The End of Growth

Either it ends, or we do
Friday, June 22, 2018, 6:57 PM

More and more, I hear that folks are feeling frustrated and betrayed, combined with a sense of loss and despair. I feel this way, too.

As I've written recently, I observe this is due more than anything else to a widespread demoralization society is suffering from. 

Certainly the statistics reflect this. Suicides in the US are up 30% since the turn of the millennium, obesity is at epidemic proportions, mortality rates are rising especially among white working-class Americans, and our national opioid addiction is now the “epidemic of epidemics.”

To these we can also add falling birthrates and the truly startling shift towards a younger age for the onset of depression; declining from age 30 now to age…14(!) 

When an organism gives up on self-care, breeding, or its will to live, it's suffering from a tremendous amount of strain that is cutting it off from its own life force.  A dispirited lion wasting away in a cage has a lot in common with the average American today.

At a deep level, what ails us is not a host of unrelated, intractable problems, but the fact that our model of pursuing eternal economic growth simply isn't working anymore. It doesn’t work for the planet’s increasingly strained ecosystems, nor does it work for the bottom 99% of folks in society (i.e., the non-elites).

The various health epidemics noted above are merely symptoms of a larger acute spiritual crisis.

But viewed at a certain angle, this may be a good sign.

Why? Because in order to shift from one model to another, the old one first has to become unbearable.

And, as the data cited earlier is making increasingly clear, our addiction to growth is killing us and the ecosystems we depend on.

Look, if you're a well-nourished human being -- physically, emotionally and spiritually -- then you have a heartfelt appreciation for the Earth.  You can clearly see that it's achingly beautiful, perfect, and abundant.  It is your home, your mother, the source of all your sustenance, and the one and only vessel for your children and grandchildren (born or as yet unborn) --  stretching as far into the future as you can imagine.

I'm completely in love with this world and with being alive in it. I love the beauty of Nature and all of its life forms, each beautiful and complete in its own way, just like this dragonfly:

dragonfly photo

Nature and our connection to it is about creation, flux, and regeneration -- it's deeply spiritual.  To live in a world solely of materialism, devoid of deeper meaning and connection, is be the caged lion wasting away.

The loss of life on this planet, the diminishment of once complex ecosystems into barren, simplistic shadows of their former selves, is a source of very real and profound sadness.  It is my belief that the existential dread many of us feel is our registering this loss of life -- consciously or not -- as Nature retracts her abundance.

Who hear still hears crickets at night? With the unfolding insect apocalypse, fewer and fewer can make that claim.

The point of all this is that the one and only way out of this box in which we find ourselves is by adopting a better model for living. And to do that, we first need to re-write the narrative that guides us. 

If we do this, anything is possible. We can create a future of abundance and prosperity.

But if we don’t, the end will certianly be bitter and full of regret.

Narrative #1: Growth is Always Good, More Growth Is Always Better

Literally every time you read anything about economic growth it's always, unerringly, framed in positive terms.  This serves to reinforce the idea of growth being “good.”  It’s virtually never questioned or famed differently.

Here’s an example:

China’s gross domestic product grew 6.9 per cent last year, Premier Li Keqiang told a regional meeting in Cambodia last week. “The overall situation was better than expected,” he said.

Mr Li’s estimate is higher than the 6.7 per cent growth reported for 2016 but the real recovery has been sharper. Corporate results are rosy, commodity imports are hitting new records and producer prices have shifted back to steady gains, signifying better industrial health.

So why will Thursday’s 2017 GDP figures not reflect the good news?

(Source – FT)

China’s economic growth was described as “better (than expected)” and in terms of “recovery” and “rosy” and “good news.”  It doesn’t matter which news sources you read, you always find growth framed as "good", "rosy" and desirable.

But is it truly any of those things?

Using the 'Rule of 72' we can divide the reported 6.9% growth into 72 and discover that at that rate of growth, China’s economy will fully double in just 10.4 years.

It’s already the largest economy in the world in terms of oil imports, raw material usage, concrete poured, and food consumed.  But in just 10.4 years it’s going to be twice all of those things. 

And then what? Well, another doubling from there of course, all of it rosy, desirable and good. But how many more forests, fisheries, aquifers and fossil fuels will such doublings consume?

Of course, when you read about an economic slowdown you'll see framing words like “concern” “weakening” and “weighing down.”  This subtle and continuous conditioning has most people firmly committed to the belief that economic growth is something we always want more of.

This is psychological programming, pure and simple. It's so pervasive that it’s thoroughly accepted without question or examination.

The problem, of course, comes in when that unquestioned narrative of growth begins to foul its own nest. When people’s inner guidance systems begin to crash into each other: one committed to the idea of endless growth, the other observing the damage it does.  Self-preservation runs smack into self-harm. 

Perhaps this explains the mass appeal of such movies as Avengers: Infinity War where the evil Thanos is an eight-foot-tall madman seeking to restore balance to a universe of overgrown worlds by killing half the living beings in it. The entire plot plays on these subconscious belief systems I’m describing. I do wonder if that's, in part, why the movie has been a hugely successful box office smash.

Narrative #2: Growth Is Now The Enemy

When I was a child, our family measured the growth of me and my siblings on a door frame in pencil.  I so looked forward to being taller at each new measurement. 

But I’m certainly glad I stopped growing by age 18. Otherwise I’d have grown over 9 feet tall, likely dying from a heart attack by age 26. 

There’s nothing wrong with growth, in and of itself. But its context matters critically.

Endless growth that exceeds biological parameters?  Well, that’s just bad -- whether we're talking about unchecked height, deer populations, or cancer cells. 

There was nothing wrong at all with we humans expanding into our biosphere as it could support our population, as does any and every organism in existence.  The problem was in failing to self-regulate our consumption to a sustainable level. 

Heck, it’s worse than that because we didn’t just fail to regulate ourselves; we just ignored the math. 

Here are some simple math problems we could have easily seen coming, but chose not to:

Simple math says more people trying to eat dwindling fossil fuels is a predicament.  Who’s actually doing anything serious about that on the world stage right now?

Even easier math says that our pension and entitlement promises to ourselves cannot ever be met. What’s realistically being done about any of that?  Nothing as far as I can tell.

What’s the plan for replacing 100% of the concrete ever poured in the world?  Where’s the energy for that going to come from? 

Humans have never transitioned from a more- to a less-concentrated energy system before. And at current rates it will take 400 more years to get there.  Where will the energy for that transition come from?

The above is just a very partial list of bad math functions we are facing along with some very obvious questions.  The simplest way to resolve them all is to finally admit to ourselves that more growth is not the solution here, it’s actually the problem:

Which brings us back around to the idea of demoralization which is both running rampant and gaining ground.  It’s what happens when your cognitive map no longer functions:

Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment.

The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction.

Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.


Did you get that?  Demoralization is actually a realistic response under certain conditions. 

Those conditions are manifesting themselves now, which means that the waves of dispiriting statistics we are seeing are not 'bad'; they are telling us something important.  People are right to be deeply disturbed by the ways in which the main narrative of their culture no longer maps to reality.  Worse, the endless growth narrative is killing life on this planet and therefore harming each of us in ways both overt and subtle.  More and more people are detecting that, and that’s a good thing, because that’s the necessary first step in crafting a new narrative and adopting a different model that hopefully serves us better.

We often say here at Peak Prosperity that if you're feeling anxiety (or demoralization), it means that there’s a gap between what you know and what you're doing.  Since you can’t unlearn something, your best course of action is to change your behavior.

Take action to align what you know with what you do.

I totally get the frustration, anger and bitterness on display in politics all across the West right now, but these are almost universally misdirected at the wrong targets.  Whether by intent or accident, this is usually the case and heavily supported by a media system that actually promotes divisiveness over unity, and isolation over connection.

The deeper truth is that we're all experiencing painful shocks, and are therefore reacting like rats in a cage, fighting each other because we cannot properly detect the true source of our pain.

So, what to do?

Yes, the math just doesn’t work out. Yes, there’s no uber strategy in play of which you aren’t aware. Sadly, what you see is what you get. The one and only plan the central panners have is to redouble their efforts to drive more growth. And to do that by creating more and more artificial money to drive up stock and bond prices.

The only plan of any government is to grow its economy and secure more power for itself.

This means that it is up to you, to me -- to us collectively -- to work out the new narrative, or at least support it as it is painfully birthed.  We have to become the change we wish to see.  We live in the era where The End of Growth is taking place.  It’s a critical and important time to be alive and we each have a vital role to play.

For certain, there are many steps you can and indeed should be taking to build your resilience to prepare for a very uncertain future.  These are well outlined in our book Prosper! and encompass the 8 Forms of Capital (Financial, Social, Material, Cultural, Time, Knowledge, Living and Emotional) all of which you should each be working to develop more of at this moment.

But in Part 2: How To Engage Others I share the skills I've developed over the past decade in effectively communicating this tricky information, which many 'regular folks' aren't eager to hear. Done correctly, you can engage new minds, recruit their support, and contribute to shifting society to a new, better narrative.

Plus, these techniques and best practices have real practical value. Whether you're trying to inform someone about these emotionally-challenging predicaments we face, or influencing your workmates to undertake an important project you have in mind, or asking for your spouse’s support during a major life/career shift, the principles are the same.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

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Rodster's picture
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Epic Summary Of Our Plight

Unfortunately, as the good book states, he who lives by the sword shall, die by the sword. The Central Planners, The Banksters, The Elite, TPTB or The Power Structure will continue to do things the way they have in the past until it's too late. They won't stop until the Fat Lady Sings or in other words, when Mother Nature or Mother Earth beans us over the head with a giant 2x4, by then it will be too late.

There's way too much hubris, arrogance, greed, lust and power in the above mentioned group for them to see we are heading towards a Wile E. Coyote moment or part two of Easter Island. And it could very well be that they do know that if business as usual stops there will be massive pain and a reduction in population.

Hank Paulson knew what would happen if the TBTF Banks were not bailed out. He said it would have resulted in BAU coming to a complete stop, the world economy coming to a grinding halt and Martial Law in the US and chaos around the world. That isn't hyperbole, just look at what happened when Greece nearly defaulted and later threatened to default on it's EU loans. The world markets reacted nervously because it meant a possible daisy chain/dominos effect that could not be stopped.

I have changed my ways once I realized that change starts with yourself. I have gotten away from consumerism and only replace something when it can't be fixed. I guess that also comes with age and some wisdom that you aren't immortal and neither are the creatures you share this planet with. Humans need to view ourselves as guests of this planet and should treat it as such.

Unfortunately, we have partied and trashed the place like Johnny Manziel at a weekend LA Mansion rental. wink

LesPhelps's picture
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Opioid Addiction Epidemic

There were roughly 320 million people in the United States, in 2015.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medecine, in 2015, 20.5 million (6.4%) suffered from substance use disorder.  2 million (0.6%) were addicted to prescription pain killers and 591 thousand (0.2%) were addicted to heroin.

In 2016, according to the CDC, there were 37.8 million (15.5%) tobacco smokers in the US.  Being an ex-smoker, I'm going to argue that virtually 100% of tobacco smokers are addicted.

in 2015 according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohoism, 15.7 million (4.9%) people had alcohol use disorder.

As far as deaths go (2.7 million in 2015), 480 thousand (17.8%) die from tobacco use, 98 thousand (3.6%) die from alcohol related causes, including drunk driving,  20 thousand (0.7%) die from prescription pain killer overdose, 13 thousand (0.5%) die from heroin overdose.

Meanwhile legislation and the medical profession are making prescription pain medication difficult for legitimate pain sufferers to acquire.  There are many more people suffering from chronic and single event significant pain than people addicted to prescription pain killers.

I have heard nothing about efforts to make tobacco or alcohol unavailable to the public.  

Alcohol and tobacco are more or less recreational.  Prescription pain medication is not recreational for chronic pain sufferers, or for that matter for people with kidney stones or people who suffer a significant injury.

My daughter has had two children and two episodes of kidney stones.  She tells me that kidney stones are more painful than child birth.  What are you going to do, when you get kidney stones and the doctor tells you to take two asprin?



Rector's picture
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Resources and the Great Die Off

The tendency towards economic growth is a result of the biology of organisms.  With a 2.1 or greater human birth rate, you need a bigger economy next year than this year.  If you want your children's life to more more prosperous than yours, you need a future economy bigger still.  Biology drives this process.  Additionally, there is no way to force a society into a stable population distribution.  I cannot even succeed in doing this with my captive rabbit colony in the back 40!  With freedom to live - you either get Egypt or Japan depending on the culture.  If "we" maintain our population evenly - "they" will not and soon "they" will be in charge by demographic conquest.  This is how most of the world sees things and it's impossible to correct.

I think the "solution" to this problem will be in the age-old form of resource warfare.  A few societies will find a way to maintain their preferred pace of growth and resource consumption by warfare at the expense of all others.

Whether it is by the US, China, or someone else - it is entirely possible that large swaths of humanity will be starved, bombed, imprisoned, and enslaved into the service of the others.  There is no more efficient way to eliminate competitors for resources than by killing them.  This will be the last, desperate grasp of humanity to maintain both prosperity and growth.  Once the population is sufficiently reduced in number and living standard - things in the winner's world will proceed apace until the next crisis. . .unless we destroy the planet in the process.

Rest assured there will be a correction - it's an inevitable function of mathematics.  In the meantime - we must understand why we are alive in the first place.  Why are we here?


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It's how we're wired

After finally getting around to reading Jim Kunstler's The Long Emergency, he referenced  The author there describes how there is no survival value in being ecologically balanced.  Your less conscientious neighoring tribe will simply come and overwhelm you after outgrowing the carrying capacity of their area.  If there is no place else to go, the "nation" breaks up into sub-groups that fight it out until the weaker are "dispersed".  This continues until the remaining pouluation can be supported by the environmemt and the process repeats.

It is how we are wired and we are seeing play out in realtime, globally and nationally.  The elites are setting things up while the weaker are carrying on as if life will go on, as it has in recent intergenerational memory.


TechGuy's picture
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Re:Opioid Addiction Epidemic

1. I see this as a gov't created problem. The Opioid crisis really took off in 2013 when Obamacare started. I think a lot of people that needed surgery or other expensive medical procedures could no longer afford to get it done due to huge increase in deductibles. So they treat there pain with drugs instead.

2. Remember those Pictures of US troops guarding afghan poppy fields? which is the Primary source for Opioids?

3. How much as the deep recession lead to increase drug abuse. People that are depressed do have a tendency to self-medicate themselves using recreational drugs. The US also has an Antidepressant drug crisis.  About 15% of all americans take Antidepressants. 

"What are you going to do, when you get kidney stones and the doctor tells you to take two asprin?"

Not a doctor, but using a blood thinner like aspirin with kidney stones is probably a bad idea (ie could lead to internal bleeding)

"Meanwhile legislation and the medical profession are making prescription pain medication difficult for legitimate pain sufferers to acquire. "

Yup. A lot of doctors will no longer issue pain killers out of fear of losing their license, getting arrested or getting sued. Also a lot of Heath insurers are dropping coverage for pain killers. People with long term\cronic pain cannot get prescriptions are turning to Heroin. At least if the patient visits a doctor there is a chance they can help the patient avoid addition or at least properly dose them to reduce\delay addicition


It seems to me that most every social behavior issues are caused by gov't, either directly or indirectly. The gov't tries to manage everything and fails miserably. When govt' policy causes a crisis, it introduces new policies that only make it worse, or create new problems. Its like issuing a doctor prescribing barbiturates and then prescribing Antidepressants to treat the symptums cause by the barbiturates. 

Rodster's picture
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I Passed A Kidney Stone

It was somewhat painful without going into graphic detail but I was expecting much worse when I found out I did pass a kidney stone. As my doctor told me after the episode, 99% of all kidney stones can be avoided if you drink lots of water. For most adults that means 3-4 qts per day, 1.5 gallons if you work outside in hot humid conditions. I think the worst part of kidney stones when I had no idea that's what I had was a pain in my kidney area that was so intense it felt like it was on fire, caused me to become light headed with nausea. Passing the kidney stone wasn't nearly as bad as i've read or heard from others who've had it. My doctor said he thinks I have a high pain threshold, don't know about that.

But best advice is to drink plenty of water throughout the day and chances are you'll never have to deal with it, ever.

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Resource Wars to Limit the Growth (of Others)

Darn Rector!  I think your post above hits this right out of the park.

As you very clearly and articulately point out above, I truly cannot imagine that population reduction will be accomplished by anything but killing the other human beings who compete for the same resources.  

This is grim.  But it strikes me as plausible.   What shape might the sh*itstorm take?

If we can wrap our imaginations around this process, we are more likely to recognize it when it happens in front of our eyes and be able to respond well.  So, lets be grim. And imaginative.  (This is similar to the philosophy of why medical workers practice resuscitation scenarios. It is not "negativity," but responding skillfully to bad situaions.)

In a world where battles for resources rage, the most ruthless have the first mover advantage while the more civilized and  compassionate stand by stunned and in denial, not believing that it could possibly happen.  As the intelligent compassionate people face the reality that it IS happening, they become able to respond.  (This is the movement of GREEN into YELLOW thinking.)

Expanding this theme:

1.  Resources themselves are destroyed in warfare.  The intended victors will want to preserve forests, rivers and farmland.  No nuclear bombs.  Starvation, pandemics, EMPs, and person-on-person small arms fighting would fit the bill.  A naval blockade (plus and EMP) that prevents a nation from getting replacement parts could bring it to starvation -- followed by a dash of influenza pandemic....

2.  Shared resources like the ocean and Earth's attmosphere will need to be preserved.

3.  Strategies of deception will play a role.  If a very intelligent and ruthless Group A can get Groups B and C to destroy each other then Group A emerges as the victor.  Brains versus brawn warfare.  Expect false flags, tricks, infiltration of CCCs, hacking of communications, etc.  Control of the "authoratative and reputable" media will enable public consensus management needed to direct B and C into their mutual destruction.

4.  Combining the ideas of item 1 and 3, how about mixing hundreds of thousands of two utterly incompatible populations (Group B and Group C) in densely packed cities, then fanning the flames of enmity between the already incompatible groups to set them to killing each others with small arms and hand to hand combat.  How about influencing the migration policies of other nations to mix incompatible social groups in their cities, setting them up for internal social warfare.  Secretly distribute small arms into the no-go immigrant ghetto sections of European cities.  Stage false-flags when needed to get the fight going.

5.  Send in remotely-tasked, autonomous killer drones.  Parachute them in.  Let them wander through the countyside thinning the population.  UAVs patrol from the skies.  

6.  In a second stage, control the surviving "others" in a low-class, slave-like caste system to let the victors hoard the resources.  A totalitarian control structure would be essential.  Microchips, tracking devices and ubiquitous surveilence.  A computer data center to organize it. 

OK, that's really grim.  But hey, I read lots of Sci-fi.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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Ketorolac, a nsaid.

Rodster's picture
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I Tend To Agree With TimDOntheWeb

We are wired for survival of the fittest or natural selection. What we don't have, we'll take from someone who's weaker. It's how Nations have dealt with each other for centuries, It's how the USSA is currently dealing with every Nation on the planet.

We are also wired to be selfish and in most cases think for ourselves or those closest to us with little regard for the welfare of others. We tend to think Us, Family, Friends first, then others. It's tough to break that cycle when we are wired that way.

Can we change? I donnnnn't know about that. Just glancing over at Zerohedge who posted Chris' article the takeaway from the comments is predictable, such as Chris is a charlatan, he was saying this in 2008, we're still here.

EXCEPT, they fail to connect to the dots and do the math, that yes the ecosystem and biosphere is imploding but they choose to ignore it. Why? Because if they admit that Houston, we do indeed have a problem, then it causes them to take action.

What kind of action? Investments, making lots of money, buying a McMansion, buying that $100K+ Mercedes, BMW or Maserti now take a lesser role because they begin to realize that it's this type of materialism that Chris is talking about. The same materialism that has destabilized our biosphere and ecosystems around the world. It's why China builds ghost cities and tears them down when there are no buyers, just to keep business as usual moving forward.

These same groups think and operate as if we don't live on a finite planet. Maybe they should all play Age of Empires a PC game made by Microsoft. You are basically creating a civilization and continue to expand and take away from others as you watch resources deplete because you expanded to much to keep your civilization going and then you watch the decline as resources become harder to attain to the point that it all eventually stops because there are no more resources.

But that's exactly how we're wired to think for ourselves and to hell with the planet.

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The correct equation for doubling is (ln2*100)/yearly growth rate = 69.3/growth.  For example, greater Seattle has an annual growth rate of 2.5% which yields a doubling time of  27.7 years (69.3/2.5 ).  For those who have bee through Seattle recently or tried to take the ferry during peak season can understend the problem.

The late Dr Bartlett has an excellent vido on growth on Youtube.

richcabot's picture
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Kidney Stones

I've had them twice and both times they administered an IV pain killer in an ER setting.  The bill for the most recent event was $5,000.  Prescription opiods would have been a much more economical (though less profitable for them) solution.

Rodster's picture
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Treatment For Kidney Stones

If you are a guy, some doctors will prescribe FloMax or it’s generic equivelent Tamsulosin and tell you to drink insane amounts of water to push open the urinary tract where the kidney stone will exist. It was explained to me this typically works unless the stone is too big, then it’s more difficult. Needless to say it’s not pleasant.

TechGuy's picture
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Re:The End of Growth


Real global Growth ended in the late 1990s. Since that time, economy of the globe has been figthing to keep at a standstill. What appears to be growth is really an attempt to hang on. Globald debt as more than doubled since 2000 while wages and living standards are largely flat or declining. 

Really this should be a topic of population growth, which is slowing but still continues to grow. The more people are addeds the faster the remaining resources will be depleted. For the most part, fertiality of the educated population has collapse. All of the population growth is now from the poor & uneducated masses. Nothing is going to change until the population crisis can be solved. 

Becoming green, reducing waste, reducing carbon footprint is pointless as long as the global population continues to grow. Jevons paradox remains unless the global population declines.

FWIW: I believe the die has already been cast, and we are already locked on a trajectory that cannot be altered no matter what we do. There are simple too many people consuming a dwiddling supply of resources. As the resource deplete, living standards will decline, creating large numbers of miserable people. These people will select leaders that promise change of better futures (aka Trump's MAGA) when these promises are unfilled they will select even more radical leaders. Recall that during early 20th centuries, old gov't system were replace with Communism, Fascism, as the leaders of these movements promised big change and make it "worker's paradise". All they got was terrible wars, enslavement and much worse living standards. 



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I think the reasons the
I think the reasons the central bankers promote growth is multi-faceted: partly because of their greed and corruption (because of the riches they make off of it); partly because they see the jobs and government revenues growth creates to appease the masses; partly because they see the economic catastrophe that would ensue if the current system stopped growing; and also partly a result of their own hubris as the maestros of the economy on which so many peoples' lives depend -- they view themselves as superior, and this economy is their baby, and growth is good. Come hell or high water, they are going to make it work, or kill us all trying.
There is a local economic commentator here in Vancouver, Michael Campbell. He is ultra right wing in terms of economic policy, but not socially. That is generally the theme here in Vancouver: economically right wing but socially progressive. Every morning he gets air time to spout his right wing dogma and I think he actually believes it. The other day his sermon was on how critically important growth is to our well being and prosperity. He made a point of emphasizing that without growth, government revenues for the social programs we all love and depend on would falter and we'd have to give them up. Without growth, vulnerable people would be hurt the most (which in a sense they would; but more on that below). In other sermons he argues that going forward with resource "development" mega projects that damage the environment is a price we have to pay in order to keep growth progressing. It's such a nice little complete story for him. I'm sure he's drunk the koolaid and believes that technology will decouple the economy from real resource consumption, and that we'll be able to continue growing forever thanks to the virtues of Treknology. Like a true economist.
Too bad it's total bunk. It's amazing that people are unable to take a step back and ask the simple question: why can't the social programs we depend on continue to be funded without growth? There is no fundamental reason why, if say hypothetically 10% of the workforce today makes a living in social programs taking care of the needy, in today's economy with "xyz" GDP, that it couldn't also have the exact same 10% of the workforce doing the same things they do today, but in 2030, in an economy with the exact same GDP of "xyz" as today. There is no fundamental reason why we need growth in order to fund social programs. The capitalists will spout off the need for a return on capital investment, the need for government revenues from growth streams, blah blah blah. But all those arguments are merely what's needed in the CURRENT SYSTEM IN WHICH WE OPERATE.  They aren't fundamental truths. 
The real reason we need growth to fund social programs IN THE CURRENT SYSTEM is not something that Michael Campbell or other right wingers would care to think about or openly acknowledge. The real reason is because the system is designed to, by default, send the masses into poverty, and to enrich the elites. 
Basically, what all the problems boil down to is this: for eternity (or at least, for the last few thousand years since people began to live in groups of more than a few hundred and elites could hide their riches behind a wall of anonymity), the elites (money changers) have always lived off the spoils of the middle class. They don't actually do anything "productive" themselves, although they will argue that their riches which they invest into the workings of the rest of the economy to create profit (or "wealth", they'll tell us) are essential to keep the economy moving along. We are told that we actually depend on them (sound familiar? TBTF?) They invent more and more clever ways to make profit from the system, or "create wealth", which is a politically correct way of saying that they get better and better at stealing from everyone else through their money changing shenanigans. 
What this constant theft from the middle class does is tend to send us into poverty, on average. The elites don't want that to happen as much as the middle class doesn't want it to, because it would destroy their profit generating assets -- YOU. Hence, the economy that they have set up is designed to continually "create" new wealth, via growth. This new wealth continually replaces the wealth that is stolen from the masses by the elites. Of course we here all understand that that wealth was not actually created; it was harvested from the natural world. The wealth moves from natural resources, through the middle class, and into ownership of the elites as they increasingly own the whole world. 
If we solved severe wealth inequality then we wouldn't have a need to work 40 hours a week to get by, because we would already own our homes. The average person wouldn't need to spend money on BUILDING THE ECONOMY LARGER; only in buying things needed to keep us living -- materially and spiritually - things like buying food, energy, and a few material things as they break and need to be replaced. As it is now, the average person has to spend (literally, "spend") their whole life buying a house (plus interest), because we are debt slaves. And because the economy needs new houses in order to grow, the middles class also needs to pay for all the new infrastructure to support those new houses, via taxes. 
But the problem is this: if the middle class didn't pay for all these new houses and infrastructure, then half the population would be out of work. Hence, one of the main reasons the current system requires growth: to keep unemployment from skyrocketing because people need jobs as automation has eliminated so many of them over the last few decades. Because we are by design debt slaves with an inherent net worth of zero, there is no way, in the current system, to transfer wealth into the hands of the 50% of the population who would otherwise be unemployed without the need for more suburbs. Without growth, those people would be on the streets. Historically, before automation, we all needed to work 50 hour weeks just to maintain the economy at a steady state or with meager growth. Now, with automation, the amount of economic growth that would result from full employment at 40 hours a week is not tenable given the resources that would be required to power it all.
The underlying reason the system is falling apart now, as opposed to in 1990, is because the natural world is faltering in providing additional wealth, and the wealth that continues to be stolen by the elites can't be replaced anymore. This is sending us into poverty. Wealth concentration has spiralled out of control. It used to be kept in check through economic growth, but no longer. There are also added complications from the US dollar losing its reserve currency status which is cutting off Americans from access to the rest of the world's resources, which they previously enjoyed over the past 50 years.
This is is not something economists know how to deal with; or at least they won't admit they know how to deal with; because there are only two solutions to this predicament: 1) universal basic income, and/or 2) replace income tax with wealth tax. Both those ideas send the right wingers howling, and they will tell us all about how nobody will have the incentive to work if they are given money for free, and our "productivity" will plummet (to some extent they are correct, although this is an oversimplification of the situation). They will tell us that the government cannot afford to pay that many people so much money, especially when revenues from all sources would be declining in a no-growth economy (this argument is nonsense just like the idea that our retirement pension entitlements are intractable, because the reason the government is currently broke is because the lower 95% are hurtling towards poverty but they are now the ones who are left supporting the government through taxation, as the billionaire/trillionaire elites and multinational corporations hire the best lawyers and change the laws to avoid paying taxes).
Right wingers blow a head gasket over the mere mention of a wealth tax and they'll tell you that society will break down because no one will have any incentive to work if their money is just taken away (this argument is also incorrect and actually backwards, and stems from a lack of understanding of what a wealth tax is -- it would target the uber wealthy elites, not the middle class. The middle class would actually pay significantly LESS tax. Somehow people still have an incentive to work even with handing over 40% of their paycheck to income tax...). They will warn us all about the evils of communism, not seeming to understand that a wealth tax is about as far from communism as you can get.
And don't think that I'm only picking on the right wingers. The lefties are almost as bad because they support the government policies and media corruption that effect this exploitation.
The ONLY way environmental degradation and our dependence on growth will end, without social chaos, is if debt slavery ends and the middle class takes back ownership of the wealth that has been stolen from us. Few people understand the direct and profound link between severe wealth inequality, economic desperation, and environmental destruction.
Unfortunately, I don't see this changing until it crashes because 1) the elites will never voluntarily give up some of their wealth back to the middle class , and 2) the middle class is being led around like a circus bear with a ring through its nose; they understand that they need growth to avoid losing their jobs and spiralling into poverty, but they haven't yet put two and two together to realize that this is because the elites are continually stealing our wealth. 
It is basically an exponentially escalating stale-mate; a quasi-stable system that won't break out of its boundaries until it blows up. The elites won't give up their wealth and the middle class won't give up their jobs. I see it ending in major collapse and likely war, unfortunately. It will not organically transform into something better.
One could relate this situation in biological terms to any animal population: if resources are available, that population will grow to use up those resources and then either reach a steady state zero-growth state, or if overshoot has occurred, then it will crash. While many will argue that most people don't want to grow and grow and grow their consumption of nature, and would be happy to live in harmony just getting by with only 1 or 2 children, the problem is that they will always be overshadowed and out-completed by the portion of the population who DOES take the initiative to "grow their wealth". In the absense of elites, those people will become the new elites and the same sytem will emerge.
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TechGuy wrote:1. I see this
TechGuy wrote:

1. I see this as a gov't created problem. The Opioid crisis really took off in 2013 when Obamacare started. I think a lot of people that needed surgery or other expensive medical procedures could no longer afford to get it done due to huge increase in deductibles. So they treat there pain with drugs instead. 

So, what makes opioid addiction a crisis, an epidemic or the epidemic of epidemics?

Alcohol abuse and tobacco addiction are much larger issues, by any measure, and, while they don't go unnoticed, there is no media perception of these much larger problems as an epicemic or a crisis.

For example, the police report in my small rural community routinely includes a report of a needle found on the side of a road, or in a park.  Compare that to the number of empty beer cans, liquor bottles and cigarette butts found on the side of the road, or in a park.  One needle reported and thousands of beer cans and butts unreported.

That is the crisis put in perspective.

If the government and health care profession are going to throw pain sufferers under the bus, I'd at least like honest, rational discourse on the subject.


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Even the Universe is not "sustainable"

If we expand our time horizon to billions of years, we can see that even the Universe is not "sustainable".  Stars are born, age, and die.  Black holes consume galaxies in what looks like a struggle for resources. Planets are formed and destroyed.  Comets and asteroids go around willy-nilly crashing into things, introducing the element of chaos.  And whether you posit that the universe is expanding or contracting, "death" and destruction of the Universe is its destiny on a long enough time scale.

I agree with Tim, Rector, and Sand_Puppy (and others) that stability, sustainability and peaceful coexistence can only be achieved or hoped for for people if you pick a short enough timeframe to examine (certainly no more than one human generation of about 25 years).  Competition for resources or even just the best resources is inevitable, as is death, war, famine and disease.  The nobility, generosity, compassion and ingenuity of people is inevitable in these processes, and conditions for us can always be made better if we put our minds to it and cooperate.  However, selfishness, shortsightedness, waste and violence are also inevitable among us no matter how hard we try to rise above them.  Things are always worse than they could be, and usually dramatically worse (because of our human failings).

That's why I've referred to "lifeboat ethics" in another thread and the conflicts that inevitably arise as we try to survive.  So we have a lifeboat that will hold 30 survivors and has enough food and water for them to survive for three days until rescued.  But even that is not sustainable in many events, real or imagined.  Some Titanic lifeboats were less than half full which was a terrible waste on a ship that didn't have enough lifeboats by design.  Some lifeboats (not just Titanic's) take on too many survivors and sink, killing everyone.  Survivors on some lifeboats unnecessarily take to violence and make a mess of an otherwise sustainable situation.  Then there's the doomed Shackleton expedition to the South Pole in which discipline, compassion, seamanship and ingenuity carried the crew far, far longer than anyone could possibly have expected, illustrating the best of humanity struggling in a finite world.

All of this leads inexorably to Rector's question: Why are we here?   (It's clear we're not here to live happily ever after since that can't be achieved for humanity, and only rarely and for a relatively short time frame for individuals and families)?  I'll fall back on the tongue-in-cheek "proverb" I cited in another thread:

"This is not my real life.  This life is a test.  If this were my real life, I would've been given better instructions."  laughwink

Or the sports proverb: "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."

The struggle of life is inevitable, preordained, and designed into the system.  What's NOT set or preordained is how we behave.  So I believe life is a test of our character.  Will we be wise or foolish?  Selfish or generous? Violent or peaceful?  Truthful or deceitful?  Careful and respectful with the Earth, passing it on to the following generations in better shape than we received it, or wasteful and polluting, leaving a disaster for our descendants?

And I believe this is not just a theoretical exercise like one of those "lifeboat ethics" exercises many have participated in in school.  I believe there will be an accounting for each of us at the end to see how well we performed in the test.  So I try to live up to my ideals and values, but I'm under no illusions that violence and suffering can be avoided even in the most ideal conditions.

For Star Trek fans, life is like the Kobayasha Maru scenario (a no-win training scenario to see how cadets respond under pressure).

When he is tested at Space Academy Cadet James T. Kirk cheats by secretly reprogramming the computer running the scenario so he can succeed, but in our lives there's no cheating the system.  We will be tested. And we won't live happily ever after forever.

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Growthitis !

My city of Canberra is yet another city suffering from a severe attack of Growthitis. The government eagerly looks forward to a city of 500,000 in 20 years' time, from its approx 350,000 now. It was designed for something like 50,000. Like Vancouver they see growth as the only possible way to generate the jobs'n'growth needed to keep the capitalist economy going. Right now they're building a highly controversial and expensive tram line, to pay for which they are hugely increasing residential densities along the tram route. But then these extra people will need more trams...

And it is the goal of every corporation on earth to get rid of all their employees and run their enterprises using robots. But then they go whinging to government that consumer demand is shrinking and do something will ya — like importing 190,000 people a year (the current immigrant intake) to force things along. It's schizophrenic.

It never seems to occur to them that it's a Ponzi scheme. The politicians are advised by classical, neoclassical and neoliberal economists. I think we all know of the shaky and fantastic foundations of those branches of economics.

The pollies say that they seek to create jobs'n'growth but they don't really mean it. Otherwise they'd be working with corporations (themselves a form of artificial intelligence) to create worthwhile work.

The elites are mad with greed. The people are deceived.

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The end of growth of Kidney stones?

In addition to Robbie, Keterolac and cranberry juice with lots of lemon. Watch your intake of purines , as well. They tend to contribute to the crystalization of salts in the body(gout also). Rye and coke has been known to take the edge off, as well. More than n'said.

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Uncletommy wrote: In
Uncletommy wrote:

In addition to Robbie, Keterolac and cranberry juice with lots of lemon. Watch your intake of purines , as well. They tend to contribute to the crystalization of salts in the body(gout also). Rye and coke has been known to take the edge off, as well. More than n'said.

Or, a WFPB (Whole Foods plant based) “diet.”   WFPB is said to not only eliminate kidney stones, but arrest or reverse cardiovascular disease, stop cancer growth and dramatically lower your carbon footprint, among other things.  No kidney stones is way down the list of benefits, barely mentioned.

But hey, if kidney stones is your only concern, less comprehensive measures may work.

If anyone knows of a diet that will repair degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis, I’m all ears.

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Parliament rejects "equality of all peoples" constitutional

A not-to-be-named nation rejected a proposed bill that would enshrine the principle of the basic equality of all its citizens into its constitution

In stark contradistinction, this nation enjoys considering itself as:

a lone beacon of democracy in the [region], a “unique sanctuary of democracy, freedom and pluralism” that protects its citizens’ rights.

The speaker and deputy speakers blocked advancement of the bill to the floor of the parliament preventing even the initial stages of discussion and debate.  This is a very unusual move, as no legislation has been blocked from reaching the public discussion stage in parliment in more than 5 years.

The proposed constitutional amendmendment would have:

  • declared the "equality of all citizens,"
  • defined the nation as "a state of all its citizens,"
  • called for "the separation of religion and state, guarenteeing the right of worship for all"

In explaining the reason for blocking this bill, the speaker

described it as “a bill that aims to gnaw at the foundations of the state” which must not be allowed.

Though Mr Speaker would not say it publically, the foundational principles of the state include the superiority of one group over others.


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I believe they did outlaw

I believe they did outlaw alcohol at one point in our history...people drank more than ever.

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Maybe awareness of some of the big issues IS rising

Mueller doesn’t have a case and he knows it. Now he will save face by passing off the investigation to underlings. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us get respite—until the next drummed up load of horse manure masquerading as high crimes and misdemeanors appears on the scene. 

Not to worry. There are always stories of political intrigue to fascinate the proles—for fifteen minutes at least—and distract from the real issues: endless war and a bankster rigged economy slowly turning America into a third world cesspool. 

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Yes, people are waking up

Check out this very recently posted flyer at Toys 'R US:

Someday soon the pitchforks are going to come out.

And deservedly so.

Plundering by pirates was deeply frowned upopn, not sure why it should be any different for a more sophisticated class of parasites.

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Unsurprisingly, the old narrative is so dominant, it's even part of the the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Number 8: "Decent work and economic growth". People just don't think, except for group think.

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Toys R Us
cmartenson wrote:

one day soon the pitchforks are going to come out.

And deservedly so.

Plundering by pirates was deeply frowned upopn, not sure why it should be any different for a more sophisticated class of parasites.

I agree Chris, but the problems are so much more complicated (as you know better than I do).

I see this and both feel a sadness for lost jobs, but also think about what stores like "Toys R Us" have become, a huge warehouse full of plastic throwaway crap shipped in from China and other parts of Asia on huge ships..feeding children's consumer education and disregard for our planet.

We are truly caught between a rock and a hard place right now.

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Most Private Equity (PE) Should Be Illegal

I really appreciate Chris' point on the TRU fiasco. Here's roughly how private equity operates:
1) Purchase a low-debt barely profitable company whose operations could be improved upon.
2) Load that company with as much debt as possible which is then paid as bonuses to the PE company's partners.
3) Improve the indebted company through a combination of layoffs, wage freezes, shifting of base comp over to variable comp for employees, reduction of benefits, reducing or eliminating reinvestment of capital, renegotiating existing contracts, and increasing customer prices.
4) After doing this for several years you typically end up getting an increase in the margin of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), which in our overtly financialized economy translates to a higher company valuation.
5) The company purchased in 1) is sold for a sizable profit most commonly to a close competitor who buys it to increase the competitor's growth (this type of growth is called "inorganic" btw.) and improve its pricing power (most important in cases where the number of operators is reduced to four or less).

Often this happy scenario doesn't quite work out because I) when you cut employees' and their benefits you end up demoralizing those who remain making those employees less productive, II) when you don't reinvest sufficiently your capital goods break down or become outdated making the company less productive, and III) when you renegotiate contracts and increase prices you alienate your existing customers and make acquiring new ones more difficult.

The reason this should be criminal is that when the plan doesn't pan out and the company goes bankrupt the ones who suffer are the employees who lose their jobs and the creditors who lose their money. However, the PE partners who got hefty bonuses when the company was loaded with debt and who still got bonuses through the increased EBITDA margins year after year don't end up repaying any of that money back. In the worst case scenario the creditor was a bank and if they are threatened with insolvency due to their loss it's the tax payer who ends up with the final bill.

This whole scenario has become largely possibly due to the gross financialization of the economy. These days private equity is running rampart to the point of many exchange traded companies being privatized through private equity deals making the problem grossly worse.

I've witnessed this process first hand several times over my career through being a contractor for many companies that were taken over by PE and being laid off due to it. Most recently I've been part of the management team of a company taken over by PE and have had the unfortunate job of laying off good hard working people year after year for the futile reason of increasing margins, while the underlying business is performing worse and worse until it will eventually cease to be.

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I seriously doubt that their will be any pitchforks. As a hedge though I do have one and will get right behind those who lead the way. It is the first guy through the door who does not fare so well


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Maybe Subways Employees Will Read That TRU Flyer

Because recently Subways the global sandwich chain hired Bain Crapitol to find it a buyer because the founders of the company are seeing their once thriving empire going into the dust heap of business failures. So they hired Bain to bail them out.

Remember the old scorpion joke?

"scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so."

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Toys 'R' Us fiasco sounds like Bill Black's S&L story

The best way to rob a bank is to own one.

Stabu's description sounds like William Black tells of the S&L crisis.

1.  Make loans to people who have poor credit scores.  Advertise this as "promoting diversity" and market to minority groups with poor / unstable employment history previously unable to get loans.  You can charge high interst rates as you are the only place they can get loans.  Bank officers get big bonuses because of all the loan fees they generate.  The bank looks awesome in the initial years.

When the poor credit risk customer's loans start to get in trouble, offer to "give them a second chance" and refinance.  Keep the scam going for several years.

Retire with a huge golden parachutte retirement package and the reputation of a great turn-around artist.

Then the loans begin to fail in large numbers, the bank goes under, but the CEO is already out with LOTS of money.  Stock and bond holders take the losses.


2.  CEO gets company stock as a part of his compensation package.  Using the corporation, he borrows lots of money cheaply and buys back company stocks sending stock prices much higher.  CEO sells his stocks at the top, then retires rich. 

This leaves the company with big debts that may take it down.  Creditors and the banks' shareholders take the losses.  CEO gets rich.  Never prosecuted.

A clean robbery and getaway.

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The crickets at night

Who hear still hears crickets at night? With the unfolding insect apocalypse, fewer and fewer can make that claim.

I am sitting in my living room right now. The crickets are chirping away right now. Then later come the frogs. It's an incredible racket that some times keep me up at night.

I'm completely in love with this world and with being alive in it. I love the beauty of Nature and all of its life forms, each beautiful and complete in its own way.

So do I. I am just starting to hear the first frogs of the evening. The noise is getting louder.

I am a US citizen who has moved to Costa Rica.

One of the many reasons I moved here was to join a community (the citizens and residents of Costa Rica) that respect and preserve nature to the best of their ability. The country is part of the developing world. However, I believe it is developing in a way that is different than most. About 99.9% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. About 25% of the land of Costa Rica is protected either in national parks or preserves. The country has a national goal of being carbon neutral by 2021. We probably won't make it, but at least the government is working to get everyone is moving the the right direction.

Costa Rica follows the basic economic rules as other countries. Luckily, Costa Rica is still in the "developing" stage so it can embrace both capitalism and its natural resources.

Not everything is perfect here. This is a developing country and many of it's citizens and residents are in the early stages of learning why it is important to preserve and protect the countries natural beauty and resources.

I not saying this to gloat. I am just trying to point out that the world is not necessarily marching in the same direction everywhere. If you are tired and depressed about the way things are going in the US, you might want to consider visiting or even joining us.

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brucethompson wrote: Who
brucethompson wrote:

Who hear still hears crickets at night? With the unfolding insect apocalypse, fewer and fewer can make that claim.

Actually, we do.  The tree frogs, in my large back yard, are so noisy that they occasionally keep us up at night.

The part of Central Wisconsin, where we live has significantly less than half the population density of Costa Rica.  The majority of Wisconsin residents (not including Scott Walker) are also relatively responsible when it comes to natural resoruces.

Expatriating is one solution.  I tend to avoid large population centers, as much as possible.

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unstable systems

From my point of view the planet's ecological systems were in complete equilibrium until recently.  There were short term ups and downs in diversity, population, etc.  But those were the natural result of the system's stabilizing negative feedback control mechanisms.  The industrial revolution has severely destabilized things by introducing a self amplifying positive feedback component.  The stabilizing parts of the ecological system had to be destroyed in order for the "economic growth forever" religion to thrive, and fossil fuels gave us the power to do so.  Maximizing profit required the elimination of those things in the system that would limit them.  A recent example of this is the multinationals' fight to minimize the growing ecological awareness of us useless eaters with the Trans Pacific Partnership.  If their profit goals were not met they would be able to sue governments for the difference, no matter what local ecological laws were passed.  From what I remember congress stalled Obama's attempt to push it through without congressional debate.  I bet some of Trump's recent war on the EPA etc is part of a new more obscure push.

Why are we here?  Who's to say there's a reason.  The universe is inherently unstable argument sounds like a promotion of the destabilizing business as usual model.  And who's to say we're not in the universe's latest collapse and regrowth cycle.  There is nothing we can do about the universe, but we do something about our destructive powers here on planet earth if we choose to.

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Who hear still hears crickets at night?


I agree with all your comments.

This place is certainly not for everyone. I am actually quite happy that it is not.

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What YOU Need to Know About Methane

What are the major sources and sinks for methane gas? Are they “natural” or human caused; does “natural” even exist in our world of abrupt climate change? How does methane concentration change hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally and yearly? How does it change with latitude, elevation, and even temperature? Why does any of this matter? Believe me; if, or rather when, it comes up big time from a burst it will affect us all. This info is very important.

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I think you are right.

It's very hard to prepare for, much harder to prepare for than plan old economic collapse. It is the worst case scenario but the most likely.  It makes me very sad.

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