Global madness

Television anchor Edward R. Murrow is credited with this expression: “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.” Murrow understood the power of television to misinform the masses. This strategy has worked brilliantly on every front, but none more pronounced than the all-important issue of global climate change. Seeking “balance” on the idiot box means presenting two sides to a one-sided issue until it’s too late to address the crisis.

It’s too late. By the end of June 2012, the U.S. had witnessed its hottest 12 months and hottest half year on record. Extreme events have arrived: “The kind of blistering heat we used to experience once every 20 years, will now occur every two.”

Even as the sun cools, record high temperatures exceeded record low temperatures by a ratio of 2:1 in the last decade, relative to an expected ratio of 1:1. The ratio hit 9:1 in 2012.

Even mainstream scientists writing in Science have finally noticed that ocean acidification threatens all marine life with near-term extinction. In the very near future, coral reefs will disappear. Think of the deprivation we’ve brought to the world as we rape, pillage, and plunder Earth’s glorious bounty for a few extra dollars with which to purchase food high fructose corn syrup that’s killing us and toys that titillate. Deniers take note: “Recent warming of the top 2300 feet of the ocean alone corresponds to an energy content of more than one Hiroshima atomic bomb detonation every second over the past 40 years.” This “remarkable warming can only be explained with man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to fancy sensors, those greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for a temperature increase of about 1 C in New England since the beginning of the industrial revolution (graphical depiction is here). The plants paint a considerably direr story, indicating average temperature in the region has increased 2.4 C during the same period. If you trust plants more than human sensors, as I do, this single statistic is sufficient to induce despair.

Climate chaos is only a small part of the big story, though it is among the phenomena poised to cause our extinction within a single human generation. In addition to triggering climate chaos, we’ve initiated the Sixth Great Extinction, and we revel in its acceleration as one more sign of progress. Furthermore, we continue to ratchet up the madness of human-population overshoot on an overpopulated, overheated, increasingly depauperate planet. Environmental degradation proceeds apace as we gleefully trade in living soil for smart phones, clean air for fast computers, potable water for high-definition televisions, healthy food for industrial poison, contentment for exhilaration, decent human communities for hierarchical death camps, and life for death.

All the while, we take truth-tellers to task while looking to corrupt governments for leadership. Truth is treason in an empire of lies, so we don’t protest governments that spy on their citizens and then kill them. The people, largely convinced they are consumers instead of citizens, keep seeking guidance from the television and nourishment from GMO-tainted faux food, all while seeking happiness from exhilaration instead of introspection.

My heart aches to the breaking point. Industrialized humans are destroying every aspect of the living planet with all the joy one would expect from homicidal maniacs. We don’t think about what we’re doing. If we did, we wouldn’t. Or perhaps, driven by a culture of madness promoted by our contemporaries, we would.

I’m guilty, too, of course. Walking away from empire doesn’t mean I’ve done enough to terminate the omnicidal set of living arrangements known as industrial civilization. As I’ve written before, “I’m afraid of change, fearful to cash in my chips. But I’m afraid to stay, too. The thought of continuing to stare, alone, at the world of wounds, causes the terror to rise in me. Afraid to let go of nature’s bounty, as if it’s mine to hold. Afraid what I’m missing by holding onto comfort.”

Haunted by the wonder and beauty of nature and fully recognizing my efforts as insufficient, bitterness nearly overshadows my overwhelming, debilitating sadness. How could I have been be so self-absorbed? What irreparable damage have I wrought?

Curse your television. Then shoot it. It’s not much, and it’s too little, too late. But it’s a therapeutic start to a much-needed revolution.

I feel nature slipping out of my grasp as we rush to destroy every species on Earth. With no decent solutions, my mind wanders between sadness and madness, between reality and the despair induced therein. Is it possible for a scientist to die from a broken heart?

What a way to go.

If silence is the perfect music, then we’re about to have the (musically) perfect planet. But I doubt we’ll be pleased with the silence as we slip, one by one, into the abyss of unconsciousness.


This essay is permalinked at Seemorerocks, Plan B Economics, Counter Currents, Doomstead Diner, and — in edited form — The Refreshement Center.

Comments 123

  • Robin, when I would ask my father “why” as a young child he used to answer “theirs is not to reason why”. I am sure he thought it was cute, but given the full meaning of the poem of course it is not. However as a young child I thought he was saying “there is not a reason why”. For the Light Brigade I suppose it is true either way……For an authoritarian parent it often is as well.

  • the virgin terry,

    Thanks for your kind words, though I have to admit they bring up some pretty mixed feelings for me. Becoming widely known as an uncompromising scientfic doomer isn’t quite what my parents had in mind for me as a child…

    My journey of discovery has included heaping helpings of paradox. As it has progressed I’ve had to learn how to hold them without denying either side, or having my cerebral cortex explode in the process.

    Human beings are both divine and demonic. Our civilization is the seat of both majesty and debasement. Our works embody both sublime, soaring, creative joy and the despair of complete, deliberate, wanton destruction. If we focus on just one side of the paradox we cannot embrace our full humanity.

    I’ve made the choice in the last few years to open up more space in my psyche for the magic of creativity, while still keeping open the space I’ve prepared at such great cost for the Shadow. This position feels more fully alive to me – to celebrate and mourn, to weep while dancing, to be everything and nothing in the same moment. It’s a work in progress, as is life itself.

  • Of Interest:

    Kaieda. Key points from the conversation:
    Minister Kaieda thanked Sec. Chu for support, updated him on reactors

    * FD #1 and #3 are regaining stability
    * FD #2 may have damageto the separation chamber, attempting to stop it from escalating
    * Outside of 20KM, radiation levels have dropped to a level that would have a small to negligible impact on health.

    The Secretary offered equipment / people /expertise, and expressed support

    Minister Kaieda:
    * Thanked Si for US Fire trucks
    * Said METI will meet with USG experts tomorrow
    * Accepted our offer to use aerial and vehicle/ground based measurement equipment
    * Asked for specifications and numbers on what equipment was available
    * Asked if we could share iodine tablets with GOJ

  • Saint Peter grows fierce and bellows, ”You mean you never found anything in your long life to get passionate about, to fight for and to risk everything to do? Go back and do it again and live like you mean it.”

    How about chopping wood and carrying water?

    Human beings are both divine and demonic
    The self is the cause of one’s bondage and also the cause one’s of freedom. Bhagavad Gita 6:5

    sublime, soaring, creative joy and the despair of complete, deliberate, wanton destruction.
    Rivers flow into the ocean, but tie ocean is undisturbed.  Bhagavad Gita 2:70

  • Robin, tell me something from your own experience – I respect you so that means something to me. The Bhagavad Gita means nothing to me.

  • Robin, in my experience both bondage and freedom are pure illusions. We are not in chains, so there is no way (or need) to free ourselves. It helped me to realize that.

    There is, however, weeping and dancing. I’m entirely too good at the former, and getting better at the latter as I age…

  • All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full….
    –Ecclesiastes 1:7

  • The religious books are full of words, but the words are meaningless – Kathy 3:5

    Might as well have the bad news with a bit of humor

  • i’ve been a functioning depressed person most of my life and at this late stage, when there used to be something called “retirement”, i find i’m in the battle of the ages. Little work, no savings, lots of interests – especially in preserving what’s left of the environment (because i’m not lettin’ the bastards win without a fight) – so it’s activism for me until i drop. No heroism, just my choice.

    i appreciate all your thoughtful comments and perspectives. Thanks for being here everyone. Please continue to share your vision on our way down and out for as long as we have.

    U.S. Military Purchasing Combat Equipment for Domestic Contingency Planning

    Japan to probe ‘active faults’ under nuclear plants

    Study: People Who Are Constantly Online Can Develop Mental Disorders

  • Tom human who isn’t depressed is not paying attention. Its a sign you are sane.
    Record warmth at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet
    By Dr. Jeff Masters
    Published: 9:25 PM GMT on July 18, 2012
    The coldest place in Greenland, and often the entire Northern Hemisphere, is commonly the Summit Station. Located at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet, 10,552 feet (3207 meters) above sea level, and 415 miles (670 km) north of the Arctic Circle, Summit rarely sees temperatures that rise above the freezing mark. In the 12-year span 2000 – 2011, Summit temperatures rose above freezing only four times, according to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera. But remarkably, over the past week, temperatures at Summit have eclipsed the freezing mark on five days, including four days in a row from July 11 – 14…
    Record heat leads to major flooding in Greenland
    The record heat has triggered significant melting of Greenland’s Ice Sheet. According to the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, on July 11, glacier melt water from the Russell Glacier flooded the Watson River, smashing two bridges connecting the north and south of Kangerlussuaq (Sønder Strømfjord), a small settlement in southwestern Greenland. The flow rate of 3.5 million liters/sec was almost double the previous record flow rate.The latest forecast for Summit calls for cooler conditions over the coming week, with no more above-freezing temperatures at Summit

  • I wish I’d been aware of the impacts of industrial civilization 30 years ago. I would certainly tried to have lived differently but I wonder if I would have been allowed to. I wonder if I’d have had to courage to. Awareness a little later and I might still have been able to bring my children up to live differently but would they have thanked me for it? Becoming aware only when it may be too late to do anything and when it’s so difficult to get the message through to my wife and (adult) kids is very painful.

    Guy keeps reminding us of the mess we’re in, the mess we’ve created. I feel guilty, as I should. We need to be reminded of it constantly; it can be too easy, for many people, to slip their heads back under the duvet and sleep a bit longer.

    Guy said New Zealand (my home) would be an easy place for agrarian anarchy. In principle, that’s true (good climate and lots of unpaved land per person) but industrial civilization is just as rooted here as anywhere (I think we have the highest per capita car ownership) making it just as difficult to awaken from the dream, as anywhere.

  • Seems like an increasing number of articles about geoengineering to deal with global warming. Does this mean that people are finally realizing, oh shit we are fucked?
    “An international team of scientists has finally published the results of a 2004 experiment to fertilize oceans with iron in an effort to reduce the carbon at the surface of the water and potentially slow global warming.

    This type of geoengineering – large-scale manipulation of the climate – has been controversial, but this is the first experiment to show that the technique works. At the end of the 2004 summer season, scientists fertilized an ocean eddy in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica with 7 tons of dissolved iron, prompting the growth of small plant-like organisms called phytoplankton.”

  • A new essay is up, courtesy of our own Morocco Bama. It’s here.

  • Kathy C

    I saw a doco about how ocean scientists beieve that large whale poo is very rich in iron, and adds to the development of phytoplankton. The filter feeder whales also deposit a huge(6-8ft) rough cigar shaped calcite mass that floats on the surface. Many a salty sailor has gone down from being holed by one of these shooting to the surface, aparently.

  • Altermego:

    Re “intestinal flora ”

    Read the following so you can at least catch up with Joe6Pack – :

  • People have to get over themselves. The omnipotence stuff should have ended by age 10.

    This guilt-tangent for “what we’ve done” is such a horrible waste of time and energy. So many intelligent, talented people get mired in this distraction.

  • Tom, here are two quotations you might like:

    ‘There is no anti-depressant that will cure a depression that’s spiritually based, for the malaise doesn’t originate from brain dysfunction, but from an accurate response to the desecration of life.’
    — David R. Hawkins


    What is madness but nobility of soul/
    At odds with circumstance/
    — Theodore Roethke ~ ‘In a Dark Time’

  • Martin, I like those quotes!

  • If you’re not a climate change denier, perhaps it’s because you don’t watch enough television.

  • The Canadian Tao:

    Before winter: chop wood, carry water
    During winter: carry wood, chop water

  • Beautiful piece, Guy.

    un abrazo desde Montreal