Greetings. I’m just back from a trip to North Carolina and I almost feel like doing a Frankly about how there was no air conditioning on the airplane and how the American response to the inconvenience is kind of a microcosm of what the Human Predicament is. We were flying across the sky, 700 miles an hour, and it was an affront to the airline industry and peoples’ lives because there was no air conditioning. But I digress.
On the plane I wrote some notes. This podcast is a year and a half old almost and the theme is the Great Simplification which is that our culture, our species, has now consumed beyond our means for 50 years arguably for hundreds of years. We have kicked many cans and in the not-too-distant future we’re going to have energy, material, financial, social, and ecological limits. Podcasting about this has limits itself and I’m unsure of the way forward on this other than I’m trying to be spokesperson for reality and hand the mic to other people that are trying to describe our biophysical situation in order to influence the future in better ways.
Here is just a non-inclusive list of things that I thought of that are problems or challenges with such a podcast endeavour.
The first of all is that there are multiple audiences. Simultaneously there are people who have followed me for 15 years that understand overshoot, that money is created with no reference to biophysical tether, that energy underpins our society and that it’s depleting and is non-fungible with other types of energy, and that the geopolitical situation cannot go back to the way it was in January 2022, and that we’ve entered the long emergency in many, many ways. Those people are looking for an advanced hot take on what’s going on and how to better prepare our communities, our nations, our families. Others are the walking worried that are discovering this information, this channel, this kind of fly up high and look down at the 64,000 foot view of the situation. And so to put out content that speaks to both of those audiences is difficult. My plan there is to have a reality 101 primer of six or seven or eight hours of short videos that describe the whole thing. So far of all the audiences in the world that I think are important, young people, politicians, and leaders, Hollywood community leaders and the general public, my audience for this is the choir and those people that follow the bat-signal of the Great Simplification wherever they are in the world and try to absorb and pass on the synthesis of this situation. So the challenge is who is the audience for this podcast? That’s number one.
Secondly is lots of people in the world care, rightly, about a single issue; climate change, ocean acidification, global inequality, debt, poverty, you know all kinds of issues. This story affects all of us. It is a wide deep and long-lasting story about the upcoming bottlenecks of the 21st Century. So, when you incorporate evolutionary biology, politics, renewable energy versus fossil carbon, all of these stories, you are bound to slaughter someone’s sacred cow. And so this is not a single issue podcast; it’s how the issue of energy and ecological limits affect all the other issues but that runs the risk of offending people who have their identities or their jobs associated with one issue. And it’s not that I don’t care about those issues. I’m trying to paint the broader story.
Another challenge with a podcast about limits is there is a triple information hazard that exists. Let me explain. First of all, I know things that I just can’t say in a public podcast because the knowing of those things would make the risk I’m talking about self-fulfilling. So there are certain things that would be interesting and helpful to share but I just can’t do that publicly. That’s number one. Number two is that, you know, what we’re talking about is a shift from the global social political order of the past and so anything that implies that the end of the US empire will occur with either a whimper or a bang, but that it might occur; when the global tide was rising and lifting all boats as the global tide is flattening and receding it becomes threatening to those people and institutions in power. And so to speak truth-to-power eventually becomes threatening. And so there’s an information hazard on articulating the situation too close to the mark. A third information hazard which when I started the podcast I was not aware of is I’ve met amazing people doing herculean superman type work in the world that I would love to highlight what they’re doing on conservation and social projects in Africa and alternative finance-debt models. What they’re doing is massively inspiring so I want to share it and highlight it to other people but I can’t. Because they don’t want what they’re doing to be public because the public awareness of it would short-circuit its own success. So that’s a challenge too. I can understand the information hazard about not saying too many bad things but I also can’t say some of the good things because of the self-limiting ceiling that public awareness would bring. Another challenge, and I’m sure many of you are aware, I’m trying to pass the mic to multiple different people from around the world of different genders, political backgrounds, locations, expertise etc. Except on the core issues of biophysical limits that apply to the Great Simplification to have such diversity runs the risk of diluting the core message that I’m trying to pass the baton to more people so it’s difficult to have full diversity of voices, which I think is needed in our society, on this podcast and I’m trying to do better about that and I will try to do better but I’m going to err on the side of things that are honest and helpful to society rather than having a fully diverse, fully represented audience, but I’m trying.
Another challenge with this podcast is something that I intimated a few Franklys ago on perception and probability and reality. What do we do? A lot of people are tired of hearing about the problems. They want to hear about solutions. Except as soon as we go into a directed solution it closes off a lot of other probabilities. I think there is a chance of a Mad-Max outcome of 20 percent or so. Actually it’s higher than 20 percent because I think there’s a 20 percent chance of a nuclear war in the next 18 months which is would obviously precipitate a Mad-Max. But there’s also a very high percent chance that we continue to kick the cans and have a Mordor Economy, sort of growing our gross energy while the benefits to humans decline and we still take bigger and bigger bites out of natural ecosystems. That’s a high percentage. The Great Simplification which is a financial recalibration, a Great Depression sort of scenario, but things bend and not break is also the midpoint of my distribution. So on the What-to-Dos it depends on a global perspective, or whether you’re in the global North, or the African subcontinent, or whether you’re in an area subject to wet bulb temperatures, or whether you’re in the United States, or whether you are an environmentalist, I mean the what-to-dos depends on many many things which is why I’m trying to cast a wide net on getting people’s perspectives on what to do. If I had to simplify it, which is the Great Simplification, there’s three things that apply in all situations. One is consume less, especially in the global North; that is an advice I would give to almost all listeners. Number two is care about and save the local environment where you are Because at the at the end of the day the local ecosystems, the flora, the fauna, the Web of Life where you live is a treasure that we will miss when it’s gone. And I don’t say it often enough but that is the most important thing and I think we need people becoming aware and waking up and acting as champions for other species and ecosystems. And the third thing is to live your life more holistically with yourself, and with others, merging the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical aspects of our life; to live as more of an holistic human. This podcast will never be a self-help, meditation, fitness guide because I’m on these journeys myself. But I do think living more holistically, more openly, and aware of the “we” versus the “me” wider picture. And avoiding the fear and dread of the cortisol response, and the dopamine-passion-want-to-get-ahead response and there’s some oxytocin, serotonin response midway through those. That is the path. But there is not one scenario that can say “do this because of that”, so that’s another challenge with this podcast. Another thing is there seems to be this sense that “here’s a big problem but here’s the hopeful thing”. Like a toxic positivity has imbued itself into our culture. That a lot of people think that what I talk about is too depressing and too negative and that is a turn off. I think there was James Stockdale, the Stockdale Paradox; he was a prisoner of war. And he noticed that people that were super pessimistic didn’t motivate and got depressed and didn’t do things and they didn’t survive in prison. But people who were overly optimistic; “we’re going to escape next week”, “we’re going to be released next week”, they also didn’t make it because they had too many disappointments. It was the realists that ultimately survived. And that’s what I’m trying to do with this podcast I’m trying to describe the pathway that we are on as best as I can and just point the direction into avenues for us as individuals and for society. And so I don’t feel like being a rah-rah cheerleader. But what’s interesting is those people who think we have no way out of our current situation naturally gravitate to this podcast because I’m saying a lot of, I’m painting a lot of doors shut with what culture is saying is possible, but I am not so pessimistic. I’m pessimistic relative to what I used to believe but I’m optimistic that the future will be better than many of us fear. So there’s this challenge on how to be realistic and plausible but not naively or criminally hopeful which I don’t think is helpful.
Another challenge podcasting about limits and eventual overshoot and decline is to some people what I say now seems sensational relative to CNN or other news outlets. In reality it’s not sensational at all and I have opted to not have sensational titles, sensational graphics, or sensational prose or verbiage on this site and I never will. Sensationalism and there’s many podcasters out there that have orders of magnitude more viewers than this one does sells. People want to be shocked and scared and you know surprised. I’m just trying to paint this day by day of what I see unfolding. And so what’s unfolding over time my content will almost by definition become less sensational as the world catches up and surpasses the things that I’m talking about. So I don’t ever plan on trying to get a lot of views because I’m saying something outrageous to get attention and that’s okay because this podcast is growing.
It’s got 40,000 subscribers now on the various platforms and on YouTube. I think that’s great and it’s great because I know there are other people around the world that are seeing things similar to me and it gives me hope that there is some groundswell of rationality, empathy, and collective concern about the future, based on reality. But I don’t want to grow this 100x because that’s not the point. I want scout teams and catalysts around the world to put this story together and make an impact where they are and that creates some emergent possibilities for all of us.
Lastly, well not lastly, but lastly on my mind, at the moment, is the choreography of the future. This is an earth-science based podcast, at least it started that way. And if I wasn’t worried about existential risks, particularly the nuclear war situation between Russia and the US and the UK, and also the financial overhang, and the economic can that we’ve kicked with the biophysical Wiley-coyote moment hanging over us at any point, I would talk about other species. I would have experts on the mass extinction, on ecology, on oceans, on climate, on forests, on soil, all the time because I think we need to have an ecologically aware and motivated population of humans.
Having said that, although that is what I care the most about, I think it’s going to probably be the least relevant to our decisions in coming years. And that is going to be economic, poverty, probably wars, and things like that, and so, over time the guests and the content on here are going to have to be, unfortunately, for what I care about more relevant to people’s lives than about what I find most valuable and important. But I will not relinquish the core tether to the Natural World on the guests and the content here.
So you know, this is what I’m supposed to be doing, I think. And I’m working on many other projects as well, but this podcast is going well. You know I also wear the mantle of the neo-Malthusians that that came before that for various reasons were not right. You know Paul Ehrlich didn’t know about debt and globalization and some of the technologies. Thomas Malthus didn’t know about fossil hydrocarbons and mining the earth vertically in addition to horizontally. So I really don’t think this will ever be super popular because the narrative is too complex, too scary, too departed from what’s on the news.
I still value the listeners, the feedback, the emails, and the growing conversation, the tapestry of different voices on how all this stuff fits together. So I hope that little rant was helpful or at least insightful to how I’m thinking about all this.
I have some real good Frankly ideas that I need to think about and record and I will see you next week hopefully. Thank you.