The Great Pause Week 44: Auguries of Change

Forbidden from attending the annual rites of football in facepaint and cheesehead-hats, frustrated masses bused to Washington to chant in unison and smash tribal effigies in their nation’s marbled HaDvir.

It is not particularly difficult to position the Capitol Riot of 2021 in the timeline of the life and death of complex societies. Were we to apply Orlov’s Six Stages of Collapse to this moment, we might find ourselves hovering over some midpoint in the implosion sequence:


— Dmitry Orlov

Today is Hawaii Day. Three days after this essay publishes on Sunday, Joseph Biden will be President of the United States. When Barack Obama took over the 2008 economic crash and the absurd war legacy of his predecessors, he kicked those smelly cans down the road. Rather than investigate, prosecute lawbreakers, and legislate lasting correctives, or — dare we suggest? — make reparations to those harmed, “Look forward, not backward” became the Democrat’s mantra. How did that work out? The Beltway scoundrel class took their free pass as a birthright. When opportunity next presented, they repeated the calumnies, with vastly greater profits. They are getting very good at what they do.

Coiled in the inbox of the Resolute Desk is Medusa. Iran recently said it would resume de-nuclearization talks with the US only after the US repays the billions of dollars it imposed in illegal and unjustified sanctions. Russia could easily demand the same vis-a-vis START talks. Trade compacts with China and others are in tatters. The Kushner Middle East peace plan has hardened Apartheid. While nothing will put Humpty Dumpty back together again, punishing guilty parties could at least show well intentions. Sadly, the new Administration will never venture to the roots of its problem, and so collapse on all fronts will continue, and accelerate.

Orlov advises that the progression of the decline is not necessarily meant to be linear. Rather, the steps are similar to the Kubler Ross 7 stages of grief. Any one of them may come to the fore, recede, and be supplanted by another.

Shock and denial
Pain and guilt
Anger and bargaining
The upward turn
Reconstruction and working through
Acceptance and hope.

Several years after publishing The Five Stages of Collapse, Orlov conceded that he had missed a sixth stage — environmental — and issued a correction. In that 2013 essay he also revisited two points raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment:

Fortunately, Orlov and the IPCC of that era were wrong. Climate scientist Joeri Rogelij, a lead author of the forthcoming IPCC Sixth Assessment told Covering Climate Now last week that a rapid heat rebound from removal of global dimming aerosols is a misplaced concern: “It is our best understanding that, if we bring down CO2 to net zero, the warming will level off. The climate will stabilize within a decade or two.” Climate scientist Michael Mann called IPCC’s new finding a “game-changing new scientific understanding.”

After describing the inability of Captain Cook and the Aboriginal peoples of Australia to comprehend the others’ cultures, Orlov in his 2013 essay proceeded to write one of the most passionate and eloquent paragraphs of his long career:

Eight years after writing that, in January 2021, Orlov regularly repeats that Western Civilization’s collapse is well underway, albeit just not evenly distributed. Those nations that have invested in science, energy, manufacturing, large-scale infrastructure projects, and social safety nets …

In an obscure 2006 essay, “The collapse of complex systems,” Dale Allen Pfeiffer wrote:

What comes after? Orlov has stopped clinging to his early expectation that the crash of industrial civilization — even the restoration of a global aboriginal economy — would arrest our slide into Hothouse Earth. Still, that slide is glacial in comparison with political, social, and cultural collapse afoot, as witnessed in the events of January 6.

It is not just that the next four years will look a lot like the last four years, it is that theocracy may be an idea whose time has ripened. Beware ye Satan-worshiping pedophiles hiding your alien presence in the pizza kitchens of Capitol Hill! Plagues, locusts, and firestorms are the wrath of God. Jihads of the righteous are now upon us.

In addition to all of us having a genetic program that forces us to deny our own mortality, or the mortality of the soul, we likewise have an embed that inclines us towards tribal fealty. You cannot deprive us of our football spectacles without Hell to pay.

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

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Emergency Planetary Technician and Climate Science Wonk — using naturopathic remedies to recover the Holocene without geoengineering or ponzinomics.

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