The Way To Save Ourselves

Introduction:  At Peak Prosperity we are a learning organization and are constantly expanding what we know.  We focus on three main areas: Knowing, Doing and Being.  The body of work below dives deeply into both Knowing and Being.

It’s time to be blunt: Humans are headed towards disaster. 

Most of us already know this.  Some consciously, others unconsciously.

Those aware to the many predicaments we face may understand them intellectually, such as through the data provided in The Crash Course. Or they may sense them intuitively as a feeling in their gut that “something is wrong." Many experience a combination of both.

Those operating at the unconscious level may only experience a pervasive sense of dread encroaching into their lives.  Many of these people are confused because they are aware of the context and are increasingly either checking out via numbing behaviors such as drinking and opioid addiction, or they're acting out via violence and protest.

No matter if it's consciously or unconsciously, everybody who ‘knows’ that something is terribly wrong is correct.

A Very Different Future

The data is obvious and the logic is clear. We cannot continue as we have been. The system is simply unsustainable.

Unfortunately, "continuation" is the one and only plan of the state. Let's get back on track doing what we always have been (and use increasingly blunt techniques to saturate the populace with this message).  That’s the whole plan.  It boils down to: More of the same.

But ‘the same’ is killing the planet.

Species are disappearing at horrifying rates that have few comparisons over the past 500 million years. Soil washes to the sea creating dead zones, while humans and the animals they eat are now 95% of the terrestrial animal biomass.

Oceans are acidifying, causing phytoplankton to disappear. Glaciers are melting and sliding away, with those in Greenland and Antarctica contributing to sea level rise, a phenomenon that is not somewhere out in the future, but right here, right now.

Via Bloomberg:

The impact [of sea level rise] is already being felt in South Florida. Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock.

Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply. The area’s drainage canals rely on gravity; as oceans rise, the water utility has had to install giant pumps to push water out to the ocean.

That’s not a future scenario, that’s right now.  When utilities are installing giant pumps, they are not doing that because of what might happen, but because of that which is already happening.

Pro tip:  If you own coastal property worth a bundle that’s at risk, sell now and avoid the rush.  That’s the conclusion of the Bloomberg article above, and something that insurers and underwriters might render moot by pulling your insurance coverage. How much is an uninsurable property on the coast of a rising sea worth?  The answer is: Less than its current price.

A (very) little bit of study reveals that exponential growth on a finite planet is a bad idea, which means that perpetual exponential growth is an even worse idea, insanity defined practically.  Unfortunately, and quite obviously, perpetual exponential growth lies at the very heart of every so-called ‘modern’ economic model.  It’s what we seek as a culture, and is lauded and rewarded in every possible way.

But it turns out that debt-based money coupled to the insatiable human desire for ever more is a very toxic combo. Both to ourselves, individually, as well as the planet as a whole -- as the historically-brief past 150 years of rampant human feasting on fossil fuels has been devastating to our ecosystems.

While you’ve probably read a dozen articles talking about the death knell of fossil fuels and demand destruction due to substitution and technology, the reality is that (outside of severe economic downturns) each year humans quite reliably consume more oil than the year before:


This is just the what the data tells us.  More oil consumed this year than last.  While demand destruction from new technology and different choices may show up in the future, that dynamic is nowhere to be seen in the actual data yet.

Even more worryingly, there are at least 10 and possibly as many as 20 fossil fuel calories embedded in each single food calorie we eat. Our diet is made possible only by today's surfeit of fossil fuel energy. Yet there seems to be no replacement plan and no concern for this fact outside of a few ‘fringe’ blogs and academic arenas.

But on our current course, 8 or 9 billion people will soon be trying to produce more food from degraded soils even as fossil fuels begin to wane, in both aggregate and especially in terms of net energy.

And that’s not some super far off date in the future. That’s in as few as 15 years, which really isn’t a lot of time given the seriousness of the predicament.

My point here is that The future has arrived. There’s no more waiting required for those who dare to look.  Or to feel what’s in their hearts, or gut, or wherever your intuition registers.

Our Giant Canoe

Think of our situation as if humanity were all together in a giant canoe and nearly everybody is paddling as hard as they can.  After all, we’re trying to get somewhere: to improve ourselves, to grow our economy and increase our prosperity. There are goals to be met!

Along the way we’ve convinced ourselves that this canoe is the best one ever built and it cannot fail us. It is the very pinnacle of achievement.  It looks great, and there are creature comforts and pleasant distractions galore.   Food has never been more abundant or easier to obtain, new gadgets keep showing up, and (in theory, at least) you can determine for yourself where you want to sit in the canoe.

The people in the front love being there, as they feel powerful and in control. Ironically, though, it's the few people in the stern who are actually secretly and rather effortlessly steering, but nobody in the rest of the canoe seems to notice or care.

There's only one thing wrong with this canoe. It’s headed for a gigantic waterfall, and if it tips over the lip, very few will survive. It will be like going over Niagara Falls without a barrel.

A few in the canoe have woken up and noticed this. But their protests are limited to either pulling their paddles out of the water and refusing to propel the canoe any faster, or even trying to futilely paddle backwards against the rest of humanity’s combined efforts.

Neither approach is a solution, mind you. But at least for these 'awake' souls, it feels better than paddling mindlessly towards the roaring falls. 

As it stand today, humanity’s canoe is destined to speed right over the edge. Unless we consciously do something about it. Which we could, if we really wanted to.

As there’s nothing preventing us from steering the canoe safely to land, I find this one of the most interesting and fascinating times to be alive. We are currently playing the role of our own destroyer, but the savior role is still there for the choosing.

But what stops us?  What keeps us paddling furiously ahead even as the sound of the roaring falls gets louder and louder?  The answer is at once both very simple and devilishly hard. 

It’s our egos.

To save ourselves from ourselves, we have to begin doing things very, very differently.  Truthfully, the only way we can save ourselves is to shift our consciousness.  

New Territory

This is a big claim, I realize.

In Part 2: How To Be, I'll provide the elements of psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics and human culture that lie at the root of our self-destructive behavior, yet also hold the keys to our salvation. I'll explain why to start living differently, we first need to start thinking differently.

This line of investigation is what has been dominating my thoughts for the past year.  Some of it has snuck out in podcasts now and then, and those who came to the Rowe seminar in April 2017 got a pretty good glimpse of it.

There’s an emerging huge body of work here that goes deeply into the 'Being' and Emotional Capital areas of our ongoing efforts to help people live with greater resilience.  We’re talking about real inner change here. If you want things to be different on the outside in your life, the only certain way to go about doing that is to change things on the inside first.

If this line of exploration resonates at all with you, click here to read the report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I’ve spent weeks in US and Canadian canoe wildernesses.

But on our current course, 8 or 9 billion people will soon be trying to produce more food from degraded soils even as fossil fuels begin to wane, in both aggregate and especially in terms of net energy.
A while back, I projected human exponential growth, using the then current global growth rate of 1.2%. I estimated the number of habitable planets in our galaxy, using assumptions from the Drake equation. With no travel constraints, at 1.2% perpetual growth, Homo sapiens could overpopulated the entire galaxy in less than 2,500 years. The vertical portion of the exponential curve is incredibly easy to under estimate.
But what stops us? What keeps us paddling furiously ahead even as the sound of the roaring falls gets louder and louder?
My current belief is that, humanity in aggregate is exactly as intelligent as an algae bloom. Intelligence only becomes evident in individuals and smaller groups. The larger the group, the less obvious intelligence becomes. Pessimistic, I know, but I have no evidence to the contrary.

There is NO saving ourselves. One thing we should know is that we are well past righting this ship.The rocks are too close. We have robbed the future we need already.
We would never have reset anyway. We are born optimists who think growth is forever and wealth will continue to spread around the world.
If enough of us survive the coming storm, we will inherit a vastly poorer planet, and with no low hanging fruit, the future will be unbelievably bleak. And the whole planet will be caught up in it. There are no sanctuaries to retreat to.

This article is correct but I submit that there is little we can do to stop the ship sinking. Yes, I own a small farm now, yes I grow my own food, yes I have lots of survival skills, precious metals, tools and no debt, but no, I do not think any of this will make much difference in the long run.
I have also had only one child, who is now 35 years old, and I urge people to think twice before having children in this world with its bleak future. That’s perhaps the BIGGEST thing you can do to make your personal circumstances more secure and less tragedy-prone.
Sorry to me a party pooper!

…“A wealth of psychological research into conformity has shown that this could be a dangerous situation. A widely replicated study in 1955 by Solomon Asch showed that when people were asked to judge whether lines of the same size were really the same length, most people could be led to profess the belief that the lines were actually different lengths. All it took to persuade people was having a group of actors all say that the lines were of different lengths. The study shows how easily people can be pushed to change their views to match those of the people around them.”…
see also: psych-neuro-immunology
And stay away from the stupid “Turning” pseudo-science.

It seems to me that the human drive to consume MORE has gone into overdrive globally because of corporate culture. This has something to do with the desire to live forever, which is precisely what corporations have achieved - immortal personhood.
Corporations grow and spread like a cancer across the planet, as they have advantages that we mere mortals do not. They benefit from low interest, government bail-outs, low taxation, avoidance of national taxation and regulation. For example - immortal corporations enjoy perpetual California Prop 13 taxation. All of these advantages have enabled corporations to consolidate practically everything.
Government bureaucracies now emulate the corporate private sector (or perhaps have merged with it…). Humans want to identify with this system of perpetual exponential growth, and have adopted consumption as their religion - but in the end each one of us will generate a lot of waste, pay a lot of taxes, interest and fees, and then we will die.
The number one solution that would go a long way to make human societies gain their senses, is that corporations must die.

Huge believer in passing it along to next Gen. However, very worried that “WE” decided this is the right way to “FIX” everything. Waiting for part 2 but like all fixes the direction is limit all to “SAVE” our planet. I have a hard time saying to my kids and their kids"sorry for your luck" you were born to late to enjoy what we did. But don’t worry you can boil your rain water on your solar stove and bicycle to town for your vacations. I think we need to focus on True Free Markets to solve our problem and lend solutions. I am terrified when we identify a problem the STATE comes to the rescue with restrictions, taxes and regulations and government growth. Problem is not with people in this forum. All good people care about environment and their fellow citizens and do the right thing. The most wasteful and dirtiest areas are poverty stricken areas. The most wasteful citizens are those struggling, as I witness when we volunteer. Answers for planet sustainability lie in the great minds of free people like this community. Lets not jump on mainstream “crisis” theory and defer to STATE. Lets agree to live responsibly and work towards greater good, with smaller government so great minds are free to create. As always it is great to discuss ideas with people who realize none of us have the answers but all of us have some of the answers

I’m pessimistic in that it’s man’s greed, selfishness, ego, stubbornness, lust for wealth and power that’s driving us to the brink. We think we know better because of what we technically have achieved and boy are we in for a rude awakening.
We won’t stop doing what we’re doing until the planet hits over the head with a 2x4. By then it’ll be too little too late. We are already in that window.
I recently had a conversation with an individual when I told him that if we continue on our current path, in 100-200 years we may all be off this planet including the animals. His answer was we have seen this play out before and humans tend to be a creative bunch.
And my response was: “there in lies the problem because this time it’s different”.

I know you can’t sell hopelessness and nor should PP try. Nevertheless the underlying truth is simple. The proverbial canoe is destined for destruction. Just a cursory look at history and a basic understanding of anthropology shows us that civilisations never “wake up” and improve themselves, they always overpopulate, starve, go to war and eventually disintegrate.
The survivors are usually the ones who manage to get away from society well before it falls.
The problem today however is that the world has become a very small place. It may not be possible to find anywhere to get away to. Even if you manage to secure a rich plot of land that isn’t contaminated in some way from deposits laid down by air pollution, pesticides, herbicides or lead from decades of industrial neglect you will still have to endure acid rains, climate change and attack from hungry neighbours a mere walking distance away.
That all assumes that the land is fertile enough to supply all the nutrients we need. That the magnesium and selenium in the soil hasn’t already been farmed away or that the amount of phosphorous in the soil will be enough to support productive growth for a life time or more without having to resort to commercially produced fertilizers. Separated from societies shopping supply of multivitamins the food and water we live on may not be sufficient to give us the longevity we desire. Without the fish oil tablets and no way to fish for seafood uncontaminated by mercury and plastic how do we get the omega 3 fatty acids the modern populace is starving for.
There is survival and there is prosperity. Anyone who thinks there is a way out of a world overflowing with billions of people whose IQ barely rates three figures and who vote with their hearts is not really paying attention.
The reality is that those who plan for the end survive the longest but they never survive well. Believing in miracles, relying on optimism or prayer will never put food on the table, decontaminate our environment or put macronutrients in our agriculture.

Ironically, though, it's the few people in the stern who are actually secretly and rather effortlessly steering, but nobody in the rest of the canoe seems to notice or care.
If one is concerned about the direction the canoe is headed, wouldn't it make more sense to focus more attention on those few people who are steering, rather than so much on the rest of us who are seemingly just along for the ride? And, what makes us so sure that the people in the front, enjoying the lion's share of benefits, and perhaps actually wearing the captain's hats, are not also responsible for determining the boat's direction? Perhaps those in the rear are just taking orders.

Hi Chris, thank you.
Toby Hemenway suggested; we can save Humanity (possibly) but not Western Civilization. I’ve spent 5 years understanding the predicaments we find ourselves in and as the AD pointed out; problems can be solved, predicaments cannot. That being said - I’m responsible for my own transformation - no one else. The calvary is not coming to save me or anyone else, instead the route I’m taking with two other family members is; blame no one, expect nothing, get out and do epic ‘sh*t’ using the precepts of twelve step programs to move away from active addiction ( FF and consumerism), permaculture design to learn through observation, concepts & themes about; climate, water, culture, and create a design for where we are (place), and actively retrieve the knowledge lost (in just 8 short decades) as to how to live in order to be as stable as possible for each fractal of descent as it ratchets downward. The Recovery from addiction and short term craving to a new Awareness and sober assessment seems to be the key, and the most difficult part for persons to achieve in our delusional western economic/nature dissconnect, and by nature I’m also talking about Physics. Once we come to terms with the fantasical stories we have been telling ourselves, and come to terms with the limits to growth, we can find a new appreciation for the boundaries and laws of physics and the answer is NO. Then we can turn and start to identify what and which concrete actions can be taken to mitigate the damage as the central system collapses.
thank you for the work you do.

Yes something IS wrong. We are a society running amok. Honor among men no longer exists and total greed is what most aspire to these days.
You can determine where you sit in the canoe but life being what it is can be a surprise for many. The canoe is divided into two classes. Those seated up in the leather seats of the canoe can say we need change to able to save ourselves, while remaining very comfortable in their current seats. Those in the cardboard seats of the canoe have the water around their ankles and they know swimming is not too far away. They know the holes could be plugged if those in the leather seats sent down some of their cushions to plug the holes but they also know that it won’t happen, as those in the leather seats are far too comfortable. They do not see the need to share just a little of their prosperity or comfort to help save humanity.
What those in the leather seats do not realize is those in the cardboard seats are going to get a bit angry soon at the inequality of the canoe positions. If those in the cardboard seats stand up the canoe will tip over and everyone will be in the water.
Yes, if those in the leather seats pass down some of their cushions, those in the cardboard seats would see that they are willing to share and that they can all work together and collectively paddle their canoe to safer ground.
But there is a little further work to be done yet back on land…those of fortunate lives expecting someone to settle for slavery wages of $8 an hour whilst blatantly exhibiting their good fortune does not endear those of lesser fortunes shift their consciousness. They are too busy plodding in the mud just to get enough to get through another week of the sometimes misery that is their lives.
This shift of consciousness has to start at the top of the food chain in this instance.
Yes, it is a an extremely fascinating time to be alive.

As a young man in the 1960’s it was easy to see the waterfall and I thought only a fool would climb into the canoe so I didn’t. But when it left I soon realised I was left all alone on the bank. Absolutely everyone had got in the canoe. So was it lonely? Well not really, I had never really fitted in at school-asking too many questions and pointing out the waterfall didn’t help make me very popular!
From my understanding being aboard, surrounded by people all on the same journey, gives folk a real sense of identity and purpose

You’re bound to get wet, but try and avoid the rocks.

In reading through the comments I am able to identify with each viewpoint expressed. I have shared them at different points along the path of ‘evaluating our predicament’ and trying to pick a correct course for the canoe.
Over the recent couple years or so I have tended to move away from the ‘disaster scenarios’, not because I have any reason to think they will not occur but because there is evidence to the contrary as well and I would rather focus on that.
I am attaching a link that discusses the Imaginal Cell of the butterfly. Yes, there is chaos in most cycles at some point and I do not not really know what to expect from the cycle that we are approaching, but I am going to keep moving ahead with the concept that life does evolve and it happens in ways I can only hope to understand.

Sheila- Barackfully, you are getting some precipitation out your way. Here in Spokane, the weather reminds me of the Midwest and the South. Hail every day or so and rains that are heavier than normal. The only plants that are thriving appear to be garlic and dandelions…
All- I’ve just started to read Lean Logic and find it to be a remarkable compendium of thought. It occurred to me that it would help individuals counter the Climate denier hokum that appeared in one of the articles linked to in yesterday’s Daily Digest. For those who are interested in development, I can recommend The Next Development in Man by L.L. Whyte (written in 1943). Ken Wilber referred to it as “remarkable” in Up From Eden and noted that it was hailed by Einstein and Mumford – good company to keep. I got a copy from Washington State University but found it so compelling for these times that I ordered a copy.

I’m just finishing a fascinating though very scary book about another predicament that seems to have been creeping up on humanity form some time: "Grey Aliens and the Harvesting of Souls " - the conspiracy to genetically tamper with humanity. The author Nigel Kerner thinks Northern Hemisphere and Western humans are the most degenerate ever. However he’s got an attractive theory of how life and the universe came into being based on devolution rather than evolution. The hydrogen atom has a starring role and he’s not afraid to talk about the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and the science on the Holy Shroud of Turin.

After observing the antics in politics these days, it is hard not to agree with his sentiment. Both sides come across as irrational idiots. I looked at the website and will pursue further. Interestingly enough, my spouse is reading a non-fiction book in which the premise is that we stopped evolving several hundred thousand years ago…

Hi All,
I didn’t write this but I had fun reading it and some of it was unsettling. I was probably written by someone not aware of our collective predicament with energy and some material resources. I think we can have some fun with it. Anyone have a 3-D printer?

The Exponential Age Just a few things for us all to ponder, especially the younger ones amongst us. Did you think back in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on film again? In 1998 Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years and, most people won’t see it coming. Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a time, before it became way superior and became mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen again with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age. Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties. Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go-player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM’s Watson you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds and with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90 % less lawyers in the future. Only specialists will remain. Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, which is 4 times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030 computers will become more intelligent than humans. (NEVER says Albert) Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020 the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You won’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone; it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while being driven. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 miles (100,000 km), with autonomous driving that will drop to 1 accident in 6 million miles (10 million km). That will save a million lives each year. Most car companies will probably become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies like Tesla, Apple, and Google will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are completely terrified of Tesla. Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear. Real Estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood. Electric cars will become mainstream about 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean. Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can now see the burgeoning impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that can’t last. Technology will take care of that strategy. With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination of salt water now only needs 2kw per cubic meter at 0.25 cents). We don’t have scarce water in most places; we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost. Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There are companies who will build a medical device (called the " Tricorder " from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you simply breath into it. It then analyses 54 bio-markers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free. Goodbye medical establishments. 3 D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies have already started 3D printing shoes. Some spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past. At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China they have already 3D printed and built a complete 6 story office building. By 2027 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed. Business Opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, first ask yourself, “In the future, do I think we will have that?” If the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner? If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century. Work: 70-80 % of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a short time. This will require a rethink on wealth distribution. Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all day on their fields. Aeroponics: Will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal, is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30 % of all agricultural surfaces are used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore.