The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Reasons For Hope (1): The Solutions Are Known

Ok, this place has mostly been about how fucked we are, and how we’ve fucked up. Blame is more on our leaders than us, but as a species we’re on the hook.

But there is cause of hope because mostly we know what we have to do.

We know we have to reduce CO2 and Methane emissions. We even know mostly how. We pretend we don’t, because the how will involve changing the economic basis of our societies. Something between forty to fifty percent of our jobs aren’t needed or are actively harmful. People should mostly work from home if they can. We need to outlaw planned obsolesence and get rid of suburbs and exurbs as they currently exist. Everyone and everything needs to prove that it increases biodiversity and communities need to show a CO2/Methane deficit, without cheating and bullshit offsets.

We need to prepare for what’s coming. Solutions include but are not limited to

  • building seawalls
  • moving to renewable resources,
  • rewilding,
  • creating wetlands around vulnerable areas and replanting and rebuilding ecospheres
  • change agriculture to huge hothouses and vertical farming and so on
  • reduce our reliance on meat though not remove it entirely since there are regions that make sense as pasture land
  • Move to regional manufacture of specific items
  • Reduce reliance on large power grids
  • fix our infrastructure
  • replace a lot of our infrastructure with styles that last longer and/or are easier to repair (asphalt and steel-reinforced concrete have to go, fortunately we now know how the Romans created concrete that lasted thousands of years)
  • Fix our air infrastructure to check for CO2 , oxygen and to clean the air
  • Set up systems to allow individual buildings and neighbourhoods to be power and water self-sufficient where possible
  • stop poisoning or overusing our aquifers
  • stop growing water intensive crops we don’t really need in areas that don’t have water (almonds in California)

All of this is fairly basic. The details can be complicated, but we know what must be done and we either have the technology or can develop it.

The hard problem is not the technical stuff, complicated as it may be, the hard problem is the political question. The hard thing is that we have to change how we live and how we organize our societies in fundamental ways.

But we know, generally speaking, what has to be done. And that is cause for reasonable hope, because it means that if we do solve the political problem, we’ll be able to get moving very quickly.

We just, like any addict, have to be willing to actually change, and that means giving up our current way of living.

That’s hard. But it is going to happen. We can do it before we hit bottom, or we can do it the hard way. But we will do it.

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Lean Into The Good


Dog Bites Man: The US (With Foreign Allies) Did Blow Up The Nord Stream Pipelines


  1. Curt Kastens

    Yes we know what to do. We knew what to do back in 1990. But it did not get done. The first step towards getting something done is to plan to do it. Backwards planning is required. If you want to be carbon nuetral by say 2040 all internal combustion vehicles need to be scrapped by 2040. That means that the production of internal combustion engines needs to stop by 2025.

    But wait a second. The permafrost is thawing out NOW. It is not going to stop thawing out even if we woke up tommorrow with a carbon neutral world. The rate at which it is releasing methane and CO2 might slow down.

    Wait one more second. To create a high tech carbon neutral society to replace our built on fossil fuels industrial society would take a massive infrastructure investment. We might not need a high tech replacement but the high tech alternative drowns out the low tech in public discourse. Can low tech not only be sustainable but support 8 billion people let alone 10 billion people??

    There is no carbon budget left to build the infrastructure required to move people away from the coast lines all over the world as Indonesia is now doing with Jakarta. But even if we did have a carbon budget left there is no one at the top levels of world’s disunified leaderships that is doing a bit of systemic planning as to the logistics of completing a transition to a survivable sustainable world. (That we have no carbon budget to implement anyways.)

    Can anyone reasonably think that the US leadership will ever tell the Saudis to cap the American controled oil fields in Saudi Arabia?

    It should be pretty clear by now that the powerfull leaderships of the world never had any intention of successfully dealing with the challenges of climate change. An agreement had to be reached between the US and it allies on one side and the Russians and Chinese on the other. But it was clear that the US was never serious about tackling the problem because that would have meant ending imperialist policies.
    The Russians and Chinese were not in an enough of a strategically advantageous position to tackle the problem during a time that the US and its allies could not be trusted to not to take advantage of them.

    The United States was in a superb position to try to create a low tech survivable sustainable economy. The United States is so large and so far removed from the rest of the world and so populous, and with a population that is incredibly violent and ruthless to boot than no other nation or combination of nations would have spent a dime on trying to conquor the United States. But nooooooooooo the US leadership had to finish its fantasy of ruling the world before the world came to an end.

    The world has literally or figuratively, take your prick, been led out on to very thin ice in the middle of the Orctic Ocean. Nothing to do now except stand still and sing,
    It the song that never ends, It goes on and on my friends, Someone started singing it not knowing what it was. They will just keep on singing it because its the song that never ends.

    My estimation is that the number of singers is the world will start rapidly declining before 2040.

  2. Paul Harris

    Degrowth and de-civilisation are the unpalatable necessities

  3. W Scott

    You forgot to mention the elephant in the room — population; we can reduce our numbers gracefully and by choice, or we can let nature do it. We all know current numbers are *not* sustainable, but the rich and ruthless decided long ago that the ‘herd’ should be extended and fattened for profit and that there should only be two jobs, consumer and warrior, neither of which allows for self-determination or more importantly, self-sufficiency.

  4. Trinity

    Seawalls actually make things worse “downstream”. They are usually built to protect economic interests (ports, tourist attractions, rich people’s homes). They significantly alter natural wave and wind processes, leading to problems up or down the coast, depending on the natural tendencies of that coast.

    And therein lies the problem, both in terms of economics (it’s not about politics, not any more anyway) and in terms of climate change (we are all literally “downstream” and dealing with problems from “upstream”).

    The continual alteration of natural processes without thought for the consequences is why we are here now. There were articles during the west coast fires that highlighted the use of indigenous knowledge and processes to alleviate the worst of it. That’s what is required: knowledge of natural processes so as to mitigate (not completely alter) natural processes.

    This means working with these processes, not suppressing them, not altering them significantly, and understanding thoroughly the consequences of any changes made. The native Americans did this without the internet, or even a written language. For us, this is the Age of Arrogance, the age where we are taught to believe that we can rule Nature. Hubris.

    Natural processes are the true “laws”. Nature laughs last. Our elites will not do anything until they are also affected, which may be never. That’s why we are all glum.

    There’s hope in ice floes, there’s hope in the children, there’s hope in unions, there’s hope in switching to a collective mentality, there’s hope in some (the best) science. To my mind, the push back has not only started, it’s gaining momentum, but as with most things these days it seems too little, too late. The US and Canada both need a Brazil moment. Michael Hudson and Rhadika suggest that relations between Europe and the US aren’t quite as great as it seems. Maybe the idea of global domination will finally be trash binned. Maybe there are a few elites who aren’t complete sociopaths.

    There is also hope in teaching others what really matters, and what really, really doesn’t. But the future will be vastly different than today no matter what we do physically now. Climate change is baked in. The future humans will have to figure it out, and they will. Hopefully they will choose the better path than the ones our elites chose for us.

  5. anon y'mouse

    “sustainable” energy might be wind and water power.

    as in, actual don quixote windmills and waterwheels.

    but not for 8 billions.

    unfortunately, the Owning Class knows that the most sustainable thing for most of us to do is to drop dead.

    problem is, they still need servants.

  6. Eric Anderson

    One factor I think need be mentioned that not on the list Ian: We need an Economics based on physics, not philosophy. For example, an economics that fully accounts for negative externalities. The majority of “profit” that is the driving motivational force behind capitalism exist because factors like pollution, exhaustion of the resource stream, mental impacts upon the labor force are simply not written into the balance sheet. But, these “debts” on the balance sheet are absolutely real. They’re just ignored.

  7. Purple Library Guy

    One detail I disagree with: Vertical farming. As far as I can tell, vertical farming is one of those ideas that sounds really neat until you start figuring out what inputs it actually requires, what the logistics are really like. Then it turns out that the concentration of output in one spot does not make up for the need to pump water, fertilizer, light and so on into a multi-storey building.

    But the broader point is sound. On a narrower scale, this is actually one reason I like electric cars even though really in the medium term, car culture needs to go: If everyone switches to electric cars, demand for oil drops greatly. If demand for oil drops greatly, oil companies suffer a drastic loss of political power, including their ability to finance propaganda helping to grow the fascist right. If the oil companies suffer a drastic loss of political power, that’s a major force screwing us up that’s out of the way.

  8. Joan

    I want to point out that building materials are rather porous and flimsy in the US and that’s a major factor in making apartment living so miserable because you hear everything your neighbor says and does. Plus the low ceilings, and the landlord doesn’t care that the building is not weatherized and insulated because the tenant is on the hook for the heating bill.

    I hate landlords- in all my life I’ve only had one good landlord- so when I say apartment I also mean units a person can own. In American English you have to switch between apartment and condo if it’s renting or owning, which is dumb. In other places you can own a flat or apartment, anyway.

    I don’t live in Germany but the Altbau method of using stone and concrete to build thick-walled and spacious apartment buildings makes high density living very sensible because you only hear your neighbors when everyone has their windows open in the summertime. Plus they stay cooler for longer in the summer, and can be heated with radiators/heating plates on the walls in whatever room you’re in. These buildings can last for centuries. May not work in earthquake areas, not the expert on that, but otherwise they are a great idea.

    I hope the US returns to mixed-use zoning because people used to be able to live in the apartment above the shop they worked in. Their morning commute was walking downstairs.

    Most of all, I look forward to a future without cars.

  9. Mary Bennett

    Vertical farming is extremely resource intensive. It is a stopgap at best. The high tunnels will be possible only so long as the plastic covers remain available. We need to revive the local making of glass, along with ancient concrete, and ancient methods, pioneered by the Phoenicians, of nautical engineering. Now if specialists in the field, Prof. Miles comes to mind, would give over their obsession with Hannibal Barca, and seriously study the ancient harbors on the Levantine coast, they might be able to make some useful contributions to present knowledge.

    Starve the beast. Fast fashion is a scandal, and the clothes are so shoddily made that any competent sewist can do better. Boycott over processed food and add at least ten years to your life, absent genetic disorders, and even there you can expect great improvement in general wellbeing. If you find solitary cooking boring, have a processing party with friends or your church.

    The growing of appropriate vegetables in one’s own yard is doable right now, today, and city and county govts. need to be persuaded to allow this. Show your council members pictures of feces and needle contaminated lots and ask how is this possibly “nicer” than a garden? Former CA Gov. Brown signed into law permission for renters to maintain gardens. This needs to be replicated in every state. Small livestock, with reasonable restrictions as to noise and sanitation, needs to be allowed in every neighborhood, not just certain ones where authorities pretend they don’t notice.

  10. carborundum

    I think the big thing we need to do is stop being gulled by people selling capital intensive solutions because we want to be dynamic and “do something” to not feel helpless.

    A lot of what people are reflexively signing on for doesn’t make sense. Transitioning to transportation infrastructure with battery powered cars as the lowest common denominator rather than a flexible system of multiple transport options is not a good plan. Nor is embracing intensive technology-leveraged hothouse agriculture (works great for tomatoes – not so good for cereals which is what global sustenance depends upon) at the expense of what’s known to work at scale.

    Any time someone is shouting about the emergency while demanding a crash trillion dollar build they stand to benefit from, be skeptical.

  11. Ché Pasa

    RE: Population. Apparently word hasn’t gotten to the Overpopulation mavens that population growth is already stalled or is on the decline throughout the West and very prominently so in China. China’s population is predicted to fall by half by the end of the century. Absent immigration — whether from devastated Ukraine or the Global South — Europe’s population would be in a rather steep decline, while that of the US and Canada would be stable or in decline without the influx of Others.

    Disease, starvation and armed conflict are preventing much explosive population growth in large portions of the Global South.

    The best thing to do to reduce population growth and eventually reduce overall population is to enhance general economic well-being and to liberate women from the necessity of child bearing. This is very well known and has been known for generations. Yet surprisingly it’s not widespread policy especially among wealthy nations which are stingy and often impose such onerous terms on their “largesse” that they make conditions in poor countries worse and reinforce the perceived necessity of beating more rather than fewer children.

    So. We know what to do, yes, and we should be doing it, not just to control population growth, but to ensure general well-being and particularly the well being of the Earth.

    Why aren’t we doing it?

  12. Jorge

    Paint the buildings white. The North American Southwest needs no other color.

  13. Curt Kastens

    It makes sense to continue to say in public that it is not to late to save humanity.
    We certainly do not want children under the age of 12 to know what is ahead of them.
    For children between the ages of 13 and 18 the truth has to come in stages.
    But people over 18 should know the truth. And they should know who bears the most responsibility for the way things developed.

    Is this a public, or a private, members only fourem?

  14. different clue

    Here’s a Reason For Hope that was posted at Naked Capitalism. ( Not that I would ever condone someone doing something “illegal” to a target merely because the target deserves it).

  15. Some Guy

    I had a childhood friend who, any time somebody said, ‘now you know’, could be 100% relied upon to reply, GI Joe style, ‘and knowing is half the battle’.

    But I guess knowing isn’t half the battle, in this case, maybe 1%. To be honest, even if we had the will, I’m not sure we would be capable. The crazy escalation of infrastructure costs in just the past 5 years has put tons of stuff out of reach already. But is is kind of a moot point anyway, at least as far as i can see.

  16. different clue

    The reality of the situation is that those who agree with the basic thrust of all this will have to conquer enough relevant levels and jurisdictions of government to be able to use those levels to force these actions into existence in those jurisdictions. And that will require a decades-long Long March through the relevant levels and jurisdictions.

    The tragedy of the situation is that decades no longer exist.

    The only hope that those who know and agree have is to be able to survive and outlast the don’t know-don’t care majority rulers and majority followers. And the only way to survive in the global heatering future is to be able to predict various outcomes accurately enough and plan and act and invest wisely and completely enough to be able to survive those accurately predicted outcomes.

    That means that ” those who know and care” will have to be able to recognize eachother while keeping themselves ” hidden in plain sight” from the don’t know-don’t care masses all around them. Those who are ready to know, care and prepare should help eachother do so while keeping those preparations, predictions and knnowledge as secret as possible from the don’t know-don’t care people all around them.

    Those who “know and care” will have to be able to ” go gray” and “disappear in place” so that the don’t know-don’t care people don’t receive any undeserved help to survive . . . because if they survive into the future they helped create, they will only try to create it all over again.

    Those who think the system and society can somehow be taken over and forced to save itself will have to be the Caves of Yennan they wish to see in the world.

  17. anon y'mouse

    “they” do not intend for most of us our whatever offspring to live in the high tech “sustainable” future.

    whatever way you do the math, the best thing for the environment would be for most people to live like absolute non-tech peasants in mud huts. to NOT build the homes and the cars and the giant windmills and the batteries that will store it.

    my comment above was kind of alluding to that. the “golden billion” (whomever they turn to be, ethno-culturally) may get there, but most of the rest of us will be relegated back to scrounging whatever we can from wherever we can.

    it’ll be a cross between a west virginia holler and a south african shantytown.

    why do you think that the grand electric car thing wasn’t done in any way the way one would roll out a new technology for the entire world to use. they didn’t set Ford and GM on it, they gave it to the luxury market. the rest of us very shortly won’t be able to drive at all. that’s how this will be managed. same with solar power, which only the wealthy still can afford to put on their INDIVIDUAL homes. these methods are not how you get mass usage and mass adoption. because obviously that was never the goal.

    i fully imagine at some point in the next 20 years, they won’t even bother paving most of the roads. to do that would be to do “too much” to the environment. only the Amish will be sitting pretty in most of america outside the Elite PMC coastlines.

    the problem is winding it down for the rest of us while amping it up for the Golden Billion. they’ve been using us to test their products and pay for their product development, while offering us consumerism. too many of us are still fantasizing about buying the latest roomba and fully loaded SUV.

    there is never going to be an affordable and sustainable mass produced home for the masses. those only go for rich people who can afford actual architects and builders and designers who can design the systems (which are site specific in nearly every case), and they are full of tyvek, plastic, foam, poly products, and other fancy, high tech stuff that make them “low cost” to heat. the embodied energy is all up front, therefore so is most of the cost. therefore not available to people who can’t build their own cabin in the woods with solar panels right off the patio.

    it’s not going to happen for you and me, unless it’s already happening via your money. that’s the future the Owners banked on and are going to get.

    and nothing that humans do is actually “sustainable”. the most sustainable lifestyle would be very small numbers of us operating semi-nomadically so that we can allow regeneration of the environment. nothing we do or create is in any way sustainable. the only saving grace from tech of the pre-industrial era was that at least most all of it was fully biodegradable thus able to be reabsorbed without too many difficulties into the natural cycles.

    the higher the tech level, the worse these problems get. every tech level advanced the need for resources and thus the amount of ecosystem impacted, advancing the “unsustainable” load on the environment. we could get away with high tech for very limited numbers IF most things are automated (no hundreds of children digging out copper mines in Peru by hand, so no need to worry about housing or feeding them).

    that’s the gamble the Owners have made—that they can automate faster than things get so degraded that their machines won’t do anything for them anyway because they won’t be able to breathe. then they can totally dispense with the rest of us.

    oh, and an “economics where externalities are accounted for” is EXACTLY what putting all of the natural environments and resources of the earth onto a “natural stock exchange” is about. there’s a lot of potential evil in that idea that i won’t expound on here, but i think you can read on some of it at wrongkindofgreen. think the idea through in light of what the current “capitalist” based stock market is and what it’s used for, and then slap yourself for thinking that monetizing everything is a “good” idea.

    that pristine lake will now be like mortgage backed securities, plus fenced off from “indigenous” use as private property.

  18. Astrid

    We *know* what to do about climate change (which is tied to resource depletion, over population, and ecological collapse) like America knows how to fight a war with a peer competitor. We have some outdated notions of what to do but no physical or intellectual capabilities and are lead by self important psychopaths who profited from their previous disastrous decisions and see any (poorly thought through, too little, too late) remedial efforts as opportunities to enrich their cronies. We can’t even recover common sense ideas about hygiene and maneuver warfare from 100 years, so yeah…

    For those in the bargaining phase of dealing with their guilt for being sentient life into this crazy world, good luck with that. I’m glad that I’m not thusly burdened.

  19. Curt Kastens

    Here is an example of what I live for now. Little opportunities like occured today.
    I was out walking, by German standards, in the middle of no where. The nearest town was 2 kilometers away. I saw a figure in front of me speaking on a telephone. As he saw me he hung up and approached me. He was an African lad about 14 or 15 years of age. Well at least I thought he was African at that moment. He did not speak a lick of German or English. He showed me his telephone. On the phone was a translation from a language with a non european alphabet in to German. It could have been a Indian Alphabet or it could have been an Ethiopian Alphabet. So now I am not sure as to the boy’s heritage. Anyways his phone translation service asked where he could find the nearest trains. Well I was not sure. I pointed in two directions because one town the larger one was 3 kilometers in one direction. Another town smaller was 2 kilometers in the other direction. I was not sure if either of these towns had a train station. Then he typed in to his phone again. The translation was which one is closer.
    So I pointed the way to the closer town.
    When I got back to my car which has a navigation system I checked and found out that the closer but smaller town did indeed have a train station. So, I then figured that this boys journey must be very important to the simulation director. Otherwise I would not have been in the right place at the right time to insure that the boy recieved proper guidance to help him reach his destination.
    I do not know why the simulation director would have much interest in the journey of one young boy when we are all going to be dead in about 20 years anyways, if not much sooner. What could his purpose in life be other than to have a child or two and then die with them when all of us die due to the collapse of modern civilization and AGW?

  20. Curt Kastens

    Yes I also realize that this boy could have been carrying a large amount of cash destined for a drug lord, or a human trafficing organization. But even if that were the case the simulation director wants the mission to succeed or I would not have been there.
    Do I trust the simulation director to have the best intrests of humans in his/her/its thoughts. Not by any means. At this point it seems that we are all just tools in some kind of a cosmic labratory. Otherwise we would not have been sharing the planet with the dickheads in the Pentagon. But I did not have a good reason to send the boy in the wrong direction. My assistance was more or less fore ordained. And even if I had known that he was carrying a kilo of heroin I would not have cared. The war on drugs is not a hot button issue for me. I suspose that people dealing in Angle Dust should go to prison. But for the most part in my view the drug trade is an ethical gray area.

  21. different clue

    Naked Capitalism just today ran an article about the kind of people who work to prevent the application of any of the ” solutions that are known”. It describes a particular area of psychological warfare operations and disinformation operations being waged against solar power and wind power, who is coordinating them, and who/what is funding them.

    Here is a link to the article. ( I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony Wikrent runs this article in his Sunday Wrap Up.)

    Individuals ” who know” can do their own personal ” solutions that they know”. But to roll out “solutions that are known” at a social level, the “people who know” would first have to wage and win a civil war against the people described in the article I linked to. I won’t say something nasty like ” all the leaders and millions of supporters of the anti-renewables conspiracy and movement will have to be rounded up, brought to big pits and trenches, mass machine gunned into the pits and trenches and covered over with bulldozer dirt” . . . . but their power over society and their presence anywhere in society will have to be all the way destroyed before ” those who know the solutions” will be free to apply “the solutions that are known”.

    So my suggestion to ” those who know” remains . . . do our best predicting about what will happen where over the next century or so of runaway global warming, do our best survival measures design and action to survive those future conditions, and do not permit the enemies of life on earth to know a single thing about these survival designs and actions. Do not even allow the enemies of life on earth find out about the secret survival plans and measures which “those who know” the “solutions that are known” are secretly taking to raise the survival chances of those who deserve to survive.

  22. different clue

    @Eric Anderson,

    Some lonely few have tried crafting an economics based on physics rather than philosophy.

    One such was the English nuclear physicist/chemist named Frederick Soddy. He won two separate real ( not fake ) Nobel Prizes in science. Here is a little sketch on the science side of his career.

    He began wondering what “economics” would look like if a physicist tried designing it. He culminated this work in his book Wealth, Virtual Wealth, And Debt: the Solution of the Economic Paradox. Here is a short little wikipage stub about that book.,_Virtual_Wealth_and_Debt

    I have found, and then lost track of, links to various pdfs of the complete book on line. ( It is long out of print and buying a copy may be difficult.) Here is a possible link.

    Here are a few other books and papers which I think I understand to have cited Soddy’s book in their own. Some of them seem more or less related to a concept of physics-based economics.

    Charles Walters Junior was inspired by Soddy’s book among other things in his own attempts at reality-based economic analysis. He wrote two books: and . . .

    Herman Daly tried addressing these issues of re-internalizing the falsely externalized costs of economic activity. He has tried developing a concept of no-growth Steady State Economics. Here is a point of entry into the world of Herman Daly.

    Kenneth Boulding tried developing some similar approaches. Here is a short wiki on Kenneth Boulding.

    (David Brower of the Sierra Club once said: ” Economics is a form of brain damage.”
    An economic analyst for TVA that my father used to know once said: ” Economics is ultimately a branch of Moral Philosphy”. Perhaps it is partially both at once.)

    There used to be someone named Jay Hanson who used to have a site called dieoff. The original allegedly still exists hidden deep in the caverns of Internet Archive The Wayback Machine. Things can be hard to find there. It was designed to store stuff but it was never intended for anyone to be able to find stuff, and it shows.

  23. Curt Kastens

    Many years ago I read a comment by Stan Goff. He quoted someone else, it might have been Illich, who said about life, you can not win you can not break even and you can not get out of the game. I think that comment is true. But I do have an amendment.
    You can sometimes score points. But doing so comes with a financial, psychological, or physical cost.

    How does one score points. By complicating matters for those who decieve, exploit, and oppress others.

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