Rob Mielcarski: You know you are in trouble when…

[ This is from the outstanding blog by Rob Mielcarski ( which you can see here.  I cant think of anything he’s left out…

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Examples of denial are both profound and unacknowledged.

The short-term solution to our problems is the long-term cause of our problems: economic growth

The long-term solution to our problems is the short-term cause of our problems: reduced consumption

All political parties in all countries and almost all citizens, including the few citizens that understand our predicament, reject our best course of action: austerity

Most citizens have no idea how fortunate they are to be alive at this point in history: Blindspots and Superheroes

Despite wildly different beliefs about our predicament, there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on: I don’t want to change my behavior

The only problems society does not acknowledge, or discuss, or act on, are the only problems that matter: species extinction, limits to growth, debt, peak oil, overshoot, resource depletion, climate change, sea level rise, fisheries collapse & ocean acidification, nitrogen imbalance & tree decline 

Every country has similar economic problems and not one leader anywhere in the world connects the dots and publicly acknowledges the root cause, even after they leave office: declining energy surplus a.k.a. energy extraction cost + debt

Citizens believe the exact opposite of reality: technology creates wealth and energy rather than energy creates wealth and technology

Citizens misunderstand the root cause of social unrest and wars because the media presents these conflicts as political or economic problems and ignores their underlying forces: biophysical constraints

There is evidence that feedback loops are taking over and causing some problems to go exponential: climate change, CO2 emissions, ice loss, sea level rise, debt

The previous year’s worst case predictions are tending to become this year’s most likely prediction: sea level rise

Actions that improve the long-term worsen the short-term: air pollution masks 0.5C of warming, austerity and debt reduction, renewable energy, population reduction 

The only possible permanent solution is rejected by the belief systems of 90+% of citizens: population reduction

The only possible permanent solution is too slow to avoid the worst problems: population reduction laws

Countries fortunate to have a low birth rate often cancel their good fortune with immigration: Canada

The few people who understand the severity of our problems do not set good examples in their personal lives: leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists

History suggests that the consequence of not voluntarily contracting our economies as non-renewable resources deplete is an unthinkable war, so we don’t think about it: nuclear weapons

The quality of our leaders is declining because those people with high intelligence, wisdom, and integrity do not want to be in charge of our predicament, and because citizens are feeling the impact of overshoot, do not understand what is going on, and are angry: Trump

The leader of the free world denies science and issues daily, jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing tweets: Trump

The one world leader that did understand the problem and spoke out was rejected by the citizens and no longer speaks out: Jimmy Carter

We do not acknowledge that the world’s economic problems began with the peaking of a key non-renewable resource: conventional oil

Low energy prices have led citizens to believe we have a glut of fossil energy when in fact: all types of energy have peaked

We do not discuss or act on economic history research that shows countries always get into serious trouble when they permit an important ratio to exceed a threshold we long passed: debt to GDP

Bankers, the creators of money, do not understand the one thing that creators of money should understand: thermodynamics of wealth

The professionals with the most influence on public policy use models that violate the most trusted laws of physics: economists

The scientific theory that explains the relationship between the economy, energy, and climate is ignored by everyone that should understand it: Tim Garrett

The people who deserve the most respect and admiration get the least: scientists

The people who deserve the least respect and admiration get the most: celebrities

All types of non-fossil energy do not provide a substitute for the only energy we can’t live without: diesel for trucks, trains, ships, tractors, and combines, and mining machines; plus natural gas for fertilizer

People who think the shale revolution will make America prosperous and energy independent ignore one thing: facts and more facts

Intelligent people who understand the climate change threats, like James Hansen and Bill Gates, and who want business as usual to continue, know that nuclear energy is the only option, but they ignore a problem: peak uranium

If climate deniers continue to win elections and try to maintain the existing electric grid they’ll find that strategy may not work for long: peak coal

A key component of our infrastructure appears durable but is not: reinforced concrete

Citizens most vulnerable to a fragile global supply chain with only a few days of inventory experience the strongest illusion of abundance and security: inhabitants of large cities

The “green” revolution, which increased food production to enable 7+ billion humans, was and is entirely dependent on fossil energy, and has long-term consequences that will make a return to traditional agriculture very difficult.

Most citizens are not even vaguely aware of the invention that enabled their existence and created about 50% of the nitrogen in their bodies: Haber-Bosch conversion of natural gas to fertilizer

Well meaning environmentalists demand that we stop subsidizing fossil energy companies without understanding the source of all that they cherish in modern civilization: fossil energy

Well meaning environmentalists demand that we stop subsidizing fossil energy companies without realizing that many fossil energy companies are going bankrupt: ExxonMobil

A solution frequently advocated makes things worse by accelerating growth and decreasing system resilience: efficiency

The best solution for removing CO2 from the atmosphere is being harmed by the same activity that creates CO2: planting more trees which are then injured or killed by ground level ozone

All climate science models that do not predict disaster now depend on an unproven technology that we probably can’t afford and other species definitely can’t afford: BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage)

We have not acted to prevent a predictable and very dangerous side effect of trying to maintain business-as-usual with low interest rates: increasing wealth gap

We still enjoy historically vast surplus wealth that could be deployed to improve our future lives but we are squandering it: military, airports, highways, new cars, high rises, etc.

Earth with its diverse complex life and a highly intelligent species is extraordinarily rare, precious, and worth fighting to protect, yet we dream of other barren homes: colonizing Mars

The tool that could be used to unite citizens in common purpose and useful action is instead being used to create tribes that reinforce preexisting beliefs: internet

Many people are hurting and lashing out in anger because they do not understand the cause of their pain: Brexit, Trump, Syria, Venezuela, etc.

The few sources of information that understand and communicate the truth are under threat: fake news

Few people study or heed the best predictor of the future: history

The majority of citizens share a common characteristic that makes the election of an intelligent and wise leader empowered to do the right thing unlikely: wacky beliefs

None of our schools teach skills useful and relevant to our future: growing food and other forms of lower complexity life skills

The thing that enabled the evolution of our high intelligence and its ability to understand and act on problems is the same thing that causes our problems and prevents us from acting on them: denial of reality

The theory that best explains our existence and our self-destructive behavior is ignored by everyone, including those people seeking to understand our problems: Varki and Brower’s denial of reality theory

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11 Responses to Rob Mielcarski: You know you are in trouble when…

  1. Peter Maxwell says:

    Alice, I’ve been ransacking the internet to steal your book but I’ve had no lack. My brain was hoping for a free nutritious lunch but there ain’t no such thing, right? My failure was maybe a sign that scavenging for supplies in a dystopian future may not be my forte.

    • energyskeptic says:

      My brother got the book the day after it was published. For free. If you google pdf when trucks stop running, you’ll see there are dozens of free copies out there, out of reach of Springer, perhaps in Russia and similar countries. I’d be wary of viruses or freezing of your files for ransom, but there are sites that evaluate the safety of these free download sites (which are hopefully trustworthy). Most of the book is also on energyskeptic, and while not as refined and condensed as the book, also contain new information I’ve learned since then. What’s good about the book is the ORDER of chapters, they build on one another. But you can see that for free in the springer overview, and I also have all my references listed and other stuff in the posts I was only given 125 pages, the references are a great resource for a more in-depth understanding.

      • Peter Maxwell says:

        There aren’t dozens of free copies. What appears as such is little more than typical scams that target people who look to pirate books. Before you download they ask you to register and provide card details. If a book cannot be found on pirate bay or scribd (the most serious pirate troves) it’s because not many people have seen fit to copy it. Books tend to be copied less than entertainment media for obvious (and natural) reasons, and, of all book genres, dense technical prose, scientific literature etc., tend to be copied the least, also for obvious and in equal measure, natural reasons.

        It’s a lot more comfortable to touch and study real books, and I am keen to study seriously and pursue references extensively so that I can move closer to your level but I live in a rural area of a rather underdeveloped country. Searching for libraries is not an option, and in local bookstores technical and scientific materials are few, they’re in my native language, and are rarely beyond provincial-level quality. If people focused on translating foreign manuals and books instead of paraphrasing them and publishing them under their own name, our national education infrastructure would be better off. But paraphrasing is of course a lot easier than translating as any translator would tell you.

        So you have an advantage over me. The production of education, so to speak is more energy efficient where you live. And you are far my senior, so you’ve had more time, time that I’ll never have to reach you for reasons you know very well. But even if I had access to the same energy and was of similar age, I bet you’d still have the decisive advantage Alice. As a granddaughter of two scientists, nature produced you using rarer and more precious resources!

        The internet is my most precious source of information though it has shortcomings too. Thankfully, I can suffice without the privilege of free access to your book. This site is a free, extended version of the book really and a gift to us all. I know of many places on the web that handle energy, but not a better one.

        I noticed you have a good relationship with arguing. You don’t avoid it. Admirable. Check this out from the saloon bar in rational wiki I write as user ‘Gewgtweg’ there. I used materials from this site in the argument. Get another glimpse of how low the educational standards on energy are globally, even on a site like rational wiki dedicated to promoting science.

        Best Regards.

        • energyskeptic says:

          I just looked for sites with my book free, and they’re pretty much all gone — I wonder of Springer went after them after all, since it wasn’t just my book, but all of their books that were potentially pirated.

          rationalwiki reminds me of why people deny limits to growth and oil, which I’ve collected in this post

          I thought that the East Bay skeptics and Sierra Club would be open to the idea of peak oil, and some were, but most believe that the market and human ingenuity will come up with a solution or replacement if the price goes higher.

          I asked the publisher if now that the book had been out a while if they could lower the price because many have complained about the price — I even got one star review on amazon for that which seems terribly unfair – if they could lower the price and they were outraged, and didn’t think the price was high at all. They make very little money from the printed or pdf version, most people who read it are at universities that have paid for Springer books to be available online. So I’ve never made a penny from the book. I’ve thought about writing another book I could sell cheaply on amazon, but springer has told me in no uncertain terms that this would violate copyright, I had no right to publish something similar since they’d make less money. But lucky you, nearly all of what’s in the book is covered at energyskeptic for free!

  2. david higham says:

    It is a very good summary. I am from Australia,and have just finished the
    ‘Fantasyland’ book you recommended. It seems that reality-based people
    like yourself and Rob are greatly outnumbered there by people who are
    down one rabbit-hole or another.The craziness here is not as extreme at present.

  3. Why the heck are the first comments about *free* copies of a book? Is that the subject? Are those commenters so poor they can’t buy a book they find of value?

    • Peter Maxwell says:

      I am a bibliophile Mr. Lubbers. if I bought every book or subscribed to everything I found of value, I’d have to be very rich. Probably richer than you and all the other commenters put together. You see, for me books are a lot like women. You find you cannot really settle for one, or for a few. There’s always something new that’s attracts you.

      I don’t know how old you are, but the book has seen better times, before digitization that is (same for the film or music industry). You certainly did experience the crash of 2008 however and all that followed. I happen to have been profoundly affected (it’s what forced me to the countryside) so I am on saving mode. Like most relatively young people, I pirate the majority of what I watch or read. I buy only if something is exceptionally good and cannot be had otherwise. Naturally, I’d have bought Alice’s book from Amazon because it is indeed in the exceptionally good category but seeing that most of its content is already available and given that I have to hold onto every penny because of present personal difficulties, there’s no need to. Nevertheless, as a long-time visitor of her page, I have great respect for Alice. So if she asked me to buy it so I can support her financially, you can bet I would, before e-mailing her a picture of my proud purchase.

      I’ve pirated insane amounts of stuff. When I am unsuccessful I normally don’t mind. But since Alice’s book is exceptional I insisted in trying to find it and put some extra effort into it. I looked for about an hour continuously and when I finally gave up in exasperation, I thought it would be funny to immediately declare the effort to the author herself! Failures are easier to manage with a sense humor, don’t you agree? Finally, I’d have you know that I’ve been browsing these pages for a long time. I’ve been invisible in the comments but no stranger. I’ve been following the discussions going on with great interest. I can assure you that I wouldn’t have suddenly appeared in the comments just in order to beg for a free brain lunch (if anyone knows nothing is for free, it’s the readers here) or to offend anyone, let alone Alice. Apologies if I offended you.

  4. Apneaman says:

    Hi Alice. I’ve read the book and have visited Rob’s site many times. I’ve shopped them around along with ‘Terror Management Theory’, but most humans do not like the notion that they are not the authors of their own lives. Free will and all that. Of course that illusion is also a beneficial evolutionary adaption. It’s a tragedy, and no ones fault, that many human evolutionary adaptions are now maladaptive in the new human created world. There is a huge mismatch between the humans technological evolution and their psychological/emotional evolution by orders of magnitude. As George Mobus frequently talks about, the humans do not posses true sapience.

    BTW, Varki & Brower’s theory is officially called “Mind Over Reality”.

    Excellent work once again.

    • Peter Maxwell says:

      For everyone that doesn’t believe in any sort of historical determinism, history is driven by the will of men. But the historical actors don’t will the same. In the end, the law of the heterogony of ends takes over and everything slips beyond control. The problem is not human nature. Human nature is fine with whatever society historical conditions create and it will be just as fine (and just as problematic) with the society that will follow the fossil fuels era (unless we become extinct which is possible but unlikely). The problem is that humans became too good at fighting nature. And they became so good at fighting it because during the renaissance they started to really understand it for the first time in history. Nature is a godless, soulless, monistic whole and can be understood by the human mind. We don’t understand how unprecedented and radical this worldview was. It was the reason science in the west advanced rapidly while in China and the Islamic world it remained stationary.

      Varki & Brower’s theory is not new at all. It is effectively a pop version of the theory first advanced decades ago in Macht und Entscheidung. Die Herausbildung der Weltbilder und der Wertfrage (1984) by an obscure history-of-ideas scholar living in Heidelberg. The planned three-volume work Das politische und der Mensch: Grundzüge der Sozialontolgie, particularly volume III: Identität, Macht, Kultur would have worked upon and enriched the 1984 book even more but the author unexpectedly died following an operating error. Only Volume I survives (1999). II and III will never be materialized. Nihilistic decisionism or descriptive nihilism would be a better name for the theory. Don’t look for English translations of Macht und Entscheidung. They exist on the internet but they’re unreadable garbage unlike the German original which was very well written. I contacted the translator but he won’t listen.

      This is an potion from a comment I tried to post on Rob’s site. It still hasn’t come up.

      ”The real problem is not that we’re humans but that we happened to become way too good at fighting nature. Before agriculture, warfare and inequality were far less rigid because people had to work together to fend off nature. At some point after agriculture, beginning with the renaissance, we started bit by bit to treat nature as a godless, soulless, deterministic whole. This is a technical innovation of a magnitude we don’t realize and it’s as important as agriculture. Before the renaissance you had the same science too. It was not new scientific knowledge that sped up the fruitfulness of science. It was in fact a paradigm shift in the realm of ideas. Science managed to extricate itself from philosophy which is really only religion in different clothing. This did NOT happen after new knowledge which changed the way we apprehend material reality. The reverse happened. We started to change the way we apprehend material reality and new knowledge followed in the wake of this radical change in thinking. For many centuries you had near parallel discoveries happening in the West and China, India and in other regions that shared the common feature of operating economics that produce lots of material. The most fundamental reason why science in western Europe advanced in leaps and bounds so quickly and in the rest of the globe remained stationary was because religion and philosophy never had a homegrown materialist rival outside western Europe. The development of materialism in the modern west was purely an accidental development. The ancients didn’t teach it, contrary to myth. Ancient materialism and renaissance materialism are in fact different. Ancient materialism didn’t distinguish truth from perception. It simply taught that all truth is relative to perception. Platonism argued the reverse (it was in fact deliberately construed to argue the reverse). That namely there are absolute, i.e. ontological truths. Modern materialism separated truth from both ontology and individual perception for the first time in human history. This is solely an innovation of modernity.”

  5. Apneaman says:

    Peter Maxwell, how could it be a pop version if it’s only in German? Are you saying Brower and Varki know German and read it and stole the ideas? That is the only way it could be a pop version of the Germans work. You are a babbling nonsensical fool. I follow Varki’s work quite closely and there is nothing ‘pop’ about it. You would know that if you followed him and read the book. Spare me your ‘pop’ philosophizing and certainties about how the world works.

    Here is an organization Varki is a big part of and it’s related to ‘Mind over Reality’

    Where did we come from? How did we get here?
    CARTA’s primary goal is to “explore and explain the origins of the human phenomenon”.
    In other words, seeking answers to these age-old questions.

    • Peter Maxwell says:

      Take a moment to think before you start name calling thinking that I offended your pet authors like you’re some idiot follower. I didn’t claim they stole anything. Often in the history of research people have worked separately and in different ways and come to structurally identical conclusions. I only said that it’s a more simple, more popular way to advance essentially the same anthropological theory first advanced in 1984. I didn’t call it ‘pop’ to diminish the authors or the theory itself which I agree with. Entscheidung is simply more technical, more complex, more challenging. In fact – and polyglot readers should know that – whatever is published in written in German is on average superior to anything similar or equivalent written in English so that shouldn’t be a surprise.

      I didn’t philosophize at all, if anything I have a pronounced distaste for philosophy, metaphysics and the like. To speak about anthropological or abstract matters doesn’t mean that one philosophizes, otherwise blogs like Rob’s would be doing almost nothing but philosophy. I just stated that during the renaissance people started to see nature in a radically different manner than ever before. It was then that philosophy was dealt the first serious blow. The new worldview acted as a fertilizer for the advances in science that led to modern society. It was an innovation more important than the invention of agriculture but we don’t realize it.

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