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A brief story of the human future

Here at KAUST, we had three good rains in the last ten days. I just finished my 18 km bike ride and inhaled the vibrant shades of green of all leaves and the efervescent colors of flowers. The mangroves along the coast are growing vigorously, and today they were a bouquet of seledines reflected by the crystal clear water. It is peace where I live. Things could not be better.

11/23/2018, 11:30 a.m. Our garden after the rain.  Behind the fence, you can see the crowns of mangroves and a low tide in the Red Sea.

Why then am I so worried? First this legal disclaimer: I am no Tralfamadorian.  I do not have the ability to experience reality in four dimensions; cannot access past, present, and future; and am unable to perceive any instant of time at will. Tralfamadorians are able to see the entire timeline of the universe, they know the exact time and place of the universe's annihilation caused by an unfortunate Tralfamadorian experiment, but are powerless to prevent the inevitable. Because they believe that when a living being dies, she continues to live in other times and places, their well-known response to death is, "So it goes" (which is my favorite phrase).

I am in the business of predicting the likely futures and am quite good at it. In fact, my counter-intuitive predictions have been my curse for the last 40 years, but they also saved my family and me numerous times. Almost no one believes me at first, I accumulate dedicated enemies, and in the end everyone says, "We have always thought so and we don't need you to tell us what we knew all along." I note that my influential enemies express memes of the fossil amoeba and are voices of the masses.

In short, making the cold, scientifically educated guesses about the future is a thankless job. So it was with the infamous corn ethanol, soybean diesel, palm oil, destructive industrial agriculture, the ravaging of Indonesia, equatorial Africa and Brazil, the utterly unsustainable "sustainability," shale gas in the US, etc.

You can predict the future, too. Try to see the inevitable outcomes with no emotions and no sideways thinking.  I'll give you an example.
You enter a large public garage. You know more less how it fills up. In my case, the garage always fills up outwards in a systematic way. If you arrive late, you simply take the first available place far from where you really want to park. By doing this yesterday, I almost collided with a young faculty friend, who was going in the opposite direction after driving around the garage. He parked behind me and asked: "How did you know to take this spot immediately, and not go around the garage to find a better one?  I explained and he said, "Yes, I guess you are right, but I could not resist trying, because I am such an optimist."  Here we are, optimism is a weak form of denial of facts. I dispose of denial at the beginning of my thinking. Does this mean that if my friend circles the garage many times over many days, he will never be able to find a better spot? Of course not, he may luck out, but it is quite unlikely.

Now reason number one to worry about an imminent collapse: the countless brainwashed humans ravaging the planet in lockstep. As my old friend, Wendell Berry said "...[O]nce greed has been made an honorable motive, then you have an economy without limits.  It has no place for temperance or thrift or the ecological law of return.  It will do anything.  It is monstrous by definition."  Faustian Economics, Hell hath no limits.

Today, in the US we have the "Black Friday." CNN, BBC, Euro News, and France 24 are predicting that 167 million American consumers (notice that these Americans are no longer called "people"), or one half of the US population, will be enticed by the fossil superorganism to wait in lines since four in the morning and then rush madly into the stores to buy the shit they don't need with the money they don't have. Think of this orchestrated orgy of greed as an recurrent training of Pavlovian monkeys to ensure that the monkeys remain slaves to their overdrafted credit cards. It can get worse, though. Sometimes, an upset consumer shoots other consumers before sunrise and then police shoot a wrong guy, who customarily is black.

This year, through the omnipresent global media, my country infected the entire world with our shameful disease, and there will be the comparable mad dashes of consumers to the European and Chinese stores. In fact, the Black Friday will be followed worldwide by the "Cyber Monday." Amazon and Alibaba are expected to score twice what the stores will on Friday. Alibaba just reported sales of $31 billion in another day of organized madness. This single-day achievement exceeds the annual GDPs of all but 98 richest countries on the Earth. Thus, the fossil amoeba consumers will be pushed again to plunder the deteriorating Earth ecosystems that protect them from dying in pain.

In other news, the "primitive" hunters and gatherers, who live in total isolation on the Northern Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean, shot and killed with arrows a young American evangelist who could not resist invading them with an offer of Jesus and our diseases to which they have no immunity.  One arrow punctured through the waterproof Bible the kid was carrying on his chest.  The moral of this story is this: please do not try to kill people you don't know in order to save them for eternity.  It is enough that they are invaded every day by the plastic trash we dump into the ocean. By the way, in the past, the entire populations of Incas and Mayas, and later Native Northern Americans were wiped out by smallpox brought to them by accident and on purpose by the Spanish and Anglo Saxon colonizers.

Now on to the second reason for humanity's quick demise: The human monkeys have been well-trained and controlled by the fossil superorganism, but where will they be told to march?  Here, as much as I dislike the subject,
I must introduce none other than President Donald Trump, the monkey trainer par excellence. In two years, single-handedly, Trump moved the humanity's clock backwards by 2-5 centuries. Call it the "Trump nuclear winter savings time." As he would say: "This is a tremendous achievement of mine and I am very, very proud of it." The discredited, lying and morally bankrupt global elites discount Donald and accentuate their intellectual superiority.  It is commonly assumed that Donald is stupid, he does not understand that one does not sweep a forest "floor" with a broom to make the forest fireproof, one does not publicly doubt the global climate change, one does not send armed troops to the border, does not order them to shoot the indigenous people on a Thanksgiving day, and so on.  Actually, ordering American troops to use lethal force on the descendants of the few Incas, Mayas, Aztecs, Toltecs, Zapotecos etc., who have not been exterminated over the last four centuries has a nice Christian ring to it.

We did not have such problems in North America. After 1614, the pius Pilgrims quickly proceeded to exterminate their Indian "friends" and benefactors in the cruelest of ways. Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought. In the end, there were no Indians left to shoot today. Please continue reading. Now, if you are a nascent white supremacist, you will probably read the linked story with pleasure. Thus, I posted the last link with great trepidation.

The famous Chilean writer, Isabel Allende,  avoids giving in her books graphic descriptions of the cruelty and torture she experienced, because she doesn't want to give ideas to psychopaths. This cruelty was visited on Chile and her by us, Americans, but Henry Kissinger is still a senior darling of the old establishment, instead of having received a life sentence for crimes against humanity.

The runway comprehensive spying on Americans was conducted under the Bush and Obama administrations, much before Trump. Ed Snowden did not reveal Trump's secrets and Snowden was charged with treason before 2016. Snowden's passport was revoked by John Kerry, not by Mike Pompeo. Trump's mistrust of the CIA and NSA goes rather well with what Snowden revealed about these two lying spying agencies.

But nothing is simple anymore. Trump's genius is in appealing directly to the genetically wired human traits: hatred, resentment, racism, selfishness, cruelty, greed, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny, just to name a few that lurk in our collective dark self. He then follows with great clarity the human darkness he brings to fore. He also anticipates and plays like a virtuoso the predictable media and intellectuals. Type "Trump" into Google and you will get 1.5 billion hits. Happily, that's still much less than the 5.7 billion hits for "sex" and 15 billion hits for "love."

Trump is not bound by truth, logic, science, and human feelings. Unlike our earlier, equally corrupt but more discrete elites, Trump does not pretend to be
Is this who you are now?
human or honest, or to be playing
by the rules. Anyone who was not appointed or otherwise chosen by him is an enemy. And his growing army of resentful human monkeys is loving it. Think of the "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," but with no good, wise chimpanzees like Caesar. Trump's monkeys love to hate and crave for self-elevation at the expense of others, whoever those others are. There is no moral balance in Trump's decision making process, and no consideration of the damage he causes to the civil society, human relations and the planet. The obvious, indiscrete Trump is a force of nature, completely free to brand all humans like they brand cattle in Texas.

In summary, the brainwashed human consumers and the global darkness ushered by Trump will implode our global civilization in three to ten years. There is a myriad of other environmental and societal reasons that support my prediction. I wrote about these reasons for the last 15 years, and am preparing a book that will be published soon. Trump is a catalyst that amplifies the already existing symptoms of strong tribalism and backlash against globalization. The countless tribes that have emerged might have been able to coexist 10,000 years ago, when there was less than 1 million humans on the Earth.  Since there are 8,000 millions of us today, and we hate each other, we will have a nuclear war that will kill most of us.

Trump is the Koba of the emerging planet of the human apes. Like too many Americans, Koba loves his AR-14, and cannot comprehend why he will die preaching what he does. If you are a Koba tribe monkey and you want to live, think twice and try to switch sides to the Caesar tribe. In the end, the smart monkeys always win. And remember what Caesar said just before dispatching Koba to his death: "Koba is not monkey!" By saying this, Caesar meant that the murderous Koba was not worthy of monkeyhood.

In the end, Koba was not a smart monkey and he did not survive the violence he sowed.  I presume that you want to live, don't you?

P.S.  (11/24/2018)  From my friend, Prof. Volker Vahrenkamp. The top photo shows a battalion of the Cameron Highlanders in 1914, prior to being dispatched to the front line. The bottom photo shows the same battalion upon their return in 1918 after the armistice. Lest we forget. This is what 4.5 years of a low-tech warfare does to the soldiers. We have made a lot of progress since then...

(The bottom photo seems to be obtained from the top one by air-brushing the dead and missing soldiers.  Air-brushing of important state photographs was customary  in the Stalinist Russia.  Each time, you'd be mailed a new page or pages in the Great Encyclopedia. You'd have to cut off the old pages with a razor, and insert the change(s). This process would be repeated many times.)

P.S.P.S. (11/25/2018)  Eleven years ago, my son, Lucas and I published the "The Disastrous Local and Global Impacts of Tropical Biofuel Production" that made the cover story in the Energy Tribune.  Eleven years later, the New York Times published a comprehensive analysis of the continuing oil palm disaster in Indonesia that confirmed literally everything we wrote then.  Not to mention my 2005 paper with David Pimentel, which painted a gruesome thermodynamic picture of stripping the tropics for biofuels.  Thus, in 2018, no one can say that we didn't know a decade ago what was coming down in the tropics, the 2018 NYT article notwithstanding.

The NYT article, however, reminded me that in 2007, a ruthless, unmoored political operative and fundraiser, Nancy Pelosi, was one of the key pushers of the US biofuel mandate policy that ushered the environmental catastrophes in Asia Pacific and elsewhere. That same year, I unsuccessfully argued in Paris that EU should use satellite images to verify the environmental carnage in the tropics. My pleas fell onto deaf ears of the environmental ministers from most of the EU countries, who felt that any action against the clean, renewable biofuels would be unprogressive and inconvenient as well, because of the WTO rules. Trump does not like WTO for many wrong reasons, but that corrupt organization should be abolished.

Since one cannot be sent to prison for life for mega crimes against the Earth, Pelosi should be sentenced to living in the middle of a burned out forest in California and plant trees there by hand for the rest of her existence. I sincerely hope that Pelosi will be ousted once and for all from the Democratic leadership. It is about time to fess up to the global side effects of the drunken, irresponsible thinking about the environment.

P.S.^3. (12/1/2018).  No, Pelosi was not ousted.  After all, the hapless Democrat babies need her grandmotherly care to stop them from wetting their no doubt environmentally friendly diapers. Perhaps another very past-tense grandma, Hillary Clinton, will become the Democratic party presidential candidate in 2020, only to lose everywhere outside of parts of San Francisco and New York.

P.S.^4. (1/10/2019).  I have changed my mind about Nancy Pelosi.  She is busy changing diapers of a needy cry-baby, our cartoonish president, who continues to throw temper tantrums.  Grandmotherly help and discipline are required. Amazing!


  1. Hi Tad
    Insightful cogent and honest as always
    You mention but downplay your own foresight on these issues. More than just about anyone in world you've been (a decade+) ahead of everyone else on the core issues of our time. (yet your analyses are too complex to be made into soundbites which is why few are aware).

    My two pushbacks on your essay:
    1) Trump is obviously a sociopath. But he is the symptom not the cause of our current societal malaise. He is almost the perfect figurehead of the (american portion of) Superorganism. If he weren't there we'd be doing much the same things and not being aware of them. With him on 24/7 media, we have a (higher, still low) chance of recognizing who we have become and having a cultural gut check. My fear isn't Trump but who replaces him.

    2) I have long feared this would all end in thermonuclear war. Not from any national optimal foraging calculation or strategy but out of spite or error. But I still think its 1-2% chance -per year - which in the lifetime of a college student today gets pretty high odds. But to say its certain or even highly likely in next decade parses a whole lot of unknowns into a high confidence. But you are the prescient Cassandra so I won't gainsay your opinion, other than dearly hoping you are wrong.

    thank you

    1. Nate, thank you for the kind words. Yes, Trump is a warped mirror that reflects, but also amplifies our collective darkness. The processes that brought Trump to fore were started 70 to 100 years ago. That would be 11/11/1918, and the incredibly stupid terms of the Armistice.

      The normal state of humanity since times immemorial has been war. Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. At least 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century.

      Over the last 70 years, we have forgotten about this human constant in Europe and America. The long happy lull in war since 1945 is coming to an end now, in no small part because of Trump's catalytic effect on all instabilities. The chances of miscalculation and starting a tactical nuclear war are incredibly high in my mind, given that the current generation of army commanders are too the fossil superorganism monkeys with a religious tilt, and are more akin to Koba rather than to Caesar.

    2. Nate, as mentioned elsewhere I think the odds are much higher now due to changes in the psychology and thinking on the part of the US Foreign Policy establishment (both "tribes"/parties, surprisingly as much if not more by "Democrat" leaning elements).

      I'm firmly convinced that the situation in Ukraine is the most dangerous situation of my lifetime (noting that I was gestating during the Cuban Missile Crisis). A major difference between today and that episode is that most of the key players then felt that nuclear escalation could not be controlled - in other words, once you use any nuclear weapon, escalation to a strategic exchange was virtually inevitable, so they were willing to back down and compromise before reaching that stage. This is especially true of the "aggressive" actors (Cuba/Russia). For the Cuban Crisis, the Soviet Union knew Castro was problematic with respect to his eagerness to confront the US, and was not willing to back him all the way to actual armed conflict unless they were painted into a corner, and while there were close calls, the US chose an intermediate step (the blockade) that allowed the situation to resolve. In the case of Ukraine, the aggressive actors the US is backing in Ukraine are willing to push the situation into direct armed conflict. Once the US it drawn in, us war planners are including the use of tactical nuclear weapons, because they believe that they can control the situation, and they can win any armed conflict. Unbelievably, like in World War I, there are many key leaders in the US who actually *want* a direct peer-on-peer war in Ukraine to stabilize the political situation at home, hurt Russia, help the economy, bolster alliances, and demonstrate to other peers (China) that while the US can get bogged down in conflicts with non-state actors, it can still easily win peer-on-peer conflicts.

      Of course, all of these beliefs are utterly delusional, especially the unconditional superiority of US weapons systems and the ability to limit the conflict to tactical nuclear weapons. Unfortunately there are other aspects at work that make things Worse Than That(tm). So I think that for the next few months, the odds are at least five to ten-fold higher than your 1-2% per year. If I had to place a bet, I'd say the odds of a peer-on-peer war are over 40%, with a resulting tactical exchange at 20%. And I think the odds of it staying tactical are at best even, so a 10% chance of a strategic exchange in the next six months seems to me optimistic. And horrifying.

  2. If you want to see how the next nuclear war might happen, watch the "Sum of all fears."
    Unfortunately, in real life, the good guys may not be able to stop the bad ones.

  3. Greetings! What a wonderful blog you have here. Your perspective seems very familiar to me. Is there any way I can make contact with you via email? My blog and efforts at climate awareness, collapse, institutionalized insanity, extinction and much more would undoubtedly benefit.

    1. @Anonymous,
      I have seen your brilliant and courageous 10-part video

      I guess we have been asking similar questions. In 2007, I estimated that if humans lived at the average per capita consumption and life spans of the mid-1800s, the Earth might support 2 billion people with similar conflicts and wars. Probably less than 1 billion might have lived in peace. Unfortunately, today we are in the 21st century and are pushing 8 billion humans. This is beyond catastrophic.

  4. Absolutely, dear Anonymous, let's get in touch. Please use my KAUST email. I am too a brand new grandpa, and am positively horrified by the likely futures that await him. Yet now, since I got a new lease on my own life, I am ready to fight more for him and my other incipient grandchildren, should I have them too.

    Not that for the last 15 years I haven't been trying to do my best through science, lectures, teaching university courses, interviews, warning whoever might listen, and so on. Today I am far more resigned that many, ney, most of my efforts have been for not, because we are humans after all, and we can't see what we don't want to. I wrote about this in Most people are clinically unable to see the obvious until the inevitable future is in the past. And so it goes...


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