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Te Cho

Great post Dave, Thank you.

Yes, plague. The 13th century plague in Europe greatly increased average wealth and certainly contributed/caused to the Renaissance.

With increased antibiotic resistance and new viruses popping up, don't rule it out... Also, population density now in 3rd world cities, airline flights spreading infection quickly, and deliberate spread by terrorism.

I'd bet on that and not war. So income inequality will turn around again eventually ... for a while.

John from NY

Is Trump playing with fire by feeding foot soldiers of the Four Horsemen a healthy diet of anger, lies and false hope? After all he's a symbol of the 1% even though he lacked (but now grabbed) more political power.

In that sense Trump himself is as inevitable as inequality...

Glad to be the first one commenting on the new post. It's been cold and quiet here...


It seems increasingly likely to me that the "civil" aspects of civilization are really a side-effect of surplus (surplus energy and the surplus food, wealth and power it creates) and growth. As long as the pie is growing fast enough, then there is enough that the elites can continue to concentrate their wealth while those at lower stations can also improve their lot (albeit to a much lesser degree, hence, rising inequality). However, when the surplus shrinks, or even fails to grow fast enough, then there is little left after the elites take their cut, and inequality must increase much more rapidly.

Civil civilization is not really the norm if we look through history. The norm is really more like uncivilized civilization, punctuated with relatively short periods of greater peace and civility. Democracy, civil liberties, human rights, equality, justice, the rule of law... these things may well all be outcomes that can exist only in the presence of sufficient growth and surplus, and, even then, only for some unknown duration before the natural move towards extreme inequality triggers the next crisis and the system resets to a new state (one that may, or may not, support these ideas for some period of time).

Brian Sheller

I'm not sure which I'd like to see most. 'Solving' the inequality problem through mass mobilization, warfare, or a sufficient plague this time seems like it might spur the various ecosystem collapse discussed at length elsewhere on the site.

State warfare seems as though it would be enough to finally destroy the natural world; there just aren't enough resources for an intensive restructuring. The human wrecking ball is just so large and the natural world rendered so rickety that no matter how slow the ball swings, the force seems likely to be sufficient.

In that scenario fishing fleets seem likely to immediately strategically strip and freeze the oceans at any loss if nations thought such a resource might be cutoff or taken by competitors. And the billions of citizens not carted off to the fronts would be relegated to burning what's left of the forests and likely do a great job of finally eliminating inland small animal populations as they starve to death.
And blah blah blah about nuclear deployments and strikes on oil infrastructure in that scenario.

But a catastrophic widespread plague, affecting say, genetically modified crops or antibiotic use in farmed animals might itself be enough to set off nationalist mobilization and state warfare that'll spur the final stripping of the globe too.

It's interesting to think about, but seeing as how hundreds of millions of people in the US are regularly convinced they should vote and cheer-lead their own creeping enslavement leads me to believe that whatever catastrophe awaits, the people will dutifully participate without a hint of a question.

I don't know which sounds the best, Dave, but I do expect that human's just desserts for leaving just deserts are on short order. In that sense, I'll eat cake or pie.

I'm under half your age (it didn't take me so long to get tired of these filtering fuckers) so I'm counting on a little luck that I'll get to see some fireworks before I die. Mostly I want to see the manifestation of human nature and the crumbling conceit in the face of an externally imposed unbending mortal reality.

If I'm to offer obligatory hope, it's the hope that I get to see the optimists succumb to broken hearts before they're extinguished by the rather unforgiving hand of the natural world they so ignored.

Dark times, but that's what popcorn, rum, and DOTE are for.

Jeremy MG

@Brian S

"I'm under half your age (it didn't take me so long to get tired of these filtering fuckers) so I'm counting on a little luck that I'll get to see some fireworks before I die. Mostly I want to see the manifestation of human nature and the crumbling conceit in the face of an externally imposed unbending mortal reality.

If I'm to offer obligatory hope, it's the hope that I get to see the optimists succumb to broken hearts before they're extinguished by the rather unforgiving hand of the natural world they so ignored."

Yeah, you seem kind of fucked up.

I don't think Dave wishes he or anyone who lives beyond his lifespan sees whatever horrible things that may manifest this century. He might be grouchy, but he isn't a sadist. I don't think he wants to be right about where humanity seems to be headed.

Brian Sheller

Jeremy MG,

Your comment seems to be a frothy mix of fear, denial and optimism. A flatlander just told me I was fucked up. Haven't heard that before...

Rather than worry about what's coming, I'm willing to frame my mind such that I can face it without fear or irrational hope. You should give it a try, or at least excuse me for adopting a taste for reality.

If Dave's right, it doesn't matter what any of us want, now does it?

Jeremy MG

@ Brian S

Frame your mind? How exactly? By talking like some kind of grizzled bad ass on the internet?

There is really no justification for any mentally healthy person to say they are going to enjoy destruction, chaos, suffering, etc. If you are of sound mind and take this worldview, you're really just a piece of shit. Are you going to try to convince everyone here that if things were hunky dory, you wouldn't have such bizarre, sadistic desires? You are like one of those theists who says that their belief in God is the only thing keeping their sense of morality in check.

I'm going to make an assumption, and if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. You've never witnessed or experienced true suffering, outside of a TV or computer screen. The worst experience of my life was when I disconnected a toddler who unexpectedly died form life support. His parents handed him off to me after they said their goodbyes. That experience will forever be seared into my memory. That's just one of memories I carry over from my line of work. In reality, it's probably peanuts compared to what other people have experienced or witnessed.

I'd like to thing none of them would wish that kind of despair and pain on other. You seem to be a special kind of scum.

Dave is a compassionate, empathetic person. That' why I continue to read this blog despite some of the harsh truths.

I don't think he intended it to be a haven for garbage like you.

Brian Sheller

Jeremy MG,

Like I said, you seem to be a frightened flatlander. Well versed in the arts of projection as well.

What you call mentally healthy people are in the process of knowingly destroying the planet, thus themselves. So revel in the greatness of your assumptive powers and cast your aspersions until you feel good enough about yourself to get through today. That's fine and expected, frankly.

In telling me about myself, you've told me plenty about yourself.

Have a good day, your horizon is boundless and you seem perfectly capable of ignoring what lies beyond it...

Dave Cohen

OK, Jeremy and Brian S.

That's enough of that. World's bad enough, don't bring it here.

-- Dave

Jeremy MG

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Doomers have no empathy, or very little, kind of like Wall Street bankers. If empathy is absent, what happens to others doesn't matter. The suffering of others doesn't matter.


This was a favorite of mine.

I'm just calling a spade a spade here, but it's your house. I will respect that and shut up.

Brian Sheller

Jeremy MG

Your repost of the empathy remark is interesting because you're imagining empathy from an anthropocentric perspective. And this type of empathy is an observably destructive force. This limited empathy would alleviate the perceived suffering of man at the cost of ALL others.

For the anthropocentric empath, the suffering of other living beings indeed does not matter. This describes the world at large and does not seem to exclude you.

Anthropocentric empathy as exhibited/exalted by you is one mechanism by which humans can feel great about themselves and all the 'good' they've done whilst relentlessly destroying everything in their path.

So... about that spade.

Mike H

Dave I was a student of classical and ancient history and economic history and I still read widely. I have to say I have found in all my studies no golden age of equality but rather the opposite ever since we began to migrate to more fixed forms of locale (due to plentiful resources such as land, water and relatives[the Tribe]) equality has been an ever present feature. I agree with your analysis, post WW2 was an anomoly nothing more, so we have regressed to the mean so to speak. The one thing that stands out despite the views of some of so called 'golden ages' or the the romanticism of non city state cultures, is that, violence and warfare or stealing other peoples stuff including them, was a constant theme and I have found no era to be exempt. Until the advent of the Victorian era we have never had any qualms about the issue of slavery (the enforced servitude of one person or group to another or others) in fact in most every society you can think of it was the norm, including the so called Greek Golden Age. Feudalism was but a form of slavery and so is modern work, if you have to sell your labour, then your a slave and we still have a slave market right in our midst with modern sport organisations who buy and sell players amongst themselves to the highest bidder. Remarkably you can see what you have developed and coined, 'Flatland Thinking', evident from time immemorial, it is well and truly the human condition.

My pessimism about this human condition, the abuse and destruction of the planet has caused to me to consider that only a very major and significant catastrophe will change any of this why until you destroy this damage gene pool from the human race it will continue to reproduce. As a result I have formed the view that climate change wont do it, too long a time frame before it becomes truly a catastrophe. Resource depletion won't do it again the propensity to steal and violence will will ensure some have and everyone else does not. Disease, no random and not sufficiently transmittable to do the job so what is left?

The only thing is a nuclear war and that will happen before the climate is stuffed and we run out of everything then and only then will change occur but there will be very little left to do it with and very few people either but the shock will finally cause change to the human condition and smash the adherence to flatland thinking. So if you smart enough to have come to grips with the flatland thesis and it's implications then you are smart enough to move now! Your going to suffer but your not going to be cremated!

Mike H

I am not being selective either or a propent of genocide or any form of ethnic cleaning, the situation is simply this, that the nuclear weaponry now spread all over the globe (Thousands upon thousands of these devices are in hands of just about anybody but not quite everybody) and in the hands of people, incapable of anything but delusion, denial and flatland thought processes guarantees that it will happen, when, who knows but in my life time or what is left of it. I find my acceptance of this quite re-assurring because it is like death once you acknowledge it, you no longer fear it.

The belicosity and chest beating over flatland political theories and territorial abrasion has got out of control and besides what is the point of having a nice big bang thing if your not going to use it, we already have, we tested it on the Japanese, it worked fine.

Mike Cooper

Hi Dave, glad to see you're soldiering on with the 4th essay. Looking forward to it. Going to re-read the first 3 (again) in the next few days to consolidate the concepts in my limited Human brain :)

In the meantime: I read your summary of the first article and the only response I could think of to the author is 'Well, durr!'. Isn't it obvious that, since the invention of agriculture, we know that there have been rulers/kings, and there have been priests, and there have been soldiers, and the function of all of these is essentially to maintain the mechanism by which 'wealth' (excess) is funnelled up to 'the deserving'? Why would we need to start worrying more, when this has been going on for, oh, I don't know, 5000-10000 years maybe? Something like that? I guess this is what the second article points out, really. But talk about stating the bleedin' obvious.

However in terms of 'fixing' it, well, somehow the people never manage to, because no matter what event manages to remove the 'current elite', it seems another elite eventually arises to replace them, so, again, why does he not reach the conclusion that Humans cannot help but to create hierarchies, there will always be personality types that want more than an equal share, and those who are able to accept being subservient in the interests of not disturbing their personal status quo, and that these processes derive from inbuilt unconscious impulses buried deep within the barin?


I have a lot of catching up to do in my reading here. I didn't realize that Dave had written this: "Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Doomers have no empathy, or very little, kind of like Wall Street bankers. If empathy is absent, what happens to others doesn't matter. The suffering of others doesn't matter."

And this: "Other people were simply an abstraction to them. For Doomers, other people are simply Fall Guys in the coming collapse, cannon fodder in their apocalyptic fantasies."

I've seen these attitudes predominate in both the survivalist and the roll-over-and-do-nothing-because-we're-going-to-be-dead-soon versions of doomer. What nauseates me is that their own children are not even excluded from their pathological lack of feeling and their utter absence of understanding concerning true suffering.

Comment from a prepper: "Each child is a chance for ones line to survive. We are facing the greatest pressure on human existence in millenia. If you have one child, you have exactly one chance of having your line extended into the future. If that child dies, before reproducing, your chances go to zero.

If you have 6 children, you have six chances that your line will be extended into the future. Let's say for the sake of argument though, that one is disabled and unable to have children and another dies before reproduction and still another has no interest in reproducing... you still have 3 chances left that your line will extend into the future.

For each child and their offspring you now have a chance. The world is facing a bottle neck. I had a bunch of kids before knowing about collapse. However, I had one after knowing. It was precisely because of the fact that I had at least one that would never have children due to health issues. I'm not an asshole, I just don't like the statistics I'm staring at."

From a we're-going-extinct-soon type: "Even if we have only a few years left on this planet, I want to experience motherhood. I want to provide my children with all the joys of life that I can, even if their lives are shortened. Having the chance to live at all is better than never having existed."

Anne Abernathey

I love ya, Dave. Thanks for continuing to write with such horrifying clarity. I find it a comfort to know that I am not barking mad to think the things I do.

RE this post - when my husband and I have one of those 'boy, this is some shit' conversations, one of us usually ends it with "Ain't nothing new under the sun" or "And thus has it ever been". The sum of human history is mostly people trying to take other people's stuff.

I'm afraid any human or human culture that makes it through an evolutionary bottleneck will be more ruthless than before - evolution favors survival, not happiness. Hope I'm wrong, tho.

And my outlook was changed by a podcast interview with Stephen Jenkinson (Griefwalker). Jenkinson said we don't abandon the dying - we sit with them and comfort them. So - if the culture is dying, or the environment that supports human life is dying, you don't abandon it. You sit with it, appreciate it, do what you can, even tho you know it is a lost cause. (Although, being very unsentimental, I usually do that in a jokey, sarcastic way).

Again, I truly appreciate your work - heck it actually gets me to offer feedback, just to remind you that a lot of people are out here reading.

The Wet One

Thank God!

There's hope for us yet!


Mike Roberts

Excellent post and a nice reminder of reality.

Ben R

Very interesting post...

Scheidel wrote, "...in the U.S. there were massive tax increases, state intervention in the economy to support the war effort and increase output, which triggered a redistribution of resources, benefiting workers and harming the interests of the top 1 percent.”

Considering how much the top 1 percent ultimately benefited from the war (the Bush family, as one small example) through banking and industry, I'm confident that they tolerated the "harm" quite well, clearly envisioning the even greater riches and power to be reaped later. How irritating it must have been for them to see the crumbs from their table allow the growth of the middle class in that oasis period, temporary though it was.


To want to be a parent today may be the most telling mark of unfitness to the task. In order to be one, one must perforce remain unconscious or, at the very least, callous.

Mike Roberts

Just read a guardian article by Michael Mann and Christopher Wright. This caught my eye:

The good news is that there is still time to prevent the worst climate changes from occurring. The Paris climate agreement was a step forward in that the nations of the world committed to reductions that get us half way from where we would otherwise be headed (more than 5C warming of the planet relative to pre-industrial temperatures by the end of the century) and to where we need to be (stabilisation of warming below 2C or so). The Paris agreement moved us on to a pathway where, with additional ratcheting up of commitments, we can limit warming below truly dangerous levels. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but there is still a path forward.

This is the obligatory but, in this case, meaningless, paragraph. What is "the worst" that could happen? There is always time to prevent the worst but that still leaves a whole lot of hurt. The Paris Agreement didn't commit any country to reductions, which wouldn't get us half way to anything, even in the unlikely event of those aspirations coming to fruition. It didn't move us onto any pathway to limiting warming to below dangerous levels. Mann knows this but has to pretend that dangerous climate change can be avoided.

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