Skills for a Post-Peak Future

SUBHEAD: Why wait for the power reserves to run dry? Start now and get a jump on the future.

By Anna Maria Spagna on 30 April 2013 for Orion Magazine -

Grogs Scouting Knots Round Turn Two Half Hitches Square Knot Sheet Bend Knot Truckers Hitch Constrictor Knot Alpine Butterfly Sheepshank Eye Splice Double Fisherman Double Overhand Knot Sailors Whipping Bowline Clove Hitch Timber Hitch Rolling Hitch Prusik Knot

Image above: Knots and animations on how to tie them. Click on one to see animation. From (

To learn how to live in a post-petroleum world, recall the pre-petroleum world where blacksmiths made everything: tools, nails, hinges, lamps, hooks, gates, and railings. Wheels, even! With a barrel and some fire, a blacksmith could turn rusted car panels into cookware. Think of all the scrap metal we’ll have when the oil’s all gone.

Find a shoelace and a copy of The Shipping News. Knots can weave rugs, fashion snowshoes, repair almost anything. A diamond hitch holds a load on a mule or a sled. A bowline to cinch a tarp, a Prusik to climb a tree. While fighting a forest fire, a friend once fixed a shovel with parachute cord, half-hitches, and pine pitch. And when the parachute cord runs out, there’s plenty of sinew. From knot tying, it’s a short hop to basketry.

Crosscuts are remarkably effective. Not chainsaw fast, not ax slow either. Problem is, since anyone can use one, anyone can ruin one by dragging it through dirt. Good ones haven’t been made for seventy years, so this lost art may be in high demand. Pick up a file, spider set, and how-to manual on eBay for about twenty bucks.

The Homestead Act required settlers to prove-up by planting fruit trees. Nothing symbolized self-sufficiency more. But plant an apple seed and—as anyone who’s read Michael Pollan knows—you get sour apples. To get sizable, recognizable fruit, you graft. Heritage apple guru Tom Burford encourages everyone who knows how to graft to teach five others. My partner started by teaching the kids at the local one-room school. Her advice: bring Band-aids.

If the Polynesians could crisscross the Pacific without a GPS, we can too. Read Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki for inspiration and Chet Raymo’s 365 Starry Nights for elucidation. Few of us will build a balsa raft, true, but remember: before planes, trains, and automobiles, travel by water was faster and easier than by land. Less light pollution will certainly help us find our way.

In seventh grade the nuns forced me to practice cursive for three weeks straight, which seemed pointless and cruel in the Apple II era. But maybe the nuns were on to something. How will we communicate without LED screens? Smoke signals?

Once my partner and I tried to install a used cast-iron sink in the bathroom only to find we needed an antique hanger and fixtures to boot. An old-timer neighbor kicked his boot toe into some fir needles in his yard and—voilà!—Restoration Hardware in the duff. Hoarding gets a bad rap when there’s a Home Depot on every corner, but not reducing might actually be the key to recycling and reusing.

Mechanical advantage doesn’t require fuel. A pulley or block and tackle magnifies force, so you can lift heavier loads with less effort. No crane or excavator needed. A grip hoist or come-along requires no energy source but your own. You’ll appreciate the addictive magic of this fact when you’ve lifted a thousand-pound footbridge all by your 120-pound self. Believe me.

Ask people in the developing world or anyone who travels by foot, and they’ll tell you: if it takes a long time to get somewhere, you’re going to stay a while. So we need to be prepared. Keep clean sheets on hand. Save up on food. And patience.

Early to bed, late to rise, saves on lamp oil and firewood. Plus, sleeping saves energy, mostly your own. It also keeps you healthy. Lack of sleep has been linked to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, psychiatric disorders, and poor quality of life. Why wait for the power reserves to run dry? Start now and get a jump on the future.

What would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments section, below, and read more Enumeration entries at


Unburnable Carbon Bubbles

SUBHEAD: Uncertainties in the carbon industry will be enough to leave a lot of carbon unburnable.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 29 April 2013 for the Automatic Earth -

Image above: Illustration for original article by author.

A report came out in Britain 10 days ago that deserves more attention than it got. If only because it uses the great term "unburnable carbon", great even before it's defined. It makes me ponder the popular and somewhat crazy claims about shale and fracking leading to US energy independence, the holy grail du jour.

It promises much vaunted freedom from outsiders, but what exactly does it consist of? Does it mean the ability to burn ever more carbon-based energy sources without having to buy them abroad? And does "abroad" include Canada, or do we think of this as an "energy Nafta"? Guys, if you would just waste a bit less of the stuff, you'd have been energy independent ages ago without having to inject tons of toxic concoctions into your land. What on earth are you thinking?

"Unburnable carbon" also makes me think of Professor Kenneth Deffeyes, who stated that "Crude oil is much too valuable to be burned as a fuel" , in reference to the long list of products, some of which are very beneficial to us (think medicine), that are made with oil carbons.

Deffeyes also said: "Thirty years from now, oil will be little used as a source of energy. Our grandchildren will say, 'you burned it? All those beautiful molecules? You burned it?'"

Will we ever understand this? Not very likely. We don't even think about it. We just want to find more of the stuff and then burn it. Give any organism access to an energy surplus, and it will use it up as fast as possible. Man is no exception.

But first, that report. Which claims that national and international climate targets risk leaving huge amounts of oil and gas stranded. The risk alone should be enough to inject so much uncertainty into the markets that they could plunge into a huge crisis. Damian Carrington for The Guardian:

The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists.
"The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed," said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was "very big indeed" and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it.

The so-called "carbon bubble" is the result of an over-valuation of oil, coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies. According to a report published on Friday, at least two-thirds of these reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets to avoid the threshold for "dangerous" climate change. If the agreements hold, these reserves will be in effect unburnable and so worthless – leading to massive market losses . But the stock markets are betting on countries' inaction on climate change.

The stark report is by Stern and the thinktank Carbon Tracker. Their warning is supported by organisations including HSBC, Citi, Standard and Poor's and the International Energy Agency. The Bank of England has also recognised that a collapse in the value of oil, gas and coal assets as nations tackle global warming is a potential systemic risk to the economy, with London being particularly at risk owing to its huge listings of coal.

Stern said that far from reducing efforts to develop fossil fuels, the top 200 companies spent $674bn (£441bn) in 2012 to find and exploit even more new resources, a sum equivalent to 1% of global GDP, which could end up as "stranded" or valueless assets. Stern's landmark 2006 report on the economic impact of climate change – commissioned by the then chancellor, Gordon Brown – concluded that spending 1% of GDP would pay for a transition to a clean and sustainable economy.

The world's governments have agreed to restrict the global temperature rise to 2C, beyond which the impacts become severe and unpredictable. But Stern said the investors clearly did not believe action to curb climate change was going to be taken. "They can't believe that and also believe that the markets are sensibly valued now."[..]

Paul Spedding, an oil and gas analyst at HSBC, said: "The scale of 'listed' unburnable carbon revealed in this report is astonishing. This report makes it clear that 'business as usual' is not a viable option for the fossil fuel industry in the long term. [The market] is assuming it will get early warning, but my worry is that things often happen suddenly in the oil and gas sector."
HSBC warned that 40-60% of the market capitalisation of oil and gas companies [is] at risk from the carbon bubble, with the top 200 fossil fuel companies alone having a current value of $4 trillion, along with $1.5 trillion debt. [..]
The report calculates that the world's currently indicated fossil fuel reserves equate to 2,860 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, but that just 31% could be burned for an 80% chance of keeping below a 2C temperature rise. For a 50% chance of 2C or less, just 38% could be burned.
Carbon capture and storage technology, which buries emissions underground, can play a role in the future, but even an optimistic scenario which sees 3,800 commercial projects worldwide would allow only an extra 4% of fossil fuel reserves to be burned. There are currently no commercial projects up and running. The normally conservative International Energy Agency has also concluded that a major part of fossil fuel reserves is unburnable. [..]
Jeremy Grantham, a billionaire fund manager who oversees $106bn of assets, said his company was on the verge of pulling out of all coal and unconventional fossil fuels, such as oil from tar sands. "The probability of them running into trouble is too high for me to take that risk as an investor." He said: "If we mean to burn all the coal and any appreciable percentage of the tar sands, or other unconventional oil and gas then we're cooked. [There are] terrible consequences that we will lay at the door of our grandchildren."

And it's of course not just the US that is involved. All major energy producers (and consumers) are. Nor is it just oil and gas: coal could get hit hard. Damian Carrington had this on Australia over the weekend:

Australia's huge coal industry is a speculative bubble ripe for financial implosion if the world's governments fulfil their agreement to act on climate change, according to a new report. The warning that much of the nation's coal reserves will become worthless as the world hits carbon emission limits comes after banking giant Citi also warned Australian investors that fossil fuel companies could do little to avoid the future loss of value.
Australia is already the globe's biggest coal exporter and "mega-mine" plans in Queensland for more extraction are identified as the world's second biggest "carbon bomb" threatening runaway global warming.
"Investments in Australian coal rest on a speculative bubble of climate denial, indifference or dreaming," said John Connor, one of the new report's authors and CEO of The Climate Institute, an independent research organisation based in Sydney. "Investors, governments and even some coal companies say they take climate change seriously, but this report shows they do not or are taking risky gambles."
James Leaton, at thinktank Carbon Tracker and also another of the report's authors, said: "Investors need to challenge the assumption that coal demand will continue to rise in China and elsewhere, otherwise billions of dollars of taxpayer, superannuation and shareholder funds will be wasted in assets linked to unburnable carbon."
Carbon Tracker's recent global report found that at least two-thirds of existing fossil fuel reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets to avoid the threshold for "dangerous" climate change. The new report shows Australian coal reserves owned by listed companies alone are equivalent to 25% of the global carbon budget for the fuel to 2050.
However, far from cutting back on exploration for new coal reserves, Australian listed companies spent AU$6 billion on developing new deposits. If only half of potential future reserves were exploited, Australian coal would use up 75% of the global carbon budget for the fuel.
Earlier in April, Citi banking group issued a warning to investors in fossil fuel companies. "We see limited potential for engagement to alter the outcome in this case," concluded its report. "If the unburnable carbon [scenario] does occur – even with carbon capture and storage technology – it is difficult to see how the value of fossil fuel reserves can be maintained."
Leaton said China has indicated its coal use will peak in the next five years, but that this had not been priced by markets. "I don't know why the market does not believe China. When it says it is going to do something, it usually does." Yet Australia is banking on selling coal to China: "That doesn't add up."

Still, you could argue that governments will try to find a way to ignore climate treaties. Once they start painting a picture of plunging economies and lifestyles for their people, the hope will be that the treaties can be watered down to facilitate business as usual. Given the strength and broad appeal of climate activism, that won't be as easy as some might think.

For the Canadian government and economy, climate issues may not be the biggest headache going forward. Ottawa faces a growing and steadily better organized resistance from Indigenous peoples. Who, if they resist being divided and bought off, can be a major pain in the government butt, not least of all because they still have many elders who remember being raised on notions of keeping the land fit to pass on to multiple generations. Large scale exploitation of carbon resources doesn't seem to fit that bill. Martin Lukacs for the Guardian in December last year:

Canada's placid winter surface has been broken by unprecedented protests by its aboriginal peoples. In just a few weeks, a small campaign launched against the Conservative government's budget bill by four aboriginal women has expanded and transformed into a season of discontent: a cultural and political resurgence.

It has seen rallies in dozens of cities, a disruption of legislature, blockades of major highways, drumming flash mobs in malls, a flurry of Twitter activity under the hashtag #IdleNoMore and a hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, in a tepee minutes from Ottawa's parliament. Into her tenth day, Spence says she is "willing to die for her people" to get the prime minister, chiefs and Queen to discuss respect for historical treaties.

[..] What remains unspeakable in mainstream politics in Canada was recently uttered, in a moment of rare candour, by former Prime Minister Paul Martin:
"We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power."
[..] While Canada has the world's largest supply of fresh water, more than 100 aboriginal communities have tapwater so foul they are under continual boil alert. Aboriginal peoples constitute 3% of Canada's population; they make up 20% of its prisons' inmates. In the far north, the rate of tuberculosis is a stunning 137 times that of the rest of the country. And the suicide rate capital of the world? A small reserve in Ontario, where a group of school-age girls once signed a pact to collectively take their lives.
Such realities have not stopped politicians and pundits from prattling on about the sums supposedly lavished on aboriginal peoples. [..] Billions have indeed been spent – not on fixing housing, building schools or ending the country's two-tiered child aid services, but on a legal war against aboriginal communities. 

Every year, the government pours more than $100 million into court battles to curtail aboriginal rights – and that figure alone went to defeating a single lawsuit launched by two Alberta First Nations trying to recover oil royalties essentially stolen by bureaucrats.

Despite such odds, the highest courts of the land have ruled time and again in favour of aboriginal peoples. Over the last three decades, they have recognized that aboriginal nations have hunting, fishing and land rights, in some cases even outright ownership, over vast areas of unceded territory in British Columbia and elsewhere.

Parliament will soon debate a bill that would break up reserves – still, mostly, collectively held – into individual private property that can be purchased by non-native speculators. The undeclared agenda of government policy is the same as it was a century ago: a grab for resource-rich lands, and the assimilation of aboriginal nations.

The Canadian federal and provincial governments act on a "shoot first, talk later" basis. As in many other places in the world, government policy is based on bullying citizens into compliance with what are labeled "democratic policies", which actually hugely benefit both the government and its corporate backers financially, but leave those citizens with mere scraps off the table.

In Canada, the situation is far less simple than the government would like, because aboriginal - land - claims that have been ratified in various treaties, and on many occasions confirmed by its own Supreme Court, numerous times, can't just be ignored without trampling both democracy itself and the rule of law.

In a very cynical move, Ottawa spends $100 million per year in legal fees to fight these aboriginal claims in courts across the country. Cynical because one might argue that this stunning amount of money rightfully belongs to the aboriginal population in the first place: hence, their own money is being used to keep them poor. Lukacs again:

In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.

It's 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada's policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.

Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor's, the influential credit agency that issues Canada's top-notch AAA rating. That's what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.

This coveted credit rating is Manuel's target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada's dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. 

In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.

In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel's argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country's credit rating.

How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada's economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn't contradict any of Manuel's facts.

He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor's wouldn't acknowledge the debt, because the official didn't think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.

"Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?"

[..] The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world's most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. 

No surprise, then, about the government's basic approach toward First Nations: "removing obstacles to major economic development." Hence the movement's next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. [..]

The "Lord Stern report" focuses on the carbon bubble caused by the discrepancy between climate targets and the exploitation of carbon resources.

But there's another potential bubble in carbon that the report does not address: a large part of the resources will simply never become economically viable.

Even before you run into climate related limits, a lot of carbon will prove unburnable not primarily because of climate change legislation, but because of either one of two issues: 1) physics meets monetary limits, i.e. developing the asset makes no sense economically, or 2) physics meets physics, i.e. developing the asset makes no sense in energy terms because it costs more energy than it delivers.

In connection with these two issues, at present a substantial part of America's unconventional oil and gas only looks financially interesting because of the fortunes being made in speculation, for instance in land and land rights (in true Enron spirit, Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake Energy have blown a huge market distorting bubble there).

Far more money is spent on the promise of oil and gas plays than on the actual product. The result is a carbon related land (rights) bubble, and a typical case of something that looks good; until it doesn't.

But there's more. A large part of the money that is being lavished on the carbon bubble is zombie money. If that money were not available, there would be no bubble. Every single debt that is not properly recognized, and restructured or defaulted upon, leaves zombie money present in a financial system. And every single asset this zombie money is invested in is by definition in a bubble.

If people had a more profound understanding of what occurs when debts are not cleansed the way they should be, there would be no zombie money. As it stands, accounting standards in nations hit by the 2007-08 crisis have become running jokes, all in order to hide the real state of both governments and financial institutions.

Hiding debt means hiding reality. Neither can remain hidden forever. Which, come to think of it, sets them apart from a lot of carbon resources. Which will never see the light of day.

The point to take away from all this is that a storm cloud of uncertainties is taking shape above the carbon industry. And that alone will be enough to leave a lot of carbon unburnable. Which may not be such a bad thing.


SUBHEAD: Sustainability practitioners understand the importance of fermenting in achieving food security past Peak Oil.

By Albert Bates on 28 April 2013 for The Great Change -

Image above: "Canning" fermented vegetables. One of many photos from the original article.

Sandor Katz lives a couple hours across Tennessee from us, so on a delightful April weekend we decided to spend four days attending his Wild Fermentation Intensive. Sandor is quite the celebrity these days — after profiles in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked, Sandor’s own encyclopedia, The Art of Fermentation, still in hardcover, has galloped through several printings for Chelsea Green.

Readers of Resilience will find scores of references to Sandor over the past few years, as sustainability bloggers have come to recognize the importance of fermentation to sustainability.

Sandor remains humble and accessible, despite being whisked around the world to rub elbows with celebrity chefs and food editors, take part in red carpet gastronomic events in Japan, France and California, or opine in various fora like Bioneers, the Mother Earth News Fair and TED.

Today he is in Brooklyn and then Los Angeles, then the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine in County Cork, Ireland, then back to Tennessee, then on to Vermont, Oregon, Florida, Wisconsin, and Seattle in June.

For several years he has been doing very intimate, down home workshops and for this purpose has outfitted a rustic kitchen stadium in the basement of a house across the road from Short Mountain Distillery (makers of quality Tennessee Moonshine since 2012). This kitchen has everything needed for a dozen people to rub elbows while chopping vegetables, stuffing pickle jars, or heating raw milk to 180°F.

Sandor keeps the workshops small enough to allow hands-on experiential learning, and cheap enough for anyone to attend, providing camping and self-cooked meals from his refrigerators and freezers stocked with the produce of his farming neighbors.

Arriving on Thursday, we were immediately plunged into two cultures that Sandor wants to get into the incubator right away — tempeh and koji. As Sandor describes his personal journey into fermentation — having too much cabbage and not wanting to let it go to waste — he is boiling a pot of cracked, organic soybeans and millet (the splitting was done by the hand-crank mill at the end of the counter, and the beans came from the same source as The Farm’s organic tofu and soy milk) until the hulls separate and can be skimmed off. After half an hour of participant introductions, the beans and millet come off the stove and are drained.

As he pours the hot mix into two large mixing bowls to cool, Sandor is telling us about the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley where he learned about a second ferment of kombucha juice with turnips.

The narrative — a practiced patter of pickling wisdom and microbial factoids — does not let up as he gently turns the beans with his fingers to cool. When the bean-millet mix is ready to inoculate — he inserts a meat thermometer to see if it is under 100° — he pours the starter from a small mixing bowl where the packaged powder (Rhizopus oligosporus) has been reviving in lukewarm water, as would a bread yeast, into the large mixing bowl and resumes fondling.

Now he demonstrates for us the method, first developed by the late Keith Steinkraus at Cornell University, of taking a zip-lock pint sandwich bag, laying it over a grilling screen, and perforating it with a grid of holes at one-inch intervals.

We all take turns making perforations, filling each bag with about a pound of inoculated beans, flattening the contents and setting them into the incubator. The incubator is not a laboratory instrument, but befitting this Tennessee basement across from a moonshine still, is an old broken refrigerator with a lightbulb on a thermostat to keep it at 85-95°F.

When he is traveling, he sometimes takes a standard Dollar General plastic tub, a metal oven pan and a tubular aquarium heater. Filling the metal pan with an inch or two of water, he submerses the heater, set to 85-95°F, lays pan of water with heater in the tub, puts a rack on top, and is ready to incubate cultures.

Tempeh started, Sandor moves on to his pot of boiling barley, which will provide the substrate for koji. He tells us that the latest craze sweeping Tokyo is koji and salt, which is not that great tasting and not traditional, but people are snacking on it as if it were cheese doodles. When the barley is cool, he spreads it into cheesecloth-lined wooden trays and inoculates it with miso starter (Aspergillus orizae), in much the same fashion as the tempeh. Into the incubator it goes.

Now its time to make supper and Sandor has mixed chick peas, lentils and rice into a reddish paste that has been sitting quietly at room temperature to form sambar, something akin to chili. He steams up a pot of rice and breaks out some fermented daikon radish pickles and mixed vegetable krauts.

Over supper Sandor tells us the four main reasons people learned to ferment were (1) alcohol; (2) preserving food outside season; (3) detoxifying otherwise inedible food; and (4) saving energy. Ferments were the original fast foods.

Day Two begins, after eggs and sourdough pancakes, with sour tonic beverages. Mabí, also known as mauby, comes from a bark of a tree (Colubrina elliptica) found in the Caribbean, which naturally Sandor has a 5-pound sack of (from an importer in Connecticut). He says the name is a contraction of the creole “ma biere” (my beer). He has original mauby starter culture was smuggled home from St. Croix but he says kefir can also work as a starter.

The process starts with brewing the bark into tea, then aerating back and forth between cups, and bottling it with some sugar. He suggests bottling it in plastic so you can tell if it is getting pressurized and relieve the pressure before it explodes. By Sunday the bottled mauby is a sweet fizzy soda.

We went on to start water kefir (with a slice of papaya for sugar), drain whey from curds of clabbered raw milk, and start a ginger bug. Sandor’s friend Caleb dropped in to show us how to make a carbonated kombucha tea, and we proceeded to make a variety of sour tonics and bottle them up for later sampling.

Caleb likes grape juice, lemon juice, lime juice and various fruit teas. Kombucha is a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeast) that comes from Tibet, but is sensitive to flavors (although it seems to do well in apple juice) so a second fermentation of the liquid is needed to produce a flavored beverage.

The ginger bug is just a thumb of grated ginger, 3 Tbsp sugar (can be cane syrup, maple syrup, agave, etc.), and water in a mason jar with a cloth cover. In 2 days it’s ready for second fermentation. We age it in plastic bottles with turmeric and grapefruit juice.

After a tour of the distillery and samplings of Short Mountain Shine and Apple Pie, we are back to make some idly, using fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. The fermentation process breaks down the starches to be more readily metabolized.

The batter is poured into idly dishes that are stacked into trees and suspended into a pot of boiling water to steam or be baked in the oven. Dosa is a fried preparation of the same batter. Our lunch is idly dressed with sambar, and more pickles and chutney.

Afternoon finds us working with vegetables making kraut and kim chi. We each bottle up a mason jar of carrot and cabbage kraut to take home. The tempeh is already turning white.

Saturday morning the koji has powdery sporulation. The tempeh from Thursday found its way to supper last night and will be in lunch again today. The mauby needs a stir, then is ready to bottle. The kefir water gets raisins to help it grow. Soybeans have been boiled the previous evening, cooled and injected with natto starter.

After a cool night they will go into the incubator for the rest of the day.

The kim chi is undisturbed in a large, covered pot but later today we will can it. We are heating raw milk for yogurt, doul and kefir. The buttermilk sat out for 24 hours and is clabbering. We all take a taste. Yum. The viscosity in the kefir is called “kefiring” and is not a cause for concern. Sandor is oft heard to note from a USDA source that in two centuries of records, there has never been a reported case of food poisoning from fermented foods.

Sandor refers us to the late Lynn Margulis’s essay “Sex, Death and Kefir”  as he puts the milk on the stove and stirs. He is denaturing it at 180° so that the bacteria of the yogurt can reweave the strings of protein. He has two strains of yogurt starter, one the Lactobacillus Bulgaricus that forms the basis for all Western yogurt cultures, and the other a rarer Lebanese strain. We mark our mason jars “B” and “L.”

Sandor tells us about skyr, an Icelandic yogurt that has nothing to do with yogurt, greek yogurt, and vily, a rare milk culture that forms a colloidal solid. We make 10 quarts of yogurt, 5 each of “B” and “L.” Sandor then starts a sorghum porridge that will get a 48-hour fermentation into a tasty cake.

Our Saturday supper includes the last of the tempeh, bacon-fried in coconut oil with Italian spices, and a Japanese natto dish: egg yolk, uncooked stringy natto, white rice and Dijon mustard, strong on the horseradish. We contribute a six-pack of Oatmeal Stout homebrewed by Jon Hatcher at the Ecovillage Training Center, and Sandor uncorks some bubbly mead.

After three days, Sunday is a bit of a blur and we’ve stopped taking notes but we seem to recall something about alcoholic beverages and putting up crocks of miso. Persons braver than might be expected dive into a deep, ancient kraut barrel in Sandor’s root cellar and rebottle years-old ferments until his jar library is emptied.

We tour Sandor’s home on Short Mountain, an 1820s log cabin being remodeled, and the adjacent ecovillage. We gather wild ramps, nettles, poke salat, and reishi. We ate, we hugged, we exchanged addresses and we parted.

We will next see Sandor July 27, when he comes to The Farm for our workshop on Fermaculture,  mixing the basics of food preservation with an introduction to permaculture design.


The Rate of Flow

SUBHEAD: This is the only true measure of energy abundance. It's not the reserves that are in the ground.

By Kurt Cobb on 28 April 2013 for Energy Resources -

Image above: A technologically advanced petrochemical plant where the oil flows. From (

Okay, I'm going to give you the shortest course ever in energy abundance: Energy abundance depends entirely on the RATE of energy flow. Let me say it again: Energy abundance depends entirely on the RATE of energy flow.

Now, here is what it does NOT depend on: supposed, but often unverified, fossil fuel reserves in the ground; hypothetical, sketchy, guesstimated, undeveloped, undiscovered resources imagined to be in the ground by governments or by energy companies and often deceptively referred to as "reserves"*; claims about future technological breakthroughs; mere public relations puffery about abundance in the face of record high average oil prices.

Why is the rate of flow the key metric? Because in order to function the global economy depends entirely on continuous, high-quality energy inputs. We cannot shut down the world's electric generating plants for six months or even three months without crashing world society into a state of irretrievable chaos and decline. We cannot shut down the world's shipping fleet for even a few weeks without doing irreparable harm. Modern global society has become like a shark. It either keeps barreling forward or it dies.

Fossil fuels that are actually proven to be in the ground are by definition not currently being used, whatever we may consider their potential. Fossil fuels that are hypothetical and undiscovered by definition cannot be used. Technology is NOT energy. Technology runs ON energy. Energy first, then applied technology. The ancient Romans designed and built small steam engines and used them to animate children's toys. But, the Romans lacked the dense energy sources needed to make steam engines practical as a mode of transportation or of power for manufacturing.

Now, why am I making such a fuss about all this? Because this week we have yet another entry in the ongoing energy misinformation derby, this time from the usually sensible Atlantic Monthly magazine. In fairness, the headline on the magazine's cover which reads "We will never run out of oil" was probably not chosen by the author for it does not really respect the nuances found in the piece which inside has the only slightly less disinformational headline: "What If We Never Run Out of Oil?" The subheading makes the astounding claim that fossil fuels may not be finite making me believe that the editors didn't actually read their own story.

The editors are, of course, trotting out the tired canard that the opposite and urgent claim that we are running out of oil is made by those skeptical about oil abundance. But, the real claim from skeptics is that the RATE OF FLOW may begin to decline sometime in the not-too-distant future. Oil will be with us for a very long time, just not at these levels of production. If the rate of flow for oil declined by half in the next 20 years, we wouldn't be running out of oil at all. We'd still be pumping the same about as we were in 1967, a year of exceptional economic vitality. But, we'd feel the crunch because there are twice as many people on the planet now as there were then. And, the per capita consumption of oil has risen considerably since that year.

The Atlantic Monthly article does include some dissenting voices. But Charles Mann, the author of the piece, has missed the two most crucial points about the future supply of oil and natural gas. First, new unconventional sources of these hydrocarbons are more difficult and costly to extract than conventional ones. In addition, the unconventional well flows exhibit very steep declines in their rate of production--so steep that in the tight oil fields of Texas and North Dakota drillers must replace about 40 percent of their production PER YEAR just to maintain current output. The decline rates for shale gas are no more encouraging: 79 to 95 percent after three years according to a comprehensive survey of 65,000 oil and gas wells in 31 shale plays. Shale natural gas and tight oil drillers face a task similar to climbing up a down escalator. Each must replace enormous fractions of their current production frequently just to keep production flat. A path to persistently rising global production of oil and gas far into the future cannot be built on production from such fields.

Already, the shale gas production boom in the United States has ceased as natural gas production has been flat since December 2011 despite the more than doubling of natural gas prices from their lows in April 2012. World oil production has been on a bumpy plateau since 2005. Mann seems unaware of stalled natural gas production in the United States, and he failed to take into account the total picture of oil flows. Some 60 percent of current production flows come from aging giant fields representing just 1 percent of the world's fields, and as a group they are in decline. Production from all existing oil fields worldwide is believed to be declining at a rate of about 4 to 5 percent. We are trying to make up that decline from tight oil fields that decline around 10 times faster, and we are only just succeeding for the moment. Failing to understand the centrality of flow rates is such an elementary error that it is hard to believe that the Atlantic Monthly missed it.

But there's more. The affordability of hydrocarbons will also matter greatly. Gail Tverberg has outlined in detail on her blog Our Finite World how the high price of hydrocarbons tends to suppress economic activity which then leads to a downturn that then causes oil and natural gas prices to fall due to falling demand. That fall in prices makes unconventional sources of oil and natural gas uncompetitive leading to a slowdown in their production even as production from conventional sources continues to decline. As prices rise with economic recovery, we begin the same cycle again. This suggests that there is a limit to how much of the modern economy's financial and physical resources can be devoted to extracting energy without causing an economic contraction--something that the shark-like nature of the modern financial economy cannot withstand without the kind of severe repercussions we saw in 2008.

The Atlantic article makes one more misleading claim even as the author admits to a bias formed in 1998 while working on a previous energy article. He didn't correctly foresee the promise of experiments with hydraulic fracturing that led to the shale gas and tight oil production boom. Like a racetrack junky who bet on the wrong horse in the first race, the writer doesn't want to miss the next winner. But, he makes a faulty analogy between the new form of hydraulic fracturing and current pilot projects designed to harvest natural gas from methane hydrates, essentially natural gas trapped in ice crystals, most of which lie in deep ocean sediments. A successful test that produced natural gas from this source off the Japanese coast in 3,000 feet of water and 1,000 feet below the seabed has the energy optimists atwitter with talk of virtually unlimited natural gas supplies.

But, attempts to extract natural gas from methane hydrates should more properly be compared to the search for methods to extract oil profitably from the vast oil shale deposits in the western United States. After more than a century of trying, no one has been able to produce oil commercially from these deposits. It may happen someday at much higher prices and in very limited quantities given all the constraints. Not the least of those constraints is the water necessary to process what is not actually oil, but kerogen, a waxy, long-chain hydrocarbon that requires considerable energy and water to convert into what we call oil. Even the ever optimistic U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that by 2030 these deposits may produce only 140,000 barrels a day of what will essentially be synthetic oil. That compares to current world consumption of around 75 million barrels per day of crude oil plus lease condensate (which is the definition of oil).

As for methane hydrates, researchers have tried for decades to figure out how to extract the methane profitably and without causing the occasional explosion--a hazard encountered by companies drilling for conventional deepwater gas when they hit hydrates on their way to sought-after conventional reservoirs. As with oil shale, there are known methods now for extracting these gaseous hydrocarbons from methane hydrates. The remaining questions for both oil shale and methane hydrates are similar: How high must prices go before extraction of either will be profitable? So far, the answer is higher than what people will pay and therefore what the economy can stand. And, at what rate will we be able to get these resources out? Rate is the crucial question.

When it comes to oil shale, we know where it is. It's just that it costs so much to extract and process that we are not producing it commercially. When it comes to methane hydrates, however, we do not even know if the deposits are numerous enough or concentrated enough to make substantial commercial production possible. To pin our hopes on this has the makings of dangerously foolish energy policy.

I am not attempting here to address the climate implications of natural gas production from methane hydrates and shale, nor those of oil extraction from tight oil deposits or oil shale (kerogen). Needless to say, if the optimists somehow turned out to be right, burning all these hydrocarbons would lead to almost certain climate catastrophe. But, we are in bad enough shape as it is without compounding inaction on climate change with a misdiagnosis of oil and natural gas supplies.

Despite our best efforts, we have only just been able to keep oil supplies from declining in the last seven years. Despite (possibly exaggerated) claims that we have more oil reserves than ever, we need to remember that the rate of flow, that is, our daily consumption, has grown by a factor of eight from 1950 to the present. And, half of all the oil ever consumed has been consumed since 1985. The available reserves may be large, but they are being consumed at such a colossal rate that supposedly record reserves have been unable to lift that rate appreciably above a plateau that started in 2005. The result has been record average prices for oil worldwide for two years running. Rate is and always will be primary in evaluating our energy wealth.

While natural gas supply worldwide is likely to grow for a time, the cost of this new supply--especially if most of it comes from shale deposits and possibly methane hydrates--will be far higher than the optimists would wish. And, that has the kind of implications cited above for affordability and thus demand.

We seem to have hit a double wall that is both financial and physical when it comes to the flow of oil and natural gas. If we remain ignorant of the first principle of energy abundance, that flow rates are the key metric, then we will be doomed to bad energy policy and other serious consequences that flow from that ignorance.

*Reserves are properly defined as resources that can be extracted from known fields using existing technology and sold profitably at today's prices. Reserves are thus a tiny fraction of "resources," the estimates for which are actually vague, sketchy guesses about the amount of a substance present in the Earth's crust in a given area.

Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he writes columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum,, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at


Hitting 400ppm!

SUBHEAD: CO2 levels in Earth atmosphere reaching 400ppm for first time in three-million years.

By Michael Richard on 29 April 2013 for TreeHugger -

Image above: The Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii, From (

According to measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, a very remote atmospheric research facility in the middle of the Pacific that has been monitoring atmospheric change since the 1950s, the Earth's atmosphere is right about to reach 400 parts-per-million (ppm) of CO2, a level that was last seen 3 million years ago. The first measurements at the observatory in 1958 had CO2 levels at 317ppm.
The last time CO2 reached the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere - in the Pliocene era - temperatures rose by between 3 and 4 degrees and sea levels were between five and 40 metres higher than today. (source)
No need to say that this isn't good news...

As a reminder, 2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S..


We Wish!

SUBHEAD: So bright are the fracking prospects that the U.S. may become, if only briefly, the world's top petroleum producer.

By James Kunstler on 29 April 2013 for -

Image above: Aerial view of early oil wells in Huntington Beach, California. From (

Wishful thinking now runs so thick and deep across the USA that our hopes for a credible future are being drowned in a tidal wave of yellow smiley-face stories recklessly issued by institutions that ought to know better. A case in point is the Charles C. Mann's tragically dumb cover story in the current Atlantic magazine -- "We Will Never Run Out of Oil" * -- setting out in great detail the entire panoply of techno-narcissistic "solutions" to our energy predicament. Another case in point was senior financial writer Joe Nocera's moronic op-ed in last week's New York Times beating the drum for American "energy independence."

You could call these two examples mendacious if it weren't so predictable that a desperate society would do everything possible to defend its sunk costs, including the making up of fairy tales to justify its wishes. Instead, they're merely tragic because the zeitgeist now requires once-honorable forums of a free press to indulge in self-esteem building rather than truth-telling.

It also represents a culmination of the political correctness disease that has terminally disabled the professional thinking class for the last three decades, since this feel-good propaganda comes from the supposedly progressive organs of the media -- and, of course, the cornucopian view has been a staple of the idiot right wing media forever. We have become a nation incapable of thinking, or at least of constructing a consensus that jibes with reality. In not a very few years, the American public will be so disappointed and demoralized by broken promises like these that they will turn the nation upside down and inside out, probably with violence and bloodshed.

Charles Mann's Atlantic article begins by cheerleading for the mining of methane hydrates from the ocean floor. These are natural gas molecules trapped in ice formations in the muck around the continental shelves. Mann spotlights the efforts of a Japanese research ship conducting tests.

Guess what: the Japanese are engaging in this because they have absolutely no fossil fuels of their own, and a failing consensus about nuclear power, and they are on a course to become the first advanced industrial nation to be forced to return to a medieval economy. That is, they are the most desperate among the desperate. You could say they've got nothing to lose (but a few billion of their rapidly depreciating Yen).

Methane hydrates are stable only at extreme pressures or very low temperatures. They also exist in the arctic permafrost, for instance, Siberia, where conventional natural gas drilling operations have been carried out for decades, with no contributions from methane hydrates. Undersea methane hydrate exploration projects have gone on for decades in the US, Canada, India, Russia, China, and Japan. The hope is that this so-called "hot ice" would turn out to be the gas equivalent of tar sands, which would mean at best a very expensive way to get more fossil fuels as the conventional sources dry up.

That hope has dimmed in nations other than extremely desperate Japan. Like a lot of techno-wonders, the recovery of methane hydrates can be demonstrated on the "science project" scale. For now, no viable technique exists for getting commercially-scaled streams of natural gas out of methane hydrates. The Japanese themselves state that it would take at least ten years, if ever, to commercially mine methane hydrates. Japan doesn't have ten years. It's banking system is imploding, and without capital even the science projects will come to an end.

Charles Mann is equally rapturous about shale oil and gas. He writes:
"Today, though, fracking is unleashing torrents of oil in North Dakota and Texas--it may create a second boom in the San Joaquin Valley--and floods of natural gas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. So bright are the fracking prospects that the U.S. may become, if only briefly, the world's top petroleum producer. ("Saudi America," crowed The Wall Street Journal. But the parallel is inexact, because the U.S. is likely to consume most of its bonanza at home, rather than exporting it.)"
This is very misleading. The US consumes roughly 19 million barrels a day. The Bakken and Eagle Ford shale formations produce about a million barrels a day combined now, and guaranteed to get a whole lot lower within the next five years. Today's near-peak production is based on furious drilling and fracking of extremely expensive wells -- known as "the Red Queen syndrome" because they are running as fast as they can to keep production up. Meanwhile, the depletion curve on shale oil is a reverse "hockey stick."

The situation is similar for shale gas, the difference being that the temporary glut of 2005 - 2012 happened because we didn't have the means to export surplus gas from the initial burst of development and it briefly flooded the domestic market. The price of shale gas is still below the level that makes it economic to produce and when it eventually rises to that level, and beyond, it will be too expensive for its customers to buy. Shale gas is also subject to the Red Queen Syndrome.

These arguments have been well-rehearsed many times in this blog and elsewhere. But the key to understanding our energy predicament is ignored in cornucopian cases like Charles Mann's Atlantic piece, which is the role of capital. Non-cheap oil has already worked its hoodoo on advanced industrial economies: it has already destroyed the process of capital formation. These economies were not designed to run on non-cheap oil and they can't, and the capital is no longer there for even the research-and-development to change out the infrastructure, let alone carry out any as-yet-undesigned changes.

Furthermore, there is no prospect that we can rescue the process of capital formation at the scale required to continue financing things like shale oil. The absence of real growth in the USA, Europe, and Japan has already destroyed the operations of interest and repayment of debt, and any new debt issued will never be repaid, meaning it is functionally worthless (we just don't know it yet). These impairments of capital formation have left the major commercial banks insolvent and central banks have worked tirelessly to rescue them by issuing more "money" in the form of credit that can never be paid back.

What all this means is that the capital does not exist to run non-cheap oil economies, or to continue indefinitely the production of non-cheap oil and gas, not to mention methane hydrates and other fantasy fuels.

Joe Nocera's op-ed in last week's New York Times was shorter and even dumber (and lazier) than Charles Mann's foolish Atlantic article. It was based on remarks made by Canada's Energy Minister, Joe Oliver, who said (among other patently false and idiotic things) that Canada "has the resources to meet all of America's future needs for oil."

Oliver was pimping for the Keystone pipeline project to transport tar sands byproducts from Alberta down to the US. Nocera swallowed everything Oliver said whole, such as "oil mined from the sands is simply not as environmentally disastrous as opponents like to claim." Is that so, Joe? And what's your source for that assertion? Canada's Energy Minister?

The slug at the bottom of Nocera's column said he was invited onto the op-ed page because regular columnists Gail Collins and Nicholas Kristoff were off (or on book leave). Nocera's column was disgracefully ignorant. The editors should send him back to the Times business section where unreality is the order-of-the-day.

Now, many people may draw the conclusion that some conspiracy is underway when the major mainstream media report the news so disingenuously, but that is just not so. The reason we, in effect, lie to ourselves incessantly is because of the master wish behind all the subsidiary wishes: we want to keep driving to WalMart forever and we can't imagine any other way of life, let alone the way of life that the contraction of industrial economies is tending toward -- which is to say a way, way downscaled and re-localized economic life centered on farming and artisanal manufacture.

Yes, we are going medieval too, eventually, just like the Japanese, who will get there a little sooner than we will. It's hard to swallow, I'm sure. That's why we prefer the more digestible propaganda gummi bear treats like Charles Mann's Atlantic article and Joe Nocera's stupid op ed.

* This was the title on The Atlantic's cover. Charle's C. Mann's article inside was titled "Why We Will Never Run Out of Oil." Shame on the editors of The Atlantic.


Pondering Near Term Extinction

SUBHEAD: How does one deal with the irreconcilable acceptance of near-term extinction due to anthropomorphic global warming.

By Daniel A. Drumright on 28 April 2013 for Nature Bats Last -

Image above: The Painted Desert at Tiponi Point in the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona, in 2010. From (

[IB Publisher's note: This is a very long and grueling article. It deals with the internal emotional and intellectual response a person has in the face of runaway global warming and the catastrophic effect it is about to have to life on Earth. Do not read this article unless you can handle the idea of the extinction of life on Earth as we know it in our current lifetime. For those of retirement-age this may seem a philosophical article... for young parents it will seem a nightmare. Spoiler alert - there are thoughts of suicide discussed in this piece.]

Considering this very long essay attempts to address what is without a doubt, the greatest phenomenal event in the recorded history of our species, I will definitely fall quite short in the endeavor. And this would still be true even if this essay were a hundred times in length.

This essay is written in acceptance that humanity has now crossed numerous irreversible climatic thresholds. It is also written from the perspective that by so doing, we have ushered in intractable near term extinction (NTE) of most of life within the next several decades. (If nature fails to bat last, nuclear containment pool fallout from grid collapse surely will.)

I have absolutely no interest in attempting to persuade anyone of this conjecture being either true or false. No one should allow themselves to be persuaded by anyone regarding this subject matter. The decision to accept this, is ours and ours alone. Anyone who is putting the onus of NTE on Guy’s shoulders, or anyone else for that matter, is doing a great disservice to both Guy and themselves. The available evidence is easily accessible, the writing on the wall doesn’t need to be deciphered. The theory of runaway climate change has been around for decades, and now the whole world is able to watch this catastrophe unfold in real-time. But this by no means implies the world is watching.

This essay is SOLELY written for those who are already familiar with a majority of the available evidence, and who’ve subsequently come to a similar conclusion for themselves. As such, this essay is not intended to be informative, but rather entirely commiserative.

I am of the opinion that all dialog post-acceptance of NTE is manifestly commiserative. Post-acceptance of NTE, as opposed to our pre-vacillating acceptance, logically equates to defeatism, plain and simple. This is a critical distinction, and probably represents a primary schism within this new body of awareness. The post aspect of acceptance could be consider THE critical distinction, for it’s the difference between the sublimation of having come to terms with what we consider to be inevitable, compared to our wavering refutation of such inevitability, which still affords us a great many fantasies. It’s the acceptance of the inevitability of NTE which lays waste to all else, which is why this is a key factor in determining how we live our lives from here on out.

What is the meaning of NTE? Literally, we all know what those three words connote when strung together. But we don’t live in a literal reality, we live in a wholly subjective interpretive culture, where the red pill literalism of something like NTE rarely sees the light of day. This disparity obviously has a massive influence on our bias as to how we interpret everything, including the science contributing to our understanding of the significance of tipping points.

I suspect most criticism of this essay will come from those who have yet to fully accept NTE … and rightly so! But please be mindful, the following is written from a post-acceptance perspective. If this is a judgment you do not share, then the commiserative intent within this essay will simply elude you.

As of right now, the entire concept of NTE is still the most profound abstract concept the human race has ever been confronted with. Even though the signs are everywhere one decides to look, the totality of its cumulative impact is still enough off in the distance for entrenched self-preservation to render it an abstraction in our daily lives. So again, the following is written from the viewpoint as to when this is no longer true, when NTE breaks through abstraction, and detonates in full acceptance of the most profoundly devastating reality we’ve ever had to both live with and through.

(Disclaimer: I no more want to be writing this, than you probably want to be reading it, however, as curious disciples of ferocious truth, here we are … where none of us ever expected or wanted to be.)

I may be wrong about this, and as with almost everything concerning NTE, I very much wish I am, but as far as I’m able to discern, the comment threads on Nature Bats Last (NBL) might be the only place within the English language that are rationally and emphatically discussing the near term extinction of most of life on earth — at least in the public domain. What a dubious and overwhelming prospect that truly is, if it is in fact the case, or for that matter anywhere close to it.

It is not surprising that Guy’s blog, which has for years been dedicated to collapse preparedness, would eventually serve as the springboard into the deep end of the recognition of NTE, given we’ve already done our share of quantifying the minutia of contributing factors to the collapse of industrial civilization.

However, NTE is a classic example of emergence, where something becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It has now become an event unto itself, irrespective of its causation. I believe this is just one of the many aspects that makes this new reality difficult for us to fully comprehend, because our past precedence is, and has been, completely focused on the individual linear contributing factors, which have now compounded in creating this emergent nonlinear post threshold paradigm. The amalgam of discoveries leading up to this moment in time, are now effectively immaterial, which is the actual consequence of tipping points.

Hence, it’s not the potential of extinction that is foreign to us, but rather the “acceptance” of the near term timing of it. In my opinion, it is our highly subjective and indeterminate acceptance of NTE, which again, is the crucial distinction of how we frame our responsiveness to the ominous implications.

This dire acquiescence has now effectively catapulted “us” even further out unto the barren wastelands of the radical fringe. But for many, this has been our masochistic stomping grounds for quite some time, whereby we are most likely the first embattled assemblage of like minds in the history of our species to seriously attempt to elucidate the meaning of life amidst the ever-increasing probability of our pending disappearance.

If this is indeed so, it only stands to reason that we are as well, the first to propose what might be considered the greatest conundrum in history: How do we live out the rest of our lives in light of such acceptance? Especially, when it undermines every aspect of our future-oriented culture, as well as our private life.

While many of us here have written extensively in attempting to accurately describe the sheer scale of the dilemma we’re facing, the staggering severity of the circumstances before us has made this nearly impossible for us to accurately surmise. Its inference is so emotionally ruinous, with the precise timing being impossible to predict — thus making it highly suspect — our sense of uncertainty can’t help but override our better judgment, in demanding a degree of assurance that we rationally know doesn’t exist.

However, we’re all too aware that the evidence is quite explicit in detailing that the Holocene is exponentially drawing to a close. The geological epoch which has housed the entire history of civilization … is ending, if it hasn’t ended already. We are literally looking at losing the entire arctic ice cover — one of our planet’s primary thermal regulators — during the melting season, within only a few years … if not this year!

We could write similar words to those above a thousand times, and still be suspended in utter disbelief, for we are attempting to detail an event that is so remarkably outside any form of past human awareness, it’s either just a passing idea that flies through our minds like a frightened bird, or it levels everything like a daisy cutter. There is no in-between, it’s either a fleeting thought or it’s absolutely devastating.

Every single story we’ve ever been told, in effect, just careened into the underworld. Everyone’s Rube Goldberg collapse preparedness scheme, just theoretically failed right out of the gate. What part of our lives didn’t just suffer a massive body blow from which we will honestly never recover?

Nonetheless, our desire for doubt still rages against the evidence. Our past moral imperatives still rile against corporatism’s fait accompli in spite of ourselves. But it’s not as if we’re fabricating either the facts or the science. It’s not as if we’ve unknowingly cloistered ourselves in solipsistic groupthink. It’s not as if we’re not all desperate to have someone/something prove us wrong. I mean who in the hell wants to be right about near term extinction!?! It’s just that the degree of acceptance, which we are being forced to bear, completely undermines the very act of acceptance itself. If this isn’t the greatest cause of universal cognitive dissonance, then I don’t know what could be.

The less-than-subtle shift in our thinking on a subject we’ve all thought very long on, has had an enormous — albeit understated — side effect on our past “ecological moral imperatives.” Deliberating on the inevitability of collapse, has for many of us, strangely been the force that has given us meaning in life over the last decade(s). But now having to accept that the rates of climatic change have greatly superseded even the most dire predictions of only a few years ago has effectively dissolved the impetus of our past imperatives, mutated all sense of urgency and completely redefined the very concept of time itself.

It’s a self-determined path that leads one to the comprehension that our culture is addicted to hopium. It’s a path that also continues to lead us far from almost everything in our culture. But it’s quite a different course to attempt to live outside the garden of anticipation, where hopium has flowered for all of our lives.

As with most addictions, it’s seldom the drug itself that’s the cause of our dependence, but rather any number of undisclosed societal factors that drove us to it in the first place. This is what makes kicking the habit incredibly difficult, for once our system is “clean,” all the reasons for having been under the influence to begin with come rushing back with a vengeance.

Kicking the drug is the comparatively easy part, kicking the habit of dependence is far more challenging. And the same is to be said about hopium. Knowing our culture is addicted is one thing, living without it, just might prove to be impossible … even for a motley crew of cynics such as ourselves.

Curiosity could easily be considered one of our species’ greatest traits, but in many ways, acceptance of NTE with its relentless correlation to every aspect of our lives could be considered anathema to the very driving force behind our desire to be informed. And it is this unfolding psychological dilemma that I believe is quite new to many of us, for how could it not be?

Sometimes even the slightest hope can be enough to sustain us, but once even the dimmest light has been statistically snuffed out, we suddenly find ourselves in an exceptional kind of darkness, unlike anything even us denizens have ever experienced. NTE is the antithesis of Plato’s cave. It’s as if we stumbled out of the shadows, only to blindly stare directly into the sun. I wonder how long it will take for the long-term consequences of such overwhelming contrarian awareness to eventually take its pound of flesh?

Therein lies another unbelievable fact, that “we” here, at the dawn of the greatest transgressive discovery ever made, might represent the first generation in the history of our species who have ever attempted to reconcile such irreconcilable academic despair.

No, we aren’t being tortured, nor put to death. We aren’t imprisoned in some hellish hole. We aren’t starving in a refugee camp. We aren’t having to kill our children to end their suffering. We’re not being ganged raped or hounded in a genocidal “cleanse.” No, we are “currently” living out none of these brutal existences, which have always been a facet of civilization. We’re on the other end of the disparate spectrum; we’re the terribly privileged folk, still basking in the relative afterglow of global empires, who have had the opportunity to know more than most of the people who have ever inhabited this planet. We have had the wealth and time to build our own cerebral constructs/prisons.

The precipice before “us” today, is but the ledge of the idiosyncratic ivory towers we’ve constructed for ourselves. It has allowed us to see further than anyone has ever seen before. However, the universe has an inherent equilibrium to it, and as with most things, there is a price to be paid for such excessive and fruitless erudition. We are in the throes of a superlative first-world cultural dilemma, of what it truly means to know too much. The tsunami we can clearly see rushing toward us from our lofty perspectives might as well be a raindrop in a puddle as far as our dominant culture is concerned. Therein lies the root of most of our frustration and our ever-ascendant alienation.

I don’t believe anyone here, including myself, is honestly capable of accurately framing the very ethos we’ve created at NBL, given it is unconscionably unprecedented to the very letter of the word. This becomes painfully obvious, every time, anyone of us finds ourselves in any group of people. For there is only one thing that is more maddening than NTE, which is that for whatever reason, the vast majority of our fellow citizens just aren’t capable of caring beyond their immediate needs, which is probably why we find such solace at NBL — even if it’s a remorseful succor.

This is why I suspect that probably no one here would respond well to someone telling you/us to be careful, that maybe we’re wrestling with a deceptive awareness, which very well could prove to be beyond all of us. There must be any number of unidentified limits to what our tribal minds can endure, and we here, are surely in the process of testing those boundaries, without having much of a clue as to its intuitive repercussions.

I often now have the sense of receiving some subliminal transmission with my daily dose of disaster, as if “we” are now playing with an extraordinary internal bonfire, which could have within its conflagration, a latency that’s keeping us from realizing we’re being burned alive.

I suspect that for many of us, through all our past tribulations, activism, adversity and endless cultural negation, see ourselves as possessing some kind of hard-bitten warrior spirit. Call it the environmentalist’s thousand-yard stare. We are all too aware that the path of a self-anointed “truth seeker” — that trespassing inclination that has consequently led us here — isn’t a gentle winding path through a spring meadow. It isn’t the road less traveled. It’s not a revolutionary act. It’s not measured by greatness. It’s just a cruel bottomless hole that once ventured into, eventually leaves the light of modernity, but a pinprick in the night sky for anyone hoping to return to the complicity of our dominant cultural pretense.

Truth is a life sentence for anyone who values it, and this was self-evident, well before we happened upon nonlinear rates of climatic change. Now, we are being challenged in a way that no minority faction has ever been before.

Again, the shift in our thinking has been profoundly acute: Being aware of the potential of an unprecedented future reality is one story. Living in full acceptance that the unprecedented has come to pass is poles apart from anything that came before. It’s the difference between objectively analyzing lab rats as they run through a maze, and running either to or from what remains of our life in an inescapable labyrinth.

There are thousands of literary quotes, which either exalt or disparage our perception of TRUTH, yet not one infamous citation was ever written in context to the Gordian knot of existing empirical evidence of our species near term extinction. We are truly in a place, where literally no one has ever been before.

But the more we reflect on this demoralizing reality, the worse it gets. And yes, this has always been the case with political realism, but never to the degree it is now — not even close, not even remotely close. No, we’re initiating a diabolic consciousness to which no living human being has ever had to bear witness. It is an awareness which requires a degree of emotional maturity that’s almost indistinguishable from insanity within western culture.

It truly does seem like we’ve finally dug deep enough to crawl through the center of the world like inquisitive children, only to come out on the other side to discover everything is actually upside down. Where past concepts of truth play out like every other figment of our imagination. Where knowledge becomes but a fetish. Where denial comes to sublimely make sense. Where apathy and hedonism now vie for ethical stakes. Where somewhere along the way, our moral imperatives just became another hit of hopium.

Dig for the truth long enough, and one becomes a miner. And now, decades down the mine, here we all are, like virtual grave diggers at the bottom of a hole we’ve dug through the world, gathered around a cage of canary bones, guessing how long it’s been dead.

It’s as if decades ago we formed an old-fashioned bucket brigade to douse our burning house. However, all the buckets have always had holes in them, and they are empty by the time they reach the end of the line. But, since we’ve no other recourse other than continuing to reinvent our past theoretical civic daydreams, we just keep passing the buckets along, while patting ourselves on the back for having done our little part, pretending that it somehow matters because … we imagine we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t act as moral agents in a game we fully know we’ve no agency. Truth no longer sets us free, and it’s highly debatable if it ever has, or what from.

The whole history of social activism has been along for the ride right into the abyss. While there have always been competing theories as to “our” underlying nature, there has never been a parallel terrestrial reality, which civilization has played out. We’ve never been anything other than violent, avarice primates. Game theory was probably a dilemma even for Neanderthals. The totality of humanities generosity, empathy and compassion has already been collectively factored into our ecological dilemma. Societal capacity to be sympathetic, curious, informed, proactive and sacrificial has played alongside all the ruling elites’ abuse, corruption, subterfuge, violence and death in collectively depositing us pass the thresholds we’re at today.

What else is NTE other than the final acceptance of the consequences of our species’ fundamental inability to live in balance with our environment? The answer to virtually every question we are ever going to ask, from here on out — post acceptance — can’t honestly be anything other than: “It no longer matters.”

We are currently attempting to live through the overlying of two completely opposing paradigms. The entirety of all our past lived experiences, identities and vested interests are hopelessly ensnared in a recalcitrant culture that very much exists, but wholly and erroneously on borrowed time. All our past wisdom now exists in a state of unending irrelevancy. Our sense of self, our perception of reality is entirely deceptive, and this was true long before any of us were ever born. And now even this fraudulence is flowing away from us. The observable physical universe is literally passing us by within our lifetime!

NTE is a complete intellectual dead end unless we are able to somehow attempt to creatively manifest this awareness in the time we have left. Such awareness will most likely come at a great cost to our existing means … but more about that later.

Think of all our countless past endeavors and harebrained dreams throughout our lives that we no longer support or believe in for whatever reason. Think about the source of what originally birthed whatever moral imperatives we have been compelled by over the years. Then ask yourself, how does the acceptance of NTE not completely undermine the basis of that imperative? What becomes of a moral necessity, if the essence, prospect or vitality that spurs its urgency has been lost completely? What exactly are we doing, in still attempting to fight “the good fight,” if we fully accept all has been lost?

And now, we’re ruminating on the essence of our ethical obligations, in full acceptance that the whole concept of anthropocentric morality will soon be completely erased?

All the lights behind our cultural projectors have burned out, all our stories will soon be lost. Time to put our sacred cows out to pasture, for how can our continued belief in the urgency of our past imperatives — post acceptance of NTE — be considered anything other than anachronistic?

We were too late in discovering our species had been unknowingly charged with the stewardship of maintaining a precious equilibrium, and due to the absence of our collective wisdom, our remaining time is now beyond this natural world, where we are but subjects to the wrath of thermodynamics.

I’m coming to suspect that the cognitive dilemma of NTE might merit an entirely new branch of ontology. What does it mean to be present with NTE? How does one reckon the end of everything? The science has delivered us, but unto what … other than our knees?

NTE is a cultural event horizon, that once we allow ourselves to fully accept it, nothing else in this life will be able to escape its ruthless draw. From a macro perspective, nonlinear rates of climatic change, as it applies to humanity, is a Singularity. It will in all probability be the first and last the human race will ever experience. We are both observers and participants in a game of incalculable factors against impossible odds with an inescapable blunt ending. And this is what we’re attempting to make sense of?

This is not a truth that comes to reveal any hidden sacred bond. It is the obliteration of all social bonds. It is not just more of the same, but worse. It is not the past made present, but unprecedented. It is an acceptance, which is a wholesale life-changing event on an unfathomable scale that will eventually lead us to ruin, starting with severe ostracization from everything and everyone within our culture … as many here can already attest.

The fumes from our vested interests and our past ethical bearing can sustain us for only so long, until the very fabric of our presumed consciousness starts to unravel in light of such disquieting imminence. The entire conversation on NBL in regard to NTE is an evolutionary process in reverse. We will not continue to evolve under its appalling shroud, but digress over time into incomprehensible states of being.

We can only contemplate such staggering amounts of present and future death up to a point, until we start to thoroughly emulate it in our private lives. But this isn’t necessarily something we should avoid. It might just be a step within a process that leads us to a degree of equanimity we can’t yet perceive. But then again, it could easily lead us in the opposite direction.

Either way, the time before us now will soon be considered the halcyon days of sweet objective conjecture, where we “the randomly statistical chosen few” deliberate on the greatest catastrophic event in human history while we still have the luxury and methodology to do so. Not unlike some virtual reenactment of Boccaccio’s The Decameron, where instead of waiting out a medieval plague, which is ravaging the masses, we are prognosticating our encroaching demise from a virtual safe distance.

This moment, right now, is but a very short window in time. There isn’t a soul here who hasn’t battled a legion of closed minds by now. All of our backs are against the same damn immovable wall, and no matter how informed we are, or imagine ourselves to be, that entrenched wall is tumbling us off the cliff along with everything and everyone else.

But even as the endless futility mounts, where some of us are still imagining “resistance to be fertile,” there is a growing concern in the back of my mind, that by way of our compulsive truth seeking, we are closing in on upending our ability to continue to function in this world for whatever amount of time we have left. And I suspect that it is the psychosomatic blowback — for lack of a better term — from having become aware of NTE, that is coming to primarily occupy our thoughts as we reluctantly settle into the surreal parameters of this new paradigm.

Without a doubt, there is no going back. The clichés are running rampant, a parade of metaphors is spilling out of our collective imagination in attempting to make sense of what is otherwise unfathomable. No, we can’t un-see what has been seen. We can’t undo what has been done. All we can do is attempt to live with knowing that we will not live through it. But I’m not convinced this is even possible, unless one is already well advanced in age.

Concerning NTE, what wisdom can an old rich white man possibly have for a young mother of three? While NTE is universal, how it personally manifests in each of our lives is anything but.

The understanding we are attempting to ascertain will make it absurd for having sought it out, the moment we find “it.” We might as well be nakedly roaming the quarantined grounds of Chernobyl with Geiger counters looking for the hottest spots.

We’re currently inhabiting a state of theoretical prospective famine, which will seem serene once civil chaos and genocide resulting from both starvation, and just the threat of it, starts to eventually decimate our world city by county, state by region, country by continent.

NTE is an cerebral journey into a vacuum. The surreality is replete with epic vistas and abysmal depths, but how can the final destination be anything other than an indescribable black hole of resignation that will eventually steal all meaning from our lips?

A part of me almost feels obligated to re-frame any conversation about NTE as an impossible warning for anyone to heed, but one I believe must be acknowledged nonetheless. The forewarning would read as an epitaph over the entrance to a tomb: “The analysis of NTE is the path to your eventual suicide.” For I would wager that anyone who bears the cognizance capable of accepting NTE, today, is seriously undermining their self-preservation in ways not yet known to us. As Montaigne figured out centuries ago, all philosophy does is prepared one for death … and we’re all reluctant philosophers now.

We have inoculated our hearts with an insidious realization, that will eventually devour everything we hold dear … even our children. How long will it be before the ethical dilemma of infanticide starts being seriously discussed, given it’s already on our minds?

We have inadvertently and figuratively stumbled into our own La Brea Tar Pit. Our prescience of the full scale of the dilemma we’re in will not serve us well if it has no passage. I wonder if it will serve us at all as the news only continues to confirm our greatest fears. Knowing both the short and longer term consequences, eventually will become an insufferable burden to carry. I suspect that for many, it already is.

We’re dealing with a discovery of such epic proportion that it simply reduces EVERYTHING in existence to nothing. It is literally impossible to overstate what we’re currently in the process of attempting to delineate.

Aside from perennial Malthusianism, our awareness that we have the potential of self-extinction has only been with us for about a half century, give or take. It’s hypothetically the default bases of the entire environmental movement. All that’s effectively changed over these last fifty years, is that we’ve watched in horror that potential become an ever increasing reality. And where starting around thirty years ago, we discovered the ultimate cause of our extinction would be climatic. Around twelve years ago, we realized the climate Leviathan would most likely rise out of the Arctic. Around 3-6 years ago, we discovered that it had already awakened. And only about 9 or 10 months ago did it become empirically probable that our extinction could transpire within our lifetimes. (And again, that’s not even talking about nuclear containment pools.)

We have witnessed over just the last three years, hypothetical Abrupt Climate Change become empirical, where the evidence is so overwhelming, it barely has anything to do with actual observable science anymore, and has everything to do with human psychology, or rather, our shared pathology in the hopium of indefinite growth and progress. And this is why the whole concept of climate change will be, very soon, completely refashioned in context to geo-engineering, if for no other reason, than it sadly now has both the logical and moral high ground compared to doing nothing. Amazing!

Though it seems as if 2,500 years of pessimism has finally come home to roost, nothing could have prepared us for this! While to some degree, the concept of NTE is nothing new for many of us — it now has its own wiki page — this however, is a false sense of familiarity. Our entire framing of this approaching cataclysm has always been couched in a degree of emotional immunity, simply because none of us ever thought we would actually live to see it, not alone, have to live through it. Of the parade of elephants in the climate change room, this one just spit in our face.

It’s as if some apparition has just passed through our soul, and has left us but a shell of our former selves. Though we are all still acting as if NTE is just another sad fact to be compartmentalized amidst the litany of dismal daily news, we are in fact dealing with a monstrous cultural disconnect, which is wholly impossible for any of us to either resist or rise above, although this is exactly what we are all desperately attempting to do.

What difference exists between a known end, and it’s ending, but time? But what is the value of such time? The momentary appreciation as to our fortune of being able to die, because we were fortuitous enough in beating the incomprehensible odds in having existed? That is a degree of philosophical reflection that eventually leads to economic destitution in this culture. Fully live with that realization for too long, and one will end up quoting Diogenes while sleeping with dogs under an overpass, or find ourselves on an unsolicited express elevator to Sannyasa.

The irony of honest living is it rarely pays the bills. A fairly high level of self-deception has always been required for Homo economicus to make ends meet. It is not by accident that the majority of contributors to NBL are the equivalent to retired landed gentry, which affords some of us the relative detachment from the daily mind numbing demands of capitalism. This seriously taints any presumed wisdom we might be projecting. In our culture, destitution is a fate almost worse than death, and often it is far more terrifying.

We obviously are all in different living arrangements with entirely different responsibilities. We all have different coping mechanism that unconsciously keep us persevering in this life, even while we seek to prove its utter meaninglessness. We are all trapped by any number of demands, limitations as well as illusions.

The financial stress of staying in the rat race is easy to rebuke, if we’ve now a large enough nest egg as a buffer. However, the crucible of NTE makes playing the game nearly impossible, and this is the reality for the vast majority of humanity.

Plant the seed of NTE in the mind of someone who is economically under the thumb of the system, and it could very easily grow to poison them. What “we” often fail to acknowledge is that over the years of our Mithridatic pre-TSD and depression, we’ve unknowingly developed a certain immunity to otherwise fatal truth.

As we continue to role-play our past imperatives in holding the notion of brutal truth above all else, I suspect that we will soon discover acceptance of NTE to be a proxy to mental illness, for it is without a doubt the epitome of inconsolable despair. It is barely a topic that can be shared among those who even accept it. At some point, something must succumb in such an incredible conflict of competing daily interests.

I’m not sure who or what we have a responsibility towards anymore. I can’t even argue if we have a responsibility to ourselves or the rest of life at this point. So I write this today as a cautionary tale for those who may still be circling the rim of the abyss that is NTE, and only occasionally looking down, while still entertaining the prospect of more hopeful alternative outcomes.

Acceptance of NTE is a massively limiting undertaking. It has zero compensation, unless the acceptance of our inevitable predation, starvation or suicide (and, my friends, that is all we’re actually enlightening) can be considered either an interim survivalist fantasy, or a means to peaceful quite resignation … for there are no other outcomes.

“All ye who enter this ethos, will most likely, eventually take their own life.” If this account can in some way be considered offensive, then in my opinion “you” most likely have no business being “here.” Especially those with youth still on their side. In fact, “you” should take what love you have, and run as far from here as you can … and learn from the error of Lot’s wife and never look back.

For this is a place, whether we’re conscious of it or not, that’s engaged in meticulously eroding the very essence of our Being, no matter how we choose to define it.

Image above: View of mountains at Mangrove Bay, Red Sea, Egypt in 2007. From (

Again, I am of the opinion that all future discussion post-acceptance of NTE, is now an inherently commiserative experience for no other reason than it’s inevitability.

The moment we truly accept NTE is not the overwhelming sensation of excruciating sadness, but the eventual release that comes after. Acceptance of NTE is nothing but surrender. A surrendering of our life force. We are now speaking of two entirely different world views. Our pre-acceptance arguments are non-transferable, they do not translate. Everything post-acceptance becomes meta-physical. It’s all mysticism from here on out, and I say this as a staunch atheist.

But old habits are hard to break, our combative intellects probably make for much of our identities after years of needless acrimony and cultural resistance. But because “our acceptance” is totally subjective, in a collective forum such as this (NBL), our collective understanding of NTE will probably be kept in a permanent embryonic state, as a constant stream of new adherents reluctantly, haphazardly and gradually come to terms at whatever pace our individual acceptance takes to run its grieving course.

Whereby, as everyone’s mind implodes at different times and at varying degrees, it will effectively keep the conversation in a nascent stage of maturation. Our shared patterned behavior will repeat again and again, as we all jump back and forth between the oscillating highs and lows, where some days we achieve a peak of lucidity, only to lose ourselves in a trough of despair as we attempt to wrestle with the unfolding magnitude of the discovery we’ve unearthed.

But I suspect a time will eventually arrive, where the totality of NTE will have finally worn through all of our emotional defenses, washed away all anticipation, utterly crushed our egos, rendered our past intellects redundant and finally deposited us unto an alluvial plan of resignation of there being no way of escaping a brutal end, once global famine is set upon us. There truly is no preparing for what is coming.

But today, we are still recoiling, we need to catalog the destruction, we still bear enough incredulity that we need support, validation, confirmation and commiseration as our past paradigm continues to play scrimmage with all of this unprecedence. It’s still enough of a novelty for disbelief to keep a foothold. Even as we attempt to wrap our minds around this, I suspect we are still far from grasping “it.”

I like to imagine that when that time finally arrives, when all hope truly fades, when even the remote prospect of rural tranquility is lost, we will have come to terms with our personal ending and see the concept of suicide, not as a stigma of cowardice, or a failure of character, but as altruism in the last ethical act left us.

Carpe diem sounds exquisite — it always has — but it’s just another illusion, especially in a world of debt. We can pretend that we are living in the moment, all the while worrying how we will continue to afford the roofs over our heads, but honestly, we know deep down that carpe diem demands wild abandon and mindfulness that there may be no tomorrow. Carpe diem does not facilitate mortgage payments.

If we are to truthfully “seize” the time we have left, from the clutches of what now appears to be a hopelessly inane future, this will be, as it has always been, impossible to achieve while being overly concerned with the future of money. This is just a ubiquitous fact that most us try to ignore the best we can, because the only alternative, is the risk of destitution. This dilemma has always been present in a culture dominated by capitalism, it’s just more apparent now as we come to terms with the fact that every narrative has ended, and regardless of our means, they no longer justify any end.

Money is still the force that gives us shelter. It is what keeps us fed and warm at night, regardless of who we are, or where we live. Therefore, for us to embrace our inner Epicurean, truly, we must first come to terms with our inevitable destitution, or rather, we must overcome our fear of destitution, if we’re to grasp whatever “meaning” there is to be had in the face of NTE, beyond just writing about it today.

In our hyper-monetized culture, this is obviously easier said than done, but this is where the perception of suicide can, once again, eventually come to be seen as an elemental gift from the universe. NTE is unprecedented in every sense. It completely alters our opinion of everything, including the end of our life. It’s highly debatable whether there has ever been “meaning.” Many would argue, there is nothing but what IS, completely indifferent to any human moral valuation.

So, what becomes of the meaning of suicide in the face of NTE? As with everything else, it clearly isn’t what it was before. It too has been altered. I believe the concept of suicide — a chosen death — will over time, prove to be one of the only fertile grounds of self-discovery still open to us. As Vaclav Havel said, “Sometimes I wonder if suicides aren’t in fact sad guardians of the meaning of life.”

Of course, I’m not speaking of how we’ve come to frame this exceptionally taboo subject in the past, but how — in light of our incredibly recent acceptance of brutal extinction — there will be a considerable semantic shift in the very meaning of the word/act.

In light of NTE, think of suicide as a double negative.

I believe that this acceptance will not only become the gateway that we must all one day pass through to fully live with the recognition of NTE, but where ultimately it will be seen as our last chance at some semblance of salvation amidst the ensuing chaos. Or rather, NTE is what frees us completely from the concept of salvation. In the words of E.M. Cioran, “The certitude that there is no salvation, is a form of salvation, in fact, it is salvation ….”

There is an emergent ethical imperative surrounding suicide in context to NTE that can’t be denied, no matter how disreputable we still considered it be. Its importance will only continue to grow as society slowly comes to terms with the incredibly limited choices within the dilemma now before us. Again, NTE ends in only one of three ways for everyone: predation, starvation or suicide.

The Absolute-ism of humanity’s collective ecological destruction has always been a bur under the saddle of moral philosophy. Those who are inclined towards biophilia sadly understand that it is simply a value/desire that is not universally shared within western culture … by any stretch of the imagination. It just isn’t something you can teach someone. It’s a “value set” that might as well be considered a talent; something inherited by chance. One either possesses it, or they don’t. After decades of being in the ideological trenches of radical environmentalism, I have finally lost all faith that the essence of biophilia is something that can either be taught or learned, and the few exceptions that exist, are just that: exceptional.

So, now here we biophiliacs are, having to finally accept what we’ve probably long suspected to be true, that the human race has so run amok through the vertical ascension of exponential growth that we’ve irreversibly destroyed our planet’s habitable biosphere. Yes, it took us 200, 5,000, 12,000, or 300,000 years to finally achieve it, but whether or not this is something “we” could have avoided, is beside the point … at least at this point. Damage long done, the latest web of life has been broken yet again.

Lamenting as to the cause is irrelevant as well, other than attempting to personally alleviate our sense of culpability in choosing to believe it was inevitable one way or the other. Attempting to deduce exactly when Homo sapiens fell from earth’s grace has the familiar stench of original sin. And given that many, if not most, here are more driven by fiery belief in morality, rather than cool apathetic indifference, the emergent ethical imperative of suicide, is going to gain ever greater currency over the coming years for anyone who has been burdened with having once cared about wilderness. In fact, it’s impossible for it not to. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “It is always consoling to think of suicide: in that way one gets through many a bad night.”

It might sound strange — how could it not — but I believe the question of what suicide becomes, is what circuitously guides us through the cacophony of dead and dying dreams and leads us to whatever “magic” is left to be found in this disintegrating world. The cultural emancipation that comes from overcoming our fear of death, in accepting that we will eventually choose our death, is what ultimately frees us from all attachment, particularly, the fear of destitution and the tyranny of what we consider NOW constitutes our immediate needs.

We must remember that every single vested interest we possess was formed prior to acceptance of NTE. The entirety of our physical existence exists in opposition of the acceptance we’ve now initiated … and it is far from its finality.

In knowing that whatever may come, that it simply doesn’t matter, is the freedom that will allow us to truly leave everything behind, which is what we all must eventually do. Frankly, I don’t believe it’s actually possible to “let go” without having done this.

There is a significant difference between knowing that tomorrow could be our last, and living in full acceptance that if tomorrow is indeed our end, that we know we are ready to go. That knowing is what will allow us to live without fear and truly be present in whatever amount of time we do have left, whether it be a few weeks or a few decades. Once the undulating emotional trauma of NTE runs its acidic course, we begin to glimpse that such forced perverse acceptance, remarkably has within it, the capacity to become the most profound numinous/existential experience the human race has ever “produced.”

What makes something tragic? Isn’t the whole notion of tragedy an anthropocentric cultural construct?

Could the past five extinction events be considered a tragedy? Is the cycle of life a tragedy?

What separates expected loss from unexpected loss, other than what we’ve been conditioned to expect?

How do we reconcile our sense of the tragic loss of life, resulting from human activity, with the fact that the vast majority of life on earth has already succumbed to extinction, and where if it hadn’t, we most likely wouldn’t exist?

Are other life forms blameworthy for having driven their competitors into extinction, or do we somehow morally hold our selves apart/above, in believing “we” had a choice, due to our higher cognitive faculty?

Is NTE only a tragedy, because we’re aware of our culpability?

And exactly, who is “we”? What evidence is there of our species possessing the necessary collective wisdom capable of overcoming our collective destruction of the natural world? Is there any evidence that our species possesses collective wisdom at all?

Or more importantly, when has the ruling elite ever acted altruistically, since the entire history of civilization has always been controlled by a ruling class? Whatever exceptions may have existed for a brief time, there’s an obvious reason they are statistically irrelevant.

Therefore, is NTE only a tragedy, because “we” presume it could have been prevented? This is a crucial question in regard to our acceptance of NTE, for if it couldn’t have been prevented, can it still be considered tragic? Because how much does our sense/belief that it could have somehow been averted, still affect our sense of culpability in dictating our moral imperatives? And if we do believe it could have been prevented, how is this anything other than just a fantastic article of faith in Utopianism? And how could such a utopian society been effective without becoming an oppressive totalitarian State?

I ask these questions having spent decades foolishly projecting my ecological values unto an utterly indifferent citizenry. It is all too easy for us to isolate ourselves in minority enclaves and overlook that the vast majority of our species has, nor will they ever, possess the macro ecological values capable of overriding our biological imperative.

In my opinion, the degree we continue to measure NTE in preventable-tragic terms, will mostly likely determine our sense of moral imperative vs. hedonic resignation.

As radicals, at what point does our sense of culpability as to the crimes of empire just become a shell game because our past identity/vested interests can’t let go of what we know is completely lost, or that regardless of our morality, it couldn’t have been prevented?

But hold on, what of our personal responsibility to the natural world, whose destruction we’ve all profited from? What right do any of us first-worlders have in being able to seek enjoyment, in light of an extinction event we’ve all done more than our share in creating? What of all the life under our collective industrial thumb, still struggling to exist? What right do we thieves have to go quietly into that good night? Can’t the remnants of our past imperatives still find more proactive forms of dissent, civil disobedience and rebellion even in acceptance of NTE? Wouldn’t the most ethical choice be to dedicate our lives in helping ease the suffering of the less fortunate? As moral agents, are we not obligated to swim upstream to the bitter end, regardless? Isn’t “secular morality” solely based on the righteousness of the act itself, despite its outcome?

Are the answers to these questions obvious to anyone who considers themselves to be driven by a moral imperative that is rooted in a sense of culpability? It has been the driving force in my life, for my entire adult life. I have by no means painlessly come to the acceptance I can no longer deny.

The driving wedge of course is NTE, which completely flips the script as to the “meaning” of everything, including what is and isn’t an ethical act. For how ethical is it, for us privileged few to actually continue to live, full well knowing that it is our relatively obese existences that are the ultimate causality of the degradation of the natural world? As ecologically minded moral agents, what right do we have to continue to consume … anything, in full acknowledgment that we’ve already consumed far too much? In a world of permanent scarcity, what isn’t stolen from someone who has been victimized by our empire? How much more energy will all of us consume from here on out, in spite of how we live? How much basic material goods will we continue to plunder while we breath, regardless of the morality of our behavior?

From a purely logical point of view, in a reality of gross ecological overshoot, isn’t altruistic suicide actually the most ethical act any of us first-worlders can now affect, or rather, impart? If living by example is our moral goal, couldn’t it be argued that whatever ends our continued consumption of the natural world, is actually the highest ethical objective?

Clearly, there is no one way of answering any of these questions. Again, even before the advent of NTE, resolution as to “meaning” itself was philosophically unquantifiable. What is or isn’t considered anthropocentric truth has been literally debated for thousands of years. Hume’s “is, ought” conundrum has never been resolved, nor will it ever be, and this was true even when humanity at least had the illusion of “progress.” What physical act, or belief system regardless of its morality, isn’t hopelessly anthropocentric?

As breeding, consuming, polluting animals on a planet choking to death from our affluence, wouldn’t it be considered the highest display of human consciousness, to willfully end our self-destructive lives as a testament to the highest level of anthropocentric conscientiousness?

At least for me, there is only one question we need to ask ourselves in attempting to reconcile our past-present-future perspectives: In a post-acceptance reality of NTE, what doesn’t become relative?

For me, nothing … anymore. NTE is an astonishing equalizer. Everything, all of life in existence, just became relative to everything else, including all the life that has already passed into extinction. Our presumed disconnect between life today, and the 98% of life that no longer exists, has ended.

Those who still continue to hold onto their past sense/construct/modality/illusion of morality, again, probably have no business contemplating NTE. All of our past ethical dilemmas were involuntarily reconciled the moment we accepted it, which is why “our acceptance” of such an utterly demoralizing event, is/was the unconscious fulcrum point which leads to the ethical downfall of every thought here, or thereafter.

Once we begin to frame the meaning of NTE in context to our personal life choices, it instantly stops being an abstract concept, which again, is all it’s been up to this point, and we’re forced to seriously confront the single greatest dilemma in the history of humanity, whereby face up to the reality that we simply haven’t much longer to live.
How do we draw the ultimate conclusion of our life, while we’re still filled with vitality? When we all still have so much life to live and share, how do we come to terms with the unprecedented reality that we will most likely soon be forced to take our life, for the sole reason of avoiding needless suffering?

Obviously, it is only natural that we avoid this dreadful conclusion for as long as we possibly can, which is what most of us are probably going to do, especially those who haven’t the freedom to act otherwise. We will all most likely play the waiting game, especially young parents, and continue on with our lives pretty much as we have up to this point, for as long as we can, and decide how we’ll roll with the punches as they come.

When in doubt, play it safe. Slow and steady wins the race. No point in making any brash decisions, while there’s still so much room for doubt. Right?

BUT, we can only continue to skirt around the issue of what NTE actually means to us personally for so long. I would suppose that for almost everyone here, our lives are basically still the same as they were prior to this dire sublimation. Little has probably physically changed as a result, yet, we all know that this will only be true for so long.

The remainder of this essay is a little more opinionated. It is written for those of us who have decided to be brash in our acceptance that we simply haven’t much time left to experience however much time remains. I have finally left my past moral imperatives to wither in the solar winds, and have now come down on the side of ethical hedonism as being the only way “I” can truly be present with NTE.

There is no right or wrong way of attempting to live through what simply can’t be. It is impossible for our individual sense of morality, to not be rife with false analogy in context to the incomparable unprecedence now upon us. We will all be victims of either deliberate or unintended consequence, some sooner, others slightly later, but there is no getting out of harm’s way. There’s no there, there.

Again, for those who consider there “might” still be a chance to turn this bloody ship around, then it logically makes no sense for those to even be considering NTE, for not only is it a false pretense, but its utterly self-defeating. Personally, I would rather the next cadre of activist know nothing of NTE, where they battled against themselves to the bitter end, completely blind of the insurmountable odds. What a far more preferable and enviable way to be alive.

But those of us who have spent far too much time down the rabbit hole, where are we in practical terms as to “now what?” If you’re either physically infirmed, too old to desire making any drastic changes, or you’ve either young children or elderly dependents in your care, or for that matter, you’re more than content wherever you’re at right now, then there really isn’t much left to be said, other than sit back or stand up, and watch the whole shithouse go up in flames in whatever manner you choose.

But I am none of the above, I have no dependents. I’ve seen collapse coming for a long time, and I have centered my life around it. I have almost no responsibilities I can’t walk away from. Some might consider me fortunate, but it’s been quite intentional and it’s definitely come at a high price. So how I or any of us come to frame Ragnarok, it’s going to be subjectively unique to our circumstances. But I suspect my circumstances are also shared by many here as well.

So, all things considered, I would suggest we start making plans to sell off everything we have while we still can, and roam this world and experience the natural wonder it still possesses, while our existing civility and privilege still affords us this last opportunity.

The most essential aspect behind this most unreal understanding, is for it to be done in full acceptance that when either time, money, or our Will simply runs out, we’ll have acceded we’ve reached the end of our personal journey, and it will be time to exercise the only free will we’ve probably ever had, in choosing whatever exit strategy we’re most comfortable with. A chosen death is a uniquely vague timeline for each of us, but one with a very common end.

In other words, start contemplating your eventual suicide today, so when the time finally does come, we’ll be able to fearlessly embrace the moment with open arms, and just maybe, before that day arrives, we will be able to live with a degree of ontological presence, literally never experienced across the entire arc of humanity.

For if we don’t, very soon, we will wish we had.

Here is why I think this is true.

My long definition of NTE is both descriptive yet hopelessly indistinct: It will eventually arise from a sequence of catastrophic global civic failure stemming from permanent food scarcity, as a consequence of ever-increasing extreme weather events, due to both the collapse and predictability of the Northern Hemispheric jet stream, as the temperature and pressure gradients continue to weaken in the Arctic. And lest we forget, NTE will be greatly aided and preceded by humanity’s murderous forte. It can also effectively be summed up in two words: Permanent drought! And again, I’m intentionally avoiding the subject of containment pools, which easily merits its own essay.

At least for me, the meaning of life is completely determined by the quality of life, which is why I’ve always considered life imprisonment to be far worse than a death sentence. I have always known that if the quality of my life was degraded to a point that it lost all meaning, then life would no longer be worth living.

Enter NTE. Ergo, enter the almost impenetrable awareness that it’s only a question of time, before each of us consider life to no longer be worth living. Aside from that being nearly an impossible acceptance to attempt to live with, it has become sine qua non from which every thought I now have must pass through. Therefore, all the remaining meaning in my life only has a limited amount of time between now, and some indeterminate point in the very near future for me to consider life worth living. This novel reality is the actual crux of this entire essay.

As cognitive filters go, NTE doesn’t let too much through. In fact, only one idea as how best to spend my remaining time has made it pass this mind-boggling juggernaut: Peacefully and quietly leave this world as a completely carefree drug-addled impoverished vagabond, who eventually takes a lovely one-way walk into the woods.

I have already accepted that today is as good as life on earth will ever be, it’s all downhill from here, the extinction event that is already terribly advanced can’t be stalled, so the clock as to my remaining time is already ticking along with all the rest of life.

And yes, that mortal coil started unraveling at my conception, and this is why age, will most likely be the greatest factor in determining the choices we make from here on out. If we feel we’ve plenty of life still in us, we’ll most likely feel inclined to stuff as many new experiences in the time we have left, compared to those who are well pass their prime, and naturally see ease and comfort as their best available option.

I am someone who would much rather die from a rattlesnake bite, after days of hallucinating on mushrooms in the desert, than sit behind my computer and continue to alphabetize the apocalypse until the power goes out, as I’ve done for far, far too long already.

All that is left is for me to discover the courage to truly live with this morbid conviction, but to be completely honestly, I haven’t mustered the nerve yet. My behavior is still one of passive deference, for reasons still unknown to me, but most likely it’s just a jumble of distraction, guilt, fear, melancholy and a little laziness thrown in for safe measure.

I’m still telling myself that I need two more years of trending data sets to feel confident NTE will transpire much sooner than any of us ever imagined. Logically, I have accepted it, but I have yet to emotionally resolve my manifold hypocrisy.

Finding the courage to willingly embrace our inevitable destitution unto death is the only purpose of accepting NTE in my opinion. If this is not our objective, then I can see very little reason for even taking it into consideration. Why initiate such a ruinous acceptance into our existing lives, if we’re not going to allow our past lives to actually be ruined?

I am not old enough to die of natural causes before global famine descends across the globe, given it is probably only a few years away at this point anyhow. Whether or not most of us die as a direct result of famine or genocide is a question that simply no longer interests me. At this stage of the game, it’s all equally horrific. So what’s the point in continuing to waste our precious time even thinking about the millennial pernicious power plays of hairless apes?

For not unlike our current gross inequality, as long as capitalism rues the day, and I fear it wretchedly will until the very end, food stuff will flow in only one direction, towards those who can afford it. Those who can’t, will either quietly starve, riot or be killed.

Governments will have only two options in addressing this, either disintegrate and schism into temporary competing factions, or become brutal oppressive genocidal police states of in-groups and out-groups, thus postponing complete civic collapse by a number of years, through vicious demand destruction.

Governments with large securities apparatuses will most likely become police states, while governments without advanced security forces will most likely collapse. Endless war between competing police states will be the only perceived surrogate for hope in a world of permanent famine. The global citizenry will willfully welcome tyranny, much in the same way we always have. And as many of us have already accredited, “what’s past is prologue” … it’s just going to be unbelievably atrocious for the world’s poor in the beginning, again, much as it is already.

We live in a hyper-interdependent global market place, completely irrespective of its sustainability. State currency valuation and exchange through central banking is the sum total of what our speculative civilization now reflexively strives to protect. Whatever means keeps liquidity in the markets and power in the State, will be kept in play for as long as humanly possible.

Entire nations will be sacrificed upon the altar of maintaining capital flow and investment, it’s just a question of trickling economies of scale on the way down. We inhabit an utterly amoral economic system that will sacrifice all of life to sustain itself. Capitalism will double down until it, or we, cease to be. As long as there is enough energy to allow capitalists to cannibalize all perceived assets in an indebted world, then even famine on a global scale will just be a game of attrition controlled by the world’s ruling elite, in a continuous charade of paying a well-armed Peter to murder an ever-starving Paul.

It dawned on me a few years back that after over a decade of intensely attempting to collectively network with others through a myriad of preparedness schemes that I had just lost the will to survive in the collapsing world I was proselytizing. This is quite different from no longer wanting to live, for I very much love life, and have no desire to needlessly cut it short. I have just always seen living and surviving as to two separate entities. I am also at an age where I feel I’ve already taken more than my share.

I have decided after decades of feral study, without any sense of certainty, and based only on my opinion as to what is and isn’t probable, that when the Arctic sea ice is completely gone during the summer, when the earth’s Holocene epoch completely loses one of its primary thermal regulators, we are probably only a few years at best, before the ruling classes of the world realize global agriculture is untenable, and at that point, the lack of alternatives will be rather self-evident. And I simply have no desire to live through that deleterious fallout, nor do I even feel I have a right to.

What an endless perverse decay of ideas we now embark, where NTE can be seen as a bizarre new lease on life for those who are in a position to access it.

I can’t yet claim I’ve achieved this, for I’m still terribly conflicted and immersed in a lifetime of despondent culpability, but I can see an entirely new transgressive identity rising out of the ashes of this phenomenal and ominous acceptance.

Only a few years ago, I would be the first to lead the charge in attacking the very perspective I now possess. But necessity dictates my moral imperative, and it requires at least some belief of a viable future for the remaining life on earth. But I am now without this belief, and it seems my long personal sense of insignificance, has finally caught up to my actions. I was weary long before there was no point.

So, I am not one for skulking through what remains of this life, only to carefully arrive at extinction. I am going out on my terms, no one else’s. But until that day comes, I’m going to embrace this endless redefining of life for as long as I desire, as I hysterically fall out of this world. If NTE is a tsunami, I’m sure in the hell not going to wait for it to arrive, I’m going to swim out to it across the desert night sky.

Image above: An image of Mars taken by Opportunity on October 7, 2004, shows a bizarre, lumpy rock informally named Wopmay on the lower slopes of Endurance Crater. From (

• Daniel A. Drumright is a lifelong radical environmentalist who has followed climate science for the last 24 years, and has been a feral “collapse theorist” for the last 12 years.