Starting around 20 years ago, some otherwise intelligent people began asking whether we might live in a simulation created by computers. In other words, completely fake reality conjured by devious entities. You’d not even know you were unreal. The idea was triggered by advancements in video games, CGI, and specifically “The Matrix,” which accelerated paranoia among conspiracy theorists, followed by people who ought to know better. The latter use disclaimers to appear sane, but some take it seriously.
At first, second and third glance, the whole thing reeks of blind faith in technology and chronic detachment from nature. Yes, there are visually impressive video games and 3D immersive experiences, but that’s all they’ll ever be in the world outside of Silicon Valley or Hollywood. The simulation hypothesis is the latest stretch of thinking that places people and machines above the very laws of nature. It’s the embodiment of a God complex. Anthropocentric arrogance is prevailing over everything, including “green” ideology.
Here’s why a simulated planet or universe defies logic:
Who or what built the computers, and what materials, energy and social structure maintains them? Is it powered by nuclear fusion? Just like the (planet-bound) “100% renewable energy” fallacy, no machines can exist or replicate in a vacuum.
Where do these creatures or entities live, if not on an actual planet, and where is it physically located? If they are actually us, it gets even nuttier, like looking at endless mirrored reflections. One may as well try to prove God exists.
Why would they go to such lengths? The notion that someone wants to “control us” can be explained by banal things like marketing. There’d be no logical gain in making a virtual society, just twisted entertainment for someone.
No computer is 100% reliable, even the combination of millions networked online, so the system would occasionally crash. Billions of people would notice something’s wrong, as would other species caught up in a simulation.
How can countless discrete instances of self-awareness exist in a computer? Simulating an external environment is one thing, but so many different selves wandering around is a tall order, including the minds of other species. As with belief in ghosts, people get confused by entertainment media vs. things they’ve truly seen.
Why would the makers allow accidents, diseases and the pitfalls of aging in a virtual environment? If it was done for a serious purpose you’d think they’d strive for Utopia. But if it’s all unreal, why would it even matter? The conflicts are endless.
Would the deep oceans and atmosphere all be part of it, or just the immediate surroundings that individuals perceive? Why would they allow numerous environmental problems to escalate or begin in the first place? A “runaway simulation” is absurd because the very capability of creating it should allow the ability to shut it down or destroy its hardware (again, the question of who’s maintaining the whole scheme).
Scientists have already debunked the hypothesis with other types of reasoning, if one needs more detail. Being dazzled by computer power doesn’t make Moore’s Law infinite, and YouTube will eventually run out of server space, if the power even stays on. People treat fallible systems like bedrock just because they still happen to work.
If someone insists we’re actually living in a simulated world (no less crazy than solipsism) they ought to join the Flat Earth club as well. Wild concepts distract people from pressing problems on a real planet with too many distractions already.
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“Do people pretend to be Saving The Planet while simply rebranding business as usual? People DO.” (Chevron ad satire)
As a hasty response to Republicans’ climate and fossil fuel myopia, Democrats are pushing the “Green New Deal” which claims to be pro-environment but looks like the biggest industrial invasion of rural lands & oceans ever conceived. Acreage thought to be immune from development would be wide open to exemptions under a Clean Energy banner. Trump’s attacks on national monuments were already outdone by Obama’s fast-tracked wind energy blight. There’s a new psychological construct wherein a technology is only dirty if it directly emits smoke or CO2. Both the material chain of its existence and its physical intrusion on nature are wished away.
The core problem with “clean energy” is the scale of weak, intermittent sources trying to replace dense, reliable sources (oil, gas and coal) which inconveniently build the weaker infrastructure. A common term for this is energy sprawl and it’s already happening, but the GND would speed it up while adding costly social agendas. Wind power blight has been covered at length here (1, 2) but the solar component of rural uglification is increasing. Well-meaning environmentalists are in denial about this new sprawl, which they frame as a special case. You can’t just put new wind turbines on brownfields, nor can you only see them from there. They must know this.
Before environmentalists sold their souls to techno-fixes, few would link BIGNESS with greenness, like praising Glen Canyon dam or maximizing the Atlantic Ocean’s generating capacity. Had the Internet existed in the 1980s, conscientious searchers would be dismayed by thousands of hits for MASSIVE NEW PROJECTS linked to pro-environment causes. The word MASSIVE brings images of invasion and disruption, which is exactly what’s happening to our last open spaces. Even when they just invade farmland (considered “developed”) they kill the former feeling of openness. Invert wind turbines and you’ve got a claustrophobic H.G. Wells scenario, including red lights at night. Those who praise them the most rarely live among giants.
ANOTHER MASSIVE NEW WIND FARM is about to go online! This clean energy project created new jobs and economic growth, which is always good for the planet, of course. Don’t be alarmed because fossil fuels built it and it resembles urban sprawl. It’s different this time because we call it Green.
Due to the paucity of wind and sun in broad regions, new transmission corridors are needed, like the planned 780-mile Grain Belt Express Clean Line; a relatively benign example where pristine wilderness isn’t crossed. Unfortunately it’s planned as an overhead series of pylons, despite using new HVDC technology. Underground power lines have cost & maintenance issues, so most hidden lines are necessitated by lakes or oceans. When wild areas are targeted, politically-pressured environmentalists who normally fight clearcuts and lost carbon sinks may have to cave in. Constant attempts are made by wind companies to build in or near wilderness, which usually requires new power lines. Projects at Steens Mountain, OR and Crescent Peak, NV were rebuffed, but pressure will mount, just as it did with the fracking invasion.
The fallacy of “100% Renewable Energy” has become the cornerstone of progressive energy policies and needs to be called out. It’s based on carbon credits posing as “zero carbon” through accounting tricks and venture capital. RE100 is physically impossible with any known technology but the story’s been repeated too often to be quickly debunked. Shiny objects fool people who don’t trace their history. Not one wind turbine or solar panel has been built solely with energy from its kind, and ERoI will always matter in the physical world. When you debate supporters of these projects you often get vague answers about scaling and net energy factors. They don’t want to know because they’ve latched onto something new and it must be better.
The pervasive arrogance of the “renewables” crowd is deeply annoying to deep ecologists. As an example, if you try to post any substantial criticisms of landscape-change-denial to Green New Deal diehards, you’ll get a message like this: “You have been permanently banned from participating in r/RenewableEnergy. …. Note from the moderators: No whitewashing of Nuclear or Fossil Power; No casting doubt about feasability [sic] of Renewables.” In other words, telling the truth about energy sprawl is forbidden by eco-shills who claim to respect nature and open space but do exactly the opposite. It’s the politically-correct version of Trump crying “fake news.”
Imagine a committee of Green New Dealers writing an open letter to The Planet:
Dear Planet Earth:
We’re embarking on an ambitious plan to free the world from fossil fuels and stop climate change while employing the poor in new industries for a bright green future. This will allow us to solve serious energy problems, clean our air & water, and lift people of color out of poverty, all in one cohesive plan.
Imagine the countryside glistening with beautiful solar lakes and unimaginably tall white forests, far more attractive than grim derricks and gray tailings, and even some living trees. Spin, Baby, Spin! We’ll show nature that we can coexist with it while changing only what we need to. The key is proper siting, and we’ve got plenty of space for that, according to Smart Growth planners. There’s also lots of room for immigrants in our diverse melting pot. Green growth is much different than standard growth-based capitalism.
On the social front, millions of misunderstood urban youth who once dealt drugs, tagged bridges and bumped bass will be happily cleaning solar panels and climbing wind turbines as they spread cool new 3D graffiti and move tasteful infrasound beats into farm & mountain country. These efforts will create countless jobs along with social justice and economic parity. It’s a win-win for nature and people.
We’re obligated to note that these green projects use quite a bit of space, so you’ll have to travel some distance on vacation to see unaffected vistas. But don’t worry, National Parks will remain mostly intact and you’ll get there in electric cars with a 500-mile range! It’s all good. Furthermore, there will be a number of casualties in terms of birds, bats, insects and other displaced species, but special breeding centers will mitigate losses. They may not fly as freely but they’ll be grateful for our help.
We fully expect Planet Earth to understand our wonderful new undertaking and we can hardly wait to get rid of all those ugly coal mines! Below is a sneak preview of Earth’s future using samples from the present. Just imagine this multiplied manyfold (in carefully sited locations). It’s Green so it’s all good!
Scroll down to see just a small fraction of our b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l green future!
If the above looks like a bunch of un-green, bloated construction projects pretending to save the planet, you’re not mistaken. Quoting a famous rocker before climate fears buried aesthetic values, “How can everyone see it and yet be so blind?” The same capacity for denial that causes some people to ignore environmental problems makes others think they’ll be solved by the species that created them. It always comes down to building more stuff all over the place, never true conservation or personal restraint.
Earth, good luck with the Green New Deal if it ever gets fully implemented. This reluctant Democrat can’t support it. See “Roadmap to Nowhere” for one of the better take-downs of the whole scheme.
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“There is something fundamentally wrong with treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation.” – Herman Daly
Too many cards are stacked against saving nature from human greed, hunger and environmental apathy. The evidence is clear when you get past the veneer of endless hope, techno-fixes and greenwashing. We should just admit it and drop the ruse of “sustainability” as more people consume more resources each day. Nature is under a long-term siege because “The Economy” demands it. A POTUS was elected on an EPA-gutting mandate while environmentalists engage in overpopulation-denial to avoid offending immigrants. Rare leaders who promote serious conservation are seen as weak, or enemies of individual freedom (to take as one pleases). Manifest Destiny still prevails, framing wilderness as a place to be feared more than respected. People actually trying to save the biosphere are caught in an expanding charade that bows to economic growth. Wise people should certainly keep trying, but not with optimistic rhetoric that ignores root causes and placates the masses.
Humans are genetically programmed to overcome nature’s hazards simply to stay alive. This includes ruthless survival tactics like lying and cheating to gain advantage. For many centuries these traits had limited impacts on ecosystems, then fossil fuels greatly amplified our ability to harm nature while also enabling a population explosion. The expansion of technology and consumerism turned us from survivors into destroyers. Even well-meaning people behave as if the power balance never shifted from nature to Man. They were born into a system that served their post-industrial ancestors and assume it must be “the way of the world,” so they keep obeying primal instincts in outdated context. They’ll say things like “what a crazy system!” as in fun-crazy instead of terminally corrupt. Some never contemplate the growing scale of human impact or simply don’t care. “People are basically good” doesn’t explain the true state of the world. The belief that God will decide when humans have gone too far is foolish since hardships occur with or without prayer. Christians who practice Creation Care are at odds with Genesis 1:28 and similar Bible passages.
Some conservatives gloat about polluting and pillaging nature, combining ignorance with evil. They also call environmentalism “socialism” when regulations cramp their style. The greedy see greed-control as liberty-infringement. The history of tetraethyl lead in gasoline is typical of toxicity driven by expediency. Its inventor also introduced CFCs, so “big government” regulations have saved many lives. Meanwhile, many liberals who claim to be Green are so concerned about being fair to other cultures that they ignore blatant problems like overpopulation and criminality. Or they push destructive technology like IWTs to protest coal, etc. This complex combination of greed and naivety prevents intelligent policies from being carried out on a meaningful scale. The wealthy may think they’re above nature’s laws while the poor often trash their surroundings, e.g. homeless camps, nonexistent regulations in third-world countries and tropical deforestation. “Environmental & social justice” overlooks shared flaws in human nature. Growing numbers of people from all ranks are stifling environmental progress.
In crude but accurate terms, this is how a lot of people think:
I need stuff to live, so don’t question how I make money to get it. I’m special!
Hey, look at their stuff! I need some of that to boost my image and reputation.
I’ll do whatever it takes to get it, so screw the environment if need be. People first!
Is it wise to destroy your very life-support system to accomplish this? (voice of reason)
Look, I gotta feed my kids so get off my case. The guv’mint/tree-huggers just want to control me!
The conversation ends there because they won’t rise above their genetic programming.
Modern cultures are obsessed with economic growth, business and being busy with an industrious, industrial attitude. Action for its own sake is favored over letting things be. Slogans like “work hard, play hard” and “no limits” defy conservation and restraint. Most modern work depletes resources and the mantra of progress is to constantly build something, either physically or monetarily. It’s considered lazy to halt the grind and let nature recover, except temporarily for fallow fields, clearcuts or overfished waters. Everything’s about stock indices, housing-starts and production capacity, measured in flawed GDP terms. The ethos of “hard work” is seen as moral, regardless of what’s being sacrificed. One can feed a family designing war machines, or with barely ethical FIRE Economy schemes, including pyramids and Ponzis. Environmental shortcuts are inevitable in difficult, dirty jobs like mining, drilling, logging, construction and vehicle repair. The unnatural tedium and effort creates a mindset of “dump it in the creek so we can go home.” Workers are told to be grateful for miserable slogs that serve 24/7 manufacturing cycles and superfluous marketing, and union-busting is the trend. Countless jobs require hustling, lying and searching for loopholes, with no shortage of sleazy people willing to do it. Also, the words build and produce are not defined honestly. People merely convert nature into forms convenient to our species with little regard for balance. True production is growth without depletion, like plants fertilized by natural decay. Finite replenishment cycles have been replaced by the infinite allure of fiat money.
To ostensibly stop all this depletion, the term “renewable energy” gets thrown around, but it’s mostly a new spin on business-as-usual. Man has greatly escalated urban sprawl with things like industrial wind power, discussed at length in other posts here. The main differences between today’s “renewable” and non-renewable sources are partial energy offsets and green slogans. With the exception of dependable, high-ERoI sources like hydroelectric and geothermal, little of the infrastructure is viable without finite fossil fuels and mined raw materials for construction, maintenance and replacement. Greenwashing has millions of naive people convinced that destroying nature to preserve society is reasonable, so hard questions about overpopulation and restraint are unanswered by public policy.
Thanks to an artificial money system, people are the only species that keeps depleting finite resources to make a living. Money is seen as a resource unto itself rather than contrived compensation, thus physical commodity limits are disrespected. Other species don’t need to invent financial schemes merely to stay alive. They (and us to some extent) used to live in balance until we disrupted ancient systems and replaced them with unnatural growth. The mandate to constantly create jobs and build something (“green” or otherwise) drives most modern enterprises. Deliberate job-creation accommodates a surplus of labor and overpopulation. Intrinsically necessary work wouldn’t have to be schemed up or funded with credit, and it wouldn’t create landscapes that resemble mold growth.
Famous entrepreneur Elon Musk claims to be a green visionary but he’s more about technological showboating than conservation or preservation. He promotes the expansion of “clean” electricity for battery-powered vehicles, which means more wind turbines and solar panels invading open space (see energy sprawl). He’s also using SpaceX to litter low Earth orbit with a constellation of Starlink satellites, despite strong protests from astronomers. Lack of global space regulation gives him (and others, like Amazon) a loophole to try this scheme. It’s the same “disruptive” M.O. used by amateur taxi and electric scooter outfits that clutter-up cities and discourage mass transit. Musk’s initial goal was about 12,000 satellites, then it became a staggering 42,000. He’s well aware of space junk but has rationalized it away by tweeting “We need to move telescopes to orbit anyway.” Allowing restless billionaires to taint what’s left of nature is just wrong. Internet access won’t benefit remote “primitive” tribes who are already sustainable and don’t need to be corrupted by high-tech. The Internet is good in moderation but it’s also causing unnatural social problems and spreading viral lies. There’s no moral mandate to have access everywhere on Earth.
It’s hard to admit that true sustainability looks a lot like ancient hunting and gathering where resources manage themselves naturally (given a small enough population). Understandably, few want to revert to that lifestyle, except with temporary gestures backed up by modern gear. There’s a lot of contextual denial among “back to nature” types. If everyone tried to hunt, fish or survive on backyard farms, we’d quickly learn that agribusiness and dense livestock are the only practical way to feed huge populations. Many bushcraft practitioners make a living from videos these days. The worst hypocrites travel the globe killing wildlife as professional hunters, or enjoy the crass sport of bass fishing with speedboats. Look at how many jobs are based on recreation that mimics true needs from pre-industrial times. Nature needs to survive our growing harshness, not the converse; at least to the point where we destroy its ability to support us. It’s become a contest to see which happens first, Peak Oil or major AGW impacts, both of which are ignored by utilitarian commerce.
So-called victories for the environment tend to be islands in a sea of development, and have done relatively little to stop habitat fragmentation. People will save what they perceive as a special grove of trees while clear-cutting the rest, as long as most don’t see it on a regular basis. An ex-logger’s attempt to showcase such hypocrisy backfired when he felled a golden spruce to draw attention to all the clear-cuts surrounding it. A parallel reaction (addition vs. removal) occurs when wind turbines are protested in places like Cape Cod while allowed to ruin vast tracts of lesser-known scenery. On the wildlife front, if a trophy hunter kills an iconic lion, elephant or giraffe they’re vilified online, but countless other animals are shot with the same mentality. The rationalization is that hunting licenses support conservation, but it’s mainly for popular game species, not endangered animals in different habitats.
Man’s ability to develop and denude the planet went viral when fossil fuels made the work much easier. If you study the duties of environmental professionals, you realize they’re mostly cleaning up messes and shuffling population growth into different areas. They have no way to stop the source of the growth, and developers pay them for image-control. Urban planners plan for more destruction while calling it balance. Hands-on efforts like untangling animals from fishing lines or relocating endangered species make little difference as more people put pressure on nature. When root causes are addressed, it’s usually worded to not offend the human perpetrators. You can see why nothing really changes.
Some neo-environmentalists have taken fatalism too far, like terminally ill smokers who believe in reincarnation (examples: 1, 2, 3). They use the demented argument that we can never completely destroy nature (minus runaway nuclear war) therefore “the planet is fine” because nature will “recover” after we’re gone. The degree of recovery and “after we’re gone” date are kept vague to accommodate all future suffering they’ve rationalized as acceptable. Would today’s extinct or soon-to-be species get regenerated, Jurassic Park style, assuming there’s anyone left with such technology? Do they think quality of life now is meaningless to all the species lucky enough to have survived human impact so far? That includes us, you know! The whole narrative is arrogant anthropocentrism, i.e. forget the planet that allows us to live and rescue us from our sins in the absence of viable life-support.
Another twist on fatalism is asking “What are YOU doing about it?” whenever environmental topics come up. For example, a crusty rancher who denies global warming might brag about planting 100 trees, as if that proves he’s mitigating CO2 while you aren’t. It’s a tactic of those who view everything in terms of their own property, not the wider planet. Many people will never own enough land to personally restore it, but if they did they could plant 1,000 trees instead of building a rifle range. It’s all relative to personal leverage. The implication that you must single-handedly do something big or you should shut up about the environment is like saying don’t criticize murder unless you’re a cop who can prevent a few. Of course that’s an imperfect analogy because environmental damage is done by countless “good guys” per society’s standards.
Movies have widespread influence and apocalyptic themes are popular because people know something’s out of balance, but root causes are usually sidestepped. Most plots are sympathetic to human failings or go overboard with zombie plagues and alien invasions. Others use shock value by making overnight catastrophes out of slow-moving problems, e.g. “The Day After Tomorrow.” It ends up inspiring apathy because people see it as unrealistic. In the ecologically-aware 1970s, the film “Z.P.G.” tackled overpopulation but sympathized with people bucking efforts to stop it. A similar plot occurred in “Children of Men” where mass infertility could have been seen as a reprieve from environmental ruin. In the real world, economic recessions mandate conservation but are seen as negative. “They Live” tried to blame consumerism on aliens, with people as hapless victims. “WALL-E” was praised for its environmental message but the director said it was just a subplot. The viral-humans speech in “The Matrix” told the truth, yet a virtual reality cure was unacceptable. Human interest or anti-government themes tend to drown out pragmatic solutions. A society with gravitas about overshoot would face the topic head-on without endless tangents. “Soylent Green” was one of the few films that got to the point, and deserves a sequel. The “nobody cares” scene in “Silent Running” was also truthful. Many television documentaries present grim environmental warnings but usually stay polite to the perpetrators. Educating the public doesn’t help without personal accountability. Billions of complicit people will have to be offended at some point.
If people were seriously planning to save nature it would be echoed in the things they do and say every day, but most still talk about making money (from depletion) feeling good and staying entertained. Watch and listen to your neighbors and co-workers. They’re generally ego-driven, hedonistic and impatient, with nature as a mere backdrop for their scarce leisure time. They keep electing leaders with similar values, then blame them for societal ills. The relative few who make sacrifices for the environment (beyond token recycling) or live at a slower pace are seen as “not with the program.” The Internet provides some hope with an echo chamber of wise people fighting all this denial, but they’re vastly outnumbered. If you talk among average people about what’s really happening you’ll be called a doomer, or get blank stares as the subject is changed to something upbeat, especially at work where it’s understood that “we’re here to make money.”
One grain of hope is that religious leaders can convince people to worship nature over anthropocentric gods, and not be ridiculed as pagans. Endless sermons tell people to live for a higher purpose, but it usually comes back around to them at the center. Creation Care advocates and preachers like Michael Dowd are trying to shift the focus to nature, and Pope Francis seems partly enlightened, but we really need a mass behavior-shift miracle. Many “doomer” articles offer hope at the end but ecological epiphanies are unlikely. So far there’s no evidence that enough people care about their true source of life to protect it from profit-driven sprawl and banality. This doesn’t mean don’t try your best, but more damage can be caused by making hasty choices when you don’t see root causes.
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