Discover more from The Dandelion Report with Julie Chenell
All At Once Or Slowly? 9 Converging Major Social and Environmental Issues That Make This Time On Earth Unique
And What To Do About It Now That You Know...
It appears that our civilization is headed for a cataclysmic collision of stacking issues that will bring us to the collapse of modern society as we now know it. Timing? Unclear.
All at once or slowly?
Well it took the Roman Empire something like 2.5 centuries to collapse so it’s not likely to be a collapse that you’d see in the movies.
Nonetheless, any one of these shakeups are world changing, but put them all together?
It’s no wonder lots of very smart people are starting to sound alarm bells.
Let’s take a look at nine of the biggest issues layering on top of one another to create a smorgasbord of disruption.
I am an expert in NONE of them, but I can find smart, reliable people who are - curate their content - and summarize it in a way that’s digestible, albeit depressing.
Artificial Intelligence. We’ve taught machines to think like we do (but WAY faster and with much more data). Since the launch of ChatGPT — not the first language learning model by far but the first most accessible one — the number of AI tools that have launched is astounding.
AI is launching more AI. And with each and every input, we’re giving AI more information to work with. This is exponential growth.
To think about how AI might shake up society, let’s look to the past.
In the US, offshoring (sending manufacturing to China) obliterated much of the middle class.
AI will do the same but in industries that are higher paying. We’ve always valued the higher education skills but AI is set to replace so much of the day to day work of lawyers, designers, financial advisors, even doctors.
We will have to create new jobs or grapple with an economy that has many less.
While the industrial revolution in the early 1900’s created new jobs, the AI revolution might not create as many as it will take.
There’s no doubt new jobs will be created from and by AI (many we can’t even envision). We’ve become a society that underpays and undervalues labor, and with more college educated people now than ever before, we’ve got less jobs for more people, and AI is swallowing up more every day.
Another concern about AI led a host of scientists and industry experts to sign a letter asking the world to stop the speed of innovation in the AI space because we do not understand what we are creating.
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#2 Currency | Banking | Crypto
The destabilization of the US dollar. Failing and over leveraged banks. Increasing distrust in the Federal Reserve + fiat money. High inflation. High interest. Crypto fraud everywhere despite it heralding itself as the “money savior” for the broken system we have now.
We’ve created a “too big to fail” scenario in the United States. The biggest banks are consolidating more and more, reducing competition in a free society and making it harder for them to fail - as is needed in a Capitalist economy. If we can’t let businesses fail, it’s not free.
The bank run that caused the Silicon Valley Bank collapse was due in part to spooked investors and the fact that everyone has a mobile device with instant access to their account right from home. No need to go to the bank and wait in line. It was a sobering reminder that the entire system is built on trust. That’s it.
Crypto is weirdly both spoken of as a scam and a savior (depending on who you talk to). And while blockchain technology was totally revolutionary to our society, there’s still a long way to go before we transition away from the system we have.
And to think the big guys aren’t going to jump in the ring? On June 20th, the big guys — Schwab, Fidelity, and Citadel — announced they will be launching a Bitcoin Exchange. Meanwhile, Coinbase — the current largest exchange — is being sued by the SEC.
Will Crypto really save us from the mess of a banking and money system we have now? Or will it be swallowed up by regulation and then given over to the big players with deep pockets?
#3 Long Term Consequences of the Covid Pandemic
For all intents and purposes, the pandemic is over. Right? Right?!
Maybe according to the media and the very tired population of planet Earth. But for epidemiologists, public health experts, and well.. the virus, the answer is most definitely no.
I honestly have shielded myself somewhat from the latest research about Covid because it’s just too depressing to read.
Essentially, we’ve let a virus — that acts more like HIV than anyone wants to admit — run freely and infect the entire population of the planet, over and over and over.
The consequences of this are hard to understate.
Covid depletes the immune system’s T-Cells. When we get sick, we have antibodies that fight the virus and then T-cells work like the immune system’s memory and kick in to provide support to kill off the invasion. With fewer T-Cells, we get sick more often and struggle to recover.
Have you noticed the amount of sickness we’ve all seen over the last winter? RSV, Strep A, Flu, colds that won’t go away, weird yeast and fungal infections, etc. It’s not because we masked for two years. It’s because billions of us have weakened immune systems.
Another uncomfortable connection between Covid and Parkinsons has popped up making scientists curious about the neurological impacts of the virus.
Despite the obvious plunge of life expectancy over the past 2 years, many say we’re walking headlong into mass disabling events that impact the heart, the nervous system, and reduce our ability to fight common infections.
#4 Energy Consumption | Overshoot
Every year by around July, we (as in the global population) consume 100% of the Earth’s renewable resources. That means for the second half of the year, we’re borrowing resources from the future.
It’s called Earth Overshoot Day. “Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
So far, throughout all of human history, we’ve figured out how to borrow from the future, or expand the Earth’s carrying capacity through innovation.
We extract more and more resources from the planet to sustain the exponential growth in population.
But at some point, we will run out. Unless you’re a completely delusional tech-saviorist who thinks we’re going to invent something that expands the carrying capacity of the planet, we’re headed for population collapse.
We simply have overtaxed the system.
There’s a lot of hopium in green tech, but much of it isn’t based on reality.
There are nowhere near enough minerals in the Earth to turn our entire planet away from fossil fuels.
We’re going to run out of fossil fuels by the end of the century.
Degrowth is really our only option but comes with it so many risks and death, it’s not really an option. It’s theoretical more than realistic.
Yes, we are in a very significant pickle.
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#5 Political and Diplomatic Instability
People way smarter than me are worried about the Ukraine/Russia war leading us ultimately to the use of nuclear weapons.
I really don’t know.
What I do know is that the United States is losing its foothold as a reserve currency.
China is flirting with taking over Taiwan (which is an antagonistic stance against the United States).
Ukraine and Russia have been embroiled in a conflict for a year and a half.
We have massive immigration crises along the southern border of the United States, but also in Europe.
When things are unstable and uncertain, demagogues and fascists take hold simply because people want a savior and certainty.
If misinformation spreads, then we see large swaths of the population start to distrust the leaders — and perhaps rightfully so — and it leads to the rise of narcissistic power hungry people that claim they can “save” us from the enemy.
The United States is holding onto democracy by the skin of its teeth.
Big tech and mainstream media still control much of the information. If you watched any of the documentaries on companies like Cambridge Analytica, you know that an entire populations of people can be destabilized and rallied around an idea that’s completely false.
Another thing that causes political instability is when resources become limited. For all of human history, when an empire ran out of what it needed, it conquered another location through war.
Problem is… we’re out of places to conquer. And as an interconnected society with nuclear arsenals, wars are more dangerous than ever as they can quickly have global impacts.
The bottom line?
Stagnation and poor economies create authoritarian governments.
Democratic backsliding is the first sign that unstable economies are warping politics.
Misinformation (and AI’s upcoming role) means that the truth is even harder now to discern.
When you lose trust in the government and the institution, chaos reigns.
#6 Commercial Real Estate
Covid accelerated the demise of commercial real estate when we all were told to stay home. Do a quick Google search on what’s happening in cities like San Francisco. Streets are lined with empty storefronts.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. And here’s why.
Commercial real estate loans are in trouble, and that negatively impacts the banks. This can spook the markets, leading to collapses in other industries, not to mention bank runs if people feel their bank doesn’t have enough resources to handle a withdrawal.
"More than 300 banks have enough commercial real estate loans on their books to see their Tier 1 capital wiped out under a worst-case scenario, Richard Barkham, chief economist and head of research at CBRE"
Defaults are coming fast in the commercial real estate industry, and stores that have seen a lot of shoplifting are re-evaluating their entire storefront model.
Even fast food is becoming an automated experience.
We’ve accidentally walked into a totally different world and way of life since Covid sped up e-commerce, remote work, and people got used to not commuting.
When people don’t go to work, they commute less, spend less gas, buy less food, clothes, everything. The machine starts to slow down.
One of the biggest arguments against “climate alarmism” is that scientists are overstating the impact of rising temps and seas (small changes over long periods of time). And while it’s true that those are long term events, the biggest issue coming for us is the weather unpredictability that accompanies a warming world. More importantly, how well we can anticipate temps enough to reap our harvests!
Increasing temps mean more heatwaves, drought, floods and other crop killing events.
Oceans are depleted (some saying extinction of many fish by 2048). This is due to coral bleaching, less oxygen in the water, and commercial fishing.
Pollinators like the bees are dying off (we’re in the 6th mass extinction event right now with animals and insects disappearing). Latest estimates are suggesting over 1 million species (not animals, actual species) will be extinct by 2050.
The weakening jet stream creates unstable weather and makes it hard to plant crops + estimate stable harvests.
Droughts, floods, plagues due to unstable ecosystems, shortages of the materials to make fertilizer… these are all contributors of food shortages.
What’s funny about this issue is that depending on who you ask, we’re either completely OVERPOPULATED and about to collapse due to overshoot, or we’re dangerously close to the tipping point where we go extinct in certain locations because of falling birth rates.
Which is it?
Birth rates are falling, especially in places like Japan where they are incentivizing people to have more children.
Infertility is on the rise with 1 in 6 couples not able to conceive.
Simultaneously, we’re in a system of overshoot where we’re using up about 1.7 earths per year in resources based on the 8 billion of us there are.
Overshoot in any population and ecosystem leads to population collapse. We’ve kept it away by using tech and innovation to extract more resources from the Earth.
The number of aging baby boomers will create a significant problem for long term health care needs as well as replacing those jobs (which AI might help with ironically).
It’s a classic “rock and hard place” issue. Certain countries are dangerously at risk for not being able to sustain an aging population with not enough new babies in the population.
On the other hand, we cannot keep populating at this rate without recognizing the fact that we’ve overshot the Earth’s resources.
#9 Climate | Weather
Lastly, we come to the traditional Climate Change conversation. You’ll notice in many of the above issues, the climate is already playing a role.
But we’ve got….
Rising seas. Due to melting ice in the poles, rising seas don’t just mean higher…. they mean expanded. Insurance companies are leaving areas that are prone to storms and flooding. This leads to towns not growing because no one wants to move into an area where homeowners insurance is sky high or not available.
Warming temps. This puts strain on electrical grids that need to power air conditioning. In other parts of the world, people simply die (like India).
Unpredictable weather. Not only does this impact agriculture and food, it leads to more expensive weather disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and droughts.
Fresh water shortages. Cue the constant “we’re in a drought” lingo coming from the southwest where the Colorado River and Lake Mead have been losing critical amounts of water. These towns and cities along these water basins are fully dependent on this water supply since they are built in the desert. There was even a news article about how we tilted the Earth due to how much groundwater we’ve used.
Cascading impacts due to extinction of predator species. If you kill off a top predator (like sharks or whales), then their primary food supply overpopulates too fast. It decimates their food supply, leading to their population collapse. And the dominos fall.
Unlivable areas of the planet are currently heavily populated. This is due to warming temps and desertification. This may trigger an immigration crisis for people looking for new places to live.
All these issues are layered, stacked, interconnected, and adding complexity to our current world.
So what does one do with all this?
Lots of people are predicting how things will play out with any one of these issues, but it’s all just speculation. I don’t find this especially helpful.
For me, it means taking PRECIOUS care of the time you have RIGHT NOW.
Time is a limited resource.
The future is not promised.
Take action today.
Live your best life right now.
Do not wait.
Do not put things off for a future that we don’t know will be.
Take the vacation.
Start the business.
Tell the people you love how much you love them.
Get out in nature.
Plant a garden.
Cook good food.
Laugh a lot.
Appreciate what you have.
Appreciate each moment.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Let go of the problems that feel big right now.
We’ve got today. So let’s use it.