doing is fundamentally justified, and if they just do less of it, or do it more efficiently and equitably, environmental conditions will ‘return to normal’ and humans will not have to alter their behavior. That evokes adherence to a status quo, a ‘business as usual’ mentality…

    Business as usual leads to crisis management, and in an increasingly complex world bounded by accelerating climate change, new challenges keep outrunning efforts to sustain the status quo. As well, sustainability arguments are often based on an unspoken assumption that the ‘normal’ condition of the planet and its biosphere is stasis. Nothing could be further from the truth… We believe, therefore, that trying to solve the problem of human existence through sustainability in the usual sense has contributed to the existential crisis it was supposed to counteract.

  5. DG


    I made a batch of treacle; I appreciate this comment. And I agree with a chill in my spine.

    1. Heather

      How do you make treacle? I thought treacle was a byproduct of processing sugar cane into sugar. Thank you in my ignorance!

  6. The Rev Kev

    Not seeing any mention of how we will have to drastically reduce how much energy that we consume. We treat it like it will run forever not only on an individual level but on a society wide one. Seems that whenever there is a move to reduce energy, that Silicon Valley for example will come up with a scam that requires vast amounts of energy and water to run their server farms to make it possible, the latest scam being AI. The truth of the matter is that large swathes of our world are being made insufferably hot as temperatures rise. Our present mentality is to think of things like air-con and nuclear plants to power them but the reality is that we will have to use older systems that are proven to work without constant energy demands-

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      during the big doomer talk with my eldest the other night, he asked what i intended w solar and wind.
      i told him…bare minimum: fridges and freezers and the well pump.
      we can make do without literally everything else if we must.
      two other things id rather not do without: chainsaws and my dern golfcart…but there are alternatives.

      the reason we dont already have our own microgrid is mom….who sits upon the $…and insists that her habits re: electrical usage not change one iota. this make the required system much more complex and expensive.
      so its a question of priorities/// as well as function vs form, and not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          For that to work, the old timers used the windmill-powered pump to pump the water to an elevated tank so that gravity provided water when needed regardless of whether the wind was blowing. Also, the limit on how deep the water table is below the surface is an issue. A wind-powered pump at the surface cannot pull the water as far as a submersible pump can push it.

        2. Amfortas the Hippie

          yeah. we have an hundred year old aeromotor has the leathers replaced every ten years or so….but it aint hooked up to any of the water infrastructure, so it doesnt get used …so the leathers dry rot.
          its sticking down into an 130 year old, hand dug well….so we’d definitely hafta filter it for household use.
          i did all the fluid dynamic math for to use it to send water to the back pasture for drip irrigation…all i need is pipe and a few tanks…all wind and gravity powered…but thats another thing that’ll hafta wait til mom’s gone,lol.
          i can do it for next to nothing…she’ll spend 10k.
          i also have a relatively new cast iron hand pump, sitting in my closet,lol
          got it from Lehmanns when we lived in town, just in case.
          when we redo the regular well pump, i intend to 1. put a solar electric pump down there…but also run that handpump down the bore(it’s a big borehole)…i like redundancy with things as important as water.
          i also have much of the stuff for rainwater collection…so far, only the bar is set up(too much work, not enough body).
          got enough gutters and almost enough tanks to collect rainwater off of every structure on my side of the place. the formula is 1/2 gallon per square foot of roof, per inch of rain.
          the problem is storage. even in a really dry year, we get millions of gallons of water on all these roofs.
          pond liners have come a long way in 30 years…and are a whole lot cheaper than they used to be…ive plans for at least 4 ponds on the place…again, when mom’s gone and cannot interfere.
          mainly for the pastures and the trees i want to plant all over, out there.

  7. thoughtfulperson

    The quote or link to the Yale Climate article at the end appears to be missing. Great article though. Thanks.

    “In the later part of this post, I am reproducing a new article from Yale Climate Connections, ow to talk with (just about) anyone about climate and the 2024 elections, because it illustrates how fatally off track well-meaning Green New Deal and others advocating various climate sustainabilty strategies are.”

  8. JohnA

    We talk about the economic benefits of installing solar panels because people already have sky-high electricity bills from air conditioning in the desert. And then we can talk about voting for candidates in November who support clean and cheap energy.

    Maybe stop building homes in deserts that are uninhabitable without air conditioning. Generations ago, homes around the Mediterranean were designed to keep heat out. Now you see more and more AC units on the sides of houses. Using less energy is better than simply using more renewable energy

    1. GF

      One could apply the same logic to building houses in the cold north. Why build or continue to occupy buildings that require a tremendous amount of energy to heat?

        1. Jana

          My observation for over 6 decades:
          Houses in America are built for financial profit. The builder, banker and buyer all desire to make a financial gain from it.
          Homes built for living life are built for different reasons.

  9. jsn

    I haven’t had time to read the whole piece, but made it through Yves intro ending with “the elephant in the room”, bringing to mind Walter Kirin’s (via Taibbi) “elephant erasure project”.

    Since Taibbi posted it the other day, its reality has manifest itself all over the place in my world view. I think it’s formal start was Bush vs Gore, pitting Big Oil head to head against Climate Change.

    At that point it was closely contested. 9/11 happened and the elephant vanished. Since then, every time its profile begins to take shape through the fog of events, some new catastrophe kicks up dust or makes new fog.

    In the new social media environment, itself one such catastrophe, the dust and fog generation has actually become a viable business model as some vested interest is always ready to pay to have its interests shrouded in fog or dust. It’s enough of an industry now that Alastair’s Crooke, published by Larry Johnson speculates Bibi is using it to attempt to distract from genocide.

  10. Carolinian

    If Americans on an individual level act like there is no tomorrow then who can blame them since our “I’ll be gone you’ll be gone” elites act the same way? Humans are mimetic. We are in the grips of a system that says selfishness is good, growth is good, overconsumption is good and all of the above is good for an economy that is the fixation of both the rulers and the ruled. I’ve complained about how people in my town suddenly started cruising through stop signs due to lack of traffic enforcement (for whatever reason) but also because everybody else is doing it. The great liberal fallacy is that everything is about moral choices and a refusal to acknowledge that there is a thing called human nature and that is what we are up against.

    So it will probably take a collapse for the world to get its head together Some, like the BRICS, are now preaching multipolarity and cooperation but the West of Biden and his poodles are fighting this with every fiber of their being. The world’s crisis is a crisis of the elites.

    1. Kouros

      Actually I really liked Kim Stanley Robinson’s idea in his “The Ministry for the Future’ in which a presumed terrorist group (Children of Kali) conducted targeted assassinations, on obnoxious elites. In my opinion, it would be the only workable solutions. for things to change, the same way tobacco was kind of banned, the elites have to stop doing it. So, things might change when you’ll see beos and Musk and buffet, etc all dress like Gandhi and spinning some wool or cotton…. and only showing up by video link.

  11. Barnes

    Only slightly off topic:
    I recently stumbled upon talks Dr. Christine Jones of Australia who does not tire to spread the word about soil health. Apparently it is established knowledge by now that absolutely nothing trumps biodiversity of plant functional groups (that is plants with different modi operandi and functions through plant specific biomes etc) to build healthy soils that sequester serious amounts of carbon while growing soil organic matter and nutritious food and fodder. Mind you she insists that, with the right approach, it is absolutely possible to regain healthy soils and feed the planet while combatting climate change without, or with very minimal need for, inorganic fertilisers.
    While I share the notion of Yves’ introduction, that it would require unrealistic behavioural changes by all of us to keep catastrophe at bay, Dr. Jones’s et al scientific findings show, that there are clever ways forward in rather short periods of time!
    I highly recommend her lectures on Youtube and her website

  12. SteveD

    This is excellent. Thank you for giving the Watts-Brooks discussion some attention.

  13. human

    I can think of little more insane than mining finite resources then throwing treasure and energy into the manufacture of products just to blow them up!

  14. SocalJimObjects

    On top of what other people have raised, I have a couple of problems with the MIT article:

    1. The survival of Homo Sapiens. The authors seem awfully certain that some form of human beings will continue indefinitely to the future, and I wish I can share their optimism. So we are looking at the exhaustion of arable lands by 2050 (from the article), the continued depletion of the ocean, the destruction of the ecosphere and the continuing increase in global temperature, and somehow Homo Sapiens will just make it through. Yay human?!! USA, USA, USA. Perhaps most of us will end up in cold storage to feed the Homo Superiors ….

    2. The continuation of technology and knowledge. “Could we be without a global internet for 20 years, but within 20 years, could we have a global internet back again?” This is delusional thinking, after all we know that there are “technologies” from the past that we can’t replicate today, and that’s without a collapse. Also, people somehow can put their technological knowledge in stasis for 20 or even a 1000 years and recall them back anytime? I am a coder, and I can tell you pretty much all coders can’t remember any program they’ve not touched or looked at for more than half a year. How about making chips, servers, routers, on top of the required knowledge to run the Internet? This somehow reminds me of that Louis CK joke i.e. the one about Westerners arriving in Year 2 and expecting to find a “table for 2” at a local restaurant.

    1. steppenwolf fetchit

      I grew up before the Internet. I remember life in the 60s as being pretty analog. TVs had a picture tube.
      Radios had vacuum tubes. Etc. Life to me felt pretty okay at the time.

      The internet is lots of fun. Commenting on blog threads is lots of fun. Watching YouTube videos is lots of fun. But life was materially fun in the 60s too. We didn’t know we didn’t have a global internet because there was no such thing as a global internet to know we didn’t have. Why is not having an internet anymore such a bad thing? Why should we consider ” getting a global internet back after 20 years without it” to be a goal worth working for? Or even a hope worth bothering to have?

      I am reminded of the country song title: I Got Along Fine Before I Met You, I’ll Get Along Fine When You’re Gone. And so it shall be with the internet.

      As long as the Upper Class doesn’t get to have any internet either.

      1. SocalJimObjects

        Well, the thing is we have no way to return to the 60s either, because how many people still know how to build the analog stuff? I am sure there’s a couple of really old TVs/electronics that are still working somewhere but when something breaks, we can’t go to a store to buy replacement part(s). I guess what I am trying to say is that when it comes to technology, collapse will not be gradual, we are not going to be replaying previous decades in reverse.

        1. steppenwolf fetchit

          A retro-industry and technology revival policy behind a big beautiful Wall of Protection might allow for a several decades solution of that problem.

          And a lower, smaller slower standard of living and level of consumption. In beautiful theory . . .

        2. Acacia

          Tube tech lives on. They are still being made. You can buy brand new tube amps and they sound nice. AFAIK, all the other components used in 60s tech are also still being made.

          But supply chains are long and fragile, so that will probably be what cripples various industries.

          In any case, I have to agree with the general outlook of the post.

          As Saito Kohei puts it: SDGs are “a modern version of the ‘opium of the masses’.”

          1. c_heale

            I don’t think tube tech will survive either. It is still dependent on fossil fuels, industry, and minerals we aren’t likely to have in the future.

            Medieval tech would be a good place to start imo.

            1. marku52

              You can see Utoobs of vacuum tubes being made in a garage, with pretty simple tools. Materials like Tungsten might be a problem.

    2. Steve H.

      In the book, Brooks and Agosta distinguish between humans as a species (which they believe will survive), and humans in terms of civilization. Their frame is that work done now could determine whether civilization can rebuild in a thousand years, or thirty thousand.

    3. Kouros

      The demographers predict, given the trends, a natural collapse in the numbers of human population walking the earth. If that gets accelerated a bit by crop failures and lack of water, and some pandemics, wars, etct., with a rebound likely never to happen at the same levels, nature will rebound nature doesn’t like vacum.

      Once life settled in, it couldnt be extiguished. We had about ELEs so far and we are still here. The anthropocene is a killer, but is not yet genocidal…

  15. Tom Pfotzer

    I thought this was a really good article, because it addresses the “budge the sled out of the ice” issue. There’s tremendous inertia to forward-action; 8 billion people whose behavior has enormous inertia.

    The acquisition of an accurate situational awareness and then – this is crucial – the “starting somewhere” is what budges the sled out.

    The article (induction stove) , and some of the comments above (Samuel Conner, re: herbal healthcare) also introduce the subject of “new products”. We’re going to need a heck of a lot of new products – each one a stepping stone – to get from where we are to where we need to be.

    Regardless of your estimate of the trajectory (bounce off the guardrail, or smack head-long into the bridge abutment), the chance of a glancing blow – just the chance of it – offers sufficient motivation to act.

    There is plenty of untapped human creativity available. It isn’t being effectively marshaled at this time. We certainly _do_ need to engage with others, and we need to ID the ready-willing-ables of the world, and get to them first.

    They are the vanguard with the capacity to budge the sled out of the ice. They are the ones that show what’s possible.

    1. Grumpy Engineer

      Sufficient motivation to act” on what, exactly? That’s the real problem. There are plenty of people out there who are worried about global warming and are ready to act. But they don’t know what to do. And if left to their own devices, they’ll typically focus on small things that are visible (like unplugging cell phone chargers or being more diligent about turning off lights) while neglecting the bigger things hidden in the background (like high-power AC units or “emergency heat” resistors that can pull vast amounts of power during extra-cold weather).

      And if by acting we mean yelling at politicians until they take action… Well, that hasn’t worked out very well either. Just look at EV mandates (which require materials that are terribly dirty to mine and grid updates that aren’t even planned, much less implemented). Or solar mandates (which are causing ever-increasing curtailments that ruin economics and have significantly increased electricity prices for people who are too poor to afford rooftop solar). Or national-level initiatives like Germany’s Energiewende (which has significantly exacerbated Germany’s energy crisis and driven electricity prices to shockingly high levels).

      We’ve already seen a LOT of action, but there has been little benefit. Global CO2 emissions continue to climb year after year ( Before we try to get people to act, we should have some idea of what they should do. Right now everybody is flailing.

      1. Jason Boxman

        Maybe it isn’t possible to avert collapse now, but what to do is quite transparent. Capitalism has to stop. If anyone were taking this seriously, some things can happen overnight, but it won’t make capitalists happy.

        Production of just about any single use thing has to end. Today. No more sodas. No more toothpaste. Probably 98% of every 7Eleven ought to be threadbare. This stuff can’t exist anymore. Ever. And that’s just low hanging fruit.

        Most of the economy, probably all, needs to be nationalized. Immediately. No more big SUVs. Those need to come off the road. Today. All of them. Tiny cars only. Every auto manufacturer needs to be begin immediately building only small cars.

        All shareholders, everywhere, gotta be wiped out. Too much money sloshing around. AI. Over. BTC. Over.

        We can’t afford to be f**king around here.

        This is just minor stuff, and it’s antithetical to neoliberal capitalism. So we all die. Most of us. Period. There are probably more people alive on this planet than it can credibly support without petrochemicals anyway for food. So a mass die off is inevitable.

        In Three Body Problem, there’s a massive worldwide crash defense program to try to give humanity a means of defense from galactic threat. Huge swaths of the population simply starves to death as a result. It was an all-in effort. We’d need something similar here. All resources devoted to pull carbon from the air and sea. Nothing else built, anywhere, again, for 50 years, just these things.

        Good luck with that! We’d be best off if there really is a giant meteor.

        People can’t even accept we’re in the midst of a global Pandemic with a level 3 biohazard, because capitalism. Elimination of SARS2 is an easy, easy lift by comparison. China did!

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Right attitude, Jason!

          It’s time for action. There’s 8 billion of us, and everyone can do something significant.

          Capitalism may not stop, but how you and I behave toward capitalism can stop the second we build what capitalism refuses to build.

          What does capitalism refuse to build?


      2. Tom Pfotzer


        Thanks for that reply. I share your generalized frustration with lack of plan. However, this is a great time for me to point out:

        I am not flailing. I know what to do, I’m doing it, and I’m encouraging others to do “it”, too.

        Here’s what I did:

        a. Situation assessment. How bad is the problem, does it warrant top priority, what’s the core problem, what are the core solutions. The verdict: It’s bad, it’s top priority, the biggest problems are transport and HVAC (biggest CO2 contributors). Any solution that reduces transport and HVAC load is a candidate.

        b. Find a significant-something I can do with my current or shortly-augmented skillset. I got a work-from-home job (no transport, more free time), then selected greenhouse tech and local (home- or village-based) production systems as my focal point (sets up circular economy, reduces transport). Then added mechanical arts skills so I could build things.

        c. Build 3 core products which have wide-reuse potential, address the core problem, can be (re- or further-) designed, built, operated, repaired at the local level. Those products are:

        c.1. cheap, simple robotic control systems suitable to run a greenhouse, an HVAC system (that uses different energy sources than fossil-fuels), or a composter, a kiln, a germination tank, etc. Automates simple production processes, and … it’s cheap. Robots for the masses, use to set up and automate local-level production processes.

        c.2. An adaptive-structure greenhouse, whose function can change 180 degrees from winter- to summer-conditions. The lessons of this structure are directly applicable to domiciles. The robotic system was originally developed to control this adaptive structure, and has since been (very much) generalized so it can run many production processes

        c.3. A local commerce facility which combines warehouse (cold- and ambient-temp), commercial kitchen, CSA pickup, food retail, food truck stations, and entertainment pavilion all in one place, in order to provide “local” with an efficient-enough logistics, distribution, processing and retailing facility so “local” is much more cost-competitive with the national supply chains.

        So I have a fairly coherent plan, GE. I’m not flailing. I identified the core problem, devised solutions I could implement which have high-adoption potential, and started work.

        The robotic system is a very, very good prototype – it only needs 6 more months of devel to be a viable commercial product. It works great now, but it’s not easy for a novice to set up and use.

        The adaptive greenhouse is a year from operational; I’m just a few months away from prototyped (past tense) main-tech-risk components. I’m fairly certain it’s going to work. I’ll be able to run thru the winter using a bare minimum of fossil fuel inputs (e.g. <20% of conventional), and it's possible to use no fossil fuels. It's a big greenhouse (100' L x 34'W x 17'H). That facility will provide automated, year-round food production, and the tech can be applied to domiciles (the HVAC problem). No transport, very little fossil fuels, economically attractive home-based income stream, food security. All good.

        The local-commerce facility is only conceptual. But it's a very good "conceptual". I'll recruit a team to build this product once I'm done with the greenhouse.

        I received absolutely _no_ top-down encouragement, resources, etc. This is all bottom-up.

        So not all of us are flailing. And these solutions (new products) I mentioned have world-wide utility, are "keystone" products that create commercial habitat for adjunct / derivative products.

        And this is _why_ I advocate for more people getting involved with new product development. Find the "keystone" products, and build them, and let others use them.

        Please tell me where my plan is deficient, or why others couldn't devise one just as good or better, and why "getting more people involved in product development" doesn't constitute an excellent policy at all levels (global, national, regional, local).

        We need new products that enable people to _not do_ the most destructive behaviors we are currently engaged in.

        1. Grumpy Engineer

          Well, Tom, I must say with all sincerity… I’m impressed. You’ve clearly been working on some ideas that have real promise. [And with prototypes in progress. Not just concepts written down in a white paper.]

          My only real caveat is that there aren’t many people are capable of engineering such systems. I’d be surprised if even one person in a thousand had the skill set necessary to pull off what you’re doing. [Heck, I’ve been doing engineering for 25+ years, and I know that I’d struggle with the robotics portion of what you describe. My controls background is pretty thin.] And I’ve ready very little about other people making efforts of this scale.

          Would such “grass-roots” efforts be enough? I don’t know. It would certainly help if we could get efforts like these better publicized and organized, but that doesn’t seem to be happening at the national level. Our activists, politicians, and media are too focused on telling other people what to do.

          1. Tom Pfotzer

            GE: I hope someday we can talk directly. I have followed what you post – I seek them out. You have really valuable background and even more valuable attitudes.

            No, not many people can or would do what I’m doing. That’s a cultural thing, and while that’s the way it is now, it may not be always the case generally.

            I note that other countries are actively asking their populations to come up with new products which meet the national needs. It’s happening elsewhere, just not here, not now. I’ll provide some links if you’re interested.

            But there are some great people here in the U.S.

            Occasionally I cross paths with them (like right now!), and I think that’s the bit I struggle with the most: how to make a place where the creatives and high-capacity, well-directeds congregate.

            The main thing is to start somewhere, make a something that inspires and attracts other like-mindeds, and see what happens.

            And no, any real progress isn’t coming top-down. Not yet. But that’s what prototypes are for, right? To show what’s possible?



        2. brian

          Tom, do you have a site where you’re documenting your progress for those wishing to follow along?

          1. Tom Pfotzer


            I have a website at I haven’t fed it for a year or so, no bandwidth avail to do so. The work – the actual doing – is so freakin’ consumptive, and I prioritize doing over talking.

            But I will add more material. Like the Product Development Guide, which I wrote to document all (almost all) of that I know about developing new products.

            And the greenhouse! Boy, that is a cool problem. Very interesting.

            I’ll post the PDG (prod devel guide) in a month or so – got to fold in the review feedback I got. Maybe NC will let me put a link to it in the Links section.

            So take a look at the blog, maybe check back every month or so, and I will surely add some (a lot!) of stuff as I go along.

            Every day I think to myself “Tom, ya gotta document this. There are other people who want to build similar things, and they can argue with you about designs, etc.. Yer missin’ out, boy!”

            1. CA

              “The work – the actual doing – is so freakin’ consumptive, and I prioritize doing over talking.”

              This is especially interesting, and I would suggest TikTok as a simple, accessible vehicle for recording your efforts. TikTok would seem to be made for you.

  16. Starry Gordon

    “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” But currently they’re looking about the same. No one says anything about how to actually do the one without doing the other that is not some kind of wild fantasy. Look around.

  17. Neutrino

    Uncontrolled immigration adds to the problems facing many countries, including the US. There are more mouths to feed, people to house, health issues to address. Then add in water, food, and some semblance of societal order.

    One could almost make a case for the current Admin policies for the border, the economy, debt growth, foreign policies and the rest that they are sowing chaos to prepare an unwilling populace, or not, for dysfunction. Some elites. :(

    1. Piotr Berman

      I wonder what would you think about using landmines to control undesired migration. It is currently pioneered by Ukraine to prevent out-migration of conscriptable males, but the concept could work for immigration as well.

  18. farmboy

    this makes me ask, how to manage entropy? De-escalate modern ag? Remove herbicides, plows, save the soil, decarbonise, I’m going to go as far as time will allow

    1. mrsyk

      save the soil, this is one of my main focus points, and I’ll listen to any advice you might have. I’ve been working on making our little patch here in the southern Greens as vibrant as possible. Soil management here has been a mix of strategies. I’ve been clearing out the worst of the invasives and bolstering the fill that the camp is built on along with the forested shelf heading up the hill to the watershed with many loads of composted soil from a friend’s farm nearby. Our micro-biosphere is booming, for good and bad. The bird population is robust, a cacophony at dawn and dusk despite the three cats. Bugs, we got ’em. This last week has seen one one of the worst caterpillar blooms in memory. I’m spending three to four hours a day shaking them out of the fruit trees onto tarps where they are summarily executed. This little patch gives me optimism, despite the cold fact that it almost certainly will make no difference in survivability due to climate collapse. None the less, it keeps me busy. Got to get back to it. Signing off.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        wasps are your friends as far as tree caterpillars are concerned.
        since i began my current wasp policy of essentially leaving them be unless they’re in a high traffic spot…and even providing habitat(like inverted old boots on fence posts)…i havent had “webworms”, etc in any of the fruit or nut trees.
        going on 27 years.
        for yer front porch and whatnot where ya really dont want to share with such creatures…simply paint the porch ceiling sky blue.

        the wasps around here apparently do not care for the sorts of caterpillars that eat up lettuce and cabbage.
        so its still BT for those.
        but i usually only do those in winter anyways, so no inchworms for me.

  19. Henry Moon Pie

    The conversation has shifted from Kate Raworth’s “how can we crash land the plane rather than nosediving” to “how can we recover from the nosedive.” The key to either is a massive shift in worldview, something that is seemingly impossible giving the daily bombardment from the Madmen about how we must buy this or go to that place to truly be alive, or even better, buy a giant pickup so we can go somewhere pristine and drive through the creeks.

    Now is the time for those who have awakened from the delusions sold by all the media to gather, at least virtually, and work together on a new anthropology that moves us beyond “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” That and the communities that gather around this new/old concept of who we are will be the basis for any recovery.

    1. Lost in OR

      Now is the time for those who have awakened from the delusions sold by all the media to gather, at least virtually

      Good idea. Any suggested websites?

  20. David in Friday Harbor

    The Yale Climate Connections author’s PMC delusion that the November dodge-ball match between Totenkopf and Dummkopf has any import vis-à-vis the climate crisis is a wrong-headed waste of time. I mean really? Yale?

    I am one of those who has moved to a rural area with a small population, a somewhat reliable water supply, and a hardened grid mainly supplied by renewables, and recently planted my first-year potager. But my personal motivation is not survival. It is merely to avoid having to listen to the rising screams of our ongoing extinction event while I eat a nice meal.

    Like with life itself, there is no way out of the crisis. The climate is but one aspect of a catastrophe driven by the unprecedented infestation of our planet by 8 billion human beings. Etsy is replete with items such as mugs and wall-plaques imprinted with a wonderful pseudo-literary meme:

    I hope to arrive at my death late, in love, and a little bit drunk.

    Although currently in excellent health and not prescribed even a single medication, I find myself advanced enough in age that I am unlikely to survive until the total collapse of our civilization in 2040-50. In that, I consider myself fortunate.

    1. Wukchumni

      I’m in a similar situation, and for yours truly, reliable running water is the key to me making it to a ripe age. I’ve got both rivers and spring fed creeks and millions of gallons flow by me all the time, and all I need is a scintilla worth in the scheme of things.

      Ground water is a bit of a misnomer as you require both a well & pump, along with electricity to release it from down under.

      There is really nothing else in our lives where going 3 days without water, is tantamount to a death sentence.

      1. mrsyk

        Run a hand pump between the well and the water tank. Exchange electricity for elbow grease. @amfortas, you might be able to set that up as well. Doesn’t scale efficiently.

      2. mrsyk

        If you don’t have a well, but you have access to a spring, or acceptable running water, you could look into a hammer pump, another electricity free strategy.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          aye. ram pumps are cool!
          i built one for 20 bucks, years ago…for that back pasture windmill scheme.
          sitting in the shop, ready to go.

      1. David in Friday Harbor

        Terrific film about death, but I believe that this is a mis-attribution.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          No, the quote made me think of the movie. You’re right. It was not its source.

          And I think “Harold and Maude” is about the transformative and healing power of love.

          1. David in Friday Harbor

            Yes. Such a sweet film.

            Why I hope to arrive at my death (still) in love with my partner of 43 years…

  21. Grumpy Engineer

    The piece exemplifies a pervasive school of PMC-think, that if enough people have “conversations” and reach sufficient agreement, that solves problems. It’s pure symbol-manipulator behavior, as if a shared vision is tantamount to action. Not only are plans not action, when formulated this way, they are often too general and/or abstract to serve as adequate guides for action. And that’s before considering the elephant in the room of greatly underestimating the scale of what needs to happen.

    Aye. It was particularly depressing to read a sentence like this: “Even small actions can be an effective antidote to feelings of powerlessness.” As if “feelings of powerlessness” were the primary issue here. Unfortunately, small actions result in small changes, and even if everybody engages in small changes, the effects of global warming would only be slightly delayed. LARGE changes are required.

    And I looked up the Arizona Youth Climate Coalition and found this gem on their “Missions and Values” page ( “There Can Be No Climate Justice Without Racial, Economic, And Social Justice; Solutions To The Climate Crisis Will Be Community-Driven And Accessible, Not Privatized Or For Profit.” So we’re supposed to reject technically viable solutions because they come from the private sector or fail to simultaneously address issues of race, economics, or social justice? These needless restrictions would only slow things down.

    Tucson’s “Climate Action and Adaption Plan” is also flawed. Per, they want to get the city to “net-zero” by 2030. But another page ( indicates that Tucson Electric Power has committed to only 30% renewable power by 2030. There’s a huge gap here.

    And all of this contains far too little discussion about equipment. What equipment (both power generating and power consuming) must be retired for success? What new equipment (both power generating and power consuming) would be deployed in its place? How much equipment would be required? Can it be purchased and deployed quickly enough? Will it reliably meet peoples’ needs? Any plans that fail to dig into these question in detail are indeed “too general and/or abstract to serve as adequate guides for action.

    Until the equipment changes, our energy consumption and carbon-emission patterns will remain unchanged.

  22. digi_owl

    Peter Watts is a curious fellow, being a marine biologist by education.

    He also seems to be a magnet for weirdness.

    He got banned from USA after getting trouble with US Border Patrol when trying to leave USA no less, for not much more than asking why he was being stopped.

    And he contracted a necrotic bacteria infection that chewed up a solid chunk of leg tissue.

  23. hemeantwell

    Erm… this seems like the conversational context in which another alternative approach to containing climate change, that outlined by Robinson, in Ministry of the Future, would come up, i.e. terrorism. Even though the book was apparently applauded by Obama — hearing that piqued curiosity into Place My Order intensity — it seems that the topic is off limits. I certainly understand why, I feel like I need to make it clear to Surveillance Central that I’m not advocating it, only making the observation that the conditions Robinson portrayed as giving rise to terrorism are current. The book opens with a heat wave in India, yesterday New Delhi hit 126 F, etc etc. I wonder if, for the sake of NC’s longevity, we should not discuss it here, and if that’s accurate pardon me for bringing it up.

    1. Kouros

      Hear, hear.
      However, certain memes will stay alive as long as their carriers will stay alive… and if they have power…

      Hoping for actual democracy, with maybe sortition as means of election and the potential stronger oversight and banishment of lobbying might be a cleaner approach, but it ain’t gonna happen…

  24. dday

    I briefly joined a prepper group a few years back. The members were obsessed with guns, bug out bags, off road vehicles, their survivor homestead off the grid somewhere. In retrospect, I’m glad that I joined as I did learn some cool tricks. However, I think that I’ll continue to muddle along living in an urban environment with enough food to last a few weeks.

    If the s does hit the fan, those survivalist compounds will be very attractive magnets for anyone less prepared. Are the preppers really going to machine gun wave after wave of refugees. And in the event of any catastrophe, the highways will be shut down so good luck getting to your safe site.

    1. hemeantwell

      Maybe you’ve missed it, but pop culture is awash in what amount to survivalist prep shows. Zombies aside,The Walking Dead series is like a Pilgrim’s Progress through scenarios in which people negotiate, or fail to negotiate, sharing in the midst of disaster-related shortages.

    2. NotThePilot

      Prepping is interesting to me because I feel like their fundamental instinct (“uh oh, this plane is going down”) is correct. But they react to it in ways that are just the same habits from the same failing society, only seen through a mirror. I think it’s a recurring theme John Michael Greer likes to mention. If things do collapse to one degree or another, you want to be where the community & remaining infrastructure is, not stuck alone in the woods on an indefinite Bear Grylls re-enactment.

      If the s does hit the fan, those survivalist compounds will be very attractive magnets for anyone less prepared. Are the preppers really going to machine gun wave after wave of refugees.

      Or the angle I prefer: will the preppers have a chance to machine gun anything if a savvy warlord comes around with even heavier weaponry and at least a platoon of men?

    3. Piotr Berman

      Good katana skills are more sustainable, but proficiency is harder to acquire. Perhaps there are good lethal weapons that do not require ammo and are easier to learn… a morning star?

  25. Susan the other

    Anybody else catch Dimitri Orlov’s comment that the other planets in the solar system are also heating up? I couldn’t find anything on it. It makes no difference really. Panic will ensue no matter what. From where I sit everything seems a bit cooler. Maybe because I’m old. And jaded; I don’t believe 90% of the stuff I hear. So here’s my latest confusion: If the solar system is heating up and at the same time the CO2/4 cycle is reaching new heights (once thought to trigger new glaciations), is there any way to prevent a gradual inundation by extreme ocean rise? I’d guess not. And if there is any truth to this twist of our predicament, then now would be the time to change our habits to create a viable future. Visions of living underground.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      It couldn’t get much hotter on Venus. It’s 467 degrees C on the surface. Earthlings’ probes have lasted for at most a few hours because of the heat.

      Why would I expect, should we ever able to probe the gleaming planet’s surface, that we’d find the remains of golf courses, McMansions and tracks in the long-dry creek beds left by Giant Gladiator X truck tires?

      George Hansen explains how the Venusians became us.

  26. Verifyfirst

    I cannot think of a reason the earth will not end up with an atmosphere like Venus, the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. What would stop the processes we have begun from continuing exponential interactions with each other? The epitaph for life on earth will be: “Their models sucked”.

    1. mrsyk

      There are a couple of scenarios where the earth salvages its water cycle. If Mother Nature can kill us off quickly enough.

    2. Taurus

      An exogenous factor that we cannot predict – not unlike the ones that caused glaciacion in the past.

  27. Glen

    My small contribution:

    Ask voters why they are voting for 60, 70, 80 year old politicians. Vote for somebody that will be alive for this at least.

    1. jobs

      Same goes for the elites.
      Most of them are old, and no doubt have realized that none of the disasters they are fomenting will materially affect them. So why would they care? They’ll all be dead!

  28. Craig Dempsey

    Jem Bendell in his 2023 book Breaking Together has studied a number of angles on sustainability, and came to the conclusion that not only is the collapse of industrial-consumer society inevitable, it is also already happening (since before 2016). For instance, there are not enough rare metals available on Earth to build enough electric cars to replace all the ICE cars already on the road. Society might have a chance if our elites were willing to rapidly power down our societies, but that seems extremely unlikely. So he advises confronting collapse with courage and grace, each doing what we can in our own little corners. Maybe life, even human, will survive. Our high-octane civilization will not.

  29. i just don't like the gravy

    Sorry I was out beekeeping and missed the discussion.

    All I have to add to this is that Hansen was right and we are in for a rude awakening this summer. Check global & North Atlantic sea surface temperatures and tell me everything will be okay.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I believe the scientific community made a mistake in wrapping climate discussion around the Charney doubling constant. The Charney doubling constant oversimplifies climate change and offers a sop to the efforts of economists who further complicate matters in their efforts to come up with a ‘carbon budget’ so their sponsors can continue business as usual while appearing to optimize the efficiency of not exceeding their “allowed” budget. As I understand the Charney doubling constant, it serves to linearize the Earth’s temperature rise in response to a doubling of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere since some beginning year ‘X’, and some beginning CO2 measurement to be doubled.

      I am not sure what the year ‘X’ is but the best I can tell the initial CO2 ppm measurement for determining doubling was 280 ppm CO2, so that doubling is reached when CO2 reaches 560 ppm. The political establishment came up with the 2 degrees Centigrade increase in the Earth’s temperature as a ‘safe’ and ‘acceptable’ target temperature. The Charney constant enables a simple linear calculation of how much CO2 ppm would arrive at a 2 degrees increase in temperature, and the CO2 ppm number can be used to ‘efficiently’ exploit fossil fuels knowing the rates that each adds CO2 to the atmosphere. Hansen argued that 2 degrees was too high and suggested 1.5 degrees was the highest ‘safe’-for-Humankind temperature, and also argued that the value of the Charney doubling constant was toward the high end of that calculated using the various climate models.

      What is lost in these discussions is that the Charney doubling constant only calculates the effects of the so-called ‘fast’ feedbacks. The ‘slow’ feedbacks which will operate over time scales longer than a single human lifetime will move the Earth’s temperature higher than 1.5 or 2 degrees and to make things interesting the slow feedbacks are not well known or nicely linear, and even stable linear systems overshoot the setpoint where they would settle in response to a step input like that Humankind made to the level of CO2. I believe the slow feedbacks include the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation [AMOC] current [what a great name for complicating discussions with the lay public and the uninitiated!]. The AMOC is slowing affecting climates and sea levels, and if it stops as it has in the past, temperatures in some areas could become much older until other slow processes begin to increase temperatures. But most of the slow processes are not known or known but not well understood, and not or only poorly modeled in existing climate models.

  30. Kalen

    What I like in this post is that issue of attempted halting or reversal of global changes to climatic patterns is divorced from mitigation and self-sustainability as a primarily a systemic socioeconomic issue. By promoting self sustainability we won’t likely impact global change but we can much improve our survivability.

    Reduction of carbon footprint 99.9% then wouldn’t be ideologically driven but necessity driven. Living in small tight mobile modular self sustainable self governed communities seems the only civilizational direction with any reasonable hope for humanity to survive without massive industrial dependency. How to get from here to there without mass extinction event is another issue few but survivalists want to talk about. Refusing to give up on industrial technology like for example cars many want to fool themselves that electric cars would do what needs to be done namely abandoning almost all but bipedal transportation.

    The core problem of grasping what’s going on is that change of global climatic patterns is treated as some kind of disease unfortunately “healing” patients not disease is where all effort is focused on.

    In fact it is we as human society not planet Earth are those who are sick and hence the snake-oil remedies proposed are aimed at us feeling better while in reality not doing anything to dynamics of sun-earth system that most powerfully determines earth’s climate.

    Likely because among those who know and have courage to admit it is ultimately a futile endeavor to try preserve current fragile climatic homeostasis a niche of relative comfort on which our parasitic industrial civilization was recklessly built as if there was no tomorrow.

    The truth as I see it is that we as human species may be smart but we aren’t gods as we, or at least ruling elites captured by greed, power and control had no wisdom in the past when they made a leap of misplaced faith into massive dependency on industrial age and now can’t do anything meaningful to either dynamics of earth-sun relation or to mitigate its inevitable consequences without giving up social control without abandoning the social system that made us more not less vulnerable to climatic change.

    Therefore, whatever ideological narrative they pick is to tell us to keep our hope while rich on earth Titanic keep dining well and dancing to live music while socioeconomically drowning earth ship’s passengers under the deck class by class, themselves waiting for godot of mythical rescue boat unless they decide to blow up the earth before that.

    Peddling false hope for masses based on technocracy imposed technological solutions is just one of those narratives of control to justify inevitable process of civilizational collapse as elites will not allow dramatic revolutionary changes to social organization that would eradicate their own rule despite the fact that they are required and critical.

  31. Bill Bedford

    What goes around, comes around.

    It wasn’t that long ago that upwards of 50 thousand people, mostly old women, were put to death because people believed that they could change the weather and so cause crop failures.

    This was during the period we now know as the Little Ice Age

  32. Jeremy Grimm

    This post and the comments stream disturbed me. I had to sleep on all this before attempting to comment. I think the impacts of climate change are past the point where some technical fixes, unlikely changes to the political-economic system, and some modest or not so modest belt-tightening will somehow pull Humankind out of the pit it has dug for itself. I do not see how ‘Green’ magic will replace fossil fuel energy.

    The global economy depends on diesel to fuel the fleets of ships, trains, and trucks that transport raw materials, parts for assembly, and finished goods through long narrow supply lines to remote destinations. Even our food moves great distances to reach us. The existing industrial economy is built on specialization. Specialization tends to concentrate and spread production. The availability of raw materials is spread over geographic regions. Without diesel to support the transportation networks the existing industrial economy will collapse to the a scale closer to that of the times before the use of diesel.

    Goods depend on materials and processes for converting raw materials to useful material and transforming combinations of useful materials into end products. These mining, refining, and shaping processes consume large amounts of high intensity energy. Fossil fuels are necessary raw materials for some processes like producing steel and plastics and for a panoply of chemicals. Electric power cannot substitute for coke as a source for the carbon in steel. Without petroleum as a raw material large parts of the chemicals industry will need to be redesigned resurrecting much older and much less productive processes or redesigned from the ground up using new processes and materials which must be invented.

    Humankind is in for a rough ride down the present population and production hill. I can play with schemes assuming a can opener but I believe Humankind will have to open the can by smashing it over and over again with rocks.

  33. Adam1

    In my opinion there are current 3 groups of people who would fall into the camp of being anthropogenic climate change deniers…

    1) Those that have a financial and or ideological disposition or benefit from either not changing not seeing the truth. I suspect this is not numerically a large group, but they as a group are very powerful.

    2) Those, as Davidson mentions, who are just ill or not informed. I suspect this, in today’s world, is a very small group.

    3) Those that do not see a road nor have been presented a realistic road to decarbonizing their lives. I’m thinking of the people who live their lives paycheck to paycheck… like the ones who have a new (to them) car in the driveway that is already 10 years old and cost them $10k. How is a $7,000 tax credit on a $50K dollar EV going to help them? Now let’s talk about phasing out fossil fuel furnaces and boilers… if the family is fortunate enough to have owned their home, they are now screwed at that invariably 30-year-old unit is just eking it along anyhow and no tiny rebate or tax credit is going to change that. And if they’re renting, well they are basically, likely, in the same place only the landlord will be forced to raise the rent to cover the boiler/furnace upgrade and while the landlord might get a tax/credit or rebate it won’t prevent a rent increase. This is a massive group in the US and likely all of the west, and how do we actually expect to have a conversation with them when there are no REAL solutions for them. There should be no surprise that these people are denying or ignoring climate change. I mean from their perspective denying climate change costs them nothing and yet it might relieve at least one stress from their lives. This is probably the largest group and I’d suspect are often manipulated or recruited by group #1 to complicate any real discussions on climate change course changes.

  34. southern appalachian

    Thanks for posting these- they articulate ideas I’ve wandered around for a time and was unable to grasp. From the MIT reader “in the book, you’re saying “high fitness equals low fitness” — that you need variation to cope with future change”

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