Why Not Admit Our Energy Addiction?


Bridge over Cataloochee Creek on the Old Cataloochee Turnpike; near Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina

There are apparently many people who misunderstand my articles, why I write them, and what it all means at the end of the day. I read scientific articles - LOTS of them, and I read them almost every day (scroll down to see the "FILES" here). I'm curious, and I am constantly searching for answers to a rather simple question; "Yeah, but WHY?"

Occasionally I misunderstand something or the science changes, and I make sure I correct myself. More often than not, the general theme remains unchanged. Such is the way of ecological overshoot. It cares not one bit what we think of it. It does not respond to our beliefs. It isn't interested in our desires, opinions, or plans we have for the future. Is "it" ecological overshoot, nature, or the laws of physics? Does it really matter, considering all three are equally oblivious and disregarding of our emotions?

So, once again, my curiosity leads me to wonder why so many people fail to see the science as it really is rather than the way they want it to be. How can so many people ignore our addiction to energy (mostly in the form of fossil hydrocarbons) and that we (humans, collectively) are a superorganism (Nate Hagens' description) which nobody is in control of? Given those circumstances, why is it that so many people think that there is some sort of answer or solution for the overarching predicament of ecological overshoot? When I tell people that a predicament has an outcome and not an answer or solution, what part of that don't they comprehend?

Of course, most of all of this I already answered in False Beliefs and Denial and Spot The Illusions We Tell Ourselves. Still, I am amazed stunned befuddled (third time's a charm?) at the level of denial I come upon day after day whenever I post one of my articles in almost any venue. I get accused of all sorts of chicanery when in reality I am doing nothing more than pointing out the science. Here's the deal - I have read so much science that many articles, studies, charts, graphs, videos, and other media escape me when I'm writing an article and I occasionally forget to go back and insert links. Also, I don't always look up information to prove my claims when I have ALREADY provided the proof in earlier articles and the information is readily available in the files section of my blog here. I am nothing more than an avid reader who comes across these articles and says, "Hey, check this out!" So, if I fail to provide a citation for a claim I make in a particular article, please take a look in the files section or Google it to see if you can find the info. Some of the information I make claims on is common, basic scientific information found in first year textbooks. As such, I often see little necessity to reprint it here. I do realize that not all of us reading this may have studied each and every subject supporting the overall scope of this blog. I have spent the last decade studying this material myself, so I understand the amount of work required to truly comprehend the subject material and I do try to provide supporting material to back up any claims I lay out here. I willingly admit that it is NOT comprehensive and that I can certainly find much more information to back up said claims. I simply see no need, as I don't feel the need to convince anyone of the truth of my claims. One either puts their trust in the science or they don't. I may attempt to point to the science, giving a person the benefit of a doubt that they have not yet seen it. Still, people who read these articles will either come to grips with what I write or they won't. 

I like to point out fantasies, myths, fairy tales, false narratives, and other BS. Many people today buy into industry and political hype and marketing nonsense, and I see it as being a good habit to attempt to remove those illusions to the best of my abilities; usually by posting one of my articles. Most likely, the person I am responding to will deny my claims - this is fine because I am not attempting to impress upon him or her the truth so much as others who may come across the material later. I realize that he or she will deny or ignore my claims and the science backing it up, but third parties may benefit from this exchange. 

I often try to explain that we lack agency with regard to the set of predicaments we find ourselves embroiled in. I see lots of claims that the reasons for our situation are things like capitalism, overpopulation, lack of political will, colonialism, the car culture, eating meat, social inequities, and so on. In reality, all those things and other reasons typically brought up are all SYMPTOMS of the real root cause: TECHNOLOGY USE. Technology use extracts wealth in one form or another from the environment, necessarily degrading that environment from pristine to polluted and unable to support the life it previously was capable of. Many of the same people who claim one of those items above is the reason for ecological overshoot (or more commonly for one of ecological overshoot's symptom predicaments such as climate change, pollution loading, energy and resource decline, etc.) often have their so-called solutions. These so-called "solutions" often preclude ecological overshoot, thereby cancelling out any ability to tackle the predicament they are being claimed as a solution for. ANYTHING which doesn't reduce ecological overshoot will not solve much if anything because every symptom predicament of ecological overshoot cannot be overcome without reducing ecological overshoot. This means a reduction of technology use, since technology use is precisely what is causing ecological overshoot. This quote from Rex Weyler from Why is Promoting Technology Not Good? points it out simply:

"All paths out of overshoot (genuine solutions) involve a contraction of the species and a decline of material/energy throughput. There are no exceptions.

Furthermore, the contraction of humanity is inevitable, so all genuine options exist within this framework, whether we respond appropriately or not. And finally, every day that we ignore this reality, the deeper humanity falls into the overshoot rut, the faster the feedbacks take over (forest fires, methane from melting permafrost), and the less chance we have of mitigation.

Reducing technology use is the only way to accomplish this. Technology use cannot be saved because it is unsustainable. This means that technology use WILL END voluntarily or it will end involuntarily because of a lack of energy to power it, resources to build it with, and transportation to ship it around the world

Still, I constantly see so-called solutions calling for yet even MORE technology, completely ignoring the underlying CAUSE. Now, despite having proven that climate change is irreversible on human timescales, I routinely see calls for saving species. Despite having pointed out that saving species is actually not possible, new evidence for this is provided here; claiming that the mass extinction we are in is also irreversible. Calls to save species are contained there too. The thought behind it is to save biodiversity, thereby reducing extinction by attempting to keep the support system for those species alive and well. This is yet another simple denial of reality. How are we to save species when we refuse to reduce ecological overshoot by reducing technology use? In fact, DESPITE this study, I think it is even MORE compelling evidence of the need to abandon technology to the extent possible. I also realize precisely how counterintuitive this is to most people who do not want to give up their conveniences. Hey, I don't want to give them up either, but why not face the facts here that it really isn't up to us and that by attempting to do so we only make the future WORSE for our descendants? We might be able to keep them (conveniences) alive for now, but how much longer will this continue? Energy and resource decline WILL take those conveniences away from us whether we like it or not. Given this unlikely option to willingly give up technology use is precisely why we collectively lack agency.

It is this endemic, pervasive, and insidious cultural denial of our energy addiction which seemingly cannot be obliterated that is dogging global society. I was looking at a website for a place I visited last year and came across this video which highlights this phenomenon (please feel free to watch the entire video (less than 3 minutes), but I queued it up to the precise point in time to demonstrate this common denial). I'm not quite sure how she thinks that, quote: "together we can protect these special places for generations to come." Where does this common misconception come from? We are in a mass extinction and we don't control nature, so where does this hubris originate that we have agency to "protect" anything when in reality we are actually in the process of destroying the environment across the entire globe due to ecological overshoot?

I just came across a similar article from Steve Bull which points out many of the exact same qualities about society today. It's too bad that I'm almost done with this article; I could have almost substituted his in this space! Oh well....

Live Now!


  1. Check out Andrew Nikiforuk at the Tyee for further confirmation. He came around to advocating for "de-growth" some while back, and makes good sense in his several articles about specific technologies out to reasonable generalizations.

  2. It's interesting that despite our very different backgrounds and experiences that we've reached pretty well the same conclusions about our predicament. When confronting the denial that permeates much thought and the tendency of others to react in less than polite ways when the curtain is drawn back for them, I keep in mind not only the differences in people's stages of grief but that quote by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: "When you're one step ahead of the crowd you're a genius. When you're two steps, you're a crackpot." Keep up the great work, Erik!

  3. A possible next step might be to fully accept our total dependence on all non-human parts of the natural world - and behave accordingly?

  4. It is very difficult to accept our demise, especially knowing our collective greed killed our grandchildren.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Welcome to Problems, Predicaments, and Technology

What Would it Take for Humanity to Experience Radical Transformation?

Denial of Reality

More Cognitive Dissonance

Fantasies, Myths, and Fairy Tales

What is NTHE and How "near" is Near Term?

So, What Should We Do?

The Myth of The "Energy Transition"