Summary page

  1. I was a Geeky techno-optimist
  2. Then the 3 E’s hit me: Energy, Environment, and the Economy
  3. Climate change
  4. ‘Wet-bulb’ super-heatwaves could kill millions when they first strike
  5. Governments mostly ignore the magnitude of the combined threat
  6. Doomers and the suicide that changed me
  7. There is hope if you get involved in the Solutions

1. I was a Geeky techno-optimist

I grew up reading geeky Sci-Fi books and watching Star Trek. They portrayed a post-scarcity world with abundance for everyone and nature thriving. It was a world where humanity could pursue noble scientific and artistic work – with plenty of time for leisure. I was sort of jealous of people living in the future, and happily assumed this was where we were heading.

2. Then the 3 E’s hit me: Energy, Environment, and the Economy

ENERGY: Then in my 30’s I thought I would google how renewables like wind and solar were going, and check how the assumptions of my idealistic youth were tracking. Oh boy. What I learned challenged me profoundly – and turned into years of reading.

The challenges began with oil. It appeared likely to peak and max out in production, and begin a slow but steady decline. It would never again meet demand. A 2005 Australian Senate inquiry found that preparing would take a few decades – so the earlier we started the better (see Peak oil).

We use huge quantities of cheap oil to grow food, especially all the gas it takes to suck nitrogen out of the air and make our fertiliser. It takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to grow 1 calorie of food energy (see Scientific American.) Think about that the next time you’re chewing down on a Big Mac. Being an Australian Sci-Fi addict – I had of course seen the Mad Max movies. Of course oil was important! But 10 calories of oil energy to every 1 calorie of food? What were we going to do? 

I started to see the world through split vision – a bit like Neo at the end of The Matrix. But instead of green Matrix code, everything was Oil or fossil fuel energy. Every product used or contained oil. Oil mines and transports everything, and is an actual ingredient in paints and plastics and clothes and teflon pans. Our whole modern world depends on oil for everything. If an oil war or embargo suddenly ended our supplies of oil, society would struggle not to crash. But that grim picture was just the first part – Energy.

ENVIRONMENT & ECONOMY: Not only this – but I learned how interconnected the Energy, Environment, and Economy are. For instance, solving one crisis can make another worse. Biofuels might give us a tiny amount of oil, but they quickly compete for food production and destroy vast farmlands and habitats as they do so (see Biofuels). Coal can be converted into a liquid fuel to replace oil – but this would be a disaster for climate change and natural habitats. Governments could implement emergency oil rationing – but too soon and the economy crashes just as it has during the Covid lockdowns.

The global Environment we depend on is sick and dying, right when we need it to be in tip-top condition to help us with our energy challenges. Here’s a quick snapshot. The very soil we need to grow our food is blowing away. Half our agricultural land is already degraded and global food could decrease by 12% in the next few decades, while Scientific American warns the world’s farmland topsoils could be gone in 60 years (see Peak soil)! Both population and economic growth have increased water demand so that two-thirds of our main rivers do not reach the oceans unimpeded – hurting local ecosystems and fisheries and water supply. Ground water bores aka “fossil water” is depleted and water tables are dropping ever lower in over half the world’s biggest underground aquifers (see Water). 

The oceans are also in trouble – with 80% of fisheries on the verge of collapse due to overfishing. The oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb about a quarter of our CO2 emissions. It may reach a point where ocean acidity enters a feedback loop making it more acidic as the acid cooks up shellfish and reefs – releasing more CO2. About 70% of the reefs could be gone by 2100, and this would be about 17% of ocean biodiversity – just from acidic oceans. Over a billion people rely on today’s ocean for protein (see Oceans).

Our land and forest habitats are under stress as we use half the land surface of the earth for grazing and farming (see Peak biodiversity). We have introduced pests, hunted the apex predators, and polluted with plastic and other toxic wastes. This creates biodiversity loss which in turn threatens ecosystem services – things nature gives us for free like clean water and air and storm breaks and pollutant recycling – all for free and are worth hundreds of billions in GDP. Without many of these free natural services, many economies will take a hit (see Ecosystem services).

Not only this, but it seemed we had an Economic system dependent on debt-fuelled growth while the world already had too many people using too much stuff too fast. EG: We will mine most conventional metal ores by 2075 (see Peak metals.) The sheer speed of exponential growth is hard for many of us to visualise (see Speed of growth). Most of us are just trying to get through the day, and are hardly aware of how many moving parts there are to the sustainability story.

3. Climate change

But now add climate change to the mix and it just makes everything worse. As the Pentagon says – climate change is the ultimate ‘threat multiplier’. There is already way too much writing about climate change so here I include a few video refreshers. (If you want more, start with the Climate Crisis is real and work from there.)

National Geographic – 3 minutes

WWF – beautiful and comprehensive – 38 minutes
(If you listen carefully, they cover the 3 E’s)

4. ‘Wet-bulb’ super-heatwaves could kill millions when they first strike

This is not a Sci-Fi thriller like 2012. The human body simply cannot survive above 100% humidity at a mere 36 degrees C. Normal heatwaves kill the elderly and infirm. But these ‘wet-bulb’ heatwaves will be unlike anything we have seen before, and they could start appearing in the next few decades. The first time one of these heatwaves hits the tropics or India – it could kill millions – even tens of millions. Their potential range is the tropics – red below – and it puts 3 BILLION people at risk.

5. Governments mostly ignore the magnitude of the combined challenges ahead

Hardly a year goes by without a careful scientific organisation sounding the alarm. Back in the day we read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Limits to Growth. Many watched Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. Governments paid lip service, but not a lot changed. My Scientific Warnings page shows a growing list of papers that have largely been forgotten. There seem to be too many people using too much stuff too fast. The dangers are real, and accumulating.

6. Doomers and the suicide that changed me

This stuff is heavy. Most of us just want to get through the day and enjoy a meal and maybe some TV. Many turn off the news when it gets too sad and watch their next show. (Leaving us activists do all the work! But I get it. Everyone needs a break.)

But some activists working for a better world go through periods of burn out and pessimism. Be careful. Practice mindfulness and self-care. Otherwise burn out can lead to cynicism. This can be dangerous and cause sinister downward spirals into like-minded groups online that only reinforce the despair. Eventually some embrace the despair as a sick kind of solution to their stress and uncertainty.

There are known psychological factors that attract some people to Doomsday worldviews. There are also dangerous online groups with cult-like indoctrination and dogma, power structures, and leaders addicted to the feeling of being high-priests of doom in their online groups.

If you have fallen into one of these groups – please check my page on Doomers. I was in one of these groups and it cost me dearly. But far worse – it cost one family the life of their 19 year old son.

If you’re in one of these groups – get out, and get help!

Read my solutions pages and take a break from the echo-chambers. You do NOT need their permission to make up your own mind about the situation.

There is a difference to having a pessimistic few months, and going down one of these very dark rabbit-holes. Yes we have challenges – but we have always faced challenges. The end of the world as we know it has always been just a plague or war away. This is true today, just as it was in ancient Mesopotamia as the Assyrians rampaged across the known world.

But bit by bit the human race is learning, or at least the systems we live in are getting smarter. We now live in the statistically safest, richest period in human history. Rather than be eclipsed – I hope we will achieve so much that we eclipse ourselves.


However, we must act soon. This is not binary – succeed or fail, live or die. This is nuanced. There are many ways we might get by in some areas and fail in others. Climate change is accelerating. If we become complacent our children may inherit a planet we hardly recognise. On current trends – IF we were stupid and did nothing – half the biodiversity will be extinct by 2050 and possibly billions will grind by in crushing poverty, hunger, and even some war. But some amazing new tech is here, and so cheap! Some amazing new cultural ideas are here – like how we build or cities or grow our food. I’m convinced that modern civilisation and nature can not just survive, but thrive.

7. There is hope if you get involved in the solutions

I’m now convinced that there are technical and cultural solutions to our many problems. When understood, they are attractive and a little bit addictive to talk about! Get involved in just one thing – and you’ll make a difference. Please browse my solutions summary page.

Click the links, read the pages, watch the videos. You might not agree with all of the solutions, but if just one resonates with you – do something! Join a local activist group or facebook group, get involved, and you may just have an impact. You’ll learn more, make friends, and help to make a better world.

2 Responses to Summary page

  1. Pingback: Extinction Countdown: Right whale nearly gone? | Eclipse Now

  2. Very moving and brilliantly written. You are a writer, that’s why you write. I will email you about this issue. You have helped me understand a little better.

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