Dec 162016
 December 16, 2016  Posted by at 5:44 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Parisians duck down to evade German sniper fire following Nazi surrender of Paris, 1945


If you ever wondered what the odds are of mankind surviving, let alone ‘defeating’, climate change, look no further than the essay the Guardian published this week, written by Michael Bloomberg and Mark Carney. It proves beyond a moonlight shadow of a doubt that the odds are infinitesimally close to absolute zero (Kelvin, no Hobbes).

Yes, Bloomberg is the media tycoon and former mayor of New York (which he famously turned into a 100% clean and recyclable city). And since central bankers are as we all know without exception experts on climate change, as much as they are on full-contact crochet, it makes perfect sense that Bank of England governor Carney adds his two -trillion- cents.

Conveniently, you don’t even have to read the piece, the headline tells you all you need and then some: “How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change” really nails it. The entire mindset on display in just a few words. If that’s what they went for, kudo’s are due.

These fine gents probably actually believe that this is perfectly in line with our knowledge of, say, human history, of evolution, of the laws of physics, and of -mass- psychology. All of which undoubtedly indicate to them that we can and will defeat the problems we have created -and still are-, literally with the same tools and ideas -money and profit- that we use to create them with. Nothing ever made more sense.

That these problems originated in the same relentless quest for profit that they now claim will help us get rid of them, is likely a step too far for them; must have been a class they missed. “We destroyed it for profit” apparently does not in their eyes contradict “we’ll fix it for profit too”. Not one bit. It does, though. It’s indeed the very core of what is going wrong.

Profit, or money in general, is all these people live for, it’s their altar. That’s why they are successful in this world. It’s also why the world is doomed. Is there any chance I could persuade you to dwell on that for a few seconds? That, say, Bloomberg and Carney, and all they represent, are the problem dressed up as the solution? That our definition of success is what dooms us?

Philosophers, religious people, or you and me, may struggle with the question “what’s the purpose of life?”. These guys do not. The purpose of life is to make a profit. The earth and all the life it harbors exist to kill, drill, excavate and burn down, if that means you can make a profit. And after that you repair it all for a profit. In their view, the earth doesn’t turn of its own accord after all, it’s money that makes it go round.


The worrisome thing is that Mark and Michael will be listened to, that they are allowed a seat at the table in the first place, whereas you and I are not. A table that will be filled with plenty more of their ilk, as the announcement of Bill Gates’ billionaire philantropist energy fund says loud and clear:

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and a group of high-profile executives are investing $1 billion in a fund to spur clean energy technology and address global climate change a year after the Paris climate agreement. Gates launched the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund on Monday along with billionaire entrepreneurs such as Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma and chief Jeff Bezos. The fund seeks to increase financing of emerging energy research and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to help meet goals set in Paris, according to a statement by the investor group known as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

Yes, many of the same folk and/or their minions were sitting at the table with Trump on Dec 14. To see if there are any profits to be made. When a profit is involved they have no trouble sitting down with the same guy they insulted and warned against day after grueling day mere weeks ago. They have no trouble doing it because they insulted him for a potential profit too. It’s business, it’s not personal.

Billionaires will save us from ourselves, and make us -and themselves- rich while doing it. What is not to like? Well, for one thing, has anybody lately checked the energy footprint of Messrs. Bloomberg, Gates, Ma, Zuckerberg, Bezos et al? Is it possible that perhaps they’re trying to pull our collective wool over our eyes by pretending to care about those footprints? That maybe these ‘clean energy’ initiatives are merely a veil behind which they intend to extend -and expand- said footprints?

The ones in that sphere who wind up being most successful are those who are most convincing in making us believe that all we need to do to avert a climate disaster is to use some different form of energy. That all the talk about zero emissions and clean energy is indeed reflecting our one and only possible reality.

That all we need to do is to switch to solar and wind and electric cars to save ourselves (and they’ll build them for a subsidy). That that will end the threat and we can keep on doing what we always did, and keep on growing it all and as the cherry on the cake, make a profit off the endeavor.


None of it flies even a little. First of all, as I said last week in Mass Extinction and Mass Insanity, there are many more problems with our present lifestyles than ‘only’ climate change, or the use of carbon. Like the extinction of two-thirds of all vertebrate life in just 50 years leading up to 2020. There’s -close to- nothing wind and solar will do to alleviate that.

Because it’s not oil itself, or carbon in general, that kills; our use of it does. And the rush to build an entire new global infrastructure that is needed to use new energy forms, which will depend on using huge amounts of carbon, is more likely to kill off that globe than to save it. “Carbon got us in this, let’s use lots more of it to get us out”.

The trillions in -public- investment that are would be needed will make us all dirt poor too, except for the gentlemen mentioned above and a handful of others who invent stuff that they manage to make us believe will save us. Still convinced?


The lifestyles of the last 10 generations of us, especially westerners, are characterized more than anything else by the huge increase in the use of energy, of calories and joules. As we went from wood to peat to coal to oil and gas, the energy return on energy investment kept going higher. But that stopped with oil and gas. And from now on in it will keep going down.

“Free carbon excess” was a one-off ‘gift’ from nature. It will not continue and it will not return. Different forms of carbon have offered us a one-time source of free energy that we will not have again. The idea that we can replace it with ‘clean energy’ is ludicrous. The energy return on energy investment doesn’t even come close. And you can’t run a society with our present levels of complexity on a much lower ‘net energy’. We must dress down. No profit in that, sorry.

We built what we have now with oil at an EROEI of 100:1. There are no forms of energy left that come remotely close, including new, unconventional, forms of oil itself. Peak oil has been a much maligned and misunderstood concept, but its essence stands: when it takes more energy to ‘produce’ energy than it delivers, there will be no production.

This graph is a few years old, and wind and solar may have gained a few percentage points in yield, but it’s still largely correct. And it will continue to be.



We have done with all that free energy what all other life forms do when ‘gifted’ with an excess of available energy: spend it as fast as possible, proliferate to speed up the process (we went from less than 1 billion people to 7 billion in under 200 years, 2 billion to 7 billion in 100 years) and, most of all, waste it.

Ever wonder why everybody drives a car that is ten times heavier then her/himself and has a 10% efficiency rate in its energy use? Why there’s an infrastructure everywhere that necessitates for every individual to use 1000 times more energy than it would take herself to get from A to B on foot? Sounds a lot like deliberately wasteful behavior, doesn’t it?

The essence here is that while we were building this entire wasteful world of us, we engaged in the denying and lying behavior that typifies us as a species more than anything: we disregarded externalities. And there is no reason to believe we would not continue to do just that when we make the illusionary switch to ‘clean’ energy.

To begin with, the 2nd law of thermodynamics says there’s no such thing as clean energy. So stop using the term. Second, that we call wind and solar ‘clean energy’ means we’re already ignoring externalities again. We pretend that producing windmills and solar panels does not produce pollution (or we wouldn’t call it ‘clean’). While enormous amounts of carbon are used in the production process, and it involves pollution, loss of land, loss of life, loss of resources (once you burn it it’s gone).


An example: If we want to ‘save’ the earth, we would do good to start by overthrowing the way we produce food. It presently easily takes more than 10 calories of energy -mostly carbon- for every calorie of food we make. Then we wrap it all in (oil-based) plastic and transport it sometimes 1000s of miles before it’s on our plates. And at the end of this process, we will have thrown away half of it. It’s hard to think of a more wasteful process.

It’s a process obviously devised and executed by idiots. But it’s profitable. There is a profit to be made in wasting precious resources. And there is a key lesson in that. There is no profit in producing food in a more efficient way. At least not for the industries that produce it. And perhaps not even for you, if you produce most of your food – it takes ‘precious’ time.

It would still be hugely beneficial, though. And there’s the key. There is no direct link between what is good for us, and the planet, on the one side, and profit, money, on the other. What follows from that is that it’s not the people whose entire lives are centered around money who are the most obvious choices to ‘save the planet’. If anything, they are the least obvious.

But in an economic and political system that is itself as focused on money as ours is, they are still the ones who are allowed to assume this role. It’s a circle jerk around, and then into, a drain.


Mankind’s only chance to not destroy its planet lies in diverging from all other species in that not all energy available to it, is used up as fast as possible. But that’s a big challenge. It would, speaking from a purely philosophical angle, truly separate us from nature for the first time ever, and we must wonder if that’s desirable.

We would need to gain much more knowledge of who we are and what makes us do what we do, and why. But that is not going to happen if we focus on making a profit. Using less energy means less waste means less profit.

Yes, there may be energy sources that produce a bit less waste, a bit less pollution, than those that are carbon based. But first, our whole infrastructure has been built by carbon, and second, even if another energy source would become available, we would push to grow its use ever more, and end up initially in the same mess, and then a worse one.



I stumbled upon an excellent example of the effects of all this today:

The Shattering Effect Of Roads On Nature

Rampant road building has shattered the Earth’s land into 600,000 fragments, most of which are too tiny to support significant wildlife, a new study has revealed. The researchers warn roadless areas are disappearing and that urgent action is needed to protect these last wildernesses, which help provide vital natural services to humanity such as clean water and air. The impact of roads extends far beyond the roads themselves, the scientists said, by enabling forest destruction, pollution, the splintering of animal populations and the introduction of deadly pests.

An international team of researchers analysed open-access maps of 36m km of road and found that over half of the 600,000 fragments of land in between roads are very small – less than 1km2. A mere 7% are bigger than 100km2, equivalent to a square area just 10km by 10km (6mi by 6 mi). Furthermore, only a third of the roadless areas were truly wild, with the rest affected by farming or people.

The last remaining large roadless areas are rainforests in the Amazon and Indonesia and the tundra and forests in the north of Russia and Canada. Virtually all of western Europe, the eastern US and Japan have no areas at all that are unaffected by roads.



It’s a good example because it raises the question: how much of this particular issue do you think will be solved by the promotion of electric cars, or windmills? How much of it do you think can be solved for a profit? Because if there’s no profit in it, it will not happen.

One more for the philosophy class: I know many people will be inclined to suggest options like nuclear fusion. Or zero point energy. And I would suggest that not only do these things exist in theory only, which is always a bad thing if you have an immediate problem. But more than that: imagine providing the human race with a source of endless energy, and then look at what it’s done with the free energy available to it over the past 10 generations.

Give man more energy and he’ll just destroy his world faster. It’s not about carbon, it’s about energy and about what you yourself do with it. And no, money and profit will not reverse climate change, or any other detrimental effects they have on our lives. They will only make them worse.

Home Forums Heal the Planet for Profit

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    Parisians duck down to evade German sniper fire following Nazi surrender of Paris, 1945   If you ever wondered what the odds are of mankind survi
    [See the full post at: Heal the Planet for Profit]


    A very thought provoking article Ilargi – even with my electric car sitting in my garage.


    It seems that the coming of Trump is inducing changes in NASA. They are now claiming that the sun has some influence on the earth’s climate. Outrageous!

    “Far above Earth’s surface, within the tenuous upper atmosphere, is a sea of particles that have been split into positive and negative ions by the sun’s harsh ultraviolet radiation. Called the ionosphere, this is Earth’s interface to space, the area where Earth’s neutral atmosphere and terrestrial weather give way to the space environment that dominates most of the rest of the universe – an environment that hosts charged particles and a complex system of electric and magnetic fields. The ionosphere is both shaped by waves from the atmosphere below and uniquely responsive to the changing conditions in space, conveying such space weather into observable, Earth-effective phenomena – creating the aurora, disrupting communications signals, and sometimes causing satellite problems.”

    Revolutions in Understanding the Ionosphere, Earth’s Interface to Space

    To add insult to injury, they are claiming “Revolutions in Understanding the Ionosphere, Earth’s Interface to Space” – i.e. that this is new stuff that they knew nothing about and that their current understandings were 100% wrong. Strange. I thought they knew it all.


    Nobody cares what I think because I’m powerless to affect the future.
    – zerosum


    Excellent writing Ilargi.

    Thank you, I could not have summarized the situation more eloquently.


    Wow, I’m a new registrant – what a feeling!

    Great post Ilargi, because it gets to the root of the problem rather than the usual diatribe of how we can fix our litany of problems. The last part about what would happen if there was Fusion energy cuts through and defines the situation as untenable. I am certain that with fusion we would inflict the final insult on the mega fauna, just as you suggest. Humankind for whatever reason only knows full tilt, pedal to the metal, in a no holds barred race to decimate as much as possible in the raging insistence on going as big and as fast as possible.

    A perfect example of this can be seen in the recent Mars episodes by the National Geographic, in which the French billionaire funding the fictional portrayal of a Human Mars settlement, gets his ego in a twist about accelerating the expansion of the settlement (ahead of what makes common sense). So he sends two extremely self involved people to have authority to make decisions, which are contrary to the concerns of the current leader. As a result they lose their energy source and end up getting colder and colder while the remaining energy ebbs from the batteries. Then all sorts of psychological problems begin to set in with the crew. To make a long story short, it was greed that causes the problems and it’s a perfect analogy to the human experience in which ‘what is’, ‘is never enough’. Ever work for a manager that was satisfied with the amount or speed of your work? No, because that’s the game, to push labor as hard and as fast as possible.

    We have a nephew that works for Amazon as an electrician. He’s been working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week until Xmas passes. But that pace caused one of the electricians to get injured. So they have now just asked him to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Get the picture. No compassion whatsoever in the pursuit of profit, just as Ilargi was explaining.

    When shtf some day due to one reason or another, those having passed through the population bottleneck will be forced to live in the slow lane. That is until someone gains sufficient power over those remaining people to push them as hard as possible for the leader’s comfort, profit. Humans won’t change no matter what, but the circumstances certainly will.

    John Day

    We have grown up as zoo animals. It’s all most of us know. We can prepare garden beds and plant and tend and weed and water vegetables. That brings us closer to ourselves. It’s our real heritage. The shovel and fork we use have embedded energy. The city water does not fall from the sky, but when we put all the work it takes into growing our vegetables, we get wonderful vegetables. They are qualitatively different. Each of the first 3 years gets better as the soil comes to life Here is how it can be done in central Texas.
    For now, this costs more than buying vegetables at the store, even though they are expensive, but that baseline expenditure has fallen a lot in the third year. As I get better at growing from seed I will “come out ahead”.
    The needs of a kitchen gardener are very different from those of a commercial grower, who plants and harvests all at once. The work is humanizing, and fills a template, which already exists in us, mostly unused.
    Riding a bike is efficient, if you have enough skill and experience to avoid injury.
    Big “if”. I’ve been doing it since 1965.


    It’s the purest strain of neoliberalism imaginable wherein the market will be used to cure the problems caused by the market. Of course it won’t work to fix anything but it will generate profit, which is the whole point.

    The most astounding thing is that the vast majority of the worlds literate people do not have the slightest inkling that the entire belief system based upon The Market has descended into pure evil. The Market is the anti Christ.


    My friend, John, above, mentions gardening. In your post here, Raul, you mention “overthrowing the way we do food.” So, what would a global strategy for localizing and permaculturizing food production look like? Woody Tasch at Slow Money has put years into innovating financial vehicles to get investors an ability to support local food production, which is no small challenge. Though I am a participant in the local, organic, farmers-market movement, I’ve yet to see organizing at a systemic level that outlines a scaled approach to how this transition would occur — and I think it would be politically and economically and spiritually compelling to a majority of people if it were put forward.


    Very good, Illargi. You just about nailed it but I think you let a little bit of hope creep in, in the section starting “Mankind’s only chance …”. You probably know that there is no chance. That section probably accepts that humans can’t use that available energy benignly (humans are a species and so have a characteristic behaviour that can’t consciously be altered) and so the only chance it to somehow stop using all of the energy we can get our hands on; to do something different from what other species typically do. That also isn’t going to happen since we are a species.

    The question then is what certain anomalous members of our species do with that awareness. That’s a tough one.

    Stinging Nettle

    I thought I was on Nature Bats Last. OOPS!

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