Not really. I was pretty young back then to be interested in the fall of capitalism. But, thankfully, MIT was. In 1972 a study by MIT came out predicting capitalism would collapse in midcentury. KPMG, one of the four major accounting firms, crunched the numbers. This is Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse” in real time . . . today.
You can talk about resource depletion, which is a major reason for collapse, but until you see it actually happening, it is business as usual. And, we need to add the climate crisis to this collapse scenario. We do not see people standing in line in Big Box grocery stores here in the US . . . well, at the beginning of the pandemic, there were definitely empty shelves, and people freaking out there was no toilet paper. Well, that is a bit of a concern. Fortunately, no one wanted the 1000 sheet rolls so I was ok.
In Diamond’s book, he details the collapse of Easter Island, as one of the societies that collapsed. There were no ocean liners that could drop off a load of tomatoes or lumber. And, although Earth is not an island, it is actually an island in the solar system. Mars will not be delivering anything to us anytime soon . . . if ever. It is not a destination I am interested in.
Nafeez Ahmed details the update on the MIT study in Vice on July 14, 2021. The link is below. Gaya Herrington participated in the original study and was curious if the prediction was on track. She didn’t see anyone taking on that job so she set out and did it herself. The study had graphed data on mortality, population, resources, pollution, fertility, food, etc. After doing the calculations, she found it to be right on track. Approximately 2040 is when capitalism will crash. Although, in the article it mentioned it may happen as soon as 10 years from now.
Don’t count on the local news to let people know this is coming down the pike. Wouldn’t you want to know that? And, who is prepared for that? This was news to me, even though I am well aware of resource depletion. Our soil is severely depleted, and we are set to run out of fish in the ocean at 2048, for two examples.
Some resources like fossil fuels will be gone when they are gone because they take 1,000s of years to form. Other resources like food can be replenished . . . unless we pave too much of paradise, as in what Joni Mitchell saw in her song “Big Yellow Taxi.”
The Colorado River and Ogallala Aquifer are both slowly being depleted of water. They are situated in parts of the country that don’t get a lot of rainfall. Much of our water supplies are being used for fracking with 100s of toxic chemicals added to millions of gallons of drinking water or irrigation for crops we shouldn’t be planting. We will end up with no water for us if we don’t start changing our ways.
Back to the MIT study. Richard Heinberg wrote a few books on resource depletion, along with Jared Diamond. I am sure there are many others. “Peak Everything” and “The End of Growth” were two of Heinberg’s books. Perhaps MIT was concerned we, too, would become another Easter Island.
Curiously, the collapse of capitalism is exactly what would solve the climate crisis. But, we need to be prepared. Harrington said it wouldn’t be the end of humanity but there would be hardships. We need to start making changes now.
Growing food should be a top priority, along with conserving resources for the things we absolutely need, like medical supplies. We can’t take 20 more years of burning fossil fuels. So, I am hoping the 10-year prediction holds true.
We need to get ready for this. Now. The article is attached so you can share it with as many friends and family as possible.
According to the United Nations UN News on March 9, 2021 in their article, “Food systems account for over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions,” which we need to change to address the climate crisis. That is a big segment of the CO2 going into the atmosphere, and we have control over what we buy at the grocery store or what we don’t buy. That includes tilling up fields, methane from beef, production, packaging, and transportation. Let’s add rice cultivation, fertilizers, and our consumption habits to that list.
So what do we do about it?
I recently took at tour of the Kane Street Community Garden in La Crosse, Wisconsin, with a friend who has been going there for some years. It was amazing. According to their website, listed below, the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse operates the Kane Street Community Garden and is funded by the City of La Crosse through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Some 30,000 lbs. of food are grown there each year, which is distributed to local food pantries and meal programs. Its goal is to end hunger in the area. On Harvest Days anyone in the community can come and get free food. There is at least one full time employee and many volunteers that run this garden.
They are also involved in Food Recovery, which is diverting food from grocery stores that would normally go into the garbage because its expiration date has passed or food that is slightly blemished. By directing it from a landfill, the food gets to people who need it. This program distributes food to over 120 programs in La Crosse, Vernon, Trempealeau, Monroe, Houston, Winona, and Allamakee counties.
The pictures above are some of the food they are growing. I couldn’t believe they were also growing celery, which is something I have almost given up on. I eat it every day with my hummus so it would be nice to be able to grow it.
As you may notice in those pictures, there are no cereals, candy, snacks, pop, processed food, and frozen food. There is embodied energy in all of those foods, which help account for the 33% of CO2. That embodied energy takes the form of all the manufacturing plants and processes to produce one product. Those buildings all need energy to run. If we are serious about addressing the climate crisis, we can all agree that we really don’t need any of those foods, and we can be healthier without them. For instance, we could simply have oatmeal instead of the cereals or hummus for breakfast.
Obviously, the Kane Street Community Garden doesn’t have everything a grocery store would have. That can be solved. There are nuts or grains that can be grown for oil. Grains can also be grown. I am at the beginning of my search for a grain in my own garden. Chickens could be added for eggs. Local meats could also be minimally added.
This is where the future of food needs to go. There should be at least 3-4 or more Kane Street Community Gardens in every city depending how big the city is. This is definitely a solution for people who can’t grow their own garden and live in big cities.
Above are pictures of cabbage, kale, and squash. All of them came out of a tiny seed. Such a miracle. Something we don’t usually stop to think about. They all take water, sun, and soil to grow. They look so innocent. We take this whole process for granted. But, we really need to rethink food. This food keeps us alive.
A little over a week and half ago, it finally rained in our area of Southwest Wisconsin after three weeks of no rain. We all breathed a sigh of relief because those vegetables, along with the others in my garden, were struggling, because with a hand pump, I couldn’t give them the water they really needed. The farmers in the area were also crying for rain.
Some areas of the country and world are already in the thick of the climate crisis. They are experiencing droughts, flooding, forest fires, hurricanes, and heat waves. Portland reached 116 this week. Until now, the Midwest has not experienced the devastation that the coastal areas of the US have because of the climate crisis. We have been lucky so far. But, it was a little too close for comfort this June. My neighbor across the street from me raises cattle. He said he almost lost $100k if we didn’t get that rain.
Extinction Rebellion put out a video recently. It was called “Advice to Young People as They Face Annihilation.” Roger Hallam, who did the video, talks about the warming of the North and South poles and how that will have an effect on how it will slow the weather down. If the weather slows, then that three weeks of no rain will turn into 5 weeks, then 7 weeks, and then 12 weeks.
Some day when you go into the grocery store and there is no food, you will know why.
Yes, the weather is always changing, and we all laugh about it. Well, maybe it doesn’t change so much in dry areas in states like Arizona where the sun is out almost 365 days a year. Here in the Midwest where a lot of food is grown, we don’t realize how the changing weather is crucial. A constant thunderstorm each week waters the crops and our gardens that we have labored over and cherish.
It is food. Food is the thing most threatened by the climate crisis.
Let’s talk a little about the state of the CO2 in the atmosphere, which has a direct effect on the climate crisis. CO2 comes from burning fossil fuels, and most all of our energy needs come from burning those fossil fuels right now. According to CO2.Earth, on June 27, 2021, there was 418.29 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. Only a year ago on June 27, 2020, there was 416.22 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. That is an increase of 2.07 ppm. According to scientists, 350 ppm is considered safe, and 450 ppm is considered unsafe. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we have 9 more years to drastically address the climate crisis. If each year we are increasing the CO2 by 2 points, we will be very close to that 450 ppm in 9 years.
The increasing level of CO2 in the atmosphere is not slowing down. We are basically doing nothing to address that. Scientists say we have to stop using fossil fuels now. In my mind, that means everything stops. It is like the shutdown when covid hit last March. That was our dry run for the shutdown we need to address the climate crisis.
But, not one talks about shutting things down . . . or degrowth . . . or a different economy. The only thing I hear is we need to move to renewable energy, electric cars, regenerative agriculture, and jobs for everyone.
According to FinanceOnline, right now in 2021 the US has 289 million cars. If we manufacture another 289 electric cars to replace those vehicles, that will mean extracting all the metal, oil for plastic, and other resources for the batteries. It sounds like a good idea to reduce CO2 . . . but does it really? Maybe in the long run. But how many more holes can we dig into Mother Earth for those resources?
And, we can slap those solar panels up for electricity but there will be more extreme extraction for the resources for those panels and batteries. Yes, in many ways it is better than extracting and burning coal, natural gas, and oil but we must ask where we are going with renewable energy. Let’s have some foresight here. Let’s have a little reduction in consumption, too!
Besides the homes where we live and our cars, let’s look at all the other buildings our lifestyle supports. That is basically in the US. Other industrialized countries don’t consume as much as the US but it is still a concern. There are 100s of thousands of buildings that manufacture products we don’t actually need. Those buildings burn fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and air conditioning.
If you go into the grocery store, you can see all the food we can do without. We could eliminate the cereal, candy, cookie, snack, pop, and frozen food aisles to start with.
We need to create a new way to live instead of manufacturing products that extract resources from the earth that eliminate biodiversity, fill the air with pollution, and get thrown away in a nanosecond. It all contributes immensely to the climate crisis and threatens the food that we desperately need. All the money in the world means nothing if we can’t grow food.
Yes, that’s a loaded question. First of all, they both are the reason we have the climate crisis in the first place. Second, that is how we live. We are entrenched in this system, and there seems to be no way out. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Maybe you are wondering why we can’t just switch to renewable energy and go on with business as usual. This is not only energy for our homes and cars we are talking about here. Capitalism and the consumer economy supports all of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing plants, distribution centers, offices, and Big Box stores that sell all of the products we buy around the world . . . that we really could get along without. Well, most of them.
Right now, massive amounts of fossil fuels are burned for energy to provide heat, electricity, and air conditioning 24/7 for those buildings, and they are not small. Then there is the extreme extraction of resources to manufacture those products, and all the embodied energy that goes into them. Again, embodied energy is all the energy from start to finish to produce each item. Many products require at a minimum 8-9 manufacturing plants and processes for just that one product. There is also the planting, harvesting, and transportation for fruits and vegetables, along with ingredients for thousands of processed food products.
So maybe you are still thinking, fine, we will just slap some solar panels on them and go on with business as usual. Then, we will just dig more massive holes to extract the resources for those solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries needed for energy storage. This is also a global issue so this will need to happen everywhere. Did I mention we live on a finite planet with only so many resources to produce all of those solar panels, etc.?
Let’s also revisit the silver mine in Mexico where extracting silver produces mounds of toxic tailings. Jason Hickel’s article in Foreign Policy, “The Limits of Clean Energy” on September 6, 2019 states this mound at this particular silver mine was 7 miles around and 50 stories high. He says that we will need 130 of these mines to provide silver for our “clean” energy. And, this is only one of the many resources needed for renewable energy from solar and wind. Can we really afford to mar up the planet with any more holes?
In our current system, people have to work to live so we have to have jobs, so we can’t just blame the corporations for the mess we are in because besides having to work, we “love” all those products spewed out of the hundreds of thousands of factories. Hmmm. Scientists say we have about nine more years to turn this around, and that doesn’t mean we start turning it around nine years from now.
We need to stop all this nonsense NOW.
You are right. No one wants to hear that. Corporations don’t want to be told to stop what they are making, and people need a paycheck to live . . . and redo the bathroom, get a new car, take that cruise, etc.
Houdini couldn’t get out of this one.
Who invented this system anyway? How will we get out of this mess? Let’s add that most people live in cities today, which complicates things even more. The industrial revolution created this mass migration to the cities for manufacturing jobs where before everyone was living an agrarian lifestyle. A reverse migration is in order to address the climate crisis. How possible is that?
What economic system do we create now? Do we have to have one? Yes, Naomi Klein in her book, “This Changes Everything” points a finger at the corporation and how brutally we treat Nature through extreme extraction but in my mind she never went far enough to mention consumers and working to live. We are again entrenched. And, no one wants to give up their toys.
I am sorry but we can’t just switch to renewable energy and go on with business as usual manufacturing all this stuff we don’t need . . . forget the new big screen TV, fancy cars, newest fashions, jewelry, computers for everyone, the newest Smart or iPhone, vacation cruises, pet costumes, movie theaters, water parks, Halloween candy and costumes, not to mention the cereal, snack, pop, candy, TV dinner aisle . . . you get the picture.
Is anyone talking about degrowth?
Richard Smith in his article, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs Vs. Environment Dilemma, in Truthout, November 12, 2014, is the only one with any courage to really put it out there that we don’t need all this stuff. He says we are going to have to choose which industries are worth keeping, and those would be caring industries. The rest have to go.
There is a way out of this, and it isn’t making sure everyone has an electric car. There are some things like the medical industry and schools that need to remain, and possibly some limited others. As Richard Heinberg states in his book, “Peak Everything,” we need 50 million farmers or something along those lines.
The documentary, “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” is a good example of how to go forward. Of course, we are tainted goods as capitalists in the US and brainwashed into we are all about freedom and having it our way. As I like to remind people, you do want to live, right?
Cuba lost oil supplies from the Soviet Union when it fell apart in 1991, and everything stopped. I don’t know how long it was between rations for the government and when they started growing food . . . everywhere. It is a very positive documentary worth watching.
The “Economics of Happiness” is another very enlightening documentary by Helena Norberg-Hodge. She sees firsthand what effect the consumer economy has on people and a village. It happened to the Tibetan village she visited for many years. All was fine. Everyone had a home, food, pride in their culture, clothes, and young kids and the elderly were taken care of. That all changed when the consumer truck came to their village. This documentary is very worth the time to watch. It also addresses how unnatural the 8-5 job is to make all these products, and how no one really likes their job.
People talk about a “just transition” for the workers in the fossil fuel industry. We need a “just transition” for the millions of jobs lost from all of those products we won’t be producing any longer. As a dear friend says, “All we need is food. Everything else is optional.”
This is possible by letting go of the mess we have created and to return to basics; food and shelter. And, that shelter doesn’t need to be 3,000 square feet either. There is a growing movement of minimalists, local food, local everything, cooperatives, Tiny Houses, and Back-to-the-Landers that is growing and gaining momentum, all with a focus on financial freedom, as well.
This is about survival. This is not all about the “me” culture the US has created. That’s not going to work if we want a “humanity.”
Let’s all survive together as a “we.”
Heinberg, Richard, “Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines,” New Society Publishers, July 15, 2010
It all comes down to carrying capacity. If you are not familiar with that term, it means living within the means of the ecosystem and its ability to replenish itself for all the inhabitants to survive or at least one. That’s my definition anyway.
I have read many environmental books and have seen countless environmental documentaries but none really hit me as much as Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse.” That was just last winter. Resource depletion was nothing new to me but to see it demonstrated in real life history made an impact for some reason. You can talk about resource depletion but if it hasn’t happened yet . . . or it happened 2,000 years ago . . . why get into a tizzy. Look at climate change, it happens so slow, we forget it is happening.
Diamond details societies that collapsed and those that didn’t and his calculations on the reasons. His book was different, also, in the fact it is mainly about resource depletion and not the climate crisis. Resource depletion rarely gets mentioned in mainstream anything. Most people aren’t really aware of it. I think I can go out on a limb and make that assumption. Everyone knows about climate change . . . which has now changed to the climate crisis.
So what about Easter Island and Tikopia?
Easter Island was a society that didn’t make it. It is an island in the Southeastern Pacific, some 66 square miles, that is subtropical and very remote. As Diamond details, they had canoes that were barely 10 feet long and were always leaking. How did they manage to get to this island some 2,300 miles east of Chile and 1,300 miles west of Polynesia’s Pitcairn? There were no ocean liners in 900 A.D. to drop off supplies and get them to and from the island. That was the best estimation of when they inhabited the island. Their population ranged from 6,000 to as high as 30,000. Seems like way too many for an island that is 66 square miles. They were most known for the huge stone statues they carved. There are about 397 of them weighing anywhere from 10 to 270 tons. Yes, and how did they move them if they couldn’t fashion a decent canoe? Hmmm.
The island had a vibrant ecosystem when they arrived. It was complete with animals, insects, trees, vegetation, etc. from the scientific assessment. Without going into all of the details, somethings went wrong — very wrong, and they all perished. Basically, I envision them watching the last tree fall in dismay as the last of their resources were depleted.
On the other hand, Tikopia addressed their carrying capacity needs. It is an isolated island in the Southwestern Pacific, at 1.8 square miles. They adhere to strict population control at 1,200. There is no animal raising for consumption with so little land available to do so. They have inhabited the island for some 3,000 years and are still there.
In the US, we live a very insulated life of extreme convenience. Most of us have no idea where our energy and food comes from. We turn on a switch, pump some gas, or drive to a Big Box store to get what we need. We are totally separated from Nature. So, that can be a huge problem right there when trying to make changes that will benefit the planet and address the climate crisis.
We don’t fetch water, chop wood, or grow food.
These two islands, an example of one that collapsed and one that survived, demonstrate how important adhering to the constraints of carrying capacity and what happens when resources are depleted. Add to this the climate crisis. Fossil fuels are burned for our energy needs and are heating the planet to create extreme climate conditions of forest fires, hurricanes, flooding, drought, etc. Although we are not an island, resource depletion is a very real threat on a finite planet with 8 billion people. What does the average person do with that knowledge?
Well, that is a great question. The answer is that you do something. That brings up an example of what one does with information. A wonderful friend gave me the book, “We Are the Weather,” by Jonathan Safran Foer. For some 63 pages, I had no idea what the book was actually about. He spends that much time talking about how we come to act with the information we have.
Safran Foer’s grandmother decides to leave Poland at twenty years old when she finds out the Nazis were days away from where they lived. She is the only one in her family to leave her mother, two siblings, cousins, and friends. Stated in Safran Foer’s book, “Asked why she left, she would say, “I felt I had to do something.” Everyone else perished. They all knew the same thing.
Maybe the climate crisis doesn’t feel like Nazis are days away. We have been hearing about climate change for a long time. For most there is no urgency but many people are feeling that it is getting worse . . . worse enough that they want the government to do something. Again, that is here in the US. It may feel different in other countries. And, resource depletion isn’t even an awareness at all.
Some of us feel compelled “to do something.” Maybe it is because we know more than the average person in the US about the climate crisis and resource depletion. Perhaps. Some of us figured it out. Some of us stumbled on it. I found out in a college class in 2009 called Environmental Sociology and countless documentaries and books after that class. It isn’t in newspapers and the news. Again, we are isolated, and it is business as usual. No fossil fuel industry is giving up the money they are making. And, extreme convenience and the lure of a new car, big house, new phone, and the list goes on . . . no one wants to give that up either.
“Only when the last tree has died, and the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught, will we will realize we cannot eat money.” Cree Indian Proverb
Just like Easter Island and Tikopia, our survival is at stake.
If we learned anything about the pandemic, besides the seriousness of it, there was no toilet paper. Aisle after aisle, there were empty shelves in the grocery store. One day I stopped to buy potatoes, and there were none. Our supply chain here in the US, and most likely around the world, was compromised, especially during the first three months of the lockdown. Hopefully it was a wakeup call for people. Call it a dry run for what is coming down the pike.
Just because you don’t know how to grow potatoes or garlic doesn’t necessarily make you vulnerable . . . or does it? How does our convenient lifestyle make us vulnerable? Everything we count on for survival, consisting of our heat, water, electricity, and food, not to mention transportation, are provided by some other entity. We may not look at them as survival . . . just convenience. Utility companies in our cities provide heat, electricity, and water. Food comes from Big Box grocery stores. Without any of them, we are not going to survive very long. As we saw with the pandemic, things can go wrong.
Most of us don’t know much about growing food, let alone getting heat, water, and electricity when those supplies are gone. That is a vulnerable situation to be in if you ask me. Think you will just fire up the generator. Think again. And, when was the last time you discussed peak oil and resource depletion at the dinner table?
Peak oil is the half way point of oil reserves. The US reached peak oil in the 70s but about the late 90s early 2000s, hydraulic fracking was invented, which allowed oil that was unreachable before to be extracted. It made it possible to drill horizontally. Hence, the Bakken oil play in North Dakota became an oil rich area. It may still have oil to extract but it is important to remember that we can’t afford to burn whatever oil is left, too, and we have more people than at the start of oil so we will deplete it faster. Most of the oil extracted today is from deep wells or from tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada. It is costly to extract.
It would be crucial to have some plan in place.
Here are a few ideas that you may consider. Growing food would be a great place to start. Many cities and towns have garden plots to rent if you don’t have space where you live. This is the time to learn how to grow those potatoes and garlic, as well as how to can. Find out what crops are good to get you through the winter and preserve well.
Perhaps it is not easy to make a move where you have control over your heat and water but installing a mini split heater or a heat pump, as they are also called, and some solar panels would be a start to ensure there is heat in at least one main room in your house. A wood stove would be something to also consider.
The water issue may be a little more of a challenge. Knowing where rivers, streams, lakes, etc. are and how to purify the water is essential. Picking up a few gallons at the local grocery store may not be an option.
We haven’t hit the brick wall with resource depletion or the end of oil yet but things are starting to happen. For instance, by 2048, most ocean fish will be gone. It is good to be well informed.
Stop the madness before it even starts. First, I must admit that I don’t understand exactly how it works but there are many scientists that are very wary of this. From what I understand, aerosols are injected or sprayed into the clouds to somehow reflect the sun’s rays back so they don’t reach the earth. That will help cool our planet to thwart the climate crisis.
Heaven forbid that we actually do the obvious and stop using fossil fuels and massively reduce our consumption of soooo many goods that we don’t need. Yes, those goods are convenient. But, people can learn to live without them and adapt to a new lifestyle of counting their carbon footprint. Hasn’t technology gotten us into enough trouble already? And, I agree, there are technological advances that I use and don’t want to give up, that being our ability to communicate with everyone on the planet through the Internet and access to a seemingly infinite pool of knowledge. There are medical advances that need to be protected. But, everything else has to go. As Richard Smith talks about in his article in Truthout on November 12, 2014, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs bs. Environment Dilemma,” we need to deice what we keep.
Let me stop that detour and get back to the original topic of geoengineering. What if they do employ this tactic and the sun never shines again. That is my biggest fear. Hmm, . . . we do need the sun for some things . . . LIKE TO GROW FOOD. Yes, solar panels are another thing . . . but we need food first. They, and who is the “they” we can only guess . . . some corporate interests in fossil fuels, I would imagine. They want to keep the economic machine going and reducing our consumption would only slow that down . . . or eliminate it so that we would have to create another system.
Bill McKibben recently wrote an article about this called, “Way Too Soon to Hack the Sky,” in the New Yorker on February 18, 2021. The article details a test that is planned in Sweden with some Harvard scientists to use some balloon to get aerosols of calcium carbonate and sulfates into the stratosphere. While this is just an initial test of planning how to get the aerosols up there, McKibben states we can only assume there will be more. He mentions that the new Biden administration is pushing a new climate agenda, and we should be focused on that and not aerosols. The next decade will demonstrate how serious we are tackling the climate crisis with reduced consumption and a new solar and wind energy infrastructure. And, that is all we have is about nine years to do something major to stop the climate crisis.
McKibben states how ironic it is that Sweden has been chosen, which is the home of Greta Thunberg, who is really responsible for calling all the leaders of the global community out at the climate meetings for doing nothing about the climate crisis. She also called the world’s attention to the climate crisis. Harvard is facilitating these tests and has refused to divest from fossil fuels. As McKibben states, “It’s an ominous moment in the planet’s history—and one we should back away from for now.” McKibben also brings up Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, “Under a White Sky.” That title makes it sound like a blue sky is not going to return.