Nature’s Ultimate Con by Chris Clugston

by Chris Clugston
Guest Writer
Dandelion Salad
Sept. 16, 2011

Peaked Oil

Image by AZRainman via Flickr

Nature suckered us in with temporary abundance; a condition that we misconstrued as permanent…

The Set Up

Enabled by abundant and inexpensive domestic nonrenewable natural resources (NNRs)—fossil fuels, metals, and nonmetallic minerals—times were SO GOOD for Americans between the inception of our industrial revolution and the middle of the 20th century, that we came to believe that our domestic NNR supplies were unlimited and that our resulting prosperity was permanent.

This belief—formally articulated by our mantra “every American generation will have it better than the last”—became so firmly ingrained in our culture that we promised ourselves and our descendents the “American way of life”—continuously improving material living standards for our ever-expanding population—to be enabled by our “unlimited” NNRs.

The Sting

Unfortunately, NNR supplies are not unlimited; they are finite and non-replenishing. And, by the mid/late 20th century, domestically available, economically viable supplies associated with the vast majority of the NNRs that enable our industrialized existence had become scarce, and were no longer sufficient to fulfill the promises made by our ancestors during the era of American NNR abundance.

In response to ever-increasing domestic NNR scarcity, we relied increasingly on foreign subsidization in the form of imported NNRs, imported goods and services, and imported credit, in order to perpetuate our American way of life through the mid/late 20th century and into the 21st century.

Today, as a consequence of living increasingly beyond our means over the past 150 years, both economically and ecologically, we are now “rolling over” in terms of our societal well being level—i.e., our American way of life is entering a state of terminal decline.

Read’em and Weep

Because NNRs are now becoming increasingly scarce globally as well as domestically, we in the US can no longer perpetuate our American way of life through imported NNRs, imported NNR-derived products and services, and imported credit.

We no longer possess adequate real wealth to offer in return for these imports, and the rest of the world is becoming increasingly unwilling to accept our unrepayable debt and continuously devaluing currency in exchange for their real wealth.


America is Nature’s greatest con to date because virtually nobody in America currently understands that we have been conned. We continue to believe unquestioningly that perceived “structural flaws in the American economy” can be “fixed” through “enlightened economic and political policies and programs”.

Regrettably, America’s predicament cannot be “fixed” through economic and political expedients, because the underlying cause associated with our predicament is ecological—ever-increasing NNR scarcity—it is not economic or political.

Most regrettably, America’s predicament cannot be “fixed” at all, because we will never have access to “enough” economically viable NNRs—from domestic and imported sources combined—to enable us to deliver on the physically impossible promises made by our ancestors back when times were SO GOOD for Americans, temporarily.

Next sucker—the world…

For details and supporting evidence see “Scarcity—Humanity’s Final Chapter?”

Chris Clugston Bio

Since 2006, I have conducted extensive independent research into the area of “sustainability”, with a focus on nonrenewable natural resource (NNR) scarcity. NNRs are the fossil fuels, metals, and nonmetallic minerals that enable our modern industrial existence.

I have sought to quantify from a combined ecological and economic perspective the extent to which America and humanity are living unsustainably beyond our means, and to articulate the causes, magnitude, implications, and consequences associated with our “predicament”.

My previous work experience includes thirty years in the high technology electronics industry, primarily with information technology sector companies. I held management level positions in marketing, sales, finance, and M&A, prior to becoming a corporate chief executive and later a management consultant.

I received an AB/Political Science, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Penn State University, and an MBA/Finance with High Distinction from Temple University.


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Ecological and Economic Reality by Chris Clugston

Peak Oil

5 thoughts on “Nature’s Ultimate Con by Chris Clugston

  1. Where are your figures? And have you never heard of resource substitution?
    There is no reason to believe ‘NNRs’ are running out in the world. Rather, I would think that the problems the US and world economy face are to do with capitalism and its ‘falling rate of profit’, and the attempts over the past 30 years to solve that problem through financial jiggerypokery.

  2. Those in the babyboom generation were lucky to ride the rollercoaster to the top. The rest of us will be screaming and throwing our hands up on the way down, and it will be a wild ride. Not a good ride, but a wild, jerky, terrifying one on a rickety structure.

  3. When I think about the denial of peak oil and other things it makes me angry. I guess though that you can’t blame people for denying the truth.

    When we think of oil, we picture the gas tank analogy. When the needle reaches E for empty is when we are in trouble. The world does in fact have a trillion barrels of oil left to produce. The real analogy is like a Pearl Harbor reconnaissance plane flying its mission over the ocean. The plane flies as far as it can for as high as it can. The pilot fulfils the mission of aerial photography of enemy positions.

    At a certain point though the pilot knows he must turn around at the HALF WAY point of the gas gauge to make it back home. When the needle reaches at half the tank the pilot MUST RETREAT and DESCEND to make it back to base. When the world has produced as much oil as it will ever can in one day (peaked), when it has flown as far as it can for as high as it can the world economy MUST RETREAT and DESCEND.


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