How to Read This Blog


To get the most out of this blog, I recommend beginning with the earliest post and proceeding in chronological order. For the most part this blog, like a planning document, builds on data and rationale in a linear manner. You may find value in individual posts taken in isolation, but I suspect your experience will be richer if you follow the intended progression.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

La Historia Me Absolverá

Fidel Castro wasn't always the leader of Cuba.  He started as a disillusioned lawyer turned revolutionary- and not a particularly successful one in the beginning.

In fact, his first major revolutionary act might be seen as a huge failure.  In 1953, he led a small group of working-class discontents in an attack on military barracks in Santiago de Cuba.  The attack failed and Fidel along with many of his compatriots were captured.

Castro, an attorney, defended himself in court.  Ultimately he was found guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the attack.  At the sentencing hearing, he took the stand and delivered a four hour speech justifying his actions, denouncing the governing regime, and laying out a plan for the future.  The concluding line of his speech was, roughly:  "I will be absolved by History."

And of course, he was.  After a short stint in prison, he went into exile in Mexico where he regrouped and eventually returned to Cuba.  Within five years his popular revolution had swept the country and he rolled into Havana on New Year's Day in 1959.

Fidel had the vision to understand the long game; the future was going to look very different from the past and present, so he positioned himself to be on the right side of the movement of History.

Here in the Western World, the First World, things have been more or less pumping along in the same direction for generations.  My life so far has been an I-phone version of my parents' lives, and their lives were just a Technicolor version of my grandparents lives.  It's very easy to fall subject to recency bias and assume that this trend will continue on indefinitely.  Except that here,at this moment, History is at another major turning point.

So what if you're one of the people, facing this Brave New World, who recognizes that the future will not look like the past?  Why not just speak up- after all, this isn't Batista's Cuba, this is a free country!

Noam Chomsky offers an excellent bit of insight into how our free society deals with divergent opinions:

         The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

Noam Chomsky, The Common Good, 1998

Noam Chomsky: Corporate business models are hurting American universities

What Chomsky is telling us is that the apparent freedom of thought and speech we experience in the West is an illusion.  If you're speaking within the bounds of what is acceptable, you're not really exercising freedom.  And if you step outside of those bounds, you will definitely experience consequences.

I, like many of you, am engaged in the Business of the industrial economy: we sell our labor power for Federal Reserve Notes so that we can pay our bills, buy food, and care for our families.  For us it's not enough to just sell hours of our lives- there are a diversity of social conventions and institutions that we have to participate in and be members of.  To maintain our place in society and our jobs, we have to show that we're a part of the club.  And the club is self-censoring, self-monitoring, and self-enforcing.

As a community planner I'm subject to the social expectations of the professional association that oversees our trade.  As a public servant, I'm also accountable to the sense and morals of our elected and appointed community leaders.  These groups are thoroughly invested in the continuation of Business as Usual (BAU), in perpetuity.

If I were to openly espouse a divergent opinion about the direction of the future and the feasibility of perpetual BAU, the result would be strikingly similar to Fidel's attack against the regime in 1955.  I wouldn't go to jail (I think), but I'd certainly be exiled from my social position and lose my ability to economically support my family.  Freedom of speech has it's limits, and I can tell you that my position is far enough outside of those limits that I would face severe repercussions for letting myself be known.

Does that make me a coward for not openly speaking out about my convictions?  Perhaps, but there are key differences between the situation Castro faced and the one we face now.  For Castro, the absolution of History meant a new world, with a new chance to overcome the stigmas of the past.  Today, there is no real vindication if I'm right.  There's only collapse, and suffering, and death whether I speak out about it or not.

The reason I write here is two-fold:

First- I need an outlet for these thoughts, and I can't do it in my "real life" using my "real name."  As a human being, a social creature, I need connection with my fellow creatures.  I feel a moral obligation to share the knowledge I've accumulated with people who might be able to use it.  In my current position, I am completely alone in my views.  So in a way, writing here in anonymity is a way to make this information available and at the same time, perhaps, keep myself sane

Second- in my own (cowardly?) way, I want to be able to say that I was right.  This is my selfish, egocentric reason for writing.  When collapse is undeniable, and social convention no longer requires that I be silent, I'll be able to point here, to these writings, and tell the world that I saw it all coming- and couldn't say a thing about it.  A bittersweet vindication it will be.

It's all coming to an end.  It's all our fault.  We had chances to stop it, but we didn't and now it's too late.  Nobody wants to hear it, or think about it; just writing about it is a dangerous violation of social convention.

But I know, in the end, La Historia Me Absolverá.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What Am I?

Just to be clear: this blog is about the end of the world.

Not just the end of my personal, individual world- but the end of many other people's personal, individual worlds too.  The end of many lives, of nations, of cultures, of species, of Civilization.  Perhaps the end of all life.

If that's too depressing for you, I'd suggest you stop here.

You see, I am a Doomer.  On a scale of Doomer-light to Uber-Doomer, I probably fall towards the Uber-Doomer end of the spectrum.

Years of research, life experience, professional practice, reading, and contemplation have led me to the conclusion that the current arrangement of human relations on Planet Earth will inevitably lead to a (relatively) rapid economic, social, and environmental collapse.  In many ways, this trifecta of collapses is already underway, at least to the extent that there is nothing that any of us can do to prevent further progression of collapse.

I didn't come to this conclusion by myself.  Many others, from prominent scientists to loners living in the woods (not that these have to be mutually exclusive), have followed their own path of discovery and come to the same conclusions.  I've seen it estimated that at this time 30,000-40,000 people are regularly surfing the doom-inspired websites out there.  If anyone is reading this blog, you probably just came from one of those sites.

What makes my perspective a little different from other perspectives is that I have a fairly direct and significant role in the expansion of the Industrial Civilization destroying our world.  I am a "community planner."

rendering from Drexel University master plan (courtesy of Goody Clancy Planning)

The definition of "city planning" from tells us:

the activity or profession of determining 
the future physical arrangement and 
condition of a community, involving 
an appraisal of the present condition, a 
forecast of future requirements, a plan for
 the fulfillment of these requirements, 
and proposals for constructional, legal, 
and financial programs to implement the 
From this definition, one would assume that planners everywhere are all over this "end of the world" thing.  One would assume wrong.  There's a lot of appraising, forecasting, planning, and proposing going on- but pretty much all of it is pointed in the direction of accelerating our demise without many hints as to what lies at the end of this trajectory.  As you might imagine, I have a few things I'd like to say about that.

One interesting thing about planners is that we're rarely experts in the technical subjects we deal with.  We're not geologists, but we need to understand enough about geology to make our plans.  The same with engineering, or climate science, or economics.  Instead we have to be very good at understanding how these major subject areas fit together, and even more importantly, what the best sources of information are in those subject areas.  This will be an important theme in future posts: identifying who the real experts are, what the science really says, and what it means to the big picture.

Finally, I can't forget to mention that I am a human being, living at the pinnacle of Empire.

Family Cookout, 1950s

I have a family I love, hobbies I enjoy, a job to go to, a mortgage to pay.  The lifestyle I live is probably not too different from the one you live, all things considered.  I am the benefactor of the suffering of millions of people around the world, of destructive extractive industries that decimate the environment, of an incredible explosion in fossil fuel powered energy that is changing the face of the planet.  I am also a slave to the system, with no viable options for escaping this set of living arrangements.

In sum, this is what I am.  A Doomer.  A planner.  A human being at the pinnacle of Empire.

If these things interest you, pull up a chair.  Let's have a chat.