The Ghost Of Christmas Future

Here in the brief period between Christmas and New year’s, as a writer I am obligated to say happy, wishful things. I have to confess, I’m just not feeling it this year, so I’ll just do the minimum here and return to being a curmudgeon, because that’s what the times call for.

So, happy new year. I hope everything works out well for you in 2019.

There, with that behind us we can now return our attention to the true state of the world, which is deteriorating and getting worse.

For most people things will be decidedly worse, not better, as things progress along their current trajectories. The only planet we’ve got to live on is being killed by human activity and gross inattention, while economically the greatest and most ill-advised credit bubble in all of human history flirts with the sort of sudden disaster that follows shortly after the failure of one’s reserve parachute.

As I've often repeated, I truly wish this weren’t the case.  I don't have a “bummer gene” that relishes bad news nor do I enjoy being "that guy” who says what no one wants to hear. 

Many of you reading this know exactly what I'm talking about.  You, too, had to keep your lips zipped over the holidays lest the strained family small talk and opening of cheaply-made forgettable gifts be ruined by any talk of 'reality'.  Sure, everyone can inwardly wince at uncle Jack’s sixth bourbon and tolerate the buffoonery and social awkwardness sure to follow because  “it’s only once a year.”

But collapsing insect populations, species loss, shrinking aquifers, and the utter betrayal of the younger generations by the “olders” running the fiscal and monetary policies of the world are not as easily dismissed. There’s no relief at the end of the day when the problem drives itself home. 

Instead, these many predicaments lurk and fester, as stubbornly as a rotted beam in the basement.  An adult with a problem beam in the basement deals with it.  But the immature person pretends the problem doesn’t exist, and then scolds and shames anyone who brings it up.

Well, for those of us in the mature reality-based camp, we can point out not one but many dozens of rotten beams in the basement, and the walls, and the roof.  So, holidays are quite often more a burden to us than a comfort.  “Why, yes, Aunt Karen, that is a nice set of coasters you gave to John” as you think to yourself “I wonder if those are made from pressed microplastics or virgin rainforest?”

To be completely clear, I deplore the decisions that got us to this point in history. But here we are.

I wish the Federal Reserve, the ECB and the rest of the world's major central banks had not printed up $16 trillion of thin-air money and caused the greatest collection of asset price bubbles in all of history. I wish that the US had heeded Jimmy Carter back in the 1970s and developed a workable long-term energy strategy that made sense.  I wish that disappearing insect population were not relegated to the back pages of major newspapers, and instead were front and center each and every day until responsible actions were undertaken.  I wish that savers, pensioners and the young hadn't been sacrificed upon the altar of bank profits so that the obscenely wealthy could become even more so.

But, that’s not how things turned out. So now we’ve just got to make the best of it individually, whatever may come.

Two Questions

Back in November of 2018, I participated in a superb evening event put on by modern Poet-Historian Stephen Jenkinson where he posed the following to the audience, which mostly consisted of people with grey hair.  He said that every older person needs to be ready for the day when a younger person walks up to them and asks them two questions:

  1. When did you know, and
  2. What did you do about it?

When did you know about the many problems and predicaments facing our world today?  When did you find out about species loss, and peak oil, the generationally destructive policies of your peers, and the unsustainability of our entire economic model? 

And what did you do about any of it?  Did you make any changes at all to your behavior, or did you close your eyes and slip into a strategy of false hope? Hope that ‘somebody’ would do 'something'?  Did you fight at all for the things in which you once believed?

These aren't easy questions to face, because they cut right to the heart of the matter. They put our integrity into question and threaten to expose whether we have any at all.

Not easy stuff, to be sure.

So, by way of preparation for what's coming, let me act as a stand-in for that future young person and be the one to ask you:

When did you know?

And what did you do about it?

Psychological Projection

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.


In the US, the older generation, the Baby Boomers, have a lot to answer for.  I'm among them, so I'm pointing my accusing fingers right back at myself, too.  It's incumbent on every group to be its own best critic (a credo the FBI, many police departments, large corporations, and political parties seem to be woefully ignorant of).

Instead of being appropriately self-critical, 2018 was the year the entire mainstream establishment decided to engage in a mass act of psychological projection instead. With Millennials as the hapless targets.

In the US, after spending $trillions on unnecessary wars and neglecting to invest for the future (adequately funding pensions, maintaining vital infrastructure, etc), the establishment decided 2018 would be a good year to wag its collective finger at the Millennial generation, going so far as to blame its low home ownership rate on eating too much avocado toast:

But it didn’t stop there. The establishment went on an absolute tear of a blaming spree. It accused Millennials of so many vices that long lists had to be created. As those lists became exhaustively long, Millennials were branded “mass murderers”:

The reason that so many Millennials are turning away from the blindly-consumptive patterns of their parents is because they got locked out of that game long enough to peer back in. As they did, many decided that their parents' material pursuits and life choices weren't worth repeating.

A lifetime of paying off mortgage and other debts to bankers or…spending their money instead on valued experiences while still young and vigorous?  Hmmmm.  Not exactly a tough choice, is it?

The Boomers and their journalistic lackeys decry Millennials' opting-out as “killing” valued institutions like for-profit colleges and the housing market, but the reality is if you give people a bit of breathing room to assess their options, few will willingly choose a lifetime of debt servitude. Most prefer financial freedom and a life well-lived.

I know that my own children (all young adults now) have opted not go into debt. Or overspend on college. Or purchase cars until absolutely forced to (and even then they bought beaters). 

I like to think that they got some of that frugality from me but, truthfully, after about the age of 13 parents’ influence on their children hovers between 0 and -3.  From the age of 13 on their peers shape their outlook. And many of my children’s peers are making similar purchasing and life decisions, so that sets the direction of their age cohort.

For the journalists making a show out of struggling to understand why the Millennials are making different choices than the Boomers did, I offer up this quote:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

            ~ Upton Sinclair

It’s important to note that the mainstream press has a couple of important jobs: keeping everyone firmly seated in the consumer mind-rut, and deflecting any criticism away from the wealthy and their corporate masters (should any distinction between those groups exist).

If I sound harsh on the mainstream press, that’s because far too many in that profession have settled into being little more than scribes for the powerful; doing little more than repeating scripted talking points, inaccurate “facts,” and overt corporate and political propaganda.

In other words: the criticism is entirely deserved. Especially when one asks, “When did you know? And what did you do about it?”

2019: The Beginning Of The End

2018 has been the year that things began to unravel, as the accumulated mistakes of the prior decades finally settled in.

2019 will see the repercussions of that unraveling. It's going to be a very hard year as reality starts to settle in.

As far as the financial markets go, which are the preferred self-enrichment and public signaling devices of the powers that be, our operating model is contained in the phrase: Until and unless.

Until and unless the world’s central banks reverse course and once again undertake more Quantitative Easing, or “QE,” financial asset prices will continue to fall throughout 2019.  Stocks, bonds, real estate.  You name it.

For all the investors out there now habituated to ever-rising asset prices, this will be a very unpleasant and painful period.  

But beyond just our portfolios, the imbalances facing us are extraordinary and they're spread all across the world’s stage -- economically, politically, ecologically, demographically -- and there simply are not sufficient resources to ever again return to the reliable and fast pace of economic growth experienced in the 20th century.

It’s time for each of us to focus on preparing financially, emotionally, and physically.  Things are changing, quickly, and pretending that they aren't isn’t a winning strategy.

Few are ready to hear these messages.  More will be ready over the coming year, but still the numbers will be surprisingly small.

This makes it even more important that we stick together and offer each other support and encouragement as we navigate increasingly difficult waters over the coming months and years.

For those who'd benefit from specific guidance and support in developing a personal preparation plan, be sure to consider joining Peak Prosperity's annual seminar in April. (more details here)

Look, I wish I could join the untold millions in looking past all of these predicaments and cheerily wish everyone a Happy New Year and leave it at that.  But I cannot.  We don't pick the times in which we live, But we can control how we respond, as well as how we decide to meet the challenges we face.

In Part 2 - 2019: The Beginning Of The End, we detail out how the current central bank fueled credit-cycle is breaking down and how that will start creating cascading failures across the systems our society depends on. We also lay out 5 key steps for securing foundational resilience against what lies ahead. 

Remember: we can't control what happens to us, but we can control our degree of vulnerability to it. And the best way to address crisis is to put sufficient preparations in place before it arrives.

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 thought that Ed Burmila at the Baffer has a pretty interesting take on mail-order mattresses and diminished economic aspirations among Millennials.

Great article, Chris, as always! I’m sorry that your awareness and intelligence and integrity, and your admirable mission, burden you with continuing to try to spread this crucial message. I am thankful for you and Adam continuing to get us this message, year after year.

Is feeling so alone. Chateau Snyder is good to go - as much as can be expected of an average middle-class family with feet in two worlds - but it’s very trying to be surrounded by so many…SO MANY…people who lack the basic ability to see the forest for the trees here in central Maryland. To see the bigger picture.

I did not ask to be born into the generation that would watch the slide into oblivion. Less so did I ask to be one of the very few with the vision to see that which other choose to ignore. I was promised so much - a world more prosperous than my parents: Endless pleasures! Retirement! 2.5 children and a white picket fence! A more prosperous world!!!

But, honestly, I don’t care about any of these things. All I want is a life full of meaning, and to be surrounded by the hum of life on a planet so exquisetly created that no one - not even the smartest monkeys among my kind - could fathom 1/100th of the complexity embedded within the system. I will die having been materially rich but spiritually poor, and for this I am angry.

Where, oh where did we lose our way so badly and so fundamentally? Why did we walk so willingly away from the Garden? (Read Ishmael to understand the reference)

So many questions. So few answers.

Chris and Snydeman both touch on an important and overlooked facet of our human existence: the once creeping, now galloping uglification of everything as it is burnt and destroyed by The System. We mourn the loss of beauty, and it grieves us deeply. C.S. Lewis puts it well:

We do not want to see beaty, though, God knows, that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
Snydeman wrote:
I will die having been materially rich but spiritually poor, and for this I am angry.
Naaaah. The old way of BAU is toast, sure. If you're adaptable and clever (and your presence here suggests both and more!), then you oughta have *decades* in which to be materially poor and spiritually rich. Nature can come back much further and sooner than we think, I believe. Not in the forms we might be familiar with/miss/mourn. But if you learn to love what comes...instead of mourning what was lost... VIVA -- Sager
When did you know, and What did you do about it?
I remember talking with an elderly friend of the family in the mid '70s about Henry Kissinger and the petrodollar. The gist of the conversation was that Kissinger believed the human trajectory was unsustainable. Kissinger's approach wasn't to change the trajectory ... just to make our (US) experience be as good as possible and last as long as possible. When Nixon 'temporarily' closed the gold window (the Bretton Woods Agreement tying gold to the US dollar,) the dollar needed another anchor. Kissinger worked with OPEC leaders (Iran and Saudi Arabia) so that the US would sell them military equipment in exchange that they price their oil in US dollars only. We buy their oil and they recycle the dollars we spend to buy US made military equipment. The rest of the world needs US dollars so they can buy oil. That conversation left a lasting mark on my psyche. I remember how devastated I felt after that conversation. My whole world view shattered. The future felt futile (literally.) I tried to be pragmatic about it and just make my experience as good as possible and last as long as possible ... but it just didn't feel right. Eventually, I turned to self medicating with psychoactive drugs to deal with the angst. That worked for a while. Eventually, I got tired of waking up on the floor (or wherever) and quit these drugs completely. By then, I was able to assimilate my experiences and come to values-based decisions that keep my psyche in harmony. So, what did I do about it? I chose not to have children. I don't denigrate others for having had children. It just didn't feel right for me. Besides, the baby factory doesn't accept returns for any reason. ;-) This choice has its own set of consequences. I can live with those consequences. That's the point. I also live low on the totem pole. I'd rather pull weeds in the garden than travel to some exotic land. I'd rather cook at home than go out to eat. I don't buy gifts for adult friends. I either make something (jam, cookies, etc.) or I write them a letter to tell them how glad I am that they have enriched my life. (In that vein, I really appreciate many of the commenters at this site including those I disagree with!) I do this throughout the year - not just at Christmas. When friends ask what they can buy me, I respond that I have everything I need. I literally want nothing. They can write me a letter or just sit and think about me for a while. Will my approach save the world? No. It won't delay the demise one second longer. If enough adopt this approach, it might delay demise a second or two. It will make my transition down to a lower energy state that much easier. I still have a ways to fall but not as far as many do. Grover

Chris, I’ve been a member on here for years. I truly feel as though this is some of your best writing in quite a while. I’ve found I share your articles less over the last few years primarily because it’s pretty much always half of the story these days. Definitely purchased several subscriptions through the years, so consider me a shareholder. You shouldn’t always do a part 1 and 2 story with a paywall. Let some cogent thought fully flow in public. I’ve known for quite a while and have changed my life substantially. Help a guy out…Thanks, TJ

It’s refreshing to get the perspective of an aware baby boomer. I’m an “older millennial” (at 32?) and this site and others have helped me move from a general sense of unease in my mid 20s, to being able to specifically identify the problems we face. And begin to position my family to face them. The two questions are great, I wonder what my children and the children of other millennials will say to me? The generation that grasped for what our parents had as it slowly fell away from us while we raged at the unfairness of it all? or the generation that prepared ourselves and our children to face the slow escalator ride of decline with clear eyes and strong hearts. I’m worried that it may be the former. Humanity’s track record seems to be rich or poor, we grow sadder but not wiser until our very last day.
To be fair to boomers, you were raised by parents who grew up in the Great Depression, then had to go fight world war 2. Their desire to provide the boomers with an existence of ease, prosperity, and peace is understandable.
this specific problem set is new, but the generational dynamic is old. As George Puttenham expressed in 1589: “Peace makes plenty, plenty makes pride, pride breeds quarrel, and quarrel breeds war: war brings spoil, and spoil poverty, poverty patience, and patience peace: so peace brings war and war brings peace.”
I know that the unsustainable cannot by definition be sustained. History suggests the following period will be one of chaos, moral darkness, war and blood and fire. But I see my children playing in the yard. Well fed, with warm beds and clothes, carefree and living in a world that is nominally at peace. A part of me wants the unsustainable to be sustained for just a few more years. For them. Momentum is a hell of a thing. And now I know why we won’t turn the ship in time, always for the best of reasons.

I’d like to second TJ’s comment. Much of the content you’re putting in part 2 is material that is needed to offset the mainstream press distortions. We need to ask, do we really want to make a difference? If we believe in what we’re saying, we need to spread this information more widely.
Perhaps, after a suitable time for paid subscribers to benefit from exclusive access, you might consider moving the most generic, broadly applicable material into a publically accessible location.
You hit the nail on the head when you said “It’s important to note that the mainstream press has a couple of important jobs: keeping everyone firmly seated in the consumer mind-rut, and deflecting any criticism away from the wealthy and their corporate masters (should any distinction between those groups exist).If I sound harsh on the mainstream press, that’s because far too many in that profession have settled into being little more than scribes for the powerful; doing little more than repeating scripted talking points, inaccurate “facts,” and overt corporate and political propaganda.”
You do good work. Don’t hide it.

From Micah 6:12 “For the rich men thereof are filled with violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.”
Not to get all preachy or anything, but I discovered this by accident one day recently. For some reason it made me fell slightly better about things. I guess it has been the same throughout history. The bullies, sociopaths and psychopaths rise to the top and are never satisfied.
Once your eyes have been opened to how the world really works you can never go back. I think that is where Chris is coming from now. I don’t know if this is a blessing or a curse. It would be much easier to remain ignorant and go with the flow, I’m afraid.
IMHO there is no turning this thing around voluntarily. It will hit the shoals and run aground and only then maybe people will change. OR, they might double down.
My point is that we have chosen this path and it is not always pleasant and definitely not easy. Being an indepenent thinker and critic of the power structures in place has never been rewarded in society. But, thankfully, we have this site to know we are not alone. Always enjoy and respect your posts.

Wow, a reference to Ishmael. Great book, read it multiple times. It is a book that help set me on the path to understanding the world as it is, rather than how it is presented to us.

Chris, you’ll appreciate this synopsis, not sure if he’s ever been a guest but this conversation very much aligned with your outlook.…

The link is
Hey, thanks for telling us about this resource! A lot of possibly good interviews there, including one with Steve Keen. Most seem to be about British topics and concerns, but that’s OK — the UK is further down the slope than many nations.

To your comment, this was an interesting read for me today.…

Great article. As always direct but poised in the face of a world filled with ignorance and stupidity.
It really is infuriating to be part of a civilization that insists on prostituting itself for every last buck and shitting in its food to do it. Or more accurately, it’s debilitating to understand and be aware of it. Sadly the personality types in majority are not the practical self-analytical ones and intellectual resource is as rare as gold. To be unaware of the doom, to be truly Ignorant is clearly blissful, awareness and intelligence are a curse.
To watch ones children enter a world destined for collapse must be traumatic but it’s important to remember that people don’t need a lot to be content or satisfied and that even in the most impoverished situations a good life is possible. Contentment and satisfaction can exist in all environments and all societies, provided the attitudes and expectations are appropriately balanced.
The good times as the boomers know it may be over but were they really all that good? After all energy and profit aren’t prerequisites for “happiness”. Nor are a long life or extreme good health if you think about it. Contentment can be found in the most miserable situations. It is withdrawal that causes the most angst. Like growing up with milky sweet coffee and then suddenly being forced to drink it black when the milk and sugar run out. A change of perspective is all that is needed to adapt.

…Only individual solutions. We’re not going to change the tradjectory of the world. All we can do as individuals is to try to prepare as best as we can for what we personally see coming ahead. Lead by example, start with the man in the mirror.
Who knows? Maybe we’re wrong and the earth is alot more resilient than some are giving it credit for. Maybe we arent seeing the whole picture because, as human beings, our ability to see and comprehend is limited. Maybe the best we can do is to do what we personally think is right and just trust in the universe that there is some purpose, some plan. I dont believe we are here by accident. I see things that worry me but I have to keep in mind that my sight is limited, my ability to make predictions is minimal because I dont know how the universe works, I cant see all the pieces, and I dont understand how they work or to what, if any, purpose.
We are slightly advanced monkeys. We cannot control the universe, and its not for us to try. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Have some faith, things will be as they are meant to be.

we see thru a glass darkly.

Thank you for sharing this. Even though I have heard Dr.Sagan recite this essay numerous times over the decades, it never fails to fill me with emotion. We are losing so much beauty for jobs and a growing GDP; forgetting that without an intact ecosystem nothing thrives. Have a safe and healthy New Year. Deborah Davis, Summerville,SC