Last Updated: 3/9/23
This page will keep being my most up-to-date analysis of our historical conditions and events – until I lose access to the internet.
I need to try to map the collapse-causal strata separately, and then attempt to explore the possibility space opened by the contingent interaction of these parameters. How you isolate, define, and examine each process depends on the conceptual tools you’re bringing to the job.
I don’t have good enough math to do this numberwise, but fuck numbers anyways. If you’re into this, do your own math with it.
This is what I’m working off of:
Biosphere Phase Shift
The Holocene is over, and the Biosphere is phase shifting into we-don’t-know-what-but-definitely-way-worse. At 420 ppm CO2 (plus CH4, NO2 &c) we are likely already locked into at least 5c+ of warming – an Eocene-analog climate (that’s way past fucked for primates – only small mammals will have a chance). Ecosystems are unravelling, biomass depletion and extinction rates are soaring, the ocean is acidifying, and GGE feedback loops are starting to kick in. The Blue Ocean Event looms ever closer – almost certainly in the next decade.
This process leads to inevitable world-systems collapse, increasingly probable human extinction, affects all aspects of systemic functioning, and is hitting agriculture hardest and fastest. It doesn’t have any brakes (other than the outlying factors) and could continue all the way to a Venus or even Mars-type planet – we don’t know. As mass extinctions go – ours is the biggest and fastest, so this could actually be the end of the biosphere forever.
It could also level off at some point after world-systems collapse, gradually stabilizing into some new, alien planet and kickstarting a new Post-Holocene evolutionary sequence. At this point, this is a best-case scenario for the biosphere. The longer capitalism reproduces itself, the less probable this outcome gets.
The theoretical apparati most useful for understanding this process are ecology, geology, and biology. Some decent dialectics don’t hurt either.
The popular media framing of ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ is really just a vulgar essentialist conception of a single symptom of the real threat – the thin interconnected web of biomass that covers the surface of this planet is unravelling. Large scale ecosystemic collapse is an inevitable result of capitalist functioning and is going to fuck us long before rising temperatures or sea levels do.
The Energy Cliff
The thermodynamics of fossil fuel extraction (mediated by capitalist social relations) guarantee declining rates of return, escalating costs – and a qualitative and probably quite sudden downshift into a different global energy state. This could happen in phases, or maybe even go to total energy system breakdown.
When the oil goes, everything goes with it. Wind and solar are a dumb joke, and can’t possibly replace fossil fuels. Geothermal is cool but also geographically limited and incapable of scaling. Tidal has the same downsides as all passive rebuildables. Hydro is already tapped.
The only possible mitigation for this is mass scale construction of nuclear power – something only state apparati really have the incentive to do. Waiting for ‘the free market’ to do things it cannot and will never do is suicidal lunacy – the liberal way. The level and scale of plant construction necessary again requires radical political/economic transformation. We only have a limited amount of energetically available fossil fuels left to do this, and we’re completely squandering it on business-as-usual.
Our societies need to have individual energy caps if they’re going to survive, something capitalism cannot do and com-peeps in the cores will never voluntarily agree to. At the moment, new energy sources connected to the grid don’t reduce fossil fuel usage. Capitalism has no internal energy throttle, (jevon’s paradox + value dynamics) so the more energy we have, the more we use.
While the energy cliff is going to be brutal, painful, and very violent – the sooner it happens, the better for the future of the biosphere, and thus for the future of all life in the known universe.
I should mention that while GHG’s released into the atomosphere definitely warm the climate, they also include aerosols that counter-intuitively provide a cooling effect. There is already much more warming from the GHG’s already released than we’re currently experiencing, due to aerosol dampening. This means that after the energy cliff this aerosol cooling effect will disappear, leading to a massive spike in global temperatures. A slow depreciation of fossil fuels would be far more manageable than the cliff – but capitalism can’t do that so we’re getting the cliff.
The best theoretical apparati for understanding this are physics and histmat – specifically, how value dynamics and thermodynamics interact. Even a basic understanding of thermodynamics and value dynamics is enough to render every liberalism ever invented hopelessly obsolete. It’s all folk-econ, folk-pol, folk-psych – Holocene gibberish.
Both previous causal matrices feed into this one. Our agricultural system has abysmally inefficient thermodynamics, destroys its own landbase, and is totally dependent on massive amounts of oil inputs. It’s also embedded within a conceptual system and infrastructure from the Holocene – so it’s pretty much all obsolete! The Post-Holocene climate is going to be very hostile to and difficult for agriculture to navigate. (There are atmospheric thresholds past which photosynthesis itself stops working!) In just the last half century, we have already lost over 30% of our total arable land.
The best mitigation here would be collectivization (which doesn’t rule out localization) and transformation into primarily indoor agri/horticultural production facilities, an option that is completely off the table within electoral politics. This would also require a shitload of energy, once again requiring mass scale nuclear construction.
Julian Cribb has an excellent presentation about possible Post-Holocene agriculture here. He’s got way more ideas about this stuff than I do, and makes it seem like we really do have the options available to adequately transform our food system. I want to believe!
But he doesn’t really understand how capitalism works. His economic solution to make this stuff happen is ‘just use 20% of the military budget’. Where’s the political apparatus that will do this? In order to have long term capital/labor distribution plans that aren’t dictated by profit margins (= imperialist interests) you need – wait for it – socialism!
There have been billionaires buying up lots of agriculture, but corporate monopolies are still quite restricted with what they can do within capitalist relations. Nonetheless – centralization of power over agriculture is extremely good and necessary for the kind of mass-scale redesign that will have to be done for the Post-Holocene climate.
But don’t kid yourself –
Bill Gates Ain’t Gonna Share.
This stuff is gonna be exclusive and limited to those loyal to the monopoly, while the masses die off. I anticipate corporate-fash company towns and fiefdoms are gonna be a thing.
This is where the ‘great reset’ conspiracy comes from – the Eco-Communist Exigency as dimly sensed by reactionaries who don’t understand that they are an emergent property of an external world that has its own indifferent structures, processes, and laws. They don’t have an analysis of their objective conditions and live in a haze of reified subjectivist/idealist/essentialist abstractions, so (absent any kind of objectivity) the ECE gets interpreted as a conspiracy out to fuck them over personally. This is a defense mechanism to shield themselves from the truth about themselves – they are a sapient extinction event. We are all of us the ‘great reset’ as long as we’re reproducing capitalist social relations.
They’re right ofc about the ECE conflicting with their immediate interests (as agents of extinction), but the plans the transnational capitalists and their lackeys have set in motion (in response to the ECE) are too little, too late, and riddled with all the blindspots and limitations that characterize that class and its particular ideology. Compared to the scope of the Eco-Communist Exigency, the ‘Great Reset’ is just desperate ineffectual flailing from a ruling class that has failed harder than any in history and is now only just beginning to dimly sense the already-happening prehistoric shitstorm of fubar they’re directly responsible for.
In any case, we are massively overpopulated relative to the carrying capacity of the capitalist metabolism (which is an extinction algorithm to begin with, it can only produce overshoot and destroy long-term carrying capacity) so we are currently eating our own future out from under us. A communist eco-overhaul of agriculture needed to be happening since long before I was born, so famines on a scale with no historical precedent are imminent.
For each degree of warming, yields of staple crops decline by about 10%. Relatedly – the more carbon in the atmosphere there is, the fewer nutrients plants are able to provide. So within agricultural collapse, there is a hidden nutrient collapse as well – all foods are steadily becoming more like fast food.
The Capitalist World-System has been in a disastrous tailspin since the early 70’s. As it hit maximum globalization it also plunged down the slope of the last great Kondratiev wave. This is primarily due to the global rate of profit (and rate of return on energy) dropping over time, as it do. The Neoliberal reforms have ransacked everything to keep the RoP propped up, but they’ve only been able to temporalily level it off at the expense of, well – any non-profitable end, like healthcare, education, social programs, and environmental damage control.
Everything is just being fueled by debt/energy stolen from the future. After ’08 the unravelling started to escalate faster, plunging us into The Long Depression, followed by an unprecedented system shock in ’20.
At the level of exchange-value circulation – the money printers are the only thing keeping the financial plates spinning as the rate of profit tumbles. Inequality becomes ever greater as the peripheries – external and internal – continue their long agonized collapse. Central banks are being slowly forced to raise interest rates to counter inflation – but this won’t work (the ‘inflation’ isn’t the ol’ timey monetary kind, it is a direct symptom of the collapsing agriculture system and peak everything) and will cause an even deeper recessionary plunge.
As for use-values, supply chains are proper fucked and never going to magically unfuck themselves. Scarcity of energy, raw materials, and commodities are affecting the system at all levels. This is contributing to inflation and the soaring costs of living.
The breakdown of the world system could have different catabolic thresholds –
or it could go out all at once.
It’s impossible to know what will finally do it in in the end, because the economy itself is a parasitic entity on top of the energy system and disintegrating biosphere.
The only mitigation for this would be revolutionary overhaul of our existing political/economic apparati – towards much smaller terraforming eco-economies of direct allocation.
Historical materialism and eco-econ are the best lenses for understanding this strata. All forms of neoliberal economics are now folk-econ – more or less terminally obsolete. This stuff translates ecologically into ‘how to most efficiently destroy a biosphere for dummies’. Shit’s all worthless Holocene nonsense.
Histmat gives us the tools to accurately understand the social structures and processes we live in and reproduce, and also to imagine how things could be different.
This being the level of symbolic/cultural/information circulation. This stuff is, insofar as we are materialists, largely dependent on and symptomatic of the preceding (underlying) crises layers.
This strata includes the epistemic crisis (the centers of authority/hegemony are crumbling; irrationalisms, conspiracisms, spiritualisms, sophisms – ignorances of any and all kinds are on the rise), the ongoing shift of bourgeois interests from their passive (liberal) modes to their active (fascist) modes, heightened racial, gender, and class antagonisms, the subjective fragmentation caused by social media and entertainment practices, the mental health crisis, the suicide crisis, the opiate crisis, escalating mass shootings, the Semantic Apocalypse – you get the idea.
We were lunatics to begin with, so we’re not handling this well.
Psychoanalysis, schizoanalysis, and histmat are your best bets here. This is the stuff that appears as primary to idealists – but for materialists the objective framework is the breakdown in our physical life processes. If you don’t understand your historical conditions, this stuff is just all ‘bad shit is happening and seems to be getting worse’.
Which is true, of course – but the collapse of the capitalist world-system has little to do with ideas or attitudes (except negatively as inadequate to the task of comprehending the historical situation), it has to do with the material structures, thermodynamics, long-term secular trends, and other objective characteristics the beast possesses.
Mitigation here would require collective programs of re-education into the new post-holocene paradigm. The conditions are already making this happen slowly. Too slowly.
Working Structural Framework
These are the best large-scale conceptual angles on the Hyper-Process that is the Event that I’ve got, each with appropriate theoretical terrains and concepts. I’ve stacked them up like this because it gives them all a useful metastructure – each ‘layer’ is dependent on the preceding in order to function, sorta kinda. You can use different kinds of dialectics and causal models between and around them and stuff. There are many ways these matrices can be related, and many conceptual apparati that can do the relating.
There are additional factors and symptoms like the Water Wars and escalating plague breakouts (hallo monkeypox and ebola and RSV and strep A – no surprises there), but idk where to locate these really.
Increasing resource scarcity hits all strata.
It’s impossible to know how these trajectories will play out, not without a roomful of math nerds and a supercomputer maybe. Limits to Growth is the attempt at this I know of, but the conceptual models used to do it are kinda weak.
The interests here are opposed – Capitalist survival is incompatible with Biosphere survival. Hence the necessity of redirecting civilizational survival towards the EcoCommunist Exigency/Impossibility. This contradiction will ‘resolve’ whenever the antagonism disappears, for whatever reason. The sooner the world-system transforms/collapses the better for the future of life.
Everyone with a conscience should be identified with biosphere survival – everything depends on it.
Outcome Analysis Scratchpad
In the Cores we have 8ish years of something like ‘normal’ left. Maybe. Each year will be worse than the last. (It could also all just collapse tomorrow – there’s nothing holding this shit together but habits, lies, nukes, guns, duct tape, and bubblegum). It will become harder and harder to bury ones head in the sand, until the nightmare will eventually become inescapable for everyone. There is nowhere to run from this.
If you want the best chance of surviving collapse, you need a group with weapons, access to energy and arable, defensable land. The safest place in the world to be right now? North Korea. As already a quasi-autarky, they’ll have the capacity to survive the transition. They’ve already survived a lot!
I don’t expect capitalism in its current form to last past 2040. What will succeed it is an open question, but will of necessity be far more local and fragmented, and on a massively smaller metabolic bandwidth. High energy lives are going away – likely forever, barring some last-second fusion miracle.
We are already seeing a systemic partition take place as Amerikan Hegemony breaks down, so it’s possible there are many layers of increasing ‘localization’ of the former world-system ahead of us – or perhaps this new binary system will be able to limp along for longer.
The smart geopolitical play right now for nation-states is steering for (command economy) autarky. This is one of the reasons the sanctions on Russia have backfired so spectacularly – affecting the NATO cores much more negatively than the Russian periphery. Disconnection from the western core bloc is exactly what Russia wants/needs right now – and the West is raw material and energy blind while being totally dependent on them. (Idealism is a helluva drug).
Note that brexit very specifically does not qualify as a smart geopolitical play, even tho it has a vague nationalist autarkic sentiment behind it. These dumbasses had no clue what the realities of world-system disconnection would be like, what an autarkical push would actually entail, and zero plan to deal with any of the extremely predictable fallout. If you wanna do Juche, you gotta actually Juche. Nationalist fervor and pig-headed idealism do not a social plan make. Brexit has thus been a complete disaster and GB is collapsing harder and faster than any other imperialist core.
Something like a unified counter-hegemony to Amerikan/European Imperialism is emerging with the BRICS alliance. What liberation there is out from under Uncle Sam’s boot comes from China, and the global masses outside of the West-Core propaganda bubble sure know it. I expect the USD’s status as universal reserve currency to become a thing of the past in the near future – an unequivocally good thing for a majority of humans alive today. China is dumping USD – it’s probably a good time to get away from the dollar for everyone.
Because the Western Cores are in a state of serious and accelerating decline! A social project comprised of individuals who do not care about the fate of the project is, well – not really a thing! It’s a swarm of cannibal parasites on a rotting corpse, not a society. And thanks to a long failed education system, centuries of media brainwashing, and covid’s brain damage – everything is not only dumb, but getting dumber all the time.
We’re definitely getting the stupid apocalypse.
Biden and Trudeau alike are both sitting on top of sinking ships, hated by a good segment of their populace – and have very little influence or control over the escalating waves of entropy smashing into the system.
Doom, collapse, and extinction consciousness are beginning to impinge on public awareness. Talk show hosts, celebrities, and elected bourgeois politicians are actually openly talking about collapse. More and more people are getting to a minimally accurate meta-cognitive mapping of the situation -> eventual acceptance:
this ‘civilization’ is over,
and good riddance to bad rubbish.
It is hard for me to come up with a politick that isn’t hardcore accelerationist anymore. For the future of all life in the known universe –