Connect the dots to see the tipping point that represents an entire planet in flux. Civilization is economics and energy. Modern economics is essentially driven by globalism and financialization. Technology which has been so important to growth is economics and energy but driven by the quest for greater affluence. Affluence drives power.
Everything else is a subset of these equations in the realm of man’s dualistic pole of science. I call this the scientific pole because it is our activities of survival that goes all the way back to our beginnings as hunter gathers. Once our basic survival is achieved then we start to see a hierarchy of affluence develop. This continues with the right variables until a power structure is created. Civilization develops when the leverage of networks of people specializing combine to produce a centralization of power.
This is a very simple view and it is important to keep it simplistic because it is only with a generalized view one can step back and see the whole picture. The cyclic of growth and decline found in nature is just as important to the human ecosystem. Visualize human growth in its civilization structures. This is an increasing flow of affluence and power into centralized cores. This is our patterning instinct because we are a subset of nature’s ecosystem. This means civilization can’t be linear as the orthodoxy likes to portray as a manifest destiny and the expansion to the stars. It is instead no different than all other species that have come before locked in the cyclic pattern of life that is growth and decline.
The modern cyclic is currently staged in a carbon trap and path dependencies no different than a cyanobacteria in its basic urge to combat entropy. This is a macro systematic condition with variables that interact. There are thresholds civilization has managed to push and extend through technology and fossil energy. The affluence we have today is a product of ascending convergence of growth variables. There has never been such a convergence in human history. The combination of these factors in the equation of growth has taken human activity to a peak.
I would argue we are now in the neighborhood of that peak in an overlapping condition that is like a froth. This froth is a mixture of growth and decline. This froth has a surreal expression. It is growth variables that have been pushed into diminishing returns which means their power is waning. It is the combination of individual variables that are waning or declining combining to create a total system that is waning. It has forces that have inertia forcing change even though that change is now destructive.
Technology is now creating more problems than it solves but humans keep embracing its power to change. This destructive change will not be like the past where new technologies were constructive even with their destructive change to previous lifestyles. This is now a combination of destructive forces and technology is included adding to the overall force of decline.
We have nonrenewable resources that are depleting. Traditionally this has been dealt with through substitution with economics and technological adaptation. Economics and technology are reaching diminishing returns. In many ways they have tipped over into destructive change. Economics is now financialized and global meaning a delocalization that damages local economies which are the bedrock of our civilization.
Financializations eventually becomes parasitic feeding off real production without a positive return. It takes valuable resources for private use at the expense of the productive systems. Our globalized world is now hyper financialized. Excessive debt is an indicator of this. Debt currently does not reflect reality except as a warning of excesses of financialization.
The non-renewable resources of high-quality energy and minerals have matured in most all cases and now are declining in concentrated value. Living resources are in decline from exploitation. These ingredients can’t be substituted anymore. Fossil fuels are no longer high quality and cheap to get. There are lots left but not of the kind that drives economic value that returns useful growth that it once did. Recycling of minerals has matured and, in many cases, actually downcycling. We are spending more in recovery than the resulting resource recovered.
Renewable energy and lab grown meat are just more of the same condition of the maturing of technology that is no longer effective at value creation. AI and the centralization of networks is increasingly a situation a tipping over of diminishing returns where the benefits are destructive. The administrative state is now bloated and its tools of digitation parasitic. Technology has now taken our globalized world to a point of being rigid to shocks. Technology has allowed risk to be dispersed making the whole system risky. It has also allowed a peak in globalization that has concentrated huge amounts of affluence.
I want to keep the mental math here simple because complexity is the problem. Complexity is what is clouding the wisdom of enough. This wisdom is knowing when to make proper choices of more and less. There has been almost no effort to restrict power and affluence. Trying to limit fossil fuels by using technology of renewables to do the same thing fossil fuels have been doing is not limiting. This is just an attempt at substitution that science and math indicate is not possible. Ideology is being used to say it is a transition energy system.
It is economically deadly to limit growth because the system is growth based. The system has no pathway to degrowth unlike previous civilizations like the Maya that lived by a cyclic system that shaped their ideology. They lived growth and decline their science saw in the stars and natural phenomena. This inability of our civilization to embrace a cyclic period of decline is seen even with people who believe in degrowth as the way forward. These people still try to find ways to decouple and dematerialize but achieve the same results of affluence. The problem that results is engineering an affluent system to maintain affluence without the destructive side effects is limiting affluence.
Limiting affluence in an affluence-based system is the problem. This is especially true in a financialized global system where power has centralized. These power centers are not going to willingly let go of this power for the benefit of the overall system’s health. This is the period of denial where these oligarchic nodes of power will double down on the same activities. The same ingredients will be used even when they try different applications.
The top can’t do it by the bottom can but first the bottom must realize the current nature of the cyclic in a peak of growth and entering a decline period. In this time of overlap of growth and decline it is easy because of path dependencies to be fooled into thinking growth will continue. Some growth will continue but the overall force soon to be fully in charge is decline. Decline as a different nature that must be adapted to. The bottom can adapt and still find adequate affluence.
We can now reasonably say we are at the peak with overlapping forces of decline and growth. This surreal place is difficult to navigate and manage. For the top where leadership and networks combine it is no longer manageable except maybe to sabotage and even that is difficult because the controls to this system are so dispersed that sabotage is difficult. In some ways the system has taken on a life of its own of unstoppable change in path dependent growth. This is unstoppable because the impulse to power and affluence are maintained by billions of choices and multiple power nodes. It is programmed into the system and its networks. Increasingly it is transhuman with technology taking on human characteristics. The machine will want more because that is its programming.
This is compounded by the dislocation of the spiritual by the extremes of science. Science has now taken on spiritual dimensions. This is no longer pure science. It is now taking on ideological characteristics and being used politically. It is socially being employed to control and centralize power with a system technologically based with technocratic control. Even talking about the spiritual makes people uncomfortable because science has painted the spiritual as superstitious and primitive. In many ways human spirituality has been these things but don’t be fooled because science is just as bad when it tries to be spiritual. What a properly grounded spirituality does is acceptance and humility which are limiting forces that allow a satisfaction of the vital condition of a wisdom of enough affluence.
Proper wisdom comes with the siloing of spirt and science in their proper realms. These dualistic elements of human nature must be scaled and balanced. This condition goes deep into our being with our desire to connect to something greater. Our isolated and vulnerable ego desires the salvation of connection. Our ego also seeks power and control to survive. When the wisdom to balance this condition is disrupted one or the other pole becomes destructive. They will always be in flux because the cyclic is in motion so any wisdom at any time in human history has been a moving target.
At this time in history the extremes of science are so great that science is now driving collapse. See the peak and see the overlap. If you do this then you can make individual choices in microclimes that will make your survival chances better. You will find more meaning which will give you the courage to do hard things. We think we have made life prosperous but what we have done is pushed prosperity to an unsupportable condition subject to loss far worse than less prosperity may have resulted in.
Just imagine a world that did not embrace fossil fuels and kept its population much lower relying on natures systems to supply our needs. Contrast this with our system of today barreling into a world where resources are inadequate and a huge population consuming far too much. Some how if a wisdom could have been employed this might have been prevented. I would argue as systems in crease in size they lose the ability to apply wisdom. They self-organize into systems that are uncontrollable and seek power and affluence without reflections.
You can shape your local even though the top is gone in an unstoppable effort at more power and affluence. The system at the top will take care of itself in self-organization which is increasingly the devolution of the system in the elements of abandonment, dysfunction, and the irrational. You can’t change this. Even the greatest of leaders can only change things on the margins. This force is unstoppable. Affluence is limited on a finite planet. Beyond a point affluence is cannibalization. Yet, at the bottom change is possible. This destructive tendency can be mitigated.
I am speaking to a few here. My message is not for those of you in the increasingly urbanized world. I am talking to those who have resources and education. This narrows the list even more. I am speaking to those who can move to rural areas and build a homestead and practice the wisdom of less in permaculture. This does not mean you will not be growing. You will be building things and assembling things but with a new wisdom of the view of a world heading into the succession of decline. Your choices will be focused on less is more. Consolidation and the cleaning out of the deadwood of destructive affluence will be one of your biggest efforts. We have too many things and opportunities at this peak point. Now is the time for a wisdom of less is more in what I would call enough.
This is green prepping. What is green is more prepped. This is about a new spirituality that rejects the ideology of scientism and seeks to properly scale science in localism. This localism is still dependent and within the world that science has taken over. Yet, it seeks to parasitically use this destructive world to leave it. Use salvage to hybridize tech towards appropriate applications that are scaled to nature at its slower pace. Connect with the ecosystem better by utilizing biomass that is the real renewable energy. Use exceptional technology to help manage the gathering and harvesting of energy to survive. Do it with a wisdom of less is more.
Spiritually seek enough affluence instead of always more. Technology with its power and efficiency constantly seeks to increase even when we already have enough. Avoid delocalization that the transport culture makes so easy. Arguably a primary choice that brings the greatest return is reduce travel. Stop unnecessary travel and focus your discretionary time and money on your immediate surroundings. There is a simple equation to this wisdom. This is the wisdom of enough. Even though this idea of enough is a moving target within a surreal world. When making choices downsize and restrict. You will almost always be correct event though this world is surreal and nebulous.
Develop a wisdom that sees the peak and the overlap so you can navigate the surreal of modern life. Driving down the road to a grocery store and paying for food with plastic or paper is surreal. If you don’t feel this then you are lost in the system. The surreal is also seeing it and wondering how you can leave this unsustainable situation. The sad reality is all you can do is adapt it with a wisdom that seeks to minimize this situation.
It is very important to have a spirituality that is less corrupted by this world of science and affluence. Most religions are now businesses. It is not necessarily that the religious messages are wrong it is they are corrupted by affluence and science. Update your religion and your unique spirituality to the reality of peak and overlap. Seek less and try to find enough. Embrace the surreal so you can find real meaning. Accept the trap that is only manageable on the margins. This is about lifeboats of things and a spirituality of palliative care. This is a hospice which is a place of humility and acceptance.
Treat your world like an ecosystem in decline. A declining ecosystem breaks down established structures and, in this process, frees up places of growth for species that adapt. Be that adaptable species to this breakdown of modern civilization such that you will create a situation where you can get enough. This is a relative situation and you must be realistic but at least chart a proper course that is less prone to unsustainability. This is the only pathway to more resilience to the severe shocks ahead. There is meaning available in this wisdom of enough that will transform your existing spirituality.
2 thoughts on “overlap”
Excellent article Real Green Adaptation. It is rare systems thinking insight that joins the dots as you do. I enjoyed the thought of using the spaces created by systems in decline to grow and adapt in to. May the collapse happen slow enough that those on the homestead frontier already living simply don’t get consumed by the hungry. As John Michael Greer says, ‘collapse now, avoid the rush’ 😉
Great Greer quote I have not heard in a while. It is so critical the degree and duration of decline be slower and less dramatic. This is why I recommend green prepping but also finding a good local. In fact, a good local is probably the most important variable because community is essential for longer term survival.
I hope survival does not become the issue. It would be far better if it were just adaptation to simple, small, and less affluence. I like to focus on affluence as consumption and comforts. In this day and age there is plenty of room to downsize this in the middle-class world. It takes meaning to reduce affluence. We need to have answers for ourselves but also our family and friends on why we need to say no to so many things. Many of these things are trivial but important.
It is important when saying “no” to do this relatively and realistically even when you see the downside of lifestyles and activities. The goal should be less is more but adapted to your people and place because most people today are more with less or just more.
It becomes a struggle if you take REAL Green to the next level because you are tweaking and micro managing small incremental changes that often don’t make sense in this surreal world of affluence. It is detail and the consistency of routine that can achieve results from seemingly trivial things but when you go small and simple this is what you are faced with. There are vital green prepping activities that have very marginal benefits in this throw away world of consumerism. The point is preparation for when consumerism ends but the narrative is it won’t end and instead get better.
Good luck I hope I offered you some ideas on your unique journey in you special local.