aka The Grand Illusion – Part II

“Hubris” is one of my favorite words. You sound so intelligent when you use it! In fact, if you use it you probably have ‘hubris’ which is a bad thing by nature. The wikipedia definition of hubris is “extreme pride or self-confidence. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.”

I know what you’re thinking …  this perfectly describes the writer of this blog! I fully admit to a strong sense of self-confidence but I also readily admit to being extremely humble about my good fortune. I am grateful to have been born when and where I was. I am grateful for my health, and my family, and friends. I’m grateful for the great comments we get on our blogs! And I am grateful to those that went before me that invested their time and emotional capital in causes, such as universal healthcare, which have given me such freedom in my work choices. I will admit that in 2007 when we decided to commit full time to publishing books about sustainable living I may have suffered some degree of hubris. Let me assure you that the economic collapse of 2008, and the fact that we now earn next to nothing from our publishing enterprise has been a hugely humbling experience. Forces beyond our control can have a great humbling effect on all of us.

So I read two unrelated articles last week that I somehow managed to see the relationship. One was in the Globe and Mail newspaper about the downfall of Canadian tech giant Nortel. The articles concludes:

“The collapse of telecommunications giant Nortel Networks Corp. was caused by ‘a culture of arrogance and even hubris’ that led to numerous management errors and weakened the firm’s ability to adapt to changing customer needs in a fast-paced industry, according to a new in-depth analysis of the company’s final decade of operations.”


There were few Canadians that were not affected by the collapse of Nortel if not by owning shares directly that at one time topped $124/share, to their participation in pensions that held the shares, including the Canada Pension Plan that all took a massive hit. A hit because of “hubris.”

Then there was a study from the NASA scientist about society’s propensity for collapse.


I thought it was strange that the best coverage I found of this study was in Canada’s “National Post” newspaper, a kind of a beacon for capitalism and the elites that the study says are part of the problem.

I found it even stranger when they followed up with a story that suggested we needed to elect Green Party Leader Elizabeth May as Prime Minister to ward off collapse. As a Green Party candidate I found this a huge boost to my humble ego!


I’m hoping the boring title of this blog dissuaded my daughters from reading it, because I’d rather they not, but hey, when they’re home they see my bookshelf. I have often discussed professor Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies” which is like the idiot’s guide to this topic. His theme is that complex civilizations deal with problems by adding layers of complexity on to the bureaucracy. Ever tried to get a permit for anything these days? Any questions?

But essentially it all comes down to ‘hubris.’ We think we’re different. Our leaders tell us we’re different. Elect them and they’ll keep it all going. Oh and how about that jet that disappeared? We think it will be different this time, that we’ll come up with some techno fix to deal with too much carbon and methane in the atmosphere, too many people competing for too few resources, not enough fresh water, not enough fossil fuel energy, and on and on and on.

Sure pundits have making this prediction since humans started living in groups. But I do believe that it’s different this time. No species has ever strained the resources of this finite planet more than we have. No species has actually been able to change the climate, and  in such an alarming way.

I do hope we’ll all vote for The Green Party and take some radical steps to stop the madness. But I believe social inertia may not allow that. So you need to make sure you don’t get caught up in the hubris that deludes you into thinking that the next decade, or the next few years will look anything like the past. They will not.

Over the next few blogs I’m going to discuss some suggestions incorporated into our book “The Sensible Prepper.” I understand the inclination of some people who just want to tune the whole thing out and eat potato chips and watch reality TV. I get it. I love chips. I love TV. But the next time there is a large-scale dislocation in our society that affects you that you surprisingly weren’t prepared for … flood, icestorm, drought, wildfire, economic collapse … don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Reminder: We are offering our full-day workshop here at Sunflower Farm on Sat. May 3.

Click here for more details and to register!