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A Precarious State of Affairs

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When asked about the state of the world today a single descriptor appears in my mind as distinct and maddening as a warning klaxon on a sinking ship: a precarious state of affairs.

There are many who see the varied symptoms of the problems that face not only the United States, but civilization across the globe, but there are unfortunately few who realize just how large the size and scope really is.

My hope is that with this article that I can shed some light on that often overlooked size and scope that threatens civilization as we know it.

The first thing to note is that just about everything is interconnected in some way shape or form; the energy we consume, the environment in which we live, and the economy that facilitates our current way of living. I think the best way to get a full picture is break down each one of these items and then show how they all come together.


When I talk about energy, I’m not talking just about how we power our vehicles or our homes but I’m also talking about the byproducts and the costs of transportation that get goods from point A to point B and something that is called EROI (Energy Returned on Investment) which is basically a ratio to compare how much energy one receives versus the energy it takes to harness the source. The following bullet points are going to hopefully explain each of the major forms of energy that we have and the problems with each one.

  • Oil: Oil is an amazing substance not just for what it does, but for the fact that there really isn’t anything else like it. Can you think of anything else that packs tons of energy in a small volume, stays liquid at room temperature, not volatile, and be used in almost everything we have today? In fact, unless you’re sitting in the middle of nowhere odds are that you can look in any direction and see a product made from oil. Plastics, paints, resins, and many more all come from this nonrenewable resource; it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that oil is the center of our very civilization. I’m sure a lot of users here have heard about ‘Peak Oil’ which to most translates ‘we’re running out.’ This is not case; in fact I don’t think we could exhaust our supplies if we tried. Peak oil is about oil either being too expensive to extract, or the EORI being so low that there’s no point. What happened in the United States in the 1970s provides a great example of what I’m talking about. When oil was first being harvested and utilized the EORI was about 100:1, so that means for every hundred barrels of oil they extracted, the cost was 1 barrel (or the equivalent). As oil was harvested a hard ceiling was hit where demand was in place production couldn’t be scaled up to meet it, this lead to shortages and panics. If you look at a graph of the output of an oil well across its entire lifespan the peak occurs at the center. See below from The Economist:
    American Crude Oil Production img:The Economist
    American Crude Oil Production img:The Economist

Now, the instant thing I hear whenever I talk about this is “Oil prices are rock bottom, how can there be shortages when it’s so cheap and we have a gigantic supply glut?” The answer to that question is shale. Shale wells are great in the short term if you overlook all the environmental damage they cause from fracking, but things get kind of squirrelly as time goes on. After the first year of production shale well outputs can drop as much as 40% and then 10%-20% every year after that. One only has to look at this graph to see what I’m talking about:

Shale Gas Production
Shale Gas Production

So while shale has given short term a supply glut, it’s not something that can be maintained unless new wells are discovered and exploited constantly. Here’s where the economy comes into play: shale oil is expensive to extract and most companies do not have the liquid assets on hand to finance these wells out of pocket, so like just about any other business they go to banks for loans and banks lend the money to get a return on their investment. With a glut in supply like we currently see the cost of oil is down so that means company profits are down and these loans still have to be paid or defaulted on. Banks use risk as a way to gauge if a loan is worth their while, with the price of oil so low and the oil companies’ profit margins are so thin currently; would banks lend these companies the cash to start up operations when the price goes back up? My guess would be probably not.

  • Renewables: I’m using this as a single catchall because most renewable energy sources are beset by the same problems. Renewable energies are often touted as what is going to save our way of life and finally free us from the shackles of fossil fuels. What the people who make that statement don’t realize is that renewable energy can’t be generated everywhere. There are places that don’t receive enough wind to power the gigantic windmills or enough sunlight for solar farms. The places that do meet the criteria for the placement of renewable energy have the problem of how to transport it. How would a solar farm in Nevada power my home in Virginia? Unlike oil we can’t just pour liquid sunlight into trucks and bus them all over the Country. Then like everything else money comes into play, solar panels are dependent on rare earth elements usually imported from China or The Congo, parts are constantly breaking and have to be replaced, they are not constantly producing energy therefore not making money to finance the cost of the aforementioned items. And all of this still doesn’t answer the question of transportation; I can’t strap a windmill or a solar panel to my car and expect to work on a continual basis. Until renewables meet all the criteria that oil meets described above they cannot be a viable replacement for oil.
  • Other fossil fuels: Other fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas are beset by a lot of the same problems that oil is, and come up lacking in other areas. Natural gas for example is not as easily transported as oil which is liquid at room temperature and coal requires extra refinement to convert it into a liquid state both of which puts a strain EROI. There was a reason why we chose oil for the things that we do, because it’s everything we need it to be.
  • Nuclear: Ah, nuclear energy is what too many people think will fix all of our problems, but is probably the worst “solution” of them all. A nuclear power plant takes almost a decade to form, from inception to operation, is dependent on uranium which is finite and has to be mined, has the potential wreak environmental havoc, has waste that we still haven’t found an effective way of disposing of, and still can’t be used to power cars and other means of transportation (unless you commute to work in a nuclear submarine).


I don’t think that it is a secret to anyone reading this that our economy has been in bad shape for a long time. The current state of our economy has been something that has be fomenting for a long time; the actual timeline itself varies depending on the beliefs of who you talk to, some say it’s when the Federal Reserve was instituted, other say it was when the United States was moved from a currency that was directly tied our gold stores. Regardless of how it began, the current situation is this: the tools to hold our economy together, specifically the quantitative easing the Federal Reserve has been using to prop up our failing economy. None of the underlying issues that caused the great recession of 2008 have been remedied, and not just the US but the entire global economy lack the ability to respond to another crisis.

There are so many things that could trigger another crisis that they could easily take several posts of similar magnitude to do them justice; things ranging from the trillion plus dollars of student that may or may not be paid back, economies in the Eurozone failing (Greece and Spain come to mind) to service their debt, wage stagnation, the constant devaluations of major economies (see: Japan) the fluctuating prices of global commodities, the list goes on and on.

The point being that any one of these pressing issues have the ability to spiral the global economy into a situation that it is not only ill equipped to respond to, but have already expended the tools to even soften the blow of a financial catastrophe.

The Environment:

There is a large debate about climate change today as to if it is an actual phenomena or if it is the result of the planet going through normal warmth and cooling periods. What I say to both of these is there are pressing problems that aren’t necessarily related to climate change but have the potential to cause famine on a global scale. The first pressing issue is soil erosion. Back before tractors and other instruments of modern day farming, there were methods in place to ensure the integrity of soil; these methods ranged from letting fields lay fallow to replenish the nutrients itself, letting the unused parts of plants decompose into the soil to replenish the nutrients they extracted growing, and the decomposition of companion crops (which also in many cases kept pests from destroying these crops). Today modern day farming consists of mainly growing humungous monocultures, spraying copious amounts of pesticides, harvesting and removing all of the plants, and pumping fossil fuel based fertilizer into the ground to replenish the nutrients into the ground so that the cycle continues next year. The problem with this method of farming is that causes havoc in the natural ecosystem of the soil and greatly accelerates the process of erosion, and once this soil is gone it doesn’t matter how much fertilizer you pump into the ground, nothing will grow. It is estimated that at current consumption that we will deplete our current topsoil in 60 years, this is at current consumption.

Now take into consideration that world population isn’t shrinking and I’m sure all of these people would like to eat, so if population increases, demand increases, therefore an acceleration of that model which claims we have 60 years left (assuming that wasn’t an overly optimistic evaluation to begin with).

Now we deal with subject of monocultures, why it is a glaring vulnerability in the world’s supply of food. The biggest factors aside from the depletion of topsoil are disease and pests. One type of plant dominating a huge swath of land is a prime candidate for disease to ravish entire fields, if you don’t believe me I welcome you to read about the current corn rust problem plaguing (no pun intended) farmers today, or read about the sad history of the American Chestnut tree that was almost went extinct in the 19th century.

Corn Rust Disease
Corn Rust Disease

What would happen if a fast spreading version of current corn rust currently affecting farmers were to spread across the entire rustbelt? What if it affected wheat? While this hasn’t happened yet, I can surmise that this would cause panic on a massive scale.

Now pests, those persistent little critters that were before mitigated with the use of companion (or cover) crops which served the dual purpose of giving the insects something easier to munch on than the crops we wanted for ourselves and replenishing the integrity of the soil producing a more nutritionally sound product. The fact is and it’s no secret that insects and other pests develop immunity to conventional pesticides over time which results in the more judicious use of said pesticides. What effect does this cause the people who consume the products that contain these copious amounts of pesticides? The answer is an accelerated risk of cancer. Here is a snippet from

“However, compared with the general population, the rates for certain diseases, including some types of cancer, appear to be higher among agricultural workers, which may be related to exposures that are common in their work environments. For example, farming communities have higher rates of leukemianon-Hodgkin lymphomamultiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma, as well as cancers of the skin, lip, stomach, brain, and prostate.”

This begs the question of why, why would we continue the use of these pesticides when we have verifiable evidence of the effects of their use? The answer is that there isn’t any other way to feed a gigantic and growing population. One can also surmise that if the feeding this population justifies this risk to the health of the world, that a system this risky is also equally as vulnerable.

What I have described here is only a brief overview of the problems that we face today and doesn’t take into account other underlying issues such as a crumbling infrastructure, climate change, geopolitical happenings, dwindling water supplies, ocean acidification, massive algae blooms creating vast dead zones in our oceans, and many others. This problem is often masked in its enormity and it is extremely difficult to distill this down into manageable talking points, other than to say that we are facing an extremely precarious state of affairs.

Brandon Maritn


18 Comments on "A Precarious State of Affairs"

  1. penury on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 11:57 am 

    I wonder how they missed number 1, overpopulation, 2 wanton waste of resources otherwise the items innumerated will do.

  2. J-Gav on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 2:00 pm 

    Pen – Agreed, but I don’t think he could have been expected to cover everything … He nevertheless did hit on a very sore spot or two: the state of our reigning financial and economic system for one. If people realized the extent of the panic ‘up top’ on this, they’d be doing unfortunate things in their drawers.The signs are everywhere for anybody with the time, curiosity and courage to look closely. But for most people those things seem to be in rather short supply. Otherwise, they’d be asking themselves –

    ‘Why did they pass these new laws militarizing police forces; allowing the government to steal your benefits, pension, healthcare possibilities, life insurance money (that’s already in place in France for example)and soon … your bank savings?’ And they’d wonder why India is serving as the guinea pig ‘democracy’ to ban cash and essentially turn ‘citizens’ into electronically-controlled debt slaves …
    Interesting times eh?

  3. penury on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 2:21 pm 

    3-Gav Its true the actions taken to militarize the police, arm all Federal employees (USDA,FDA,etc) is a major problem. So is the on-going attempt to void the 2016 election and appoint the Pres that they want. Economics are a predicament that no one wants to address. Yellans speech on Wed should either take the DOW to 20000 or to 10000 and no one really knows. Every nation in the world(?) is deeply indebted, corporations are in debt,people are in debt and without growth in the economy none of this debt can be satisfied. The next few years should be interesting, (in the Chinese) definition. Use Greece as a primer for your survival.

  4. Davy on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 4:48 pm 

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  5. Jerome Purtzer on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 6:52 pm 

    Isn’t it ironic that most people on this planet believe that one day we will ascend to a Heaven described as a perfect environment populated with perfect people where as, without a doubt we were given a perfect place already that we have turned into a hell hole. I guess the people are not so perfect.

  6. Cloggie on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 6:58 pm 

    Isn’t it ironic that most people on this planet believe that one day we will ascend to a Heaven described as a perfect environment populated with perfect people where as

    In Europe nobody believes that. And in America and Russia ever less people do believe that.

    without a doubt we were given a perfect place already that we have turned into a hell hole.

    Mwoah, looking back in history I still think that most people in the West (and Russia) are living in more comfortable circumstances than ever before. Thanks to technology.


  7. makati1 on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:10 pm 

    The world is dying from debt, not lack of resources. The elite want every drop of our blood and then we are to just die. Stop consuming THEIR resources. They want just enough of us to survive to supply them with their desires. Slaves. No more. No less.

    But, sorry, the joke is on them. Mother Nature is no respecter of wealth or power or even intelligence. She plans to wipe the slate clean and start again. The elite will not last any longer than the rest of us. 2100?

  8. Apneaman on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:11 pm 

    ClogO, what is technology and where does it come from? You and many others talk as if it is some kind of entity or deity that all must worship and be eternally grateful for. One of a number of secular religions.

    Technology is a product of the clever humans minds and knowledge passed down for millions of years. It’s a chain. Standing on the shoulders of the ancestors.

    Dumb fucks like you don’t seem to get that technology is dangerous and fatal for a species that is addicted to dopamine hits. Technology makes AGW and the 6th mass extinction possible. Humans won’t make it out of this century.

  9. Cloggie on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:11 pm 

    Should I get worried, Davy?

  10. Apneaman on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:14 pm 

    ClogO, why don’t you google depression + anxiety + addiction + suicide + obesity + united states and come back and tell us how fucking happy the techno slaves are.

  11. Anonymous on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:25 pm 

    I wounder if, ‘Ammolands’ solution to the precarious state of affairs that amerikaland finds itself in, would happen to involve buying guns and…well…ammo?

    For a rather large subset of amerikaland, guns seem to be ‘go to solution’ for pretty much every problem.

  12. Apneaman on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:30 pm 

    There is NO debate about AGW. People refusing to believe the evidence and simply repeating climate always changes is not a debate – it’s pure denial. AGW is falsifiable. All one needs to do is disprove that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    Oh look, more records broken.

    Sydney has sweltered through its hottest December night on record, Weatherzone confirms

    “Sydney has sweltered through the hottest December night in 159 years, breaking weather bureau records, after temperatures stayed above 27C overnight.”

    Global warming blowout: Record highs beat record lows by 48-to-1 ratio in November

    Don’t no one get too attached to these records. They will all be blown away shortly.

  13. Apneaman on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:32 pm 

    Spy satellites reveal Himalayan melt

    “Scientists have used Cold War spy satellites to reveal the dramatic environmental changes in the Himalayas.

    They compared pictures collected by a US reconnaissance programme with recent satellite data to measure the extent of glacial melt.”

    “The researchers have found that the extent of the ice loss has been great.

    “At every point on the glacier surface across the whole of the Himalayas a quarter of a metre of water is being lost each year,” said Mr Maurer.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s surprising given the climate data we have, but it is very very interesting to see how much ice is lost.

    “And populations downstream where they depend on these water resources are going to be affected. ”

  14. Apneaman on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 7:57 pm 

    Thank you technology for making possible. For some reason Amazon can offer the best prices and straight to your door. Must be that technology eh?

    Hard-pressed Amazon workers in Scotland sleeping in tents near warehouse to save money

    Employees say they can not afford to travel to work so brave freezing temperatures and sleep in woods

  15. makati1 on Tue, 13th Dec 2016 10:15 pm 

    Ignorant people in northern climates experiencing winter don’t realize that the southern half of the planet is experiencing summer. A hot one.

    Ignorance is rampant in the Western countries.

  16. Davy on Wed, 14th Dec 2016 5:32 am 

    “Should I get worried, Davy?” Clog, come on, you would not be here if you were not worried. You would be off on some happy optimistic site. Anyone unconcerned now during these times is demonstrating a dangerous lack of caution. People like many of us here who are alert to danger are the vanguard of sapience. We are 1%’ers but not the wealthy kind. We are the kind searching for the truth. No, this does not make us special it makes us responsible. It makes us cursed to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. You can do the research and see a majority in the population just are not capable of demonstrating caution at our level. This is not a status thing. Man lives in a village and it is diversity of the village that makes the village strong. It is a capability of the few and as such it is our responsibility to explore what this means and if there are solutions.

    This is called leadership. Real leadership has special qualities not seen in today’s leadership. The world has become too large and complex for real human qualities of leadership to even be valued. Psychopaths and sociopaths are rewarded today with fame and profit. There was a time when people lived near danger without the support of civilization as many have now. Decisions were life or death for them and their family, tribe, and or small community. I mentioned this because our particular world has distilled out many very important human qualities and one is leadership. In fact these qualities have been removed along with the addition of others to produce a new human type that is less human.

    When I look at ourselves today I see humans that are less human in what once made our species strong. Part of this is our approach to existential danger. We have created a world with people who are less psychologically robust and more at risk but thinking they are safe. This safety is a psychological delusion. It is responsible for so much mental illness today. Our society is not sane hence citizens are mentally handicapped. That is a recipe for disaster on a wide scale. There is going to be real panic in many places that have little human nature resilience. We are not sustainable physically as a civilization and not resilient psychologically as individuals.

    We also have some other traits which are dangerous and that is the extremism of blame and complain. This board is infected with it. It revolves around intellectual laziness and unrealistic views of self. IOW narcissism combined with apathy without empathy and compassion. Part of the process of improvement and healing is coming under the scrutiny of investigation with good and bad and right and wrong. Where this becomes extremism is when it is unaccompanied with solutions and sobriety. With sobriety there is humility. Humility makes us human. Lack of humility makes us a monster. These people do not want to hear anything about compassion or empathy but that is part of those human qualities of strength and leadership.

    What is the answer then? I feel we are to the point of no hope at the civilization level. I have been in intense study of this phenomenon of a civilization all my adult life. Since 2000 it has coalesced into a world view. I live within the process of collapse. I have studied it from all angles as a generalist. I am not a specialist. I am not very smart per the status quo nor do I want to be status quo smart. The clever today are deceiving themselves in a circular trap. I am on to something and some of you are too. That something involves being worried and taking concrete steps to that worry for myself and others. We are saying our civilization is near an end and science supports us. In my mind that is leadership. I am exploring what dangers are ahead for civilization and scaling them to my local level. I am taking action that will offer my family and friends safety in danger. I am meeting here with this obscure board daily to discuss these issues. I am searching for the truth. I am not interested in fame or wealth. I am semi-retired and have withdrawn from the status quo as best I can. I am a simple goat herder and I have come up with a way of life that embraces the status quo to leave it.

    This way of life is not for everyone. It means living in the shadow of the valley of death. Laugh if you like but try it if you think you are so hip. It means living and facing death as a possibility daily in my planning and actions. In fact I do not recommend this for everyone. I find it refreshing to see happy and joyful people living life the best they can as good people. Many are lost and know it but also know they have to live and do their part best they can. We should respect that but many want to condemn these people as judge and jury. They want to call these people sheeples and degrade them but that is because many of us have no humanity left. Many of us here are bitter old men facing the end of our lives. Some are bitter youth just looking for someone to blame for their empty future.

    Those who come here for some answers to some particular question may not leave whole or they leave in denial. Yes you should be worried and if you are in a position of leadership at your personal local yes you should be taking action. We have dangers ahead like has never been faced by humans. This is not any worse but it is unlike what our human development has evolved for. It is a complex bottleneck instead of a natural one. It will be psychologically terrifying as well as just normal terror. Enjoy life while you can if you can and yes be worried if you are a leader in your local.

  17. tk on Wed, 14th Dec 2016 12:42 pm 

    At Davy:

    You speak as if you were speaking for my soul.

    Thank you endlessly for expressing…

    Humankind is in a self-contradictory bubble,
    most, and I am including myself here,
    are trapped in ever smaller delusional loops,
    those projections are getting shorter and shorter.

    Last weekend I was absent from any internet
    access… yet, I could FEEL the Saudi “cut”
    “deal” in my stomach area, that cramping
    feeling of extreme unpleasant uneasiness.

    Greetings from Thomas (germoney)

  18. Davy on Wed, 14th Dec 2016 1:58 pm 

    TK, glad we could connect. I hope the best for you over in the land of my mother’s father’s Vater.

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