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We’re Toast

By Guy R. McPherson

03 December, 2010

When people tell me the dire messages about which I write don’t resonate with other people, I struggle with a coherent response. Would you prefer continued overshoot on an overshot planet? Would you prefer we keep heating our overheated home? Would you prefer we ignore the most important issues in the history of our species? Party on, brothers and sisters, when you bother to extract your head from your asses the sand. As long as we ignore reality, it’ll all be fine.

And then, there’s reality. I’ll go there. You’ve been warned.

We’re irrevocably broke. I’ve made that announcement before. Finally, though, mainstream financial analysts are joining the party of reality.

Perhaps our individual and collective bankruptcy (of every kind) explains why 79.6% of respondents to a Scientific American poll are unwilling to forgo even a single penny to forestall the risk of catastrophic climate change. Scientific American readers undoubtedly are better informed than the general populace. And yet they won’t pay a thing to avoid extinction of our species. Kinda makes you warm and fuzzy all over, doesn’t it?

At the request of corporate CEOs and their minions, high-level politicians, we’ll spend, spend, spend to keep propping up the industrial economy that is making us crazy and killing us. Far be it for me to suggest those CEOs and politicians are killing us directly — I’ll leave that charge to others — but there is no doubt this system is destroying every aspect of the living planet on which we depend for our lives. In return, we’ll throw away fiat currency in the name of infrastructure so we can maintain our non-negotiable, completely disastrous way of life. But we won’t spend a buck a dime a single cent to preclude disaster for our children.

Excuse me, I need to retch into my composting toilet. I encourage you to do the same. I’ll wait.

Mind you, it’s too late to avoid terrifyingly bad climate change, and avoiding catastrophe seems increasingly unlikely, even to the mainstream media. The numbers keep coming at us, too: greenhouse gases are near the all-time peak, at least since the industrial era began. The United Nations concurs: We’re unlikely to avoid runaway greenhouse.

In short, we’re toast. For a brief yet comprehensive overview of recent assessments and projections, take a look at my latest essay at Transition Voice.

The numbers keep pouring in, faster even than we can keep track: 2010 will join 1998 as hottest since 1850. Or maybe it’ll break this most dire of records and become the warmest year ever. In light of this news, emissions are on the rise, and the talks in Cancun are set to fail. As I’ve indicated many times, there are no politically viable solutions to climate change. Politicians who propose cutting back emissions sufficiently to make a minor dent in the predicament will be drawn and quartered. Survivors will be hung. Then shot. If you needed further evidence, and it’s difficult to believe any rationalist would at this point, then consider this: The incoming class of thugs in the U.S. House of Representatives will kill the committee merely studying climate change.

The anticipated response from Homo consumicus: We don’t need no stinkin’ solutions. Overshoot? Not on my planet. Oppression? So what? We’re number one.

As with anthropogenic climate change, I’ve also pointed out the absence of politically viable solutions to peak oil and the attendant economic consequences. A minor example of the economic impacts of expensive oil occurs every time we eclipse $80 oil when, shortly thereafter, sovereign defaults fill the news. Iceland. Greece. Now the Eurozone debt crisis is escalating. Or, to put a finer point on it, the game is up in the Eurozone, with violence is on the rise. And, as it turns out, Japan and the U.S. are circling the same drain as the entire Eurozone, although most Americans haven’t figured it out yet because the fair and balanced pundits at Fox News haven’t told us.

Much to the chagrin and willful ignorance of the mainstream media and also editors at sites that focus on energy, including The Oil Drum and Energy Bulletin, the industrial economy could reach its overdue terminus quite soon. It’s far too late for a fast collapse of the industrial economy: By virtually every economic measure, we’ve experienced a lost decade already. The last superpower didn’t take this long to fall, and few civilizations have hung on as long as this, the worst of them. In the midst of economic turmoil and pathetic models, even economists admit they haven’t a clue.

Evidence for completion of the ongoing collapse of the industrial economy continues to mount. For starters, the smart money is selling out of U.S. stock markets as U.S. banks are hoarding funds instead of loaning. The American love affair with stocks is over. States are imploding one by one (and then, if we’re lucky, all at once). The Federal Reserve is bailing out a surprising array of corporations, foreign banks, and, of course, the big banks in the U.S. (the latter to the tune of $9 trillion). Unemployment compensation benefits just ended for another two million people in the U.S. The U.S. government’s attempts to reflate the housing bubble have been overtaken by economic reality. Meanwhile, we spend money we don’t have on the ongoing, never-ending war in Afghanistan, which — not surprisingly to regular readers here — is not about Afghanistan at all.

If there is any doubt about the moral hypocrisy underlying this empire, consider the governments of the “free world” joining Fox News and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee in calling for the assassination of Julian Assange because he dares expose the truth about American Empire. In response, Amazon bows to political pressure by pulling the plug on free speech. And no wonder. It’s one thing to mess with Obomber and Chillary, but there’s no way Assange will get away with taking on a big U.S. bank. I’ll excuse you while you take another break to puke.

Increasingly, the blogosphere is filled with people who recognize the increasingly obvious ongoing economic collapse for what it is. Although there is little agreement about the causes, the consensus is growing about where we’re headed. A quick online search of a few of the following names gives a few clues about the breadth and depth of the people and organizations warning about and, in some cases, preparing for near-term collapse of the industrial economy (this list is not comprehensive): Niall Ferguson, Michael Ruppert, Karl Denninger, Rob Viglione, Gerald Celente, Jeff Rubin, Matt Savinar, Catherine Austin Fitts, Charles Munger, Gonzalo Lira, Joe Bageant, Dave Cohen, Jan Lundberg, Matt Simmons (recently deceased), Chris Hedges, Dmitry Orlov, Michael Snyder, Nicole Foss, Paul Craig Roberts, Marc Faber, Bill Bonner, James Wesley Rawles, Tony Robbins, Nouriel Roubini, Max Keiser, Tyler Durden, Chris Martenson, James Kwak, Simon Johnson, Chris Clugston, Kenneth Deffeyes, John Taylor, Samsam Bakhtiari, James Howard Kunstler, Bob Chapman, George Ure, Anthony Fry, Igor Panarin, G. Edward Griffin, Joseph Meyer, Harry Dent, John Williams, Richard Russell, Niño Becerra, Martin Weiss, Eric deCarbonnel, Robin Landry, John P. Hussman, Robert Prechter, Richard Mogey, Peter Schiff, Lindsey Williams, Hugh Hendry, Arthur Laffer, Bob Janjuah, Jeff Gundlach, Société Générale.

I am not suggesting even a slim minority of these fine people understand the good news associated with the ongoing economic collapse, and there is no consensus on the role of peak oil in triggering it. As nearly as I can determine, most of these folks view western civilization as a fine idea and, reflecting society, they prefer extinction of our species to the decline of civilization.

Personally, I don’t care what phenomenon gets the credit for bringing down the industrial economy, as long as it happens quickly. Peak oil? Fine. Overwhelming debt load leading to default? Superb. Hyperinflation? Good idea. Deflation to the point of Dow Zero? Wonderful. Take your pick, somebody’s touting it as the route to the industrial economy’s imminent demise.

As should be clear even to the casual reader, all roads lead to Rome. And Rome is burning.


Guy R. McPherson is Profesor Emeritus at the University of Arizona. Educated in
the ecology and management of natural resources, his early scholarly efforts
produced many publications of little lasting importance. In mid-career, he
began to focus on development and creative application of ecological theory,
primarily with an eye toward conservation of biological diversity. Currently,
his scholarly efforts focus on social criticism, with results that appear most
frequently on newspaper op-ed pages. In addition, he facilitates research by
students and he prepares synthetic documents focused on articulation of the
links between (1) environmental protection, social justice, and the human
economy and (2) science and its application. These efforts have produced more
than 100 scholarly papers and nine books.

In 2009 at the height of a productive career, McPherson left the university to
prepare for collapse. He now lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house where he
puts into practice his lifelong interest in sustainable living via organic
gardening, raising small animals for eggs and milk, and working with members of
his rural community.

contact information:

Guy R. McPherson, Professor Emeritus
University of Arizona
School of Natural Resources & the Environment and
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Biological Sciences East 325
Tucson, Arizona   85721

email:  grm@ag.arizona.edu