Economics for the future – Beyond the superorganism

by Nate Hagens
Excerpted from Ecological Economics, Volume 169, March 2020

“We have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology.”

Industrial 0034 900x450Prologue:

Nate Hagens is a deep thinker in understanding the emergent Age of Limits. What follows is a digest of his longer article explaining the basic thermodynamics of our global predicament. Using a systems approach, Hagens examines the evolution of basic human behaviors, our  ‘unlocking’ of fossilized resources and the explosion of growth they allowed. The function of debt as a social contract that accelerates growth, the role of growth as the requirement of our industrial model, and the terminal phase of that model in negative returns on increasing complexity, resource exhaustion and climate catastrophe. This is heavy reading and not for the faint of heart. Hagens offers no easy “problems” or “solutions.’ Only the necessary first step of understanding where we are. 
       – Orren P Whiddon.


• We lack a cohesive map on how behavior, economy, and the environment interconnect.
• Global human society is functioning as an energy dissipating superorganism.
• Climate change is but one of many symptoms emergent from this growth dynamic.
• Culturally, this “Superorganism” doesn’t need to be the destiny of Homo sapiens.
• A systems economics can inform the ‘reconstruction’ after financial recalibration.

Ecological Economics addresses the relationships between ecosystems and economic systems in the broadest sense.– Robert Costanza

“The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology.” – E.O. Wilson

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” – Jean Baudrillard

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin

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Fallen EmpireThe Age of Limits: Now, the Deluge

by Orren P. Whiddon

“Historically,  empires in decline invest ever-greater energy and complexity in a self-consuming cycle of diminishing returns...”

I am an unapologetic, dirt-worshippin’, now balding but once pony-tailed, back-to-the-land, never say die hippy. A child of the sixties, now pushin’ sixty. I have heated with wood since I was 22, killed my TV set in 1983, never owned a new car and spent 12 years designing clinical radioactivity detector systems in the Washington DC yeast-plex... while living in a log cabin. Can you say “cultural schizophrenia?”.

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The Conversation We Need to Have

 John Michael Greer

We’ve all experienced it: the kind of conversation everyone knows has to happen sooner or later, and nobody wants to have to face. Casual talk edges around it, jokes fail to get a laugh because they brush too close to it, silences open up because there’s no way to keep talking without crossing that line and facing it openly. Then, finally, somebody draws in a deep breath and says the thing that has to be said; chairs get pulled closer around into a circle, and a sense of relief cuts through the discomfort as the conversation begins at last.

That’s the kind of conversation we need to have now, and the subject is the end of industrial society.

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The Age of Limits

by Orren Whiddon
First published
in 2006

“To those who followed Columbus and Cortez, the New World truly seemed incredible because of the natural endowments. The land often announced itself with a heavy scent miles out into the ocean. Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524 smelled the cedars of the East Coast a hundred leagues out. The men of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon were temporarily disarmed by the fragrance of the New Jersey shore, while ships running farther up the coast occasionally swam through large beds of floating flowers. Wherever they came inland they found a rich riot of color and sound, of game and luxuriant vegetation. Had they been other than they were, they might have written a new mythology here. As it was, they took inventory.”

Frederick Turner


Hydrocarbon and Natural Resource Depletion. Global Warming and Climate Change. Population Maximum. Debt Economics and Globalism. Water Wars and Permanent Drought. The Age of Limits. Peak Everything.

Over the past two decades these issues have moved from the discussion of specialists, into public consciousness and policy discourse. It would seem that we are facing “The Perfect Storm” of separate global problems, when in fact they are symptoms of a unifying core issue.

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GuyMacPherson     Only Love Remains

        by Guy McPherson



         Most people would say I’m not religious. I’m not spiritually religious, although I exhibit some behaviors in a religious manner. I refer to myself as a free-thinker, a skeptic, and occasionally an indifferent agnostic or a militant atheist. So the apparently spiritual title of this essay would seem out of character for those who know me.

I’ll not wander down the road of knowing me. Even after five decades of study, much of it characterized by the serious introspection allowed those who pursue the life of the mind in the halls of academia, I barely know myself. And I know too little about love. But I’m pretty certain it’s all we have.

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