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Humanity's Fatal Distraction

By Chris Clugston

09 September, 2011

Metaphorically, our well is running dry, yet we insist on tinkering with the pump.

Anthropocentric Viewpoints

Our anthropocentric (human-centered) perspective offers two conflicting viewpoints regarding the underlying cause and appropriate solution associated with the economic malaise that persists throughout most of the industrialized world.

Anthropocentric Viewpoints


“Right” Viewpoint

“Left” Viewpoint

Perceived Problem

Excessive Government Intervention

Unfettered Free Markets

Proposed Solution

Unfettered Free Markets

More Government Intervention

“Conservative Right” Viewpoint : excessive government intervention in the economy causes resource misallocation—malinvestment—thereby causing suboptimal societal wellbeing (the material living standards enjoyed by our industrialized populations).

The solution is unfettered free markets, which will optimize resource allocation and maximize wealth creation, thereby maximizing societal wellbeing.

“Liberal Left” Viewpoint : unfettered free market capitalism causes resource misallocation toward the wealthy minority, thereby causing suboptimal societal wellbeing.

The solution is government sponsored economic policies and programs, which will mandate the “equitable” allocation of resources and promote “social justice”, thereby maximizing societal wellbeing.

While the right is primarily concerned with “optimum” resource allocation and the left is primarily concerned with “equitable” resource allocation, both sides advocate the perpetuation of our industrial lifestyle paradigm; and both sides thereby advocate the ongoing exploitation of natural resources, especially nonrenewable natural resources (NNRs), in order to achieve this objective.

Further, each side believes that our economic malaise will be resolved—possibly following a major economic crisis—only when people “come to their senses” and implement its proposed solution.

Flaws in Our Anthropocentric Perspective

Unfortunately, both anthropocentric viewpoints are inherently flawed…

· Both sides believe that economic/political “structural flaws”—which, ironically, are diametrically opposed—within the context of our existing industrial lifestyle paradigm, are responsible for our economic malaise. Both sides further believe that their recommended economic/political “structural changes”—which, ironically, are diametrically opposed—will remedy the situation and optimize global societal wellbeing going forward;

· Both sides focus exclusively on our economic/political behavior, and fail to consider our natural resource utilization behavior; and

· Neither side considers the sufficiency or sourcing of enabling natural resources, especially NNRs, going forward.

…because the underlying cause associated with our persistent economic malaise is ecological—it is not economic or political.

Ecological Reality—Nature's Perspective

Our economic/political behavior is irrelevant within the broader context of our unsustainable natural resource utilization behavior—which is the real cause of our persistent economic malaise.


· The vast majority of NNRs—the fossil fuels, metals, and nonmetallic minerals that enable our industrial lifestyle paradigm—are becoming increasingly scarce globally. That is, there are not “enough” economically viable NNRs to perpetuate our industrial lifestyle paradigm going forward; and  

· Implementing economic and political structural changes within the context of our industrial lifestyle paradigm is futile because our industrial lifestyle paradigm, which is enabled by our unsustainable natural resource utilization behavior, is also unsustainable—actually physically impossible—going forward, under any economic/political scenario.

Our Fatal Distraction

We have allowed ourselves to become distracted by an irrelevant argument between two diametrically opposing, physically impossible, economic/political viewpoints, rather than attempting to address the most daunting ecological challenge ever to confront humanity—ever-increasing NNR scarcity.

We argue over tinkering with the pump, when our real problem is that our well is running dry.


For reasons ranging from ignorance to denial, the general public has failed to respond intelligently to our predicament.

· Most people are completely unaware of the fact that our industrial lifestyle paradigm and our industrialized economies are enabled almost exclusively by enormous and ever-increasing quantities of finite, non-replenishing, and increasingly scarce NNRs. It is therefore impossible for them to understand that ever-increasing NNR scarcity is responsible for our current economic malaise, and more importantly, for the imminent demise of our industrialized way of life.

· Too, most people have a strong vested interest, either as current participants or as aspirants, in perpetuating our industrial lifestyle paradigm. Those who are aware of ever-increasing NNR scarcity and of its catastrophic consequences often choose to deny a reality that they consider too unpleasant to contemplate.

Regrettably, many advocates of both anthropocentric viewpoints are influential “thought leaders”—business executives, politicians, academics, economic/political analysts, media commentators, and other “concerned citizens”—who remain ignorant or in denial; and who thereby perpetuate ignorance on the part of the general public, either unintentionally or intentionally.

Most regrettably, while the probability that we can significantly mitigate the catastrophic consequences associated with our predicament through intelligent action is certainly very small; the probability that we will experience imminent global societal collapse in the event that we remain ignorant or in denial and fail to respond intelligently is 100%.

For details and supporting evidence see “Scarcity—Humanity's Final Chapter?”

Chris Clugston Bio

Since 2006, I have conducted extensive independent research into the area of “sustainability”, with a focus on nonrenewable natural resource (NNR) scarcity. NNRs are the fossil fuels, metals, and nonmetallic minerals that enable our modern industrial existence.

I have sought to quantify from a combined ecological and economic perspective the extent to which America and humanity are living unsustainably beyond our means, and to articulate the causes, magnitude, implications, and consequences associated with our “predicament”.

My previous work experience includes thirty years in the high technology electronics industry, primarily with information technology sector companies. I held management level positions in marketing, sales, finance, and M&A, prior to becoming a corporate chief executive and later a management consultant.

I received an AB/Political Science, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Penn State University , and an MBA/Finance with High Distinction from Temple University . coclugston@gmail.com



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