Sunday, September 16, 2012

There is No Hope, Only Denial

image: "There is no hope...and you know it now, like I do, don't you? There is no hope for any of us."
There is a memorable scene in the climactic episode of the first season of the otherwise erratic television series, The Walking Dead, in which the last surviving doctor at the Center for Disease Control blurts out to Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes and his ragtag band of zombie apocalypse survivors, "The world runs on fossil fuels...I mean how stupid is that?" right before the generators at the CDC facility run out of gas, extinguishing forever the last hope that a cure might be found for the plague that has turned humanity into mindless, flesh eating corpses. It's just one scene in the series that has resonance in the real world as we are living in it today. Another is in the second season when God-fearing farmer Herschel Greene has a drunken epiphany and confesses to Grimes that he has lost all hope for the future.

For 16 months now I have been writing this blog and attempting to document what I see as the hopeless predicament faced by our industrialized society and America in particular as we confront the multiple scourges of peak oil, resource depletion, overpopulation, climate change and environmental degradation. One thing you may have noticed if you have been a regular reader of this blog is a distinct lack of proffered solutions to our collective predicament. Quite simply, that is because I do not have any solutions, or at least not any that I believe have any chance of being accepted by enough people to matter. Beyond making adjustments in your own life to ensure that you don't fall between the cracks during this "zombie economy" period in which the lights still come on at night, I am firmly of the belief that there is not a whole lot you, me or any other single individual can do. We are merely passengers on this runaway train, and the engine room is as off limits to us as the dark side of the moon.

The impending end of our modern way of life is unlikely to come tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or even within the next few years, but the long term trends could not be more obvious or unavoidable. And while at this late date it might still be theoretically possible with the remaining reserves of fossil fuels available for mankind to manage a powering down in such a way that avoids a world wide calamity and mass die off, that would assume a collective wisdom and willingness to participate in shared sacrifice that sadly our species just does not seem to possess. As long as there are sociopaths who strive for dominance--and they seem to have taken over a vast majority of the leadership positions in the world today--there is no chance of awakening the mass consciousness before it is too late.

Back in June I made the decision to take a break from blogging and then reduce the number of posts here at the Downward Spiral. My motivation was in part so I could do a little more living and spend a bit less time tied to computer keyboard. That part of the plan has actually worked out fairly well. My other reason for doing so was that I had hoped that reducing my relentless obsession with the future might brighten my outlook a bit. That part hasn't been nearly so successful. Even though my thinking has evolved from those dark days of the fall of 2008, and I no longer see a fast collapse of civilization as being a likely outcome, my hopes that by pulling back a bit I might find reasons to be at least a little bit more optimistic about the eventual endgame have not borne fruit.

The same old question that has been nagging me for the past four years still remains: just how quickly are things going to devolve? Well, if I knew the correct answer, I could probably make enough money to ensure that I would be one of the lucky few around the middle of the 21st century who still manage to die of old age. It would seem, for example, that a U.S. presidential campaign could not possibly become more trivial and devoid of substance than the sham we are going through right now. That would seem to indicate that by 2016, a full eight years after America's economy became irreparably broken, awareness that the old paradigm of economic growth is dead should be widespread enough that the powers that be will be forced to snuff out the remaining facade of representative democracy in order to maintain their control. But then again, four years ago I would have said the same thing about the elections of 2012.

The fact is that no one knows how long we have left before things really start to unravel, and anyone who claims they do is completely full of shit. I've said this before, but author Jim Kunstler was very wise to describe what we are going through as a LONG emergency. Nevertheless, getting back to the main theme of this post, that does NOT mean that I see any possibility of redemption when 99% of the population (the REAL 99%) remain utterly oblivious and in deep denial about what's coming (and even the 1% who do know continually argue and fight amongst themselves as to what can or should be done). Thanks to the desire of our "leaders" to keep the game going as long as possible, we'll likely keep on bumbling along until one day we can't any longer. And that is the most definitive prediction about the future that I am willing to make.

Bonus: "This is what takes us down...This is our extinction event"


  1. Wow, nailed it! Welcome back. Nothing more to be said except document the decline and try to stay sane. ThreeEs

  2. Ha, no wonder your outlook hasn't improved if you watch teevee shows like that! Yikes, I turned off my service sometime in 2009, after I gave up on Obama and everything else - so I had no idea that fiction is now the news...although I knew that news is entertainment.

  3. Excellent post...that is why I numb my broken soul with shots of Early Times! And listen to ambient musicks!

  4. "Hope? Oh yes, there is hope - infinite hope. But not for us." -- Kafka

  5. (Part 1, and sorry this is long) There is no hope for civilization as we know it. I think that we're facing a series of collapse events spread out over the next several decades. But I also think a sudden collapse of the global economy (and many monetary currencies) is possible, even probable, although no one can place an exact date on it. A main reason would be that our global economy is a huge house of cards, a giant pyramid scheme, and once pyramid schemes fall, they do so rapidly and often without warning.

    Here is a blog I also read regularly. It is peak-oil aware, but it focuses on the financial aspects of the problem:

    This post looks at the sociopathic tendencies of those who have any level of control over the course of events:

    I read yours and similar sites because they are the precious few places that actually discuss the world with sane eyes. I also scour the 'normal' news, but it's hard to find anything that isn't spin. I found this reasonably sane article today (read the last two paragraphs):

    What we are seeing is an artificial propping up of the global economy. The only folks that can do so are the top bankers, and to them, the priority is the portfolios of their buddies and the relative health of the institutions that rely on those portfolios (the banks). In their eyes, that is the economy. So, the answer is injecting money into the system to keep it afloat as long as possible. But while they are doing so, they are further debasing the true support structure of the economy, which is the spending ability of the 99%.

    We're reaching the end game here - and this alone can cause a 'fast collapse' of the global economy - which would just be one stage of the total collapse of current civilization.

    This scenario is merely one possibility in the short term. The other is a fast collapse caused by the end of the plateau period in oil production. Anyone who really studies this matter is forced to the conclusion that this is not an if, but when, sort of situation. As much as the Fed can print money, they can't print energy, and once the downturn begins, major issues will commence. Prices spikes will be followed by price collapses - which will play all sorts of havoc on production.

    The only hope in my eyes is that Saudis are holding out on the real figures (in a way that means they truly do have great amounts of excess capacity). But articles like this don't help bolster that hope:

    International conflict over securing the remaining supplies is practically inevitable, sudden shocks to the global economy are inevitable, hiccups in food production are inevitable.

    Speaking of food production, here is a recent article about that:

    I personally do not think we have long on this issue - a few years, probably, but not much longer. I just haven't seen the evidence to suggest otherwise.

    Now, all this said, and knowing there will be great pain in store for society (and especially some societies in particular), I actually still have quite a lot of hope both personally and for humanity as a whole....

  6. (Part two, and why I have hope) The only real cause of hopelessness would be if we manage to screw up the environment so badly that extinction is a possibility. Scientific consensus suggests some dark days, but it's just not at that level yet. There are a few scientists who flip-flop on this matter (like James Lovelock), and there are bloggers who are convinced the worst is a certainty:

    But, to me, this is far from certain. That we are screwing up royally isn't in doubt. It's simply the level of degradation. A sudden shift in civilization's activities would result in a change in that degradation. While I personally think a fast collapse in the global economy would result in short-term amplification of environmental degradation (deforestation, war, a ramp-up in coal production and fracking, etc.), I think in time economic forces will simply require a power-down in resource use. There are, in fact, ways to live happily in abundance with minimal resource use and low environmental degradation. The Amish have been doing it for centuries. Humans lived (in smaller populations) for millenia before the Industrial Revolution and its excesses.

    On a change in government, I write anonymously here because I can, and because it appeals to the paranoid side of me (I've commented on your blog, always Anon, only after your 'Taking a Break' entry). I do fear a fascist future, and on a sociological basis I think it's possible. As a result, those that post 'subversive' commentary would be targets in such a society.

    Nevertheless, I'm not certain Jim Kunstler isn't right on this matter, too. He thinks the federal government will be greatly weakened or will collapse altogether. Why this could happen is because the federal government relies on both popular support (in manpower and financially) and on energy inputs. These will be greatly weakened in a post-peak future. Heavy propaganda to create a fascist state is possible (Noam Chomsky and 'Manufacturing Consent' is highly recommended), however. The time to worry about that will be when people in power start to demonize Americans instead of the 'other'. Videos like this are suggestive, but not conclusive, on this issue:

    But the United States (and Canada) has enormous advantages in terms of remaining resources. The real issues after the peak in oil production (and the possible to probable collapse in the financial system) will be food production and water. Frankly, besides the Southwest, we are in an excellent position here. The only thing lacking is the knowledge to maximize food production and water use. We are ridiculously wasteful on these matters as of today, but there is GREAT room for improvement. Study such areas as aquaponics, permaculture, learn about rainwater harvesting and greywater use, and how home designs can be made more energy efficient by orders of magnitude, and you start to see this. Many Americans live with land they simply waste on silly green lawns. Most farmers could be far more productive per acre if we stopped creating bizarre levels of corn syrup and ethanol - all we need is more farmers per acre who treat the environment not as an enemy but as a friend.

    What we are seeing is the passing of one age into another. This is not bad. In fact, it is both necessary and greatly beneficial. We live in society where most people are not happy, because we are not living as the human species has evolved. Approximately one-fifth of Americans require psychiatric drugs just to function:

    Many of the rest require some form of constant diversion: football, alcohol, media diversion like constant Xbox use, etc. We are NOT happy, even though we have the greatest levels of affluence in history....

  7. (Part three, and what to do) Why? Because humans require three things: physical comfort (in the form of basic needs met like food, shelter, and stability in health), love (in the form of physical and social contact and meaning), and purpose (which can be met in religion and/or in work function. It's frankly hard to feel one is doing this when one works in the majority of jobs today). We meet the first one in spades, but this is a decidedly low threshold anyway. However, we fall far short in the latter two issues.

    A future where survival is more pressing will result in a returned emphasis on those latter two parts. We WILL live more meaningful lives, and this is not something to be feared but eagerly anticipated.

    Knowing what the future is likely to hold confers great advantages. I simply don't understand the helplessness felt by many 'doomers'. We don't understand exactly what the future holds, certainly, but we know what is most likely in the future. Knowing that civilization is doomed does NOT equal that humanity is doomed. We are a spoiled bunch of children, frankly. We will learn, again, how remarkably adaptable we are. We don't need A/C, or plasma TV, or dollar bills with images of dead people to survive and be happy.

    We know that physical comforts (food, water, relative comfort in body temperature, health care, and shelter) will be necessary with low to no external inputs. We know that knowledge about how to attain these things will be necessary. We know that communal support systems will be essential. Figuring out what one can do to meet these areas individually is the key to understanding what to do individually in the future.

    You mentioned in an earlier post that you have reduced your debt levels. This is a good first step. But why not learn about food production? Why not build relations in your community? Why not purchase materials that may be of benefit in a post-peak or post-collapse future (solar panels, stored food, etc.)?

    I've watched a few episodes of 'Doomsday Peppers' on NatGeo (only on Youtube, as I've decided most TV is of no benefit to me personally). The reasons for why people prep can often be bizarre or simply retarded. But the 'why' for the collapse will not nearly be as important as the 'what' to do before and afterwards. I think the fear of social alienation leads some to believe little to no preparation is the best course. It's also more comfortable in the present to pretend that there 'might' be a chance things won't change. Serious and open-minded study on the matter should preclude such an option, though.

    The story of Noah is viewed by Christians as a story of faith, and this is just one aspect to it. It also has a simple message: those who are prepared, survive. Another way to put this is that those who adapt, live. And this is the story of all species of all time. It's not something to be feared, but embraced. Get busy living, or get busy dying, for the future requires it. In time, all the pain of today will be viewed as casually as we view the Mayan collapse, or the Roman collapse, or the Sumerian collapse - just one dead saga of the human story. And yet there will still be those laughing, and loving, and hoping.

  8. I have only one hope for earth: global thermonuclear war. It's the necessary radiation therapy to eradicate the cancer of agricultural city-Statism (Rape Culture) from the body of Gaia.

    Don't want it? It's inevitable anyway. How else will the hairless great ape respond emotionally to resource depletion? Rape culture isn't about enjoying, it's about domination.

    Dig a fallout shelter if you want to improve your genes' odds by a few percentage points above a guaranteed zero without one.

    Don't have kids? Not passing on genes? May as well live near a target, it'll be easier than acute radiation syndrome.

    In darkness let me dwell;
    the ground shall sorrow be,
    The roof despair,
    to bar all cheerful light from me;
    The walls of marble black,
    that moist'ned still shall weep;
    My music, hellish jarring sounds,
    to banish friendly sleep.
    Thus, wedded to my woes,
    and bedded in my tomb,
    O let me dying live,
    till death doth come,
    till death doth come.
    In darkness let me dwell.

    ~John Dowland
    (as sung by Sting)

  9. Hicks- I've listened to you for a long time a-way back on la-toc. Your observations and exhortations are important. Please keep them coming as you are able. Woodcraft.

  10. It turns out that nowadays hope
    Means within a more limited scope;
    It’s good to defer
    Goals which cannot occur,
    And be better able to cope.