Global warming, population growth, and food supplies: When will Americans finally “get it”?

by Gary Peters

To borrow a line from Pete Seeger, “When will we ever learn?” If Karl Marx were alive today he would quickly see that television has become the opium of the people, dulling our senses and keeping our minds focused on trivial matters even as the world around us careens further out of control every day. What passes for national news media today is all corporate owned and dedicated to telling us as little as possible, placing virtually nothing in context, and talking to “experts” in thirty second sound bites. What they don’t tell us is often the stuff we really need to know.

My wife and I were having breakfast recently in a small local café. Near us two men were talking loudly enough to be overheard. Their conversation was focused on guns and the main theme was this: “Nobody is going to take my guns away.” One of them stated that he now had more than one thousand rounds of ammunition and was ready for anything. I still can’t imagine what he was getting ready for that would require a thousand rounds of ammunition, but at least in his own mind he was planning for the future as he perceived it. That is more than most Americans are doing! Our nation is suffering through a period of leadership failure that we can no longer ignore.

It may not be possible to predict the future, but we are going to get nowhere until most Americans realize that there are threats out there that we are not only not preparing for but our leaders are trying to keep us as ignorant as possible of. One of these is global warming, which is guaranteed to affect virtually all of us, not just in the United States but virtually everywhere. Even as many of our leaders, especially Republicans, remain in denial and assure us that all will be fine, scientists keep finding more supportive data all the time. Earth’s atmosphere is warming and humans are responsible, so we need to begin to think seriously about what we can do to slow the process and how we can adapt to changes that are coming our way. The ostrich approach that our nation has taken so far has not worked and will not work in the future.

The figure below, from the Oak Ridge National Lab, shows that in 2010 humans added more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than in any previous year. Despite knowing and talking about global warming and greenhouse gases for two decades or more, it is clear that the world is not actually biting the bullet.

China and the United States are the world’s leading emitters of carbon emissions, followed by India, Russia, and Japan. We know that the more carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere, the warmer it will get. Denial will not change that fact, but it helps put off confronting it. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said in an interview a while back, “Science is true, whether you believe it or not.” Powerful interest groups—including fossil fuel producers, mediocre media, and paid-off politicians—have managed so far in this country to keep Americans bewildered about global warming. The fossil fuel industry alone has backed all kinds of misleading stories, tried to confound the science behind global warming, and won the hearts and minds of many Americans by telling them that it is OK to continue business as usual. Hey, folks, it is just a hoax, as such “thoughtful” people as Oklahoma’s Senator Inhofe have told us repeatedly. I agree with Mark Hertsgaard, who wrote, in his book Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth:

Deniers have a right to express their opinions, but it should not be an unfettered right. The U.S. government prohibits tobacco companies from running cigarette ads on television—why shouldn’t it prohibit companies from running misleading ads about climate change? And if deniers wish to testify before Congress, lobby government agencies, appear in the media, or otherwise influence public policy and debate, their audiences should be reminded of their track record on the issue and the deniers should be forced to defend their unscientific ranting. We don’t allow tobacco companies to decide public health policies; we shouldn’t allow fossil fuel companies and their dupes to decide climate policy.

Earlier this year much of the U. S. Heartland roasted; serious to extreme drought conditions across much of the southern tier of our nation occurred and have continued, as shown in the figure below. Withered crops are already visible in many parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and other states; without rain future planting will be marginal at best. Nonetheless, the governor of Texas and now Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry doesn’t think the science of global warming is settled. He did ask Texas citizens to pray for rain, however, but so far that hasn’t helped. With another La Nina developing right now and likely to extend through winter, it doesn’t look good for Texas. It doesn’t look good for Governor Perry either, but that is another story.

Even as extreme drought covers much of Texas and its neighbors, over in Thailand people are still dealing with excessive rainfall that has flooded sizable parts of the nation, including parts of Bangkok. Both of these events, whether directly related to global warming or not, are examples of what climatologists tell us to expect in the future—more weather extremes, from floods to droughts. Devastating recent floods in Italy have gone virtually unmentioned in major American media.

Despite overwhelming evidence that our atmosphere is warming, that it now contains more moisture than it did a few decades ago, that extreme weather events are becoming more common, that glaciers are melting almost everywhere, and that sea level is rising, Americans and most others are doing little to “stockpile a thousand bullets,” i.e. to plan for what is coming our way and to try to slow the process.

We were officially warned in 1988, when Dr. James Hansen testified before Congress about the approaching dangers of pumping more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Since then, not only has evidence of global warming piled up, most of that evidence shows that it has already arrived and is proceeding faster than most earlier predictions imagined possible. The great heat wave that killed thousands of people in Europe in the summer of 2003 provided clear evidence that we were leaving the old, fairly stable, climate regime behind.

The longer Americans and others remain in denial, and the more carbon dioxide (along with methane and other greenhouse gases) that we pump into the atmosphere, the more difficult it will be for future generations to cope with Earth’s changing climate. The asteroid that recently zoomed by Earth missed us, thank goodness, but global warming will not. It is here, it is real, and we should be thinking hard and acting fast both to mitigate further warming and to adapt to the warming that is already built into the atmosphere.

I know that there are skeptics out there, but most have no scientific credentials. Among others, I’m sorry to see some who take peak oil seriously shrug off global warming, in part, I guess, because they believe oil will be used less in the future, so we’ll have less carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. Though they could be right, we’ve already added enough carbon dioxide to the atmosphere to make sustained warming a reality, but we are not ready. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has increased from 280 parts per million to 390 and it is still rising steadily; much of this is caused by humans and their burning of fossil fuels. In a recent essay on Energy Bulletin titled, “Peak oil: The Five most common misconceptions,” Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer, wrote the following:

So I think as far as peak oil goes, most of us can agree that just as it did in the U.S. in 1970, global oil production will inevitably decline. The points of contention are the timing, the steepness of the decline, the impact on the global economy, and the ability of other energy sources to fill the supply gap. Some believe it will be a non-event, and some people believe it will be catastrophic.

What do I believe? I think of peak oil as supply struggling to keep up with demand, which will keep prices at recession-inducing levels. I think that we will probably eek out a bit more global production, but I will be surprised if the world gets past 90 million barrels per day. I believe that shale gas and oil sands production will continue to rise, and global carbon emissions will continue their upward march.

His last sentence is absolutely correct and one more warning to us all. Whatever happens to oil extraction, when added to other fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas, we are assured that, unless we make positive attempts to curb them, carbon dioxide emissions will continue well into the future, guaranteeing our planet a measure of warming that humans will find hard to cope with. Hard is not impossible, but the time to act is now, not in 2050 or some other future date. We cannot wait until fossil fuels run out before we act.

The simple arithmetic of population growth, without massive changes in how we view humans and their purpose on Earth, assures that global warming, environmental degradation, famines, and other unacceptable threats to human life will continue. Like all animals, humans must have food and water to survive. Right now humanity experiences about 140 million births each year and about 60 million deaths, leaving us with a net gain of about 80 million people each year. Earth’s population has doubled since 1966. This year the human population reached seven billion; it reached 6 billion in 1999, only a dozen years ago.

One disconcerting trend in recent years has been toward high food prices, driven higher by a combination of weather problems, e.g. floods and droughts, population growth, greater affluence, agricultural subsidies in rich countries, and the growing use of crops, especially corn, to fuel vehicles rather than human bodies. The figure below is the latest from FAO; though prices in 2011 have trended a bit downward in recent months, overall prices remain very high.

According to the FAO’s Food Outlook, June 2011:

Halfway into this turbulent year and with new marketing seasons for major food crops commencing soon, this is a critical time to evaluate current developments in global food markets and to draw the early outlook for 2011/12. In a remarkable turn of events, earlier prospects for more comfortable supply situations and stable prices gave way to increasingly worrisome outlooks and to an escalation of international prices to levels not seen in decades. In fact, the FAO food price index in May stood at a ear historical high of 232 points, down only 6 points from the February record. While unfavourable weather was the main culprit, a host of other unpredictable factors negatively impacted stability in the food markets, including the catastrophe in Japan, an unprecedented wave of political unrests engulfing many countries in North Africa and the Near East, another strong increase in oil prices, prolonged uncertainty in financial markets and in the global economy.

Even as weather and other phenomena take their toll on agricultural production, still another variable lingers in the background. Modern agricultural production depends as never before on oil, yet even high oil prices have not recently brought forth large new supplies. The figure below is from a post by Gail Tverberg:

Will all this soon improve? Most modern economic theologians assure us that it will. Those two magic words, supply and demand, will wondrously bring food to the starving, cheap oil to the world, and that magic elixir, economic growth, shall pour forth again. Sadly, throughout the twentieth, and even into the twenty first centuries, a vast majority of people have believed this message, or at least tried to. Pushers, from Wall St. to the World Bank and IMF, tell the poor just to wait a little longer, do the right things, and all will be well. Even as toxic debt piles up in the cellars of banks around the world, the promise remains. Just wait and see!

In a recent post on her blog, Our Finite World, Gail Tverberg wrote:

People wonder what has been happening recently, with wildly gyrating financial markets and government debt problems. It seems to me that we are bumping up against an economic growth ceiling, brought on by a limited supply of cheap oil. As a result, we appear to be headed back into recession. Debt deleveraging can be expected to play an important role as well, and may cause this recession to be much worse than the last one.

Economists have always promised more than they could deliver, spreading the costs of growth around while concentrating the benefits in relatively few hands. If we look at a few other major trends in the world today it should be plain to people that we cannot continue on the path we’re on without experiencing more famines, further environmental degradation, and much harder lives for those already struggling most.

Source: Richard Heinberg, “Sneak Peak: Oil Age Presentation Script”

We could add some additional images to the above, including the following:

Source: United Nations. Note that projection for 7 billion is off by a couple of years already.
Source: http://www.whole-systems.org/extinctions.html

The most striking feature of all of the above graphs is their rapid upward trend. It shouldn’t take a nuclear physicist to point out that all of these trends are unsustainable on our only planet. As Kenneth Boulding wrote long ago, “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”

Unfortunately, there are far too many of both in the world today, arguing even now that the answer to unemployment problems in the U.S. and elsewhere in the struggling world economy is economic growth. Old paradigms don’t die easily.

In an excellent recent post on her blog, Gail Tverberg wrote:

The problem we have is that the world’s population has grown to 7 billion people. If we substantially cut back on oil (or on fossil fuels in general), there is a question as to whether w will have enough food and water to support the 7 billion people alive today. If we had very many fewer people, we would have much less of a problem.

I could not agree more. As we continue to add more than 200,000 people to the planet each day, I cannot think of a single problem that adding more people will help solve. To a considerable degree we’ve burned through precious fossil fuels as rapidly as possible to enrich a few and make life at least possible for billions more; the bottom billion or two are poor beyond anything most people could believe. Historians may look back on the twentieth century as the most wasteful in human history. Warnings were abundant—economic growth was eating up Earth’s resources at an accelerating rate and taking a horrendous toll on our only planetary home. The trends illustrated above, collectively, cannot continue without damaging our planet’s ability to support human life.

For most of us to stand by while our banks, fossil fuel industries, and other giant corporations buy up politicians and do everything they can to continue economic growth on our finite planet, no matter what the costs, is nearly criminal. If we do not raise our voices in favor of changing these trends now, future generations will see us as a generation that put greed and growth above morality.

In the introduction to A Short History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson wrote that “Survival on Earth is a surprisingly tricky business…we come from a planet that is very good at promoting life but even better at extinguishing it.” Most Americans shrug off such warnings and instead embrace our prevailing cultural myths, especially those of progress and exceptionalism.

I wish every American could spend an hour or two strolling through the streets of Ephesus, a city in Turkey that today is empty and in ruins, a tourist attraction only. People have lived in the region around Ephesus for at least 8,000 years, though the city was founded by the Greeks only about 3,000 years ago, during the tenth century BCE. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era. Later Ephesus fell under Roman rule and by the first century BCE was the second largest city in the world, exceeded only by Rome.

What each American needs to absorb while walking those long-vacated streets of Ephesus is this: Nothing lasts forever. Nothing! Each would need to feel for himself or herself not just the depth of time and the human creations of those who lived in Ephesus but the fact that life there could not be sustained, no matter how glorious it had been in earlier times. As Bryson said, for all of us survival is tricky business; the same is true for all of what humans have created in their short sojourn on Earth.

In the Prologue to his imaginative book, The World Without Us, Alan Weisman wrote the following:

For a sense of how the world would go on without us, among other places we must look to the world before us. We’re not time travelers, and the fossil record is not complete, the future won’t perfectly mirror the past. We’ve ground some species so thoroughly into extinction that they, or their DNA, will likely never spring back. Since some things we’ve done are likely irrevocable, what would remain in our absence would not be the same planet had we never evolved in the first place.

Yet it might not be so different, either. Nature has been through worse losses before and refilled empty niches. And even today, there are still a few Earthly spots where all our senses can inhale a living memory of this Eden before we were here. Inevitably they invite us to wonder how nature might flourish if granted the chance.

It is not too late for us to act, but each year that we do nothing or remain in denial about the trends that are all around us we are guilty of putting ourselves above posterity. We are headed toward becoming ancestors that future generations will speak ill of, a generation who kept practicing business as usual in the face of overwhelming evidence that it would be disastrous for the planet, for humanity, and for the world’s various ecosystems.
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Gary Peters is a retired geography professor who specialized in population geography. He has taught and written about population and related issues for four decades, during which time the world has added more than three billion people. He also taught economic and physical geography, which gives him a relatively broad perspective on what is going on in our world. Unlike most economists, Peters sees our planet as finite and incapable of sustaining any process that involves physical growth of anything.

Comments 119

  • Hey Tommy Tolson; I think you have struck upon a lot of the right ideas/principles. Are they mostly theoretical or really happening in your life? I hope you will open a simple website or blog to express these alternative ways that humans can live together in “decentralized, low-energy human settlements” in more detail. I agree that something like this is the best way forward but I have yet to find anyone aware enough to be interested.

    To me, three hundred people seems like a lot to organize in such a way that there are “no losers” but maybe you are right. Details and dialogue are needed these days for deep change to become intelligible and then implemented in actuality.

    Gary Peters; you said; “when we created an economic system that thrived on the competitive nature of humans rather than their cooperative side we created a monster that might finally destroy us.”

    So true, the deep-rooted notion of conquering, dominating, controlling “other” for personal or group benefit misses the essential insight that we are all integrally connected with the whole; there is no “other” to compete with and dominate.

    If we finally succeed in conquering nature, replacing biosphere with technosphere, having killed what we really are, we will die… in some sort of absurd triumph, I suppose. And we call ourselves “homo sapiens”!

  • Tommy “I learned this OS for thriving from writing my forthcoming novel, not from applying them in the real world. I live in Texas.”
    I live in rural Alabama. A few years back the county tried to forfeit our town charter which was dormant – we did not have a functioning gov’t and most did not know we had a charter. The belief was that the county had development plans for our area and locals wanted to keep things rural. So at our first few meetings, led by my husband we had about 60% of the town coming. As time wore on we got down to about 15%. However we did raise significant funds to hire a lawyer and got 81% to sign petitions to reinstate our charter. Finally the County Commission (with 4 new members out of a total of 6) reversed the forfeiture and now it is in the hands of the Probate Judge to decide for or against reinstatement. After the initial rush of good feelings, I began to see that, while these people were in love with rural life, they were also in love with the products of capitalism. When I would suggest that growth is over, they are firm in their belief that if we just get Obama out growth will resume meaning we still need to fend off possible encroachment and we don’t need to become farmers like their forefathers were….. I get no takers on the subject of Peak Oil, end of growth, collapse any of that. The only hope is that perhaps some of the good will and getting to know neighbors will carry over into collapse. However some of our members hint at coming race wars or think that Klan was good and should be restored. However most at least own enough land to grow some or all of their food. OTOH the town is mostly older and a significant number are kept alive by drugs.

    Applying such ideas in the real world is a far cry from thinking about them.

    BTW my husband proposed to the group early on a principle that we should think about adopting should we become a town. That would be that if the townsfolk didn’t like something that the mayor and council did they could have a vote and overturn it. He really hoped that this would be an experiment in true democracy. Nobody even wanted to consider it…. So it goes. He was very disheartened to say the least.

  • If we recognize that the population of the planet is too large and quickly needs to go down, what do we do. Supposing we say that the number that is sustainable is 4 billion and we need to get there in 20 years. If we had NO BIRTHS at all that would still require 411,000 deaths per day. That is more than double the current world death rate of 154,000. The current world birth rate is 362,000 per day. If we kept the death rate even and halved the birth rate we would still be increasing the population by 27,000 per day or almost 10 million per year.

    Anyone who thinks that the population problem can be cured by birth control, education, etc hasn’t done the numbers. We are already over using the resources of the planet. We don’t have time to correct the problem ourselves, except by war or bio warfare. Thus barring such draconian solutions, nature will apply its own draconian solutions.

    However individually one can still make sure that they are not fertile when birth control pills and condoms are no longer available.

  • Perhaps I am missing something….I looked up the Washington Post, the New York Times, ABC/CBS/NBC/MSNBC, News, CNN, Chicago Tribune, LA Times before I finally quit searching for news of the new National Defense Authorization Act just passed by the US Senate by a vote of 93-7. Perhaps there are other mainstream media outlets, but after all this, I guess I decided that the voting away of the US Constitution was simply not news in the US – at least by the dominant corporate media. I must say, I find this extraordinary, and would bet that a very large majority of the people of the US have no earthly idea what just happened to them and their rights and their country. Arguably, this was the most important piece of congressional legislation ever passed in the history of the USA, and it was virtually ignored.

  • I believe we that, as a society, have lost the desire or even the social skills necessary to build a true community. In true communities people HAD to look out for each other, depended upon neighbours and local business for their needs and security, and knew all that was going on in the community.

    Today we are a large collection of individuals isolated from each other and dependent only upon jobs, government and international transport to meet our needs. Even families today are composed roughly of individuals who happen to live in the same house and sometimes share food and tv, but live quite separate lives.

    You can’t teach people to take on these new responsibilities or to cultivate desires for a way of life not only foreign to them, but unnecessary. Even forming a Neighbourhood Watch is a major event that might create a bit of interest for a while but rapidly degenerates as soon as people find out that time and effort is required of them.

    True community is only formed out of necessity. That necessity does not yet exist, and so neither do communities. I am, of course, not saying there exist no communities in the world – only that where they do not exist, they never will, until it is forced upon them as that culture is to foreign for them. You had people who instinctively saw an advantage for such communities throughout the history of industrial civilisation, hippies being one such effort. Many of them even struck out to form communal living arrangements in planned communities, and most failed. Why? Because many of them only saw the ‘touchy-feely sentimental’ aspect of what they were trying to do. They didn’t realise the investment in inter-personal work and emotion that would be necessary.

    When people start talking about going out and forming a community, I say ‘Good luck to Ya, mate. You’ll need it!’

    Soon the need for community will be forced upon all of us. Some will succeed. The vast majority will not.

  • Gary:

    Thank you for an excellent and concise examination of the exponential curves we’re riding.

    As for being despised ancestors, I imagine that we’ll have plenty of young company in the place where we gather with our own ancestors, once those curves approach the vertical axis.

    One note on commmunity: the November 2011 issue of Atlantic Monthly has an article on E.O.Wilson, describing his next book, The Social Conquest of Earth. The book suggests that human nature is similar to ant nature or termite nature, capable of great complexity when it’s part of a hive, but when it’s alone, not so much.

    Wilson’s view is that we find true bliss when we’re constructing or defending a nest. That explains phenomena all the way from Vladimir Putin’s run for re-election to our hunger for a well-sorted tribe to the backyard garden I’m constructing in anticipation of global warming [minus 9 Fahrenheit this morning]. It doesn’t explain how millions of nests will survive in a world of declining resources, especially when some of those nests will be authoritarian, armed and mobile.

    In this view of things, Ephesus is now a well-defended nest for the tourists, which doesn’t make it any less creepy.

  • I’ve posted a new, self-indulgent essay. It’s here.

  • Kathy:

    You said, “Applying such ideas in the real world is a far cry from thinking about them.”

    When someone I am talking to suggests a solution, I say, “Go ahead. Try it. Let me know how it turns out.” they look at me perplexed, as if to say, “Well, I didn’t mean me! Just someone should do it.”

  • Curtis, I will have to remember that line :) Thanks

    Victor, Dimitry Orlov says something quite similar about community. To make it a catchy phrase “Necessity is the mother of community.”???

  • tommy tolson, as i was reading through your post i was thinking to myself “what a bunch of idealistic bullshit! this stuff will never fly in the (sur)real world. then i came to your last line and see that u basically agree:

    ‘I learned this OS for thriving from writing my forthcoming novel, not from applying them in the real world. I live in Texas.’

    which makes me wonder: what was the point of writing your post? what good are ideals that everyone knows don’t can’t apply to the surreal world? then i saw that kathy, victor, and curtis all beat me to the punch in making this criticism.

    idealism sounds good to some, for some inexplicable reason, as if utopian ideas are some new fangled invention that haven’t already been tried and failed who knows how many times already. scoff at the meager preps possible that individuals and small groups can carry out all u want; in the end, they’re all we have.

  • stupidity, deceitfulness, and delusion seem to be embedded in human dna, or perhaps just the culture of domination by any means available. either way, it seems to me we’re screwed. there are no large scale solutions to the surreal problems we face, no hope of defying mother nature just one last time. THERE IS NO SURREAL HOPE of survival if mother nature turns against us collectively, as we have to her. there is no hope of mitigating collapse except in the most personal and local ways. in other words, there is no choice but to build/create a ‘life raft’, canoe, life preserver, whatever, YOURSELF. if u have anyone to share this endeavor with, u are blessed. if u have a group, i envy u. it must feel good to have others with whom to share this awesome task.

    as usual i draw on kathy’s brilliance (imo) to make an unoriginal observation on the heels of her original: collectively, sheople don’t impress me much. stupid, crazy, evil, whatever, something’s wrong with our dna or our relationship with nature, and those who are aware are beginning to witness and anticipate the awful consequences. those with a conscience (like most/all here?) are spiritually devastated. guilt by association at the very least.

    the forces of history/nature/’god?’ in the end overwhelm all individual endeavor. i’m not saying preparation isn’t a good idea. i’m suggesting that if nature turns resolutely against us we’re all screwed, as many fear/anticipate with regard to runaway agw and a host of other issues which together shall be industrial civilization’s deadly legacy.

  • individual humans do have one way to avoid being victims of ‘mom’s’ wrath, if indeed her wrath should prove overwhelming. rather than fighting for survival to the bitter end and being forced to succumb finally to an involuntary and perhaps disgraceful devastating drawn out and painful death, one can choose how and when to die at one’s own hand.

    do u ever think life isn’t worth living? i do. i wish suicide could be a surefire painless angst-free easy choice/act. if it’s martyrs the world needs, i’d like to be a leader. alas, i am unworthy. just a trembling mass of pathetic protoplasm with a dim/poignant awareness of it’s own absurd perversity and tragic fate in a surreally awful surreality. i pray death when it comes shall be sudden, pain/angst-free, and a relief, if not a liberation. i pray for the strength/gift to choose a good suicide over a bad ‘natural’ departure.

  • vt: Suicide without angst or pain still strikes me as giving up some very expensive 50-yard-line seats on the Apocalypse. You’re here for the biggest show on earth–at least for the last 65 million years anyway, and you’re considering letting someone else see what you’ve come all this way and all this time to see?
    For me, suicide is not an option. I’m fascinated by the way the present is unfolding. Every day is full of surprises, however surreal, and if you can use those surprises to increase your consciousness, eventually some new option, some new way of thinking, some new horizon will present itself. Even if we belong to a culture that has chosen death, we can still choose to live–we live less than an eyeblink in terms of geological time anyway, and dying by one’s own hand is hurrying an already hurried process.
    Kathy C. keeps telling folks to read Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, which is a cheery book in spite of its title. Let me be the second person to recommend it to you. It reduces the pain of unmet expectations and increases the pleasure of living in the moment, which is all we’ve got, anyway.

  • vt, I agree with John that early exit means missing some of the show. But I also agree with you that the show is going to go from interesting to horrific, perhaps quite quickly. Whether or not we decide that life is worth living, we are alive, and the only way out of living is dying and very few deaths are easy. They could be, but TPTB don’t want even those who have excruciatingly painful terminal illnesses to exit under their own volition. In essence they don’t want us to even own our own death.

    It is your life and no one can know how painful it is to you but you. However consider this, a bullet from a robber could be easier than a botched suicide. And there will be plenty of robbers once things collapse. Perhaps sticking around is the easiest suicide?

    The fact that you discuss suicide openly seems to me to suggest that you are mixed in your feelings and therefore more likely to botch any attempt.

    Me, I think often of exiting before the worst comes, but I suspect I will stick around long enough to end up burned at a stake :( Ah well perhaps the smoke will get me before the flames :)

  • I haven’t tried to make one yet, but I ran across a homemade Berkey-type filter that uses Berkey filters.

    http://www.alpharubicon.com/kids/homemadeberkeydaire.htm

  • rena, i think if u can afford berkey filters, u can afford a custom made container from the same company. they surreally aren’t expensive at all, when u consider they come with filters, which sell for about $107 each individually (u get progressively higher discounts for volume orders. above 25, the discount levels off at 20%. (i suppose for much larger orders, it’s up to the customer to try to negotiate the best deal). if u have cash to spend, now’s a good time to stock up, before the much anticipated debt implosion and hyper inflation hits. (like the supposed second coming of christ, no one knows exactly when that will be. it’s a good bet that when it happens, it’s going to be an unpleasant shock to many.)

    i just ordered some berkey lights, the transparent durable plastic model which i’m told should last a lifetime if not much more. subtracting the price of the 2 filters that come with it, u’re only paying about $30 for a high quality product. and high quality is desirable for something so critical. post collapse, there will be plenty of things to worry about and keep occupied at. not having to worry about water quality if u must resort to potentially unsanitary toxified rain or stream water would be great. it could well make the difference between survival and a painful ignominious death.

    checked out the link to the homemade container. it saves considerable money (about $100) by getting the filters on ebay. i’m not the smartest shopper and have never shopped ebay. my understanding is it has a rep for bargains on quality used products. is this the case? what about quality guarantees? how do u know what u’re getting if it’s second hand? i apologize if these reflect profound ignorance that’s disturbing or annoying. i may be wrong, but i’m suggesting that this sort of bargain hunting might backfire. maybe the filters are mostly used up. even if they’re half used up, they’re no bargain. and those buckets while sturdy probably don’t compare to what berkey sells in terms of durability. just my humble thoughts on the matter. over the long haul, i suspect buying direct from berkey might be the best bargain.

    ‘burned at a stake :( Ah well perhaps the smoke will get me before the flames -kathy

    now that’s a horrible way to go. almost certainly before blessed unconsciousness descends, there will be such pain/anguish u’ll be cursing gaia for having been born. kathy, i trust u won’t be so foolish as to allow such a fate to overtake u. i hope that if and when the time comes, u will have the wisdom and courage to take matters into your own hands.

    i’ve mentioned this before, but i’ll repeat it here because i’d like more feedback on the idea, especially from tsdh (the surreal dr. house).

    if given a choice, most sheople probably would choose to die asleep, completely unconscious. just like that, no pain.

    my idea of preferred suicide method (i haven’t surreally researched the matter or given it a great deal of thought, so this is far from set) is an opiate overdose, something like heroin. i’ve never experienced it but according to many who have, it gives one a feeling of intense bliss. seems to me that’s the best last feeling/consciousness one can hope to experience. it shouldn’t be too hard to overdose for someone who hasn’t built any tolerance, and it shouldn’t be impossible to find out how much u need to ingest in order to reliably be lethal. after the bliss will come a fade out which hopefully remains blissful to the blessed end, which is coma/death. relief, if not liberation. unless of course, something like hell is surreal and where are spirits are going (if we aren’t already there).

  • i just thought of something else. it would be a bitch to have had on hand a lethal dose for too long, as the product deteriorates over time. thus it would be good to know the shelf life of various opiate products, if one is thinking of acquiring a lethal dose to hold potentially for many years or decades before using. i imagine acquiring such information can be done over the internet, although it may require more than a simple google search. it could be time consuming and frustrating for an impatient ignoramus. of course, that’s preferable over potentially getting someone in trouble. i’m no expert on laws, but i do know big brother is fond of persecuting doctors for participating in euthanasia where illegal, and the bastards might even prosecute one for merely providing helpful information to a merely curious mind. it’s not my purpose to get anyone in trouble.

    apology to robin datta for overlooking him as our other nbl physician in my previous post. of course, i welcome your input if any, also, on the matter, robin.

  • humans haven’t figured out that we are already in deep sh*t, what honestly makes you think that humanity will suddenly have some sort of miraculous revelation?

    The only time something will be done on a national level is when members of congress are walking around in ankle deep water in congress. Even then they will still deny climate change but only vote to due something through because their $300 shoes are getting ruined.

  • V. Terry – thanks for your input. Yeah, I think I’m going to invest in an actual Berkey. An experienced off-grid guy I have a lot of respect for has pounded home the point to me that certain homemade gadgets tend not to hold together well. And while they can be repaired, I think I’d rather just invest in something that’s well-built. That being said, you never know when you need a back-up plan, or if you’ll bump into someone who really can’t afford the “real deal”.

    Guy – I’m a new commenter who has been lurking for quite some time. I really enjoy your thoughts on the world.

    Off to be quiet again…. :)