Chris Hedges History Original

Chris Hedges: We Are Not the First Civilization to Collapse, but We Will Probably Be the Last

The archeological remains of past civilizations, including those of the prehistoric Cahokia temple mound complex in Illinois, are sobering reminders of our fate.
“Doomsday Selfie.” [Illustration by Mr. Fish]

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

CAHOKIA MOUNDS, Illinois: I am standing atop a 100-foot-high temple mound, the largest known earthwork in the Americas built by prehistoric peoples. The temperatures, in the high 80s, along with the oppressive humidity, have emptied the park of all but a handful of visitors. My shirt is matted with sweat.

I look out from the structure—known as Monks Mound — at the flatlands below, with smaller mounds dotting the distance. These earthen mounds, built at a confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri rivers, are all that remain of one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements north of Mexico, occupied from around 800 to 1,400 AD by perhaps as many as 20,000 people.

This great city, perhaps the greatest in North America, rose, flourished, fell into decline and was ultimately abandoned. Civilizations die in familiar patterns. They exhaust natural resources. They spawn parasitic elites who plunder and loot the institutions and systems that make a complex society possible. They engage in futile and self-defeating wars. And then the rot sets in. The great urban centers die first, falling into irreversible decay. Central authority unravels. Artistic expression and intellectual inquiry are replaced by a new dark age, the triumph of tawdry spectacle and the celebration of crowd-pleasing imbecility.

“Collapse occurs, and can only occur, in a power vacuum,” anthropologist Joseph Tainter writes in The Collapse of Complex Societies. “Collapse is possible only where there is no competitor strong enough to fill the political vacuum of disintegration.”

Several centuries ago, the rulers of this vast city complex, which covered some 4,000 acres, including a 40-acre central plaza, stood where I stood. They no doubt saw below in the teeming settlements an unassailable power, with at least 120 temple mounds used as residences, sacred ceremonial sites, tombs, meeting centers and ball courts. Cahokia warriors dominated a vast territory from which they exacted tribute to enrich the ruling class of this highly stratified society. Reading the heavens, these mound builders constructed several circular astronomical observatories — wooden versions of Stonehenge. 

The city’s hereditary rulers were venerated in life and death. A half mile from Monks Mound is the seven-foot-high Mound 72, in which archeologists found the remains of a man on a platform covered with 20,000 conch-shell disc beads from the Gulf of Mexico. The beads were arranged in the shape of a falcon, with the  falcon’s head beneath and beside the man’s head. Its wings and tail were placed  underneath the man’s arms and legs. Below this layer of shells was the body of another man, buried face downward. Around these two men were six more human remains, possibly retainers, who may have been put to death to accompany the entombed man in the afterlife. Nearby were buried the remains of 53 girls and women ranging in age from 15 to 30, laid out in rows in two layers separated by matting. They appeared to have been strangled to death.

The poet Paul Valéry noted, “a civilization has the same fragility as a life.”

Across the Mississippi River from Monks Mound, the city skyline of St. Louis is visible. It is hard not to see our own collapse in that of Cahokia. In 1950, St. Louis was the eighth-largest city in the United States, with a population of 856,796. Today, that number has fallen to below 300,000, a drop of some 65 percent. Major employers — Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell-Douglas, TWA, Southwestern Bell and Ralston Purina —have dramatically reduced their presence or left altogether. St. Louis is consistently ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the country. One in five people live in poverty. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has the highest rate of police killings per capita, of the 100 largest police departments in the nation, according to a 2021 report. Prisoners in the city’s squalid jails, where  47 people died in custody between 2009 and 2019, complain of water being shut off from their cells for hours and guards routinely pepper spraying inmates, including those on suicide watch. The city’s crumbling infrastructure, hundreds of gutted and abandoned buildings, empty factories, vacant warehouses and impoverished neighborhoods replicate the ruins of other post-industrial American cities, the classic signposts of a civilization in terminal decline.

“Just as in the past, countries that are environmentally stressed, overpopulated, or both, become at risk of getting politically stressed, and of their governments collapsing,” Jared Diamond argues in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. “When people are desperate, undernourished and without hope, they blame their governments, which they see as responsible for or unable to solve their problems. They try to emigrate at any cost. They fight each other over land. They kill each other. They start civil wars. They figure that they have nothing to lose, so they become terrorists, or they support or tolerate terrorism.”

Pre-industrial civilizations were dependent on the limits of solar energy and constrained by roads and waterways, impediments that were obliterated when fossil fuel became an energy source. As industrial empires became global, their increase in size meant an increase in complexity. Ironically, this complexity makes us more vulnerable to catastrophic collapse, not less. Soaring temperatures (Iraq is enduring 120 degree heat that has fried the country’s electrical grid), the depletion of natural resources, flooding, droughts, (the worst drought in 500 years is devastating Western, Central and Southern Europe and is expected to see a decline in crop yields of 8 or 9 percent), power outages, wars, pandemics, a rise in zoonotic diseases and breakdowns in supply chains combine to shake the foundations of industrial society. The Arctic has been heating up four times faster than the global average, resulting in an accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet and freakish weather patterns. The Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia are warming up to seven times faster. Climate scientists did not expect this extreme weather until 2050.

“Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up,” the anthropologist Ronald Wright warns, calling industrial society “a suicide machine.”

In A Short History of Progresshe writes

Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps. A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea. While prevention might have been easy, a cure may be impossible: a city isn’t easily moved. This human inability to foresee — or to watch out for — long-range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by the millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth by hunting and gathering. It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness encouraged by the shape of the social pyramid. The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer.

Wright also reflects upon what will be left behind:

The archaeologists who dig us up will need to wear hazmat suits. Humankind will leave a telltale layer in the fossil record composed of everything we produce, from mounds of chicken bones, wet-wipes, tires, mattresses and other household waste to metals, concrete, plastics, industrial chemicals, and the nuclear residue of power plants and weaponry. We are cheating our children, handing them tawdry luxuries and addictive gadgets while we take away what’s left of the wealth, wonder and possibility of the pristine Earth.

Calculations of humanity’s footprint suggest we have been in ‘ecological deficit,’ taking more than Earth’s biological systems can withstand, for at least 30 years. Topsoil is being lost far faster than nature can replenish it; 30 percent of arable land has been exhausted since the mid-20th century.

We have financed this monstrous debt by colonizing both past and future, drawing energy, chemical fertilizer and pesticides from the planet’s fossil carbon, and throwing the consequences onto coming generations of our species and all others. Some of those species have already been bankrupted: they are extinct. Others will follow.

As Cahokia declined, violence dramatically increased. Surrounding towns were burned to the ground. Groups, numbering in the hundreds, were slaughtered and buried in mass graves. At the end, “the enemy killed all people indiscriminately. The intent was not merely prestige, but an early form of ethnic cleansing” writes anthropologist Timothy R. Pauketat, in Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians. He notes that, in one fifteenth-century cemetery in central Illinois, one-third of all adults had been killed by blows to the head, arrow wounds or scalping. Many showed evidence of fractures on their arms from vain attempts to fight off their attackers. 

Such descent into internecine violence is compounded by a weakened and discredited central authority. In the later stages of Cahokia, the ruling class surrounded themselves with fortified wooden stockades, including a two-mile long wall that enclosed Monks Mound. Similar fortifications dotted the vast territory the Cahokia controlled, segregating gated communities where the wealthy and powerful, protected by armed guards, sought safety from the increasing lawlessness and hoarded dwindling food supplies and resources.

Overcrowding inside these stockades saw the spread of tuberculosis and blastomycosis, caused by a soil-borne fungus, along with iron deficiency anemia. Infant mortality rates rose, and life spans declined, a result of social disintegration, poor diet and disease.

By the 1400s Cahokia had been abandoned. In 1541, when Hernando de Soto’s invading army descended on what is today Missouri,  looking for gold, nothing but the great mounds remained, relics of a forgotten past.

This time the collapse will be global. It will not be possible, as in ancient societies, to migrate to new ecosystems rich in natural resources. The steady rise in heat will devastate crop yields and make much of the planet uninhabitable. Climate scientists warn that once temperatures rise by 4℃, the earth, at best, will be able to sustain a billion people.

The more insurmountable the crisis becomes, the more we, like our prehistoric ancestors, will retreat into self-defeating responses, violence, magical thinking and denial

The historian Arnold Toynbee, who singled out unchecked militarism as the fatal blow to past empires, argued that civilizations are not murdered, but commit suicide. They fail to adapt to a crisis, ensuring their own obliteration. Our civilization’s collapse will be unique in size, magnified by the destructive force of our fossil fuel-driven industrial society. But it will replicate the familiar patterns of collapse that toppled civilizations of the past. The difference will be in scale, and  this time there will be no exit.


NOTE TO SCHEERPOST READERS FROM CHRIS HEDGES: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at chrishedges.substack.com so I can continue to post my now weekly Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, The Chris Hedges Report.

Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

63 comments

  1. I wanted to say 2 things to Chris:

    1- Great article.

    2- In regards to funding, here’s what I suggest- don’t put the whole article here. Put part of it, and have the complete article in your substack. Mainstream pay sites do this all the time and it’s certainly gotten me to subscribe to a few of them, at least the ones that let you subscribe for a dollar or 2 a month. I see your stack is 6 a month, but your content is also pretty good, so I might spring for it if it was the only way to get your full articles.

    1. Chris’ work and words are so important I can’t imagine not supporting him. I need him. We all do,

    2. I should think it’s important information that should be free because everyone needs everybody to know it: shout this stuff from the mountaintops 🙂

  2. I am grateful to read your content for free and to share it with others. Will think about support – living on the edges here, but I have no idea what you’re living on, hope it’s more than I have.

  3. Chris Hedges might follow your suggestion but that would be conditional on the approval of Robert Scheer and Company who edit and own this site.

    1. Civilization needs voices telling the inconvenient truths that all of us need to hear.Capitalism.is the evil force devouring our future.If AL Gore had any balls and contested the election.or one Democrat.had signed the opposition perhaps things would not have gotten this bad so quickly.

  4. A simple neutral opinion:
    “Climate scientists did not expect this extreme weather until 2050.”
    If climate science can be so inaccurate, in the short-term, about forecasting the effects of climate changes, going back a mere 150 years on planet earth, which dates back many billions of years, how can they know that there is even any significant correlation in their observations?

    1. Comment was intended to read as follows:
      A simple neutral opinion:
      “Climate scientists did not expect this extreme weather until 2050.”
      If climate science can be so inaccurate in the short-term, about forecasting the effects of climate changes dating back a mere 150 years on planet earth; which the same science tells us dates back many billions of years, how can they then know that there is even any significant correlation between climate changes longitudinally, and climate catastrophe now happening, in their shorter term data analysis?

      This commenter, in spite of the comment, is in no doubt that humanity is bent on destroying itself, in toto.

      1. simple answer, the scientists were pressured to moderate their findings or face censure on one kind or another
        Surely you are aware of the attacks many suffered by the deniers

    2. Short answer: There are now thousands of researchers daily measuring climate data themselves & simultaneously checking the overlapping observations of others… a super redundant method of establishing correlations !

      Medium answer: Observed climatic changes actually occurring now are outstripping the magnitude/ pace of the changes predicted on the basis of the accumulated, observed & agreed upon evidence of the recent historical past ( …points plotted on a positively sloping line on an X/Y ( time ) axis graph, for example, would be one example of a trend line that can be extrapolated into the near future ) .

      Some attribute our inaccurate forecasts to the cautious mindset of scientists who normally tend to favor conservative interpretations of alarming data. This may be a reason we ( ‘they’ ) have underestimated the rapidity of climate disruption.

      Others believe climatologists are now dealing w/ accelerating ‘real-time‘ changes which are intrinsically tricky to anticipate on the basis of a mainly ‘linear’ past record.

      Thing is… if they’re ‘right’ about the TREND … being ‘wrong’ ( imprecisely inaccurate …) about the exact moment & method of Climate System Disruption is scant comfort.

      – JJ ( @ Detroit near Canada…)

  5. Fantastic article. It reminds me of the quote from Jared Diamond: “I wonder what they were thinking when they cut down the last tree on Easter Island.” The same thing that we’re all thinking today: “It’s going to be fine. Something will save us. If nothing else, we’ll go somewhere else.” Well, without trees to build boats, there really wasn’t any other place for them to go on Easter Island, and there isn’t any other place for us to go, so literally, here we go…

  6. People don’t understand time.

    A related example is the phrase “Save the Earth.” Which is incorrect to anyone who understands time. A more accurate phrase would be “Save the Humans.”

    For example, let us pick the most likely outcome that the Americans and especially Democrats seem to desire above all others …. Global Nuclear War. This would indeed end human civilization as we know it. It would put a serious dent into human population numbers. It might even lead to the best of outcomes which would be the extinction of the human race before it can leave this planet and begin to terrorize the nearby stars.

    But, it would not end the Earth. Give the Earth time, and it has time, and you’d see life begin its pattern of evolution again. Remember, the Earth has hundreds of thousands if not millions of years ahead of it. So, the Earth will be ok. And there would likely be another civilization arising in the future.

    And if the Earth has any luck at all, it won’t be human.

    1. Bob,
      Yes, we deserve, definitely, our fate of nuclear extinction.
      Some of us look forward to it just to stop hearing the constant lying, and listening to those who insult our intelligence such as counting Ballots ad nauseum,
      and worrying about mass shootings, or being threatened with violence/death over Blue /Red issues.
      The situation is hopeless but also seriously to continue with more and more of the same.
      Except for Chris’ favorite Christian fascists who expect deus ex machina.

    2. I disagree with part of your statements. One, why do you think “democrats” want to provoke nuclear war? Isn’t this more of an extremist religious thought to provoke nuclear war to bring the apocalypse in order to bring back Jesus? Or some garbage like that? Second, I do believe the earth as we know can end. The destruction of the atmosphere and the ozone layer to protect all life from the sun’s UVC and X-rays is quite possible. The earth could very much end up like mars, but perhaps with toxic salt water remaining for a while. I do believe we humans are very naive as to the degree of destruction we can cause. And I do believe we humans are very capable indeed of killing the earth as an organism and we will be lucky at this point if the earth herself survives.

      1. I think the planet will be uninhabitable for eons for us but but it most likely will stabilize and a new geologic chapter will begin

    3. “there would likely be another civilization arising in the future.”

      Well – there might be – and there might not. Evolution has no preferred direction.

    1. Michael:

      I did not realize you were a pastor when I checked out your website out of a cynical curiousity.
      I was surprised by your first sermon and it gave me much food for thought: it’s ironic that I recently took my anger out on my neighbour, who works in the resource industry, and the argument nearly came to blows. I was stopped by the fact my neighbour almost welcomed my rage, and I realized how pointless it was, as he has a good family life and did not seem to understand climate change.

      I’m familiar with the Stoic teachings of Epictetus, but find it very difficult to put into practice. I’m caught on the idea that many people deserve this fate of extinction, whether from stupidity or selfishness or indifference to the wellbeing of others (including mine). I try to remember the world we live in, the evolutionary pressures, create opportunities for joy and love as much as cruelty and selfishness, and that people are shaped as much by their natures (genetics) and environment, and are not as aware or conscious as a result.

      I don’t agree fully with the idea that collapse (due to climate chaos, nuclear war or unintended consequences of technology) is unavoidable. I would argue it is nihilistic or conceited to think that human civilization is “great”, that other species cannot evolve after us and achieve sentience, and then discover the fate of humans and avoid the same. There is a lot of time left for the Earth to recover after humanity.

      Also, we don’t know how far advanced something like robotics or androids will develop before climate chaos becomes too severe. Sentient androids would not be affected by drought or famine and may help humanity to survive or achieve an independence of their own. All this is speculation, but is very possible given what I’ve seen of robotics so far.

      1. I am referring to your last paragraph. Speculation??? Yes, but bearing in mind the trends of AI, a strange reality could be dawning.

  7. Mr. Hedges:

    Now I know how you feel when your interviews on youtube were removed.

    I am yet again shocked and sad that one of my favorite investment advisors articles, I archived, have been removed by our supposed honest government
    that rules us. This theft/censorship is not the first time in my experience.

    These fascist scum only know collective obedience, far worse than anything
    done in Russia after Stalin. We get no honest news — only US pravda news and censorship of every color.

    This is not the country I grew up in; my heart is so very sad for our country.

    Love your work, am proud to be a subscriber, and have 3 of your books in my library.

    Larry Johnson

  8. Chris writes exceptionally well and always stirs the blood; as the time for proactive creativity is now so extremely ripe, we ought to be channeling our energies into positive domains, focused on solutions and restorative behaviours, wisely rationing our most dire prognostications.

    Those of us who have been alert to the high probabilities of collapse due to environmental degradation and the exponential risks of mindless consumerism, must lead by example and resist the tendency to just keep lamenting and grinding our teeth.

    The signs have been undeniable for fifty years now; there will always be those with little or no capacity to accept the implications of their destructive habits, reflexes that have become utterly normal due to a climate of denial, polarising extremes of deprivation and gluttonous indulgence, bred and led by bigotry and fatuous, cynical piety; but there really are no excuses for inaction. Time has simply run out. As that old cliche reminds us, if you are not a proactive part of socially enlightened climate solutions then you are merely aggravating and exascerbating an unendurable problem.

    Ecology, biosystemic conservation, rational stewardship, these are the real pragmatic domains that desperately need community support, through enlightened methods of education and developmental learning. Beating the drum of change is one thing; finding a transformative tune that everyone can recognise and find empowering is quite another.

  9. “We Are Not the First Civilization to Collapse, but We Will Probably Be the Last… This time the collapse will be global… this time there will be no exit.”

    Rev. Hedges is fulfilling the prophet’s unpleasant role of voicing the uncomfortable truth. He is correct to point out how close our Civilization is to fully Cancelling itself from environment and spiritual toxicity.

    But when he and others name that truth and take that particular spiritual street no further down from that… they become unwilling participants in that very civilization collapse.

    Various revelations from Quantum Physics have proven that to a very large extent we are all creating this Reality we all share. Energy flows where we direct our Human Intention and emotions.

    And when most all of the World is convinced that The End Is Near (from whatever cause)… this is all hastening that very collapse when that very same Quantum Physics teaches that there are always multiple possibilities and potentials in each and every situation.

    So, who today is swimming against this formidable tide and trying to focus on a different outcome to the peril our Civilization is in? Who has there eyes and heart on the better and much more nurturing possibilities and potentials that always exist just waiting for the fuel of our Attention to come along? The short answer. Hardly anyone. And that’s a big problem.

    This is not to mean we should ignore the great peril that we are no doubt in from various threats.

    But as we enter our Planetary ‘Fight or Flight’ mode of perpetual emotional arousal… if we allow ourselves to be paralyzed in fear and hopelessness we will foreclose on better outcomes that just within our reach and insure our demise.

    So as we appreciate the tough job Rev. Hedges has to point out our most dangerous circumstances in a Time of Institutionalized Peril… we also need some of his spiritual wisdom to help lead the thoughts and hearts of countless people who desperately need to find a way out of their own defeatist heads and be led into connecting with the spirit and energy we all need to blast our way out of this Perilous Maze. Not to do so is to simply give up.

    Every time we think about or succumb to Doom we take a step closer to fulfilling the inevitability of that Doom we fear in our lives.

    We have now become so ‘blinded’ by the Darkness and Doom… that we extinguish The Light that sits within our grasp… the Light of Quantum Potentials reached through the focus and power of our Hearts and Minds.

    To doubt our power to change Reality is to deny Life… and ourselves.

    1. Your pseudo-quantum mechanics is the perfect example of the flight into fantasy that Chris has discussed many times. Sitting there saying that we can make it All Better by thinking the right way is utter stupidity. You are retreating into a Crisis Cult of your own creation.

      The climate crisis can only be solved by actual physical action to stop the damage being done to the ecosystem. Your woo-woo fantasy nonsense will do nothing at all except comfort you as the world dies.

      1. as the USA dies—Hedges typical american narcissism….USA no longer matters

    2. What you have just posted is a form of denial and magical thinking. For decades, spiritual teachers have been saying we are on the cusp of positive transformation and spiritual awakening. Where is the evidence? This world becomes spiritually darker by the day.

      As someone who has experienced The Silence / Union, I assure you what is needed now is a lot less people sitting on their asses meditating and a lot more people busting their asses with shovels, trowels, and pruners, and a lot less of cosmic books, Deepak Chopra, and narcissistic workshops and a lot more hard work of self reliance, community building and withdrawing our consumer dollars and our labor from this destructive and evil system.

    3. @Roundball Shaman

      Quantum mechanics governed the atomic and subatomic levels of reality, it does not operate on our macro level. (Besides, the Copenhagen interpretation is not agreed upon among scientists). The moon exists even we aren’t looking at it, and so do the forces that are driving climate change. They can only be altered by significant measures applied to the world we inhabit, not by trying to appeal to quarks and Karma.

      1. “Your pseudo-quantum mechanics is the perfect example of the flight into fantasy that Chris has discussed many times. Sitting there saying that we can make it All Better by thinking the right way is utter stupidity.”

        There is nothing ‘pseudo’ about quantum mechanics. To deny the reality of quantum mechanics is to deny the very fundamental basis of our Reality.

        And where did I say that ALL we have to do is just ‘think the right way’? Thinking the right way is the beginning of the restorative process, not the end.

        “What you have just posted is a form of denial and magical thinking… what is needed now is a lot less people sitting on their asses meditating…”

        I have ‘denied’ nothing. I have stared into the mouth of the beast without surrendering to defeatist attitudes before I begin to tangle with that very beast. With courage and positivity and not defeatism and gloom.

        And again, where I have said that ALL people need to is it on their hind quarters and nothing else?

        It appears that some of you are projecting your own thoughts and tendencies on to me.

        I am talking about a basic template of thinking that actions will manifest from. Never did I say that’s all one has to do or that everything bad magically goes away.

        Oh perhaps, the other kind of thinking it best? All is lost? We have no chance? There is nothing to quantum physics? We are doomed? Let’s all just sit on our asses and wait for the end?

        We each get to choose how we want to personally approach our World peril. The basic point of my statements was to say we cannot leave things alone just by saying everything is awful. We need a better kind of thinking and not just leave things there. If that approach doesn’t work for you, hope you can share a better one.

        Max Planck: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness.”

      2. Curiosity is killing this ‘cat’!

        “The moon exists even we aren’t looking at it, and so do the forces that are driving climate change. They can only be altered by significant measures applied to the world we inhabit, …” what world is that, other than a totally incongruent behavior in a superficially constructed totally ‘plastic’ environment.

        What forces do we puny, insignificant animals actually have to combat the forces driving natural climate changes; going on for billions of years.

        Since the advent of Homo-sapiens sapiens upon the planet, the best we have been capable of is to despoil our only home, by continuously adding salt to our wound.
        We haven’t yet directly begun to feel the real pain.

        The only force we have come up with, apparently, to combat our own stupidity, is to have discovered how to split the Atom, and thereby to produce a real force required to actually impact billions of years of longitudinally, (according to our current sciences’ understanding of space/time calculations, based on an hypothesis of longitudinal measures alone) of constantly changing climactic conditions in the Cosmos.

        And that FORCE is nuclear weapons!

        The only thing mankind seems capable of comprehending is material-force, only s/he doesn’t realize that this time on the planet is a one-shot deal. The subtlety of abstract principled reasoning, such as the ethereal matters of the human spirit has not yet dawned, and therefore, do not come into play.

      3. Far too many people use quantum mechanics as a scientific veneer to make magical thinking seem plausible. Deepak Chopra was one of the first offenders.

    4. RBShaman,

      Clara Vondrich, an attorney with a “background in neuroscience” (whatever that means), agrees with you. Check out her article on DeSmog dot com: “Reality Is Not What It Seems”

      She doesn’t think you misapply quantum theory at all, and she promotes the same concepts using quantum theory.

  10. i remember seeing years ago an anecdote about reagan watching “the day after” and being so affected by it he vowed to avoid nuclear war with russia at all costs. his tactic (and/or that of his handlers), naturally, was to increase the number of nuclear weapons.

    https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/ronald-reagan-the-day-after.html

    today we are saturated with dystopian spectacles in the form of “the walking dead” (and most zombie culture in general) and the (admittedly impressive) reboot of the “mad max” franchise. never mind the film adaptation of mccarthy’s “the road” which is one of the darkest and most profound horror movies ever made because it rings true on a visceral level by depicting what is either environmental collapse, nuclear war fallout or both.

    the reactions by the western public range from macabre titillation to blank stares. doomsday “preppers” seem to get the message but usually for the wrong reason and for reasons of pure atavistic self preservation. even their best efforts are pathetic in the face of simple logistics; how will you grow crops? if you want to hunt animals for food what will the animals eat in the first place? what will you do when gasoline expires? how will you survive even the simplest of infections or injuries? do you think a bunker with a 100 cans of beef stew will last the rest of your life? will you outlive the decades if not centuries it takes for the radiation to reach safe levels?

    sorry for the text wall; i just don’t get how fear can be the prime mover of most human decisions throughout history (even when deceptively cloaked in the “will to power”) yet fall victim to inertia and the modernist addiction to comfort. even with the spiritual death MLK spoke of it’s odd how an almost purely materialist society doesn’t have a screaming animal instinct to get its act together.

  11. yikes…my last comment got mashed into a format-free lump of text. not sure if that can be fixed…

  12. If a comet fragment or nuclear war does not get us then the WUHAN lab will. First covid then monkey pox and what will be next. And they screen themselves by blaming the emergence of new viruses on animals. In the case of monkey pox, even prairie dogs are blamed.

    If I had a meter that measured honesty and pointed it at agencies like the N.I.H. would the needle even rise above zero.

  13. Chris “huck finn” hedges with more insights for us plebs with whom he feels such… solidarity. Quote Rienhold Neihbur again and tell us why you feel such sympathy with us poor folks here on the bottom. This Harvard product is trying to clear his ruling-class conscience with dire warnings many of us have been living longer than he’s been out of divinity school. Read the “call to action” at the end of his book on the Christian fascist right and discern his motives – we, the people, are the n****r Jim to his Harvard heart. Chris, go away. We know, and better than you ever could.

  14. Tainter is correct “Collapse is possible only where there is no competitor strong enough to fill the political vacuum of disintegration.” Rather than add to the momentum of collapse (which is easy) the harder task is to actively compete with the forces of disintegration. To create new memes and ideas for re-integration is a much harder undertaking. In my book, Earth Emotions (2019), I have tried to present a ‘competitor’ to the ecocidal Anthropocene. The Symbiocene will be a new era of the symbiotic reconnection to the rest of life. It will also be a genuine geological era in that it will smother Wrights horrible vision of “mounds of chicken bones, wet-wipes, tires, mattresses and other household waste” with a new ‘organic’ geological layer. I put the case: “In what I hope will be a relatively short period of time (perhaps decades), there will be a point in human social development where almost every element of human culture, economy, habitat and technology will be seamlessly re-integrated back into life cycles and processes. In order to get to that preferred state of living, I suggest that the key organizing principles of a Symbiocene society must include:

    • full and benign recyclability and biodegradability of all inputs and outputs;
    • safe and socially just forms of clean, renewable energy;
    • full and harmonious integration of human systems with biogeochemical systems at all scales;
    • using the renewable resources of place and bioregion;
    • the elimination of toxic waste in all aspects of production, consumption and enterprise;
    • all species, great and small, having their life-interests and biocomunal properties understood and respected;
    • evidence of homeostasis or heterostasis where stability is maintained and where conflict is recognized as a sub-set of grand-scale cooperation;
    • protection of symbiotic bonds between and within species at all scales; and
    • re-establishment of symbiotic bonds where they have been severed in the Anthropocene.

    As all of these principles are applied, in the goodness of Symbiocene time, on the very youngest soil strata on Earth, a new, thin film of vitally organic microbiome substances will cover everything. The new ‘sumbiofilm’ will mark the proper geological commencement of the neo-Symbiocene. From that point onwards, as we rapidly build the Symbiocene, that ‘organic’ layer will become thicker and richer as it covers the multitude of sins left by the Anthropocene.”
    What is lacking right now is the courage to provide the leadership and vision needed to counter the Anthropocene. The political vacuum creating dysbiosis must be “filled” by humans committed to symbiosis in the Symbiocene. That is real work and must be seen as more important than getting better at describing, predicting and reveling in … collapse.

  15. historians that study empire emphasize different failures—in USA all obvious–no virtue, morality, lgbt decadence, passivity etc…Valery the despicable Cartesian that despised Pascal; worthless….empires fade away—USA will not be missed, nor will there be any international catastrophe. excepting the angloshere and EU greater cooperation is observed—they have merely isolated themselves, permitting them to be coca colonized by USA…civilized society prepare…climate warming will benefit Russia, Canada, Scandinavia—more gas oil, minerals and arable land will enrich these nations

  16. This article makes a cogent pairing with the one on nuclear war. We may be solving the Fermi Paradox.

  17. History shows that every empire eventually faces collapse. The evidence is also clear, that all wars are fought over power. And power is what is strived after: but it is an illusion. Rulers conspire in that self-deception: that is all they have. That is why today we stand on the precipice of WW III.
    https://patternofhistory.wordpress.com/

    1. socialism is incompatible with the american national character—obvious to anyone that comprehends sociology, philosophy….indeed all Marxists are aware that all of anglophone philosophy is a defense of technocratic capitalism……Gramsci is far more severe about the american character…as are many others

  18. Nice to see the M. Dowd comment. Also Dowd’s recent olive branch to G. McPherson. Overshoot, a key factor in all this.
    Nice to see this being put forward, some very interesting comments.

    Round ball shaman, thank you I agree with much that you wrote, we are co-creating this maze / illusion. Chet Snow’s “mass dreams of the future” comes to mind.

  19. This contains the racist theory of “evolution of culture”. Implying that all cultures work the same is a false assumption. no need to project our problems onto ancient mound builder people and make them out to be the same way we were back when we were brutal vikings.

    1. There’s also no need to assume that the Cahokia were better people because they were not Caucasian. The Aztecs practiced systematic human sacrifice against their neighbors.

      It’s seems very clear that Hedges’ account of the Cahokia is based on archaeological research. The fact that you don’t like it is irrelevant.

    2. excellent—French, Germans, RussiansAsians, Latin Americans all extraordinarily different than americans

    3. “Americans have always been genocidal, enjoying killing from afar”. Philip Slater
      USA#1 violent crime, non-violent crime, rape per capita all nations—despite that a tiny fraction reported per experts

      1. Philip Berrigan once remarked that humans have always been omnicidal, and now, with nuclear weapons, they have the means to do it.

  20. I enjoy reading your content.
    Sadly, the situations you have written about above – have me on a budget that is stretccchhheeed.
    I hope you will continue to try & inform as many as possible.
    I miss reading things like the New York Times or other quality publications, but I can’t afford subscriptions.

  21. Thank you Chris Hedges for speaking truth in a time of so much spin and lies. Acknowledging that we’re on the same page: a few critical rejoinders for revising/editing some of your paragraphs.
    1. What do you think of re-framing the temporal “collapse is imminent” story, into rather that we are in the midst of a collapse that has been ongoing for decades? (In my view, since 1950, pace The Great Acceleration data) Without doing so there is implied a valorization of the present and fear of the near future “discreet event” of a collapse . This framing leads to the despair and hopelessness around the impotence of whatever actions I or you take being insufficient. Reframing collapse as in place and ongoing since before most of us were in fact born, prevents a valorization of the present – the “long present” we are in is not personal and immediate, it’s global and historical – and more importantly transforms collapsing into a protracted, uneven, messy process rather than a discreet event. This is important to do not only b/c more true but also b/c of the psychological consequences of how we interpret collapse. Temporal reframing of collapse puts the actions we take into proper scale; in my experience it gives people resolve rather than the hopelessness/hope-ium dichotomy. (It’s why I’m a “prepper”: not meaning a bunker with guns & tins preparing for the end of the world, but how to generate local ecological & community health in preparing for the new, co-creating the next, world.)
    2. Tainter & Diamond are good. But they are also civilizational-centric and therefore collapse is necessarily a bad thing. Cf. James C. Scott and more recently Graeber & Wenslow’s Dawn of Everything on deconstructing that view. For a great majority of people during civilizational collapses in past, it meant moving and less taxes and less ideological BS from the center. In short it would shift a number of your valuations (analogous to the effects of temporal reframing of my first point). To be sure, we shouldn’t romanticize collapse (but the criticism is that you’re romanticizing civilization to some extent). And to be sure there are important differences – as you say we can’t go anywhere else. But life at the fringes and margins provides a very different view/valuation than that from the center. Perhaps the prefiguring of the new is already happening in the interstices but it doesn’t make the front page news.
    Curious what you think.

    And ditto Michael Dowd’s comments: would love to hear you on his “post-doom conversations”!

    1. You gotta be joking offering reconsideration to this author. Hedges is just like this, it’s his milieu, if he were a fish in the ocean he’d find the dirtiest pool in the most industrially wrecked port and lay there panting for oxygen and writing about it.

  22. It would be nice if the neoliberals, like Ms. Pelosi and buddy Bill C., would read this summary of what their crony capitalism has wrought.
    There were educated warnings all along this path to self destruction.

    We’ll fly away, oh, glory – We’ll fly away – When we die, Hallelujah, by and by – We’ll fly away

    1. Wake up. Capitalism, and before that simple lust for money, has been in effect for 2000 years, driving human nature’s will to have power & comfort and freedom from perceived pain. You people who think you are on to something are simply making excuses for your own participation in the machine by pointing the finger at others.

      1. apparently you have never lived in a civilized nation
        “as one digs deeper into the national character of Americans one sees they have sought the value of everything in this world according to the answer to a single question: how much money will it bring in?” Tocqueville
        “americans are the most prudish in western civilization; they sublimate their desire by chasing the dollar”. Sigmund Freud
        “americans are farcical when it comes to money and force majeure–the 2 things they worship”. Gore Vidal
        “the artificial sexual scarcity in amerika derives from the american money neurosis”. Philip Slater
        “the double symbolism assigned to money by americans is considered paradoxical to Europeans…americans bewilder Europeans”. Geoffrey Gorer

  23. Mound 72 has been extensively reevaluated . The falcon burial once interpreted as two make warriors or powerful men is now known to consist of a male on top of the blanket and a female below . The bodies buried in the chamber with them were once interpreted as male warriors and reflections of male deities and culture-heroes accentuating the central idea of this chamber representing a patriarchal warrior society . We known know that each of the formerly known individuals was accompanied by a female , either buried together as complete bodies or disarticulated and buried as a convinced female -male pair as a sacred bundle .
    The central mass sacrifice pit and accessory mass burial chambers in Mount 72 were previously interpreted as harem like retainers for the afterlife of powerful warrior-leaders . We now know that in each of these at least 20 % of the sacrificial burials in the chambers were male.
    Throughout the funereal complex are found exclusively female effigies , largely Earth Mother effigies , and associations with water and the underworld, a religious nexus associated with birth, fertility and rebirth .
    Rather than being a monument to a warrior civilization, it’s clear to researchers that (similar to symbology, ritual and belief of Dheigan Sioux tribes such as the Osage) Mount 72 was a used for ceremonial world renewal rituals revolving around female potency , the potency of sexual male-female interaction , the Earth Mother , the waters of life and rebirth, and fertility in general. Significantly different from funereal commemoration of a violent male dominated warrior civilization. The falcon chamber being significantly egalitarian between sexes.
    The fact that information published since 2016 and discussed in nearly all works on Cahokia since , including supportive analysis of Rattlesnake Mount , the integral aspect of water to the religious ontological landscape, etc is not included here but erroneous outdated is to support the author’s central argument (purposeful cherry picking , or biased ignoring of conflicting research and literature to the main thesis ) is disturbing .
    Cahokia was not the warrior society made out in this piece, an idea related to later Mississippian pre- and mostly post-Contact warrior centered “mound” ( in reality many are earthen step pyramids) and everything else based on that pretext collapses ; leaving an ideologically biased opinion piece without foundation on current archaeological findings , research , literature and interpretation.

  24. Society and civilization on the decline due to sin. The wrath of God is being poured out on the earth in the form of scorching heat and disease and the homosexuals getting their due reward with an outbreak of sexually transmitted monkeypox. Yet they refused to repent and give God glory. But they blasphemed his name. Claimed climate change when God controls the sun and climate. Claimed progress with mass acceptance of homosexuality and perverted men cross dressing as women and vice versa when that is a clear sign of a society in decline and outright rebellion against God. This article is nothing more than lies. God is in control. He makes peace and creates evil. He sends blessings when we obey his word. People want homosexuality well he is visiting the iniquity of that sin upon us. Even poor kids are in the path of that wicked disease. Turn to Christ and repent. Christ Jesus is the 1 and only Savior for humanity.

    1. Sure Mr. Arrington “onward Christian soldiers”. The omnipotent being you describe that can control everything must be a very sadistic one. Making a world of life forms that must eat each other until it/he/she made humans in his form that not only eat and destroy everything they have fun doing it! It can control every atom in the universe, stop suns and send a star to celebrate his own birth coming . All the while listening to every ones prayers, thoughts and actions with a long list of sins for his “chosen” people that sanctions rape, kidnap, theft and murder to fulfill his dream of a Jewish homeland that denies the term “human” to us Goyum. To top it all off a rapture will send all “good” Christians directly to Heaven before the last battle against Satan. Odd how all USA’s enemies are put in Satan’s column i.e. Godless Russian commies, Chinese commie hordes, Vietnamese and Korean “gooks”, Arab Muslim “Haji’s” etc. etc. Oh and Homosexual’s! This article is “dead” on! As for Jesus the mortal man he would have been a man of Love not War! A socialist! A lover of nature! Against Fascist Capitalism! I’ve always wondered how a racist Heaven would be Paradise? Bigoted with white men of power sitting at theater seeing the condemned tortured, mutilated and burned for their enjoyment!

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