The ends of the Earth

How far will we go to secure energy? Clearly, to the ends of the Earth. And perhaps even to the end of the (living) world.

Judging from their actions, most people I know are more to committed maintaining their imperial lifestyles than in maintaining the lives of their children. Take a look around and tell me that isn’t how we managed to find ourselves in this dire array of interconnected predicaments. Empathy is so rare we treat it as a treasure. Which it is.

We’re willing to risk extinction by nuclear meltdown to keep the lights on. And not merely the extinction of other species, which we’ve been risking for generations. This time, we’re willing to take Homo sapiens into the abyss in exchange for hot pizza and cold beer. Meanwhile, governments of the world continue to cover up disasters as they occur. And we, the people, are willing to let them because we can’t handle the truth.

As if ongoing events in Japan aren’t enough to convince you that nuclear power plants aren’t a good idea — and apparently those events have failed to convince Barack Obama, who refuses to step down from his pro-nuclear stance — what about drilling for oil at depths we know are profoundly unsafe? That pesky Gulf of Mexico has sprung another leak, this time near yet another deepwater oil rig. Of course, this event isn’t deemed newsworthy, even as cleanup efforts have been under way for days. Increasingly desperate for crude oil, the International Energy Agency is begging Norway to ratchet up production. Sorry, no dice from post-peak countries.

And then there’s Libya, which currently supplies oil to industrialized countries at almost exactly the same rate as the so-called “spare” capacity. Take out Libyan oil, and the trip to $150 oil comes next week instead of later this year. Fortunately for lovers of American-style capitalism, BP has started drilling even as the bombs are flying. The ever-declining supply of Alaskan oil constrains options of the U.S. and its military allies to the approaches I’ve come to know and hate: abundant military action after generating an enemy Americans can hate (aka foreign policy) and printing money (aka domestic policy). Britain’s former Member of Parliament George Galloway understands our actions in Libya are all about the oil, and he’s even willing to talk about it (U.S. Congressional Representative Ed Markey agrees, as shown here).

Libya isn’t the only ongoing crisis in the Middle East and northern Africa. The whole region is aflame, and we can add Yemen to the list of crises threatening the Saudi Arabian underbelly (thus, the world’s supply of crude oil).

Among the prices we pay, apparently all too willingly: Ice is melting from Greenland and Antarctica at a rate surprisingly rapid, even to the global-change scientists studying the issue. This is merely one more notch in the miles-long belt of industry, yet another minor insult on an overheating planet. Tack on the couple hundred species we drive to extinction each day, along with utter destruction of every other aspect of Earth’s environment, and you start to get the idea our efforts aren’t entirely positive.

Adverse impacts of industrialization are not restricted to the environmental realm. They extend to the sociopolitical arena, too. Feudalism has arrived to the United States, along with fascism (wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross, as predicted by Sinclair Lewis). Here at home, the cost of living continues to increase while Republicans try to make it illegal for poor people to carry money. Continuing the long-term theme of U.S. foreign policy, we’ll gladly kill anybody and everybody who interferes with our access to crude oil. Then our beloved military will continue to disgrace us by posing with the tortured bodies of civilians they killed. If you try to interfere with foreign policy, you get an all-expense-paid trip to Gitmo Bay, where you get to reside for the rest of your days, courtesy of our very own torturer in chief.

Fortunately, western civilization and its latest, worst, manifestation — the industrial economy — near their end. We can add four more people to a large and growing group that foresees the end of empire within months: Gordon T. Long predicts end of fiat currency by the end of 2012 (also see Long’s essay about shadow banking here), Clyde Prestowitz anticipates an “economic earthquake or tsunami that will reset globalization,” Jim Willie has jumped on the hyperinflation bandwagon, and John Lohman indicates the Keynesian endgame has nearly run its course.

Seems I’m not the only optimistic in these parts.

The industrial economy was imploding before an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. The world oil peak passed us by in 2005, as did the world peak in grain production (not coincidentally). But Japan is yet another straw on the back of the severely stressed camel known as the world’s industrial economy. Events in Japan are shaking the U.S. Treasury bond market and otherwise hastening the demise of the world’s industrial economy.

Not one single member of the corporate-owned mainstream media is willing to connect these seemingly disparate events. But, as should be obvious to anybody paying the slightest attention, each event is a stitch in a worldwide quilt. Each event indicates systemic collapse of the world’s industrial economy. If you’re waiting for the mainstream media to tell you when to launch your lifeboat, you’ll wait until it’s too late.

When is the correct time to flee an empire in decline? If you’re unconcerned about the morality of how you live and also about resistance against the dominant paradigm, then you probably have a few more months to suck at the teat of empire. If you’re concerned only about extending your own life, then you probably need not quit sucking until this summer, especially if your doomstead is field-tested and ready to go. If you’re concerned about whether and how you live, the time to leave is now. Or, judging from my own example and the difficulty of making preparations for a new world, a few years ago.


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath and Plan B Economics.

Comments 184

  • Their commitment may be unconscious, and to change is beyond their ability and training.

    How about a new list, I will start it off.
    This can put things in clear perspective.
    Most people can not:

    1. understand cause and effect
    2. postulate the future
    3. make choices other than in the supermarket isles
    4. plan beyond dinner
    5. hold a thought for more than 30 seconds (the advertisers and politicians use this knowledge effectively)
    6. avoid starting a sentence with “I’m like..”

    Campers, please take a turn adding to the list.

  • If we are looking for people/media to connect the dots the link below makes a pretty good commentary about our current skill set.

    Gotta a bad case of the humans?

  • Of course this is how we see ourselves in the world which could have a little to do w/ our actions.

  • I am watching in amazement and disgust at the current aggressive moves by countries against oil producing nations and trying to work out why something that seems so OBVIOUS to me is not being discussed and rallied against by more than a handful of people. It is something that has bewildered me for a long time and also something that disturbed me in a whole new way. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? Why is this sleight of hand and outright aggression being supported? I have been reading THIS and i believe it explained an element of the support for aggression and lack of condemnation from a large segment of the community… It helped tremendously. As we move deeper into blatant war and aggression over resources, I suspect that more wild swings in the antics of the Military Industrial Machine will manifest and more refuges of a dying civilization will become the new and growing underclass.. unfortunately the BAU mentality most people have actually makes it possible….even though those supporting it will be the next victims.

  • I now see the game for what it is.

    Bankers will just keep doing what bankers do, until they can’t.

    Global corporations will just keep doing what global corporations do, until they can’t.

    Politicians will just keep doing what politicians do, until they can’t.

    Local councils will just keep doing what counsils do, until they can’t.

    Most proles will just keep doing what proles have been trained to do, until they can’t.

    And most people in western societies are unreachable.

    History is replete with examples of mass stupidity, usually based on flawed belief systems or indoctrination.

    It’s all very dismal.

    However, there are a few people who can think for themselves we still haven’t reached, so keep at it Guy.

  • Redreamer,

    Thanks for the link.

    Kathy & Terry, take a valium before you read chapter 4.

  • Curtis
    7. Do not know how people live in other countries in order for us to have our 1st world lifestyle
    8. Don’t know where their food comes from

  • Curtis

    9. can not locate Libya on a map.

    10. …use a manual can opener.

  • ” … most people I know are more committed maintaining their imperial lifestyles than in maintaining the lives of their children.”

    Once that has been acknowledged, what is left?

    The sad part is that we have demonstrated quite abundantly that we prefer the illusion of abundance and leisure to the real thing and we’re prepared to trade our lives to continue the illusion.

    Consider, in just two generations, from the time my father was a boy and war raged in Europe, our rivers have become undrinkable and our lakes cesspools. We have poisoned our soils and emptied our oceans. We have razed our forests and eradicated the habitat of majestic species big and small. We have made war against the most defenseless indigenous peoples for the minerals beneath their feet and we have made mother’s breast milk toxic.

    The question is why? Why would we behave in such a manner so clearly opposite to our best interests as a species?

    Because we have no choice. We are driven to hoard. Consider the fundamental assumption of our prevailing ideology: there are no limits to growth on a finite planet.

    Such an argument would be considered beneath contempt in any forum or discipline than economics and politics. But when it comes to economics and politics, the laughably stupid or certifiably insane suddenly becomes very serious business and the underlying assumption for the organization of our societies. Why?

    Because it tells us we need not accept limits on our appetites. We can poison the last river, we can fell the last tree, we can kill the last fish, we can drop the last bird, we can eliminate the last colony of bees. The ideology of the free market will save us!

    Every single counter argument I have read from bloggers and commenters alike can, invariably, be reduced to an argument that says we, as a species, will not give up the modern “conveniences” that enslave us and diminish the quality of our lives and the capacity of the planet to sustain us.

    A Canadian ecologist, his name escapes me, argued that when we raise our children we imprint them with technology rather than nature and the end result is those children care more for their machines than they do for themselves, their own children, and their Earth.

    If in just two generations we have brought our planet to he brink, it is very unlikely we will survive another two.

  • OK Folks, I agree that what you’re calling a die-off may happen soon, but it shouldn’t be viewed in moralistic terms like some Christian End Timer. The die-off will simply be the inevitable culmination of our tool-using intelligence applied to the evolutionary process itself. What will emerge on the other side of the bottleneck are super-intelligent machines engineered in our last days to utilize our planetary and extra-planetary resources efficiently and flexibly. Many scientists are seriously predicting this outcome in the next century, so we may just be the unfortunate ones living at the evolutionary end times for homo sapiens.

    The nice thing is, our “mind children” will be able to multiply and expand into the Cosmos in a way that primates from the Olduvai gorge never could, so from my perspective the “rise of the machines” will represent progress for Earth-based life. So cheer up doomers! The bottleneck will be more like a birth canal, and something glorious is being born from our minds that promises to bring the entire universe to life!

  • It was probably less of a 10-year Keynesian endgame but a 40-year casino capitalist game, with corporations leading the way.

  • Well, what do you know. A post from the Cosmist, and he isn’t insulting everyone here.

    Let’s give him a hand, as much as I disagree with his vision of what the future may be like, this is the first post he’s made I can remember that wasn’t an insult directed at anybody.

    If times are so depressing, we should thank heaven for small favors. The Cosmist posting a (relatively) nicer post than usual counts as a “small favor” to me.

    And Guy McPherson, I am flattered beyond belief that you think anything I write could be expanded into an essay on your site.

    However, that is not an offer I can accept lightly. Please give me some time to think about it first.

  • Librarian

    I too have confidence that you have much to say of value. Please do write something up. The bears need a steady supply of fresh meat!!!….;-)

  • Guy,

    Your opening paragraph says it all:

    ‘How far will we go to secure energy? Clearly, to the ends of the Earth. And perhaps even to the end of the (living) world. Judging from their actions, most people I know are more to committed maintaining their imperial lifestyles than in maintaining the lives of their children. Take a look around and tell me that isn’t how we managed to find ourselves in this dire array of interconnected predicaments. Empathy is so rare we treat it as a treasure. Which it is.’

    We are creatures of the highest intelligence without a strategy, driven by deep primordial insecurities – a toxic combination.


    You have a knack for putting things succinctly…well done. I agree with all that you say. The scenario you describe seems to be one where civilisation is literally driven to excess.

  • As I have indicated on numerous occasions, the complexity of our just-in-time society is also its greatest weakness, it’s Achilles’ Heel. The earthquake in Japan is just a small reminder of the truth of this statement as it exposes the tender underbelly of the global supply chain:

    A quote from the article (recall the 20% of the 20% of critical industries I was talking about?):

    ‘It could shut down an entire industry’

    “When it comes to the supply base companies tend to focus on the level below them,” A.T. Kearney’s Cheng said. “It’s simply time consuming and cost prohibitive to go deeper than that across your supply base.”

    Barry Tarnef, a senior risk specialist at property insurer Chubb Corp, said the murky nature of the supply base may mask the fact that somewhere down the chain a company may “control the lion’s share of the market.”

    “If something happens to that one company it could shut down an entire industry,” he said.

  • Monk

    Casino Game indeed! We are becoming addicted to gambling at the expense of everything else as pointed out by Guy and Kevin. 30 years ago the financial services sector of the US economy represented less that 20% of the total. Today, it is more like 40%. The stakes get higher and we keep placing more and more of our collective wealth on the table.

    And if we are to accept what Guy is saying, we have not only antied up our entire future as a civilisation, but that of our children and their children as well in our madness to live the “good life”.

  • And now to the subject of nuclear power technology. There has been a lot of scaremongering over the last week or so since the Fukushima reactor mess. And I know a lot of you are not fans of nuclear energy at all. And actually neither am I (at least of current implementations), but I suspect for entirely different reasons than yourselves. I would ask you to step back a moment and consider what has really happened in the last week.

    We have a nuclear power plant composed of not 1 but 6 reactors of older nuclear plant architectural design which after sustaining heavy damage from a huge earthquake and a tsunami far greater than they were designed for, have come through this most harsh of natural tests with flying colours. Are you crazy, you might ask? Not at all. Look at the statistics. No nuclear fuel has breached their containment at this date. The reactors are now cooling a bit after a peak radiation level over the last week of approximately 400msv/hr – an incredibly low emission rate given the potential – and certainly nowhere near Chernobyl which exposed its first-responders to over 25Sv/hr (not milli sieverts!). That emission only lasted a few moments and has since died to around 265 msv/hr – at the core of the site! At the boundary of the site, the level of radiation is only a trifle 0.17 msv/hr. And beyond that, far less. 100 msv/hr apparently is the threshold level where exposure becomes statistically significant as a cause of future cancers, at least as I understand it.

    There is a lot of hype and scaremongering over nukes because of our innate fear of the unknown and the mystery imposed by “radiation”. I would encourage you to read the following to get an idea of where we really stand at the moment from an alternate view of the world:

    A presentation given by Prof. Ben Monreal
    UCSB Department of Physics:

    From the Kyodo news:

    From The Register:

    This, of course, might not change your mind about nuclear power plants, but you can’t say that you weren’t made aware the other side of these issues after you finish reading… ;-)

  • Victor, thanks for the link about just-in-time production. I think your 20/20 prediction has a lot of merit.

    I have a friend who works in pig genetics. They were able to get word from a pig breeder they deal with in Japan. He was OK but was about to have problems getting feed. What to do? Slaughter the young underweight pigs so you can have enough feed for your breed sows? Most breeders are probably not set up for slaughter, and even if they did it, their is the problem of getting that meat to market.

    When the world was populated with small time pig farmers, the solution to not having enough feed was kill those you need to kill and put them up in your smoke house….

    Lack of redundancy is a far far bigger problem in our globalized world than anyone can fully grasp.

  • I suspect many things will now go wrong with our just in time strategy. Don’t expect to read about it in the news. We will find it out by not finding things in the stores. We should alert each other as we notice.

    Via Japan Today: Kaieda sorry for reportedly ‘forcing’ firefighters to carry out water-spraying mission. Excerpt:

    Industry minister Banri Kaieda apologized Tuesday over reports that he threatened to ‘‘punish’’ firefighters if they did not carry out an operation to spray water toward a quake-hit nuclear reactor building in Fukushima Prefecture.
    He refrained from admitting whether he actually made such remarks, but told a press conference, ‘‘If my remarks offended firefighters…I would like to apologize on that point.’‘
    The move came after Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara on Monday lodged a protest with Prime Minister Naoto Kan over the ‘‘forcing’’ of Tokyo Fire Department members dispatched to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to engage in an hours-long water-spraying mission and referring to ‘‘punishment’’ if they refused the task.
    According to Ishihara, Kan apologized over the matter. Ishihara said that he did not know who actually said so, but sources close to the metropolitan government said Kaieda made the remarks.

  • “Empathy is so rare we treat it as a treasure. Which it is.”

    I think the number of people in the world, and the number most people interact with stretches our ability to empathize. As folks here know, I am extremely frustrated with the lack of knowledge about the suffering in the world, much of it to supply our need for big screen TV’s cell phones, fruit in any season at cheap prices, cheap shoes, etc etc etc etc. Heck I understand. Having empathy for the poor, the used of the world is a heavy burden and you don’t get invited to many parties if you keep talking about it (oh well never liked parties anyway). But in fact having empathy for kin and tribe is what we are wired for and should be expected. Trouble for Americans is that kin and even tribe (town you grew up in) are often all over the map. And the corporate propaganda has made “greed is good” into the 11th Commandment.

    Still I remembered this morning that after 9/11 first responders, some who were not even on call came and risked their lives – they didn’t know they were also risking their future health (with no help from the government who praised their deeds).

    Tom Paxton wrote a song about them. Worth a listen

    Lyrics to The Bravest : Tom Paxton
    The first plane hit the other tower, right after I came in.
    It left a gaping, fiery hole where offices had been.
    We’d stood and watched in horror, as we saw the first ones fall,
    Then someone yelled “Get out, get out! They’re trying to kill us all!”

    I grabbed the pictures from my desk and joined the flight for life.
    With every step I called the names of my children and my wife,
    And then we heard them coming, from several floors below,
    A crowd of firefighters with their heavy gear in tow

    Now every time I try to sleep, I’m haunted by the sound
    Of firemen pounding up the stairs, while we were running down.

    When we met them on the stairs, they said we were too slow.
    “Get out, get out!” they yelled at us, “The whole thing’s gonna go!”
    They didn’t have to tell us twice, we’d seen the world on fire.
    We kept on running down the stairs, while they kept climbing higher.


    Thank God we made it to the street; we ran through ash and smoke.
    I did not know which way to run; I thought that I would choke.
    A fireman took me by the arm and pointed me uptown,
    Then “Christ!” I heard him whisper, as the tower came pounding down.


    So now I go to funerals for men I never knew;
    The pipers play “Amazing Grace”, as the coffins come in view.
    They must have seen it coming when they turned to face the fire.
    They sent us down to safety, then they kept on climbing higher.

  • Citi strategist Guillermo Felices acknowledges eight black swans but fails to recognize they are inextricably interconnected (still, not bad):

  • Lloyd’s Warns of Perils Related to Electric Grid Transformer Failure

    Transformers are an essential part of the power grid that supplies electricity to homes, offices and factories. However Lloyd’s described them as a “potential weak links in the grid. If one fails the entire network is rendered vulnerable. “If a power surge occurs across the network, knocking out a number of transformers, the electrical grid could be crippled for months, even years.”…For all of their importance, Lloyd’s pointed out that the “number of new transformers built around the world each year is less than 100 and manufacturers are weighed down by orders from India, China, Latin America and the Middle East, where new electrical grids are being built to cope with the booming demand for power. Shortages in the supply of copper, a vital component in the manufacture of transformers, have caused further delays and the cost to spiral.”…
    It goes on to mention EMP attacks and geomagnetic storms as the more worrisome of situations.

    Lack of redundancy and just in time inventory are one of our Achilles heels.

  • Victor,

    Monbiot=I’ll embrace anything that allows us to continue BAU.

    Mark Lynas calls Fukushima a non-event “my earlier prediction that there would be no significant risk to any members of the public – and no radiation-related deaths or injuries amongst the workforce – seem to have been borne out by events.
    And seven recent posts on his blog = nuclear, nuclear, nuclear, nuclear, nuclear, nuclear, and nuclear.

    I think I hear you saying, “Nuclear, you’ve got to love it. It’s like magic!”

    I hear exactly the same kind of talk coming from the folks that deny climate change, and think we should “Drill baby, drill.” In another day we heard the same rationale used by the tobacco companies, and the folks who brought us DDT. We hear the same tune about Roundup Ready seed from the company that brought us Agent Orange.

    “(You) doth protest too much, methinks.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael

    No, I a not a fan of nuclear power, esp that powered by uranium. What I was going on about was all the scaremongering and over-hype. I believe that it is not in anyone’s interest to encourage misinformation and hype over any technology. People are really very fearful of this for all the wrong reasons, and many are full of fear when stories come over the MSM and other sources about meltdowns and the like. If you are going to be against a technology, be against it for the right reasons, and don’t get taken in and unduly frightened by misinformation. The Fukushima incident has been hugely over-hyped.

  • More empathy at work

    A group of boys has taken it upon themselves to scavenge for food and supplies among the debris in Taro, where their village once stood. They have been able to provide some relief to hundreds of survivors sheltered at a nearby Buddhist temple. Al Jazeera’s Steve Chao reports on their inspiring deeds from Morioka in northern Japan.

    vid at

    I think that these types events are more likely to provoke caring, because and end is believed to be in sight and people have hope. When we slide into collapse, it may be harder after a while for people to act selflessly, especially when it becomes clear that the direction is down, and then down some more.

  • Victor, first a confession I didn’t read the links you posted with your nuclear power tech post. I am interested to know what you would say are the ‘right’ reasons to be against nuclear tech. As Guy mentioned in his essay cold beer and hot pizza aren’t going to make the list.

  • Victor,

    You’re right of course. There is no danger to anyone but the workers at the plant. The Japanese in particular should know that the danger is almost nil. They of all people should know that only 650 people died of cancer from the Hiroshima bomb. And what was the official death toll resulting from Chernobyl, 57? Probably a higher percentage dies from medical X-rays. Put that together with the second link Guy has provided in this post. Can we name one person who died from those accidents? I think not. I’m glad you weren’t fooled by all the hype.

    So should we take from this that it is best to believe the opposite of what the MSM is saying? How do you come down on health issues for Gulf Coast residents in the wake of the BP blowout? What would constitute scaremongering and over-hype regarding climate change or peak oil? How do you suggest we winnow the wheat from the chaff? It is a great benefit, is it not, to be half-a-world away and to have the benefit of hindsight?

    Michael Irving

  • Sarah

    Nuclear technology, the uranium version, like fossil fuel technology is based on a non-renewable resource of which we have only about 80 years worth left – less than that if all planned nuclear projects go forward.

    Secondly, nuclear power stations can not be built and commissioned fast enough to overcome the time window we are working against. To replace coal and natural gas would take many, many years. We simply do not have that kind of time before CO2 levels from burning fossil fuels are completely out of control.

    Further, nuclear contributes towards a false sense of security for humanity. Solving the electricity problem is not solving the oil problem. All the things we rely upon for oil and will miss when oil is gone will still be there even if we completely converted to nuclear.

    And even if we did convert to nuclear completely, it would provide humanity with the means to extend civilisation – this is something that will be bad for the natural world as well as those who hope to survive the Collapse.

  • Michael

    I don’t have a nice clean answer for you, I fear. Separating the wheat from the chaff is always hard work and demands that one consult many different sources and try to come to a reasonable conclusion based upon fact, not hype. How to tell fact from hype? You can’t always. But you can probably get a bit closer to the truth by listening to the experts in that area rather than reporters and talking heads. Experts generally rely upon data gathered from measurement – it is difficult to argue with the data – though many do…. ;-)

  • Victor, there are experts who are in the pay of interested parties, and there are experts who are not. You have to sort that out first. Monsanto has experts that say Roundup is perfectly safe. I have read other experts that say hell no. I have often thought it funny that we never trusted anything the Soviets said except their low estimates of deaths at Chernobyl
    Per wiki From 1969 to 1978 Dr. RosalieBertell was senior cancer research scientist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. She has also been a consultant to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and to Health Canada.[1] In 1983 she received the Hans-Adalbert Schweigart Medal from the World Union for Protection of Life. Bertell was president of International Institute of Concern for Public Health from 1987 to 2004.She founded the ‘International Medical Commission Chernobyl’ in 1996 and also International Medical Commission Bhopal 1994.

    She comes up with the following figures
    • 253 due to direct radiation damage
    • 904,763 to 1,809,515 due to fatal cancers

    By the way I spent most of my life doing accounting – I can tell you that data manipulation is not all that hard. At my bosses’ requests I did it many a time. Nothing illegal, but then look at Enron’s data manipulation.

  • I love how these guys tell the dirty truth and then try to sugar coat its meaning.
    The United States is on a fiscal path towards insolvency and policymakers are at a “tipping point,” a Federal Reserve official said on Tuesday.

    “If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent, the question is when,” Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said in a question and answer session after delivering a speech at the University of Frankfurt. “The short-term negotiations are very important, I look at this as a tipping point.”

    But he added he was confident in the Americans’ ability to take the right decisions and said the country would avoid insolvency.

  • Kathy,

    I really admire the work you do here. Thank you.

  • i second what curtis just said.

    as is often the case with this blog, i’m about a day behind in reading, so i’ll comment briefly upon a few of yesterday’s posts. thanks for the pdf link to the book on authoritarianism, redreamer. i’ve just read the first 29 pages, looks worthwhile to continue. not that i expect any miraculous revelations, but anything which sheds some light on ‘authority’ and it’s worshippers interests me.

    curtis, your warning to kathy and i re. chap.4 of this book made me laugh. obviously u know this pushes my/our? buttons.

    ‘authority’/hierarchy seem to be a defining characteristic of civilization. if more sheople had the intelligence and desire to think rationally for themselves, i don’t think we’d be in this nightmare. as the book points out, authority worshippers (my term) also tend to be mean spirited and violence prone. as a result i look forward to collapse, if it means the end of ‘authority’. perhaps in it’s absence, human nature will improve.

  • Kathy

    Good point about the experts. If I find a particular expert works for the company being questioned, I have a tendency to avoid and seek others outside. But that is not always possible either. Let’s face it. Sometimes it means simply gathering all the evidence and opinion one can on a subject, looking at both sides of an issue and making a personal evaluation of its worth. Not so scientific, but it makes me feel a bit better knowing I put an honest effort into my opinion.

    I can, however, never stipulate in those cases, however, that my opinion is anything other opinion…

  • vt

    ‘i look forward to collapse, if it means the end of ‘authority’. perhaps in it’s absence, human nature will improve.’

    I personally believe humans are “wired” for authority and hierarchy, and I wish I could agree that human nature is capable of “improving”…but unfortunately, one’s nature is just that – one’s nature. A dog has no chance or desire to take on the nature of a cat (and I can assure you, the reverse is most certainly true!). And to hope that a dog improves its nature is like asking the dog to become more of a dog….not likely…;-)

  • Kathy

    As Curtis has rightly surmised, you are a fountain of information and more importantly, good sense. Thanks from me as well.

  • Kathy

    The Bertell report you referenced above is useful to gain a view of the opinion of people who disagree with the “official” estimates of deaths over Chernobyl. Frankly, I am of the opinion that deaths due to Chernobyl was likely something between. The report, upon reading it, appears to be highly emotive throughout, admits to the impossibility of gaining a true picture of the deaths from Cherobyl, but then goes on to present an elaborate statistical review of results the report itself indicates are sketchy at best given the available data (which was very little unfortunately). To her credit she admits to assumption after assumption, but in the end it is clear the report is meant to drive home the pre-determined opinion of the author.

    Cherobyl is an exceptional case any way you look at it. Poor architecture – not even a containment facility for the reactor! – poor plant management, faulty and missing records. The deaths from Chernobyl will never be known. And any opinion anyone offers to this effect is just that – rough opinion.

    You would think that if her conclusions were so valid that half of Europe would be up in arms and standing behind her with their data. But I just don’t see where this has happened. It might be because the nuclear industry has all these governments in its pocket, but really, does that sound feasible?

    I’m not saying the report does not contain truth, but I seriously doubt its total veracity.

  • Kathy

    As an added note to the above, I must admit to being quite intrigued with one of her statements in the report where she estimates the bulk of the deaths:

    ‘If we include the whole population of Europe in 1986
    (minus the eight selected out) and assume 1 mSv effective
    dose, as an average per person to all not in this subgroup,
    from the Chernobyl fallout, we can estimate 887,819 to
    1,775,638 fatal cancers.’

    From my readings, it seems to be accepted among scientists that cancer rates are not statistically significant below 100 mSv. Here, the author is admitting that her results are based upon a 1 mSv rate, far below the accepted minimum threshold of statistical significance, it would appear to me. Sorry, but I simply can not accept accept such numbers, and I suspect this is why others have not accepted them as well.

    My gut feel (and that is all it is) is that the deaths from Chernobyl were higher than the official reports, but not not anywhere near the Bertell estimate.

  • Victor, I don’t know enough on the subject myself to say whether Bertel is right or not. But she has the bonfides to be an “expert”. She also has an anti nuke agenda. Others are also “experts” and have other agendas. Data can be bent one way or another, and selected to suit one’s purposes.

    One of the reasons I early on was more interested in Colin Campbell’s data on remaining oil vs. say the IEA or DOE was that he was retired and therefore seemingly did not have a personal agenda to mis-represent.

    I think your gut feeling is right.

    As for the MSM, well they are a piece of work are they not, selling entertainment more than information…. On that we agree for sure.

  • Curtis, thanks. The one thing I will really miss after the crash is Google.
    Seconding Terry, you do understand well what pushes my buttons. But reading something that points out problems with mindless religious belief is for me more of a valium than requiring one. Facing a vast number of people who mindlessly follow the stories they were fed as children, it is soothing to read the other side and not feel alone. :) I love the bit on Oral Roberts at the end of the chapter. Page 159 at the link redreamer supplied
    I actually wrote this before, but then hit some wrong button and lost my comment before submitting and was too tired at the time to re-write it then forgot later. I google with ease but remember things with great difficulty :)

    BTW here is a little known passage from Proverbs 31 – which I interpret to mean good Christians and Jews should start a ministry of wine to the downtrodden. Gallo for God? Amazing things in the Bible if you actually read the whole thing instead of letting the preacher pick for you. I have never yet heard a sermon on these verses. Another ministry could be founded on these verses – Booze free Washington.

    1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

    2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

    3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

    4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

    5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

    6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

    7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

  • I seem to have come back to this discussion late again, so tell me if you don’t think this is relevant anymore.

    Victor, I vehemently disagree with you that it is impossible for humans to change their nature as though we were “dogs” and “cats.”

    Think about the implications if that were true. If it were true, we would be no different than beasts in the jungle, either slaughtering each other or being slaughtered in return, our minds unable to think of anything but food.

    But BECAUSE we are capable of self-reflection and commitment to ideals, we can have musicals, warm hugs, friends sitting around a table to eat, books to read, and those few schools left in this country that try to teach kids decency instead of letting them clobber each other.

    It most certainly is not “impossible” for human beings to change their mean-spirited nature.

    Or else, Victor, we would not be here, talking about this. Or else, Victor, Guy McPherson would not have been able to quit the industrial civilized life and write such intelligent articles.

    I apologize, am I out of line?

  • I think everyone, no matter how weak your stomach, should read the latest article by Chris Hedges.
    It starts
    “Jess Goodell enlisted in the Marines immediately after she graduated from high school in 2001. She volunteered three years later to serve in the Marine Corps’ first officially declared Mortuary Affairs unit, at Camp Al Taqaddum in Iraq. Her job, for eight months, was to collect and catalog the bodies and personal effects of dead Marines”
    It is not pleasant to hear about scooping up body parts with your hands because the flesh no longer holds them together. It is not pleasant to know that this is how many of our soldiers in the US end up. While the article doesn’t mention that the same fate is met by many more Iraqi’s that is of course the case. We need to understand how absolutely horrific war is and how immoral it is for us to inflict it on other countries for the sake of our oil addiction. And we need to remember that although we have not had war on our soil since the Civil War, we are not immune.

  • Cosmist, this line from your post above sounds like THE perfect prologue to paolo bacigalupi’s’ “People of Sand and Slag.”

    “The die-off will simply be the inevitable culmination of our tool-using intelligence applied to the evolutionary process itself. What will emerge on the other side of the bottleneck are super-intelligent machines engineered in our last days to utilize our planetary and extra-planetary resources efficiently and flexibly…”

    It could be the speech a century or two earlier than the story itself, given by the president of Weeviltech. You should contact Paolo and see if he would like to add your vision to his story.

  • Victor,

    “You would think that if her conclusions were so valid that half of Europe would be up in arms and standing behind her with their data.”

    Not necessarily. I think history shows, even now, in Japan, ME, NA, US, that a variety of outrages can be almost daily occurrences, and we continue to drink the koolaid. Not enough people understand data. Trouble has to be in your face and immediate. We really have to be pushed to the edge before we push back. Authority, political and religious, has a vested interest, all resources, and 100% dedication toward keeping us under control. They work at it 24/7/365. Don’t forget it.

  • “Weird.”

    Jaak said, “I think I might have broken it when I put it in the cage.” He studied it seriously. “It’s not moving like it was before. And I heard something snap when I stuffed it in.”


    Jaak shrugged. “I don’t think it’s healing.”

    The dog did look kind of beat up. It just lay there, its sides going up and down like a bellows. Its eyes were half-open, but didn’t seem to be focused on any of us. When Jaak made a sudden movement, it twitched for a second, but it didn’t get up. It didn’t even growl.

    Jaak said, “I never thought an animal could be so fragile.”

    “You’re fragile, too. That’s not such a big surprise.”

    “Yeah, but I only broke a couple bones on it, and now look at it. It just lies there and pants.”

    Lisa frowned thoughtfully. “It doesn’t heal.” She climbed awkwardly to her feet and went to peer into the cage. Her voice was excited. “It really is a dog. Just like we used to be. It could take weeks for it to heal. One broken bone, and it’s done for.”

    She reached a razored hand into the cage and sliced a thin wound into its shank. Blood oozed out, and kept oozing. It took minutes for it to begin clotting. The dog lay still and panted, clearly wasted.

    She laughed. “It’s hard to believe we ever lived long enough to evolve out of that. If you chop off its legs, they won’t regrow.” She cocked her head, fascinated. “It’s as delicate as rock. You break it, and it never comes back together.” She reached out to stroke the matted fur of the animal…”

  • A couple thoughts on the discussions here . . .

    Some interesting studies in the last few decades show that ones predisposition to be religious is determined genetically. Some 90-95% of us have at least one “god gene” allele. My own personal feeling is that I have only one such allele. The studies I have seen have a very loose definition of religion, e.g., an theist who believes in ESP would be considered religious. However, it seems that at some point in our evolution, genetic selection for “god” was favored. So while we may not understand religious belief, or find it distasteful, etc., many, many people are religious in some fashion because they are genetically programmed to be receptive to it, and will even invent it if none is at hand.

    On changing our nature; as a gay person, this has particular resonance for me, as I suspect you all can imagine. It’s important to define what you mean when you use that word. To me, nature is the very core of our primitive psyche. It includes our instincts, our most basic fears and desires, our drive to survive and procreate, our sexuality, among other things. Ample scientific evidence indicates that human beings cannot change their natures. It is who we are. That being said, all of us should be able to control our actions such that we can behave contrary to our nature. In fact, we do it all day long.

    I agree with Victor that it is in humans (collective) nature to have authority and hierarchy. It has existed in some form or another in every culture ever discovered or studied. Imagine finding a bee colony without structure or hierarchy. I suspect there wouldn’t be a hive in such a case, just a disorganized group of bees hanging out slowly starving to death. I hate to put words in anyone’s mouth, but perhaps what The Virgin Terry was referring to was the collapse of large, overarching authority. It seems certain that institutional authority will disappear after collapse because of the energy it takes to keep such systems afloat. But, I suspect any group with more than two or three people will have some sort of hierarchy and/or authority system.

    One final point: nature is individual. Many traits apply to the group, but each person has his or her own nature. Consequently, the group’s nature can change as evolution selects for various traits. So, conceivably, if all those whose nature it is to have authoritative systems die during collapse, then perhaps those who follow us will be completely structure free. It would be an interesting group(?) to study.

    Disclaimer: while I have studied anthropology, psychology, and several other ologies, those of you who have done advanced work in these subjects, please correct and contradict me if I’ve misspoken. :-)

  • Librarian, I used to think that humans could change their behavior and in some cases it seems they do. But during the Inquisition the rack was used to get heretics and witches to confess and name others. During the McCarthy era threats of loss of liberty and livelihood were used and so it seemed we took a little step up. But here we are the grand USA, pioneer of freedom and democracy using torture to get confessions and to get names named.

    Likewise stock bubbles are nothing new. “Among the bubbles or financial manias described by Mackay are the South Sea Company bubble of 1711–1720, the Mississippi Company bubble of 1719–1720, and the Dutch tulip mania of the early seventeenth century” And yet we do bubbles over and over.

    I am almost done reading Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (written in mid 1800’s). If we change, why do so many things detailed sound familiar. The Crusades – remember GWB describing our activities in Iraq as a crusade. No doubt many of the rapture ready Christians really view it in that light. I recently had a christian tell me about attending an exorcism and how she knew it was real because the exorcised hollered out in a very low voice. We will soon be back to burning witches I fear.

    Well I keep posting David Rovic lyrics for a reason – he really sees things as they are

    Lyrics to After We Torture Our Prisoners :

    We’ll get rid of the dictator, rebuild your country
    Make sure all your kids go to school
    We’ll clean up the cities, get the sewage plants running
    Institute parliamentary rule
    We’ll bring you autonomy, senators and judges
    And a shiny new blue banner
    We’ll bring you pride and prosperity, food in your bellies
    In every home a phone, fax and scanner
    After we torture our prisoners

    We’ll bring you decades of peace, spiritual release
    Free religious expression
    You can say what you want in the papers you run
    We’ll never force a confession
    After we torture our prisoners

    The oil will flow just where it should go
    Across the desert and into the sea
    And you’ll thank your God and the CIA
    That finally you are free
    After we torture our prisoners

    You’ll all be safe with us to protect you
    And keep you out of harm’s way
    You’ll thank creation and your liberation
    From the dark into a new day
    After we torture our prisoners

    You can all jump for joy, each girl and boy
    And look boldly into the distance
    You’ll be so happy for all that we’ve done
    For such invaluable assistance
    After we torture our prisoners

    You won’t have to worry about tyrants and bullies
    Now that you have sovereignty
    You can hold your head high, kiss Saddam goodbye
    Say hello to democracy
    After we torture our prisoners

  • Librarian

    Perhaps you are right. But I do not believe the history of our species would support that thesis. Yes, we are capable of self-reflection that enables us to change our behaviour, but as a species, that well-intentioned behavioural change is invariably corrupted over time. That corruption does not take place because there is some outside force responsible, but because there is an inward force. And it is that inward force that constitutes part of the negative aspect of humankind.

    You mentioned animals “slaughtering each other”. My experience is that animals do not “slaughter” – they kill just enough to ensure meat to live. It is humans who willingly, with pre-meditation slaughter each other. Another aspect of their nature borne out by history.

  • Curtis

    You might well be correct. There is indeed an element of the herd mentality here. My point is – we shall never know – because the “data” doesn’t support any particular position.

  • As usual, Dr. House puts it so well.

  • I still disagree with you, Victor.

    If well-meaning individual change is inevitably corrupted over time, then why are you here?

    What about you, Victor? If you have the intellectual capacity to understand Guy McPherson, YOU clearly haven’t been corrupted.

    So aren’t you a counterexample to your own argument?

    Aren’t all of us counterexamples?

    Aren’t my parents and grandparents counterexamples, who have consistently dedicated their whole lives to the service of others, including my mother’s mother who is well into her 80’s and still works in health care?

    If human nature can’t be changed, why do we have so many nice and smart people along with the bad ones?

  • Librarian “If human nature can’t be changed, why do we have so many nice and smart people along with the bad ones?”

    I think environment brings out different aspects of human nature. I don’t think we are more smart then our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we just have learned different skill sets and knowledge bases. Hunter-gatherers needed to get along, have tribal unity, share different skills to survive. Thus within the tribe there would be much “good” and what we might call “bad” would be reserved for other threatening tribes. We haven’t had much time to evolve so we have the same programs in a different setting. They tend not to work well.

    I consider our willful ignorance of how our wants in the US have created slaves, poverty, etc as a sign that we have not improved. We think well of ourselves because we do not have to see the carnage our government and out government supported life style create.

  • Kathy,

    “Librarian, I used to think that humans could change their behavior and in some cases it seems they do. But during the Inquisition the rack was used to get heretics and witches to confess and name others. During the McCarthy era threats of loss of liberty and livelihood were used and so it seemed we took a little step up. But here we are the grand USA, pioneer of freedom and democracy using torture to get confessions and to get names named.”

    NO! Kathy, speak for yourself. You by be using torture to get confessions, I am not! You may be buying into the idea that because you are part of America you are culpable for all of its sins, I am not! I am not any more than the entire population of Spain was responsible for the Inquisition, or all Catholics, for that matter. Take that on, if you wish, but I choose not to. I choose not to buy into the idea that I am guilty for the anti-human/inhuman/inhumane actions of TPTB simply because of the accident of my birth. I also refuse to feel guilty because I am not Mother Theresa.

    Yes, I’m accusing you of painting with too broad a brush.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael,

    Sorry for sounding condemning. Long years of studying sins of omission via my Lutheran background forms my way of speaking. The point I meant to make is that I don’t think the world has improved. During the Inquisition only some people caused that but we continue to have Inquistions caused by some people. So we are not an Inquistionless world. We are not in a world without child labor. We are not in a world without famine. And it seems that the US is going back on its temporary improvements on shore to make on shore look more like the conditions off shore.

    Perhaps the better point is if humanity has improved why is the world heading to ecological disaster?

    I’m sorry, no blame, just reality. The world IMHO is NOT a better place. It was a better place perhaps before agriculture. At least we could do less damage and having less humans there were less who died by the stone axe.

  • Again, and perhaps I should have been clearer, I am talking about humanity as a species, not individuals, or groups, or even nations. Humanity as a species is not only of corrupt nature but is devouring the world. With all the best intent in the world, we can not change the course of history, or the future our species. We will not obtain Nirvana as a species. We will not re-create Eden. We will not have lasting peace as a species. We will not clean up the environment. No matter our collective intent.

    This was not meant as a body slam against any of you or yours as individuals. It is a trait that the species organism possesses inherently. Our behaviour in groups can, and often is, entirely different than our behaviour as individuals. And our behaviour as a species is even different yet. Is that wrong? No, it is just the way we are.

    By our association with the species we share the guilt for the actions of that species. When you partake of the fruits of civilisation – and please do not tell me that any of you do not – we are participating in the sins of the species, are we not? By purchasing shoes made in Asia you are supporting financially the most egregious of human working conditions. The same is true of the purchase of any number of modern technologies – in doing so, you support economic slavery, the oppression of untold numbers of people, the deforestation of primal forests, the destruction of biodiversity, global warming, resource wars, the whole lot.

    We can’t help that, you might say. What is our alternative? You could move to Bangladesh or India or the poorest areas of America or wherever you live, and share their lifestyle, thereby minimising your impact as an individual member of the species. Or you could buy a piece of land, build your own cabin on it, forsake electricity and plumbing, grow your own food and animals, and generally disconnect with the grid, as they say. No, you might say – that would be most impractical as I do not have the skills to do that sort of thing.

    But in saying that, you are making a wilful choice – you are really saying that you accept the terms and conditions of modern civilisation, do you not? So when you purchase your next car or bicycle, or hop on the bus, or buy new clothes, or even food at your local supermarket, remember this – no matter how saintly I am, no matter how small my carbon print or how charitable my works, I am willingly contributing to the sins of my species because I choose to live this way.

    Funny thing about a global supply chain. There are two ends of it – the source end and the consumer end. Without both ends it could not possibly exist. You are part of the consumer end, like it or not. And it really doesn’t matter if you like it or not, or if you think you would die without participating – the bottom line is that you are participating, and doing so willingly for your own reasons at the expense of the natural world and of oppressed people everywhere.

    Any other rationale that would act to alleviate you of guilt in this would be just that – rationalisation to ease your conscience. I accept my role in the greater scheme. I am resigned to it. I admit to a lack of moral courage to exit the system knowing that I would die in the process. I’m weak. I want to live. But in doing so I have to live with the knowledge that every day I willingly contribute in some small way to the problems of the world. This is another reason why I believe that Collapse is the only way to assure our descendants and the remaining natural world of continued existence.

    Collapse takes that decision to disconnect out of my hands in a socially and ecologically acceptable way.

  • Redreamer: Thanks for the book.

    Curtis A. Heretic: Thanks for the suggestion to read Chapter 4. I did that first: I consider myself to be a religious fundamentalist (believing that every sentient being has in full measure innate awareness, though dormant in most – to use a hackneyed phrase, the “Buddha Nature”) but that chapter takes a different view of fundamentalism.

    Most people can not:
    Recognize that there is neither an “individual” nor an “universal” self – and that it has to be both or neither.

    we, as a species, will not give up the modern “conveniences” that enslave us and diminish the quality of our lives and the capacity of the planet to sustain us.

    In the early days of the antibiotic treatment of tuberculosis, streptomycin was a first-line antibiotic for this purpose. However, by growing the bacteria in the laboratory in gradually increasing concentrations of streptomycin, not only streptomycin-resistant but even streptomycin-dependent strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, were produced. When providing a substrate that is a promoter rather than an inhibitor, the dependence is so much the easier to attain.

    What will emerge on the other side of the bottleneck are super-intelligent machines engineered in our last days to utilize our planetary and extra-planetary resources efficiently and flexibly.

    Intelligence and rationality can achieve much, but in themselves they do not provide the ultimate rationale for why it all has to be done: such values come from the domain of affect and aesthetics – emotion and virtue. One has to postulate a universal set of these, applicable both to machine and human – and then program those machines appropriately to continue our trend. But would that be a wise choice from a broader perspective?

    Lack of redundancy is a far far bigger problem in our globalized world than anyone can fully grasp.

    Lack of redundancy leads to lack of resiliency, which impairs survivability, which in turn is needed for adaptability to changing circumstances.

    All the things we rely upon for oil and will miss when oil is gone will still be there even if we completely converted to nuclear.

    Not quite clear on the meaning of this: would commercial aviation be an exception?

  • ‘All the things we rely upon for oil and will miss when oil is gone will still be there even if we completely converted to nuclear.

    Not quite clear on the meaning of this: would commercial aviation be an exception?’


    It wasn’t very clear. What I meant is that if we converted completely to nuclear to supply our electricity needs, we would still be left with the problems to be brought about by peak oil. In other words, it would solve only part of the problem we face.

  • I apologize, Victor, I didn’t mean to judge you.

    The reason I’m frustrated is because I grew up in a family and area where humans are good. My family taught me to appreciate reading and intelligence. I’ve been reading books my whole life. We sometimes went to plays together.

    Sometimes, I go to museums and look at paintings.

    But I’ve also seen that much of humanity intentionally “throws its values away,” and that frustrates me, mostly from a historical perspective.

    People in the ancient city-states of Greece would have given their eyeballs for documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of Independence, etc., that theoretically should have made it possible for us to live on this planet without war.

    People in Greece would have given their eyeballs to live in a world where their children didn’t have to kill each other.

    But because of necessity, it took a thousand years for men like John Stuart Mill and others to intellectually justify such ideas as human rights, world peace, etc. that would have made such a world possible.

    And then somewhere along the line, either in the British industrial revolution or in the American transformation to consumerism, we suddenly got deluged with a majority of the populace that intentionally THREW THAT AWAY.

    I’ve spoken to people who think it’s good that our kids (just for one example) fight each other in schools since it prepares them for “life as competition, where everyone is your enemy.”

    I don’t think many people really grasp the significance of this transformation. Most people in the ancient eras were working their intellectual asses off for an attempt to cure the world’s ills, only for billions of us not only here but in China, Japan, etc. to NOT WANT a world without war or endless competition!

    To give another example, great authors like Rudyard Kipling and Ralph Waldo Emerson would have given their eyeballs to try to live in a world where they didn’t have to witness their children die from disease at age one year old.

    Well now we have advanced medicine and could have made that dream a reality, but we’re deluged with right-wingers who think that medicine should only be for the rich, that medicine must be paid for!

    Are you starting to see a pattern? We always had the capacity to live in a brighter and more humane world, and we actually came close to it in recent centuries, but for various reasons most of our fellow man intentionally THREW THOSE DREAMS AWAY, all because of their idiotic fixation with “competition” and “success” and “being number one” and an absolute hostility to any idea of the common good!

    That is what frustrates me more than anything else. We DID have an opportunity to create a brighter and more humane place to live, an opportunity not enjoyed at ANY OTHER TIME in human history due to people being unable to intellectually imagine, until the 1700’s, a world NOT divided into masters and slaves, but somewhere along the lines most of our comrades decided that life should be patterned after the behavior of vicious animals, and that somehow people who try to make the world a better place need to “grow up.”

    Read history and literature and you may see where I’m coming from. Read about their DREAMS, especially. Read the accounts of a peasant feudal serf who wishes of a world where she could be free. Read the actual writings of our Founding Fathers, who while not perfect at least desired a world where men did not rule each other, a world that had been impossible obtain in royalty-dominated Europe or dynasty-dominated Asia.

    And then, think about what people dream of in the present, intentionally sending our kids to school to “learn how to take orders at their jobs” or intentionally sending our elderly to broken-down nursing homes…

    Frankly, all of this makes me so angry I can barely refrain from yelling.

    And I don’t know what to do. I went to library school in hopes that being a custodian of human knowledge, reminding humans of where they came from and what the purpose of human life was for thousands of years, reminding humans of what progress we’ve actually made and what we could lose, I thought that would FIX things.

    But if people like John Michael Greer are right, if we inevitably return to a feudal society, if life becomes so much obsessed with work that all possibility of honoring the “inner life” and “curiosity” are extinguished in the newfound struggle for survival…

    …then it will have happened because despite all my best efforts, the majority of human beings love being enslaved, love being worked like mules, love being incurious and abandoning their weaker relatives to die from disease unlike Kipling who mourned over his child…they’ll have won.

    Humane values will have been tossed aside like trash.

    And I don’t know how to deal with that. It makes me so mad that I want to punch something, but I was brought up too polite to do that.

    We had an opportunity for curiosity, the inner life, compassion, freedom, etc., that no society in human history ever achieved, but not many people WANT it anymore.

    So if I sounded idealistic to you, Victor, it’s because I have to be. I have to be idealistic and focus on the good, because if not enough people like me do that, it will be LOST.

    The ability of an innocent child to discover what makes the plants grow, to satisfy his curiosity, will be lost.

    Our ability to compassionately heal the sick and in pain will be lost.

    Our capacity to not react to a grieving widow with cries of “deal with it” and “suck it up” will be lost.

    And I REFUSE to accept that, but I don’t know how to teach people who don’t want to learn, and yet the only way we can reverse our course is to…you guessed it…teach people who don’t want to learn.

    And that frustrates me to no end, since I’ve been studying classics going back a few thousand years and I can appreciate better than most what exactly will be lost.

    I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ramble.

    But do you have any advice for me?

  • Librarian, Wow, that should have been the essay Guy wanted you to write. We come at it in different ways because you still have hope for humanity and I have finally lost it. But I understand everything you are expressing. Thank you.

  • Further problems of disruptions and shortages of food in Japan.

  • Librarian

    Must agree with Kathy. Wow! You are so right. The world needs people like you, desperately. People who will not let us forget our history. People who will not let us forget our dreams of a better world, nor our deeply held sense of purpose for humanity.

    You have touched on one of the more latent fears within me when you speak of being a custodian of human knowledge, that somehow during or after Collapse much of that precious knowledge is lost, first the digitised form, followed by the books ultimately. We need to rediscover the Hebrew tradition of the “scribe” who faithfully and painfully made hand copies of the sacred texts for many hundreds of years before the printing press.

    I’m not so certain about the feudal society supposed by Greer. There will likely be some areas like that. But I also think there will be other areas that take on the old tribal structures led by councils of wise men and women who are more concerned about human rights than about property rights. It is time we gave up our ideas about ownership and embraced the idea of harmony – harmony with each other and harmony with Nature.

    Advice? Not very good at that, but do have one suggestion – always remain The Librarian.

  • Terry,

    As I said recently, I think we are already in collapse. This is a once in a human species event in scope and magnitude.

  • Another thumbs up for Librarian.

  • Librarian,

    It is refreshing to hear someone acknowledge our progress as social, cultural, intellectual entities. Some here would have us look only at our most basic animal tendencies, equating us with lemmings perhaps. They view us as destroyers only, a species that is unable to control it’s appetites and thus will take until there is nothing left to take. Thanks for reminding us that we are not all bad, all the time.

    Michael Irving

  • Just finished the Thomas Campbell lecture that Robin linked to on the last essay … a wild ride that underscores the responsibility of the individual.

  • I think I’m going to start keeping a record of some of the hysterical statements made by prominent doomers about the how the crisis du jour spells the end for industrial civilization, the beginning of the die-off, etc. as a service to those who haven’t yet joined the Cult of Doom or may still have some doubts.

    I remember not long ago people on the Oil Drum,, etc suggesting that the Gulf oil spill would completely destroy ocean life, end oil drilling, etc — how have those predictions worked out? And now the tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan spells the end for nuclear power and along with it the last hope for keeping the lights on, despite the fact that not a single human has been killed by the radiation. I could go back a few decades to the predictions of Erlich and others about mass starvation, ice ages, etc. but that would be too easy. I suspect many of the climate doomsayers are going to be just as wrong, but we’ll see. Guy himself has put his credibility on the line with his bold “Dark Age in 2012” prediction, so we have another testable hypothesis. Why do I think that if that prediction fails it will be conveniently forgotten like all the others?

    My point being that the doomosphere has always been a place that attracts hysterical peasants, not calm, rational thinkers. The track record of these prophets of doom is so laughably bad that, while I find them entertaining, I don’t see how anyone could take any of them seriously! IMO there’s more danger from hysterical overreactions to perceived crises than from the crises themselves!

  • precious knowledge is lost, first the digitised form, followed by the books ultimately.

    Clay Shirky, Making Digital Durable – Seminars About Long Term Thinking

  • The Cosmist, Guy McPherson’s estimates are just that. Estimates. He might be off by one or two years.

    You are making a logical fallacy, that of Demanding An Impossible Standard of Perfection.

  • And in Japan the non-event continues:

    *Drinking water unsafe for babies in Tokyo.
    *Black smoke following radiation levels spiking at reactor 3.
    But not to worry that’s the plutonium reactor, not uranium.
    *Vegetables unfit to eat.
    *Still trying to cool the spent fuel rods.
    *One reactor “control room” has power but it could be weeks or months until all power restored.

    At least this non-event has vanished from the front page of, replaced by news from Hollywood and North Africa. What the heck? We’ve got important people dying and a new war. There’s nothing to see here, move along.

    Michael Irving

  • Dr. House, thanks for your comments. I do think hierarchy is in our nature, but in a much subdued form in Hunter-Gatherers. It is hard to tell what H-G were like before touched by civilization and in the instances when H-G’s found unexploited wealth they also ran amok for a bit. However our basic programs are for life in small tribes not life in megalopolis. Our programs are not primarily to make us happy, but they use happiness to motivate us. We have taken the thrill of the hunt and substituted the thrill of the video game. Children are no longer the future of the tribe but feel to many people like a burden and are a burden for two decades while children in H-G quickly become useful and then initiated into full status in the tribe.

    The Heart of the Hunter: Customs and Myths of the African Bushman by
    Laurens van der Post tells of a people who seem much more at home on this world, much happier. Perhaps Mr. van der Post found what he wanted to find, or perhaps he found what we were like before we set out down the road to civilization. But for me it speaks of a future for humans that is less dim than going back to feudal times. We seem intent on destroying our environment and yet one thing H-G have done well is live in very harsh environs. So perhaps we are in the process of once again making the world safe for our species.

    Maybe that is sentimental, silly, whatever, it is all the hope I have left for humans, the hope that by our destruction we make a world in which such clever tool users can live without further destruction, a world in which humans need to have strong cooperation with their tribe and are busy enough with life and pleasure that they have no time for bombs. (H-G generally are said to work 4 hours a day for food and shelter – presumably the rest of the time for music, play and sex).

  • The Cosmist,

    I assume you lump Guillermo Felices of CITI (in Guy’s link above) as one of the hysterical peasants. I wonder why those third-worlders can’t get it through their heads that they should sit down and shut up because there is plenty of food in America. Food crisis? What food crisis?

    I’m probably part of the underclass of hysterical peasants since I was working in the dirt this morning. No doubt you are upset that we proles are allowed to even read the thoughts of our betters, let alone that we are allowed to speak. Why, oh why, doesn’t Guy monitor this site and only allow upper-class responders to participate.

    As for cover-ups, this quote from Guy must be causing you some confusion:

    “3. Contrary to repeated comments to the contrary, I predicted economic collapse would be complete in 2009, not 2010. I was basing my prediction on IEA’s promise of a 9.1% annual decline in crude oil supply beginning in 2009, as indicated in their World Energy Outlook, which was released for distribution the day after Thanksgiving 2008 in the United States.”

    Or maybe you have just “conveniently forgotten” it.

    Michael Irving

  • Librarian.

    I think you are suffering the grief associated with knowing what might have been – the grief of not seeing a world of justice, equity, compassion and widespread appreciation of knowledge.

    I too longed for a world justice, equity, compassion and widespread appreciation of knowledge. I also longed for a world in which precious resources were not squandered, a world in which environmental degradation was not the norm, a world in which rapid species extinction was not the norm. The vision I had decades ago did not materialise: what I have witnessed has been close to the very opposite of what I envisioned.

    I now recognise we are trapped in a world which is run by pychotic sociopaths, who have imposed an economic system on us which requires and rewards inefficiency, requires and rewards destruction of the common good, requires and rewards converion of nature into waste, requires and rewards the destruction of the very habitability of the Earth, and demands and rewards the general populace being ‘dumbed down’ so that those agendas go largely unopposed.

    I must remind you that apart from outlandish levels of consumption, the major problem we face is overpopulation. You wrote: ‘To give another example, great authors like Rudyard Kipling and Ralph Waldo Emerson would have given their eyeballs to try to live in a world where they didn’t have to witness their children die from disease at age one year old.’

    Fine if they had just two children. But if they had more, saving the one-year-old child’s life would have added to the population problem.

    It seems to me there are many deep moral questions to which there are no logical answers, and many for which the logical answer goes against human nature.

  • Michael, when I say peasant I’m not trying to insult people who “work in the dirt”. I’m talking about the peasant mentality that views the world fatalistically and irrationally and can only look downward and backwards. A good illustration of this kind of thinking is our friend Kathy, who in almost every post engages in “reductio ad hunter gatherum”, as if that is the only viable lifestyle for humanity in any conceivable future.

    Camille Paglia has said that if women ran the world, we’d still be living in mud huts, and I fear she might be right. There seems to be a creative impulse in men that drives them to build new technologies and seek new horizons, and maybe Kathy will never understand that, but it’s real and it’s the most powerful force I know of. It’s also the reason why doomerism make me so sad; it is a rejection of all that creativity and an admission that we have no future but a retreat to the caves followed by extinction. How could anyone ever arrive at such a miserable worldview?

    I’d like to share a quote from one of my new gurus that speaks to some of these issues, the insanely brilliant physicist David Deutsch:

    “We can survive, and we can fail to survive. But it depends not on chance, but on whether we create the relevant knowledge in time. The danger is not at all unprecedented. Species go extinct all the time. Civilizations end. The overwhelming majority of all species and all civilizations that have ever existed are now history. And if we want to be the exception to that, then logically our only hope is to make use of the one feature that distinguishes our species, and our civilization, from all the others. Namely, our special relationship with the laws of physics. Our ability to create new explanations, new knowledge — to be a hub of existence.”

  • Kevin Moore, I think we can still realize that world, I just don’t know HOW.

    Where I live, there aren’t any sociopaths. Unfortunately, that’s only because I live in one of the most educated areas in the country.

    Everyone already mostly agrees with me here on the necessity of great moral values and a life dedicated to the common good, not just the maximization of the profits of a few individuals (although they think I’m exaggerating about collapse in the future).

    That means I’m just preaching to the choir most of the time.

    So over the Internet, I try to talk to people on the other side of the political fence.

    I give them the facts, I give them the evidence, I remind them of history…and then they turn around and call me an elitist liberal.

    Or worse, they quote one of those crap New Age philosophies like Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, where every man creates his own reality.

    And those are the NICE ones.

    The BAD ones tell me that I’m naive and I don’t understand what the world is really like, that I’m a child, an adolescent, that I’m too soft, that I have no ability to adapt, that I’m a crybaby, that I’m weak, that I have to learn to “deal” with whatever “life” throws at me (never mind that their definition of “life” could be more accurately described as authority figures and bad ideas)…

    So I attempt to explain to them that they’re the ones who don’t have enough knowledge, since I’ve been to other countries and I actually study the issues while they watch shows about beauty pageants, and I also remind them that even right-wingers like John Taylor Gatto and Lew Rockwell, free-marketers though they may be, have an understanding of what’s really important in life.

    That doesn’t work either. They think they’re right, act like they know they’re right, and not only do they not accept new knowledge, they can’t even accept appeals to basic human decency because they’ve never been taught what that IS. They’ve pretty much resigned themselves to a world without humane emotions and they fly into a rage when I tell them that I haven’t resigned myself.

    Kevin Moore, I think it’s still possible for us to build a world of compassion, justice, and knowledge, but the only way to do that is to get most of humanity to drop these bad ideas that have infested every domain of human life in most places.

    It’s the ideas that are the problem, not the people. But I don’t know how to get rid of bad ideas.

  • One more thing, The Cosmist:

    I severely doubt that women running the world would have reduced us all to mud huts.

    My mother doesn’t want a world of mud huts. Neither does my grandmother…either of my grandmothers.

    Neither do any of the women I see every day.

    You may want to be careful about jumping to conclusions.

  • Librarian, I too, am a librarian and chose my profession somewhat accidentally, but found a vocation. I passionately see the need to get people to think, to question everything, at least develop some sense of wonder. Approaching students heads on hasn’t been very effective but I do see that I can have a subversive impact in other ways. No one ever suspects the librarian. ;-)

    You pose another interesting question — how do you get those that don’t want to learn interested in learning. Maybe Guy has some suggestions…? I know he has talked about reaching out in teaching.

  • Librarian,

    I sympathize. “…but the only way to do that is to get most of humanity to drop..” dead.
    While we are waiting, Take a deep breath and take a long walk on a quiet beach. It won’t solve anything, but you might feel a bit better.

    Kathy, could you please share with me, Cosmist’s insult to you? I think I have earned it as much as anyone.

    Oh, I think I know how Cosmist can get us to the stars. Someone, (Ehrlich? don’t remember) roughly calculated that at the current rate of population growth, in 4000+/- years the earth would be a solid mass of human flesh expanding at the speed of light.


    Really?! Isn’t that interesting. (Heretic exits stage left).

  • Librarian.

    ‘It’s the ideas that are the problem, not the people. But I don’t know how to get rid of bad ideas.’

    The article below, from Skeptical Inquirer 2000, may help you appreciate why it is extraordinarily difficult ‘to get rid of bad ideas.’

    Sadly, it often takes death to get rid of bad beliefs, which does support Curtis’s contention that the solution is for the bulk of humanity to drop dead.

    In the meantime we keep speaking the truth in the hope that a few more people might recognise it.

    Why Bad Beliefs Don’t Die

    Because beliefs are designed to enhance our ability to survive, they are biologically designed to be strongly resistant to change. To change beliefs, skeptics must address the brain’s “survival” issues of meanings and implications in addition to discussing their data.
    Gregory W. Lester

    Because a basic tenet of both skeptical thinking and scientific inquiry is that beliefs can be wrong, it is often confusing and irritating to scientists and skeptics that so many people’s beliefs do not change in the face of disconfirming evidence. How, we wonder, are people able to hold beliefs that contradict the data?
    This puzzlement can produce an unfortunate tendency on the part of skeptical thinkers to demean and belittle people whose beliefs don’t change in response to evidence. They can be seen as inferior, stupid, or crazy. This attitude is born of skeptics’ failure to understand the biological purpose of beliefs and the neurological necessity for them to be resilient and stubbornly resistant to change. The truth is that for all their rigorous thinking, many skeptics do not have a clear or rational understanding of what beliefs are and why even faulty ones don’t die easily. Understanding the biological purpose of beliefs can help skeptics to be far more effective in challenging irrational beliefs and communicating scientific conclusions.

    Biology and Survival
    Our brain’s primary purpose is to keep us alive. It certainly does more than that, but survival is always its fundamental purpose and always comes first. If we are injured to the point where our bodies only have enough energy to support consciousness or a heartbeat but not both, the brain has no problem choosing-it puts us into a coma (survival before consciousness), rather than an alert death-spiral (consciousness before survival).
    Because every brain activity serves a fundamental survival purpose, the only way to accurately understand any brain function is to examine its value as a tool for survival. Even the difficulty of successfully treating such behavioral disorders as obesity and addiction can only be understood by examining their relationship to survival. Any reduction in caloric intake or in the availability of a substance to which an individual is addicted is always perceived by the brain as a threat to survival. As a result the brain powerfully defends the overeating or the substance abuse, producing the familiar lying, sneaking, denying, rationalizing, and justifying commonly exhibited by individuals suffering from such disorders.

    Senses and Beliefs
    One of the brain’s primary tools for ensuring survival is our senses. Obviously, we must be able to accurately perceive danger in order to take action designed to keep us safe. In order to survive we need to be able to see the lion charging us as we emerge from our cave or hear the intruder breaking into our house in the middle of the night.
    Senses alone, however, are inadequate as effective detectors of danger because they are severely limited in both range and scope. We can have direct sensory contact with only a small portion of the world at any one time. The brain considers this to be a significant problem because even normal, everyday living requires that we constantly move in and out of the range of our perceptions of the world as it is right now. Entering into territory we have not previously seen or heard puts us in the dangerous position of having no advance warning of potential dangers. If I walk into an unfamiliar building in a dangerous part of town my survival probabilities diminish because I have no way of knowing whether the roof is ready to collapse or a gunman is standing inside the doorway.

    Enter beliefs. “Belief” is the name we give to the survival tool of the brain that is designed to augment and enhance the danger-identification function of our senses. Beliefs extend the range of our senses so that we can better detect danger and thus improve our chances of survival as we move into and out of unfamiliar territory. Beliefs, in essence, serve as our brain’s “long-range danger detectors.”

    Functionally, our brains treat beliefs as internal “maps” of those parts of the world with which we do not have immediate sensory contact. As I sit in my living room I cannot see my car. Although I parked it in my driveway some time ago, using only immediate sensory data I do not know if it is still there. As a result, at this moment sensory data is of very little use to me regarding my car. In order to find my car with any degree of efficiency my brain must ignore the current sensory data (which, if relied on in a strictly literal sense, not only fails to help me in locating my car but actually indicates that it no longer exists) and turn instead to its internal map of the location of my car. This is my belief that my car is still in my driveway where I left it. By referring to my belief rather than to sensory data, my brain can “know” something about the world with which I have no immediate sensory contact. This “extends” my brain’s knowledge of and contact with the world.

    The ability of belief to extend contact with the world beyond the range of our immediate senses substantially improves our ability to survive. A caveman has a much greater ability to stay alive if he is able to maintain a belief that dangers exist in the jungle even when his sensory data indicate no immediate threat. A police officer will be substantially more safe if he or she can continue to believe that someone stopped for a traffic violation could be an armed psychopath with an impulse to kill even though they present a seemingly innocuous appearance.

    Beyond the Sensory
    Because beliefs do not require immediate sensory data to be able to feed valuable survival information to the brain, they have the additional survival function of providing information about the realm of life that does not deal directly with sensory entities. This is the area of abstractions and principles that involves such things as “reasons,” “causes,” and “meanings.” I cannot hear or see the “reason” called a “low pressure zone” that makes a thunderstorm rain on my parade, so my ability to believe that low pressure is the reason assists me. If I were to rely strictly on my senses to determine the cause of the storm I could not tell why it occurred. For all I know it was dragged in by invisible flying gremlins that I need to shoot with my shotgun if I want to clear away the clouds. Therefore my brain’s reliance on my “belief” in the reason called “low pressure,” rather than on sensory data (or, as in the case of my car, my lack of it) assists in my survival: I avoid an experience of incarceration with myriad dangerous characters following my arrest for shooting into the air at those pesky little gremlins.

    The Resilience of Beliefs
    Because senses and beliefs are both tools for survival and have evolved to augment one another, our brain considers them to be separate but equally important purveyors of survival information. The loss of either one endangers us. Without our senses we could not know about the world within our perceptual realm. Without our beliefs we could not know about the world outside our senses or about meanings, reasons, or causes.
    This means that beliefs are designed to operate independent of sensory data. In fact, the whole survival value of beliefs is based on their ability to persist in the face of contradictory evidence. Beliefs are not supposed to change easily or simply in response to disconfirming evidence. If they did, they would be virtually useless as tools for survival. Our caveman would not last long if his belief in potential dangers in the jungle evaporated every time his sensory information told him there was no immediate threat. A police officer unable to believe in the possibility of a killer lurking behind a harmless appearance could easily get hurt or killed.

    As far as our brain is concerned, there is absolutely no need for data and belief to agree. They have each evolved to augment and supplement one another by contacting different sections of the world. They are designed to be able to disagree. This is why scientists can believe in God and people who are generally quite reasonable and rational can believe in things for which there is no credible data such as flying saucers, telepathy, and psychokinesis.

    When data and belief come into conflict, the brain does not automatically give preference to data. This is why beliefs-even bad beliefs, irrational beliefs, silly beliefs, or crazy beliefs-often don’t die in the face of contradictory evidence. The brain doesn’t care whether or not the belief matches the data. It cares whether the belief is helpful for survival. Period. So while the scientific, rational part of our brains may think that data should supercede contradictory beliefs, on a more fundamental level of importance our brain has no such bias. It is extremely reticent to jettison its beliefs. Like an old soldier with an old gun who does not quite trust that the war is really over, the brain often refuses to surrender its weapon even though the data say it should.

    “Inconsequential” Beliefs
    Even beliefs that do not seem clearly or directly connected to survival (such as our caveman’s ability to believe in potential dangers) are still closely connected to survival. This is because beliefs do not occur individually or in a vacuum. They are related to one another in a tightly interlocking system that creates the brain’s fundamental view of the nature of the world. It is this system that the brain relies on in order to experience consistency, control, cohesion, and safety in the world. It must maintain this system intact in order to feel that survival is being successfully accomplished.
    This means that even seemingly small, inconsequential beliefs can be as integral to the brain’s experience of survival as are beliefs that are “obviously” connected to survival. Thus, trying to change any belief, no matter how small or silly it may seem, can produce ripple effects through the entire system and ultimately threaten the brain’s experience of survival. This is why people are so often driven to defend even seemingly small or tangential beliefs. A creationist cannot tolerate believing in the accuracy of data indicating the reality of evolution not because of the accuracy or inaccuracy of the data itself, but because changing even one belief related to matters of the Bible and the nature of creation will crack an entire system of belief, a fundamental worldview and, ultimately, their brain’s experience of survival.

    Implications for Skeptics
    Skeptical thinkers must realize that because of the survival value of beliefs, disconfirming evidence will rarely, if ever, be sufficient to change beliefs, even in “otherwise intelligent” people. In order to effectively change beliefs skeptics must attend to their survival value, not just their data-accuracy value. This involves several elements.
    First, skeptics must not expect beliefs to change simply as the result of data or assuming that people are stupid because their beliefs don’t change. They must avoid becoming critical or demeaning in response to the resilience of beliefs. People are not necessarily idiots just because their beliefs don’t yield to new information. Data is always necessary, but it is rarely sufficient.

    Second, skeptics must learn to always discuss not just the specific topic addressed by the data, but also the implications that changing the related beliefs will have for the fundamental worldview and belief system of the affected individuals. Unfortunately, addressing belief systems is a much more complicated and daunting task than simply presenting contradictory evidence. Skeptics must discuss the meaning of their data in the face of the brain’s need to maintain its belief system in order to maintain a sense of wholeness, consistency, and control in life. Skeptics must become adept at discussing issues of fundamental philosophies and the existential anxiety that is stirred up any time beliefs are challenged. The task is every bit as much philosophical and psychological as it is scientific and data-based.

    Third, and perhaps most important, skeptics must always appreciate how hard it is for people to have their beliefs challenged. It is, quite literally, a threat to their brain’s sense of survival. It is entirely normal for people to be defensive in such situations. The brain feels it is fighting for its life. It is unfortunate that this can produce behavior that is provocative, hostile, and even vicious, but it is understandable as well.

    The lesson for skeptics is to understand that people are generally not intending to be mean, contrary, harsh, or stupid when they are challenged. It’s a fight for survival. The only effective way to deal with this type of defensiveness is to de-escalate the fighting rather than inflame it. Becoming sarcastic or demeaning simply gives the other person’s defenses a foothold to engage in a tit-for-tat exchange that justifies their feelings of being threatened (“Of course we fight the skeptics-look what uncaring, hostile jerks they are!”) rather than a continued focus on the truth.

    Skeptics will only win the war for rational beliefs by continuing, even in the face of defensive responses from others, to use behavior that is unfailingly dignified and tactful and that communicates respect and wisdom. For the data to speak loudly, skeptics must always refrain from screaming.

    Finally, it should be comforting to all skeptics to remember that the truly amazing part of all of this is not that so few beliefs change or that people can be so irrational, but that anyone’s beliefs ever change at all. Skeptics’ ability to alter their own beliefs in response to data is a true gift; a unique, powerful, and precious ability. It is genuinely a “higher brain function” in that it goes against some of the most natural and fundamental biological urges. Skeptics must appreciate the power and, truly, the dangerousness that this ability bestows upon them. They have in their possession a skill that can be frightening, life-changing, and capable of inducing pain. In turning this ability on others it should be used carefully and wisely. Challenging beliefs must always be done with care and compassion.

    Skeptics must remember to always keep their eye on the goal. They must see the long view. They must attempt to win the war for rational beliefs, not to engage in a fight to the death over any one particular battle with any one particular individual or any one particular belief. Not only must skeptics’ methods and data be clean, direct, and unbiased, their demeanor and behavior must be as well.

    Related Information
    •Search CSICOP: belief*
    About the Author
    Gregory W. Lester, Ph.D. is a psychologist on the graduate faculty of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and in private practice in Houston and in Denver, Colorado. Address correspondence to: Gregory W. Lester, Ph.D., 111 Harrison St., Suite 1, Denver, Colorado 80206.

  • Curtis, yes you can share the insult of the Cosmist with me.

    I understand that when the first invaders came to the US they had to pass a law forbidding settlers from moving in with the Indians. Apparently the life of the “savage” was quite appealing, and some were hauled back to civilization against their will. I will try find a link to that – but it is of course buried history. Seems our official history writers wanted to be sure we knew how degraded the lives of the savages were so they could justify “civilizing” them, or killing them when they wouldn’t bow to hierarchy or if they sat on valuable land. But by and large native people resisted joining in the slavery that civilization puts on most of its “citizens” – many resisted with their lives.

    For more true history I look to Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, and Gore Vidal. The history books are riddled with lies and distortions. The story of Chris Columbus being one of the prime ones. My husband mentioned tonight that Howard Zinn was out of graduate school before he learned the true story of old Columbo

    And thanks for sharing the good stuff about the nukes – the story of the woman who cleaned up in Chernobyl was chilling.
    Good article on the Energy Bulletin

    ” In the US, here are just a few examples of resilience in (in)action:

    The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which lies less than a mile from a fault line, isn’t required to include earthquakes in its emergency plans.

    The Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan has been storing nuclear waste in outdoor concrete bunkers 100 yards away from the shores of Lake Michigan (source of water for 40 million Americans) since 1993, against safety regulations.

    In 2006 inspectors discovered that the emergency generators at the Fermi 2 plant in Michigan (same design as Fukushima Daiichi unit 1) had been inoperable for 20 YEARS.”

    and another at
    What They’re Covering Up at Fukushima
    Introduced by Douglas Lummis
    March 23, 2011 “Counterpunch” — Hirose Takashi has written a whole shelf full of books, mostly on the nuclear power industry and the military-industrial complex. Probably his best known book is Nuclear Power Plants for Tokyo in which he took the logic of the nuke promoters to its logical conclusion: if you are so sure that they’re safe, why not build them in the center of the city, instead of hundreds of miles away where you lose half the electricity in the wires?

  • Marianne, educating people who do not want to learn is a daunting challenge, and I’ve faced it throughout my career. I commented about the topic in recent essay. And last week, in an interview with a filmmaker from the National Inflation Association, in response to one of his questions I said, “The teachers don’t want to teach and the students don’t want to learn.”

    Kathy, your comment about native Americans and early Europeans brings to mind this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “”No European who has tasted savage life can afterwards bear to live in our societies.”

    Civilization ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. And it never was.

  • Kevin,

    Thanks for coming up with that. It explains a lot. There are many times when that strategy by the brain backfires. Getting suckered into being cannon fodder is a common one.

    So, it seems Librarian-I is really up against it. Librarian-II (Marianne) may have some effective strategies. Marianne, could you please share a strategy?

    This is why, as I have said before, I gave up trying rescues.

  • ‘Where I live, there aren’t any sociopaths. Unfortunately, that’s only because I live in one of the most educated areas in the country.’

    I simply do not believe there are no sociopaths where you live. Sociopaths are uniquitous, though they clearly congregate more in certain districts than others and their actions range from mildly sociopathic to extremely sociopathic.


    Yes, you are quite right. Robert Newman emphasised that point in Caliban to Taliban -500 years of intervention, and counting. Many of the early ‘settlers’ in Virginia were virtually abducted from London as semi-slave labour. When they discovered how much better it was away from (from memory) Yates authoritarianism and inequity many of them fled. Most were recaptured and either murdered or subjected to cruel tortures, as a lesson to any others who might be contemplating freedom.

  • The Cosmist,

    I want to know what you think for a change. I don’t want to hear about your new gurus. I don’t want to hear about progress defined as some pie-in-the-sky space empire where the best parts of humans are downloaded into thinking machines. I want to hear what you think about where we are now.

    I think it likely that more people have spontaneously combusted over the last year than have ever been in space, so exactly what suite of technologies will get us through the die-off you acknowledge (“OK Folks, I agree that what you’re calling a die-off may happen soon”). For example, what is the replacement for oil? The answer is NOT, “We have some really smart, motivated people who will come up with something.” According to government sources in the business of knowing about this stuff, we will begin running an oil deficit of 3 to 4% starting essential this year. What is your answer for how we will replace that? Most people here won’t easily believe we will soon have fusion reactors running our airliners. If your answer is “the singularity” then explain how that will happen and explain how that is a good thing. We are here. How do we get to there—the other side of the bottleneck?

    Please be specific like so many of these “peasant mentality” commenters. (No, of course you did not want to be insulting. I’m sure you did not intend to offend the distaff side either by suggesting they are unfit, by their natures, to grasp the complexities of modernity. You do weaken your argument somewhat by referencing ideas from people like Camille Paglia. Perhaps you didn’t know she was a woman.) I suggest you start your sentences with statements like, “By the year 2015…” and, “My opinion is supported by this link from….” You should probably not reference science fiction writers. Credible scientific articles in peer-reviewed periodicals would help. But I’m really seeking your ideas about the near future. As a non-peasant it should be easy for you to explain yourself to people like me. Try using small words.

    Michael Irving

  • Cosmist, I have asked before. I ask again. What is it that you want NBLers to do to make your vision happen?

  • Cosmist:

    I’m sure you don’t want my pity, but I can’t help myself. Obviously you acknowledge the truth of the message here on NBL, otherwise you would dismiss us all as a bunch of lunatics (pun intended) and never waste another keystroke on us. But you don’t. You come back. Time and time again. Just to be insulted, ridiculed, and dismissed (after delivering some of the same to the other posters here). So, either you yourself believe that the industrial economy is about to collapse and there’s nothing we can do about it and are in denial, or you’re just a masochist.

    The reason I pity you is that I believe the former and that you are stuck in the first stage of Kübler-Ross model of grief. When you finally move on to acceptance, you are going to be one miserable puppy.

  • Librarian “Where I live, there aren’t any sociopaths. Unfortunately, that’s only because I live in one of the most educated areas in the country.”

    I grew up in NY State near Buffalo. NYS education was some of the best in the country and I lived in a somewhat well off suburb where we fared better than other schools in the area. Yet a mayor of Buffalo spent some time in jail for his activities in the Mafia. I consider all or almost all of the heads of major corporations to be sociopaths. I hear Bill Gates didn’t finish college, but most heads of corporations have degrees from universities. Education is not the cure, as educated sociopaths can pass as normal empathetic humans far more easily than the less educated sociopaths, and they can use their education to do far far more harm.

    I treasure my high school education because it was more liberal than most – I read for English class 1984, The Jungle, Grapes of Wrath, etc. But I did not learn that before we dropped the Nukes on Japan we fire bombed Tokoyo which killed more people initially than either Nagasaki or Hiroshima. I did not learn about the Battle of Blair mountain where vets from WWI were slaughtered by the feds because they wanted a living wage for getting coal out of the ground, I did not learn that Abe Lincoln before the war was quite ambivalent about slavery, I did not learn all the other things Thomas Paine wrote other than Common Sense as he got too radical for TPTB, (per wiki In 1802, at President Jefferson’s invitation, he returned to America where he died on June 8, 1809. Only six people attended his funeral as he had been ostracized due to his criticism and ridicule of Christianity.[7]) I did not learn that most of the founding fathers were deists. I never learned of Ginger Goodwin a WWI labor organizer and conscientious objector who was killed by the Canadian Police. I could go on all day about the things I did not learn that would have better informed me about the world I live in. I never learned much at all if TPTB didn’t want it in my history text books.

    Perhaps education could help but much of our historical education in the US is a lie by commission or omission.

  • Dr. House, you get my nomination for the award for Best Response to the Cosmist.

  • A good technical critique this morning from Greer. It is something for Cosmist to chew on.

  • I’m adding nothing relevant here but tossing in my 2 cents.
    Reading posts from The Cosmists and others who subscribe to his beliefs I have a deep suspicion that they are all just terrified of nature in all it’s forms. I have posed this question to a few “Have you spent time in nature, working on a farm, garden or had a close connection to any animals?” I have yet to receive an answer. Instead I am told beaver dams cause destruction of the environment, laboratory produced meat is a good thing and there is nothing natural about nature…
    These folks are caught in the matrix and are terrified of being unplugged.

  • “…suggesting that the Gulf oil spill would completely destroy ocean life, end oil drilling, etc —”

    The effects of the oil spill are still unknown and being swept under the rug (or radar). The effects of bioaccumulation will be happening for decades. Dead dolphin have been washing up on the shores of LA, MS, and AL all season.

    Along with dolphin fresh oil has been washing up on the oil soaked beaches.

    There is another well that has been dumping oil out there. Not much media on this event. Initially, the Coast Guard misrepresented what the slick consisted of; saying it was sediment from a dredging project.

    Just because some species will be able to survive this, it does not mean that they are going to be safe to eat.

  • Sue, I’m not so sure it’s about being “terrified of nature.” I think their problem lies somewhere else.

    Scientific curiosity is legitimate. Men have been curious about outer space since forever.

    One of the miracles of science is its ability to precisely answer the child’s question, “Mommy, what are the stars in the sky and where do they come from?”

    Science is an essential part of knowledge, ever since the days of Aristotle three thousand years ago.

    I would be just as upset as the Cosmist if we ever lost our curiosity and our sense of wonder at outer space.

    Indeed, if we had learned EARLIER that we were just one planet in the vast expanse of space, we wouldn’t have allowed religion or “race” or whatever such phony divisions to tear us apart and cause us to make war on each other and we wouldn’t be IN this mess in the FIRST place, as figures such as Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke pointed out.

    The real problem with the Cosmist and others like him is not their love of science, but their refusal to recognize that science is only ONE PART of human knowledge.

    It’s also coupled with a refusal to recognize that science is not supposed to be separate from moral values.

    Unlike many, my problem with the Cosmist isn’t his love of space, but his MISUSING that love of space to shut down discussions of all other issues and domains of human life.

  • I agree, Scientific curiosity is legitimate, to my thinking the problem is deeper than science, it’s a lack of understanding or denial that nature does/will bat last no matter our individual musings.
    (back to lurking =)

  • Sue, please don’t just lurk. You have much to add to the discussion. I agree that denial that we are in the end as much a part of nature is a problem for a lot of people. I believe that is because we want to somehow deny that we like all mammals will die. Even if humanity went to the stars and beyond, each of us humans individually will die and the chemicals that comprise our bodies will return to be recycled. And that will be that for us.

  • Thanks Kathy,
    Fortunately you write my view point much better than I ever could =)