The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Seneca Effect Blog is Closing Down

The Internet is full of angry people shouting insults at each other. Take it easy, fellows, do as a good stoic would do. Accept the will of the Gods, but keep doing your duty and help others as much as you can. And have a little fun, when you can.

The moment has arrived: after about two years of posting on the "Seneca Effect" blog; I see that a cycle is concluded: look at the stats: 

Clearly, it is not possible to continue in these conditions. It is time to reshuffle, retrench, regroup, reconsider, rebuild. The "Seneca Effects" will close, and I'll transfer my writing elsewhere. For the time being, I am returning to my old blog "Cassandra's Legacy" that I had kept mothballed up to now (yes, Cassandra is returning!)

But to create a strategy for the future, first of all, I need to understand what went wrong. Why this remarkable "Hubbert Curve"? I can think of more than one reason, but essentially two: 1) The blog has been sabotaged by the search engines, Google in particular, and 2) the blog has evolved into something that readers find confusing. 

About the first hypothesis, there are surely elements of truth in it. I already discussed it in a previous post, and the majority of commenters agreed that they couldn't find the blog in the first rows of their search engine, except if they used "Bing." Apparently, Microsoft likes me, but Google doesn't. There is nothing especially conspiratorial in this. It already happened for my old "Cassandra" blog. And I, for one, bow down in front of our new memetic overlords! 

About the second hypothesis, it has elements of truth as well. The blog has evolved along with my personal views. I am normally classed together with the "catastrophists," and the idea of the "Seneca Cliff" can be seen as being as catastrophist as catastrophism can be. But my position is much more articulated than that: I see myself as a modern stoic. I accept the will of the Gods, but I consider it my duty to help people (including myself) to avoid the incoming disaster. 

The problem is that some people seem to have internalized the idea that collapse is unavoidable, and they don't seem to be able to think of a better way to face it than turning themselves into poor peasants (or dreaming the same thing thereof). My view, instead, is that we have to build a resilient society by means of renewable energy and that it is possible to do that with the currently existing technology. 

You may or may not agree with my position; the point is that many people are confused by a blog that has a title that hints at a coming collapse while it deals with ways to avoid collapse (the same problem that "The Limits to Growth" study had: few people understood what the authors were trying to do). So, they see my position as "treason" and proceed to insult me as a result. I prefer to close the blog than have readers like these.  

Apart from a number of hopeless cases of people really gone papayas, the problem is that a blog (or any kind of publication) must have a certain consistency. Many bloggers succeeded in growing their readership by always posting the same thing, only with minor variations (I have a few ones in mind, but let me not name names). That's not strictly necessary, but I understand that the aims of the "Seneca Effect" blog, as it is now, are confusing for many readers.  

So, it is time for the Seneca blog to fold over and for me to move onward. The two "souls" of the blog will find their places in two different blogs. The discussion on energy will move to the existing blog "The Sunflower Paradigm." It has been a marginal blog so far, but you can note that it is reasonably easy to find. And its readership is growing.

Then, how about my meditations on history, art, philosophy, stoicism, and the like? They might go to my existing blog, "Chimeras." Or maybe to a new blog that could be titled "Meditations" à la Marcus Aurelius?  I am still thinking about that. Suggestions are welcome. In the meantime, here is the latest post I published on Chimeras.


After 50 years of Catastrophism, we are now facing the cliff. What would Seneca do?

The Raft of the Medusa, a painting by Theodore Géricault (1818). It seems to illustrate the way some people feel in the current situation: survival implies throwing other people out of the raft. 

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Roman Philosopher, never was a catastrophist, but he understood that in life you have to expect ups and downs. And that when things go bad, they go bad fast (festinantur in damnum). This is what I called the "Seneca Effect.

Seneca was a stoic, a person steeped in the views of his times. It was an age when people understood that their control of the vagaries of life was limited. Sickness, ruin, pain, and death were facts of life for people who had no aspirin, no life insurance, and no dentists. In the stoics' view, bad moments had to be accepted and lived as a test of your moral fortitude, not as an excuse to forget one's duties in life. Seneca, just like all of us, had his defects. But when the final moment came for him, he accepted his destiny with dignity and serenity. 

And here we are, what holds for a single person holds for humankind. We are facing a serious downturn, a decline that could be so rapid to call it a cliff. Half a century after the serious warning of "The Limits to Growth," we not yet falling, but we are on the edge. We start seeing the chasm ahead while the fog of time clears. 

Is this becoming a test of moral fortitude for humankind? Unfortunately not. Humans are dividing themselves into tribes that fight each other, so far only verbally. Some just refuse to look ahead. Others think that, when jumping from the cliff, they'll be able to fly. Others search for someone to blame. 

A mixture of ignorance and aggressivity is generating a tremendous wave of hate; at least from what I can see in the comments to another post of mine. These people seem to think they are already on the raft of the Medusa, the French ship that was wrecked at sea in 1816. Only 15 out of the 146 people stranded on the raft survived. And they did that by throwing the others into the sea and recurring to cannibalism. 

But we are not there yet. There is still space for avoiding the sandbanks. We still can do our duty to live and help others living. Be a good stoic; do not lose hope, and do not fall into cruelty. 


  1. Obviously, I am sorry to hear this. Thank you for your time and effort on this publication. This blog has always helped me (and probably many others) to sort out the craziness of our time in history. Someone had to discuss the things you did, and the mega sites certainly won't. ArtDeco

    1. Nothing to be sorry about. The only thing that does not change in the universe is that it keeps changing.

    2. Ok. Something to really be sad about ... by discussing the fears we all share, you actually gave hope ... just because you know that humanity has survived (and thrived) time after time, empire after empire, through even our worst behavior ... I'll hope to see you on

  2. I understand completely. I will miss your writings. If it isn't too much of a bother, I wouldn't mind asking the occasional question. Any chance that e-mails can be exchanged? I would like to bounce ideas off you now and again.

    If you don't mind, and if you screen comments, I would appreciate it if my e-mail wasn't published.

  3. Will the blog be archived, or will it go completely away?

    1. Archived. But blogs are living things. It is a metempsychosis

  4. Ugo, in 1972 I was a young engineering student but I think that I understood “the limits to growth” and since then I always acted according to this understanding. I still follow my own path, a path different from what seems fashionable. For 50 years already we all have to deal with what I tried to communicate on my only input on your blog (because I was shocked by the lack of creativity of some of your readers): see May 11, 2023 at 7:16 AM

  5. Thanks for all your efforts. I'll still buy your books as they come out, but they might be hard to find unless you tell us they are out!

    I was always more attracted to Epicureanism than stoicism myself - sharing the fruits of your garden with friends seems like a good idea to me.

  6. The blog performs a valuable service. An oasis of moderation and an attempt at well-though-out views, in a desert of doctrinaire opinions, be they on the left or the right. In my opinion, you should continue, perhaps posting less often. Or maybe far less often. Once a month or so? Also, the blog in times past was less bent towards politics. That might be an idea too, perhaps only somewhat.

  7. The blog will be missed, it has consistently provided interesting arguments and ideas. Best wishes going forward!

  8. I am not happy to see the end of this Blog. I too am locked out of their search engines. Google became big brother. About the too confusing theory. You are not the only stoic out there. Decades following the release of the Limits To Growth has spawned many stoics. Needles lost in an eight billion straw haystack yes, but they are there.

    Is it in our nature to be alone? As a stoic you know the answer.

    Google slices and dices so the common fare only eat their salad. How common are they, Mostly everybody is the answer to that.

    Collapse discussion is shut down. Only a remnant remains of people who want to discuss. To try and keep those who are in the remnant connected the Doomstead remains alive.

    Regarding the haters.
    Marcus Aurelius
    “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”

  9. Truly sad news. I will miss your, well your Humanity. (or should I say Humanism?)

    Your comment on search engine bias. For myself I came to the point where I would just google Ugo Bardi. That seemed to work better than Seneca Effect. I know next to nothing about computers, let alone search engines, but google didn't seem to be a friend.

    Your comments on the nastiness, or hate from those who comment.
    I do not understand it, but the internet seems to bring out a virus that lives in our midst.
    Can we continue as civil societies? Can we restore the sense that there is such concepts as Truth, combined with Reality?
    There seems to be a significant amount of people who believe in a world that simply does not exist. A reality that only exists amongst those who participate in a closed circle of bias confirmation. (I won't even touch on the active measures taken by some govts to undermine adversary's, as well as civil society and Democracy itself)

    Your decency and insights have been appreciated.
    Enjoy some inner peace by freeing yourself of a weekly obligation.

    1. I did not see nastiness in that discussion (on renewables). Some people were critical. I remember one person besmirching Ugo's views/opinions. That is not the same as an ad hominem or an insult. Opinions are fair game.

      I think closing the blog is a good move. I wish you "good rethinking" Ugo. May something fresh and green grow out of it. And thank you for the years of thoughtful posts.

    2. Thanks for sharing your insights. I understand that you are hip to the real world progression of the Limits to Growth model and appear to be aware of the attempts to mitigate energy, complexity and affordability issues through a series of emergencies, financial reset and technocracy solutions. I think the misunderstanding is that many expert energy skeptics and LtG folks tend to downplay the notion that there is a planned degrowth agenda while favoring limited authoritarianism. You may be downgraded in the search engine because you are over the target and allow candid discussion. As you say you are more free with your speech since you retired. So long and thanks for all the good discussion.

  10. Sad news, Ugo. I will miss your essays.
    Any chance you publish something soon?

    Soon we will all be fed with AI generated news. Not pleasant vision.

    All the best,

  11. Prof Bardi, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us catastrophist. I most certainly did not agree with everything you said, but I was willing to entertain your ideas. How can anyone be so certain of anything these days? Group conformity of thought begs rigor mortis.

    "Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand" ~ Mark Twain. We catastrophists need to lighten up more and enjoy the ride because tomorrow never knows.


  12. Our Western Civilisation today is an injured animal - cannot tolerate realising - it has foolishly destroyed almost all fossil fuel reserves in 150 years - for nothing...

    Today, before they drill an oil well in Iraq, they build first a massive infrastructure, shipped from all over the world, to inject liquids and gasses into the field of - yet to be drilled - oil wells....

    There is actually less and less remaining oil left in the ground...

    Shell pulled itself out - from a business partnership with the Iraqis developing new oil fields...

    Shell et al are - as if telling the Iraqis - you guys keep dealing with an EROEI of 1000 barrels burned - to get just 1 barrel extracted - producing your national oil to depletion - proudly - and we will be pricing it - at he bottom of the food chain - anyway...

    Watch here - the Control room of a recent oil field in Iraq - which looks like a cheap Chinese Car - a show off - more than anything real -

    The system that prices 23000 hours of useful work in a barrel of finite oil - at the bottom of the food chain - just to play a fake Invisible-Hand, fake Social Engineer, fake History, fake Civilisation, fake Free Internet - will sooner or later - run out of the finite stuff...

    Price it rightly at the top of the food chain - being finite - and everything comes to a grinding halt: humans cannot manufacture Energy...

    No matter how Ugo tried hard to hold the narrative from the middle - it was clear he has been under pressure to remove lines of thoughts, and even comments - that sounded just a little bit non-mainstream...

    Our Western Civilisation today is an injured, wounded and dangerous animal - that cannot tolerate listening to anybody - only escaping forward...

    Traumatised, out of the last ice age, the European mind dealt with exploiting fossil reserves - like no tomorrow - unwilling to hear a word from sunshine-latitudes on any of their ages-old Wisdom - "And neither allow thy hand to remain shackled to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to the utmost limit [of thy capacity], lest thou find thyself blamed, or even destitute" - Quran

    Treating the World as children, playing a nanny Civilisation - has been the wrong path for the West to take, since Jevons in the 1860s, at the latest - destroying all fossil reserves in a blink of eye - when it should have lasted 3000 years - plus...

    "No energy store holds enough energy to extract an amount of energy equal to the total energy it stores"

    Time to let people understand how harsh are the Laws of Nature - and let them having a real future - rather then imprisoning them in a vicious, theatrical, synthetic and nonsense Hollywood-style cockfight, a reality of an - Energy Musical Charis Game...

    A real future that has not been pre-decided, turned a dead history before it even born - burning finite fossil fuels to waste in - killing the future...

    One day soon, there will be no enough fossil fuels to juggle fossil fuels around - anyway....

    The Sun of a new day - dawns

  13. Well, that's exactly what made this blog so interesting, and that's why it's coming to a premature end! As you say Ugo, most of the more popular blogs (I'll mention at least 2, TM and GT) are content to plough the same furrow without ever deviating from it. They have the merit of consistency but one ends up reading them diagonally. The Seneca Effect, on the other hand, held our attention with every word because of the diversity of approaches and historical anecdotes. This abundance ended up losing the readers, which is a pity. I recently remarked that most people do not accept paradoxes and try to solve them. You solve this one by stopping writing here, which I deplore. Would you rather have a group of commenters who will only talk to like-minded people? I don't think that is desirable. Anyway, sometimes you have to make tough decisions.
    Whatever happens, I wish you to remember to be like the poet in the night of May :

    Quand ils parlent ainsi d’espérances trompées,
    De tristesse et d’oubli, d’amour et de malheur,
    Ce n’est pas un concert à dilater le coeur.
    Leurs déclamations sont comme des épées :
    Elles tracent dans l’air un cercle éblouissant,
    Mais il y pend toujours quelque goutte de sang.

    1. I hope we can still read Ugo essays in his other blogs, they are surely needed. As he said, this blog has attracted people expecting a certain (fixed?) discourse, and it's hard to change the tone without getting some harsh reactions.
      I don't know what I would have done in his situation. Probably it's a wise move.

      Finding was not an issue for me. Now I guess I have to learn that new site, sunflower something.

    2. Thierry, from my observation it appears that independent thought and debate is a thing of the past. Ploughing through the same furrow without deviating from it is the norm. Do you change up your routine often? Do you place a sock and shoe on one foot and then the other foot? Or do you place socks on your feet before placing your shoes on your feet? Routine is comfortably numb. It's efficient. It's how we've evolved. We are not the same as our paleolithic ancestors.

  14. That's too bad, I guess, shutting down the blog and all. I have only followed this blog for maybe the two or three months, but I did enjoy the content. I was attracted by the name: The Seneca Effect. That seems like a very reasonable and useful concept to me.

    Trying to push "renewables" at this stage of the industrial game is like giving a 90 year old cancer patient aspirin, just because you have nothing better to offer. I'd say.

    Best of luck...

  15. I never found your writing overly complicated or confusing, nor were the individual blog entries overly lengthy, so I don't think that accounts for the recent drop in readership.

    I don't know why Google has downranked you in search results. Personally, I don't rely on search engines or emails to find new blog posts. Instead, I use RSS feeds. Every time I find writing I think is worth keeping up with, I set that website's RSS feed up on my reader so I don't miss anything. That is how I keep up with what you are writing.

    Sorry to see you closing up shop here. Hopefully, you'll continue to post similar content on Substack, where I recently also started following your blog.

  16. La mejor de las fortunas con este nuevo cambio. Evidentemente, todo fluye, todo cambia... esperemos que sea a mejor y podamos seguir disfrutando de tus artículos.

    Un saludo desde Barcelona

  17. The blog will be missed - while I didn't agree with many of your perspectives, I came here precisely for that reason, to get out of the endless echo chamber, to challenge myself with ideas and thoughts beyond my own imagining. Thanks for your work, and I'll be sure to visit your other blogs.

  18. Professor Bardi, I'll miss the Seneca Effect Blog, just like the Cassandra Blog! However, like you said, "The only constant in life is change!

  19. Ugo I have followed you for a very very long time and will continue even if it is a bit more trouble. I don't share your sunny view of the utility of renewables going forward for many reasons not the least of which being renewables wont grow food..But I digress. I will follow you as long as you remain above ground and Google and its authoritarian microcephalics be damned!. Kind regards.

  20. Well, I will find you, whatever the name. Someone tipped me off to Cassandra years ago, via a Facebook group, and I have saved the link and visit often. I do hope you persist. This makes the world less lonely for those of us who seek such thoughtfulness.