Citizen Action Monitor

We are the first generation of our species to know the answers to Gauguin’s three questions – Nate Hagens (45)

We know what we’re doing; what drives us; difference between wants and needs; our environmental impact; and that we don’t need all this stuff to be happy.

No 2327 Posted by fw, July 2, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin.

This is Pt. 45, Dr. Hagens’ Conclusion to his talk at Kansas Wesleyan University on April 23, 2018 – a talk that included a series of 45 parts and 43 continuums: 6 in his category on The Economy; 10 in The Human Behavior category; 4 in The Environment category; 15 in the Our Culture category; and 8 in The Individual category.

Hagens’ closing statement, below – including his three personal goals — is followed by a Conclusion to an accompanying essay composed by the editor of the online news and information website,, the publisher of Dr. Hagens’ talk. 

The embedded video of Hagens’ 59:20-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session, is below. My transcript of Pt. 45, Hagens’ Conclusion, runs from 58:06 to 59:20.

NOTE — I have no immediate plan to prepare a transcript of the Q&A session.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.


Where are we going? by Nate Hagens,, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 58:06 to 59:20)


58:06 – So, coming back to Paul Gauguin’s painting – Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? We are the first generation of our species to know the answers to these questions – scientific answers. The first generation of any species to know these things. We know what we’re doing. We know what drives us. We know the difference between wants and needs, we know the environmental impact we’re having, we know that we don’t need all this stuff to be happy. And does all that matter? And I think it does.

58:41 – I’m telling this story and I’m trying to scale the educational materials beyond my school. My own goal with this is threefold:

1/ To educate and inspire would-be catalysts and small groups working on better futures to integrate a more systemic view of reality;

2/ Empower individuals to make better personal choices given the context of the future that I’ve laid out on navigating and thriving during The Great Simplification coming our way; and

3/ Change what is accepted in our cultural conversation to be more reality based.  

And with that I extend to you all an invitation to participate in the future. Thank you.


[ Supplement]We cannot know the future, but we have reasonable confidence of what it will not be. The peak in fossil sunlight flow rates and resultant higher costs will mean major changes in our lifetimes. We can be reasonably sure the average energy/material throughput for Americans – and global citizens, particularly in advanced economies, will decline in coming decades. It’s important to point out that a 30% drop in material wealth per capita (for those in the United States and Canada) though sounding draconian, brings us back to 1993 levels – a 50% drop would bring us back to 1977 levels– both periods nobody considers economically challenging. How we respond to this energy descent as individuals and as a culture will be a deciding moment in our history.

All the ‘cultural’ and ‘individual’ observations above coalesce to a fine point: we are capable of much more, but are unlikely to alter our current trajectory until we have to. And when we add in the economy and environmental points: we will soon have to.  Recognizing this, the next step is urgently discussing and cataloguing what initiatives might be worked on by small groups using intelligent foresight nationwide.

There remain a great deal of benign, and even excellent futures still on the table. But they won’t arrive without effort. The world isn’t irretrievably broken, the Great Simplification has barely started, and there are quite a few people who are discovering exactly the shape of our predicaments, and the nature of the things which could substantially change them.

NB: While I believe education itself is insufficient for major change, it is still a necessary first step so that pro-social engaged citizens work towards feasible and desirable goals and react to events in more rational ways. My own goal with this content is threefold:

  • Educate and inspire would-be catalysts and small groups working on better futures to integrate a more systemic view of reality
  • Empower individuals to make better personal choices on navigating and thriving during the Great Simplification coming our way
  • Change what is accepted in our cultural conversation to be more reality based


About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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