The Cost of Affluence

In a letter to Ernest de Chabrol dated 9 June 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”

Nearly two hundred years later, de Tocqueville has been vindicated not only as a superb social critic but also as a forecaster. Knowing nothing about de Tocqueville, the ten-year-old son of a friend put his own spin on recent history: “Mom, I think people value Father Time more than they value Mother Earth.” His words sting me like freezing rain, squeezing tears from the corners of my eyes. There’s nothing new there for me, except the perspective of youth: I often weep when I think about the hellishly overheated world we’re leaving him and his young friends. We’re destroying this world in large part because we care more about chasing fiat currency than we care about the living planet and its occupants.

Although it seems unlikely they met, de Tocqueville was writing during the time of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. As if he, too, could see the future, Kierkegaard was plagued with anxiety. However, Kierkegaard didn’t call anxiety a plague: As he pointed out, anxiety is fundamental to our sense of humanity. Although I’m tempted to discard Kierkegaard’s every thought based simply on his ludicrous leap of faith, I can’t convince myself to disagree with him about anxiety. His writings about anxiety resonate with me as strongly as anything I’ve read by Lao Tzu, Schopenhauer, or Leopold.

It’s small wonder I’ve slept so poorly since August of 1979, when I reached a vague, subconscious understanding of the dire straits in which humanity is immersed. More than three decades after that summer of my nineteenth year, “my distress is enormous, boundless,” and growing by the day. I envy those who know about ongoing climate change and yet can remain comfortable with that knowledge. If you’re among them, perhaps this essay will drag you with me, into the abyss of despair. If so, I encourage you to abide the prescient words of Edward Abbey: “Action is the antidote to despair.”

According to NASA, anthropogenic climate change is primarily due to human actions. The ongoing crisis is intensifying, and much of North America is experiencing summer in March. Ninety degrees in winter is not normal, climate-change deniers notwithstanding. Ditto for this year’s Silent Spring.

If you’re under the age of 35, you’ve never experienced “normal” temperatures despite a weakening sun. In fact, February 1985 was the last time global mean monthly average was below the twentieth-century average. Already, climate has shifted to a new state. That state can only be described as dire. And yet because Earth’s climate system behaves in a nonlinear manner, future changes could occur very rapidly, making it seem as if more than three decades without a below-normal temperature reading were the good ol’ days.

What does the future hold? First, a warning: Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

A global average rise in temperature of 2 C is now optimistic, according to French scientists. Climatologist Matthew Huber agrees. But even that seemingly modest increase in temperature raises sea level 40 to 70 feet. In fact, an increase in global average temperature of 1 C is potentially catastrophic, as pointed out by the United Nations in 1990. Meanwhile, the OECD concludes we’re headed for an average temperature increase of 3-6 degrees Celsius by 2050 (full original report is here). Supporting documentation is far more abundant than revealed by these recent headlines:

Climate change is shaking the world, literally

Global warming borders is close to being irreversible, according to conservative scientists

Greenland’s ice will melt at a much lower temperature than previously estimated

It might be irreversible already

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu claims to be suprised

The Arctic death spiral continues unabated

After all, a carbon time bomb has been dropped in the Arctic

At the other pole, an iceberg the size of New York state is about to break away from Antarctica

For many years, people have been metaphorically stealing glaciers to put into cocktails. Now they’re literally doing it.

Habitat for millions of people will disappear with flooding from the oceans

Water, water, everywhere, but the world’s rivers are failing to make it all the way to the oceans

Oceans are acidifying at an ‘unparalleled’ rate, and will not survive business-as-usual disaster-as-usual

Conveyor belt tipping point has been reached, as I pointed out in this space more than a year ago

As I also pointed out, at the same time under slightly different name, ‘Compost bomb’ is latest climate change ‘tipping point’

Meanwhile, drought in the southwestern United States is intensifying even as U.S. heat waves are set to intensify from New York to Los Angeles

According to tables of flowering dates in 1840s Massachusetts, average temperature already has risen 2.4 C in Concord since the industrial revolution began

Elsewhere in the United States, the heat is unprecedented, with 7,000 record high temperatures so far this year

A vital species of tree killed by climate change brings to mind one my favorite lines from one of my least-favorite people, Derrick Jensen: “Forests greet us and deserts dog our heels”

The abundance of dire information and a slow news days causes even ABC “News” to point out the weather weirding

How bad is the situation? Desperation is leading to long-shot technical “fixes.” Naturally, these do not include changing the behavior of people in the industrialized world. As usual, Americans, still affluent relative to people in other nations, can’t be bothered because they’re too concerned about the industrial economy to worry about persistence of Homo sapiens. The occasional thoughtful American writes a letter of apology to his grandchildren, preferring the ease of an apology over the difficulty of action. On the other hand, President Obama continues to ignore the issue, even though he certainly knows he is committing his family and young children to hell on Earth.

If we didn’t already have enough reason to terminate this absurd set of living arrangements, human extinction might do the trick. It might be too late, of course: More than two years ago Tim Garrett pointed out that only collapse of the industrial economy prevents runaway greenhouse. In those two years, we’ve set records for carbon emissions on this overheated planet. But if we act as if it’s too late, our actions become self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the spirit of Edward Abbey, let’s channel some Kierkegaard-inspired anxiety to act as if the future matters. Let’s act as if we have a future. Let’s act now, while the idea of a future still persists. Before it’s too late. Before there’s no tomorrow for our entire species.


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath.


My latest piece for Transition Voice is here. It’s also linked, along with several other articles I’ve not pointed out, on the “Selected articles” tab.

Comments 133

  • Want to buy a time-piece, brother?

    I will act by not acting.

  • “perhaps this essay will drag you with me, into the abyss of despair”

    Acceptance, perhaps, can be built
    With the aid of a slight mental tilt:
    By trying to construe
    A dispassionate view,
    Without too much blaming or guilt.

  • Wow,Alexis de Tocqueville really says it all in a nutshell. I had lunch with an elderly acquaintance yesterday, who in discussing the rampant corruption in New Mexico local governments, said the same thing as de Tocqueville.

  • Impressive, Guy. An excellent summary of where we are today. As for acting, I believe there remains little justification for that. It would require bringing the industrial economy to a full-stop. Not an option any more. The beast we built is too large, too complex, and contains far too much forward momentum to have any chance of overcoming its inherent inertia. To ask humanity to reverse its course would be asking them to commit suicide, the dependence is so great now.

    For those who think there is yet a chance, let me just raise these questions from a natural perspective.

    Once ice starts melting, how does one stop that? How do you stop glaciers from shrinking once they have begun? How do you stop the Arctic from shrinking?

    Once frozen tundra is raised to a temperature at which is captive gases are released, how do you put them back and prevent others from being released?

    How do you neutralise an acidic ocean?

    Merely stopping emissions will do nothing now except to put off the inevitable which has already been kicked into action.

    There are many other questions in my mind, but you get the point.

    There is no turning back. And yet there is also no going further.

    We can’t hold on. We can’t let go.

    What is to be is no longer under our control as we are now carried along by strange currents to a destination we cannot avoid.

  • Guy, as advertised: despair-inducing. We are in an un-winnable position; runaway, life-ending, global warming unless we collapse the industrial economy immediately. Certain annihilation by nuclear fallout from melt-downs, if we do.

    What to do?

    Josh and I were discussing some of our recent poor food choices the other day, when he remarked, “What difference does it make with the world ending before long?”

    And he’s right. I certainly can see no way out of this situation. I’ve asked for suggestions as to how we might fix things, both here and on other blogs, many times. But no one (at least as far as I know) has ever even attempted an answer. That’s because there is no solution.

    So, my advice is to live each day as if it is your last. Spend time with the ones you love. Do your best to live in harmony with the natural world we’ve known and loved throughout our lives because it’s changing rapidly and won’t be the same for millions or years.

  • So, my advice is to live each day as if it is your last. Spend time with the ones you love. Do your best to live in harmony with the natural world we’ve known and loved throughout our lives because it’s changing rapidly and won’t be the same for millions or years.

    Really, really excellent advice.

  • In Britain today I am reminded of how quickly people can act through fear. Recently the transport union here whose drivers supply the petrol stations in the UK suggested that they might have to go on strike as they could not get the companies they deal with to sit down at the bargaining table. No date given. Just a possibility. If they did actually strike, they would have to give 7 days notice anyway.

    The Government was the first to panic. They spread the news that they were incorporating the services of the army to train soldiers to deliver petrol. One of the Members of Parliament went on TV suggesting that people top up their tanks as a precaution, and perhaps even fill up a gerry can or two with petrol and store it in the garage. He then went on the explicitly tell people NOT TO PANIC.

    And of course the people panicked. Many petrol stations we swamped with customers putting petrol in anything they could carry.

    Then the government came back and reminded everyone that they were not to panic – there was plenty of petrol and no one was going to run dry.

    The people panicked again. And now most of the petrol stations have run dry and closed their doors.

    What do you think will happen when food shortages appear?

  • “What is to be is no longer under our control as we are now carried along by strange currents to a destination we cannot avoid.”

    Amen brother. As for me today after work I will have a drink with my friends, at home I will hug and kiss my children, tonight I will make love passionately to my wife, and sleep like a baby, for this is all I can control.

  • A reaction of “Enjoying ourselves while we can”, tells me a lot about a person. It is the reaction of the hopeless addict who decides to die drunk or high. It presupposes you presently enjoy your life. If you hate how you are forced to live, you will make different choices. There is no enjoyment waiting for the end to come, so you naturally try some things to side step the end of people who refuse to try or who have faith in magic to side step the end. Someone who hates how they are presently forced to live, will naturally take big chances of trying to escape. They won’t easily believe in things with no evidence, to try and keep some semblance of their present existance, either.

    People who love their present life, who want to have support for their decision that things are hopeless, come up with hopeless scenarios. It is too late on global warming, for example, or they say that if the economy collapses we get nuclear war and nobody survives. So don’t bother trying.

    But we don’t know for sure that we have gone past tipping points on the climate. If things could be collapsed into hundreds of divisions of people fanatically trying to force their hundreds, of different magical beliefs into reality, and very often clawing each other to death in the process, if not committing suicide outright, then the amount of nuclear weapons used could be dramatically reduced. If nuclear power plants melt down and dig themselves their own grave with less radiation emitted than feared, that could be survivable, too. Filling up your thyroid with iodine could be helpful, other steps might be taken to reduce exposure. Drawing circles of a hundred miles radius around nuclear plants, still leaves considerable areas. With time, radiation is decaying, in a few centuries, a lot of that land could be safe to live on again. People who love the idea of living with nature for the long term, who have hated how they have been forced to live and are like a coiled spring about getting loose from addicts economics and rules, would try for that as soon as the shackles get loosened just enough to slip free, and have no problems taking the risks on trying to survive. Organisms that survive, are programmed to keep trying to survive. The rest die. If that is one in ten thousand, one in a hundred thousand, that could be enough, if they are found and brought together.

  • While taking action can help relieve angst, will it do any good? In fact might it do the opposite. If the government can make a case that they have to protect the people from ecco terrorism from within, might they not be able to use that to clamp down even harder and keep things going a bit longer?

  • Maybe its all coming down in a few days anyway
    A little over three weeks ago, 116 major bank resignations was startling news. Now with over 450 resignations and David Wilcock’s compelling documentation, the question is whether the 1% criminal oligarchy face imminent arrest.

  • Meanwhile, however it comes down and whenever it comes down we still have all the nuclear power plants to deal with. San Onofre is closed down due to failure of parts that may have been altered to allow more production of power and Fukushima radiation is hitting CA etc.

    The Journal Environmental Science and Technology reports in a new study that the Fukushima radiation plume contacted North America at California “with greatest exposure in central and southern California”, and that Southern California’s seaweed tested over 500% higher for radioactive iodine-131 than anywhere else in the U.S. and Canada:

  • Arthur, I’m not completely sure I’m understanding your comments accurately, so my response may be misdirected, but I’ll do my best.

    I’ll repeat myself:
    I’ve asked for suggestions as to how we might fix things, both here and on other blogs, many times. But no one (at least as far as I know) has ever even attempted an answer.

    Please prove me wrong and give me some real ideas about how we solve these problems. I’ll gladly admit that I was wrong. While you’re at it, please also let me know what we’re going to do about run away population growth in the face of peak resources.

    As to your comment Drawing circles of a hundred miles radius around nuclear plants, still leaves considerable areas, did you see the link Ed shared above? That was just one nuclear power plant disaster in which billions of dollars have been spent and numerous lives given in an effort to contain it. If we collapse the industrial economy, multiple those efforts by more than 400. Those resources won’t be available. I would also challenge your assertion that 100 mile radius would be anywhere near sufficient.

    Your suggestion that the idea to “enjoy yourself while you can” is somehow an addict’s response is also one I can’t agree with. None of knows when our last moment comes. One of my young patients died very unexpectedly this week. I’m sure there are many things he would have done differently had he known how little time he had left. So, I recommend living life to the fullest to anyone, any time, any place.

  • From ecology: Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology

    (Perhaps there is some error, or other factor, you tell me.)

    It seems that a whole lot of “doing” and science brought us to this point.

    We are all very attached to our lives and that furthers the civilization.

    Science combined with each of us having a personal Jesus (“X”) has been quite damaging to the living planet. Short of a complete technological life support system, and a corresponding drop in population or affluence, I don’t see a techno-optimist utopia arriving in the numbered days ahead. That leaves us a “transcendent experience” option, somehow equivalent to living life to a fullness. Together. Repent and ye shall be sort of saved.

    We do not seem to know it all, rather we are too clever by half.

    The presence of Tibetan monks seems to indicate that we are able to disarm with the tranquility of Tibetan monks.

    I have not taken any joy rides today, but it has been a beautiful day.

    Not knowing how I will pay my rent without working does not seem a cop out.

    Doing can be our un-doing and your anger in powerless-ness shines through kind Sir Arthur. It is that we must come to grips with.

  • So, then, that is apparently my proposed solution.

    Don’t go to work tomorrow.

    If your job is so important that the “world would stop” because you didn’t go, then that is all the more reason to really consider it.

  • Reminds one of a joke more suited to a Clinton-Lewinsky context, which, modified to NBL would be:
    What is the most unfortunate thing about an atheist? He has no one to talk to when reading a post like this.

    Yes, indeed, evolution can be crowned and anointed the leader and guide of the genus Homo if not the species sapiens. The very few who might survive the next bottleneck will be thereby selected for the traits and abilities that enhanced their survival. 

    It is estimated by some that at the last bottleneck, Homo sapiens may have been reduced to six hundred to two thousand breeding pairs. Could it be that the traits selected for, adaptive for survival in scarcity and adversity, may have been subtly maladaptive in abundance and prosperity? If so, that may be part of the reason we’re in this pickle now.

    Given enough cycles of overshoot and dieback, many organisms “acquire” the “wisdom” through evolution to transform themselves into hardy forms, cysts or spores, at just the right point in overshoot to tide them over hard times in anticipation of the next bonanza. However in such a lifestyle almost (but not quite) all the cysts & spores perish. It is not that they are “resigned” to such a fate: there is a selection bias at work here. While a flight surgeon in the Navy, I noted that every aviator who remembered the experience of ejection from an aircraft was full of praise for the ejection system: those for whom it did not work were not around to criticize it.

    Likewise, any selection for individualism & competition over cooperation & community in a bottleneck could be repeated at each opportunity for completion later, further selecting the survivors. To each according to his abilities, from each according to his gullibility.

  • could be repeated at each opportunity for competition later: Steve Jobs’autocorrect again.

  • Nice post :¬)

  • Dr. House,
    No, you are not seeing this the way I’m seeing it at all. I think we already went over this in the past, but no problem, we go over it again. What makes you think I’m not living life to the fullest, in struggling to get people through this? That really makes me smile. What I’m doing easily takes my full attention, I cannot imagine doing anything else right now.

    Did you become a doctor so you could completely focus on your own well being? From what little I know of you, it doesn’t sound likely. You sound like you care about your patients, feel empathy for them. I imagine they take your full attention for a considerable amount of time, and you don’t mind that. It is what you are, it is your life to do this, you are living fully to do this. I’m doing a similar thing.

    You say you have looked all over for solutions and have not found any. Apparently with that you are telling me that what I want to do is not a solution. What people consider to be a solution, though, can be subjective. An addict is very likely to strongly reject the solution of quitting, denying that it is a solution. And possibly they are correct. Maybe they really could not live sober with the knowledge that the drug they want is out there. Maybe they would be perpetually unhappy in that situation. My solution involves finding people who are willing to try to live “sober”, on issues of resource use and reproduction. They will understand the observations about the flaws of money, will accept that they live by teamwork and that food EROEI defines life and death, and that the long term sustainability of resource use in getting a good ratio of food EROEI, is vitally important, too. They accept that they can’t reproduce without the cooperation of the rest of the group, that is no longer a decision left to couples or individuals. If such people can be found and brought together, and because they are living far more efficiently, dealing efficiently with all potential threats, they survive better than those who don’t do that.

    That is a potential solution for them, but if you don’t want to do that, obviously it is not a solution for you. For you, there may be no solution except to die. I’m not saying that is the case without doubt, I’m making a rhetorical argument here.

    You have probably heard that the wildlife is doing pretty well around Chernobyl. People have longer lifecycles than most everything else there, of course, and that makes us more vulnerable to cancer, but even if average lifespan went down to 40, we might still live through this problem of reactors melting down. We are also more aware of potential problems from reactors and can stay longer distances away than wildlife does. There are some simple technologies that allow checking radiation levels.

    But in the end, the real thing is that I *am* living life to the fullest, to try and push people forward to survive even if I die younger than I might have otherwise. People who resonate with me, will have similar feelings. The risk of failure is certainly there, but it isn’t big enough to make me give up. If all die of radiation poisoning, we will have still spent the last moments of our lives doing what we were most interested in doing.

  • Arthur, my statement to “live each day as if it was your last” wasn’t directed at you specifically. I’m glad that you’re already doing so – you’re way ahead of most people I encounter. It was meant more as generalized unsolicited advice to whomever might be reading not to get caught up in worrying about how to save the world but instead to live the life he or she might have now.

    It seems we are talking about two different problems. Perhaps I should have been more specific in what I meant by “solution”. What you’re describing sounds wonderful and is similar to what Josh and I, and the few others in our small community are working toward. But I was referring to a solution which addresses the problems the world is facing – the problems Guy outlined in his essay above. A few groups scattered here and there living off the land, leaving a minimal carbon footprint is not going to have one iota of impact on global warming or over population. Even a million such groups won’t make any appreciable difference. It may be a short-term solution for the small groups, but not even close for the survival of the whole planet and the multitude of life forms which call Earth home.

    As far as Chernobyl, while their response wasn’t as sophisticated as the one in Japan recently, there were still enormous amounts of resources poured into containing and cleaning up that disaster. Was it Mikhail Gorbachev who said recently that Chernobyl was the actual cause of the fall of the Soviet Union? Again, imagine 400+ of those happening around the world within a few years of each other with no one having the resources to do anything to mitigate the damage – which would be the outcome of destroying the global industrial economy. And, as has been mentioned in this space many times, bringing down the industrial economy is (or should I now say, was) the only way to stop run-away global warming before we reached the tipping points.

    As to whether or not we’ve actually reached the tipping points, everyone is entitled to think what they please, I guess, and may well be right, but if you look at all the various data links Guy has compiled above, it’s pretty hard to argue with his (and their) conclusions.

    One other thing to consider: the nuclear meltdown problem will almost certainly happen – the question is merely one of timing. Sooner or later the global economy will crash – it simply can’t be sustained. Chernobyl may have ended the U.S.S.R. and Fukushima may yet end Japan’s economy. I find it highly improbable that countries on the downside of the peak oil curve will have anywhere near the resources to deal with the proper dismantling of all those reactors out there. Unless human nature changes drastically before then, the chance that anything substantive will be done to prevent a mass meltdown is virtually zero. So, like it or not, we’ve ensured our destruction – and that’s just one of the nasties out there we’ve created.

    So the ship is sinking without any lifeboats. We can either run around and fret about it, or we can sit and enjoy the band while they play on.

    Shades of the discussion from the previous essay, I leave you with this quote from Matthew, chapter 6 of the Bible. Jesus is speaking:

    25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
    27Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
    28″So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
    31″Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

  • Kathy,
    It is kind of funny to be whipsawed like this. Some people saying, no, can’t do anything about it now, we are doomed, enjoy life while it lasts, and here you are telling me we shouldn’t do as I suggest because it might make things worse. I guess you don’t agree with those who say there is no hope at all? But pointing out basic problems with the present system, and offering a logical solution, will make things worse? We should just let those problems take their course and do what? All will be ok to ignore them? I’m not understanding your point of view, here.

  • I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from a movie, “The Eiger Sanction”. As Clint Eastwood and the other climber are struggling along in an impossible situation, Clint says, “Keep going…, we’re going to make it.” To which his partner replies, “I don’t think so…, but we will continue with style.”

    Right on Guy, “Let’s act as if we have a future. Let’s act now, while the idea of a future still persists”. Right on partner…, write on.

  • 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

    Luke 17:20-21
     20. And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

     21. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

    The “kingdom of God” = the ground of the “I” and the “not-I”: The One without a second.

  • The OECD links go to:

    ‘The atmospheric concentration of GHGs could reach 685 parts per million (ppm) by 2050. As a result, the global average temperature increase is projected to be 3°C to 6°C higher by the end of the century, exceeding the internationally agreed goal of limiting it to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.’

    If you are looking for hope you would say that two centuries of industrial activity have only managed to raise the CO2 content by around 120 ppm and that the collapse in industrial activity which will accompany oil extraction falling off the cliff will mean humanity will not be able to put enough CO2 into the air to raise the level by another 290 ppm. You will say that the warming of northern latitudes will cause a substantial increase in photosynthesis which will bring the rise in CO2 to a standstill, and then begin to reverse it.

    If you are looking for no hope you will say that humans will burn everything they can get their hands on in order to stay warm and to cook food, and the decline in oil extraction will result in a faster rise in CO2 levels.

    If you are looking for hope you will say that the collapse in human population that will accompany the collapse of the industrial food system will result in a drastic drop in emissions, and that the lack of people will result in nature reclaiming huge amounts of land humanity currently occupies and misuses. (The ‘Life After People’ scenario)

    If you are looking for no hope you will say that positive feedbacks have already been triggered and nothing we do at this stage in the game will stop extraordinary qunatities of CO2 and methane being released from places where it is poorly sequestered.

    If you are looking for hope you will say that Japan is leading the way by attempting to cut its electricity consumption by 20% in order to shut down all its nuclear reactors.

    If you are looking for no hope you will say that China is using more coal than ever in order to maintain economic growth and will shift to nuclear in order to reduce ground level pollution.

    If you are looking for hope you will say that the Chinese bubble economy is close to bursting and that economic contraction is not far off.

    If you are looking for no hope you will say that the criminal elites who hijacked society decades/centuries ago are in an unassailable position.

    If you are looking for hope you will say that the election of George Galloway under the banner of ‘Respect’ demonstrates that a great turning point has been reached and that ‘the revolution’ has begun.

    If you are looking for no hope you will say that George Galloway will be a three day wonder and nothing in the political establishment will change and that we are headed for overtly facist states.

    I personally believe present economic-political arrangements will not persist beyond 2015 and that there is a high likelihood of a major disruption fairly soon after the Olympic Games end. (Some people believe a false fleag or contrived ‘black swan’ event will occure during the games, with the games providing the necessary distraction.)

    Here in NZ we are going through the farcial local government Long Term (10 year) Planning process, in which councils generate plans which are totally disconnected from reality and councillors vote unanimously for them in order to not roock the boat. This year will be a little different from previous years, howevre, in that the shit is hitting the fan from many directions and even in ‘the land of milk and honey’ there’s an increasing sense of forboding (even amongst the ‘zombies’).

    Once again, thanks Guy for providing a point of sanity in a world gone mad.

    It really is reaching the ‘Monty Python’ stage when you have the British government saying: “Don’t panic.” So everyone panics.

    It’s going to be a very interesting northern summer.

  • Thank you all for your inciteful, civil comments.

    Kevin, i hear ya; here we have the corporate clown circus elections coming up, in which no matter who one votes for – they all “suck” since they’re all Republicans, including Obama (by policies, signing statements, and such)! No vote is as good as letting one of them in.
    Catch 22 kinda thing.

    Yeah, look, it doesn’t matter what we “believe”, in the long run we’re all dead (Keynesian thinking). So indeed, live your lives to the fullest and do what you can in the time you have left (& who knows anymore?).

    And please continue finding the time to reflect and participate with the rest of us visitors while spaceship earth (B. Fuller) sails on with its precious crew. This is one great site, Guy – thanks for being (something my brother and i say to each other now and then).

    Arthur and Dr. House: interesting intersection of two perspectives – like fractal thinking in that each paradigm “embeds” in some way the other. We’re effing DOOMED, but we gotta NOT GIVE UP. It’s so zen:
    do it despite the fact that it ultimately doesn’t matter. And we all do it each moment without acknowledgement of the state we’re in – it’s always right now.

    Robin, Scott, Kathy and others – thanks for your thoughts.

  • Our prophets have taught us to forgive each other since the beginning of time, and there’s a reason for it. “Forgiveness” is hardwired into the UNIVERSE but we can’t feel its effect until we choose it. The earth will forgive us too if we just speed up our actions and then watch the planet respond. Painting negativity despite any positive actions we take does condemn us to the inevitable because it keeps us from acting. We can do this… the question just is, “will we choose to?”

  • Though I’m surely no “genius of the intellectual high wire” like Kierkegaard, I think I agree with Guy about “the leap of faith”.

    With that in mind, justifying a response to anthropogenic global warming with religious pronouncements is bogus.
    God is omnipotent.
    God is a force for good in the universe.

    You, “What would Jesus do about anthropogenic global warming?”

    Jesus : “Kill ‘em all, even the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field. My dad will sort it out later.”

    God is a force for good in the universe.
    God is omnipotent.
    Bullshit! We’re on our own folks. He ain’t gonna save you.

    Michael Irving

  • Painting negativity despite any positive actions we take does condemn us to the inevitable because it keeps us from acting. We can do this… the question just is, “will we choose to?”

    The ‘inevitable’ is by definition…well….inevitable….. ;-

    Climate change


    Depleted natural resources

    So, yes, it matters not what we do at this point.

    And no, even if we had a choice, we would not do anything about it….we had a choice…indeed, we had many choices over time…we refused….and here we are….no choices remaining.

    And no…Nature is quite unforgiving if you push her too far.

    And yes…we have pushed her too far.

  • Guy,

    Oh, by the way, thanks a lot.

    After a really hard week I finished a project yesterday and was looking forward to catching up on sleep. I made the mistake of reading NBL before I went to bed. My eyes popped open at three in the morning, as I struggled out of a dream involving wandering around a wasteland looking for grass seeds to eat. It was not what I had planned. No more sleep for me last night.

    Water, food, shelter. Water, food, shelter. Water, fo…………….

    Michael Irving

  • There is a movie about the French Resistance called Army of Shadows – the resistance, in order to win their cause had to kill some of their own, some because they had betrayed their cause, some because they were captured and might break and reveal information. It is based on a book by Joseph Kessels who was part of the French Resistance.

    It is one thing to take down the “enemy” for your cause, it is another to take down one of the people you were fighting for for the sake of the cause.

    Since the world cannot support 7 billion people much longer, many are going to die earlier than expected regardless of what is done to hurry along the collapse of the industrial economy. None the less the collapse of industrial economy if speeded up will take out some even earlier. In other words anything one does for the cause of saving the planet by bringing down the industrial economy will result in earlier deaths for some. Anything done in the way of trying to work through governments to control emissions has proven to be futile.

    Actions are moral choices. Inaction is a moral choice. Neither are free of harm. The best exploration of such moral choices I have seen is the movie The Grey Zone. In Auschwitz multiple opportunities are shown where choices must be made with none of the clean and clear. Judging at this point in time about the choices people take does not seem to me to be justified. There are multiple bad choices to take. We each choose. And then in the end we die and never find out if the species continues, and if it does never find out if that was good, whatever good is.

  • Another well written shot to the heart, I feel the pain and that’s good.

    I wrote this essay in 2009 about my wishes as a mother to her daughter, and this one in 2011 after my other daughter gave birth.

    I take action every day even as my heart hurts more with each beat, I owe that to future generations though I have no idea how any of what I do will help.

    Thanks Guy for feeling the pain and know that others share it with you.

  • p.s

    They can have their box of chocolates and a long stem rose!

  • I have felt for a long time that the “take no thought for the morrow” quote from Jesus, was about excessive worry. Best to figure things out the best you can, get some sleep and deal with problems with a rested body and brain. That would fit with the words that only a fool starts building a tower without first calculating the cost.

    Nuclear power is a serious concern, for sure. In looking at it yet again, I’m reminded of Kevin’s post above about the hope-no hope thing yet again. One side says 400 reactors melting down, no hope, the other side says, the two biggest problems have been with old designs and the containment on newer designs may work a lot better, so that might not be so bad. But there are still 11 reactors of the Chernobyl design running… People often become fanatical and behave even crazier than usual when stressed, but not everyone becomes directly suicidal. I wouldn’t expect most people to simply walk away from reactors and let them totally spin out of control behind them, that would be directly suicidal. I’d expect attempts at shutting them down. Of course when the pumps stop, the heat builds up, but the more energy removed previous to that, the better. If the control rods have been put in for some time, it is less likely to go critical again even though it melts. The more energy removed, the more likely that containment structures will hold. Sometimes what has been designed, works. Sometimes it doesn’t, as well…

  • All this talk and I still haven’t heard any solutions that don’t require the collective action of large numbers of people. The number of people who even understand the problem is so tiny as to be almost insignificant, especially in the USA. The logical conclusion is that there is no solution. Period. It is too late. The warning was given 40 years ago and it was not heeded.

    So the real question is what now? For those of you with the resources, learning how to live closer to the land and be self-sufficient without money might let you survive the bottleneck. The paradox is that trying to live the peasant life actually requires money to search for the right location, buy land, pay taxes and generally get by until governments collapse. For those of us without the resources, well, we’ll just enjoy our lives on the way down: I’ll add some heavy guitar to Nero’s fiddle until the power goes out and then I’ll switch to acoustic.

    To be honest, I am starting to get worn down from too much reading of this website and all the other wonderful doomer (reality?) voices out there (Derrick Jensen, Dmitry Orlov, John Michael Greer, Charles Hugh Smith, Jan Lundburg, Howard Kunstler, etc). All this knowledge does is add to the feeling of impotence. It’s no different than listening to the news every day. I mean, what the heck am I supposed to do about the Palestinian/Israel conflict? Yet I hear about constantly. Same goes for peak oil and global warming.

  • Wikipedia-definition of ‘enigmatic’ by the Free Online Dictionary. en·ig·mat·ic ( n g-m t k) or en·ig·mat·i·cal (- -k l). adj. Elaine

  • Make peace with reality. Distance yourself from consumerism. Embrace nature. Embrace simple things like walking to work, reading paper books, growing vegetables, buying from farmers markets, etc. Reduce car use, or go car free.

    Seek out inspiring people. They are everywhere.

    True, we may not be able to turn this ship around, but I find doing the above things makes my life feel worthwhile each day.

  • Thank you all for your inciteful, civil comments.

    A good one. 

  • I, too, became almost paralyzed reading doomer “porn” and I knew about peak oil and global warming 20 years ago – when I taught geography. I realized I was going through the stages of grief. Mom would say, “You are too sensitive.” My daughters stopped reading articles I forwarded.

    So I am at the acceptance stage now. Totally. I keep simplifying. As each machine broke I sold it for scrap and now I have only a fridge and a computer, but no internet. No other machines. No AC. No furnace. I live in one room of my house and heat with wood I find for free. All the lawn is now growing food. I don’t water it. I use the firewood bark for paths and bury rotten wood to hold the water. I am thinking about selling the house and the stuff I have left. It feels like time to float around couchsurfing.

    I am 64 with no savings, so the money from selling off possessions has supported me for several years. Hardly anything bothers me anymore. It may look like I am crazy, but this feels sane to me. Letting go of attachments will get harder with some of the books and photos and art, music, pottery and tools. I could live out of my car, really, if I can solve the problem of storing my books and tools. I do give away a lot of art.

    I have thought about helping people who have small farms and need labor, rather than owning land myself. I love this life. I rinse out my clothes each day in my bath water, eat a lot of weeds and sit in the library parking lot to get online. I have learned not to talk about all this because it makes others feel sorry for me at first. But all my time is my own.

    My electric bill is around $17/month. No gas. Water is $37. Taxes and insurance are $150. I make some money writing. The main thing you have to let go of is status…what others think of you. And fear. It helps to read the zen monks. I just want to feel like I am becoming less a part of the problem, even if it is not exactly a solution.

  • Whoops. I said no other machines – but I do have an ,05 Honda Civic, for which I buy a tank of gas a month. I love the damn thing.

  • James,
    I’ve given a solution that deals with the fact that most people are in denial, that takes advantage of the fact of this denial, that understands that when confronted with simple, basic truths, many might go into severe denial, become fanatical and self destruct in many different ways. It would not take many people to implement carrying this out. It obviously takes more people than just myself, though. But once started, whether anyone likes this solution or not, calls it a solution or not, is immaterial. It logically is a solution for those who can accept it. As the saying goes, if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. And “the problem” is killing itself. It already is, in fact. The hope is to separate out those who can make a stab at embracing the solution, and give them a chance by bringing down the rest faster than they would otherwise go. Finding the people to try and bringing down the rest is something done by the same action.

    And it is fully recognized that it might not succeed. Aside from extremely simple things, though, making really sure plans about the future isn’t something we can do. We can sit here moaning about that inability to be sure, and not wanting to make a decision, but doing that is a defacto course of action in itself that might be badly flawed. Someone said that here recently, it has been something I’ve said before. Maybe if we waited longer, some of the more dangerous nukes might be dismantled, even better safety measures installed on the rest. But that might not happen, and waiting longer could be putting us into more and more dangerous territory on climate change. And of course some will say, it is too late already, don’t bother. Others, like myself, are happiest to keep trying regardless of the odds.
    Putting all that aside, though, I *have* given a possible solution that doesn’t require the majority of humanity to agree with it.

    I agree with Kathy that we all end up dying and never know for sure whether future generations will exist or not, whether what we did was helpful or harmful. That is always the case, though. It is in starker relief right now, with all the potential threats, of course. It is a lot like the fear some children develop, that they don’t want to go to sleep for fear of never waking up again. If you are sick, that would be a more legitimate fear. The human species is sick, for sure.

  • Arthur – I’m trying to understand what your solution is. As far as I can tell, you are going with the Deep Green Resistance idea. In other words, bring down civilization before it kills everything. It seems more reasonable to let the whole thing collapse on its own since that will happen in the next couple of decades anyway. DGR is only a solution if you have a plan and the people to carry it out. I have neither. If you have both, then more power to you. Just be more logical than Ted Kaczynski was – his ideas were good but his method was not.

  • Rita:

    You are fantatic both in deed and attitude. I nominate you for NBLer of the Month. There are so many truths in what you say that I can not even count them. You are a very rich person.
    If you are in a hospitable area, a small tent and camp stove might be a consideration.
    I for one look forward to any other thoughts youn may wish to share.

    I look around my area, and see so many who have so much stuff, but still seem to have to have more.

  • Humans are contributing to climate change- but the climate was eventually going to change anyway. We have been living in a sweet spot. We would just have more time, perhaps, without all of the CO2. I don’t think we would have been any better prepared in the future. Once we stopped migrating, and especially since we became territorial with countries and private property, we really lost our ability to adapt to large changes in the earth’s climate as a species. Perhaps the bigger concern in terms of species survival is the acidification of the oceans- which we depend upon for oxygen production. If things get too out of whack, we are really in trouble and there is no place to migrate too.

  • ‘My views on fiat currency can be expressed in a few words: Without money, we’ll all be rich.’ -guy

    from his most recent ‘transition voice’ discussion with sherry ackerman (see link at end of guy’s essay above). great quote. great article. ackerman’s another interesting character and writer.

  • Rita, I second Curtis’ nomination – you’re awesome!

    BTW, I moved my mother over to West Fork last weekend to live with my sister. So, I’ll be over in that area every couple of months or so. I’d love to meet you and treat you to a cup of coffee (or iced tea). Maybe I could pick your brain and learn some good simple living skills. Drop me a line sometime:

  • UA scientist: No climate disaster

    Things will change in Tucson, but we can handle it, he writes

    (154) Comments

    Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Saturday, March 31, 2012 12:00 am | Comments

    Big problems lie ahead here due to climate change – but not disaster.

    People will have to live differently – but can adapt.

    That’s how a University of Arizona climate scientist who co-authored a new report on Tucson’s vulnerability to climate change sees the next century.

    The report, written for the city of Tucson, will be presented today at a downtown-area program to observe Earth Hour. That’s the annual ceremony, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, that encourages people to turn off lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to press for action against climate change from greenhouse gas emissions.

    Besides projecting temperature increases ranging from 4.3 to 7.5 degrees by 2100, the report forecasts higher food, energy and water prices, dieoffs of pine trees in forests, greater risk of heat stroke and mosquito-borne disease and more droughts, heat waves, floods and wildfires.

    But higher temperatures won’t mean melting streets, or strokes for the average person walking down a street, said report co-author Gregg Garfin. Tucson will simply become more like Phoenix, whose average temperature today is six degrees higher than ours, he said.

    Summers could have up to 30 more 100-degree days by 2100 than today and will last longer, he said. There will be future summer nights here, as in Phoenix today, when minimum temperatures sometimes come near 100, Garfin said.

    “We will have to think about things a little more carefully,” said Garfin. “But I think most people will be able to adapt; although for some people, if they are snowbirds, they won’t want to be here as long. Folks who live here year- round, some will prefer to move north.”

    “I’m not predicting catastrophe. I am saying we have to be smart, and it’s better to be smart sooner than later.”

    Earth Hour also encourages people and governments to adapt to changing weather. Similarly, the new report’s purpose is to help local governments prepare for future problems such as floods or droughts, said Leslie Ethen, director of the city’s Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development.

    Adapting to climate change also means balancing investment plans, so officials don’t put off decisions so long that things become too expensive, yet don’t overinvest in projects that may not be needed for decades, she said.

    We can expect to pay a lot more for new culverts to guard against floods and for better wells to guard against Colorado River shortages, Garfin said. But he also envisions that people will be a lot smarter about using water and energy. Water use will keep dropping, and that won’t be a hardship, he said, pointing to the already increasing use of cisterns and other water-harvesting tools. Alternative energy is likely to take off here, he said.

    “I suspect this stuff will become more a part of daily living. If we had had this conversation 30 years ago, it would have been hard to talk about recycling,” Garfin said. “Now, it’s like second nature.”

    As for public health risks, generally, lower-income and elderly people will be more vulnerable to extreme heat, he said. People will be exposed to mosquitoes for longer periods, and unless cures for diseases such as West Nile virus and dengue fever appear, they could be a real public health threat, he said.

    “We’ll have to be better prepared. A lot of us walk around now with sunscreen – we’ll have to carry more mosquito repellent. We have a great county Health Department and health centers here. I think they’ll be on top of this.”

    On StarNet: Read more environment-related articles at

    If you go

    • Earth Hour ceremonies today, downtown, at the Tucson Convention Center’s Copper Room from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and at El Presidio Park from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

    This afternoon, there will be talks by experts on climate change and discussions among attendees seated at TCC Copper Room tables on various climate-change impacts and solutions. Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will speak in a video.

    Tonight at El Presidio Park, there will be music, a candlelight celebration, food and drink vendors, T-shirt giveaways, face-painting and speakers.

    • In a separate event at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador, Earth Hour will be celebrated tonight with a candlelit dinner in its Sundance Cafe. In the lobby lounge, lights will be dimmed.There will be stargazing and marshmallow-toasting In the courtyard.

    “I’m not predicting catastrophe. I am saying we have to be smart, and it’s better to be smart sooner than later.”

    Gregg Garfin,

    University of Arizona climate scientist

    Contact reporter Tony Davis at or 806-7746.

    Read more:

  • I am a child of the 60’s. I have spent my life preparing for global warming. We were warned back then. The climate models predicted all of this, yet we weren’t able to do anything about it — because of the ability of the “deniers” to co-opt our behavior and thinking (well some of us anyway). There was also the NSSM of ’73 that was intended to curb population that got hijacked by religious institutions. It makes me so angry. I used to feel such rage. If everyone felt that rage – that injustice that has been perpetrated against millions – maybe we could have done something. but self interest trumps all I guess.

  • The Survival Podcast:
    The Dire Straits.
    Episode-869- The Real State of the Economy

  • I’m not sure what is so difficult to understand, James. I have observations about current problems with human society, and what needs to be done instead. According to these observations, which are so short and simple it is easy to say them over and over, we have problems that stem from irrational social distribution of resources, irrational use of resources, irrational decisions about reproduction. Do you have some reason why these observations are not correct? Are people independent of each other, as the money game divides us up, or do we live by good teamwork or die? Does the money game indeed push inexorably to ignore long term sustainable use of resources, because people who don’t conserve can bring more to market and win market competitions with people more conservative? If you can’t reproduce as independent couples, isn’t it logical that the social team has some input on how much reproduction happens? And wouldn’t it be logical that the team would want reproduction to fit with long term sustainable use of resources? Seems like that makes sense unless you plan on dying out. And instead of deciding value with a market of individuals buying and selling, is it true or not that food EROEI defines life and death, so this is a good way to consider the value of behavior, and also wouldn’t it be good to make conscious decisions about whether a good ratio of food EROEI is using resources at a long term sustainable rate?

    What is there about these observations, that you don’t understand? I’m willing to try and explain them better, but you need to ask specific questions, not just give me a blanket statement of not understanding.

    Then we go to the next step. If you can’t disagree with these observations, but aren’t living by such understanding, why not? Almost certainly part of the answer to that is that you were ignorant. I was ignorant before I saw these things. But I saw these things and was no longer ignorant. I obviously couldn’t change how I was living by myself, so I began looking for others, sharing my observations. Now, having done that here, you are not ignorant, either, unless you really don’t have the intelligence to understand such things. And I go on making people unable to say they are ignorant anymore, or else they must claim that they weren’t intelligent enough to understand, and in the end I might find people willing to help spread the information, and get enough people and resources that people can more and more start living this way.

    And the rest, who do not have the intelligence to understand the importance of such information and the importance of living this way, continue in their self destructive way. But almost certainly many of them understand enough to be very seriously conflicted about it, angry about it, angry at the implication that they are stupid and unfit to survive continuing to live with what they believe in, and they wipe themselves out much faster trying to prove their beliefs, than they would otherwise.

    And that is important for several reasons. They are doing a lot of damage and faster self destruction could cut the losses. It is logical in emergency conditions to stop reproducing, it can save a great deal of energy and resources very helpful to surviving, help you survive in much harsher circumstances, but you can’t stop reproducing for too long, and having this insane competition out of the way faster is therefore important. Avoiding the collapse of angry people who have taken over the richer areas of the world by force enabled by unsustainable use of resources, means going to harsh places they haven’t cared about, and staying there too long isn’t going to be feasible, not only because it is impractical to reproduce there, it may simply be impossible to live there at all for very long. Whatever is growing there is growing back too slowly to stay very long. You will want to bring as much food for yourselves and animals as you can to begin with, but it is impossible for that to last very long. Having the collapse happen fast has definite advantages.

  • Rita “The main thing you have to let go of is status…what others think of you.”

    Very well put. I don’t think I care about status, but then I find myself worrying about what others think about me and what is that but status. Yet to the degree I have done so I have found it rewarding. You inspire me to keep at it :)

  • This song says it all

  • we have problems that stem from irrational social distribution of resources, irrational use of resources, irrational decisions about reproduction. Do you have some reason why these observations are not correct?

    More important by far is to seek the reasons why the observations are correct – why irrationality is rife. 

     If you can’t disagree with these observations, but aren’t living by such understanding, why not? Almost certainly part of the answer to that is that you were ignorant.

    The operative word is part. Other factors are crucial. 

    And the rest, who do not have the intelligence to understand the importance of such information and the importance of living this way, continue in their self destructive way.

    The want of intelligence will indeed channel people towards certain behaviours. But not all their companions in that channel suffer the same want. 

    Deeming intelligence and knowledge as sufficient in themselves to shape motivation overlooks a vast terrain of the psyche that is pre-rational and pre-verbal, and thus signally intractable to characterisation in the context of parameters derived therefrom.

    With such a vast territory where reside the motivations that ultimately determine one’s behaviour, overlooking it is abundant peril.

  • That should be “parameters in a different medium derived therefrom”

  • Arthur Noll,

    I’ve read what you’ve said a number of times have to agree with James. You are not offering a solution to the problems of AGW or PO. Telling people about the problems so that they go crazy and self-destruct may be a good technique but how do you scale it up in time to make a difference? James says he has found no “solutions that don’t require the collective action of large numbers of people”. That is what you’re not giving us, a way to scale your idea up. How are you expecting to initiate the “large collective action” necessary to plant the self-destruct seed in the minds of 7 billion people soon enough to make a difference; soon enough to stop the influx of more CO2 into the atmosphere almost immediately?

    Scientists tell us that it’s already too late to avoid really serious negative effects from climate change and that the world will soon be a much harsher place. Governments tell us that rather than taking effective action to reduce our impact they intend to do the opposite. I don’t find any ideas in your comments that suggest a way to immediately change the situation.

    Your idea of retreating to a harsh place is a strategy for getting a few people through the bottleneck, not unlike the strategies many who read NBL are initiating.

    Michael Irving

  • No attempt to come to solutions in this post:

    Thorium Based Reactors could mitigate much of the harm of coal burning for industrial process’s. We’ve created this type of reactor before…we can do it again. During it’s off peak hours, desalination is a cost effective use. Of course, the response will to scream NO NUKES, NO NUKES, NO NUKES, NO DISCUSSION. Solar and wind have there place, but not in industrial production. [Germany can rely on wind and Solar because they have the damns of the Ruhr Vally working in conjunction with Frances Nuclear energy supply.]

    LED’s are about to cut home electrical consumption 22.5%, unfortunately shipping them from China to the west will mitigate much of the carbon footprint savings. This is odd when you consider, that the US leads the technology, but the China government supports it’s industrial implementation, which the US will not.

    On that subject “Globalization” of trade which prevents governments from reigning in the wealth’s game of hopscotching environmental [not to mention human rights] regulation. Also germane, shipping comprises 10-12% of the worlds oil consumption. “Globalization” is sold as a “good” thing, but if you support “Globalization”, you support the rape of people AND the environment.

  • I don’t think I’m overlooking things, Robin. I said the word “part”, quite deliberately, fully understanding that other factors were crucial. That we have a limbic-reptilian brain in addition to logical abilities, is well known. The conflict is between those two sides. Not everyone’s limbic-reptilian side is exactly the same. Most of us have similar limbic brains, similar reptilian brains, but the strength of various attractions with these can be very different, and the strength can also be fluctuating. Some parts may grow stronger with experience. Better logical abilities for a problem may grow, greater emotional respect for certain logical analysis may grow. Or not. The limbic side might actually grow in strength, there might be less respect for logical analysis of the situation. I would say that growth in that area leads to fanatical behavior, while growth in ability be logical and respect logic, would lead to saner behavior.

    The *total package* gives what I’m calling intelligence, which is giving responses to information that lead to continued life. Many people can obviously very easily follow the logic I’m giving here- but their limbic-reptilian side just as easily overrides it, and that limbic side may grow stronger. And because of that problem, the other crucial factor is finding enough people who can follow the logic, grow stronger in it, stronger in respect for it, and put together enough *physical resources* to be, metaphorically, a physical lifeboat capable of casting off from the sinking ship of current society, which is being run in an increasingly confused and conflicted way by increasingly fanatical people.

    I’m fully understanding all these problems, have chosen my words quite deliberately.

  • TRDH, Kathy C and Curtis – I must admit that your praise is much appreciated. It helps neutralize all the flack. When you go down this path and talk about it, it causes other people to feel uncomfortable in the extreme. They feel guilty, concerned, confused. I get the attitude that I am being “Greener Than Thou.” And there is classism galore. People work so hard to follow all those social rules and it’s confusing for them to see you ignoring them out of concern for the planet.

    For instance, a girlfriend offered me a set of sheets. “Oh,” I said. “I don’t use sheets.” Stunned silence. There was no time to explain that I have a silk sleeping bag liner because it is so easy to wash. And I sleep in clothing – sweatpants, etc. On the floor, on a mat like the Jananese, and most of humanity for eons. Jesus surely did. It is better for my bad back, easy to move it, and I can sleep wherever I want.

    This winter I turned off the fridge. Mom worried I would die of food poisoning. I thought if I showed her what was in there she would feel better. She didn’t. There was almost nothing in there. I don’t have the usual condiments. In fact, I buy nothing made in a factory, so have almost no trash. I eat stuff I buy in 25 pound sacks plus produce and other stuff from the bulk bins at the coop.

    As you can see, this is the life of a hermit who does not engage much with society. About five years ago I quit going to bars, smoking anything, hanging out, and working a bunch of jobs. I starting doing whatever I felt like with my time, like reading my extensive library. I love it. It was a long process of baby steps that began with a series of yard sales. I will be cleaning my house and realize I don’t need some object, so I put it in a box in a closet and if I don’t retrieve it before the next sale – out it goes. I make a lot of money on these sales. I have a blast. I sell many things cheap and give away a lot, too – unless it is some prick who tries to talk me down to nothing – then I refuse to sell it to him at any price.

    It can be tough at first. A young man in the check out line at the co-op was complaining about how much recycling he had. He asked me what to do about it. I told him to quit buying all that stuff. Another stunned silence. So simple, really.

    To change your life – change your behavior. That means you have to change your thinking, beliefs, priorities – everything that has held you in your patterns. A favorite blog of mine is Mr. Money Mustache. He teaches about this, but lives a more normal life than me. I also like Zen Habits.

  • I normally wouldn’t make a comment about my own blog (you can get there by clicking on my username, after all), but since it is dead on to the topic of Guy’s essay, I thought I would mention it here.

    Nothing earth shattering for readers here, but I posted two charts I created showing the highs and lows so far this year for my neck of the woods and how far they are deviating from the normal. Not good.

  • Well Arthur, you still haven’t actually said anything at all about an actual plan of action and how that will stop global warming, human population crash, or global economic collapse.

    S Brennan’s post is a perfect example of why we are doomed. Brennan puts his faith in a techno-fix when it is behavior combined with technology that got us in this mess in the first place. If people can’t stop believing in infinite growth on a finite planet, then the last thing we need is to “solve” the energy problem. Anything that prolongs economic and human population growth only makes the peak higher, the crash bigger, and the carrying capacity of the planet lower after it is all over. (Please read “Limits to Growth”, the first book or any of the updates to shed some light on this simple idea).

  • Rita:

    I found yard and garage sales attracked too much of the wrong type of people. I mostly give stuff to Goodwill, or the things they won’t take, I leave at the end of the driveway. Someone takes it.

    I am careful about saying anything about my habits and needs. Others may see it as being critical of them, or me being snobbish. Won’t accomplish anything.

    I usually only answer direct questions. Once a neighbor asked me, “Are you Catholic?”







    I am culturally deprived.
    Many years ago a friend aked me, “Did you see such and such?”
    I replied, “I don’t have a TV.”
    He said, “It’s a movie.”
    I replied, “I don’t go to movies either”.

    I abhore sporting events of all kinds. I would not go if you paid me. Only thing worse would be to go to church.

  • Ah Rita, I understand. You don’t intend to make people feel uncomfortable but their own vague or acute feelings they should be living with less makes you a threat to them. On one simple thing I do that happens all the time. I don’t eat refined sugar (by humans or by bees). It was a personal choice because I couldn’t stop once I started. It quickly became much easier to not eat sugar and before long I didn’t want sugar. Fruit tasted better. It made many people uncomfortable and some even angry. The one it bothered most was in fact a woman who was attempting to be counter cultural. Yet I have never made a big deal about it, never told anyone they should do the same, never asked anyone to cook differently for me, I just eat what I can and leave the rest. So if that one little lifestyle choice has made people mad at me, your lifestyle must truly be a threat to some. You should be honored for your choices, but well we live in a world with people who are carrying around mental baggage as well as a ton of physical baggage.

    I remember when the US left Vietnam and I saw a picture of a Vietnamese family fleeing with only what they could carry on their heads and backs. I remembered that every time my ex and I moved truckloads of stuff (more his than mine as I remember but one can’t always trust the memories of an ex). You are so right, possessions begin to possess and become a burden.

    Have you read of the story of Peace Pilgrim. “From 1953 to 1981 a silver haired woman calling herself only “Peace Pilgrim” walked more than 25,000 miles on a personal pilgrimage for peace. She vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.” She only carried a few small objects and the clothes that she wore. Unfortunately she in a car accident – having accepted a ride – and mankind has still not learned the way of peace.

  • curtis, i’m a sports fan to a degree. sometimes sport competition has elements of artistry, awesome talent and passion among the competitors. but there are elements to it i don’t like or understand and definitely the fanaticism of the average fan at a big event is among them. the way they go nuts u’d think the game was a matter of life or death. your comparing it to going to church is interesting now that i think about it. a passionate sports fan is like a passionate evangelical christian worshipper ‘speaking in tongues’. they’re both crazed.

  • One of the costs of affluence not often mentioned on NBL:

    It seems that the collapse of the ‘cheap food system’ cannot come fast enough to save a large portion of the US population.

    Of course, if we are all wrong about collpase by 2020, then the projection will eventuate and the US will become a nation of hippopotamuses.

  • Intelligence, thinking, reason/rationality are among the functions associated with the neocortex. The functions are intimately mediated through thought/logic/reason/reatioality and language. 

    Emotion, affect, intuitive thinking and motivation are all associated with the limbic system/paleo-&archi-cortex. They are itractable when assayed in terms of language and rationality. 

    Motivation drives behaviour. Indeed, it even drives the quest for knowledge and a rational approach to action. What knowledge is sought, what rationalisations are applied to support and defend one’s stance, and what actions are undertaken, are all steered by pre-verbal and pre-rational motivation. 

    Lumping the pre-verbal and pre-rational archicortical and paleocortical associated functions with the neocortical and calling it “intelligence”, may be a easier way to deal wtih the pre-verbal and pre-rational influences, but great intelligence in itself does not equate with an adequate measure of the other qualities: indeed they can be sadly lacking. It takes no small degree of insight to recognise this.

  • A Pagan take on “The Kingdom of Heaven
    Easter Festivity

  • Yesterday I just learned of a way of spending affluence that blew me away. Guess I have been long enough away from the “normal” world to be once again surprised. Botox Parties? I looked it up. How insane can this world get before it crashes??? Injecting a known poison to get rid of wrinkles. I know that there are medical uses that are presumably valid. But wrinkles??? I knew people were using Botox, but Parties?
    Botox Parties
    By Arthur Perry, MD, FACS
    Have you heard about those parties where people gather for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and a little Botox? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Go to a nice social event and look better at the same time. But, what’s wrong with this picture? Botox is a real procedure. And lots of things can happen when a needle is pushed through the skin. Like fainting. Nine percent of people faint when they donate blood. And sometimes people can have heart attacks from fainting.

    And how about patient confidentiality? Not possible in a group session. And that alcohol they serve at some Botox parties? You can’t imbibe and legally consent to a medical procedure. And what about those laws that regulate the medical environment? Do we throw them out?

    Botox parties are a bad idea. And the doctors who inject Botox in a group environment are practicing questionable medicine.

  • tvt:

    I like doing things. I get terminally bored watching someone else, particularly inside. At this point in my life I want to spend as much time as possible outside playing with my toys and looking at the plants and watching and listening to the birds. Peace and quiet. Calm and solitude.

  • Robin, you wrote: “Lumping the pre-verbal and pre-rational archicortical and paleocortical associated functions with the neocortical and calling it “intelligence”, may be a easier way to deal wtih the pre-verbal and pre-rational influences, but great intelligence in itself does not equate with an adequate measure of the other qualities: indeed they can be sadly lacking. It takes no small degree of insight to recognise this.”

    I’m not sure what your intentions are with this- you haven’t agreed with me outright, there is a hint of criticism of my way of defining intelligence- and yet the final conclusion is exactly the same as what I was saying.

  • Virgin Terry,
    I have the same reactions as you about sports.

  • Kathy C – Wow. I did not know Peace Pilgrim died in a car. That is like Aveline Kushi dying of ovarian cancer, after devoting her life to teaching people how to eat macrobiotically – a diet which has helped so many heal their cancers. Even worse, her daughter died of the same thing. Do you ever wonder what you will die of?

    For myself, when I hear of any death, no matter how I love the person, I feel grateful that there is one less person on the planet. Then I feel ashamed of it, but it is so automatic, I can’t help it. Does anyone else do that?

    The main reason to have a big retirement stash is for health care. Next year I am supposed to sign up for Medicare. I doubt I will ever use it, unless I fall off a ladder, which is not impossible, I know.

    About sports – I usher the U of A football games. The amount of energy used at the stadium, and the amount of trash hauled out of there afterward – is mind boggling. My girls played soccer, though, and it was great for them. I think the problem lies with the scale.

    About intelligence – there are many kinds. My mechanic is brilliant in his own way. And intelligence is directly related to good health – and easily destroyed, especially in utero.

    What our culture needs is permission to elevate our ideals. Like Kathy C, I see so many people feeling threatened by change. It is fear of being different, and harshly judged. And it is just plain hard to do. If the current predicament can unite enough of us, maybe we can achieve this and more people will overcome their fear of being different.

    It can be a lonely path – but someone must show the way, and time is short.

  • And about botox – that is perfectly understandable within the context of how we achieve a position of status and power. As an older woman, I can assure you that I am nearly invisible now. This is why so many cling to youth, and desire to be thin – and rich. Thin, rich, young-looking women (and men, too) are the ones given power – promotions, elections, appointments, etc.

    The poor and powerless are even cut out of wills, because the rich want their money to go to someone who “knows what to do with it.”

  • Rita you asked “For myself, when I hear of any death, no matter how I love the person, I feel grateful that there is one less person on the planet. Then I feel ashamed of it, but it is so automatic, I can’t help it. Does anyone else do that?”

    Since most deaths are not sudden and most often accompanied by lengthy illness and pain, my usual thought is just – glad its over for them. But it is not shameful to think that it is one less person on the planet. The “shameful” thought I have is when a baby is born and I think “one more person who has to die”. One is supposed to be happy a births and dread death, but every birth means a future death, and without birth there is no death. Needless to say when I see a new baby I don’t voice those thoughts :)

    Thoughts are not or should not be shameful. We just have them. What we do with those thought is another thing. Encouraging folks to get a tubal or vasectomy is a positive action that can follow up on those thoughts, although it is not always well received :(

  • The *total package* gives what I’m calling intelligence
    Intelligence is associated with the neocortex, with rationality and symbolism (including language). Lumping the non-rational and non-verbal functions with it is a convenient way of dealing witn them because it avoids addressing their very dierent characteristics:

    that limbic side may grow stronger. And because of that problem, the other crucial factor is finding enough people who can follow the logic, grow stronger in it,

    Following the logic does not alter convictions because the motivations for holding onto those convictiows may be quite unrelated to the logical arguments advanced. Those motivations may be so deeply buried that much time and effort could be expended by even an astute clinical psychologist in unearthing them. As long as the motivations are not addressed, they will continue to throw up all manner of defenses that no amount of logic will overcome.Both convictions and motivations are pre-rational and pre-verbal.

    That is among the reasons that clinical psychologists make a living.And why massive doses of information/evidence and logic/argument have been so poor at persuasion.More of the same will produce more of the same results no matter how logical or intelligent the audience.But the failure will be ascribed to their lack of intelligence.

  • curtis, i don’t get out nearly as much as i’d like because of a long term peculiar aversion to having to deal with sheople and present a conventional persona that i (like i assume all other civilized sheople) have been forcibly and deceitfully been taught to embrace in lieu of the genuine natural persona i may have developed otherwise. apparently being conventional works for most sheople, but i’ve always sucked at it, as i’ve always since puberty sucked socially. now that i’ve acquired some comprehensive knowledge of the across the board insanity/perversity of our culture, my alienation/anxiety have increased and been validated. so i find limited satisfaction in indoors solitude. i would like to be outside more. i’d like to live among sane people i can be genuine with in a durable culture not headed for disaster too, but surreality often isn’t supportive of wishes.

    i’m happy with the online camaraderie found here. nbl is a bright spot in an overwhelmingly dismal predicament. thank u.

    ‘fear of being different, and harshly judged.’ -rita

    someone named rita has been a frequent commenter whose comments i’ve loved on a website/blog: stopthedrugwar i think it’s called. probably not u, given all the ritas (millions?) in cyberspace. anyway, in my case it’s fear of becoming a martyr in a lost cause. one can lead dogmatists to information/knowledge, but one cannot make them grasp the meaning nor respond reasonably. this is the gist of our predicament. if i am to be genuine with others, the vast majority of whom are dogmatically deluded in many ways (and who find support for their views in being a part of the majority/establishment, liberally sprinkled with credentialed ‘experts’ of all sorts who are perceived as legit), it means being extremely confrontational and unconventional. this is quite intimidating. like entering a den of lions. without reasonable hope of success, i can’t do it. even with such hope, it may require more courage/ability than i possess. not everyone can be a hero(ine).

    ‘grateful that there is one less person on the planet. Then I feel ashamed of it, but it is so automatic, I can’t help it. Does anyone else do that?’ -rita

    not me. i still regard death as tragic unless perhaps it comes at the end of a fulfilling life, or as a merciful end to suffering. now that we’re in this predicament, birth more and more is what’s tragic. that’s what i’d like to help prevent if only surreality was more cooperative.

  • Rita, For myself, when I hear of any death, no matter how I love the person, I feel grateful that there is one less person on the planet. Then I feel ashamed of it, but it is so automatic, I can’t help it. Does anyone else do that?

    I understand what you mean. I can’t say that I feel that way about one person. I think it’s because I know that one less life means nothing by itself with respect to the problems we face. But, I certainly feel bad about a new child being born. My nurse just had a baby boy about a month ago. She brought him up for me to see the other day. I held him in my arms while he sucked his bottle. On one hand it was a wonderful feeling – a new life just beginning. But, then the reality that will be this young child’s life swept over me like a wave and I had to hand him back to his mother. He’s just one more hungry mouth to feed in a world without enough food for those born before him.

  • Chip Heath
    Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business, speaks about motivating people to make change, using the metaphor of an elephant (feelings), the rider (thinking) and the path ( environment) in this podcast in the Social Innovations Conversations series.

    Stanford Graduate School of Business: Social Innovations Podcasts

    Nonprofit Management and Making Change

  • Dr. House, just read your post on your blog site. Made a comment but can’t tell if it posted or not. At any rate your detailed observations confirm my impressions about the weather this year. I have everything but my corn in the soil now, 15 days before our usual last frost date. Hoping that I will get my crops in before the 100 – to 110 degree weather that you and I are expecting hits. Yield on many of my crops was way down last year. Hopefully the earlier planting will help this year. If it gets over 100 I plan to stay all day in a tub of cold water :). The heat coupled with our southern humidity is a literal killer.

    All the energy saved on heat bills this winter people will be using this summer for air conditioning. However the electric grid has its limits and sometimes cannot deliver everything people want.

  • All the energy saved on heat bills this winter people will be using this summer for air conditioning.

    Not us! Even if it reaches 40C. Mainly because most of us here in the UK have no air conditioning!!

  • I’m not sure what to make of this. On one hand it could be good for climate change, on the other unlimited energy may speed up our destruction of natural resources. Though they haven’t delivered net energy yet, which has been, of course, elusive this far.

    Fusion Power Record

  • I was just reading the Worldwatch Institute commentary on Rio +20 and their synopsis of their report “State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity” at

    Perhaps others here at NBL have looked at the Worldwatch roadmap for a sustainable future. I think I may be still reacting to Guy’s recent post “Toward An Economy of Earth” but the contrast between the three views of our future is so stark it makes my brain just want to shut down. There seem to be three views of the future with most people embracing the first view—unlimited growth.

    The unlimited growth model seems to be what virtually everyone wants and expects. That includes us here in the US and the rest of the “developed world”, which is to say, those areas of the world where virtually everyone lives in luxury (cars, computers, phones, houses, food+, clean water, etc.). It also includes the developing world (Brazil, China, India, etc.), countries where the people have been getting a good taste of what it must be like to have anything and everything they want, whenever they want it (like we in the US do now). It also includes the poorest nations, the ones with most of the people living on $2 US a day or less, where the population is discovering, often through TV, how the other half lives—and they want some too, even clean water would be nice. The bosses—presidents, senators, generals, industrialists—want us to invest everything in this model mainly in the hope that, no matter what happens, they will be rich and have almost unlimited power throughout their personal lifetime. The bosses don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone but themselves, if they did they would be trying to do something about the course they’ve set us on, one leading to the ultimate destruction of our biosphere and the extinction of Homo sapiens as well as most other species. I still don’t understand how any of TPTB could look across the breakfast table at their beautiful daughter and then kiss them goodbye and leave for work where they will initiate policies they know will doom their own children.

    The Worldwatch model envisions a new “green economy” that will insure “sustainable prosperity” by using variations on the same ideas that have been almost universally rejected since their introduction decades ago. For example, how many of your neighbors would go along with “de-growth in overdeveloped countries?” Try to explain to Joe Six-pack that to meet our “de-growth goals” he’ll have to give up his monster truck for a bicycle in order for a young man in Botswana to have a bicycle too. For that matter, try to convince me to give up my pickup around the time I start hauling firewood. While I agree that most of the ideas in “State of the World” might be wonderful if implemented, there is no real push by TPTB to make any substantive changes or shake up the status quo. They’d rather just retain their power for as long as they can and negotiate with other “powers” to strike a balance between using 50 times too much or using 48 times too much.

    Finally, there’s Guy’s assessment: The economy will crash itself in time (if we’re lucky) leaving us a chance at an agrarian anarchy. If the crash comes too late we will be dropped into a “post-industrial stone age” with the advantages of such high tech items as jars and knives. Or if somehow TPTB manages to duct-tape the economy together for a little longer then our species could face extinction.

    So what I see then is three models for the future, unlimited growth, sustainable prosperity, or post apocalypse. Drawing from popular culture I think of Ebenezer Scrooge, Pollyanna, and Mad Max. Holding on with the greedy, grasping Ebenezer Scrooge mentality embraced by most of us will lead to a Mad Max world. The Pollyanna thinking of Worldwatch is ineffectual because it will be rejected both by TPTB and regular folks (rich and poor) and so we’ll get the Mad Max world anyway. Our only hope for a livable future for anyone (not counting the billions doomed to die) is the third outcome, a fast and near complete collapse of our system, i.e., bring on the Mad Max world right now! Maybe then we can get to some of that agrarian anarchy Guy is suggesting would be a good thing. If not, just like the other two models we will end up in a Mad Max world. At least there might be some resources left for the non-human inhabitants of the planet after the fall.

    Michael Irving

  • The radicalisation of Michael Irving….

  • It would be great to see an update on Mike Sosebee’s film.

    The main character has that calm demeanor of a young Sean Connery, but with a wit and mustache that outshines Tom Selleck.

  • UK Guardian: Study suggests rising CO2 in the past caused global warming

    A paper in Nature shows how increased CO2 in the atmosphere led to warming – rather than the other way round

    “The paper shows that the increase in atmospheric CO2 was very important and drove the global temperature rise, but it also suggests that the initial trigger for the deglaciation was something different – a slight warming and associated slow-down of the Atlantic Ocean circulation. This caused carbon dioxide to start being degassed from the deep oceans, and that in turn drove the global change.

    “We are making good progress in working out the complicated cause-and-effect of these past climate changes, and that gives us confidence that we understand the basics of modern climate change as well.”

  • I’ll be featured on the OWS show for Press TV this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. It’ll run “live” Thursday and I’ll embed a YouTube video with a future post. Also, I’ll be feature on Michael C. Ruppert’s Lifeboat Hour radio show Sunday, 15 April 2012 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

  • Victor,

    Thanks for the Guardian report.

    Michael Irving

  • I look forward to hearing your interviews Guy.

    Meanwhile on the crash the economy quick front Tyler Durden writes:
    “In what appears to be surprising news for some, Reuters has an article titled “Americans brace for next foreclosure wave” whose key premise is that “a painful part two of the [housing] slump looks set to unfold: Many more U.S. homeowners face the prospect of losing their homes this year as banks pick up the pace of foreclosures.” Thank the robosettlement, where in exchange for a few wrist slaps, contract law was thoroughly trampled by America’s attorneys general, but far more importantly to the country’s crony capitalist system, the foreclosure pipeline was once again unclogged, and whether one does or does not have a legal title on a given house, the banks are now fully in their right to foreclose on it. What this means also is that America’s record shadow housing inventory, which is far greater than any fabricated number the NAR reports on a monthly basis, is about to get unleashed on buyers, shifting the supply curve much further to the right, as up to 9 million new properties slowly but surely appear on the market.” rest at

  • unlimited growth
    Those who use these words together or think in these terms do not understand the meaning of one or both of these English words. “Sustainable growth” is also misleading because the timeframe for the “sustainable” is overlooked or worse, ignored. 

    The radicalisation of Michael Irving….
    The emergence of the hitherto latent rationality in Michael Irving. Regrettably though, it is so deeply buried in so many that it remains buried even when they are buried.

  • good one, robin, re. rationality being so buried within some sheople that it never emerges. given this, one must question the very existence of said rationality in such sheople.

    michael wrote something i wish to comment on re. the supposed easy availability of everything in affluent consumer culture. there are a few critical areas where this is definitely not the case. 2 which leap to mind involve ‘drugs’ and sex/physical intimacy. sex is an ultimate renewable ‘resource’, considering the ubiquity of desire, attractive bodies, and the fact that when one ‘sells’ one’s body for the sexual gratification of another, said body is actually on very short term rent and when finished retains virtually all it’s previous value (isn’t damaged or worn out) and thus can be ‘sold’ over and over. some claim that this is inherently degrading, immoral, ‘sinful’, etc.. not so. as in any consensual transaction, it can be mutually respectful/rewarding.

    this is another cost of affluence rarely acknowledged. with affluence comes great inequality, hierarchy, and oppression. while many things are relatively cheap and abundantly available, others which may be essential to happiness/health are made artificially scarce, dangerous, and difficult to obtain. citizenship in any ‘advanced’ civilized culture comes at a great price: control over one’s own body/consciousness/life.

  • Robin Datta,

    Hmmm? I’m not sure what to make of your comments. I’m guessing that your “unlimited growth” comment was a follow-on affirmation of my assessment. I agree of course that there can be no “unlimited growth” and also that “sustainable growth” is an oxymoron too. Those were my points exactly and thanks for affirming them. I did think the Worldwatch take on the future was interesting in that they have always painted themselves as the “outsiders with a plan” for how to save ourselves from the mess we’ve generated. I think even more than ever they’re demonstrating that they don’t have a plan either. What they have is a utopian vision of a better world but from my reading they have no workable ideas on how to bring that about.

    As for the “rationalisation” comment I guess, “Thanks for that little slap” is one way to respond. My forty years of homesteading, trying to work out systems that will get my family through the bottleneck, hardly puts me in your league but I have done some thinking about the world situation. The idea that the whole house of cards is going to come down, and soon, is not new to me. I read NBL to get ideas from like-minded people and it’s helpful to sometimes add my two cents. Often just getting the ideas out of my head and into the open helps me clarify how I feel about things. I also read NBL for information on practical strategies for dealing with the impending crisis, ideas that other responders have tried and that work.

    As a tit-for-tat I will add that your comments are really long on philosophy and completely lacking in practicality. Maybe you would share with us some of the practical solutions you’ve been working on lately so we can benefit from your experiences. For my part over the last year we’ve experimented with rocket stoves, light straw-clay, wheat, rye, and thermo-electric generators. This year we will be trying a form of Archimedes screw to lift water. What’s up at your place?

    Michael Irving

  • Hey bub,

    “It seems that a whole lot of “doing” … brought us to this point.”

    I could not agree more – the “curious george” phenomena. The “seeking center” of the brain has gone wild. “DO SOMETHING” is the first instinct, when doing nothing (or much less) would be the best course.

    Also, I like your: “Don’t go to work tomorrow.”

    You sound like a kid I know named Paul… just sit down and refuse to participate in what you know is wrong. Just stop.


    This is one of the best threads I’ve read on the internet in a very long time. I can’t get on the net very often anymore, so it is nice to find a gem like this when I do.

    Also, thanks for the Kierkegaard link.

  • Rita – you are a true role model for “A different kind of luxury.”

    “Become the change you want to see” and “First – Do No Harm.”

  • I am a lone ranger or more of a couch potato since I retired in 2009. No family and live in solitude in the house in a northern suburb of Fresno CA with a postage-stamp backyard (when compared to the backyard I had in Kentucky). I got the house in 1998 when I moved to Fresno from San Jose; it was the cost of a down payment on a house in San Jose so I wrote a check for it. The realtor said that it was not uncommon for others moving here from the Bay Area to buy their houses outright.

    The only reason I bought the place was because my father lived with me. I selected a place 1/3 of a mile from a supermarket so that he could walk to it. By 2000 he needed constant babysitting and moved to an assisted living facility. When I worked I was 3 miles from worn and I biked to work. My father died at the age of 94 in January 2008, so I am on my own now.

    The only items from the back yard that I have eaten were a few lemons. There are also some oranges that taste like sawdust. Maybe I should make a move?

    The past two or three summers have been mild here with temperature over 1100F on only a few days. The couple of summers I spent in China Lake, CA while in the uS Navy were the hottest with 1260F in the shade. That was in 1979 & 1980.

  • That’s 110°F & 126°F: sorry about non-functioning HTML tags.

  • TVT,

    Re: “good one robin”

    Are you one of those sheople you’re always talking about? Or are you some other kind of being; aloof, superior, clear thinking, in possession of all the answers? If you’re a sheople then not using the word ‘people’ is just an affectation. If you’re some superior being then let me suggest a different phraseology to eliminate any misunderstanding.

    ‘good one, robin, re. rationality being so buried within some proles that it never emerges. given this, we elites must question the very existence of said rationality in such proles.’

    Let me leave you with this thought: Proles and animals are free!

    Oh, by the way, I’m sorry you are conflicted about the role of sex in our lives. You could be talking about consensual sex or prostitution, I’m not sure. If it’s consensual sex, my suggestion that the act for some (I hope many) falls into the realm of the gift economy Guy has been talking about. Thinking of sex as a transaction in which a person sells something to another expecting a return of equal value is a long way from the intimate exchange of gifts that makes sex worth having. If it’s prostitution you’re talking about then you have a really poor understanding of the lives of prostitutes, the three high-end call girls notwithstanding. For a good critique of this idea review your own final paragraph, it sums it all up nicely.

    Michael Irving

  • Navid – Thank you. Just to clarify – I was raised in the country farming with horses, and we lived without various comforts sometimes. It has never felt like a hardship all the times I have lived without running water, electricity or whatever.

    I wrote my thesis on environmental hazards in the mid-90s. In the late 90s I got really ill with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and chemical sensitivity. Thus I began to get rid of anything with synthetic fabric, foam cushions, etc. to see if I felt better. I did. Living with less furniture and stuff also makes cleaning much easier. Most recently, I began getting rid of all things electrical and unplugging stuff to reduce electro-smog. Just removing the wifi makes a difference. There is a good web site for people like me – just google Debra Lynn Dadd.

    It all ties in together – being cheap, healthy, and tiny footprint. I love that.

    However. One problem I can’t figure out is the in town/out of town decision. I am in town (about 70,000) right now and the air is bad. I am also in the middle of hundreds of cell phone towers – I think it is about 240 of them. I don’t walk that much because the bad air gets to me, but if I drive, then I am also contributing to the bad air. But I have lived here before without a car. It can be done, and after a crash, the air should improve. However, I don’t think I can stay here. But if I move way out, my costs will skyrocket. What to do? What to do? I obsess about this all the time.

  • If scientists will choose to speak truth to the powerful, perhaps they will encourage other stonewalling leaders to do the right thing. At the moment many too many elders are remaining electively mute and appear unwilling to confront ‘the powers that be’ with the best science available regarding either the ‘placement’ of the human species within the order of living things on Earth or the most adequate understandings of the way the world we inhabit actually works. Such willful refusals by so many knowledgeable elders to assume their individual responsiblities to science and fulfill their well-established, collective duties to humanity are indefensible. Before it is too late for human action to change the perilous, human-induced course of unfolding and fulminating ecological events in our planetary home, perhaps enough people will speak out loudly and clearly in ‘one voice’ about what they believe to be real (according to the knowledge and the ‘lights’ they possess) regarding clear and imminent dangers to future human well being and environmental health that are visible on our watch. By so doing a global, internet-driven transformation of consciousness could literally spring up, as if out of nowhere, among human beings with feet of clay. Because the finite and frangible ‘reality’ of the natural world we inhabit has got to become more evident to people everywhere, day by day, and because the biological and physical limitations of the natural world will become obvious to people everywhere during the timeframe when humanity will face ‘peak everything’, humankind could sooner rather than later reach a point in space-time when a critical mass of people see and agree that ‘the endless growth’ paradigm that is so powerful and prominent in the human world in our time is, in fact, the telltale mark of insanity. Then the human (not the natural) world will have to change, the seemingly unassailable force of self-proclaimed masters of the universe, their global political/economic endless growth regime and mass media notwithstanding. Human overpopulation, overproduction and overconsumption activities would be reasonably, sensibly and humanely regulated worldwide. Human beings with feet of clay would not even be able to think in good faith of ourselves as Homo sapiens, much less behave as if there were no limits to growth on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth. Such circumstances would compel all of us at least to try and change behavior that can be seen readily as distinctly human and patently unsustainable lunacy. With regard to the construction of the ‘economic colossus’ we call a global political economy, the outrageous per capita overconsumption of limited resources and skyrocketing increase of absolute global human population numbers, change toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises would begin to occur ubiquitously. After all, there have got to be limits to the insanity of constructing any unsustainable human world by a species calling itself Homo sapiens sapiens. Somehow, somewhere, at some moment the leading elders in the human community must agree to limit something, some human activity. Any activity at all will work well. By so doing we change the endless growth paradigm and choose a new path, ‘a road less traveled by’, to the future. Until at least one human activity is meaningfully restrained, if not altogether halted from growing (at least momentarily), the unsustainable game of Ponzi we are recklessly and relentlessly playing will eventually lead to global destruction and degradation of a colossal, incalculable sort, I suppose.

  • James sez (March 31st, 2012 at 10:17 am):

    To be honest, I am starting to get worn down from too much reading of this website and all the other wonderful doomer (reality?) voices out there (Derrick Jensen, Dmitry Orlov, John Michael Greer, Charles Hugh Smith, Jan Lundburg, Howard Kunstler, etc). All this knowledge does is add to the feeling of impotence. It’s no different than listening to the news every day. I mean, what the heck am I supposed to do about the Palestinian/Israel conflict? Yet I hear about constantly. Same goes for peak oil and global warming.

    I, too, feel like I have overdosed on this stuff over the past few years, and I’m stunned into paralysis and impotence. It also involves something akin to rubbernecking, since I keep reading more and more about this utter train wreck as it happens. We can all sense the death blow to industrial civilization looming, and I guess I want to see it coming and understand what part I can. I’m less involved commenting than I was for a while, since so much of it is arguing over scenarios prophesying just how and when the wheels come off the bus. I’d rather expend my energy elsewhere.

    Also, I’m astonished and ashamed at the examples set by Guy and Rita (and others), who are well past the paralysis stage (where I’m stuck). Compared to them, I feel like a moral failure, even though my contributions to the world’s woes are fairly modest. I really appreciate Rita’s many follow-up comments.