The Future Ain't What It Used To Be

This marks our our 10th year of doing this.  And by “this”, we mean using data, logic and reason to support the very basic conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. 

Surprisingly, this simple, rational idea -- despite its huge and fast-growing pile of corroborating evidence -- still encounters tremendous pushback from society. Why? Because it runs afoul of most people's deep-seated belief systems.

Our decade of experience delivering this message has hammered home what behavioral scientists have been telling us for years -- that, with rare exceptions, we humans are not rational. We're rationalizers. We try to force our perception of reality to fit our beliefs; rather than the other way around.

Which is why the vast amount of grief, angst and encroaching dread that most people feel in western cultures today is likely due to the fact that, deep down, whether we're willing to admit it to ourselves or not, everybody already knows the truth: Our way of life is unsustainable.

In our hearts, we fear that someday, possibly soon, our comfy way of life will be ripped away; like a warm blanket snatched off of our sleeping bodies on a cold night.

The simple reality is that society's hopes for a "modern consumer-class lifestyle for all" are incompatible with the accelerating imbalance between the (still growing) human population and the (increasingly depleting) planet's natural resources. Basic math and physics tell us that the Earth's ecosystems can't handle the load for much longer.

The only remaining question concerns how fast the adjustment happens. Will the future be defined by a "slow burn", one that steadily degrades our living standards over generations? Or will we experience a sudden series of sharp shocks that plunge the world into chaos and conflict?

It’s hard to say. As Yogi Berra famously quipped, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”  So, it's left to us to remain open-minded and flexible as we draw up our plans for how we’ll personally persevere through the coming years of change.

But even while the specifics about the future elude us today, “predicting” the macro trends most likely to influence the coming decades is very doable:

Rising trends:

  • Populism in politics
  • Federal debt levels
  • Geopolitical tensions
  • Interest rates

Falling trends:

  • Funding levels for pensions
  • The numbers of insects world wide
  • Confidence in the future among the younger generations
  • Wealth and income equality

Trends can be expected to continue until they change.  Therefore making "predictions" on trends is like making a "prediction" about which way an already tossed ball will travel. It's not really a prediction at all, but a statement of observed data.

These two lists bring to mind another great Yogi Berra quote:

No, the future certainly isn’t what it used to be.

Once it was a place in which you could invest towards your hopes and dreams, confident that conditions would be better for your children than they were for you.

That’s no longer the case. The defining trends in play are all working to degrade, rather than enhance, our future prospects.

Which is why it's little surprise that millennials aren’t saving for retirement. Here's the dim view many of them hold:

“In general, I regard the future as a multitude of possibilities, but most of them don't look good,” Elias Schwartzman, 29, a musician, told me. “When I'm at retirement age, around 2050, I think it's possible we'll have seen a breakdown of modern society.” Schwartzman said that he saw the future as encompassing one of two possibilities: an apocalyptic “total breakdown of industrial society,” or “capitalism morphing into a complete plutocracy.” “I think the argument can be made that we're well on the way to that reality,” he added.

Wood, 32, a political consultant, told me via Twitter that she felt similarly. “I don’t think the world can sustain capitalism for another decade,” she explained. “It’s socialism or bust. We will literally start having resource wars that will kill us all if we don’t accept that the free market will absolutely destroy us within our lifetime [if] we don’t start fighting its hegemony,” she added.

(Source – Salon)

As someone who tracks economic, environmental and energy data closely, these views are neither surprising nor really debatable.  They are merely trend extrapolations, which are difficult to dismiss.

What the older generations don't yet understand is that the economic and social models that rewarded them so richly are not doing the same for younger folks.  In fact, those old models are visibly breaking down. And confidence in them is failing, too.

Younger people are increasingly seeing that the model of extractive, exponential growth (which is often errantly termed “capitalism” when, as practiced, it should be termed “corporate socialism”) has no future.  And of course, they are right.

But regardless of age, anyone with an open mind should be able to identify that something is wrong with the story of "endless growth".  The evidence is pretty much everywhere we look:


If we're willing to entertain the possibility that infinite exponential growth is impossible, and we extrapolate from there, what sort of economic trajectory would we expect to see as growth peters out?  Exactly the sort we see in the above chart.  Lower and slower growth that finally peters out and then slips into reverse for the rest of the story.

Sociologically, we’d expect people to be nervous, anxious, and scared as their dominant cultural narrative is increasingly revealed to be no longer viable. Ask yourself: is the world becoming calmer or more volatile? The rash of mass shootings, anti-establishment election victories, prescription drug epidemics, and returning nuclear war fears make the answer sadly obvious.

Biophysically, we'd expect to see key resources and species populations depleting at alarming rates -- which we are. This is due to diminishing returns: nearly every planetary resource is getting harder and more expensive to obtain. Mars anyone?

In a desperate attempt to mask the costs of of slower and lower growth, the world's central banking cartel has deployed its  “one weird trick”: lowering interest rates to historic rock-bottom levels. This has allowed for more debt to be crammed into the system for a few more years, to keep the mirage of the party continuing for just a little bit longer. 

Because of that hail Mary, we have ended up in this very bizarre situation where our debt has been growing at twice the rate of our income -- which clearly will end up in a solvency crisis:

Perversely, the central banks are doing everything in their power to defend and propagate this unsustainable status quo, even though fourth grade math tells us it will surely end in ruin. How is it possible that this very simple observation eludes so many of those in positions of power?  You’d have to be an intellectual yet idiot to hold the view that debts can forever compound at faster rate than income. 

Further, we find that when the US government's deficit spending is stripped out from GDP growth, there actually hasn’t been any economic growth at all for years:


The US has been going deeper and deeper in debt simply to maintain the appearance of "economic growth".  This whole illusion is being limped along for just a little while longer.

For what purpose? And why? Both excellent questions without a good answer.  You should be asking yourself what "success" looks like here.  What's the end game?  More growth?  Okay, then what?  More growth?  Keep going along that line of thinking.  Take as much time as you need.

Clearly there's an end to that story somewhere.  Growth ceases.  Presumably smart people in power get this, too, although they'll never admit it publicly so as not to spook the herd.  Looking at the number of very well-connected and wealthy elites busily arranging bolt-hole properties to retreat to 'just in case', they're already well ahead of the general public in preparing for the tribulations to come.

All of which brings us to the very real prospect of war, as that has long been the favored path of politicians seeking to deflect public ire from their own policy failures.  I worry that a major military conflict is dangerously close at hand.  The ridiculous UK government narrative around the Skripal poisonings (which remains utterly illogical from start to finish) used to seriously degrade relationships between Russia and NATO has all the hallmarks of contrived political operation.

Added to the brewing geopolitical risk is the very likely prospect of the bursting of The Mother Of All Bubbles. When (not if, sadly) that happens, it will be truly catastrophic to every financial market in the world, and especially damaging to the western economies.

So the race is on. Will the bubble burst first? Or can the political class engineer a massive military distraction beforehand?

Regardless of who “wins” that race, you need to be physically, emotionally and financially prepared for these outcomes.'s (free) What Should I Do? guide is an essential resource for those not yet fully prepped, as well as is our Self-Assessment.

Yes. Things are that serious. 

If you're not yet an enrolled subscriber to, please consider becoming one now.  2018 is looking to be the shoo-in candidate for "The Year Everything Changed". Interest rates are finally rising. Volatility is finally returning to the financial markets. Oil prices are threatening to finally return to the critical $70/bbl range. The populace is finally waking up to the extent of the abuse perpetrated on their safety, personal data, and civil liberties. The crypto bubble has finally burst. 

So many long-term trends that have defined the (false) sense of 'prosperity' over the past eight years are ending now. What ensues will be fast-paced disruption.

By enrolling, you'll stay abreast of developments and be able to position yourself (and your wealth) accordingly, benefiting from our daily work to harvest and synthesize all the complex information so you don’t have to.  You’ll support will also help our ongoing efforts to bring Peak Prosperity's alternative message and insights to a greater percentage of the general public, who desperately need this information to counter the "Don't worry, everything is awesome!" narrative prevalent in our captive mass media.

In this vein, in Part 2: Everything Is Suddenly Deteriorating, Fast we analyze the recent whipsaw volatility that has broken out in the financial markets and explain why it, along with other markers we've been watching out for, indicates that the markets are poised to fall dramatically further from here -- whether war breaks out or not.

But even if this is as far as you're going to read, please get your preparations in place and get ready to hold fast.  Things are only going to get bumpier from here.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I just watched the Chasing Coral, hard to believe we’ve lost approx 30% of the worlds coral reefs already and essentially all are expected to be gone in 30 years time. Just another unintended consequence of the way we conduct our systems. Given I’m around 40 years old, I expect to see lots of changes coming over my lifetime, some positive but Iikely the majority will be negative.

I have a few friends down in Long Beach California from when I lived there '97 to '98. One works in the port of LA and secretly sleeps at his workplace onshore to avoid paying rent. He gets up every morning at 6 and walks away to his truck and then walks back later to make it look like he is coming from home.
He says he understands things are ready to fall apart and that everything is just being propped up. He wants to move up north but he just doesn’t know how, or can’t get it together, to get out. He says everything seems like the playground scene in The Terminator, just before the nuke goes off.

The rash of mass shootings
Chris, tell me you don't believe these shootings are genuine???!!! I wish Youtube hadn't deleted those thousands of videos; I could show you some that within 5 seconds would convince anyone that Orlando was a hoax, guaranteed. And those that remain in denial would experience some pretty intense cognitive dissonance. Hence the reason why Youtube deleted them. Is there anywhere I can upload videos like you can with images? Without getting deleted and marked by the NSA? I heard about this new D Tube site, which has rules preventing the host to just go around deleting videos it doesn't want shown.

“…So many long-term trends that have defined the (false) sense of ‘prosperity’ over the past eight years are ending now. What ensues will be fast-paced disruption…”
I like what Nassim Taleb argues in this vein. He suggests we form our guesses about the future (and associated risks) based upon the scientific notion of normal distributions but the really impactful events in life are those that lay outside these ‘bell curve’ estimates and create what he termed ‘Black Swan Events’. Any number of Black Swan Events could send the variables that make up the complex systems discussed here sideways in totally unexpected ways.
You certainly can’t say we don’t live in interesting times.
Another great article, Chris. Thank you.

Read the Fourth Turning. Don’t just scan it or think you know the concepts from a summation. Really read it page by page and digest it. Then read all of Martin Armstrong’s work. Then read all the prophecies from Billy Meier (and ignore the CIA disinformation campaign related to him and his work) to find out what’s going to happen. It’s possible to stop all this and change history but highly, highly improbable. In truth, what is happening is inevitable and it’s all happened before, in this world and others, and it will happen again and again, in different ways, shapes, and forms.
Yeah, block me and other opinions that don’t completely fit your preferred narrative but also ask yourself why.
Also, no matter how much you prepare, it will not be enough.

" no matter how much you prepare, it will not be enough. "
of course preparation has its limitations, but does that justify doing nothing?
as things unwind, having some “buffers” or cushions in place only makes the inevitable changes easier. this is no different then wearing a seat belt when traveling because crashes are a real possibility.

shastatodd wrote:
" no matter how much you prepare, it will not be enough. " of course preparation has its limitations, but does that justify doing nothing?
No and I didn't say it did. There are practical benefits to reasonable preparation. Just don't go overboard and think that it will protect you. In fact, there are scenarios where it can even work against you. Can you envision those?

So much material to digest.
I’m sure Chris knows that, as bad as they look, his GDP charts are better than reality.
Years ago, the Soviet Union crop reports were universally known to be fiction.
Perhaps it’s not universally known, but many know that much of what US Government Agencies report is massively distorted, like unemployment, inflation and GDP. These distortions date back to the 1970s and the distortion has systematically increased over time.
So look at the declining GDP charts above and realize that the real decline is massively steeper.
I know Chris is aware of this because he is the one who brought it to my attention.

Colonizing Mars was mentioned. Anyone who thinks we have the knowledge, technology or demeanor to do that should take a close look at Biosphere 2.
For now, Earth is our only choice. If we continue to screw it up here, we are, well, screwed.

One graph in this article shows USA GDP clearly falling from 1947-2017. The one following it (US debt and GDP) shows GDP rising. ???

Shivani wrote:
One graph in this article shows USA GDP clearly falling from 1947-2017. The one following it (US debt and GDP) shows GDP rising. ???
The first graph is showing *rates* of growth (expressed in percentage terms). So the economy might grow 3% a year, then 2.5% a year, and then just 2% year. The rate of growth is falling. The second graph is showing aggregate growth over time, finally expressed as percentage growth over that entire time. Example: If the economy started at 1000 in decade #1 but then climbed at 3% per year for 10 years, it would then be at 1,344. If it then grew from there at 2% for the next ten years, it would grown from 1,344 to 1,638 in aggregate terms...even though the rate had dropped from 3% to 2%. You'd see rising GDP in nominal terms but a falling rate of growth. Make sense? I hope that helps

I know showing US Debt and GDP on a linear vertical axis gives an impressively bleak graph but it would be much more useful to show this data on a log vertical axis. That would allow visualizing the behavior in earlier decades and comparing it to the current time frame. The numbers for the 70’s are so small (in absolute terms) that we can’t see the relative behavior.

shastatodd wrote:
" no matter how much you prepare, it will not be enough. " of course preparation has its limitations, but does that justify doing nothing? as things unwind, having some "buffers" or cushions in place only makes the inevitable changes easier. this is no different then wearing a seat belt when traveling because crashes are a real possibility.
Yes, and prepping helps you be mentally practiced and emotionally prepared for a change in context.

If concern about our big problems was commiserate w the scope of those problems, it would dominate msm and overall conversation across the country. But it’s not even close. By procrastinating so long we’re pretty much committed to a bad ending. Environmentally, financially, economically, and I fear, socially.
“What ensues will be fast past disruption”. To me, that’s the scariest thing about all this. Expect the majority of people, who are not mentally or otherwise prepared for any type of collapse, to be shocked at how fast and how far things can deteriorate. Their reaction is not likely to be “help thy neighbor”, as Thom Hartmann points out typically happens in disasters. No, there’s a good possibility cut throat behavior takes hold and we become our own greatest enemy. All while armed to the teeth. My preparation is increasingly less geared towards how to survive and more towards how to exit.
Please don’t see that as disturbing or depressing, as daily I gain better appreciation for the life we have (certainly the one I’ve had), and am fascinated and captivated by what is going on and how we’re (not) responding. It’s getting surreal, almost an out of body experience. Lost interest a few years ago in shows like Homeland and House of Cards, cause they can’t compete w real life!

Back during the during 2008 meltdown, people were at least talking about my hobbies seriously, things like gardening, food preservation, small livestock, etc. When things are good, most folks just believe the delusion, that things will continue as is, right, it’s much easier. What’s the old saying, when you have the choice between fantasy and reality, fantasy wins the day.
My other major concern is the lack of infrastructure for a less energy rich world. Things like root cellars, locally grown produce, small livestock and close livestock processing facilities. What will transportation be like if we have intermittent fuel interruptions? How well will our current housing hold up if there is intermittent power outages, like water damaged basements and freezers off for days or a week. How resourceful are people(neighbors) in these situations? I’ve never lived in an apartment but what is the skill set of most American’s, dismal at best.
Most people will bow to the state to save them cause that will likely be the only choice. One only has to look at countries like Argentina and Greece and if real ugly, Venezuela. Not pretty, I’m not happy in my current location, would much rather be established in a less populated area.

McMansions will have to end, replaced by much smaller zero net two story homes whose roofs are a solar collector.
4 years ago electricity produced by solar was 1/2% worldwide. Currently it is 2% and according to Google’s chief engineer solar collection will double every 2 years. In that case in 4 more years it will be 8%. This means that no more nuclear power plants will be built (already happening) and current ones will be closed down. as this trend continues. Plus if needed the much safer and cheaper Thorium powered plants could be constructed
I don’t know the doubling rate of permaculture students that become instructors, but they are out there and their numbers are no doubt doubling. Using permaculture practices will mean that the same nutrition now produced on a 100 acres can be equaled on 4 acres. That means that a 1/4 acre lawn could become a small farm.
Senate majority leader is said to be introducing a bill in congress to legalize industrial hemp. When this happens the aforementioned zero net homes could be all built with 90% with hemp products. There is no end to the positive effects that this will produce.
Planned obsolesce will have to end. incorporate that with a combination tractor (for your lawn say) and car or pick up truck that can tow a small RV (your first home in the future) all of which will last for a lifetime. I see this as already on its way. In the 50’s a car might last around 100k miles, now 300k is achievable.

Found this on Reddit the other day.
This makes my blood boil, it’s so stupid.

There’s nothing that makes me more annoyed than realizing I’ve bought something designed to break. Just make it properly and charge me reasonably.
Which brings us to today’s moment of Schadenfreude:


The long answer is that you need to get laundry machines designed for businesses – for example, laundromats.
Yes, even your Maytag nowadays is engineered to break quickly and force you to buy again. It reminds me of the Epson inkjet printers that had a waste ink chamber to throw away expensive ink, and a counter. Even if you were able to empty the waste ink container yourself, if the counter had overrun, the printer would not work. The ultimate in “engineered to fail”… was “instructed to refuse to work”.
So anyhow, my parents were able to get a hold of a scratch-and-dent speed queen that was specifically not to be sold to consumers… laundry businesses only. Unlike others that lasted about a year and a half, that one is still going.

Planned obsolescence and junk engineering/manufacturing have been with us for a long time. I’m a highly-mechanical guy, but appliances have always flummoxed me. All Hail YouTube! I’ve pulled off some surprising fixes on washer/dryers, and printers, etc., from watching some of the most amateur videos submitted to YT. And internet sourcing of parts is pretty easy and cost-effective. Gotta be willing to dive in though. And have your bandaids handy when taking apart your washer- lotsa sharp edges on those cabinets. Given our predicament, it is almost criminal the state of planned obsolescence in manufacturing. Ditto on trying to source true commercial gear…Aloha, Steve.

Depending on the time of year, I either walk or cycle up to the local laundromat every 3 or 4 weeks. I get the laundry done in less than an hour and a half and don’t have to think about it for another few weeks. I also get exposure to folks that I normally would not meet. It costs less than doing it at home – especially if the machines are designed to last less than a year and a half.