Introduction Video:

The Human Predicament

(Can We Avoid Civilizational Collapse?)

'Reality Blind' - Video Series 1

Created by Dr. Nate Hagens for NEXUS ONE

University of Minnesota Honors Freshmen Experience

Brain & Behavior

  • Our modern skulls house Stone Age behavioral algorithms that are often at a mismatch with our contemporary circumstances and therefore we are more like ‘adaptation executors’ than ‘fitness maximizers’ as we try, on a daily basis, to attain the same emotional states as our ancestors

  • We are constantly comparing ourselves to others as we compete for relative status (not absolute status)

  • The way dopamine works in our brains, the wanting feels stronger than the having and we quickly become habituated to rewards we expect and get frequently and easily

  • In the modern world, we are bombarded on a daily basis by supernormal stimuli

  • We are ultrasocial, tribal, and groupish and base many of our behaviors on in-group/out-group dynamics

  • Evolution (FYI: 2 in 5 Americans don’t ‘believe’ in evolution) helps explain the long list of cognitive biases, tendencies, and blindspots that distort reality but have served us well with survival skills in our deep by keeping us sane, happy, and focused. These include: loss aversion, denial, social conformity, confirmation bias, authority bias, groupthink, cognitive dissonance, time bias

  • Shifting baselines means each new generation thinks the natural world they witness for the first time appears abundant, though it is rapidly depleting

  • Knowing and integrating the whole story of humans and our evolutionary relationship to our ecosystem is now critical for managing human progress on our ‘full’ planet

  • Deep knowledge of whence we came informs why we are ill-equipped to recognize and respond to the challenges of overshoot, sustainability, climate change, animal rights, etc.


'Reality Blind' - Video Series 2

Energy & Economy

  • Current society is energy blind in not recognizing the intensity and ubiquity of cheap, abundant, fossil-fuel energy in supporting modern energy- and materials-rich lifestyles

  • The average American uses around 100 times more energy to support his/her 'developed-country' lifestyle than the human body absolutely requires metabolically

  • GDP is highly correlated with fossil energy use, so GDP could be renamed GDB (Gross Domestic Burning)

  • US is currently the world’s largest oil producer, but most of this oil comes from rapidly depleting source rock (shale) and is financially, materially, and energetically no longer cheap and abundant

  • Energy sources (e.g., oil, geothermal, solar/wind/water flows) have different energy qualities with differing characteristics and are therefor not easily interchangeable

  • Most economic theories and models were developed during our current anomalous ‘carbon pulse’ geologic period, where energy stocks from fossil fuels power human civilization growth and expansion, where we tend to severely undervalue the role of energy as THE MASTER RESOURCE underpinning the vast majority of social and technological human advancements


'Reality Blind' - Video Series 3

The Big Picture

  • Ecology (derived from the Greek word for ‘home’) is the study of living complex adaptive systems and their interconnections and interactions and evolution, trophic pyramids, and foundational energy from the Sun; while many of us are literate and numerate, few are ecolate (or ecoliterate)

  • Systems are collections of elements that interact and usually produce unpredictable and novel emergent phenomena; competent generalists are better at understanding the behavior of systems than hyper-specialists

  • Feedback systems keep a system stable (negative feedback) or push it into a new equilibrium state (positive feedback)

  • Externalities (e.g., pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss) are impacts (usually negative) not included in the costs or prices of products or services; some scientists estimate that energy costs would be 6 times higher or more if all negative environmental impacts (to ‘the commons’) were factored into the prices of fossil fuels

  • Sea-level rise with associated saltwater intrusion on agricultural freshwater systems, ocean warming with associated coral beaching and hurricane strengthening, and ocean oxygen-level drops and acidification with associated threats to marine life, and ocean current disruption all threaten ecosystem stability

  • Humans and our livestock (mostly cows and pigs) now account for a whopping 98% of total terrestrial mammal biomass; wild mammals are less than 2%

  • Chickens and turkeys make up 70% of all birds on the planet

  • At current plastic pollution rates, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050 (however, in 2019 the EU and Canada plan on banning all single-use plastics in the near future!)