Lessons of history

by Kevin Moore

The most important lesson of history is that the lessons of history are not learned.

The First World War was the first grand-scale industrial war in which millions of men and women died as a consequence of weaponry made possible by advanced chemistry. It was to have been ‘the war to end all wars.’ However, the League of Nations, established shortly after it ended, dissolved into failure in the mid-1930s and did not prevent the Second World War, in which some horrors — such as trench warfare and gas attacks — were not repeated, but new ones — such as the fire bombing of cities by aircraft, and atomic bombs — were invented. Between those wars the Roaring Twenties saw a bubble economy grow and burst, and the Great Depression saw millions of people thrown into poverty.

Thirty years of widespread upheaval and suffering seemed enough: the United Nations was established after World War Two. The U.N. was supposedly going to lead humanity into a brave new world, in which conflict would be resolved around a table. In practice there was a period of peace that lasted for five years (if we ignore the Chinese Civil War and independence movements in occupied territories), after which humanity reverted to using industrial warfare to ‘solve’ international disagreements. The Korean War marked a precedent in recent human history insofar as no peace treaty has been signed. Low-level hostilities continue to this day: it seems to be a war without end.

In Brave New World, written in 1931, Aldous Huxley suggested the world far into the future would be one of humans selectively bred in laboratories to create a peaceful, hierarchical society, consisting of a small minority of elites (alphas) living in extraordinary affluence, their lifestyle being supported by a series of lower castes (betas, gammas, deltas, and epsilons), all kept passive through the provision of ‘soma.’ There are no family relationships, and sex is a recreational activity unconnected with reproduction.

In 1984, written during 1947-8, George Orwell suggested the world much more immediately in the future would be one of a surveillance society, in which ‘ignorance is strength,’ ‘freedom is slavery’ and ‘war is peace,’ a world of declining living standards and perpetual war in which no thought or action is permissible unless sanctioned by the government. Life is generally grim for everyone except inner party members.

Both authors suggested that the majority of people do not question their condition. Of course, in order to question one’s condition, one does need a frame of reference, either to have experienced something different (a different way of living in a different time or a different place), or be aware of inconsistencies in ‘the system,’ as was the case in Orwell’s Animal Farm, in which all animals were equal but some were ‘more equal’ than others. The extent to which the modern world is a blend of Brave New World and 1984 has been the subject of a plethora of articles and essays. (If the reader is not familiar with the works it is recommended they be read at the earliest convenience).

The phenomenon of baseline shift can explain some of the failure of most people to recognise dysfunction. Consider the eastern coast of what we now call the United States. Four hundred years ago it was a largely natural habitat, exhibiting a wide range of plant and animal species, with indigenous humans living in a state of fairly stable equilibrium within that habitat, as their ancestors had done for thousands of years. The arrival of European settlers in the early 1600s seriously disturbed that equilibrium, and within two centuries numerous large towns and cities had been built. Within another century the human population had exploded, and tower blocks and skyscrapers were being constructed. In the case of Manhattan, one century later little of the land surface was not covered in concrete and asphalt.

If it were possible for someone living in that region four hundred years ago to travel through time to the present day, the transformation would be utterly shocking, and the landscape almost unrecognisable to them. However, to children born into the modern New York City environment everything looks perfectly normal, since they know no different. In other words, each generation tends to accept whatever it sees as being normal, however abnormal it is. The baseline for comparisons constantly shifts. Thus, if the population of songbirds falls by 20% per human generation, after three generations (0.8 x 0.8 x 0.8 = 0.51) it will be down to half of the starting figure, yet each generation witnesses a relatively small decline and has no experience of the population of songbirds that existed at the time their grandparents were born. Much the same argument applies to forests, frogs, fish or bees.

Humans are a remarkably adaptive species. Unfortunately that ability to adapt makes the phenomenon of baseline shift one of the most dangerous for human societies, since whatever living arrangement humans are presented with can quickly become the norm. In working-class Britain in the 1950s very few households had a telephone, televisions were a newly available novelty, very few people owned cars, and there was no such thing as a personal computer. By the 1980s telephones, televisions and cars had become commonplace, and twenty years later personal computers and cell phones were commonplace. Such is the effect of baseline shift that, at this point of time, many adolescents throughout the western world regard televisions, cell phones and personal computers as necessities, and desire to own a car at the earliest opportunity. Indeed, for some young people, to not have ready access to such items is to be ‘seriously underprivileged.’

This state of perceived entitlement is not the fault of the young people, of course. They have been misled into believing the Earth can deliver much more than it actually can by their elders, many of whom also have an unrealistic sense of entitlement, believing they are entitled to regular overseas holidays, latest model transport, and houses two or three times the size they grew up in. We might ask where notions of entitlement that are far removed from the reality of human origins, far removed from what the Earth can sustainably provide, and far removed from all spiritual teachings –- to live simply and not store up worldly possessions — have been generated. Some answers are provided in later sections of this text.

This perception of entitlement that many people living in western societies have has led some commentators to describe the age we have been living in as the Age of Entitlement. The age that follows the Age of Entitlement is the Age of Consequences. The bad news is that consequences are real, and that the Age of Consequences has already commenced. In practice there is considerable overlap, a transition phase, as one age waxes and the other wanes. Unfortunately, even as the Age of Consequences becomes ever more evident to those who are ‘awake,’ a large portion of the populace remains psychologically locked into the vanishing Age of Entitlement, believing it will go on forever. And because they have lived their entire lives in a period of technological innovation, even as the consequences of failing to live within ecological limits get worse by the day, many people continue to believe that every problem has a technological solution. It is difficult, perhaps even impossible, for them to recognise that the chief source of problems we now face is technological innovation that occurred in the past.

One important technological connection that most people living in western societies fail to make concerns their food supply: they fail to recognise that machinery which is dependent on oil is used to plough land, to plant seeds, to fertilise crops, to harvest crops, to process food, and to transport food to shops. They also fail to recognise that oil is a finite resource which will not be available for much longer. Connecting these statements, people fail to recognise that the industrial agricultural system has no long-term future. In fact it may not have even a short-term future when other factors are considered. In the film Blind Spot, emeritus Professor Albert Bartlett commented: “Modern agriculture is the use of land to convert petroleum into food. This is not high-level mathematics. This is not rocket science. This is just plain common sense. And it is universally rejected by the business community, the commercial community, [and] the political community.”

It is said that Horatio Nelson, after receiving instructions he did not wish to comply with, held a telescope to his blind eye and said: “I really do not see the signal.” It can be said, with considerable justification, that one of the defining characteristics of western societies is that most people ‘do not see the signal.’ Unlike Nelson, who went on to win many battles, western societies are in a predicament. Predicaments do not vanish if we close our eyes and ‘do not see the signals.’ They get worse.

‘If you hear a fire alarm you should ignore it and carry on with whatever you are doing. Only when the paint on the door of the room you are in starts to turn black should you begin to think about your escape plan.’ That was tongue in cheek, of course. However, studies have repeatedly demonstrated the reluctance of people to respond to alarms. Upon hearing a fire alarm, rather than taking decisive action, subjects in groups tend to seek cues from others; if others ignore the alarm, they also tend to. That is particularly so if an authority figure is present and that person ignores the alarm, or even worse, tells everyone to ignore the alarm. On the other hand, if an authority figure suggests the venue be evacuated immediately, all those present usually respond quickly.

We thus begin to understand why only a tiny minority of people in western societies have responded to numerous alarms which have been sounded by aware people on a wide range of issues over many decades: authority figures have consistently ignored the alarms, so those who look to them for guidance have ignored the alarms; the corporate media have downplayed the significance of the alarms, have lampooned them, or have not reported them at all. When we add the general observations that people believe what they want to believe, and that doing nothing is normally the easiest option, we see a recipe for disaster.

Having been transported across Europe in railway wagons, most Jews arriving at camps in Poland had their possessions and clothing taken from them. Even as they stood naked in the ‘shower’ rooms, many had little idea what would happen next. Only when the gas canisters began releasing their poison did they fully comprehend the nature of their predicament.

All the evidence indicates it will be much the same for the bulk of humanity when it comes to dealing with the major issues of our times. We now face the most testing time in all of history, for which everyone who is in a position to prepare should do so. However, it seems that only when everything they think they have has been taken away from them, only when they have lost everything they think they are entitled to, will most people realise the full extent of their predicament. It seems that only when they have lost ‘everything’ will most people living in industrialised societies fully realise the extent to which they have been lied to and misled.

The preceding essay is excerpted from The Easy Way, by Kevin Moore, published July 2011. The Easy Way is available online and via email from the author: kevin_enviro@hotmail.com.


Guy McPherson’s memoir, Walking Away from Empire, is available from the publisher at this link.

Comments 150

  • Victor .

    Unfortunately you make a totally unsusubstiated claim.

    ‘half-birds are probably not going to make it’.

    ‘Half birds’, as you describe then, have ‘made it’ and exist to the present day. The hoatzin, a bird with claws on its wings, is an example.


    By the same token the coelocanth is an example of a fish that evolved partly towards an amphibian and then ceased to evolve any further because there was an ecological niche of it.

    Lungfish are another example of a class within a phylum which crosses traditional boundaries (fish/amphibian) and yet a has pesisted in this transitional phase for hundreds of millions of years because htere was an ecological niche for it.


    There are dozen (thousands?) of species that are intermediate between commonly recognised species which are not just viable but have thrived for millions of years (well, until homo collosus came along).

    I think you are failing to note the time scale involved in significnat evolutionary changes, which normally require anything between 10 thousand years and 10 million years. For a reasonably long-lived species that could be 500,000 generations.

    Note that humans living in western societies are significantly taller than their ancestors who lived just 400 years ago (just 20 generations). And some varieties of dogs have only been around for a couple of humdred years. Isolation for for a few hundred thousand years could eaily establish new species.

    I believe the really important aspect is that average humans living in a western societies today are less healthy and less capable of fending for themsleves than their grandparents. In other words, if the peak oil crisis had occured in the 1930s humanity would have coped a lot better than it will now (population overshoot being another factor).

    (By the way, I did spend several years teaching biology and evolution, so I believe I have some idea).


    Like you, I have studied the Bible and have got bogged down by the inconsistencies and contradictions. Nevertheless, there are essential truths to be found there.

    One of my ‘favourites’ is Mathew 13,13: ‘Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.’

    “Hearimg you will hear and shall not understand. And seeimng you will see and not perceive. For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing. And their eyes have closed. …..

  • Victor: Of course we think or believe what we say.

    In context, my point was to counter the statement that the creator always existed. It is just as valid to saw the universe always existed. The use of the word creator or god does not add any further understanding.

  • Days ago when I read this first, I wanted to comment. Now each time coming back – new comments to read and think about, but finally.

    Science. To the largest extent, science has become the same religious believers system as any other. (Maybe to short here, but if I want to find sanity I don’t necessarily turn to science, or just some single people as every elsewhere)
    Religion. It took many years to rid myself of this system planted into thinking patterns. Then, anything can turn into religion – alike behaviour, thinking patterns.

    “Humans are a remarkably adaptive species. Unfortunately that ability to adapt makes the phenomenon of baseline shift one of the most dangerous for human societies, since whatever living arrangement humans are presented with can quickly become the norm.”

    I’d like to say so much to this, because I believe that this adaptability in connection with the lack of awareness of the connectedness of everything with everything, is the reason we don’t understand the sacred of habitat, the sacred of nature, sacred just for the reason of rationality. As kid I remember the sadness when the small agriculture, near sustainable, the “small” livelihoods based on it and small commerce changed rapidly, removing nearly all self sufficient structures within 20 years, driving species after species to the cliff of extinction.

    Understand this”god” – as evil, very well. That is a conclusion I came to think of, many years ago. Then left the god thinking story. Recent years turned to find life as such, nature, as sacred, needing no arguments for this, just rationality. Watching mankinds behaviour in destroying life, coming to think of life as such, as evil. Then again, good and bad, sacred and evil, isn’t that something like human invention? (Besides the lying kings of this earth, calling extended bombings around the world humanitarian intervention).

    Some pages back you wrote about people in your area still using crafts and old traditions in their work. Are people capable of keeping this crafts further, pass it on to next generations?
    You also say: “…many people are unreachable.” Yes, including, in my case, my own grown kids who basically don’t want to hear the Old Man’s nonsense any more. I have learned to shut up.”
    This is something I haven’t learnt and am not willing, yet, to do. Feel they deserve to know. I’d love exchange about this issue.

  • Kathy C.

    Oh, no! God has not made me his special messenger to lead the republican party to victory?

    Sarcasm off.

    Thank you. I agree with your expansion on my statement.

    To all, sorry, I am a lousy typist, and don’t always catch all my errors.

  • Hello Bernhard, yes, I live in Thailand with my Thai wife. We have a small piece of land and we can grow fruit and vegetables. A neighbor farms our rice field and we get a small portion of the rice, certainly plenty for us. We have fish in our little pond also but they are a great joy, like pets, so we have never taken them for food.

    You asked; “Are people capable of keeping this crafts further, pass it on to next generations?” That is a good question. We love to learn the old crafts. We find people of middle age still practice many crafts like cotton spinning and weaving, silk also, mat weaving, pottery and many others. They are happy to show us and teach us something of their skills. Do their children learn these crafts? Perhaps in the remote villages they do learn, but Thailand is moving toward an American style culture and economy. Working in any kind of office is respected here more than farming and craft work.

    About talking to my kids; more than 20 years ago my marriage in Canada broke down. With four children, this was a very sad experience for the family. Because my ideas were “different” (not normal) I could not fight to keep my children with me. The world went on as usual so the family saw me as “wrong” about everything I tried to say.

    They believe that getting a good education, a well-paying job, money, status and consumerism are all very meaningful in their lives. Nothing has happened yet in Canada to change their views.

    So, you see, I am lucky to have some relationship with my kids, even though I must not talk to them about the very difficult future I see in store for them. Perhaps there will come a time when they need some explanation and some help from me but I have been waiting a long time for that.

    Do your children listen to what you tell them about the world situation?

  • Kevin [Like you, I have studied the Bible and have got bogged down by the inconsistencies and contradictions. Nevertheless, there are essential truths to be found there.]

    Yes there are truths to be found there. Often they are also found in other holy books AND in non-holy books. Why even an atheist or two has said things worth noting.

    For instance “Faith means not wanting to know what is true.” — Friedrich Nietzsche – Which has some similarities to what you quoted from the Bible.

    I am still influenced by Jesus – can’t help it. But here is the question, does one need religion to be motivated to do good. I would say “no” that morals are in our genetic programs. Leaders, religious or not can shape those programs to their own ends, but we are a social animal that needs a strong measure of cooperation, responsibility to the tribe, to thrive etc. and like many species we have strong programs for kin selection which can be used for good (nurturing children) to evil (Killing those seen as others which even Jehovah commanded).

    I looked up who are famous atheists and per this list Helen Keller was along with some surprising others http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/101-famous-atheists – Mark Twain of course but also Susan B. Anthony who changed did much for the rights of women, Ayn Rand (who gives atheists a bad name) Thomas Edison etc. We know in the past that many scientist and other were atheists but hid it for fear of the rack. Per my husband a PhD in Philosophy “If you go way back, philosophers would draw up a metaphysical system and many people have the experience upon reading those about those systems that God was just put in on the top without it having any pertinence to rest of the work.” I am quite sure that even though the rack is no longer employed for atheists (at this time) just the fear of ostracism will make many be nominal believers.

  • Of note, this discussion had my husband and I sharing this morning. He told me of the philosopher Saul Kripke who at one presentation on language said something to the effect that he ha on the one hand he had the intuition that language was very orderly and explainable – he called that his Chomskyian intuition. On the other hand he has a second intuition which he chose to call his Wittgensteinian intuition after the later Wittgenstein to the affect that the rational re-construction of human language are all sand castles. He adds that that is only a rough reconstruction of what Kripke said but feels it summarizes what he was conveying.

    A recent poll conducted among philosophers ranked Kripke among the top ten most important philosophers of the past 200 years.[1] Kripke has made influential and original contributions to logic, especially modal logic, since he was a teenager.

  • Who said this and what year?:

    “Life is too short to waste one’s time with the slaying of the slain more than once.”

    I can’t believe this discussion is even taking place here. Next up – how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. I’m not convinced in the mechanism but I think atheists will turn polytheist on us and claim an infinite number…

    never mind, time to make the donuts.

  • tamnaa, i relate a lot to your experience/angst with divorce and how evolving into radically unconventional anti-establishment views and lifestyle takes a great toll on family relations. i also divorced over 20 years ago from a woman i now believe i was very foolish to marry. we had one child, a daughter, who was just 2 at the time of the divorce. because the divorce was very rancorous/hostile, i lost almost all contact with a child i’d grown extremely attached to. as it turned out, the divorce was the catalyzing experience that set me on my present course, away from the ‘herd’, convention, dogma. most of this transformation occured the first few years, while emotions/bitterness from the divorce were still high, and i rarely saw my daughter. subsequently, after these passions had cooled, i had essentially become a different sherson as a radical freethinker. my daughter too had changed dramatically as a consequence of growing up. hence attempts at maintaining/re-establishing a nurturing respectful loving relationship faltered and eventually were all but abandoned.

    i believe part of what drove us apart were my attempts to share with her as a teenager/young adult my evolved views on our world situation. also i strongly disapproved of her catholic faith/dogmatism, and recoiled at the idea of her having and raising children to be possibly twisted and made neurotic by the fear and shame based ‘teachings’ of that ‘faith’. i also told her that the prospect of collapse and die-off made having children a very dicey prospect, basically a bad idea. that didn’t at all sit well with her. so we’ve had very little contact in recent years, essentially become estranged as per her desire. she married and had a child, fulfilling perhaps her deepest desire (motherhood), with me out of the picture completely.

    life/ loving relationships are both very complicated and simple. it’s a double edged sword, providing both our greatest happiness and regrets/pain/angst.

  • This one is interesting too:

    “A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there was an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man — a man of restless and versatile intellect — who not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them with aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.”

  • navid, better get those donut seeds in the ground before winter comes!

  • Kevin,

    Thanks so much for your essay. I have been really busy preparing rather than keeping up with reading.

    Michael Irving

  • Kevin

    A hoatzin, claws or not, is still a fully formed bird. A lungfish is still fully fish, as is a coelocanth. Just because they have some morphological similar traits do not make them some kind of missing link. My point here is that you must, as an evolutionist, ‘suppose’ this or that happened. There is nothing wrong with that. Except when you say it as if it were a proven fact, or say it in a way that leads the listener to believe that you speak with the authority of truth.

    The evolutionist can not see where the fault in this reasoning is because they will not see. One simply can not say evolution is scientific truth whilst at the same time using words like, ‘it is thought’, ‘it might have happened’, ‘it could have happened’, ‘we think maybe’, etc. They might be right, but then again they might also be wrong.

    The trouble with evolutionists is that they have taken thousands of examples from nature, made rational suppositions (but suppositions nonetheless!) that fit a model in which very little can’t be fit, have pronounced truth, given each other high-fives for the effort and as a group defensively prevented further discussion on the subject accusing differing opinions as being ‘unscientific’, and even ignorant.

  • Snippets from http://discovermagazine.com/2005/feb/cover/article_view?b_start:int=2&-C=
    Lenski’s own research, launched in 1988, which is now the longest continuously running experiment in evolution. He began with a single bacterium—Escherichia coli—and used its offspring to found 12 separate colonies of bacteria that he nurtured on a meager diet of glucose, which creates a strong incentive for the evolution of new ways to survive. Over the past 17 years, the colonies have passed through 35,000 generations. In the process, they’ve become one of the clearest demonstrations that natural selection is real. All 12 colonies have evolved to the point at which the bacteria can replicate almost twice as fast as their ancestors. At the same time, the bacterial cells have gotten twice as big. Surprisingly, these changes didn’t unfold in a smooth, linear process. Instead, each colony evolved in sudden jerks, followed by hundreds of generations of little change, followed by more jerks…
    Digital organisms don’t have complex organs such as eyes, but they can process information in complex ways. In order to add two numbers together, for example, a digital organism needs to carry out a lot of simpler operations, such as reading the numbers and holding pieces of those numbers in its memory. Knock out the commands that let a digital organism do one of these simple operations and it may not be able to add. The Avida team realized that by watching a complex organism evolve, they might learn some lessons about how complexity evolves in general.

    The researchers set up an experiment to document how one particularly complex operation evolved. The operation, known as equals, consists of comparing pairs of binary numbers, bit by bit, and recording whether each pair of digits is the same. It’s a standard operation found in software, but it’s not a simple one. The shortest equals program Ofria could write is 19 lines long. The chances that random mutations alone could produce it are about one in a thousand trillion trillion.
    advertisement | article continues below
    Click here!

    To test Darwin’s idea that complex systems evolve from simpler precursors, the Avida team set up rewards for simpler operations and bigger rewards for more complex ones. The researchers set up an experiment in which organisms replicate for 16,000 generations. They then repeated the experiment 50 times.

    Avida beat the odds. In 23 of the 50 trials, evolution produced organisms that could carry out the equals operation. And when the researchers took away rewards for simpler operations, the organisms never evolved an equals program. “When we looked at the 23 tests, they were all done in completely different ways,” adds Ofria. He was reminded of how Darwin pointed out that many evolutionary paths can produce the same complex organ. A fly and an octopus can both produce an image with their eyes, but their eyes are dramatically different from ours. “Darwin was right on that—there are many different ways of evolving the same function,” says Ofria…
    Ofria has been finding that digital organisms have a way of outwitting him as well. Not long ago, he decided to see what would happen if he stopped digital organisms from adapting. Whenever an organism mutated, he would run it through a special test to see whether the mutation was beneficial. If it was, he killed the organism off. “You’d think that would turn off any further adaptation,” he says. Instead, the digital organisms kept evolving. They learned to process information in new ways and were able to replicate faster. It took a while for Ofria to realize that they had tricked him. They had evolved a way to tell when Ofria was testing them by looking at the numbers he fed them. As soon as they recognized they were being tested, they stopped processing numbers. “If it was a test environment, they said, ‘Let’s play dead,’ ” says Ofria. “There’s this thing coming to kill them, and so they avoid it and go on with their lives.”

  • The above article is about:

    The MSU Digital Evolution Laboratory (Devolab) was founded at Michigan State University in 1999 by Drs. Charles Ofria and Richard Lenski, born out of the Caltech Digital Life Lab (now at the Keck Graduate Institute) and Lenski’s own Experimental Evolution Lab. The twin goals of the lab are to experimentally study digital organisms to improve our understanding of how natural evolution works, and then to apply this knowledge to solving computational problems. Over the years since its founding, the Devolab has grown significantly in both number of people and the breadth of their research.


    Meanwhile bacteria and viruses just keep on evolving resistance to our drugs and mosquitoes develop DDT resistance in a short number of years of spraying.

    Resistance in fleas to Frontline or Advantix takes about 1 year.

    Evolution demonstrably happens. How and why it happened in some cases are guesses and it is appropriate when one is guessing to couch that guess in words such as “it is thought” that this happened this way. But it happens and the ignoring of that truth is why we are facing super bugs, especially in our hospitals and in the guts of our domestic animals. While a scientist might say, “we think evolution is responsible for all life”, I haven’t heard any scientist say there evolution never occurs. How could they when it happens all the time.

    Sort of like saying I think I will live to at least 80, but also saying I know I will die. Saying I think about how long I will be alive at 80 doesn’t negate the fact that I know it is the absolute truth that I am mortal.

  • Navid, Michael, they lost me way up the thread, but that’s because I’m a little slow.

    Making the big push into foraging this fall with some early success. Birds beat us to most of the elderberries, but we’re making up for it with wild grapes. Acorns and black walnuts just coming on. Really is true that there is a huge difference between acorns from a white and red oak. White I can pick up off the ground, crack it and eat it. Not so with red. Wild rice seeds just arrived, and need to be planted. One more we are going to try is apple cider molasses.

    Best to all of you at NBL, and enjoy your weekend.

  • Ed – Foraging – thank you for bringing that up. Now I have a great excuse to get away from the house and endless chores tomorrow. And I have to make preps to go to the northern lakes to try wild ricing (only $8 to the DNR for a season permit). I want to save some to plant in local waterways if I can find decent areas. My native friends tease me about planting “wild” rice ; )

    Virgin Terry – LOL. My donuts are an heirloom variety that produce best if planted after the first frost – which happened two nights ago (says the pumpkin leaves, etc in the garden). Unlike the Redneck, my variety does not grow faster when

    Victor, you bat-shit crazy bastard – I love you man! ; )

    Kathy – Thanks for those links. Fascinating stuff I’ll have to look into as/if time permits.

    Here is a reasonably good book that gets to the core of the non-debate concerning creationism :
    Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution
    Douglas J. Futuyma (Author)

    Still my favorite remains just about anything by Stephen J. Gould – in particular, “The Panda’s Thumb.” “The Panda’s Thumb. “The Panda’s Thumb. (say it three times for gooder luck)

    Brilliant, hilarious, thoughtful collection of essays on evolution and the general incompetence of any god’s who want to claim they “designed” ours or any other forms of life.

  • Kathy

    That was a beautiful example of adaptation (micro-evolution), an organism’s ability to adapt to a changing environment. What it did not demonstrate was true evolution on a macro scale.

    In other words, the bacteria remained bacteria. They did not evolve declare “Fuck this! We are outa here!”, change into birds and fly away. Now THAT would have been impressive.

  • Well Victor, the rest of the story is what scientists keep working on. How did bacteria form colonies that then began to have cells that specialized until they became new creatures, and how the whole thing got started with stews of chemicals in the nascent earth, and how the first cell walls came about. They have made tremendous strides in these areas. Supposing early astronomers said, how could a planet hang in space, and rotate and revolve around the sun. Did the planet just jump off the heavenly firmament and say “Fuck this I am going to rotate and revolve”. But risking the rack these astronomers figured a whole lot out and the area that got chalked up to God got smaller and has gotten smaller and smaller ever since.

    Current scientists as they work out how evolution works and how micro evolution can lead to macro evolution don’t have to face the rack, just scorn from people who assert that it cannot be figured out. Luckily scorn and ridicule is no where near as big a deterrent and rack and the stake. Darwin had much figured out but no mechanism for inheritance. Unbeknownst to him Mendel had worked out the idea of genes. When I started high school we read The Genetic Code by Issac Asimov. Some guys named Crick and Watson had just supplied that particular link to how genes worked. And the knowledge just keeps growing. But not to worry Victor, the collapse is nigh and scientific inquiry of this sort will end so you can maintain that they never proved the whole ball of wax.

  • As long as one’s “mind is made up”, one can always find defects in a concept to justify its rejection. Defects aplenty were pointed out in the concept of emancipation to justify the continuation of slavery. There is no dearth of such opportunities in opposing evolutionary theory.

    Of course the corollary that one might have to deal with is that each species arising de novo did so at the exact time and place and with the exact characteristics needed to mislead investigators into thinking that evolution was taking place. It is an extension of the ideas parroted by TRDH’s acquaintance, the professor of creation science, only this time the postulate is that not just each fossil, but each living species was created de novo.

    Inconsistencies, falsehoods and contradictions in the Bible are peshat. Non-Judiac studies of the Bible generally do not venture into remez, drash or sod, nor do they consider the New Testament contradictory to the Bible.

  • goritsas:

    Mutualism is addressed at some length in Matt Ridley’s book The Origins of Virtue.

  • Hi, Virgin Terry, yours is a very sad story. Family break-up is such a catastrophic loss that many choose to undergo killing stress to avoid it. In my case, the opportunity was there to keep the family together by utterly surrendering my integrity and pretending that what I saw all around my was not there. This is “putting the telescope to the blind eye” as Kevin mentions. Most of the people I knew were quite successful in doing just that but, for some reason, I couldn’t make it work.

    For my kids, the baseline expectation is:- ever expanding prosperity and technological development. They live their lives according to this faith.
    My attempts to point out the impossibility of these expectations, the absurdity of this way of life, have been perceived as personal attacks on themselves. Not good for maintaining relationships.

    Although we would prefer to see the people we love heed the warnings and take sensible steps toward possible survival, I think we have to face the fact that most people, the elderly, the disabled, and the vast majority of people who are mentally and physically “out of shape” just won’t survive. Probably there are many individuals who are very much aware but don’t see themselves as survivors. Such people may choose instead to remain on board the sinking vessel, helping and comforting others as the ship goes down. I think that would be a humane and honorable choice requiring the same level of courage as the choice to prepare for survival.

  • Surprisingly, these changes didn’t unfold in a smooth, linear process. Instead, each colony evolved in sudden jerks, followed by hundreds of generations of little change, followed by more jerks.

    That’s Punctuated equilibrium described by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould.

  • Tamnaa: I have two kids from a previous marriage. Through private schools and all sorts of other shenanagins I was able to get them through two top twenty schools here in the US. They both think they believe in your baseline expectation, and are living the dream, but they also know they have a place to go when things fall apart. I have been right more times than I have been wrong, and they admit that. Echoing Guy’s lights out in ’12 has them thinking I might be loosing it though. I believe he is right. My feeling is that as a parent you do the best you can for them, and see them out on their own, but you also, now, have to make a space for them to come back to. Parenting got complicated.

    Question for you: Sounds like you are up in the Chiang Mai area in Thailand. I’ve been there a couple of times and loved it. When things get bad, what stops China from taking whatever they want? Thailand is already the largest rice exporter in the world, and the natural resources are huge. At the point that something like this would happen, I can’t see anyone giving Thailand much assistance.

    sam: are you out there? I have a corn question.

  • Hi Ed, “they also know they have a place to go when things fall apart.”

    Excellent! For years I had the idea of providing such a place. There’s just something about Canada that makes everything you do expensive, even living simply. I didn’t succeed.

    “Sounds like you are up in the Chiang Mai area”… no, that’s the real North, we are in the Northeast. It’s a different region. Chiang Mai is beautiful.

    ” When things get bad, what stops China from taking whatever they want?”
    Nothing! We are already firmly in China’s sphere of influence here and I don’t think there is any political faction which opposes China.
    Thailand has a history of politely opening the door to powerful invaders (e.g. to Japan in WWII) as long as the face-saving appearance of sovereignty is maintained.

    Maybe I shouldn’t say nothing would stop China. They have worked very hard to make themselves just as petroleum-dependent and vulnerable to financial collapse as the western nations are.
    In a severe precipitous collapse, they might not be able to wield much power.

  • Bernhard.

    On the matter of the adaptability of humans, one of the most remarkable responses of ‘the system’ to the prospect of abrupt climate change is to suggest that we will somehow adapt, i.e. human societies will adapt to an Earth which is several degrees warmer than now. I find such an argument rather bizarre.

  • People of guymcpherson.com:

    There are only two kinds of people on this planet: those who support the Empire, and those who oppose it. If you are not with us, you will be annihilated. The Judeo-Christian-Socialist intellectual axis which has prevailed for so many centuries is now utterly bankrupt, having led our civilization to the brink of ruin. The future belongs to the disciples of the prophet Nietzsche, to the psychic supermen, and to a new kind of global futurism that transcends all ethnic and national borders. This New World Order is what we Sith call “the Empire.”

    If you are not helping to bridge the gap between man and superman, to bring about higher levels of organization, civilization and superpower on this planet as a prelude to the Galactic Empire, you are nothing but a savage. Human beings exist to struggle, to cultivate the Force and to express their Will to Power. In this way life evolves upward from primordial slime to humanity to the future supermen of the galactic Imperium. The peace-makers, equality-mongers and Last Men are degenerates preaching a lie, and must be overthrown.

    This is not the rant of a deranged, drug-addled or delusional mind. I am quite sane and sober, and aspire to be nothing less than the prophet of a New Order for the next billion years and beyond. Look around you; isn’t it obvious that Western civilization is floundering because there is no Darth Vader to take decisive action, keep people on schedule, crush rebellions, make Captain Needa-style examples of incompetents and remind everyone that the Emperor is even less forgiving than him? If you would like to live in a civilization that is going somewhere, led by supermen with an unlimited cosmic vision, you must join with us as we lay the foundation for the galactic empire of the future. The Empire is mankind’s only alternative.

  • How did bacteria form colonies that then began to have cells that specialized until they became new creatures

    Well Kathy, the problem with that statement is that they, in fact, did not become new creatures….they started out as bacteria and they ended up as bacteria – perhaps with more specialist abilities through adaptation, but bacteria nonetheless.

    Why you keep bringing up the church in these matters I am at a loss to understand. I have not mentioned the church once – until now, of course…. ;-) In those days the church represented a religion that forced its views upon the world and upon anyone who would have the courage to challenge at risk of their lives.

    Today, materialistic evolution is the ‘church’ that forces its views upon the masses and all who challenge it at risk of career, professional standing and reputation. Anyone who challenges dogma is immediately faced with a body immune system that attempts to flush it out of the system just as thoroughly as the church did in those days.

    My challenge to evolution has nothing to do with the church. I will emphasise that. My challenge to evolution has everything to do with science.

    Evolution is not science: it is faith and based upon the unprovable supposition that all things came to be through entirely mechanistic natural processes involving no creator or design.

    Creationism, or Intelligent Design, or whatever variation of these that exist in the world are also faith and based upon the unprovable supposition that all things came to be through the act of an purposeful, intelligent design.

    In the field of philosophy and society and education, there is room for both faiths. And the tools of science can be used to support either case, but neither can make the claim to BE science whilst the other is simply faith.

    I am for impartiality in these matters. I can see both sides of the argument quite clearly. And I can also see where both fall short from a purely scientific vantage. I rant about these things because I refuse to sit back quietly and let evolutionists take the high ground unchallenged – and I will always do so until it is proven one way or the other that god exists or not, or alternatively, until one system or the other is proven true. One or the other is likely true, but we will not likely ever be able to prove it.

  • As long as one’s “mind is made up”, one can always find defects in a concept to justify its rejection. Defects aplenty were pointed out in the concept of emancipation to justify the continuation of slavery. There is no dearth of such opportunities in opposing evolutionary theory.


    This is about as close to a personal attack as I have ever seen from you. The question I am left with is just “whose mind is made up”?

  • Kevin
    The “responses of the system”. What to say. A lot of people meanwhile understand somehow! where we are at. Yet, f.i. choose to support wars for oil, maybe that is why there is hardly any resistance against the newest war on Libya. At the same time, we are wasting the resources left, on building new roads and highways, highrise buildings, new development areas for suburbia, building the newest cars!,…
    So there is actually no other possibility for the system to say, that somehow – everything will work out. Yes it will – a somehow most cannot, and as you once said, don’t want to – understand.
    This leads to political decision making. Democracies are dying from within. The woven system of politics and voters, all caught in the same believe system, denial of reality, can’t change the least as long as things are stable enough. After that, it will be too late to change without tremendous suffering.
    So what would be an adequate political scenery? A dictatorship (we have already by companies), five year plans, or better five generation plans?

    Thank you for “lessons of history”. A remarkable read.

  • Bernhard

    There are no viable options for modern civilisation other than to try its best at supporting the oil-based infrastructure. Nothing short of the current infrastructure will be suitable to support today’s population levels as well as the conveniences of modern life (for those who can afford them). This is why the politics and the economic model are pre-set in favour of BAU.

    As for democracies, there are none. They simply do not exist in the world. I believe that there is no political solution to it (democracy, dictatorship, fascism, whatever), though the attempt will be made to create a more centralised government, both regionally and on a global scale. See Soros for a preview of the pressure building up for such a solution:

    European treasury needed to avoid Depression – Soros


    It’s the well worn demand by the banking elite: “Give us everything or suffer chaos”.

  • human societies will adapt to an Earth which is several degrees warmer than now. I find such an argument rather bizarre.

    Indeed. In fact, I believe it won’t be long before you will be able to demonstrate just how very bizarre such an argument is. You would think that with the natural disasters that continue to multiply each year, and with the build-up of CO2 and ocean acidity, and all the other really clear indicators of a problem, people would see this.

    You would also think that in view of the mounting evidence that we can’t even adapt to changing weather conditions or repair what has already been damaged, that people would see this as a sign that adaptation has its limits.

  • This is not the rant of a deranged, drug-addled or delusional mind.

    It is a rant, nevertheless. Of minimal comedic value, if of any value at all. 

    “whose mind is made up”?

    I, for one, have my mind made up on one point: it is far easier for me to deal with a progression of millions of species connected through evolution than to deal with each of the same millions of species showing up de novo at just the right place, at just the right time, and in just the right order for their charecteristics: indeed, if I were to postulate a G_d, I would not think that the G_d would do it thus. 

  • I, for one, have my mind made up on one point: it is far easier for me to deal with


    Exactly – it is ‘easier for you to deal with’. That is not science. That is supposition. Perhaps a reasonable supposition, or not, but a supposition nonetheless. Unfortunately, what you seem to be really saying is that because you believe this to be true, it must be true, as the alternative makes little sense to you.

  • Record Arctic Ice Melt Threatens Global Security


    “We think it will end up a little bit short of the record – not that it really matters,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.

    “What is extraordinary this year is that there was no weird weather pattern that created the perfect conditions for the record melt in 2007,” Serreze told IPS.

    This year, the summer weather was normal and yet it the ice vanished in similar amounts to 2007.

  • Victor.

    ‘There are no viable options for modern civilisation other than to try its best at supporting the oil-based infrastructure. Nothing short of the current infrastructure will be suitable to support today’s population levels as well as the conveniences of modern life (for those who can afford them). This is why the politics and the economic model are pre-set in favour of BAU.’

    That is certainly a factor but do not forget that a huge portion of ‘the system’ was set up to transfer unearned wealth to money-lenders and [a little later] to create markets for oil. You may be familiar with the stories of how oil and motoring interests sabotaged electric rail systems, the death of the electric car, the production of heavy vehicles for personal transport as a means of circumventing fuel and emissions standards etc. Providing loans to people to enable them to drive was (is) an important component of that synergistic/synergetic relationship.

    A combination of Permaculture and Powerdown is the great untried experiment which will not be permitted by TPTB on a grand scale because it interferes with the profitability of oil companies and interferes with the flow of wealth to the money-lenders.

    As some of us have previously noted, (and as I point out in TEW), all the major components of ‘the system’ are geared to the destruction society, the destruction of civilisation and destruction of the habitability of the Earth.

    Indeed, nothing will bring down civilisation faster than futile attempts to prop up civilisation.

    That is one of the many truly surreal aspects.

  • P.S. Not that electric rail systems or electric cars are sustainable in the long run.

    We could well have difficulty keeping bicylces on the roads for more than a couple of decades. However, in the meantime:

    ‘Although seeking the easy way resulted in numerous disastrous consequences, it can be argued that inventing and developing bicycles was one of humanity’s greatest achievements, since riding a properly maintained bicycle is easier than walking and expends much less energy. Bicycles have outlived steam engines, trams, biplanes, airships, trolley buses, bubble cars and supersonic airliners. And for reasons which will become apparent later, we could witness a great resurgence in the use of bicycles, not just because bicycles provide means of travelling significant distances which result in close to zero net carbon dioxide emissions.’

    At this stage in the game some people say they would rather die than ride a bicycle. We will see.

  • A combination of Permaculture and Powerdown is the great untried experiment which will not be permitted by TPTB on a grand scale because it interferes with the profitability of oil companies and interferes with the flow of wealth to the money-lenders.


    It is not only untried, but would result in only limited success at this moment. Both Permaculture and Powerdown (IF we were able to power down enough) would result in untold numbers of deaths due to die-off. Even Permaculture could not possibly support 7 billion people. And Powerdown has only limited capability of reducing energy usage. And if we have massive die-off, we could not hope to maintain the viable modern society upon which alternative energy rests – advanced technology and fossil fuels.

    Talk about surreal….

  • Kevin

    A bicycle is a wonderful mode of transport. I have two of them – one which is electric. But you are correct – neither will survive for many years once collapse sets in as bikes rely heavily upon modern technology to be produced and maintained over the long term.

    Perhaps a good business to get into is raising horses?

  • Victor.

    Well-off people around here go on regular overseas holidays: it is the done thing. I spoke with one just a couple of days ago who is flying to the US, going on a cruise, tripping around for a few weeks and then flying back to NZ. Because she can. (She wasn’t interested in buying a copy of TEW, of course.)

    Right now NZ is hosting the RWC. I have little idea how many people have come here by plane to watch ball being shifted from one end of a pitch to the other, several times. Many will then travel to another location to watch a ball be shifted from one end of a pitch to the other, several times. Because they can. Last week a couple of hundred thousand brought Auckland’s transport system to a halt trying to get to some entertainment. Everywhere we look there are Chinese-made flags and other bits of crap deemed necessary to celebrate outlandish consumerism.

    Next year goodness knows how much rapidly declining resource will be consumed keeping people entertained via the Olympics. And there is the million barrels a day used by military around the world every day.

    I suspect that worldwide we could cut energy consumption by 50% without seriously affecting the food supply. But we won’t.

  • Hello Tamnaa.
    Very moving to read about the family stories of yours (and others meanwhile), truly moving.
    Location first.
    From my point of view your pick of location is excellent. Always(and sometimes did) wanted to live in tropical environment. Didn’t work out.
    That the people in your area(and yourself) know how to live off the land and still work in “ancient” techniques is also admirable, wish you and them find ways to encourage the further use and passing on of the knowledge. So much knowledge, actually true wisdom, has been lost in the industrialised countries, at the same time devaluing older people and their knowledge, wherever this can be prevented or even re-learnt, will be a tremendous “fortune” to the population.
    Kids. Ours grew up in a “green” household. When I was a teenager, the thought to have children in “this” world was unbearable. When 21 the first “happened” and then an other one and finally, they were most welcome. The wish to drop out of the system and move to f.i. Bougainville, Papua, that was not possible for two reasons, the chronic illness of my wife and the thought that taking the kids to an environment that would “deprive” them of the skills of living in an industrialised country, would make it impossible choosing for themselves, nowadays I know this is true the other way around as well. Then a couple of decades into “green” politics, the thought it must! be possible to get people into a reasoning state of mind, was quite interesting though, being considered enemy of the state;-)
    All delusion in the end, green politics now isn’t green the least, it’s blinding people even more. Blinding, through changing times, how often was the “telescope on the blind eye”, just to be able to care for family’s needs? Often.
    Well, sorry for the length. Kids. Although our kids should be aware and to some extent are aware, about the state of earth, as they grew up in a “concerned” household, it is difficult to talk about the outlooks.
    When last christmas! I tried to carefully(maybe not so?) suggest to have a careful look at the world before deciding to have kids on their own, the results were grim. Over the following weeks and months I learnt to honour their reception. Believe they have trust in me a lot, and I was telling them, – there is no future. Since then I’m way more careful when talking about this issues, still wish for them to understand, at the same time knowing how a destructive force realisation can be.
    Conversation is ongoing, there is also a big difference between the two in the willingness to realise the facts.
    Quite certain about the needs to weather “the storm”, I believe it needs a village, even an area with skilled people and community to get through difficult times. But that is not something I or others can offer over here at this time, no plan B ready, so might just take it more easy for now and enjoy every moment when sharing time.

  • Kevin

    Indeed. We could cut back, even eliminate ‘wasteful’ industries like sports and entertainment and tourism, but such a move in our highly connected world would result in massive job loss not only in these industries but in supporting industries as well – transport, communications, construction, retail food and beverage, and so on – as well as tax revenues. Businesses would fail – including some big businesses supporting many employees. In the current and future economic environment there would be little chance that these jobs and businesses could be replaced.

    In overshoot you can’t hold on and you can’t let go without great harm coming.

  • Quite certain about the needs to weather “the storm”, I believe it needs a village, even an area with skilled people and community to get through difficult times. But that is not something I or others can offer over here at this time, no plan B ready, so might just take it more easy for now and enjoy every moment when sharing time.


    You are correct. Tamnaa is well-placed to have at least a chance (climate change withstanding). You and I are not. So enjoying every remaining moment is probably the best we can hope for in the long term.

  • Oops…that post was for Bernhard!! Many apologies.

  • Bernhard, You said; “So much knowledge, actually true wisdom, has been lost in the industrialised countries, at the same time devaluing older people and their knowledge, wherever this can be prevented or even re-learnt, will be a tremendous “fortune” to the population.”

    Yes, that expresses exactly how my wife and I feel about the old cultural ways of Isaan. Gandhi taught about “swaraj” which means self rule or independence being linked with “swadeshi”, home production. The people of our area are looked upon as backward and impoverished because they don’t have a lot of money income. A family here may have a comfortable house and plenty of nourishing food; really everything they need to be healthy and happy but, without the industrial products that only money can provide, they are made to feel inferior. Those very people, though, have the skills to provide for themselves when the industrial system collapses. They are independent and, in my view, they deserve great respect. Unfortunately, the social drift here is toward abandoning this independence and jumping onboard a ship that is already sinking.

    You also said ” I believe it needs a village, even an area with skilled people and community to get through difficult times” Yes, I agree. The best thing we could be doing these days is setting up experimental villages in many various locations in the world to test alternative social and economic principles. It would be a kind of natural selection process with sustainability and contentment the criteria rather than domination.

  • With appreciation to Kevin Moore for this thoughtful excerpt, a new post by Kathy Cumbee is up. It’s here.

  • On the one hand we have self-proclaimed masters of the universe owning huge mass media corporations and their absurdly enriched and overly educated ‘talking heads’ who confuse everyone in the name of being fair and balanced. On the other hand we have knowledgeable and highly influential people who choose to remain willfully blind, hysterically deaf and electively mute rather than “speak truth (as best they can see it) to power.” Both contrived arguments of sycophants and conscious silence of scientists reign. The family of humanity is being betrayed by all who collude in such dishonest and duplicitous denial, I suppose.

    At the same time human beings with feet of clay are making futile efforts to share openly and honorably an understanding of what is happening to the climate and Earth’s body as well as why damaging things are occurring in our planetary home on our watch. Sadly, despite the necessity for consensual validation of whatsoever is real, many too many leaders and experts on whom human family relies for adequate knowledge are participating in a catastrophic failure to communicate what they believe to be true. Woefully inadequate communication such as we see today was in evidence in other time-spaces throughout human history with devastating consequences for human constructions and empires. No question about that.

    We can recall the days when the “Tower of Babel” was under construction. Now that I think about that ancient colossus, we are in the process of ‘building out’ on the surface of Earth an artificially designed, certainly manmade, soon to become patently unsustainable “ECONOMIC COLOSSUS” called the global political economy. No one is speaking out loudly, clearly and often enough to be heard regarding the global predicament the human family appears to have induced, adamantly advocated and continues to relentlessly pursue, come what may for future human well being and environmental health.