My scratchpad short list. Yours may vary. What am I missing?

Yes, many of these overlap (think Venn diagrams), evincing recursive cause-effect (feedback loop) oscillations. Some may be transient, eventually materially abating with or without concerted mitigation efforts. Others may well worsen irrespective of our countermeasures. I’ve been devoting most of my blog time of late to many of these topics. What among the foregoing might legitimately be characterized as “existential?” Obviously, “Species Extinctions” fits the bill. “Starvation” is certainly existential for those succumbing to it.

I don’t see how anyone can claim to be “bored” these days. I certainly am not. So little time, so much to learn (and unlearn).

(This post will accrue over time, given the breadth of issues and new developments.)


This stuff is absurd.

Mike “Wompus” Nieznany is a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran who walks with a cane from the combat wounds he received during his service. That disability doesn’t keep Nieznany from making a living selling custom motorcycle luggage racks from his home in Gainesville, Georgia. Neither will it slow him down when it’s time to visit Washington, D.C. — heavily armed and ready to do his part in overthrowing the U.S. government.

Millions of fellow would-be insurrectionists will be there, too, Nieznany says, “a ticking time-bomb” targeting the Capitol. “There are lots of fully armed people wondering what’s happening to this country,” he says. “Are we going to let Biden keep destroying it? Or do we need to get rid of him? We’re only going to take so much before we fight back.” The 2024 election, he adds, may well be the trigger… [link]

OK, back to where I’d started. I will soon be 76. The U.S. population has doubled across my lifetime. Global population has tripled. What seemed to me—the young kid of his early 1950’s childhood, to be a world of essentially infinite resources there for the opportunistic taking, has revealed itself to be—well—um, otherwise.

Properly, I now have to consider the likely futures of other young kids—both within and beyond my personal orbit. Our offspring will face a world of resource scarcities and maldistributions at every turn, with all of the acute and chronic conflicts such inequities foment.

No, there’s no justification for claiming “boredom.”

to wit,


If all goes well, human history is just beginning. Humanity is about two hundred thousand years old. But the Earth will remain habitable for hundreds of millions more — enough time for millions of future generations; enough to end disease, poverty and injustice forever; enough to create heights of flourishing unimaginable today. And if we could learn to reach out further into the cosmos, we could have more time yet: trillions of years, to explore billions of worlds. Such a lifespan places present-day humanity in its earliest infancy. A vast and extraordinary adulthood awaits.

Our view of this potential is easily obscured. The latest scandal draws our outrage; the latest tragedy, our sympathy. Time and space shrink. We forget the scale of the story in which we take part. But there are moments when we remember — when our vision shifts, and our priorities realign. We see a species precariously close to self-destruction, with a future of immense promise hanging in the balance. And which way that balance tips becomes our most urgent public concern.

This book argues that safeguarding humanity’s future is the defining challenge of our time. For we stand at a crucial moment in the history of our species. Fueled by technological progress, our power has grown so great that for the first time in humanity’s long history, we have the capacity to destroy ourselves — severing our entire future and everything we could become.

Yet humanity’s wisdom has grown only falteringly, if at all, and lags dangerously behind. Humanity lacks the maturity, coordination and foresight necessary to avoid making mistakes from which we could never recover. As the gap between our power and our wisdom grows, our future is subject to an ever-increasing level of risk. This situation is unsustainable. So over the next few centuries, humanity will be tested: it will either act decisively to protect itself and its longterm potential, or, in all likelihood, this will be lost forever.

To survive these challenges and secure our future, we must act now: managing the risks of today, averting those of tomorrow, and becoming the kind of society that will never pose such risks to itself again.

It is only in the last century that humanity’s power to threaten its entire future became apparent…

Ord, Toby. The Precipice (pp. 3–4). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.


Perhaps I’m wrong about that.

Beyond direct photovoltaics (PV), wind and wave energies are proxy, non-CO2 solar. Hydroelectric dams are non-CO2 solar, but come with their own environmental footprint baggage. (And fossil fuels are, yeah, technically “solar,” but bound up in the problematic carbon of buried ancient biomass.) We’d have to know the total solar energy striking our planet necessarily consumed by the aggregate contemporary biomass (regarding which, humans reportedly comprise ~0.01%—,0.0001), and what proportion just dissipates entropically, trickling back out to the cold of space.

Nuclear fission is also non-CO2, but requires environmentally onerous mining and the effective “nuclear security state” comprised of often contentious “nuclear club” nations, as well as safe and secure nuke fuel waste disposal. Then there’s stuff like “Three Mile Island,” “Chernobyl,” and “Fukushima.” I started my white collar career in Oak Ridge, working as a programmer and QC analyst in a forensic-level environmental radiation lab. My residual reservations remain. “Bridge Technology?” Dunno. Maybe.

Can we get to ~100% direct solar? Are there sufficient PV cell raw materials for the manufacturing? What about the lithium etc necessary for the requisite large capacity batteries?

A lot of experts remain skeptical. But, some substantial fraction less than 100% will benefit us materially nonetheless.

140 acre 15 megawatt solar facility near Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV


US Dept of Energy: “Hydrogen can be produced using a number of different processes. Thermochemical processes use heat and chemical reactions to release hydrogen from organic materials, such as fossil fuels and biomass, or from materials like water. Water (H2O) can also be split into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) using electrolysis or solar energy. Microorganisms such as bacteria and algae can produce hydrogen through biological processes.”

You ignite H2 gas, you get energy and water vapor, full stop. No carbon greenhouse gas compounds. Were you to produce H2 without using fossil fuels and/or biomass, your waste material is nil. Yeah, H2 does not exist on earth in pure molecular form, it has to be produced. Do it.


No shortage of timely reading on these interrelated topics.


If the 20th century was the story of slow, uneven progress toward the victory of liberal democracy over other ideologies — communism, fascism, virulent nationalism — the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse…

By Anne Applebaum

…Nowadays, autocracies are run not by one bad guy, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, security services (military, police, paramilitary groups, surveillance), and professional propagandists. The members of these networks are connected not only within a given country, but among many countries. The corrupt, state-controlled companies in one dictatorship do business with corrupt, state-controlled companies in another. The police in one country can arm, equip, and train the police in another. The propagandists share resources — the troll farms that promote one dictator’s propaganda can also be used to promote the propaganda of another — and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America…

This is not to say that there is some supersecret room where bad guys meet, as in a James Bond movie. Nor does the new autocratic alliance have a unifying ideology. Among modern autocrats are people who call themselves communists, nationalists, and theocrats. No one country leads this group. Washington likes to talk about Chinese influence, but what really bonds the members of this club is a common desire to preserve and enhance their personal power and wealth. Unlike military or political alliances from other times and places, the members of this group don’t operate like a bloc, but rather like an agglomeration of companies — call it Autocracy Inc. Their links are cemented not by ideals but by deals — deals designed to take the edge off Western economic boycotts, or to make them personally rich — which is why they can operate across geographical and historical lines…


A great read. I know a good bit about Gresham’s Dynamic financial malfeasance, but Casey’s book illuminates a whole ‘nuther orders-of-magnitude greater level.

Click here.


“…the hip bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone connected to the knee bone…” So much for the prevailing “Just In Time” global supply chain tight-coupling efficiency. Markets don’t play nice with a serious viral pandemic.

Imagine my surprise.

Moreover, given the worrisome new “Omicron” Cov-2 variant now spreading from South Africa (?), recent tentative economic “recoveries” around the world may well hit more bumps in the roads—with all the political adversity they beget.

There’s plenty of good reading on the ECON repercussions of COVID-19. Here’s a particularly nice book.

Tragedy of the Commons

Government is charged with preventing tragedies of the commons, so to speak. As I write this in August 2020, the immediate responsibility of government is to steer us through and out of the pandemic. I doubt that mission will have changed by the time this book goes to press. The history of missteps and chances lost in this pandemic is depressingly long, but the blame game is for historians, not serious leaders. We are facing an economic catastrophe, and we’ve already wasted the better part of $3 trillion not fixing it.

We need to protect people, not companies. My choice would have been to follow the German model. Under their “Kurzarbeit” program, employers can furlough workers during the pandemic, while the government takes responsibility for two thirds of the worker’s salary. Workers stay technically employed, so they can easily return to their job once there is work to be done, but are under no pressure to work while it is unsafe. In effect, the government says, You don’t need to worry about food. You are in a position where you can distance safely without putting your family at risk. You don’t have to make bad decisions to feed your family. And there’s no fear.43 Happiness is not only a function of what you have, but what you don’t have. Specifically, an absence of fear. Absence from the fear that you won’t be able to feed your family or that serious illness might mean bankruptcy…

Galloway, Scott. Post Corona (pp. 200–201). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

And, for a sweeping historical contextual view I could not recommend Kyle Harper’s new book more highly.


ONE OF THE CHIEF BLESSINGS of living in the modern world is supposed to be that the risk of dying from an infectious disease has become vanishingly small. The nuisances of modern civilization are a small price to pay for the good fortune of being alive at a time when our germs have been brought to heel. We can grudgingly resign ourselves to the inevitability that cancers, chronic diseases, or degenerative disorders will catch up to us someday. We moderns die of old age, of overabundance, of cellular malfunction … but not plagues and poxes. Until, that is, a new pestilence has the temerity to disrupt our daily lives, here and now. More than we are apt to remember, even in the shadow of a pandemic, the world we inhabit thoroughly presupposes the subjugation of infectious disease…

Harper, Kyle. Plagues upon the Earth (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) . Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.


Problems in academia long predate the latest pandemic episode. Rampant cost increases, crushing student debt, questionable value propositions, prioritization of the big revenue sports, using non-profit status to venture into real estate and other commercial initiatives (while depriving local governments of tax revenue)…

I was fortunate as a (late bloomer) student. Very little undergrad debt (now long paid off), and I paid cash for my Master’s. I even got to subsequently do an interesting Adjunct stint teaching “Critical Thinking” and “Argument Analysis” at UNLV for a number of years while working as a bank credit risk analyst.

60% of our classroom faculty were adjuncts; the regular faculty mostly hated to teach (particularly undergrads), preferring their research and publication interests. Given that ~60% of our incoming freshmen were really not ready for college, one can perhaps have some sympathy. I recall looking out over a class and thinking “man, 2/3rds of you need to re-take high school.”

Couple of interesting books:

(Note: See also Scott Galloway’s book “Post Corona” cited above.)

COVID-19 has served to make things acutely worse across the board. The unsustainable “business model” has been laid bare for all to see. We’ll see what shakes out eventually.

January 2022 update. Just saw news reporting that U.S. college admissions declined by nearly a half million students last year. What will be the broad ripple effects of that?

Quantitative analyst, writer/blogger, musician, photographer, loyal brother, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend.