The Exponential Nature of Collapse


Silver Springs Filling Station, US 176, South Carolina

As I finished writing last week's article, and as usual, more material came my way providing much more in terms of symptom predicaments to write about. It does appear that the studies coming out now are more realistic and demonstrative of the exponential worsening of predicaments such as energy and resource decline, climate change, and oceanic heat uptake. Each week I post some of the articles and videos and what I gathered from them, and recently I have been somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material which leaves little time for other pursuits. 

I've written about collapse and the exponential nature of it before. Many people have grown tired of the "faster than expected" and "more than previously thought" headlines of the past decade, yet these are merely indicative of most people's inability to understand the exponential function. Even those of us who understand and consistently read studies indicating what future realities will look like still get surprised occasionally with the speed with how conditions are now changing.

Much to my surprise, Nate Hagens mirrored my feelings regarding this phenomenon almost exactly in this episode of Frankly. It's nice knowing that I'm not the only one experiencing this scenario. I think many people are likewise stressed about so many different factors all hitting us at once. The Ukraine war and implications from that (especially upcoming food security issues), the energy sector and its effects across the spectrum of the larger economy (especially the financial sector), and the realization of precisely that we have a set of predicaments with outcomes and not problems with solutions are beginning to dawn on people who until now bought into the hype and propaganda (this link is to a new article by Andrew Nikiforuk in The Tyee) of the industries set to profit handsomely from selling these fairy tales to an unsuspecting public.   

Another good article about the hype and delusion behind the so-called "Green Growth" ideas also goes into detail why these ideas are destined for failure and this single article actually lists many of the same studies and articles and authors contained here in my blog.

While many people may finally be waking up to these realities and the fact that growth is over, there are still a very large number of folks suffering from relentless hopium. A good article from Jessica Wildfire points out how we're all preppers now. So even those who still buy into the Faustian Bargain of civilization are at least now participating somewhat in the broader devolution of this system which will eventually meet up with its collapse

Now that I've set the tone for this particular article, let's get started on the fun! (By the way, that is written in my sarcasm font - fun is probably about the last thing these articles and studies are.) First up is yet another fairy tale; the idea of carbon dioxide removal (CDR). This article points out the reality, quote:

"In 2022, the world emitted 40.5 billion tonnes of CO2 (P. Friedlingstein et al. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 14, 4811–4900; 2022). At that rate, for every year of operation at its full potential, each hub would take the atmosphere back in time by almost 13 minutes, but in the time it took to remove those 13 minutes of CO2, the world would have spewed another full year of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, if everyone on Earth planted a tree — 8 billion trees — it would take us back in time by about 43 hours every year, once the trees had matured.

The time-machine analogy reveals just how futile CDR currently is.

We have to shift the narrative as a matter of urgency. Money is going to flood into climate solutions over the next few years, and we need to direct it well. We must stop talking about deploying CDR as a solution today, when emissions remain high — as if it somehow replaces radical, immediate emission cuts."

Sadly, the illusion of solutions pervades the globe as if climate change, emissions, and all the other environmental issues are problems rather than symptom predicaments of ecological overshoot. It is absolutely necessary to point out these illusions of control, as most people simply don't get that we lack agency. People make the assumption that we can do whatever we choose to do (free will) which denies the scientific reality of all the rules which limit the choices we make to a very narrow set of pre-determined options as highlighted in this article which contains this excerpt, quote:

"The conviction that nobody ever truly chooses freely to do anything – that we’re the puppets of forces beyond our control – often seems to strike its adherents early in their intellectual careers, in a sudden flash of insight. “I was sitting in a carrel in Wolfson College [in Oxford] in 1975, and I had no idea what I was going to write my DPhil thesis about,” Strawson recalled. “I was reading something about Kant’s views on free will, and I was just electrified. That was it.” The logic, once glimpsed, seems coldly inexorable. Start with what seems like an obvious truth: anything that happens in the world, ever, must have been completely caused by things that happened before it. And those things must have been caused by things that happened before them – and so on, backwards to the dawn of time: cause after cause after cause, all of them following the predictable laws of nature, even if we haven’t figured all of those laws out yet. It’s easy enough to grasp this in the context of the straightforwardly physical world of rocks and rivers and internal combustion engines. But surely “one thing leads to another” in the world of decisions and intentions, too. Our decisions and intentions involve neural activity – and why would a neuron be exempt from the laws of physics any more than a rock?"

So many otherwise very smart, intelligent people do not comprehend that reductionist, mechanistic, simplistic ideas won't work because they overlook or deny ecological overshoot as the predicament causing all the symptom predicaments (such as climate change). Most ideas on how to reduce climate change completely ignore reducing technology use and abandoning civilization, yet those two items are precisely what not only allow overshoot to continue, but to increase over time as technology use also removes and/or reduces negative feedbacks which once kept our numbers in check with the rest of nature. Degrowth is an excellent idea, but one which needs to combine those two precursors into its set of goals if continued human survival is desired. Of course, because of lack of agency, even though we probably could do this, we most likely won't. 

Initially, I had a list of articles I was going to go through and explain a bit about precisely how all of them are interacting and bringing exponential change to the biosphere we exist within. Because the list of articles were compiled from two consecutive days' news, I wanted to show just how quickly conditions are moving along. However, after considering a few other articles and studies, I decided that I would still list these articles but allow you to peruse through them without my going into any further details. Keep in mind that this is just a few of the stories I selected to feature here. I shall list the title of each article and attach the link so that you can read them for yourself; enjoy!

  1. California snowmelt flood risk to last for months, experts say
  2. Increase in number of severe wildfires is slowing recovery of forests in California, reducing carbon uptake
  3. Researchers correlate Arctic warming to extreme winter weather in midlatitude and extrapolate its future
  4. Study shows soil pollution in urban green spaces and natural areas is similar
  5. Manganese in Central Valley water threatens fetuses and children
  6. Ice sheets can collapse faster than previously thought possible
  7. Methane big part of 'alarming' rise in planet-warming gases
  8. Bacteria resistant to 'last resort' antibiotic found in LA County wastewater
  9. Costs of natural disasters set to increase with continued rise in CO2 and global temperature
  10. Florida's brutal drought worsens; Orlando has hottest start to year on record
  11. Moving towards 3 degrees of warming: The phasing out of coal is happening too slowly, warns study
  12. Historic drought adds to Argentina's economic woes

For the most part, I seriously doubt any of these will surprise most readers here; but if I raised my own eyebrows, then I'm sure it may cause others discomfort too. One my most recent articles went into tipping points and I mentioned in it and a couple of other articles how the planet's carbon sinks are turning into carbon sources. This new study highlights how this causes the planet to lose resilience through self-reinforcing positive feedback mechanisms, especially through methane emission through permafrost thaw, submarine methane hydrates, and peatlands. I have discussed methane rather frequently here because the threat is very real and I think it is important to highlight just how important methane emissions are and how large the situation is becoming (see number 7 article in list above). 

I could go on listing even more material but perhaps I can just stop with this article from Dave Pollard, once again pointing to something which took me an exceedingly long time to be able to comprehend - our collective lack of agency which I talk about often. I'm not much for playing the blame game because it doesn't really accomplish much at the end of the day. Still, if blame must be assigned, I suppose Moloch is as good as any other to blame. Perhaps this story is easier for some to understand as to why we lack agency. That's it for today; until next time, Live Now!


  1. Lewis Munford was mentioned in a link. His words are invaluable.


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