Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Collapse, you say?

New Bamboo

Most of the writing I have done for this blog assumes that my readers are at the very least open to thinking about the collapse of our civilization, and more likely that they have already accepted it as probable and are interested in discussing the details of how it might happen and how to cope with it. But it is pretty clear to me that the general public, even in the midst of a global pandemic, are not ready to entertain the idea that civilization could collapse. If I bring up the idea, the response is most likely to be, "Collapse, you say? Surely not."

There are a number of reasons for that attitude, the simplest being a cognitive bias against change—the feeling that tomorrow is likely to be pretty much like today. This is aided and abetted by a lot of propaganda about how great BAU (Business as Usual) really is and the progress it promises for the future. Indeed, we are told that there simply isn't any better way of running the world than neo-liberal capitalism, no real alternatives at all. We've been told this for so long (at least the 30 years or so since the USSR fell) and so forcefully that most of the world's population is experiencing an almost complete failure of imagination. And that is both a failure to imagine any better way of running things, and a failure to conceive what the consequences might be if we continue as we are.

Along with this, when the subject of collapse does come up, it is almost always discussed in terms of a hard and fast collapse—more of an apocalypse, really—which understandably stirs up such feelings of fear that people retreat into denial. But even minor suggestions of things like "degrowth" are not well received—we've been promised on-going progress, and any suggestion that a reduction in our consumption level, a little less comfort and convenience, might be in order, is met with consternation. You hear people saying that, if that's what's ahead of us, they'd rather be dead.

On the other hand, there are people like me who are convinced that the collapse of our civilization is either already happening or soon will be. Why do we think that?

It might be wise at this point to dig a little deeper into what I mean by "the collapse of our civilization". Well, one characteristic of all civilizations is that their individual members are not entirely self sufficient—they rely at least to some extent on the mechanisms of production and distribution built into their civilization for the necessities of life. What those necessities might be varies with who you ask. My list includes air, water, food, housing, health care, education and meaningful work, all provided in a context where people feel that they belong, where help is available when you need it and where you have a role to play in helping others when they need it. Of course, there are many approaches to how these necessities are to be acquired, and various ideas about what constitutes enough.

In our "industrial" society, since the invention of heat engines powered by fossil fuels, the production and distribution of what is needed has largely been mechanized. Our population is hardly self sufficient at all—only very rarely do we make anything we need with our own hands. And only a very few people, living in the remotest locations are independent of this system. We have filled up essentially the whole world, and converted it to our uses, so that a return to subsistence agriculture or hunting and gathering would not be possible for most of us even if we wanted it, and most of us don't.

When a civilization starts to collapse, its mechanisms of production and distribution begin to work less and less well. A decline in both population and complexity ensues. In our industrial society, where human and animal muscles have been largely replaced by machines powered by various forms of energy, there will also be a significant reduction in energy use and consumption of manufactured goods.

All this continues until the collapsing civilization either falls apart completely or overcomes its difficulties and recovers in a different form. In the past it often took hundreds of years for a civilization to collapse. My opinion is that our society started to collapse about 50 years ago and has a few decades, or at least years, left to go. But however long it may take to get to the end of the process, it is important to realize that, nowadays, collapse is going on around us all the time.

A scholarly expert on collapse might now offer some numerical measures to help us judge when a society has actually collapsed. I like to look at that a little differently, to turn it on its head, so to speak. I would say that if you, as an individual, are no longer being supplied with the necessities of life then for you collapse has already occurred, even though everything is going along quite normally for the people driving over the bridge that you are living under.

I seems to me that collapsing civilizations share some characteristics, and I can see those characteristics in events today:

  • One, collapse progresses slowly, so that if you're viewing it from inside and it hasn't hit you with any great force as yet, you may be hard pressed to recognize what is happening.
  • Two, collapse progresses uneven geographically—some places continue to do just fine while others fall apart disastrously. If you live in an area that is not yet affected, you may wonder what all the fuss is about, or at least think that while it's tough for those other folks, it can't happen to you.
  • Three, collapse progresses unsteadily in the chronological sense, with long periods where nothing much changes, separated by sudden steps downward. During those long quiet periods, you could be excused for thinking that everything is just fine because, at least on the surface, it is.
  • And four, collapse progresses unequally across social classes. The upper, ruling classes are in control (as much as anyone is) and have the wherewithal to direct resources to their own benefit, and away from the lower classes. And because they can get by just fine without knowing much at all about how things are going in the rest of society, they are often unaware that there is any sort of problem. Of course, when collapse finally does hit them, it is felt all the harder because they have never experienced hard times. For those at the bottom of the social ladder, collapse is just more of the same shit they've been putting up with all along.

Ideally, as an individual, family, or community in a collapsing civilization, you would like to be aware of what's coming, prepare for it and eventually succeed in adapting to it. But as you can see from the four points I've just listed, this is difficult because it's hard to tell what's going on until it's too late.

This started out as a simple, "one post topic", but now it looks like it is going to take about five posts to clearly get across why I think collapse is happening and to have a look at what options we have and where this process is likely to take us:

  • This post, in which I've introduced the subject.
  • Two, in which I'll look at the inputs and output of our civilization and what is wrong with the way they are being handled.
  • Three, in which I'll look further into the inputs to our civilization.
  • Four, in which I'll look at growth, overshoot and dioeoff.
  • Five, in which I'll look at over population.
  • Six, in which I'll look inside our civilization at its fundamental, structural weaknesses.
  • Seven, in which we'll look at how all this has been and continues to contribute to collapse.
  • And Eight, in which, we'll look at several possibilities for our future—what the rest of this collapse may look like.

Links to the rest of this series of posts, Collapse, you say?


acomfort said...

I didn't see any reference to overpopulation and how that may effect collapse.
What if someone or group wants to make sure they live through collapse and not have the infrastructure destroyed. If they are rich and powerful would they would want a select group of enough people to keep them rich and powerful? I have no evidence of this but one rich and powerful person talks about overpopulation.

[[Did Bill Gates ‘Admit’ Vaccinations Are Designed So Governments Can ‘Depopulate’ the World?]]


Bill Gates has openly admitted that vaccinations are designed so that governments can depopulate the world. [[Snopes FALSE]]

As discussed in a 21 November 2011 Forbes cover story profiling the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, reducing population growth has always been integral to their stated mission of “improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty”:

Search for [overpopulation bill gates sterile]
Doctors: [[UN Vaccines in Kenya Used to Sterilize Women]]
Less than a year after a supposed UN “vaccine program” is under fire by doctors and Catholic bishops for deliberately sterilizing millions of women

[[UN Vaccines Sterilize 500,000 Women in Kenya]]
Billionaire Bill Gates really likes helping people from poor countries get vaccinated. But many are saying his motives may not be all that pure. In fact, many believe that this globalist, along with the United Nations, is conducting a massive depopulation effort.

People on the left and the 0.001% love to talk about how all the people on the right are racists and hate poor countries. But, it would seem that this is all just a cover-up for what the globalist leading the “progressive” left are actually doing to people of color.

The scandal first started to break when Agriq-Quest Ltd, a Nairobi based pharmaceutical company got into a heated dispute with the Kenyan Ministry of Health over the vacancies they were giving young women. These vaccines were innocent enough sounding in and of themselves, but what was being found added to them was a completely different story.

Billionaire globalist like Bill and Melinda Gates claim that people in Africa and other poor countries not getting vaccinated is very upsetting. And in the case of Kenya, downright “infuriating”. As Melinda Gates puts it, resistance to vaccinations “makes me angry”.

But, who really should be angry are the Kenyan people being taken advantage of by big money pharmaceutical companies and the globalist patronizing these morally debauched conglomerates.

[[500,000 Kenyan women and children are undergone forced sterilization as part of world “health organizations” issuing vaccinations through the government.]]

That is what should be making Mrs. Gates angry. Instead, it is women using their voice and saying “we don’t want to be forced to not have children against our will” that makes her mad.

It all started back in 2016 when the Catholic Church began to warn that what happened in the Philippines, Nicaragua and Mexico was happening yet again in Kenya.

Hope this makes you curious about a connection between overpopulation and collaps.

Steven B Kurtz said...

@ comfort
Perhaps you should do some research about the history of the organized pleas by many "southern" and developing countries for aid in family planning education, devices/pharmaceuticals, and women's empowerment, along with other foreign aid. This is from my paper of 2000 presented to The world Congress of the System Sciences in Toronto. It was e=webcast to three continents, and has never been rebutted.

"In 1989, as verified by The UN Population Fund, the following countries signed
a statement urging early stabilization of human population. Austria,
Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Botswana, Cape Verde, China, Columbia, Cyprus,
Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti,
Iceland, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Jordon, Kenya, Rep. of Korea,
Liberia, Malta, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines,
Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia,
St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, Vanuatu, and Zimbabwe.
Note the absence of most wealthy nations. It is ridiculous to claim that the
rich are trying to coerce the poor nations to reduce population. In fact, they
are not responding to the affirmed needs of the poor.

The following countries are part of either the South Commission or Partners in
Population and Development: Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand,
Indonesia, Bangladesh, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, China, India, Pakistan,
Uganda, Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Guyana, Ivory Ciast, Jamaica,
Kuwait, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka,
Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia (former), and Western Samoa. The "Partners"
share expertise with each other in reproductive health, appropriate
technologies, and population policy. The Challenge to the South: Report of the
South Commission, included this unequivocal statement:

" In the long run the problem of overpopulation of the countries of the South
can be fully resolved only through their development. But action to contain
the rise of population cannot be postponed." (Nyerere, 1990)
paper republished in 2011:

Geoff Dann said...

Re: " In the long run the problem of overpopulation of the countries of the South
can be fully resolved only through their development. "

...and that is full-scale collapse-denial. In reality, the problem of overpopulation everywhere, including the south, will be fully resolved by natural causes (ie death by starvation and disease). What is absolutely not going to happen is for the entire world to "develop" like the west has. That boat sailed long ago.

Steven B Kurtz said...

@ Geoff Dann: The quote is from 1989.

I agree that most likely we shrink the hard way, with suffering and violence. Also, free will is vastly overrated. (illusion IMO) See:

Steve Kurtz

Geoff Dann said...

I may have missed something. What has free will got to do with this?

I have a degree in philosophy, and my views on free will are rather different to Galen Strawson's.

Steven B Kurtz said...

My degree is in Phil. as well. And I've kept up a bit since the early 70s in grad school. It is pertinant if people posit that collapse is avoidable by human intention. See Lotka and Odum on The Maximum Power Principle, which applies to all living systems. The rare exceptions I've thought of in humans are suicides and voluntary simplicity. Other exceptions might be due to mutations in other life forms leading to premature demise, perhaps before replication.

Happy to connect privately: kurtzs AT ncf DOT ca

Irv Mills said...

@ acomfort, Steven B Kurtz,GEoff Dann

Nice to see some spirited discussion in the comments section of my blog. Thanks guys.

As to overpopulation, if you look closely, you'll see I haven't yet even started discussing things that might cause collapse--not overpopulation or anything else. I did give some hints when I said collapse will result in a major decrease in population, and when I said that we have filled up this planet. In the next two posts I'll go into details on what I think will actually cause collapse. Lots of tings going on that have convinced me collapse is unavoidable.

But you'll have to wait until next time for that.