Citizen Action Monitor

I’m discovering that Garrett’s “civilization collapse” message is a tough sell, with no takers so far. How come?

Perhaps an answer of sorts can be found in an exchange of comments I had with two other readers on a popular website.

No 2385 Posted by fw, October 17, 2018

NOTE — To access my other posts related to Dr. Garrett’s research on a global economic/civilization collapse by the end of this century, click on the Tab in the top left margin, titled Civilization/Economic Collapse ~ Links to All Posts By or About Dr. Tim Garrett’s Research

In my October 15 post titled, Tim Garrett responds to 17 questions and criticisms about his research on the consequences of climate change, I reposted a sample of the difficulties people are having in understanding Garrett’s research findings. I wrote:

“Tim Garrett’s thinking about the complex interactions among economics, energy and climate can pose considerable cognitive challenges and consternation to the rest of us who have been fed a steady diet over the years of consistently similar, and far simpler, physics-free explanations.”

My subtitle to that post asks: “Do we have the interest, critical thinking skill, and attention span to understand Garrett’s work?”   

Picking up on the “tough sell” theme, below is a copy of an exchange I had just the other day with two respondents to my remark in the Comments section in response to an article about clean energy published in the highly popular online publication Popular Resistance.

Reposted below is a copy of the chain of comments. Alternatively, read the remarks in the Comments section of the Popular Resistance website by clicking on the following linked title of the article that sparked the exchange.


That $3 Trillion-A-Year Clean Energy Transformation? It’s Already Underway, by Phil McKenna, Popular Resistance, October 15, 2018 — Originally published by

fjwhite my opening comment

I respectfully suggest Phil become familiar with the research findings of Tim Garrett, atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah, whose application of thermodynamics to global economics, concludes that civilization is caught in a double-bind between global economic collapse and CO2 levels rising to 1200 parts per million within decades. Garrett refers to his findings as “frightening”, claiming “there’s no way out.”

As Garrett explains in his article, “Are renewables the answer?“, clean energy is not the magic bullet for two reasons: 1) new sources of energy tend to add to past sources; 2) any source of energy, whatever its source, enables civilization to further destroy its environment through the extraction of matter. Clean energy will only accelerate this process.

For more information about Garrett, visit this ShortLink:

mwildfire replies to me

This doesn’t mean clean energy is not the answer. It just means that it alone is not the answer–that we can’t go on with capitalism, economic growth, and warfare and merely replace our electricity power sources and be good to go. We need to reduce our numbers, terminate economic growth, transition to ecological agriculture, revamp our city layout and economies so that commuting is a thing of the past, go back to circular arrangements like refilling bottles, and if we do all that, then renewable energy could supply enough power.

fjwhite reply to mwildfire

Hi mwilfdire. Thanks for your response. You’re not the first person to be skeptical about Garretts’ work, and there’s nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. I can only suggest you follow the ShortLink and read a few articles by Garrett, starting with this one where he deals with a skeptical host of a radio show:

It’s inevitable civilization will collapse — The more important question is What will this collapse look like?” : Since things are already happening rapidly, we are talking about timescales of the next few decades.” No 2376 Posted by fw, September 30, 2018 — https://citizenactionmonito…

kevinzeese Popular Resistance moderator replies to me

The problem I have with the “its inevitable” thinking is it leads to do nothingism. So, it it is inevitable civilization will collapse what do you think we should be doing? Not transition to clean energy? Keep polluting with carbon fuels? Not change agriculture so it pollutes less and is changed to absorb carbon? What is your approach?

fjwhite reply to kevinzeese

Hi Kevin – Sorry, I don’t have an “approach.” And I don’t have thoughts to share on what “we should be doing.”

But let me share with you an excerpt from my transcript of a 2016 radio interview that may shed some light on Tim Garrett’s approach. But first, the backdrop:

The program’s host, Doug adamantly believes there are solutions to the economic growth- and climate-driven existential crisis humanity faces. However, when he is confronted by Tim Garrett’s lengthy, physics-based reasoning, which blows huge holes in Doug’s suggested “solutions”, he (Doug) stubbornly clings to his disconfirmation biases. Or is it that he simply does not grasp Garrett’s information-rich thinking, even when Garrett does his utmost to simplify his explanations. In fairness to Doug, Garrett’s use of familiar terms like ‘wealth’ in an unfamiliar way can be confounding to the untutored. As well, Garrett’s introduction of analogies into the conversation can be disorienting, and the counter-intuitiveness of some of his arguments can be perplexing to ordinary folks. And the physics doesn’t help.

Towards the end of the interview, one could sense that Garrett was growing restive with Doug, which led to this response:

“I believe that the universe is determinate, that things will unfold as they will unfold, and in the same way that they have always been determined to unfold. And I see this as a direct result of the laws of physics, specifically thermodynamics. I appreciate that others will not share that point of view and appeal more to human agency. The one thing I do believe is that if there is a solution out there, we should be very critical of those who advertise things that may be fairy tales – that are things that are as they might wish them to be. There may not be clear solutions that are the most obvious ones. It turns out from the work I’ve done, for example, that pursuing increased energy efficiency probably makes things worse rather than better because it aids to help the civilization, and the healthier civilization is, the more it consumes…. it is only by understanding how civilization works that we can then start to think about how the future might change if there were certain adjustments that might be made. That’s where I, as a scientist, I would prefer to see the focus, not on the politics, rather on the science.” (Shortlink )”

Kevin, it is not inevitable that Garrett’s thinking leads to “nothingism.” On the contrary, if people bothered to try to understand his thinking – which is a formidable cognitive challenge – they might realize that doing more of the same in the hope that things might turn out differently is not the answer.

Garrett puts it this way:

“Can we really navigate our way out of the potential for a broad scale breakdown simply by applying a sufficiently powerful dose of political and economic will? It would be wonderful to think so. Yet we still have to acknowledge that there are physical limits to what is possible. The human world is as much part of the natural universe as anything else, and if we readily accept that the complex motions of climate march to physical laws, it may be unreasonable to imagine that society should be an exception.” (Source: Shortlink )

As for me, a non-scientist, I’m doing the best I can to try to understand Garrett’s thinking – and it’s damn hard going. So far I have posted on my blog 7 articles by Garrett, 3 transcripts of radio interviews with him, and 5 pieces by others about Garrett’s work — with more to come.

And I’m doing the best I know how, to share with others, Garrett’s unique physics-based analysis of economics. It’s a tough sell, and so far, no takers — None of the sources I have contacted have followed up with their own articles about Garrett’s work.

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