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Doomsters’ killing machines

Doomsters’ killing machines

Have you ever asked yourself where the social trend of degrowth came from?

The surface narrative is straightforward: we consume more than our environment can provide for a sustainable future.

Even though the message is rather pessimistic since it claims that all of us, you and me and everyone else, should, beginning from this moment, consume less, forget about some of our plans, travel less, have less fun, and so on and so on, the message sticks for a very predictable reason. If we are alone on a boat with rations of 1kg of bread per day and half of the bread spoils, we must reduce our consumption to half a kilo daily. We have to degrow should we survive.

Unfortunately, the predictable appeal of the degrowth idea is flawed. The solitary boat with no option for bread to grow can in no way be compared to Earth, with zillions of constantly developing eco-niches and zillions of human production niches that constantly adapt to changes in the environment so that they can survive.

 

Complexities are sustainable

As Nassim Nicholas Taleb presents in his Antifragile (Taleb, 2014), more than a system’s fragile elements, the system itself is robust. It also goes the other way around: The more a system tries to top-down, solidify, and safeguard individuals, the less sustainable and antifragile it becomes.

The incomprehensively vast complex system of life on Earth is limited and seen as static in time. In each moment, there is not only a limited quantity of coal, for instance, but even a limited quantity of energy. According to the conservation of energy namely, we know that energy is neither created nor destroyed. It may only transform from one type to another. In other words, taking that energy is matter squared by the square of light, matter transforms with time. Transformations occur on physical, chemical, and, most dramatically, on the level of the life metabolism and the work done by human brains in the last instance.

The message here is that in the circle of life and circles of matter and energy, transformations are inherently sustainable. They cannot be but sustainable. They are sustainable because some elements within this system die, extinguish, change materiality, etc.

Life on Earth is sustainable by definition. Life on Earth cannot be but sustainable if viewed from within this system. Within the system, life cannot collapse. Certain individuals inevitably die. Some communities break down. Some species go extinct. Whole nations become extinct…

Nevertheless, collapses are opportunities for other individuals, communities, species, or nations. The remains of the deceased become the input for the thriving one. The output in the input-output matrix becomes an input. The circular economy existed for 4.5 billion years before a particular intellectual coined it and made some money from it.

The only threat to life on Earth comes from outside our system. The Sun will eventually cool down. A giant comet might trash the Earth to pieces. Superintelligent and super dumb aliens can bring this or that destabilization that would be too abrupt to adapt to.

 

The Jevons’ Paradox

Now, when it is clear that doomsday is a fake threat, let us check what lies behind ever more loud calls for degrowth. There is too much bullshit behind degrowth ideology to present it rationally, so that I will touch only one: The Jevons’ Paradox.

The Jevons’ Paradox is the article’s central topic within Degrowth (D’Alisa et al., 2015). Blake Alcott starts with an excellent definition:

In the heyday of the Industrial Revolution, as Britain worried about running out of coal, William Stanley Jevons (Jevons 1865; Alcott 2005) pondered two simultaneous phenomena: (1) required coal input per unit of smelted iron or work done by steam engines had long been falling; and (2) total coal consumption had been rising. Likewise, demand for labour input had been rising alongside rising labour productivity. From these observations, he derived the general claim that technological change which increases the efficiency with which a resource is used increases rather than decreases the rate of consumption of that resource. (Ibid., 150).

This is why eco-communists, as eco-terrorists, shifted from efficiency to degrowth. Making houses more energy efficient does not decrease consumption and needs but only redirects them. Since eco-terrorists do not care about nature, the Jevsons’ Paradox presents a threat to their mission, which is the destruction of capitalism and individual freedoms.

They hoped to achieve degrowth naturally by forcing people to save. But since they knew nothing about life and the economy, they misjudged the naturally predicted result: that what people saved was invested in something else with a higher return. Contrary to their wish, they have reinforced capitalism and not destroyed it.

So, the next step was to abandon any rationality. The collapse is here, no question. Doomsday is here, and degrowth is a must. Such contemporary degrowth does not rest on savings but on degrowth as such. Full stop. Stop thinking and start degrowing.

The final paragraph of Blake Alcot’s article directly points to a political solution that has to replace ineffective personal freedoms. When I first read the following citation, I thought I was dreaming. Are we already so deep in shit that it is possible to write something down so blatantly, so shamelessly, in a serious book published by Routledge?

If there is something to Jevons’ claim that humans will ecologically expand through a combination of population increase and greater material affluence, we should move away from technical or purely personal changes to political solutions based on the insight that natural resources are collectively owned commons (Ibid., 152).

 

How the breaking breaks

Yet, degrowth ideology is not the ultimate example of utterly confused and brainwashed Western intellectuals. Here it comes: Breaking Together, written by Jem Bendell (Bendell, 2023). I do not remember a book that would mix some exciting and provoking thoughts with such nonsense that only those who are brainwashed cannot notice.

Humanity is doomed. Full stop! Bendell is so confident that he places the total collapse in 2028. The fight against the ecological collapse is already lost. Net zero, decarbonization, ESG, and all other standards and policies that try to sanitize the climate on Earth are in vain or even counterproductive. What is productive is to prepare for an inevitable collapse.

How?

Sorry guys, I did not understand his proposals, so that I will point to only one incoherence of his thoughts out of so many:

By the end of the book, in Chapter 12, he lists 15 instructions on what a dommster, as he is, should do:

Four: Presence. Focus on the here and now with an openness to experiencing life in you.

Five: Gratitude. Be thankful for the positive aspects of modern societies that will now disappear, as well as the natural world, before it changes.

His main targets or culprits for the societal decay we experience today are capitalism, money, financial debt, individualism, and many other similar phenomena he summarizes as “modernity”. How come he commands us to be grateful for the positive aspects of modernity? How come he praises the focus on here and now if he blames capitalism for being obsessed with here and now, not considering the long-term consequences of its actions? How can he identify himself as an eco-libertarian, criticizing right and left (?) libertarians not noticing that capitalism can only be libertarian? And so on and so on.

I have listed a couple of Bendell’s inconsistencies out of many more only to clarify that it does not matter what you say after you KNOW that we are doomed. Even if I confronted him with one or more inconsistencies, he would have replied: “It does not matter if we are doomed anyway. Does it make a difference if you jump from the Empire State Building with or without earplugs? Who cares about false statements if we are just about to die?

 

The conclusion

I felt obliged to explain the mechanisms behind the evolution of eco-terrorism and eco-communism. They are evolving so fast that it is hard to recognize the new tricks they employ to seduce us.

I do not imagine that my post might reduce the risk that Western society falls into this trap entirely. At the moment, I do not see a memetic force that could challenge this megatrend. It is a growing megatrend noticeable in mainstream media and politics. We are not doomed because of a climate crisis or natural resource depletion but only because of doomsters, two of whom I briefly analyzed today.

Nevertheless, I have to be fair to Jem Bendell. Breaking Together is astonishingly controversial. How and why?

If you start reading the last three chapters, you should agree with Jem, where he explains his eco-libertarian stance. Eco-libertarianism stands against the “present hierarchies of globalization.” Eco-libertarianism stands against the “present hierarchies of globalization.” It is against state interventions. He even cites examples from which it is clear that the utopian ideology of technocrats of “modernity” is the cause for the overall societal collapse he envisages in previous chapters. This aligns with the liberal view of von Mises, Hayek, Nozick, and some (not many) other recent economists and philosophers and is elaborated in my book Homonism. But if you start reading from the beginning, as I did, it is capitalism and only capitalism that is responsible for the catastrophe we are experiencing.

Bendell’s confusion stems from his inability to discern the concept of capitalism from the crony capitalism that rests on state interventions. The post on the relation between lobbying and branding should clarify this distinction, so I will not repeat it here. Should Bendell explain the capitalism he is criticizing as a state-regulated top-down antiliberal system we are living in, I would almost agree also with him. Almost agree because he commits another mistake by being obsessed with capitalism. His evaluation that climate cannot be regulated top-down is just and correct. Still, should he take the libertarian position he is defending seriously, he should have figured out that the present state of nature was not created top-down but is an emergence of zillions of uncoordinated actions of zillions of agents in nature, humans the least. His mistake is that from the very beginning, he takes the collapse as an axiom. He lives in a typical confirmation bias as it is not hard to find various proofs for a collapse if you do not question the collapse itself.

The bottom line about Bendell is thus rather superficial. He says what doomsters should do; he is going in the right direction with the final chapters about the eco-libertarian position but fails entirely to blame capitalism, as it is capitalism we live in.

 

Citations

Bendell, J. (2023). Breaking Together: A freedom-loving response to collapse. Good Works.

D’Alisa, G., Demaria, F., & Kallis, G. (Eds.). (2015). Degrowth: A vocabulary for a new era. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Taleb, N. N. (2014). Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Reprint edition). Random House Publishing Group.

 

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