Taking a Hike

I’ve long accepted the words of Hunter S. Thompson in The Proud Highway: “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

I appreciate Gonzo’s anthropocentric perspective on humanity, but he was late to the party of loneliness. Early American conservationist and philosopher Aldo Leopold pointed out in his final book (published in 1949, after Leopold’s untimely death), “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.”

A world of wounds because an ecologist can see what we’re doing to the living planet. Alone because so few people give a damn. Awakening to life means awakening to all parts of life, including the realization and acceptance of our own mortality. But dying pales in comparison to the insults we are visiting on Earth.

Hovering in full view from my window is one minor example of the world’s wounds. It’s the story of how the (North American) West was lost. It begins when silver and gold are discovered in the area, at which point the mining company buys all the nearby water rights and the associated land (considerable water is needed to extract ore from rock). As with all states in the western U.S., the state constitution declares that water must be used in an agriculturally productive capacity. So the mining company, interested only in getting the water to the mine, leases the land to a cattle company. Thus is the local river emptied into two irrigation ditches to grow feed for livestock. The water not consumed by pasture (and then cows) is captured a few miles downstream in an ugly reservoir designed specifically for the purpose. The water is then pumped a couple thousand feet uphill and a few tens of miles horizontally, across a major mountain range to the site of the ore. In summary, the single most destructive force in the history of the West (livestock) is subsidized by a disinterested citizenry and the entirety of nature in the name of financial profit for the second-most destructive force in the history of the West (mining). This arrangement is but a minor example of the system known as civilization, but it reveals the “gold mine” of two industries, cattle and mining: the owners get the gold and the rest of us get the shaft. With these industries, as with civilization, the goal is to transfer financial wealth from the poor to the wealthy. Destroying every aspect of the living planet is merely collateral damage, as there’s a lot of money in planetary destruction. By the way, the specific strategy in this local area is working as brilliantly as the general approach of civilization. We’ve never visited so much horror on the living planet, and we’ve never cared less about it.

If I seem morose, it’s because I’m growing tired of my tireless crusade. I suspect regular readers are, too. As much as I’ve tried to infuse humor and optimism into my writing, the news is no longer so damned funny or optimistic.

Although I’ve rarely looked to others for my own happiness, I’ve equally rarely looked to others for consolation or support. But it’s time for me to step away and trust others to take on the impossible tasks we face. I’m inviting others to take up the torch as I assume a role that is more witness than warrior.

I’m not dead yet, but I need to breathe. I’ve been trying to be everything possible to everybody, and it’s not working. Not for me, not for the people I know, and certainly not for the living planet. My optimism about our ability to save the living planet and thus habitat for humans on Earth is waning, and no wonder. Consider this article, which echoes my thoughts and writings from the last decade: “Abrupt climate change will feel like a comet impacting earth. We’re going to discover a different planet. Another earth. One we won’t like anymore. One not worth living on.” And, as usual, climate-change models underestimate the damage we’re doing. Or consider this list of the doom we brought to Earth in the last year alone, which illustrates how profoundly screwed we are and, simultaneously, how little the citizens of this country care what we’ve done and what we’re doing.

I invite others to step forward, particularly from generations other than mine. My generation has put our entire species behind the biggest 8-Ball in history. Even if future generations — few though they may be — fail catastrophically, they’ll still do a better job than we did. How could they not? After all, my generation has failed, and it continues to fail to a degree not previously dreamed possible in planetary history. We fucked the future without offering so much as a kiss.

I’ll continue to post now and then, notably when I’m particularly irritated or ecstatic, or when I’m scheduled to deliver a presentation. I’ll continue to speak to anybody who’ll listen and a lot of people who won’t, as long as a venue is available. And I’ll gladly entertain guest essays, especially from people younger or more hopeful than me. My days of writing frequently for this space are nearing an end, in part because I’ve little left to say on the central issues we face. What I have left to say comes from my heart, not my data-addled brain, as can be detected in my recent writing. I’ll still contribute a data-driven monthly column for Transition Voice (this month’s piece is here).

I’ve explained the moral imperative behind terminating the industrial economy through the lenses of human-population overshoot, climate chaos, environmental destruction, and collapse of the industrial economy. I’ve repeatedly explained that it’s possible and even desirable to live outside the absurdity of the main stream. I’ve demonstrated how to do so, with cooperation as a key ingredient. I’ve opened this space to myriad voices, including those with which I don’t agree. In short, my work here is nearing its end.

I’ve not decided where I’ll be in the coming weeks and months. But I’ve got books to read and hikes to take. I’ve got beautiful places to go and beautiful people to see, before the places are destroyed and the people are gone. And I’ve got a lot of mourning yet to do.

I don’t know where I’ll be when collapse is complete, and I don’t much care, because I’m afraid to move and I’m afraid to stay. Working with others, I’ve helped build an impressively durable set of living arrangements at the mud hut. We have six sources of water, we grow a huge amount of the food we eat, the house is off-grid and astonishing, and the human community is remarkable. So, like the civilized, industrialized human being I am, I’m afraid of change, fearful to cash in my chips. But I’m afraid to stay, too. The thought of continuing to stare, alone, at the world of wounds, causes the terror to rise in me. Afraid to let go of nature’s bounty, as if it’s mine to hold. Afraid what I’m missing by holding onto comfort.

Catch-22, anybody?


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath.

Comments 51

  • Individually, we humans are capable of great wisdom, compassion, insight and courage. Collectively as a species we’ve proven as wise and benign as a bloom of toxic algae. As a man I can take some responsibility for the former, and I try to, but I’m not sure what I can do about the latter. For what it is worth, I’m glad that you’ve born witness with your public work, so I thank you and wish you well. Hiking is good – even among the wounds.

  • Thanks for your continuing apocalypse, Brother Guy. I reached a similar point back in the winter of 2008, that point of feeling “done.” I wrote about it here: http://www.whatawaytogomovie.com/2011/06/the-view-from-the-soup/

    And since then… from soup to nuts, apparently! :)

    Hike in peace, bro…

  • Self-care is good and necessary, too! If you go that nomadic route, swing by southern Vermont and visit the new timberframe and permaculture project I’ll have going on by spring/summer. I promise to put you to work immediately after you finish your welcome beverage of choice.

    In any case, hang in there, my friend. Don’t let the apocalypse get you down (for too long).

  • I admire and appreciate your every effort. I have always considered your contribution a gift. You own us nothing.
    I have always realized we are on our own. My attachments are few. I stopped fighting the good fight long ago. Your blog awakened my participation for a time. I understand your burnout. Enjoy your life as you can, and just shake your head on the scenes ahead.

  • Guy

    Essays or not, your site is an island of comfort for me – a place at which those who thirst can gather without fear of attack. Do not underestimate the value of that. No one appreciates your efforts here more than I, nor will miss them more should you decide to abandon the effort. But as you indicate, you must be true to yourself. You must follow where your spirit guides, or else, what’s the point of it all?

  • Thanks for fighting the good fight. 

    “Ours is not to reason why,
    Only but to do and die.”
    (The charge of the Light Brigade)

    It takes a clarity unbeclouded by one’s milieu to approach the realization of one’s solitude, which is none other than the timeless and dimensionless Solitude & Silence of The One without a second. It is the solitude & silence of every sentient being, yet inclusive of all the seething tumult in the universe. 

    The identification of monetary units as wealth itself, rather than as symbols purportedly exchangeable for actual wealth in resources (and the products derived therefrom), results in the pursuit of such symbols to the neglect and destruction of the very resources that ultimately give the symbols value. 

    The narratives of the past six or more generations, woven out of the paradigm of perpetual growth, have saturated that non-verbal, emotional, believing part of our individual and collective psyche, the part that is nearly insusceptible to logic or intellectual discourse. But because it is the part which guides the direction of thought and action, it makes us eminently maladapted to the paradigm shift that is now upon us. A change in our beliefs will be effectuated  by the emotional responses brought forth by the drastic changes in our milieu, but by then the opportunity for corrective societal action would be long past. Indeed, some may assert that it is already long past as of now.

    This is not reason for despondency, even with the prospect of the extinction of our species: in our sojourn amongst our fellow humans, each of us is Visiting Faculty, contributing what we can. 

  • Well, Guy, you sound burnt-out. It is time to take a hike and enjoy what’s left of our gorgeous environment. I’m hoping to do some myself this spring.

    I think the younger generations are responding, mostly through the Occupy movement, yet I’m still amazed at how many think that Facebook is the environment and nothing will happen to them.

    I agree with your analysis of the local river. Free-flowing rhetoric–ha, ha! You should name names though, especially the corporate maniacs who have depleted this river not only in New Mexico but in Arizona, too.

    Hang in there. I miss our Tues. am conversations but try to get out to the area as much as possible.

  • Guy,
    I have been a reader for a very long time and have never posted a comment. But I learned so much just being a silent participant. We spoke on the phone in December 2010 as I was in despair about the economy, the environment, my role in making a plan for my small family. You encouraged me with common sense ideas; some of which I have implemented, others I cannot because my family is ‘stuck’ in denial. As others have eloquently stated, you will be greatly missed – my tears flow freely realizing how much. My best to you and come back to us when you feel the need for this small community again. I will be here. The Oregon Swede.

  • The first discussion site I got on after learning that Peak Oil was imminent was Jay Hanson Dieoff site and discussion group. The idea that most of the inhabitants of the planet might die was a cause for temporary mourning until I regained my moorings and remembered that all the inhabitants (human and otherwise) of this planet were of course going to die as we are mortals. We are almost at Peak Sun in fact – born 4.6 billion years ago and about 5 billion left to go. http://www.universetoday.com/18364/the-suns-death/ This is my way of coping, backing off from the present and taking a picture from far away. We are a planet doomed to death eventually. All that is beautiful and wondrous here will end. Shame that humans are ending a good part of it, perhaps including their part of it, earlier than was needed. Shame that many billions now living will not live as long as they had expected or hoped. But death is our fate from birth and death is our planet and sun’s fate from birth.

    One day at a time is a rather trite saying and yet that is all we have.

    I am not one to quote optimistic poems or sayings and yet this poem has stayed with me from my youth so for what it is worth

    Look to this day:
    For it is life, the very life of life.
    In its brief course
    Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
    The bliss of growth,
    The glory of action,
    The splendour of achievement
    Are but experiences of time.

    For yesterday is but a dream
    And tomorrow is only a vision;
    And today well-lived, makes
    Yesterday a dream of happiness
    And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
    Look well therefore to this day;
    Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!


  • Guy, the unbearableness of your pain has been evident for some time now. I hope that your stepping back will strengthen and refresh you, for whatever you choose next. I’m enough of an optimist (romantic?) to believe that we can each find someone to travel through even the current disasters with, and hope that soon you find the right mutually nurturing partner to share your terrors and dreams with.

    Thanks for laying out so clearly the damage done by cattle ranching and mining in the West. That background helps to explain your anger when people discuss precious metals preps in your online presence. One trusts that your instincts as an educator allow for forgiveness of those who were previously lacking the information.

    As far as taking a hike goes, your events page doesn’t look like you’ve left yourself much room for that. BC & Scotland by way of the northeastern US will make for a very busy March indeed.

    Looking forward to meeting you when you come this way.

  • It is about time Guy. Sheesh.

    I met a man in the late 1970’s and we talked about the destruction of the world by capitalism et all. He said; “Telling people about it or trying to stop it is like yelling at an empty boat floating down a river.”

    And as I keep repeating to all you empty boats; the world goes where it will and no one man has control over the direction. That is the Tao. All of what is happening is the Tao. It is not good or bad, creation or destruction. It is just the Tao.

    It can make you feel good to say that “one man can change the world”, but that is a myth created by the same culture destroying the world.

    So go out and walk the world, wander, talk to people or just watch. You’ll find out that the suffering you feel for the earth is just your own suffering. The earth could care less about you.

    And if you read what I wrote as in anyway negative then you have a long way to go.

  • some conclusions of mine after your two last posts Identity crisis and taking a hike:

    1. I see it impossible that civilization as a whole changes, there is not going to be a change in consciousness until crisis hits, It will, It’s just a matter of when, probably later than we think although we are hoping for the sooner. After crisis It will be too late for most to change. Right know you need the will and the financial meaning, which is a minority.
    2. Living in some arrangement like yours or in a small town like Todmorden http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/ or something similar is the only thing that makes sense now, I think you can feel in peace there in local and community living and there is nothing else you can do to change the world situation, most important you changed yourself. It’s probably the best chance to thrive during collapse and survive it. Also I think having a supportive love partner on this is important.

    3. I’m 32 and going to try to get to those living arrangements, I just did the easy part, the permaculture courses, now is time to pass from the romantic to the practice, and yes I’m also afraid and darn lonely, people have a hard time accepting this issues, but everything of this Megalopolis Mexico City where I live is absolutely nonsense.

    I’m starting wwoofing around Mexico to see the land through the farm eyes and local communities, and see if there is a good place to buy land and relocate, looking to start or join an intentional community. If there are any Intentional communities, permaculture projects reading this, that I could consider go wwoofing if it doesn’t work out in Mexico, I might consider making a trip if the location calls me.

    cheers, and happy new year I guess

  • There comes a time when change is necessary in order for another path in life to be revealed. You’ve got a good compass, Guy. I hope you will let us know where it is leading you. Thanks for all you have done and have yet to do; it’s been meaningful. And if you ever find yourself on the east coast, don’t hesitate.

  • thanks for all u’ve done and tried to do, guy and tim bennett. it’s a sad ending we’re facing, and regardless of the need to save our planet, surreality leads the inquisitive open honest mind to despair.

    ‘I couldn’t write!

    I tried. I did try. Ideas would hit me and burn inside with a bright enthusiasm and I would open up a new document. At last! But the excitement would burn away before I could reach the end of the second sentence and I would sit there, flummoxed, mugged, as blank and demanding as the page itself, until it hit me that there was nothing else. Nothing else. I was spent. Checking over my shoulder with embarrassment, as if to make sure I had not been espied in my failure to perform, I saved and closed and quit and stood and walked away.’

    -from tim’s link to an essay he wrote about 3 years ago in which he shared his own experience with despair.

    it’s a lot of work to reach relatively few others, primarily those who already share similar world views. it’s very discouraging to perceive that most humans can’t be reasoned with regarding the important issues we face. it’s tragic.

    ‘I find that the one thing I most crave – long and open dialogue with others willing to question their deepest assumptions and come together to find a wisdom more profound than any of us can find on our own – is the one thing I cannot seem to find online.’ -more tim

    perhaps u’re looking for something that doesn’t exist, something which, if attained might just be the miracle we’d all like to believe in or hope for. perhaps if one does achieve some ‘ultimate wisdom’ it only leads to greater, ultimate despair.

    that was a fine essay, tim. thanx for the link. u’re articulate and eloquent, like guy.

    i think our situation is similar to the plot of the book/movie ON THE BEACH recently referred to in this blog. doom approaches. the timetable is much more uncertain and longer term, but we know that collapse, chaos, war, oppression, famine are in the cards probably for most reading this in the years/decades ahead. die off is not going to be any fun, and there may be no survivors. we face an existential crisis. perhaps our very existence is without meaning, purpose, value.

    i think kathy offers some of the best advice to deal with this. yes, we’re going to die, but it’s always been our fate. try to be more in the moment, savoring the now.

    thanks to everyone here expressing appreciation for guy and his work. as sue day is so very fond of saying, ‘be blessed’, guy.

  • Dear Guy, I hope you have a good hike and some wonderful reading and good grieving coming your way. I like the idea that what you have left to say comes from the heart rather than your brain. You have a great brain but brains do get in the way. You have done so much already; sounds like a long, long walking meditation might be just the thing. I haven’t commented much but I’ve read a lot here and feel the kinship here. Go in peace. If you find yourself in western Massachusetts give a holler.

  • Guy. Thank you for the courage, the sincerity, the compassion, and the willingness to confront the issues of our times head on, when most people run from them or donlt even know about them. Thank you providing a point of sanity in a world gone mad. Take a well-earned break.

    Remember that you have not failed. People around us behave stupidly because they have been trained from birth to behave stupidly. It’s the system the money-lenders and corporations established long before any of us were born. The sabotaging of sustainable living by ‘the empire’ has been going on since the 1970s, if not before. And it is coming to its climax right now. Needless to say, nature will trump any piece of legislation that bought-and-paid-for politicians vote for.

    We look forward to you making it to this part of the world.

    With respect to the collapse, in case others are unaware, recent news is:

    Unemployment in Spain is officially 22% (implying a somewhat higher real rate).

    Hungary withdrew from the bond auction when it could not sell its bonds. Hungary’s debt is now rated ‘junk’ status.

    The service sectors of all Eurozone nations except Germany and France have contracted over recent months.

    Hundreds of billions of Euros are ‘parked’ in the central bank because commercial banks do not trust one another.

    The US and Britain are reviewing ‘defence’ spending in the light of the ‘financial crisis’ (can’t mention peak or ecological collapse).

    The developed world plans to sell $7.6 trillion of new debt in 2012.

    Pigs are expected to sprout wings and start flying in 2012.

  • Dear Guy,

    Thank you for being there and for saying what has needed to be said, and especially for doing what needs to be done — for setting such an extraordinary example. I’ve needed people like you who really walk the talk, to help push me further down the path of sustainable and independent living.

    Admittedly though, I still have one foot in the industrial horror show, while the other is out in the garden or with the chickens, and I justify some of my continued excesses by saying that I’m in “transition” even though I know better. Those creature comforts can really be a bitch to let go of.

    But you and a few notable others have helped me tremendously, so that at least I don’t feel like I’m the only one who’s moving towards something true. You’re providing sanity in a world gone mad. And even if you don’t write as often, I’ll be here reading and learning from what you’ve already contributed, as well as looking forward to new words of wisdom.

    I do understand completely the need to cut back on saving the world. I used to try and wake people up, but forcing “the red pill” on those in denial inevitably backfired, ending up in resentment or even estrangement. I’ve finally learned that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” But I’m still extremely dismayed over how few students there seem to be.

    All the best,


  • Thanks for publicly blazing one of the hard trials Guy.

    I thought this quote from They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, by Milton Mayer, would be well placed here:

    “You see,” my colleague went on, “one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move.

    Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow.

    You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ … In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

    “These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end?

    On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic… the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes.

    That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked… But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C?”


  • Guy,

    Rest assured the earth will heal from the industrialized plunder given sufficient time. Be reminded that on a geologic time scale, it has never really been steady state.

    Another fundamental truth is that deep inside, we are hard wired for living in a tribal society. It is only in the last few centuries that we have pretty well dismantled that living arrangement and now find ourselves wandering around without any sense of continuity or belonging. An associated corollary, is that historically tribes of 1 to 5 haven’t fared well, so it is not advisable to ‘go it alone’.

    For the record, I will disagree with Mr Thompson. What goes on between people is the only thing that really matters.


  • Freedom is limited to the various straitjackets that everyone wears. Escaping them presents varying levels of difficulty. Those imposed by biology are impossible to escape: even though every human being in embryonic life develops the rudiments of gills, they either are co-opted for other purposes or degenerate and disappear. We  no longer have the freedom of gas examge with an aquatic environment of that our Rhipidistian ancestors. 

    Political and socio-cultural straitjackets have much overlap, and with unwitting acquiescence one may feel quite free in all of them. Escaping them involves challenges of varying magnitude. 

    And then there are the many forks in the road of life which commit us to specific courses. 

    Every use of the word “freedom” implies the acceptance, witting or unwitting, of an entire wardrobe of straitjackets. One person’s straight jacket may be another’s business suit. 

  • Oh Guy. I’m deeply grateful for your past work. Born the youngest of three with the older and my mother frozen in grief from the loss of their dad/her husband, I always doubted myself. Even after Tim and I made What A Way To Go, I still needed the voices such as yours to help me not fall into doubting my own (and Tim’s!) sanity about the state of the planet. When I first came across your work, with your credentials, it was a balm to that wounding from so early on. Your voice was clear, funny, obviously extremely intelligent. It was just what I needed. Thank you.

    I think you have done that work and you are ready for the next movement of your own life. You are courageously tapping the helplessness that is so hard for most of us to face. It just feels so awful and icky, doesn’t it? We hope someone else will take up the fight. And maybe they will and maybe it will make the difference we’ve so longed for, for so long. But they may not, and even if they do, it may not make the critical difference. Courage is facing this and you are doing that.

    The great mystics over the ages and the indigenous wisdom that I read suggests that such surrender is key to deeper awakening of our most profound connection. We might find others to dialogue with about what it means to face our aloneness. That aloneness could be an artifact of the transition we are in the midst of from being tribal humans to whatever is next. If there is anything next. If there is, I have no doubt you are on the path. And I so appreciate the quiet footsteps I sense along side me on that path. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Guy, thanks for everything. Keep you nose to the wind, and your eyes along the skyline.

  • Guy,

    Thank you for your work. I am one of many that you helped wake from the nightmare that is civilization. Your efforts have been inspirational to me and your words echo in my heart. I plan to spend the remainder of the time I have left with the ones I love simply trying to be. I do not know what awaits for me in my journey nor do I know how much time I have left. All I know is that I plan to make my journey amazing. I wish you and everyone here an amazing journey:

    “The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.” – Bob Moawad

  • Thanks for all your writing Guy. I’ve read every post you’ve ever made and always enjoyed reading them. Always liked those posts yo used to make with many embedded links in particular. But if you still be posting from time to time it really doesn’t feel like the end of an era.

    Thanks to all those who post comments and help to make this web site what it is too.

    The poem in your post is great, Kathy. I always find such poetry lifts my spirits. I think we are long past peak sun though: I’ve read that in ‘only’ another billion years the sun will be too hot for life on earth.

    One of the few poems I’ve ever memorised is this one by Langston Hughes:

    We have tomorrow
    Bright before us
    Like a flame.
    A night-gone thing,
    A sun-down name.
    And dawn-today
    Broad arch above the road we came.
    We march!

    I expect all you Americans are familiar with it anyway. I used to say it to myself every morning, but these days it somehow doesn’t seem appropriate.

    Cesar, I can’t agree with the words of Bob Moawad: Clearly circumstances outside our control play a large part in all our lives.

  • The many circumstances, good or bad, apparently forced upon the individual are looked upon in some Eastern tradittions as manifest karma – that part of one’s storehouse of karma  that fructifies for this embodiment. The responsibility for it thus rests in full with the individual. Others are only agents in the fructification, albeit creating new karma for themselves in the process. The “enlightened” ones act appropriately for their circumstances, but do not create new karma for themselves in the process. Blaming someone else for one’s misfortune, even when justified, creates new karma for oneself. 

  • I understand your anguish Guy. You just have to come to terms with it. Humans are what they are. We are inherently unsustainable and with our intelligence we are going to destroy the planet. That really sucks and I’m as unhappy about it as you are. Maybe besides hiking you should spend some of your remaining time reading up on Evolutionary Psychology. There has been some excellent work done in this field recently, Tooby and Cosmidese and David Buss are some of the best authors. It might help you understand how we became what we are. Good luck in your future endeavors.

  • Dear Guy,

    You have served as an inspiration to many of us who aspire to prove there are better ways to live in a resource depleted world and “Thank You” doesn’t seem to convey what’s in our hearts.

    You are one of the few that has “walked the talk” so it only seems deserving that you now “take a hike”. Your work is a proven track record that doesn’t need justification. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury to take time to smell the roses, or take a hike, and we need to.

    “The thought of continuing to stare, alone, at the world of wounds, causes the terror to rise in me.”

    We sense there is a feeling of hopelessness right now for you and we would like to say, “this too shall pass” but perhaps it won’t and who wouldn’t feel the terror after contributing to so many of the world’s wounds? It’s what we do with these feelings that matters.

    From our chats on the phone and emails you must know that there are others who go in and out of feeling lonely. For us, there’s not much worse than being alone in a world gone bad. Your words and actions have encouraged us to keep on and your support has helped create links with others who are also lonely. Together we support each other and continue to be educated by the likes of you.

    I admit as my latest blog post suggests that I’m glad to have a partner that can hold me and love me when the tears come, it does make a difference. You have much to offer a lady of nature and don’t discount finding her when you least expect it.

    Let us know if you ever want to hike the redwoods together or come visit if you’re in the area and please remember you’re not alone.

    Elaine & David

  • Dear Friends,

    Recall the words of a poet.

    For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
    And next year’s words await another voice.
    And to make an end is to make a beginning.
    ~T.S. Eliot

    A new year has begun. We likely share the view that the movers and shakers in the human community cannot keep adamantly advocating and relentlessly doing the things we are doing now without precipitating some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage, probably sooner rather than later. A finite and frangible planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth cannot much longer withstand the unsustainable pressures produced by the gigantic scale and anticipated growth of human overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities worldwide.

    Perhaps we will help one another in 2012 see the world in a new way and effectively give voice to an unforeseen and unexpected vision of ourselves in all our wondrous human creatureliness and of the world we are blessed to inhabit. If we can see anew the unchanging landscape before our eyes, communicate what is visible to us (something I continue to fail abjectly at doing), and act accordingly, then we have a chance to move in the direction of sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises, and to rescue biodiversity from the wicked jaws of extinction.

    We are on a night sea voyage with only the light from the stars and the best available science to guide us. This missive began with words from Eliot. It seems somehow fitting to close with his words,

    And do not think of the fruit of action.
    Fare Forward.
    O voyagers, O seamen,
    You who came to port, and you whose bodies
    Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,
    Or whatever event, this is your real destination.”
    So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
    On the field of battle.
    Not fare well,
    But fare forward, voyagers.



  • Everywhere we look there are virtual mountains of evidence to be found of the clever manipulation of human intellect by ‘the brightest and best’, usually for the purpose of securing selfish interests. Self-proclaimed masters of the universe, their many highly educated sycophants and absurdly enriched minions are established experts at ignoring ‘reality’ when it serves their pragmatic desires. The step that makes it possible for human beings with feet of clay to subordinate personal interests so as to see what is before their eyes, is not an easy one. All of us get use to seeing the world in certain ways, according to what is logically contrived, politically correct, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable, culturally prescribed and ubiquitously shared through the mass media. Most of the time popular ways of viewing the world are sufficiently reality-oriented. But occasionally advances in science disturb even the most widely held and consensually validated understandings with regard to the way the world we inhabit works as well as about the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things. Perhaps we are witnesses to such a scientific advance, or maybe not. Whatever the case, whatever the ‘reality’ of human population dynamics, let us make sure that the NBL community is not simply and plainly just one more academic bastion of intellectual cowardice. When the subject is human population dynamics, it seems to me that there are currently enough “ivory towers”, professional societies and international organizations whose members favor intellectual dishonesty, hysterical blindness, willful deafness and elective mutism.

  • Hi Guy,

    Your feelings are echoed in a recent interview of Tim DeChristopher by Terry Tempest Williams that just appeared in Orion magazine. Tim recounts an encounter with Terry Root, one of the lead authors in the IPCC report. She tells Tim that she is sorry her generation failed his and that its already too late to prevent the worst-case climate change scenarios. He says “That was shattering to me.”

  • the movers and shakers in the human community cannot keep adamantly advocating and relentlessly doing the things we are doing now without precipitating some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage, probably sooner rather than later.

    The events and feedback loops for “precipitating some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage” and even the imaginable scenarios have been discussed at length on the Internet. The “movers and shakers” will cease to be movers and shakers if the Business As Usual paradigm ends, with an end to their power, pomp and pelf. They cannot therefore be expected to cease advocating against their current interests.  Any actions now can only ameliorate the predicament, and have to be undertaken on a personal and very local (personally known) community level in a correspondingly limited scale. 

    anticipated growth of human overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities worldwide.

    That anticipated growth is only anticipated by those who are entrapped in the Business As Usual paradigm. The bedrock of the alternate paradigm is not just the end of growth, but a progressive contraction. 

    we have a chance to move in the direction of sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises, and to rescue biodiversity from the wicked jaws of extinction.

    That chance will materialize after the bottleneck, if there are survivors. “Right-sized corporate enterprises” – and all coprorate enterprises – will be left behind on this side oh the bottleneck. The established dearth of biodiversity at that time will not offer an option for “rescue”. The sub-paradigm to cope with it will be”adapt or perish”. 

    let us make sure that the NBL community is not simply and plainly just one more academic bastion of intellectual cowardice

    It is neither academic nor a bastion. And acknoeledgement of the illusory nature of the current perpetual business as usual paradigm is perhaps not in the category of intellectual cowardice. 

  • BBC American Nomad


    Didn’t see this posted, nor have I watched.

  • I agree with @Christian that detachment is the key to unlock the prison of despair.

    I’ve been reading Neil Donald Walsh’s Conversations With God, and find it tremendously comforting. If a one-sentence summary is even possible, it might be, “In every action, be who you really are.” The Universe can ask nothing more of each of us. The best part is, each of us gets to decide who we really are! Are we morose and fearful? Not unless we choose that path. Does it feel good? If not, don’t be that way!

    I’m also reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, in particular, “Take nothing personally.” It’s so easy to take humanity’s current dilemma personally, to cast aspersions, to want everything to Be As It Should, rather than How It Is.

    The Eaarth will go on; it has no choice. Perhaps someday, sentient bonobos or wolves or dolphins will happen upon our artifacts, and take heed. Perhaps that’s our sole purpose!

    Or perhaps Gaia was getting a chill, and with volition created the smart monkey it needed to put Carboniferous Period carbon back in the air — we’re just the sheep from which Gaia has knit a new sweater, not much different than the yeast that we employ to intoxicate ourselves.

    Who are we to decide things are “bad” or “wrong?” Personally, I see it as a great and exciting time to be alive. I try not to wish I were 30 years younger as I think about the “hard fun” ahead of us, but I also know that someone, perhaps many people, need the story I have to tell — as they need yours, Guy.

    I have to agree with @Mark Palmer about Hunter S. Thompson, though. Don’t get bogged down in the ravings of an iconoclast. There’s much more to it than that. Relation is everything; the individual is nothing without relations.

    I see BC is on your March-April agenda. Hope you’ll drop by!

  • about 12 minutes into the video of ed’s link, the documentarian visits a large desert encampment of big, expensive ‘rvs’, recreation vehicles. he then visits a guy living in one such vehicle who states that he spent a cool 1/4 million dollars for his luxurious, fossil fuel guzzling home on wheels. it has 4 tvs, washer and dryer, etc. he also stated he plans on spending all his savings so that his kids get no inheritance. kind of a microcosm of america, isn’t he?

    not a particularly good video, ed. however, there have been lots of great comments here the past 2 days.

  • https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/plains-bask-in-historic-record-warm-weather/2012/01/06/gIQAZleBfP_blog.html
    More than 300 record high temperatures were set in 21 U.S. states Thursday. But the heart of the unusual warmth concentrated in Plains, where some areas experienced temperatures 40 degrees above average.

    Several locations set all-time January record high temperatures, including Huron (65 degrees) amd Mitchell (68 degrees) in South Dakota (SD) and Minot (61 degrees), Fargo (55 degrees) and Jamestown (56 degrees) in North Dakota. (Source: CapitalClimate).

    What distinguishes this warm spell is the amount by which some records were broken. Consider Rapid City, SD hit 73, obliterating the old record by 13 degrees. (That 73 degree high temperature was 4 above the high temperature of 69 in Miami, Fl). Aberdeen, SD reached 63, smashing the old record of 46 by 17 degrees and setting a new monthly record.

    AccuWeather highlighted the following incredible record: “…in Philip, S.D., the mercury reached a balmy 74 degrees, which absolutely obliterated the old record of 46 set back in 2002.”

    In Minnesota, several locations reached the 60s for the first time ever during the first week of January. Alexandria reached 55, crushing its old record of 38 (from 1984) by an amazing 17 degrees (source: Star Tribune weather blog)

    In Nebraska, record highs were set in Omaha (66), North Platte (69), Valentine (69) and Imperial (73, source: USA Today, AP). Sidney Nebraska’s record high of 74 broke the previous record of 62 and tied its monthly record.

  • he plans on spending all his savings so that his kids get no inheritance

    Bill Gates has stated that he intends to give his wealth to charity; he does not plan to give it to his children: they will receive only $10,000,000 each.

  • Guy, I understand how you feel – at least partially. While I haven’t come anywhere near your level of professional involvement with the natural environment, I have always considered myself a “tree hugger” and nature lover. For many years my heart has been broken as I watched forests cut down and prairies paved over in the name of progress. No one ever seemed to care about the creatures who lived there, nor about the interruption of natural processes which rejuvenate the earth. The levels of pain I experience have increased as the carnage has worsened. And how can the carnage not worsen? We now have more than 7 billion people on the planet – 4 billion more than when I was born. All those people have to live somewhere and grow their food somewhere. There is only so much room on our finite world.

    Of course, as has been discussed here ad infinitum, we are on a collision course and the results are going to be disastrous – for humans and for most other life forms. There is simply no solution that doesn’t involve the early death of the majority of the planet’s human population.

    I sympathize with you completely. The depression that Josh and I both have experienced over this certain outcome has been very difficult to deal with. However, we continue to go on, day by day. Our survival instinct is strong enough that even if we considered suicide as our contribution to the problems we face, it would be overruled by the realization that two early deaths mean nothing in the face of the need for 6.5 billion early deaths.

    So, we will carry on. We will continue to do our best to prepare for what’s coming, and then survive it as long as we can. Just as the weather does, so our plans change frequently, but our latest plan is to disconnect from the industrial economy later this year. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, as that means that we will no longer be using the internet, I would love to exchange snail mail addresses with people from this site. To get things started, here’s my snail mail: John House, P.O. Box 12, Bono, AR 72416. Drop me a card or letter and I’ll respond – at least as long as we have mail service.

    In the meantime, here’s hoping that the remainder of our days are at least filled with love.

  • The link Kathy C shared above is a more extreme reflection of our experience here in NE Arkansas. It makes me wonder about the potential for crop loss this summer. Harvest here in the U.S. was tenuous at best this past year. With weather this warm now, I can envision several scenarios: 1) the food producing plants all begin to sprout and/or bloom, then the weather changes back to more normal temperature and kills all the early bloomers. That would be devastating to many crops – fruit trees in particular. 2) The weather continues to be warm, the plants all start to grow but don’t get enough sunlight. By the time the sunlight is sufficient, the heat is so extreme, that they are all killed. Or, finally, 3) the weather returns to a more normal range over the next few days and we continue on as usual. (On the options above, I didn’t consider the effects on pollinators.)

    Anyone else have any thoughts on this? We’re only one major crop failure away from widespread famine.

  • TRDH.

    Increasing climate instability is a worldwide phenomenon, as we have discussed many times before.

    At this moment we (NZ) are experiencing vicious winds (again), right in middle of the apple/pear/plum season. Last winter we experienced a few extraordinairly cold days which kiiled many sub-tropical fruit-bearing plants.

    For a while longer there will be sufficient supply of most foods to keep the developed world well fed, simply by shifting it from one place to another or holding it in storage. The financial-political storm that is coming may interrupt (demolish?) those arrangements faster than most people can imagine possible (or not).

    Following in from the record high winter temperatures mentioned in Kathy’s link, we would not be surprised to be reading about record snow drifts in the same regions in a week or two.

  • This may be our year. We can take a good shot at it. If the heat screws up the blooming cycle for the northern plains and or the Midwest, then cattle will not be fed and (horrors) we could run out of high fructose corn syrup.

    I think this is our best bet. It can happen quickly and decisively. Most people won’t realize what is happening until it slaps them in the face. Then panic. The gubbermint will be paralyzed. We are certainly off to a good start on it. The 10 day outlook for the Northern Plains is for above normal temps and little precip.

  • Dear Guy,
    Greetings from the scarily warm high plains of South Dakota. I would like to thank you for all your extremely well-written and thoughtful posts over the years. They have been an inspiration to me, and they helped me accept that industrial civilization will soon collapse and that this is a good thing for all life on the planet, which will nevertheless suffer catastrophic warming and ocean acidification. I was born with several birth defects and I have a variety of endocrine problems that will lead to my death soon after the withdrawal of medication. I try to write my elected officials every day with a new URL of a site explaining some aspect of the lethal stupidity of nuclear power. I think that before industrial civilization ends, it will be better for life in the next few million years if all the reactors were decommissioned and something done about the waste–something that only industrialized societies are capable of. Although no geological formation is of course stable enough for the task, I like to think that doing something to shield the biosphere from radioactive contamination would be better than doing nothing, which is what industrial societies are currently doing about this problem. I know that most of the people I write will not listen, but I hope that this small bit of activism can contribute to the decommissioning of a few nuclear power plants and prevent the release of that much less nuclear contamination. I realize that this will not prevent future generations of living beings from being robbed of the healthy bodies and stable genomes that would help them deal with the rapidly warming Earth, and sometimes I feel that it would be better for me just to go off and die where the birds can eat me, but I don’t want to inflict that pain on my family, especially my young brother and his girlfriend, who are thinking of taking up farming her parents’ farm. It is a great help to me to read that you too are struggling with what to do with yourself as the omnicide continues. I hope you keep posting occasionally until the lights go out, and the internet goes off, and the diesel doesn’t get delivered to the nuclear power plants.

  • Patrick, it will be hard for people like you in the early days of collapse, people dependent on modern medicine. It may be harder for those who live longer tho…once it sinks in people will realize how ill prepared they are and society will likely break down quite quickly with the usual social upheaval. Those who survive longer will have to deal with the emotional issues surrounding great loss of life around them.

    It seems to me that you have a clear vision of priorities for the future. So many are still working for the various favorite causes of the left that are in fact minuscule compared to meltdown in abandoned nuclear plants.

  • Patrick, thanks for your post. Every day I deal with patients who will not survive long after collapse. In fact, due to drug shortages some are already experiencing problems, although no specific loss of life of which I’m aware. One of the greatest nightmares for a physician is not being able to do anything to help someone who is suffering. In fact, the entirety of our training is focused on relieving pain, treating illness and injury, and postponing death. Most doctors, myself included, will be utterly useless for treating most illness once the medicines stop being available. Sure, I’ll still be able to deliver babies (vaginally, not by c-section) and fix minor injuries (assuming I can find needles and thread), and perhaps being able to explain why something is happening even when I can’t do anything about it may be worth something. But unless I can come up with a way to make pain medicines, insulin, blood pressure medicines, antibiotics, or the myriad other modern drugs, then I won’t be able to treat 99% of maladies.

    Your condition sounds as if you will be an early casualty of collapse but I suspect that many many millions will be close behind you. Life expectancy will drop dramatically with the collapse of the industrial economy. Few people grasp fully just how many people are living way beyond their “natural” years due to medication and good medical treatment. I myself am dependent on blood pressure medicine. With it, I probably can expect another 20-30 years of good health. Without it, I will be lucky to survive 10 years. Shoot all the other arrows of pestilence and pain headed our way then my years are shortened indeed.

    Yours is an interesting perspective and, again, thank you for sharing it. I wish you well.

  • Dr House, I presume you will be able to set some fractures as well. Yes? Maybe extract bullets (with or without pain killers)? I expect you will find that you can do more than you think :) and less than people have come to expect ):

  • Robin Datta:
    Thank you for the link. Inspiring!

  • Guy:

    Thank you for your wit and wisdom; your sense of honor, duty and responsibility. I think your courage and conviction to say what you knew must be said has cost you dearly. And it looks as though those costs have continued to accrue.

    You’ve spent most of the past ten years struggling to change basic human nature; to somehow overcome a few million years of evolution and decades of successful brainwashing. I don’t know of anyone in history who was able to do that. Reminds me of the serenity prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr:

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

    One day your words may appear in some sort of “Common Sense”, stirring those worn from tragedy and despair in much the same way that Paine’s words did centuries ago. And the results may exceed your greatest hopes. But that day is not yet here.

    For now, choosing a path that includes the possibility of some happiness and joy makes sense. Deb and I hope you can find that along the way. Take care. And know that you’ve made a big difference in our lives and in the lives of many.

  • Guy,

    Thank you for everything you have given so freely ever since you appeared in my world through an OpEd in the Arizona Republic so many years ago.

    There is no source that matches you. We are going to miss you until TSHTF. Even as I write this I realize that it is increasingly doing so. You have been a great source of comfort to anyone who felt they were alone in their view.

    You have shown the way to many, and some have followed. Will it make any difference? Any difference that counts? You had to do what you did and give what you gave, I believe.

    I think we all here respect that you must go now. If we are wise, we will be going, too. I hope you find some peace and can feel it was right, and worth it, to do as you have done.

    Take care, Guy, and much love goes with you,


  • With thanks to all of you for the kind comments and to John Day for the contribution, I posted a guest essay this morning. It’s here.