Reality Blind - Vol. 1

constrain how well that process may continue, and what may be left to work with once the constraints loosen. Keep this image of a bottleneck in mind because we will be bringing it up later, and often. Some of the topics will include converging physical and energetic boundaries and options at large scales; systems controlled by a single limiting resource (Liebig’s Law, above), and human bottlenecks including cultural, energetic, technological, economic, and psychological. That’s right, we’ll be framing a lot of situations in terms of “bottlenecks,” because without seeing the effect that bottlenecks (simultaneous absolute constraints) will have on human civilization and the natural world this century, it’s nearly impossible to come to valid c onclusions about which of our choices today might turn out well tomorrow. TaaL: One could fill an impressive catalog of things humans are blind to: dolphin sound sculpture, gorillas on basketball courts, energy, time, the future, the environment, their own thought processes, extinctions, previous baselines, positive outgroup qualities, light outside a few wavelengths, the nature of ecology, and 1001 other enormous blind spots. But “bottleneck blindness” is a species -wide bias that is currently particularly salient, because these days bottlenecks are forming pretty much wherever you look within this planet’s living systems, yet are still mostly unseen. There are many reasons for this, but in large part, it’s due to your focus on the immediate moment. The shape of bottlenecks is only apparent when one adds the dimension of time. Even those species which manage to squeak through the 21 st -century human bottleneck cavalcade without being driven to extinction will likely experience population and diversity bottlenecks: everything from plankton to butterflies are taking a hit, with larger critters doing far worse. Why is it important to see bottlenecks coming? Because you’ll have an opportunity to prepare for them (and for some of you, to influence them). Currently, as preposterous as it seems to me, your societies are based on permanent growth, despite the obvious impossibility of that proposition. That means that you expect the stock market to keep going up, the amount of available food to rise each year, and the human population of Earth to keep rising more or less indefinitely with everyone having multi-child families. And to the extent you think about the future at all, you generally assume that people in the future will be richer than you are. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this will not happen . Various bottlenecks are already forming: agricultural productivity, bacterial antibiotic resistance, crashing fish catches, depleted aquifers, ocean dead zones, the increasing energetic scarcity of all mineral resources, declining returns on societal investment on


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