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Achieving Wisdom: How to Seek Out Truth

Mon, Jan 27, 2014

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by Geoffrey Chia, written late 2006 or early 2007

I guess you have made your name in the game of fame when you receive
hate email forwarded via the ABC. That’s the badge of pride I now wear
following my previous Ockham’s Razor presentations on Radio National in June 2005.

pdf here

Follow-up essay is here, as pdf.

____________

Straight Talk About Climate Change, Thursday, 6 February 2013, 7:00 p.m., West End Cultural Centre, 586 Illice Avenue at Sherbrook, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

The Next Step: Living Courageously in a World of Transition, a 7-day seminar, 24-31 May 2014, Moho Creek, Belize, Central America.

The Next Step: Living Courageously in a World of Transition, a 14-day seminar, 12-25 June 2014, Izabal, Guatemala, Central America.

____________

Going Dark is available from the publisher here, from Amazon here, from Amazon on Kindle here, from Barnes & Noble on Nook here, and as a Google e-book here. Going Dark was reviewed by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power, by Bradley Jarvis at Goodreads, and by several readers at Amazon. An excerpt follows.

As ecologist Garrett Hardin pointed out long before his death more than a decade ago, the ecologically literate question is, “And then what?” Anybody interested in individual or societal action must be willing to answer this question. With respect to ongoing depletion of fossil fuels, any response to Hardin’s question must include the matter of scale. Individuals are able to abandon fossil fuels before they abandon us. Doing so with grace is a bit challenging, but it’s hardly impossible. Contemporary industrialized societies, on the other hand, are exhibiting little interest in adapting to a world without ready access to inexpensive fossil fuels. Apparently the people pulling the primary levers of industry would rather continue fighting than switch to a saner way of living.

Individuals are able to abandon a fossil-fuel-fueled lifestyle with minor costs, including the disparagement that comes from living outside the mainstream. But, as illustrated by Jevons’ paradox and the Khazzoom-Brookes
postulate, individual choices do not translate to societal choices. An individual change in consciousness rarely leads to societal enlightenment. Jumping off the cruise ship of empire will not prevent the ship from striking the iceberg, and it nonetheless results in near-term death of
the individual.

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46 Responses to “Achieving Wisdom: How to Seek Out Truth”

  1. Kirk Hamilton Says:

  2. Kai Middleton Says:

    This is a great essay. I’ve seen a number of articles about how to think clearly in the face of disinformation, e.g., how to deal with straw-man arguments, attack-the-messenger, etc.; but I don’t know if I’ve seen one that so clearly explains how to weigh complex information to form an opinion. Beautifully written.

  3. Godofredo Aravena Says:

    Geoffrey

    Nice Essay. No comments, it is solid on its own.
    The problem is not the logic behind, that as I said is very solid, the problem is our “modern” culture.
    Based in my experience, culture is the biggest threat when it comes to changes that mean that the way of doing things have to change.
    I have been an innovative in my area (ship design) in Chile, for more than 20 years, but even I have always been offering better than existing solutions, changes in the culture were required just to understand the benefits, and or how to take advantage of them. Those changes rarely occur.
    What I discovered is that the required change is not a matter of knowledge, is not a matter of going to University, is a matter of a mind state that has to change. That mind state is, if we extend it to the whole society, is what I call for simplicity “the culture”.
    Many times I have felt complicated for being so innovative, and at the same knowing that what was proposed was a totally workable solution, that, surprise, nobody wants to use, just because it is much easier to continue with business as usual. Many times I have wished to be just a normal guy, happy doing business as usual. No complications.
    It is the sad reality of all those that can see “beyond” the frame of BAU.
    I guess that whoever (common guy) reads your essay, will not change a bit his or her denial, no matter the solid arguments provided by you, and the solid method given.
    This culture change required to face climate change and all the other dooms, is something that, I believe, sadly, will not happen on time.
    We will keep on being alone at NBL…

    To Kirk Hamilton, nice song. I liked it very much.

  4. ulvfugl Says:

    Just like the USA, Canada, Australia, China, the UK jumps on the bandwagon, let’s poison, pollute, and trash the environment, so we can make bigger profits and prosper on our way to extinction. Hallelujah !
    Greenest Government Ever !

    In a sweeping overhaul of environmental regulations in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday announced plans to slash over 80,000 pages of laws that protect the environment against business practices.
    The list of over 3,000 regulations on the chopping block—outlined in a speech at the Federation of Small Businesses Conference Monday—includes guidance on contaminated land and hazardous waste management, food labeling regulations, and building regulations such as requirements for onsite green technologies.
    The overhaul, which is part of Cameron’s Red Tape Challenge campaign, include proposals to “wind down” the code for sustainable homes and limit Environmental Impact Assessments for building projects, according to Naomi Luhde-Thompson from Friends of the Earth.
    “Removing EIA would put the environment and people at risk,” writes Luhde-Thompson, “with a far greater cost to the public of possible environmental damage.

    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/01/27-3

  5. kevin moore Says:

    Back in 2006-7 many of us believed it would be possible to bring about culture change, and that not all politicians were self-serving liars.

    Now we know the truth.

  6. ulvfugl Says:

    The day before he flew to Svalbard, Cameron was campaigning for local elections, urging voters to “go green, vote blue”. On the return journey from visiting scientists and seeing fast-melting glaciers, he gave a speech to Norwegian conservatives promising to “lead a new green revolution”. He added: “This [climate change] is not a natural phenomenon. It has been caused by the way we live.”

    The two-day schedule was organised by WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) after Cameron’s aides said he wanted first-hand experience of the problem of climate change caused by global warming.

    “[Cameron] wanted this to be based on substance, not just a nice picture of huskies: he was interested and engaged with the scientists,” said Nussbaum, who joined WWF a year later in 2007. “This trip helped reinforce his own conviction that this was the right thing to do, on the basis of the science and the evidence.”

    Four years later, one of Cameron’s first acts as PM was to walk down Whitehall to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and declare that he would lead “the greenest government ever” – a pledge also made, but little noted, in the Conservative manifesto.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/jan/27/david-cameron-eco-image-retoxification

  7. pat Says:

    The hypocrisy only pales in comparison to the idiocy.

    There are plenty of people that KNOW that this way of life is unsustainable, yet they keep on drinking their 2 liter bottles of Pepsi and eating their McDonald’s drive-through. They pretend to be “green” with their electric cars, reusable grocery bags and “save the whales” bumper stickers.

    Then, of course, you have the vast majority of the people that are just clueless – endless consumers – shopping themselves to death, along with all of us and Every Living Thing on Earth.

    Now, you cannot get around the fact that, especially if you live in the USA, it’s near impossible to escape. If you have a job, a car, a home, etc, then you are disproportionately impacting the environment, you are part of the 15% of the Earth’s population that consumes 80% of the Earth’s mined resources. It is you that creates the drive to mine the Earth’s resources for market – for consumption – for burning.

    If you are a net tax payer (income tax, property tax, sales tax, and a myriad of local, city, county, and state taxes and fees), then you are feeding the Big Machine that is killing us all.

    Sure, if you wish to join “The Movement,” you can quit your job, let the bank have your home, let the finance company repossess your car… and wander the streets, hungry and cold, knowing you are doing the best you can to do the right thing.

    Stop the hypocrisy and the idiocy. BTW, I am guilty, although soon I will not have a home! The bank will be taking the house pretty soon – but I still have a job and a car.

    Just sitting on this runaway train, staring out the window.

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  8. Robin Datta Says:

    The ability to identify the seriously illness in those that do not have obvious presentations is quite critical in Emergency Medicine and requires a gestalt that cannot be imparted by any amount of conventional training.

    Criticism of the behaviour of the state with a view to altering it indicates a blindness to the coercive violence that is a sine qua non of statist hierarchies. Eschewing such violence is support anarchy, the absence of coercive violence and an absence of ruleRs (but not of rules). In the absence of a statism the objective is to eliminate the state, not to change its behaviour. And the popular conception of multiple warring factions is not anarchy, but multiple oligarchies.

    The distinction between palliation and cure very important when considering NTE. If there is a reasonable anticipation that it ain’t gonna happen, then consideration of a cure is appropriate. Otherwise, palliation is the ethical choice.

  9. Robin Datta Says:

    (After proof-reading):

    The ability to identify the seriously ill amongst those that do not have obvious presentations is quite critical in Emergency Medicine and requires a gestalt that cannot be imparted by any amount of conventional training.

    Criticism of the behaviour of the state with a view to altering it indicates a blindness to the coercive violence that is a sine qua non of statist hierarchies.

    To eschew such violence is to support anarchy, which is the absence of coercive violence and an absence of ruleRs (but not of rules). In the absence of statism the objective is to eliminate the state, not to change its behaviour. And the popular conception of multiple warring factions is not anarchy, but multiple oligarchies.

    The distinction between palliation and cure is very important when considering NTE. If there is a reasonable anticipation that it ain’t gonna happen, then consideration of a cure is appropriate. Otherwise, palliation is the ethical choice.

  10. PMB Says:

    Geoffrey,

    Another provocative piece on the backwards journey you’re taking us. No wonder you were getting hate mail.

    It had me wondering as I read it about the concept of Worker Coops which I was big proponent of for a long time. I came to question this entire concept of business raising questions that were dismissed so easily by those in the forefront of that movement.

    Recent interview with Gar Alperovitz by Paul Jay on real news http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11382,

    Are worker coops any better than the current system we have? Is it sustainable? I don’t see how. Anyone want to weight in. Correct me if I’ve gone down a path not arrived at with reason.

    Whether the factory is owned by the workers or is privately owned it still has to make more and more product to be able to stay in business.

    All throughout the interview the conversation was about growing these businesses to scale. Isn’t this model still a continuation of IC? Wouldn’t we still be putting out the same amount of GHG as we currently do, as we’d still be making stuff to sell.

    Neither Climate Change nor Peak Oil were mentioned as mitigating factors and the implication was that Wind and Solar can keep us on our current trajectory.

    The underlying assumptions is we can keep growing (population, business, etc) forever. Mr. Jay eats it up and Mr. Alperovitz seems to be nothing more than an economist in Green clothing.

  11. ogardener Says:

    @Geoffrey Chia

    What an excellent and detailed adjunct to the scientific method.

    @Robin Datta
    You write: “The distinction between palliation and cure is very important when considering NTE. If there is a reasonable anticipation that it ain’t gonna happen, then consideration of a cure is appropriate. Otherwise, palliation is the ethical choice.”

    Then come, sit and let us palliate together. 8-)

    Fun with video: one way out.

    You will need the free, open source VLC media player installed on your operating system to view the above video.

  12. Artleads Says:

    “What I discovered is that the required change is not a matter of knowledge, is not a matter of going to University, is a matter of a mind state that has to change. That mind state is if we extend it to the whole society, is what I call for simplicity ‘the culture’.”

    “Feeling,” as opposed to “knowledge,” fit especially well within the domain of culture. So if we wish to deal with culture, checking in our feelings is at least as important as gaining more knowledge.

    I have long felt that a “gentle nudge” approach to making change was more effective than trying initially for big change. It felt as though the most minimal effective remediation was the one to go for. Always the easiest, the simplest, the most “bottom line,” the one that most resembles what we have already. Then I came across a post linking to blog on systems thinking. There, it offered a more scientific assessment of minimalism, confirming that it is the smallest change that most effectively changes the system. Also, system change does not require us to change our thinking so much as our behavior.

  13. Reverend O'Brien Says:

    A challenge for Guy.

    Predictions are easy when there are no consequences for getting it wrong.

    I challenge Guy to name the year he thinks there will be an ice free artic which he keeps going on and on about.

    No ifs, no buts, name the year.

    And if you get it wrong…. delete your blog.

  14. Guy McPherson Says:

    I shy away from predictions involving timing, Reverend O’Brien. With respect to climate change, I cite the work of others.

    If you don’t like what I write, you need not read it.

  15. Librarian Says:

    Reverend, let me answer you in Guy’s place.

    Suppose you own a pile of fruit, and every day a few ants eat away at the fruit. But they’re just a few ants, so you do nothing.

    Here’s a question for you: will the fruit last forever, if the situation remains unchanged? Or will the ants eventually eat away the whole thing, regardless of how long it takes, or when the end point arrives?

    The arctic ice situation is much the same. It is being melted away, but too slowly for the naked eye. But do you believe that ice that melts away “a tiny bit every day” will last forever? Or do you think “enough days” will eventually pass for the ice to be all gone?

  16. ulvfugl Says:

    @ Reverend O’Brien

    Where’s your prediction ? Where’s your blog ?

    At least Guy can SPELL Arctic correctly.

    Btw, do you know who has been the most accurate in their predictions regarding the Arctic summer ice ? Perhaps you’d like to tell us.

  17. Godofredo Aravena Says:

    To TMB

    Worker co-ops may make some sense in the current economic concept, as a slightly different approach.
    But as we know, it is required a change to the root of the whole economic system, if we want to “save the planet”. So, we will need totally new solutions, for a totally new economic system, and in a totally new environment.
    It does not make sense to explore solutions in line (close or distant) with the current system.
    The basis, the ecosystem, is about to suffer a radical change.
    I guess new proposals for solutions, in an impossible world, do not make sense. New solutions will have to be thought in the moment, considering the scenario of the moment.

    To Artleads

    When it comes to evaluate reality, feeling has to be supported by some level of knowledge (or education). To somehow understand the problem.
    Using the gentle nudge to change culture, as I have seen, it is required more than a generation to changes become a practical reality, and part of culture like “smoking is bad for your health). Big changes (usually in some way imposed) may take half, but they may become unstable in the long term (like USSR).
    The minimal change option is probably the right way to change, if you have the time…
    A good example of the gentle nudge situation is what we see about climate change, or the real costs (long term) of nuclear energy.

  18. logspirit Says:

    In weather jargon, likely but uncertain forecasts of troublesome conditions are called ‘watches’, while expected troublesome conditions are called ‘warnings’ — a known storm is on a predictable path. We have transitioned along the gradient from watching out for possible extinction to dire warnings. We have spotted incipient dark wispy clouds, portents of infinite blackness, and we know which way the wind is blowing. We slept through the early watch. The storm, the one we created and ignore, is on the way. The innocent era of watching out, when wisdom -action based on knowledge- could have headed off pernicious mass extinction and enabled human salvation and broadly enhanced vitality, has gone down the river of time apparently beyond resurrection. Now we have been warned.

    Yet it is still in our best interest to realize that open eyed wisdom still has the same basic primary application. Although the consequent perspective is different in times of possibility and times of desperation, it is still the same tool. It is the same method, the same task we should have been attending to all along: Obtaining the moment.

  19. Robin Datta Says:

    For the unacquainted:

    Palliative care

  20. Tom Says:

    http://news.ubc.ca/2014/01/28/climate-change-related-temperature-swings-leave-insects-vulnerable/

    Climate change-related temperature swings leave insects vulnerable
    Media Release | January 28, 2014

    Increasingly extreme swings in temperature may put some insects at higher risk than previously thought, according to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.

    An international team of scientists tested the impact of temperature patterns on 38 species of insects and analyzed the results along with historic climate data and projections for 2050 to 2059. They found that when only the mean temperature rise is considered, insects flourished in the warmer environments. However, when accounting for the variation in highest and lowest temperatures, insects were negatively impacted.

    “This study changes the way we think about climate change vulnerability of plants and animals,” says study co-author Mary O’Connor, an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia’s Dept. of Zoology.

    “Until recently, we believed that tropical species were more at risk of extinction because generally they cannot tolerate increasing temperatures. We also thought that many plants and animals in colder climates like in Canada could better tolerate warming,” says O’Connor, who is also associate director of UBC’s Biodiversity Research Centre.

    “But when we add changes in daily and annual temperature swings to the mix, species in colder climates are in no better shape to weather climate change.”

    O’Connor adds that species such as the stable fly Stomoxys calcitran and Muscidifurax zaraptor, a wasp commonly used for biocontrol in Canada, are among the species that would not benefit from warming, contrary to previous predictions.

    This study was led by Yale University’s Prof. David Vasseur and funded by the Canadian Institute for Ecology and Evolution and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. The international research team was co-led by O’Connor and Hamish Greig at the University of Maine. The UBC team also includes Zoology Assoc. Prof. Christopher Harley.

  21. Tom Says:

    http://robinwestenra.blogspot.co.nz/2014/01/climate-change-scenarios.html

    Wednesday, 29 January 2014
    Climate change scenarios

    Abrupt Climate Change: Should We Be Worried?
    Robert B. Gagosian,President and Director
    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    [quote from beginning of article]

    Are we ignoring the oceans’ role in climate change?

    Fossil evidence and computer models demonstrate that Earth’s complex and dynamic climate system has more than one mode of operation. Each mode produces different climate patterns.

    The evidence also shows that Earth’s climate system has sensitive thresholds. Pushed past a threshold, the system can jump quickly from one stable operating mode to a completely different one—“just as the slowly increasing pressure of a finger eventually flips a switch and turns on a light,” the NAS report said.

    Scientists have so far identified only one viable mechanism to induce large, global, abrupt climate changes: a swift reorganization of the ocean currents circulating around the earth. These currents, collectively known as the Ocean Conveyor, distribute vast quantities of heat around our planet, and thus play a fundamental role in governing Earth’s climate.

    The oceans also play a pivotal role in the distribution and availability of life-sustaining water throughout our planet. The oceans are, by far, the planet’s largest reservoir of water. Evaporation from the ocean transfers huge amounts of water vapor to the atmosphere, where it travels aloft until it cools, condenses, and eventually precipitates in the form of rain or snow. Changes in ocean circulation or water properties can disrupt this hydrological cycle on a global scale, causing flooding and long-term droughts in various regions. The El Niño phenomenon is but a hint of how oceanic changes can dramatically affect where and how much precipitation falls throughout the planet.

    Thus, the oceans and the atmosphere constitute intertwined components of Earth’s climate system. But our present knowledge of ocean dynamics does not match our knowledge of atmospheric processes. The oceans’ essential role is too often neglected in our calculations.

    [further down]

    Are worrisome signals developing in the ocean?

    If the climate system’s Achilles’ heel is the Conveyor, the Conveyor’s Achilles’ heel is the North Atlantic. An influx of fresh water into the North Atlantic’s surface could create a lid of more buoyant fresh water, lying atop denser, saltier water. This fresh water would effectively cap and insulate the surface of the North Atlantic, curtailing the ocean’s transfer of heat to the atmosphere.

    An influx of fresh water would also dilute the North Atlantic’s salinity. At a critical but unknown threshold, when North Atlantic waters are no longer sufficiently salty and dense, they may stop sinking. An important force driving the Conveyor could quickly diminish, with climate impacts resulting within a decade.

    In an important paper published in 2002 in Nature, oceanographers monitoring and analyzing conditions in the North Atlantic concluded that the North Atlantic has been freshening dramatically—continuously for the past 40 years but especially in the past decade.4 The new data show that since the mid-1960s, the subpolar seas feeding the North Atlantic have steadily and noticeably become less salty to depths of 1,000 to 4,000 meters. This is the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments.

    At present the influx of fresher water has been distributed throughout the water column. But at some point, fresh water may begin to pile up at the surface of the North Atlantic. When that occurs, the Conveyor could slow down or cease operating.

    Signs of a possible slowdown already exist. A 2001 report in Nature indicates that the flow of cold, dense water from the Norwegian and Greenland Seas into the North Atlantic has diminished by at least 20 percent since 1950.5

    [read the rest]

  22. Robin Datta Says:

    Plenty of links here

    When will the Arctic ice melt? Eff the Arctic ice melt along with yer choir boys. That doesn’t matter any more. The window for effective action closed in the early 1970s. Enjoy the ride now.

  23. pat Says:

    I palliate my dis-ease with Vodka.

    Atlanta falls into complete gridlock over a little freezing rain and snow.

    Most are completely unprepared for even a short disruption of Business as Usual. They flail around and scream for TPTB to save them.

    Just sitting on this runaway train, staring out the window.

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  24. patrick o'leary Says:

    wildwoman,
    Thanks for that, it is one of the best articulations of how I have been feeling myself for some time now, maybe my entire life. What more is there to say or do? For me the answer to that question is to be an unflinching witness to the destruction of everything that sustains us. Gaia deserves that much, at the very least. Nevertheless, this is the song I find myself humming more and more often…

    Alas, what else is left to say…, big love everybody…

  25. patrick o'leary Says:
  26. patrick o'leary Says:

    Sorry, can’t seem to figure out the embed thing… here’s the link.

  27. Gerald Spezio Says:

    Never fear – OUR PRESIDENT – LAWYER MAN BECOME METHANE MAN WILL LIGHT THE WAY.

    Methane Man

    At the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama said that the all-of-the-above energy strategy he announced a few years ago is working, describing natural gas as the bridge fuel that can power our economy.

    Just do NOT tell them the monster exists

    President Obama said: “Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.”

    President Obama added: “And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

    http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/

  28. Artleads Says:

    “Build a new sea wall, or repair a hurricane devastated city – this is not a change in human behavior at all. It is in effect, the same behavior. And the very behavior that actually caused the problem.”

    This came from one poster’s link. I agree with it. That is not what I refer to as a gentle nudge. The nudge is not merely to activity, but moreso to system.

    We live in a system that rewards (requires) obedience, dependency and compliance with IC. This is profoundly embedded in our mindset/behavior throughout the planet. A mindset/behavior change that I currently see as a gentle nudge would be vast widening the circle of people who understand that they are caught in a web of oppression that they must resist. What they DO about it could be so minimal and subtle as to go unnoticed (by TBTB), despite it being done by millions. My hypothesis is that these unnoticeable things done by a rapidly growing mass will lead to more essential behavior changes that *I* can’t predict (although more qualified people may be able to). For one thing, a critical mass of people doing related small things will FEEL differently about their oppression, and it’s likely that relevant actions will flow from that feeling…

    One person can’t possibly figure out THE solution. A gentle nudge is when you have more of a willingness to take the scraps of possibility offered by many people and meld them together into more of a whole.

    Tom once showed a link on how schools of fish work together like a single body, offering that paradigm to the human imagination…

    Something on systems thinking below.

    http://johnmgerber.com/JustFoodNow/Disp.cfm?Title=SystemsThinking&Style=Plain

  29. Artleads Says:

    @ godolfredo

    I tried (above) to address your recent post. I can only see (or pursue) one speck of the issue that is so monumentally large. I cannot counter the argument that what I suggest is unrealistic and makes not the slightest difference. If it does no harm, that’s at least something. I tend to think that we do what makes us happy, what turns us on, and that is what my comment attempts for me.

    But even if monumental, top down, relatively benign remedies are (blessedly) ever attempted, the more immediate, subtle and gentle their implementation, the better, IMO. So I’m still for a “minimalist” approach to the big things. Confusing, I know.

  30. pmb Says:

    X-Ray Mike posted this today. For those on NBL who don’t go to that site i thought the topic was something that might be of interest.

    New research warns world to prepare for blackout
    Jan 28, 2014 by Elizabeth Mitchell

    (Phys.org) —Living without electricity in today’s technological world may be difficult to imagine. Yet the reality of living without computers, mobile phones and entertainment systems, and managing a transport system thrown into chaos by an absence of traffic lights, trains and subways, may become increasingly common, according to a new academic study.

    New research by Hugh Byrd, Professor of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, UK, and Steve Matthewman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, reveals that today’s occasional blackouts are dress rehearsals for the future, when they will occur with greater frequency and increased severity.

    According to the study, power cuts will become more regular around the globe as electrical supply becomes increasingly vulnerable and demand for technology continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.

    Professor Byrd said: “Electricity fuels our existence. It powers water purification, waste, food, transportation and communication systems. Modern social life is impossible to imagine without it, and whereas cities of the past relied on man-power, today we are almost completely reliant on a series of interlocking technical systems. Our research therefore explores what happens when the power goes off, and explains why the security of fuel supply is such a pressing social problem.”

    Electrical power has been defined as a ‘critical infrastructure’ by the International Risk Governance Council, in that it is a ‘large-scale human-built system that supplies continual services central to society’s functioning’. However, electricity supply is less robust than commonly supposed.

    Guaranteed electrical power is under threat because of resource constraint, with the depletion of fossil fuel reserves and the transient nature of renewable energy sources. The Western world also relies on ageing systems, with almost three quarters of American transmission lines more than 25 years old.

    Professor Matthewman said: “Infrastructural investment across Europe and the USA has been poor, and our power generation systems are more fragile than most people think. The vulnerability of our electricity systems is highlighted by one particular blackout which took place in Italy in 2003, when the whole nation was left without power because of two fallen trees. This reality is particularly alarming when you consider the world’s increasing dependency on electricity.”

    While many blackouts occur due to system faults, the researchers reveal that network failure due to inadequate energy is also a growing concern. The study explains that US household electricity usage increased by 1,300% between 1940 and 2001, and looks ahead to the future when demand for electric vehicles and air conditioning systems is expected to rocket.

    In the last few decades, air conditioning has been the greatest factor in increased electrical consumption and one of the greatest sources of systematic strain, with considerably more blackouts occurring in the summer months than during winter. The electricity used to fuel America’s air conditioning is currently a similar volume to its entire energy consumption in the 1950s, and countries such as China and India are following a similar pattern.

    Professor Byrd added: “Western societies are becoming ever more dependent upon electrical power yet supply will struggle to meet demand, especially if you consider the current rate of population growth and the continuing sophistication and prevalence of electrical appliances.

    “Research shows that American power outages cause annual losses of up to $180 billion, but economic cost is not the only concern. We should also consider issues of food safety, increased crime rates and transport problems, which are all matters that come to the fore during a blackout. Our research aims to show how important it is to consider these issues, as our increasing demands place additional strains on already struggling systems of generation.”

    http://phys.org/news/2014-01-world-blackout.html

  31. logspirit Says:

    Monarch butterflies drop, migration may disappear

    The number of Monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico plunged this year to its lowest level since studies began in 1993, leading experts to announce Wednesday that the insects’ annual migration from the United States and Canada is in danger of disappearing.

    A report released by the World Wildlife Fund, Mexico’s Environment Department and the Natural Protected Areas Commission blames the displacement of the milkweed the species feeds on by genetically modified crops and urban sprawl in the United States, as well as the dramatic reduction of the butterflies’ habitat in Mexico due to illegal logging of the trees they depend on for shelter.

    (link in title for the rest of the article)

  32. Kirk Hamilton Says:

    Thanks, Gerald, for the update on the State of the Nation speech. I haven’t watched one of those for about 25 years, I think that you can understand why. But, I was curious about Obama’s referrals to the environment. Now I know, thanks again.

    I find the following video very enlightening and entertaining. Chris Hedges, using Melville’s, Moby Dick, to illustrate the curse that is America, capitalism and it’s associated institutions.

    The introductions are long. So I advise starting 15-16 minute into the video.

  33. pmb Says:

    X-Ray Mike put this comment up in the current posting of Colapse of Industrial Civilization. I thought it complemented Chia’s piece about Wisedom well.

    Thought this would be an interesting place to see where the base line was and is in only a decade.

    Speech given in October 2004 by native American Chief Oren Lyons at Stockbridge, Massachusetts for the Twenty-Fourth Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures. He touches on ecocide, genocide, climate change, glacial melting, overpopulation, human extinction, free-market capitalism, and our failed obligations to future generations:

    [Excerpts]

    If we are indeed responsible for seven generations to come, then we need to act that way, but the current fixation on market-driven decisions for everything leaves no room for that. If you’re going to make your decisions on the basis of profit and loss, then the loss is certainly going to be to your grandchildren, and that’s what’s going on today: profit is being made at the expense of your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren. It’s going to be a long, hard struggle to turn the direction of this nation around. My first message to you is that if this is to come about, the leadership must be changed. And it’s up to us the people. This is a great land, but it needs and deserves better. It is your homeland. We share it with you now, and we share much else. We share the blood of humankind. There is no black or yellow or white or red; we’re one species, one family. As a leader I’m no better than you are. We’re all only common people…

    …In those days, in 1944, there were not many deer. They were almost all gone. They’d been hunted almost to extinction by 1900, just like the buffalos, just like the Indians. In the year 1900, a hundred and four years ago, there were fewer than 250,000 Indians, down from somewhere around fifteen million. How many deer were left? Practically none. How many buffalos were left? I think thirty-seven in the Bronx zoo. Seventy million buffalos killed, billions of passenger pigeons gone forever. Only a small number of Indians left. Who’s responsible?

    The passenger pigeons aren’t going to come back. And there are many more species we’re going to lose because we’re destroying them. The cod have been depleted. Cod fishing is a fraction of what it was. You know, the first recorded cods that were caught weighed four hundred pounds apiece. Four-hundred-pound cods. What do we get today? Bottom fish. Fishermen are catching them right where they spawn. You can’t do that and have a future. Fish in the world are disappearing fast. Herring is just about gone. You’re eating roughy, fish that you called trash fish twenty years ago. Your children and your grandchildren aren’t going to see fish. There will only be pictures of them. Future generations won’t know how good a fresh fish tastes. They won’t know—unless we do something about it…

    …Chief Seattle in Washington state said, Brothers, one day you are going to suffocate in your own waste. He was a great visionary leader. He spoke of the web of life. He said everything is connected—which it is. You cannot destroy one thing and expect nothing else to happen. We’re in that position now, with too many people, six billion people and probably two billion more within the next ten years. We’re having trouble feeding people now, but really, the trouble is not that there isn’t enough food. It is a lack of equity. Some people have too much while at the same time there are people in the world who have nothing to eat but grass and bark. That’s not fair. This country consumes 25 per cent of all the natural resources of the world, yet it has only 5 per cent of the population of the world. And it’s telling the rest of the world to aspire to be like us…

    …We have to do something. We have to do it collectively, and we have to do it for the right purpose, which is the welfare of the generations coming. We’re here only a short time, so while we’re here, it’s incumbent on us to see that the next generations are cared for…

    …John Mohawk, whom I consider to be the resident intellect of the Iroquois, says, You know, human beings are still a biological experiment; in the context of time, we haven’t been here very long, and we may not be here much longer. I remember that as a child it used to frighten me to think of the end of the world. My brother Lee, my next younger brother, used to say, Sonny (that was my nickname), the world’s coming to an end! I would go into a fit. Ohhhhhh! Lee would laugh. I had no picture of what that meant, but it was something terrible. Today I don’t think that way anymore; I know better. I’ve found out that the world is not coming to an end. The world will continue.

    Whatever happens to us will not have a lasting impact on the world. In time, the world will regenerate. It will come back green, and the waters will be clean again. It’s just that there won’t be any people here. That’s all. We’re not needed. We’re parasites. We don’t help the Earth, we take. So if all the people disappear, then the Earth is going to regenerate because there’ll be peace here again.

    What’s ahead for us will be misery, let me tell you, that you don’t want to see. Misery beyond misery, and it’s going to pass to your children and your grandchildren. They are going to look back and say, Grandpa, why didn’t you do this? Grandpa, why didn’t you do that? Grandma, why did you let this happen to me? — Our responsibility is to them, not to ourselves….

    …I said earlier that my first message to you is that the kind of leadership we have must be changed. The second message I bring you is that global warming is real. It is imminent. It is upon us. It’s a lot closer than you think, and I don’t believe we’re ready for what’s coming. We’re not instructing our people, we’re not instructing our children, we’re not preparing for what is coming. And it surely is coming. We’ve pulled the trigger, and there is nothing we can do now to stop it. The event is underway.

    What I say to you today is that the ice is melting in the north as we speak, trees are tipping, the roads are buckling, buildings are falling in. From what? From the permafrost melting. Perma. Permanent frost. No, not so permanent. It’s melting right now. Four million acres of spruce killed two years ago by beetles. This was caused by global warming, which allowed two cycles of beetles instead of one. The second cycle killed the trees. You can’t negotiate with a beetle. You are now dealing with natural law. And if you don’t understand natural law, you will soon…

    …The founding fathers of this country—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin—all talked about natural law. It was common-day usage for them. It was part of their vernacular to talk about natural law, and they knew what they were talking about–because they learned from us! Natural law prevails. Either abide by it or suffer the consequences. I haven’t heard any reference to natural law coming from an administration in a long time. That’s how far we’re drifting from reality. We’re drifting, and it’s costly. We have to get back on course. The chiefs, and I personally, feel that we have not passed the point of no return. Not yet, but we’re approaching it. And the day when we do pass that point, there will be no boom, no sonic sound. It will be just like any other day.

    One of the many prophesies we were told was that there are two things to watch for that will tell you when the earth is degrading. Watch for the acceleration of the winds. The second is to watch how people treat their children. When people mistreat their children, that means a degradation of the earth is taking place. And when children are fighting in wars, that’s an unacceptable abuse. There are two million children on the streets in San Paolo, thirty-five thousand children on the streets in Bogotá‡, forty-six thousand in New York. That’s a sign that society is degrading and not taking responsibility. Well, we can change that, can’t we?

    When I was in Sweden in 2001 I heard a very simple television announcement that was made by the University of Bergen in Norway. It said that the University is monitoring the currents of the waters, and the Gulf Stream is slowing down; if it continues to slow down at its present rate, it could conceivably stop altogether within fifteen years.

    In 2000, as our elders were meeting in Chippewa country in Michigan, along comes an elder walking down the path. It was early August, and clearly this was an Eskimo man. He had no shirt on, but he was wearing his leathers; he had his sealskins on, and he was carrying a large flat drum. Stocky and with a beard, he looked to be in his mid-fifties. We sent a runner out to see who he was and what he wanted. He said he wanted to address the elders, he had a message. So of course we brought him in. He was from Greenland, and he said, “The ice is melting in the north. The ice is melting in my country.” He began to tell us his story: fifteen years ago there was no melting in the area where he lived, except that people noticed for the first time in anybody’s memory a trickle of water coming down a glacier.

    Four days ago when he left his country, there was a torrent, a river pouring out into the Atlantic Ocean. He said, We’ve lost several thousand feet of our glacier already, and it’s disrupted everything. It’s disrupted the hunting and the fishing. He said the bears are starving, the great white bears are starving, and there’s nothing we can do to help them. Our hunters can’t travel out on the ice any more, they’re afraid. They have to go way around, which takes more time. He said the seals have moved, they have followed the fish. The birds are not coming in at the right time either. He said, It’s a major disruption in our life and our lifestyle, and I bring this message to you elders. What can you do to help us?

    It just so happened that I had received an invitation from a convocation of religious leaders from around the world who would soon be meeting at the United Nations, more than a thousand of them. Bawa Jain, the Secretary General of the event and a founder of the World Movement for Non-violence, had asked me if I could find spiritual leaders among the indigenous people to go to the convocation. How many, I asked? He asked, How many can you get? I can bring lots if you’re going to pay for it. And he said, We will. So I gathered about 65 people, from as far away as the Andes and Peru, as far away as Norway and Sweden, even Australia. We all went, and we decided that the message we were going to give was that the ice is melting, that this is indeed a spiritual event, that it is caused by human beings, and that there is a consequence to all our activities…

    …Global warming is being tracked scientifically all over the world. How does our government react to it? Two or three months ago the Pentagon released a report with the title Global Warming Challenges Security. Why in the world would an administration that is ignoring global warming call attention to it? I couldn’t figure it out. After thinking it over, I realized that the answer was right there in that title. Very clever. Security is the big issue of this administration, and nothing can be allowed to interfere with security issues. Meanwhile, the winds are coming, meanwhile the fires are burning, the climate is changing–which has nothing to do with security. How do you deal with that? You would have to buy a full-page ad in The New York Times, but it’s too late; the damage is done. Attention was diverted to the issue of security, and that’s what is being talked about now instead of global warming. But reality, according to the scientists, is coming, and it’s coming very fast.

    I called a scientist at Woods Hole, and I said, You’re being awfully quiet there. Whatever I hear about global warming is coming from Europe. He said, We did issue a report, but it was buried away, as usual, on a back page. But yes, global warming is coming. He told me that in 1964, before the glaciers began melting into the ocean, there was no fresh water in the Atlantic Ocean. It was all salt water. The two natural pumps off of Greenland that make the currents flow are salt water trying to freeze. I asked him to give me the science on this to help me understand what it means. He said, Well, the salt water trying to freeze gets heavy, and it sends the current down. But snow and ice are fresh water, which dilutes the salt water, making it lighter, and the descending current slows down. The more melting ice is added, the slower the current will move, and eventually it will stop. The report from Woods Hole said that this potential shutdown will eventually cause the waters of the mid-Atlantic to become warmer, and the warmer the water gets, the stronger the winds. It ‘s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse. If anybody here is in the insurance business, I recommend that you change your business. The insurance companies are worried because they have to pay the price.

    I was in Norway in 1992 for an event about Columbus, and we got into a discussion about the ozone layer without coming to any conclusion. The man who was in charge, Eric Bye, who’s the head of television in Norway, said, Chief, do you want to stay till tomorrow? I just found out that the NASA plane which looks at the ozone has landed in Staranger. Do you want to go and talk to the person in charge? I said, Sure, let’s go. So we flew from Oslo to Staranger, and there was the 737 plane sitting on the tarmac. The man in charge was named Brian Toon. He told us that there are a lot of holes up there. He said they can repair themselves if we give them a chance, but it takes a long time. What I want you to remember, he said, is that from the time the exhaust leaves your car until it reaches the ozone takes twenty years. Nothing can change that. Even if we decide to cut back emissions now, it will take twenty years to make a difference…
    The full speech can be found here:

    http://neweconomy.net/publications/lectures/lyons/oren/the-ice-is-melting

    PMB again,

    Anyone watch the Democracy Now segment today with Bob Herbert (now of DEIMOS). So lacking in any personality (much like McKibben). Herbert was fine with the SOTU address (which I did not watch) and seemed almost to fully support Obama’s agenda.

    To read through these words of a decade ago from the place I stand today was heart wrenching. We have done nothing but move forward to NTE; not a single movement back. I used to go to these Schumacher events and found myself awash in a sea of positive smiley people. I was too doomy for then; yet here we are (even if they still deny where we are) just where I insisted we were heading and further away from where they insist we can get to.

    And we are more disconnected from the natural world than ever. I agreed with almost everything the Chief said. Only I wonder if the regard he had for the founding fathers was true or a compromise he had to make to get his message across.

    I believe they understood nature because they lived in a pre-industrial civilization and had no other choice but to deal with nature in order to survive. These white privileged wealthy land owning, slave owing men were the elite of the day. It showed in the legislation they drafted; much, if not all was to benefit them. Wasn’t it they who had the original Constitution redrafted excluding all the rights which had to be reinserted in the revised version as the Bill of Rights due to the back lash of the citizens.

    It was under the watch of these pre-industrial giants that the passenger pidgeon went extinct, and the oysters in NYC went a few years later and other animals that were captured and sold for pelts, furs, etc. It was under them that tobacco and cotton were planted as cash crops despite the damage to the soil. Hey, Scarlet this piece of property’s dead; let’s go over there and cut down some more trees where the land looks better.
    I wonder if the chiefs still believe there is time left.

    Wind is blowing stronger than ever and well the children (hey all you liberal green folks out there in TV Land keep birthing those babies). Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts. As Rob at the Library used to say “The children still suffer.” After all, your monetary wealth will allow you to survive on a planet with temperatures above 4C degree. You’ll have those digital pictures of all the extinct animals but will never know what it is like to have them in the world. Will DiCaprio’s island off the coast of Belize with it’s eco-friendly resort last once sea level’s rise.

    I agree the world isn’t coming to end. It will recover just fine without us. Humans, well that’s another story. But, hey I’m on the internet and am fully conscious of the absurdity of the world I live in.

  34. bubbleboy Says:

    Mr. Chia:

    Thank you kindly for the good read. It was well worth my time.

    Best Regards,

    The Bubbly Blonde : )

  35. OzMan Says:

    A recent look at where the hole, (huge) is in the dyke that must bust at some point, OR…. we see the slide into Inverted Totalitarianism – which I think is the likely way down the energy decent path- but it doesn’t have to be that way….. no?

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfJQBz7CMAAAwoj.png:large

    from Christian Hunt @ Max Keiser:

    ‘Spending by oil majors soars while production barely rises, if at all.’

    http://www.maxkeiser.com/2014/01/spending-by-oil-majors-soars-while-production-barely-rises-if-at-all/

    Stacy Summary:
    “Let me guess, Exxon and Chevron are just spending more and more on exploration in order to push a hoax of peak oil? Oh, right. I get it. As I read recently – technology will not ‘save’ this equation because technology consumes energy not creates it.”

    Here in Afraidia, we see the ‘New’ conservative “Liberal” Federal Gubmint begin to attack the poor, unemployed, and labour union base, (what’s left over), to begin to extract the ‘value’ in the struggling groups, rather than increase taxes to the wealthier classifieds….

    From 2010
    ‘Abbott targets welfare payments’

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/abbott-targets-welfare-payments-20100223-p0p5.html

    “Compulsory work for the dole and tougher tests for disability pensioners are the centrepiece of an $11 billion welfare crackdown developed by Tony Abbott. The changes would be part funded by a rise in tobacco and alcohol excise and a possible increase in the pension age.

    Days before he became opposition leader, Mr Abbott proposed that all unemployed people under 50 be forced to work for the dole after three months, a move he estimated would cost $10.5 billion over four years.

    His submission in November to the Coalition’s expenditure review committee, obtained by the Herald, also advocated that disability pensioners with “less serious medical conditions” – about one-third of the 700,000 receiving the benefit – be forced to take annual medical reassessments and sit two interviews a year “to encourage them into employment”.”

    And NOW, Jan 27th 2014…

    ‘Focus on young jobless in Abbott government’s ‘enhanced’ work for the dole.’

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/focus-on-young-jobless-in-abbott-governments-enhanced-work-for-the-dole-20140127-31hts.html

    “The Coalition government is looking to start its ”enhanced” work-for-the-dole program in the next financial year, with a focus on young unemployed Australians…..
    On Monday, Mr Hartsuyker explained that he was re-examining the work-for-the-dole program as part of a broader review into Job Services Australia aimed at cutting red tape.

    He said the government was moving forward ”very slowly, very methodically” with its review and was mindful that work-for-the-dole jobs should not displace paid positions.

    Mr Hartsuyker did not confirm reports that work-for-the-dole participants would be forced to collect rubbish.

    When asked if the revamped Coalition model would make work-for-the-dole compulsory, he said that there would be a ”very strong onus on job seekers” to participate in the scheme if they were not studying or could not find a job.

    When asked if dole payments would be withheld for those who did not comply, he said that the withdrawal of benefits ”could be a sanction that could be applied”.

    ”The exact detail of how that would work, we’re currently working through at the moment,” he said.

    Last week, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews,(Count Andrews ?), announced a review into Australia’s welfare system, with a focus on unemployment benefits and disability payments. The Coalition has also flagged financial incentives for young welfare recipients to move to regional towns for work and for young unemployed people who find and stay in a job for twelve and 24 months.

    According to the government, about 805,000 Australian job seekers are on some for of income support.

    Australian Council of Social Service policy director Jacqueline Phillips described compulsory work-for-the-dole programs as “ineffective, costly and harsh”.

    “Past experience shows that work-for-the-dole programs do not help people get jobs. Under the previous Coalition government’s scheme, only about one in three participants were still employed three months after the program,” she said.”

    Wear some tough jeans as the slide is going to rip the hide off even the toughest Rhino.

    Just to be provocative, I can’t say that ‘seeking the Truth’ will ever turn out. But that is just me, and I don’t have a problem with the essay.
    This is Afraidia !

    http://walkaway2014.com/2014/01/10/read-the-signs/

    Read the Signs…

  36. ulvfugl Says:

    I think this is possibly the best comment I ever read on Real Climate.
    Here is a part of it.

    He reinforces this point by asking things like this: “my question to the moderators, who are themselves world-class climate scientists: do you agree with my conclusions from two moderately different perspectives (#208, 237) that there is no remaining carbon budget, and in fact we are in carbon debt? If not, why not?”

    DIOGENES is presenting an issue that he feels is of critical importance here. He is asking for other people’s input. He is humbly requesting the climate scientists, moderators and posters on RC engage him in a genuine and fruitful discussion about these issues. To debate them openly and honestly as well as to present their own thinking and opinions about this matter.

    DIOGENES does not appear to having much success thus far. Silence appears to be the dominant response, mixed in with a few pointed complaints about himself even raising the issues he would like to discuss maturely and rationally.

    Looks to me the issues DIOGENES has raised (eg what is the Carbon Budget, what does the science tells us is the ‘safe’ upper limit in GHGs and Temp.) are clearly within the realm of “climate science” and are appropriate to the purpose that RC was created for in the first place.

    I still feel that it is a real shame that so many find that unacceptable here and others choose to remain silent and ignore him completely as if he does not exist.

    Walter

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/01/if-you-see-something-say-something/comment-page-6/#comment-453442

    We’re used to Dr McPherson being dismissed and insulted and to trolls and smears and attempts at character assassination and to seeing the evidence for catastrophic changes being ignored. We’re used to all the greenwashing and the nonsense about ‘staying below the 2 deg C safe limit’. We’re used to all the lies and the hopium and the denial and excuses.

    I’ve been reading Real Climate regularly for many years.

    There they have it. Someone has very quietly, calmly, humbly, and respectfully laid the gauntlet on the table in front of them all.

  37. Artleads Says:

    Thanks, PMB. I had to read the whole excerpt without interruption.

    I’d like to share it with my skeptical artist friends, who appear to believe that we live in a normal world. The way in which it’s presented is humanly and culturally rich, so they might find it harder to dismiss than when I tell them cold that we are facing extinction. They don’t like politics either. If you press them too hard, something snaps and they go batshit crazy and talk about space travel and other planets…

  38. Guy McPherson Says:

    I finally wrote something new. It’s here.

  39. Henry Says:

    PMB — thanks for great posts — I have a poster of Chief Seattle’s (Sealth) speech on my wall, but I hadn’t read it in a long time.

    Wildwoman — your link, says it all. Started my day off right!

    Kirk — Chris Hedges will be the wake-up messenger for many people I know.

  40. Henry Says:

    Oh, and I’ve now got Guy’s book on my kindle, too. Keeps me in the gym an hour longer, reading while on the machines, not noticing time flying by. Plus my eyes, dammit, now need the expandable text size.

  41. Lidia Says:

    The problem with compulsory work in exchange for dole money is that the “work” that people might be put to risks consuming more energy and resources than if they were just to stay at home. This is “Your Money or Your Life” 101.

  42. Artleads Says:

    “The problem with compulsory work in exchange for dole money is that the “work” that people might be put to risks consuming more energy and resources than if they were just to stay at home. This is “Your Money or Your Life” 101.”

    This makes me think of Britain, whence I first heard the term, dole. But I remember Margaret Thatcher, stamping (stomping?) her feet and declaring, “I’m against it!” I don’t know how her revolution measures up with resource use. But from my fleeting knowledge of Britain during the dole years, resource use was rather conservative. The Brits appeared generally to have a deeply conservationist streak. Things like sitting blissfully in the dark, using incredibly small amounts of water, etc…

  43. OzMan Says:

    Artleads

    I had an older Englishwoman as a relief teacher when I was a boy in the mid 70’s, and she referred to the dole as the ‘susso’ from depression era welfare which got called ‘sustenance’. These days the right pollies think it take no money to live – housing, food, energy, transport, clothing and if you add kids, it still adds up to nothing.

    Also, the Brits had to put pennies in their own metered gas heating for their homes. If they had no money, no heating.


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