At tipping points like now, the steps we take in the present determine our future...
Bill was 48 when his wife stunned him with a request for divorce. Right up until that moment, he’d thought everything was fine.
He’d been pouring all his energy into his work to provide a very comfortable life for his wife and 2 children. But she was unhappy and fell out of love while Bill wasn’t paying attention to matters at home. He’d taken her for granted and forgot to be present for the most important people in his life, and to be grateful in the moment.
After she was gone, Bill was filled with emptiness and regret. All he wanted was to get her back, but it was too late. The damage had been done. What he had before was now in the past.
This parable of Bill’s loss serves as a reminder to all of us that, with all that’s awry in the world, it’s all too easy for those of us who are paying attention to gripe about everything that’s going wrong.
Yes, there are many trends that are headed on the wrong trajectory. But this tumultuous period of history also affords each of us the fantastic opportunity to contribute positively to the new future that’s on the way.
Please take this article an invitation to be grateful for what you have, and to notice just how wonderful our current lifestyle truly is. It won’t remain this way, as I’ll expound on in a moment.
So take the time to be grateful, hug those that you love, and feed the parts of your life that nourish you most. Maintaining perspective in times such as these is really important.
The truth is that we happen to be alive at a time of peak abundance and technological miracles. It’s never been easier or more comfortable to be a human. On nearly every dimension — longevity, dependable access to food, quality of shelter, personal safety, leisure time, intellectual pursuits, technological advancements — no previous generation of humans have enjoyed the excesses and luxuries that we currently do.
What are you going to do with that good fortune while it lasts?
The ‘Good Old Days’
Once I truly understood the role of net energy in delivering the miraculous abundance we experience, and then connected that to the impending decline of global fossil fuels, I came to a startling conclusion: These are the “good old days”.
This is as good as it gets. This is as easy and wonderful as it’s ever been for the average human on earth. And we’re now at (actually, likely past) the peak. Soon, everyone will fondly reminisce about this soon-to-be-bygone era:
“Remember when you could just hop on a plane and go anywhere in the world for the cost of just a day or two of your income?”
“Or how about walking into a grocery store, anytime of the year, and buying whatever fresh veggies you wanted — at any time of the day or night, no matter what season it was? Remember that?”
Today’s daily miracle of life is insanely good. Simply click a mouse button and in just a day or two the big, brown truck of happiness rolls up your driveway delivering goodies. Or blythely sleep through a painless surgical procedure. Maybe use GPS to navigate the worst Boston commute as you smoothly glide in a well-engineered personal chariot with 150 horses under the hood.
Face it, we have it better than true royalty did just 100 years ago.
But it won’t last. It can’t. The flows of energy that are required to maintain the complexity of our current system simply aren’t there.
These energy systems which make our current global economy run are still 80% reliant on fossil fuels. So are our current alternative energy systems — which are are still mined, refined, built and installed using fossil fuels. There are exactly zero full-cycle alternative energy systems that can be rebuilt using their own energy output. As Nate Hagens wisely says: they are not really renewable energy systems, but replaceable energy systems.
We could and we should be doing things very differently here at this moment in human history. But we’re acting like we always have; ignoring problems up until the point things start breaking badly. This is simply insane with nearly 8 billion people on the planet (quickly heading towards 10 billion) and yet we have no comprehensive plan for weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels.
Looking out at the next 20 years is downright frightening.
By 2040, we’ll be well past the point of Peak Oil if this model is correct (which is running three scenarios based on how much oil there might be, low med, and high):
The implications of oil’s inevitable and predictable decline are so profound that it’s a crime you’re only reading about it here and maybe one or two other “fringe” places on the net. Given its importance to everyone living on the planet today, it should be constant front page news everywhere.
Once we’re past peak production of oil, the entire suburban Ponzi experiment folds like a cheap card table, modern industrial agriculture becomes too expensive to continue, and the entirety of the financial system loses its motive power.
But, there’s no plan at all for addressing this. Not from any national government that I’ve seen. And I’ve been tracking this predicament for 15 years now.
Which brings me back to gratitude, which I think will be critical for dealing with the coming grief of losing our current comforts.
Having gratitude for what you do have is infinitely better for your mental well-being than worrying about what you don’t, or won’t, have. When I fly somewhere I’m grateful for the magical speed and ease of the technology. When I fill up my gas tank on my car, I’m grateful for the incredibly complex supply chains and financial systems that have to be in place for that to happen.
‘It’s not having what you want, it is wanting what you’ve got.’
~ Sheryl Crow
We really better appreciate all we have right now. Because our modern lifestyle just can’t last.
Don’t Be Like Bill
Bill made mistakes and now lives with regrets. Don’t be like Bill.
It’s perfectly clear that much of what we take for granted today is the product of multiple unsustainable systems all trundling towards the day when they fail.
We’re in ecological overshoot; which means the birds, bees and big game still around today may be extinct in our lifetime. And along with them, much of our food web.
Imagine the regret we’ll feel then.
We’re also in debt overshoot; which means that a future of economic austerity awaits as companies and households start to fail in large number. Whether the killing blow comes via deflation or inflation is academic at this point. The end result will be the same: less prosperity and opportunity for all — because we splurged today without thought for how we’d pay tomorrow’s bills when they arrived.
Imagine our regret then.
We’re burning through the last dregs of high-net energy oil. And we’re in population overshoot, too. Replacing that oil and feeding so many of ourselves will take energy — lots and lots of energy — but where will it come from? We don’t yet know at this point. And we’re not even yet admitting to ourselves that we have a problem. A big problem. So we’re highly likely to slam head-first into the biggest global ever energy crisis modern man has ever seen.
Imagine our regret when that day arrives.
What Happens Next
While all this probably sounds depressing, it’s doesn’t have to be.
It’s just how things stand today. But there is still time to improve our destiny, at least, at the individual level.
Let this wake-up call become your invitation to bring your very best self to the game. You can either choose to be engaged in the reformation of life on this planet, or be carried along by the changes as they emerge (which will probably be far less enjoyable than the former option).
The true opportunity here is for each of us to appreciate that this is the one and only shot we’re going to get at life, as far as we know. So make of it what you can.
That’s the invitation.
Our ‘tribe’ here at Peak Prosperity is full of people actively engaged in answering this invitation by bringing their best selves. It really is community of high-achieving quality thinkers and doers unlike any other. I invite you to join us.
Together, we’re facing these multiple problems and predicaments head on, and using them as motivation to align ourselves and our actions with the world as it truly exists — not as we wish it were.
It’s not easy. But then again nothing worthwhile ever is.
In Part 2: Preparing For The Reckoning we forecast what is most likely to happen next as the current policies in play begin failing. How few years left of status quo can we enjoy before the repercussions become too painful to ignore?
What can we each do today to improve our own destiny tomorrow?
At tipping points like now, our future is dependent on the steps we take in the present.