Our Unsustainable Future

This week I delivered a lecture to UC Berkeley students who are studying sustainability. I’ve done this for the past ten years or so, and I’m delighted to be asked back year after year.

The topic is “What is Wealth?” but, if you know me, you know I cannot answer that by simply giving a few definitions. To answer that properly we have to understand the nature of money and debt, and the placement of those social agreements within the boundaries of the natural world and energy particularly.

So this presentation is really The Crash Course, delivered concisely, with a few markers that are relevant to our situation today, such as Jay Powell’s recent Senate testimony on debt.

This will be a great refresher for many of you, brand new for some of you, and designed to be shared widely with people who you may know who maybe should hear it.

After all, you can always say, “this is a really important university lecture I just stumbled across, what do you think? Is this guy nuts, or completely insane?”

I had fun assembling this, I hope you find it useful and stimulating.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/our-unsustainable-future/

What Lucky College Students!

Hearing a Martenson lecture at that age would have made a huge impact on me.


Carter Tried

The Jimmy Carter administration was the last time we attempted to address the systemic issues in sustainability. He was mocked for being all doom and gloom.
Reagan ran on the idea that the future was unlimited and we could have it all. The policies Reagan put in place sent us down the path of unsustainability and ingrained the mindset of unlimited prosperity in much of the US population. He is still deified by most of America because he supposedly did such great things.
In reality most of what he did was wrong and many of the problems we have today originated in his administration. There are 6 letters in each of the names Ronald Wilson Reagan.


Sad thing is that most of the things offered up as sustainable are simply more consumerism. I see individually shrink wrapped organic vegetables in the grocery store for example. Most of the small scale organic and sustainable farming in the US depends on free or minimal stipend paid labor by volunteers and “interns”. It seems the farm laborers work for 15.00 at McD or the local bar when they are not farming.
I am thinking that it will take intense austerity and perhaps suffering and possible a war to bring about the new systems and innovations required.


It’s Called “the Philly Shrug”

Back in 2013 Philadelphia journalist Helen Ubinas coined the phrase “The Philly Shrug,” to describe the local response to any outrage. (I’d drop the link here but it’s behind the paywall at The Philadelphia Inquirer.)

The Philadelphia shrug or Philly shrug is a phrase that is used to embody a number of behaviors that relinquish self responsibility or re-enforce apathy in the face of obstacles (cultural, political, etc.) and are specific to the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [2] The majority of social media commenting on the Philadelphia shrug dates from 2013, although the cultural concept predates this time. Although there are several social media sites that are determined to eliminate it from the Philadelphian consciousness, it remains a part of the culture of parts of Philadelphia. 
https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/Philly_shrug The long-suffering and clinically depressed citizens of Philadelphia have seen so much sh*t, corruption, crime and degradation of the quality of city life that they’ve given up all hope and simply shrug at the revelation of every political scandal, moral outrage and disaster. Upon hearing of some terrible event or future threat, citizens in most places would be outraged and moved to political, civic, charitable and/or personal action. And things would change. Not in Philly. People just shrug, hang their heads in defeat, and shuffle away (usually to get drunk or high, or otherwise distract and numb themselves). Crusaders and reformers come and go, but they are always defeated by the inertia and depression of the masses around them. So Chris when you present this kind of earth-shattering data and perspective, the usual reaction you get from most people can now be called “The Philly Shrug.” https://media4.giphy.com/media/YHHbR98Tjh92qf6KO5/200w.webp?cid=ecf05e47tves17srijr8roko3mnqfvta99n3vv3ek81hif12&rid=200w.webp&ct=v

The Philly Shrug will end when there is no alcohol, weed, or pharmaceuticals to get high on, and little food to eat. To paraphrase Yuri Bezmenov, “They will only understand when reality is stepping on their balls.” People have been demoralized, and they’re being distracted by the bread and circuses of our times.
Friends, make sure you’re a hard target to steal from when the mindless zombie hordes flee the cities looking for anything, including people, to eat.


Interesting, Unscientific Poll Today At Kimdotcom

What do people think TPTB will engineer next to get from under the nested crises they have engineered?


It’s not really unscientific, so much as it is biased to the sorts of people that follow kimdotcom. Using a war to cover up an economic collapse is a classic tactic of TPTB. I don’t think the United States/(The West) has the social cohesion required to fight WW3. Option 4 will never happen. Options 1-3 are basically the same thing. Start WW3 to cover up the economic collapse caused by decades of bad policy, and get hyperinflation as a result that they can blame on Putin-Hitler(Putler).


Provide Example

So, since we all live and breathe in a place that knows nothing but exponential growth from our birth, what does an economy that does not grow look like?


This is going to sound a little naive, but I drove back and forth from Eastern Pennsylvania to Wisconsin last summer. I needed something light and cheerful to keep me amused so I listened to the Little House audiobook series. I know it’s fiction and geared to children, but particularly Farmer Boy gave a lovely account of all the things prosperous farmers produced during that time and how they interacted with other tradespeople for what they didn’t produce at home.
I’m not idealizing that life. Life in the late 1800s was a lot of hard work. And while much of western medicine is now shit, there’s still a lot of good I’d hate to see go away. I’m just thinking that’s about the pinnacle of a low oil society. Maybe we can learn from the past and still manage to bring along some of the more important modern innovations.


When I read Farmer Boy to our oldest daughter many years ago, it made a big impression on me also in the same vein.


Secondary Wealth

Listening to you explain primary, secondary, and tertiary wealth something that I knew more abstractly suddenly clicked into more focused awareness I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone directly express. There is plenty of debate on how gold and silver might function in our future societies. It’s often expressed that gold and/or silver is a form of money that I can hold as an asset that isn’t someone else’s liability, unlike practically every other form of currency out there.
The insight I had listening to Chris is that this aspect might also be verbally expressed that gold and/or silver coins can function as tertiary wealth yet it is also fundamentally secondary wealth.


The Amish Do It And So Can We

The Amish live sustainably and so can we. There are other groups that do so as well, admittedly not many due to the allure and ease of the modern world. But we are, as a species, enormously creative and adaptable.
I’m not discounting the pain of The Reckoning, and the fact that innovation sparked by crisis and desperation is not the usual best way to go…but we as a species have faced much crisis and desperation in our tenure on the planet. The modern world is our experience for a flash second in evolutionary time, and each and every one of us is descended from an unbroken line of ancestors who survived to reproductive age and managed to produce a child who survived, despite very tough and turbulent times: wars, famines, drought, pestilence. In other words, we are born survivors and we carry that with us in our DNA and the accumulated knowledge of everything we’ve learned and recorded.


there are no IKEAs, for one thing

Your question is entirely reasonable. It is difficult to predict the answer, but that said, I read not long ago that WEF has declared 2023 to be the year of the Polycrisis (i.e., multiple crises, likely rolled out one after another in a planned sequence). Keeping people frightened makes it more likely that they will willingly cooperate if the “government” promises safety and security in some form. This, of course, means voluntary slavery – “safety” in return for surrendered freedom. “You will own nothing, you will have no privacy, and you will be happy”.
One thing I feel pretty confident about predicting: this may not happen within the next year or two, but as Covid “vaccinated” people lose their natural immune systems, one or a series of bugs or viruses will be introduced to take advantage of massively weakened natural immune systems (the natural human immune system is a thing of wonder). People could die in massive numbers in such a scenario, but the unvaxxed “elites” (with strong natural immune systems) would be just fine. Depopulation is an announced goal and it is not kept secret from those who take the time and trouble to look.
The self-appointed global elite won’t do anything that could destroy them, at least not deliberately. With that thought in mind, rationality does not seem to prevail in US foreign policy. So maybe the Neocons will do something irrational, like provoking Russia to launch its deployed-and-tested maneuverable and likely impossible-to-intercept hypersonic, MIRV’d intercontinental ballistic missiles. We can hope for the best, recognizing that hope is not a plan


Great insight!


This Car Will Not Stop Until It Hits A Wall And Crashes.

The curruption in political leaders that is endemic, and the sense of entitlment of the populace will prvent any real (effecatious) proceeding. The goal of the reset croud is to set themselves up to come out on top after the SHTF. Personally I believe as long as we have sources of cheap energy, the system will be able to circumvent real pain. But once the energy train dries up, there will be no stopping the pain, no stopping the unrest, no stopping the loss of the rule of law. We simply don’t live in a would full of honest, hard working, moral souls. It seems that it is only the fear of the law that prevents a majority of the population from stealing for gain. Let’s do a poll and see what % of the population would steal, if they were starving (or even just a little hungry). What % of the population would break the laws, if there is no consequence. One might point at the loss of religion in general that has resulted in a loss of moral character. But for what ever reason good character is not esteemed like it used to be, honor is not valued. The fear of ultimate judgement is an archaic meme, justifiably abondoned due to it’s originating in “White Supremacy”. How to survive/trive is to find a tribe full of hard working moral people.


Regarding Energy Transition

The other energy transitions you discussed were never more than 50% of the total. Because of this, they moved into areas they were best for. Coal was still good for baseload electricity, and cement and steel manufacturing. Coal still dominates the last two. The current attempt is nearly 100% renewables, even the areas they aren’t so good at like transportation, heavy equipment and air travel.


Me! I would steal if I was forced into situation approaching starvation. I think just about everyone would. I have knowledge of wild foods and some access to them, but that might not do the trick.


And are derivatives quaternary wealth?