Playing Court Jester

Quoting Carl Sagan, I begin some presentations with this line: “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” But in the wake of a recent trip to the northeastern United States, it’s clear many people disagree with Sagan, choosing delusion over reality, believing we can have infinite growth on a finite planet with no consequences for humans or other organisms, smoking the crack pipe of hopium.

From those who actually absorb my messages about collapse and climate change, I’m asked: “Why bother? Why do you go on the road?”

My response:

Do I tell the truth, or not? Paradoxically, the importance of my messages and my ability to deliver them in compelling fashion are not the primary reasons I spend time on the road. People want to hear what I’ve done to prepare, so that’s why I’m invited to speak. But the real reason I travel is that I need to get away, in large part because the experiment has failed. I’ve conducted many experiments, and I know failure when it whacks me in the head.

My experiences, essays, and presentations have failed to promote resistance sufficient to cause collapse of the industrial economy, and have therefore failed to delay human extinction. Further, I’ve failed to convince even a very small minority of people in my audiences to change their lives. Worse yet, the mud hut offers no viable future for humans, thus precluding a decent future for the youngster here and his generation. Thus, my primary targets — the general public and the youngster and his generation — are left in the cold extreme heat.

In summary, I recognize the mud hut has become a near-term death trap because of climate chaos, and so I must leave it. And then, when I become totally burned out on the road, demoralized by the majority people in the audiences and the sheer insanity of speaking to a world that will not listen, I must return to the mud hut. And not so much to recover or re-energize as to take my turn at the chores while preparing for another round of insanity.

On the road, there’s little possibility to develop a lasting relationship. I throw a Molotov cocktail into the conversation, and then I leave the area.

On the road, I describe how we live at the mud hut. I describe the importance of living for today. I contemplate the ethics of near-term human extinction. In response, I am given nicknames. The latest, which I greatly appreciate: Guy McStinction.

Of course it’s not all bad. I enjoy being hosted by people who open their doors, minds, and hearts to me. I enjoy serious conversation about serious topics, always laced with abundant humor.

Shortly after my return from my latest trip, a comment comes from the ether (to protect the guilty, I’ll not reveal names): “Listened to Guy last night. He spoke at our permaculture meeting. It’s hard to keep on believing it matters when it really doesn’t. We’re screwed, no matter what.”

The online response from a former fan of mine: “Really, so Guy traveled to your permaculture meeting and left you with the impression we are all screwed no matter what we do? Doesn’t sound very motivating towards being proactive. What is the point of having a massive carbon footprint flying about and having people drive to hear him spreading a message if you spread such pessimism that people do not think it matters what we do?”

And in a subsequent message from the latter person: “You were someone I really looked up to last year. Nothing wrong with facing doom head on and naming it for what it is but at least then you gave some hope and some direction, now, not so much.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that hope is hopeless. As Nietzsche pointed out, “hope is the most evil of evils, because it prolongs man’s torment.” To put Ed Abbey’s spin on it, “action is the antidote to despair.” So, even though I no longer think my actions matter for humans, I’ll take action.

From my email inbox comes a message from the campus “green” committee that invited my presentation at a local college: “We are as alarmed as you are but strongly disagree with your analysis that the only solution to climate chaos is to embrace economic collapse. There are other empowering, creative, sustainable and hopeful courses of action. Our students need to hear these choices in order to move forward. A message entirely consisting of gloom and doom will not move us in a positive direction. If we are to have a future, we must stay engaged, not disempowered and filled with despair.”

A portion of my response:

I understand wanting to promote empowerment, creativity, and hopefulness. I cannot understand promoting these attributes in the absence of — or at the expense of — factual information supported by extensive, rational analyses.

Near-term human extinction is a difficult pill to swallow, as is economic collapse. But ignoring ugly truths does not make them any less true. Despair is an expected and appropriate response to this information. Recognizing, accepting, and moving beyond despair are important subsequent steps.

As I indicated in my presentation, only complete economic collapse prevents runaway greenhouse. We’ve known this tidbit since 2009, when Timothy Garrett’s excellent analysis was published in the journal Climatic Change. It’s not as if I’m making up the dire information, or cheering for the human suffering that is resulting from collapse. But I’m not interested in presenting information based on wishful thinking, either.

On and on it goes. As George Orwell pointed out, “truth is treason in an empire of lies.” A typically absurd comment comes from a leading public figure in response to a question about my reporting of the climate science: “I think his view is profoundly disempowering. Whether or not he’s right, I think telling people that is not helpful. It’s a recipe for ending up with people doing none of the things that are possible to make a difference. There’s so much uncertainty in the models that we can’t realistically make predictions like that anyway. Climate is highly non-linear, we don’t understand the various feedback loops, or where we lie within them, or the net effect of different ones, or the impact of methane in comparison with CO2, or the background cycle of natural forcings, or the impact of economic collapse on both emissions and global dimming etc etc. I think we need to plan to get over the first hurdle (financial crissi) and then deal with the next, and the one after that as they arise. Relocalization, undertaken for reasons of finance and energy contraction, will also be the only factor that can genuinely benefit climate as well. Whatever reason we do it for, that is the answer – a simpler society.”

Let’s move toward a simpler society, and the sooner the better. But let’s not deal with predicaments as hurdles to be leaped over or knocked down. Let’s take them on now, and let’s get to the root of the matter: Industrial civilization is destroying life on Earth. Rather than pondering how we can protect faux wealth as the industrial economy unwinds — the leading question for the civilized among us — let’s get to work saving the living planet by terminating industrial civilization.

Apparently I disempower people by encouraging them to take responsibility for facts, and for themselves. Oh, the irony. I induce disempowerment and despair. As individuals, we’ve never had significant power, our privilege aside. For most of us, the limited power we possess has been used primarily to accrue more personal power at the expense of the living planet and people outside the industrialized world.

What of despair? If you don’t despair what we’ve done, and what we continue to do, to the living planet and people outside the industrialized world, I have little sympathy for you. Despair is a typical and expected reaction to my presentations, and I would have it no other way. If the truth causes despair, then bring on the truth. I’ve been despairing for years. It hurts. But avoiding our emotions makes us less human, hence degrades our humanity. I want no part of that. I want to feel, even when it hurts. Until I can’t.

How difficult it is for civilized humans to comprehend that this civilization, like all others, has disadvantages. How difficult it is for civilized humans to comprehend that this civilization, like all others, must end. How difficult it is for civilized humans to comprehend that humans, like other organisms, are headed for extinction.

And you believe I’m not grieving? You believe I enjoy the knowledge in my head? Apparently you’ve not been paying attention.

Lest you conclude this essay is a defensive rant — and perhaps it is, at least in part — I’m actually going somewhere. All this speaking and writing and reacting and pondering leads me to a new and different place than I ever imagined. Specifically, I’m adjusting to my new roles as the world burns: court jester and psychotherapist. I have no experience with either pursuit, unless playing class clown contributes to the former. But I think Nero had the right idea, creating art as Rome burned. So I’ll create humor while taking advantage of opportunities to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Perhaps if I provide enough humor, I’ll be spared the usual end-of-life experience proposed for those messengers who bring bad news.

Had the industrial economy collapsed in late 2008 or early 2009, as appeared likely at the time, our species might have persisted a few more generations. Now, however, it’s time to let go. As individuals, we do not possess the power to alter the outcome. However, we have the power to control our reaction to events. Thus, the new role I’ve assigned myself.

I’ll present dire information with empathy while promoting resistance. I’ll continue to criticize society while empathizing with individuals. And I’ll ask people to empathize, and to feel. Even if though it hurts.

Why? Because, hopium aside, Carl Sagan was correct: painful reality trumps satisfying, reassuring delusion.

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This post is permalinked at Island Breath, Peak Oil News, and Speaking Truth to Power.

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My monthly essay for Transition Voice was published two days ago. It’s here.

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NEXT-DAY UPDATE: The IPCC Fifth Assessment has been leaked. It’s here. Note that, like its predecessors, it fails to incorporate major positive feedbacks.

Comments 349

  • Kathy C Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 11:29 am
    So no blame is called for. But heck, I want to have fun on the way down, so I am going to blame BP, and the Nuclear Regulation Association, and any scapegoat I can find for the state of affairs even though I know that in the end there is no blame. We just are a failed species, one among many, one of the shortest lived. Too bad for us…..

    Finally, an honest, sensible attitude. Enough with all the capitalism and BP bashing. There just no place for it on a environmentally minded web site. Instead of blaming, we should all just pull up a chair and enjoy the slaughter. And if it gets boring just watching BP kill hundreds of dolphins and sea turtles…for even more fun, maybe we could even pitch in and help them. I sure as heck wouldn’t blame you if you did, like you say, it wouldn’t be your fault, it would be “a failed species” fault.

  • When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away. – John Steinbeck

  • The AR5 leak probably has the UN tearing their hair out.

    My feeling is that this will destroy climate science. It will be like the climategate email thing but vastly bigger. The scientists are naive. They think that truth and facts and data matter. Kochs and Murdoch and Exxon know that public perception is what matters, and who owns the media. Every line in the IPPC thing can be distorted to mean the opposite of what it says and spun to sound as if it comes from the ‘secret leaked document’ that covered up the ‘fact’ that AGW is not really happening.

    The mass of the world’s population are like kids having a party. They don’t want to go to bed yet. They don’t want to hear the bad news, so it simply can’t be true, and they’ll be told what they want to hear. None of them will read the IPPC report, they wouldn’t understand it if they did, they’ll hear what the MSM and liars like Inhofe tell them to hear.

    Like twit Andy above Global warming/climate change – fogetaboutit It’s a ruse, a meme to drive people toward feeling they are the problem..

    Perfect example. Or David’s ‘CO2 is plant food, Vegetation doesn’t need oxygen…’

    When the masses have such dismal level of insight into science, and how the Earth’s climate and biological systems work, or not even that much understanding, it’s easy to cause so much confusion that it will be impossible to take any remedial action.

    The battle is not about the ‘facts’ or ‘error bars’ or ‘highly likely’ or ‘95% certainty’ or anything like that. It’s about playing to the audience. The audience is the mob in the Roman Colisseum. They are not interested in logic or statistics. If a bimbo with big tits on the screen says that the climate scientists have been caught telling lies, and it’s all part of the plot by the United Nations to kill all the kittens, they’ll believe it.

    Once I would have found this all extremely depressing. But as I know NTE is coming anyway, sooner or later, it takes on the character of grim farce. Bit like watching a public execution. The axeman is so incompetent he misses the target, the chopper gets embedded in the woodblock, he can’t get it out and the crowd roars with laughter… I feel like a little child watching this gruesome revolting spectacle from afar, disgusted, appalled, powerless…

  • The problem’s is in our own brain
    If we must have someone to blame
    We evolved very quick
    With skulls all too thick
    To envision our own end game

  • William Catton says we are suffering from Redundancy Anxiety
    http://stirpat.org/32catton.pdf
    We know there are too many of us and not enough slots for us to fill.

  • ulvfugl, I sympathize with you, but at least half the regular bloggers on this site believe that people can’t help what they do because everyone is just part a “failed species.” So, is there isn’t really any point in discussing anyone’s reactions or behaviors regarding the IPPC or anything else, is there?

  • ulvfugl

    ++++!!!!

    You have said it brother.

    I will quibble with some of the details but essentially the mainstream of populations who do not look deeper than the MSM are where you describe. The ever expanding fring however, well it is hard to say what sways their minds, but my view is that talking to a knowledgable NTExtinctioner may be a goer.

    Cheers

  • Gail

    I have just been reading your link /book: Pillage, Plunder, Pollute…
    and have a few initial questions.

    We have a variety of Holly here in the Blue Mountains, NSW Australia, and I cnat tell you which, but suffice to say the wildlife people denote it as a weed needing disposal. I have checked and none of these shrubs show any signs you describe.
    Good I presume. So is the Southern Hemisphere behind the North like Guy says regarding other GHGases and GWarming? Also, does Altitude play any role, worse effects or less effects of O3? We are at 1000 meters and have many days a year in fog and relative high humidity. Is humidity a factor?

    I have only read a few pages… bloody hell mate, you’ve just thrown
    an(nother) spanner in the works !

    Crikey!!!

    The recent acknowledgement here used a bit known as …

    “We’re Fucked”…

    goes nowhere near expessing the situation.

    How about?…

    “We’ve dishonoured every ancestor and previous antecedent to present life-forms back to the first form of life on Earth!”

    or

    “We’re fucking all our ancestors, and dishonoured and shit in their faces, and pissed on their instinct to survive!”

    All there is is what may come.

  • BTW
    All

    I have had post apocalyptic dreams three nights running now folks, and that has never happened before to me..

    It could be the december 12th or 21st thing, or the asteroid near flyby a few days ago… but I wouldn’t be surprised if something else wasn’t going on there.

    I’ll keep you all posted, or internetted.

  • @Ripley

    I’m of the view that, at some point in life, you sit down and sort your head out, your whole being out. That can mean a long time sitting. Perhaps. Some people find it easier than others. Suppose it depends how messed up you are, or how lucky you are.

    Then you stand up, and start walking, and take full responsibility for everything you do.

    ‘Rest of the species’ stuff doesn’t really come into it.

    Is that an answer to your comment, or did you mean something else ?

  • This is worth a read, IMO, if you havn’t seen it, although I think most here know it already :

    DeMocker: The major paradigm-changing social movements in history — the civil-rights movement, the abolitionist movement, the independence movement in India — have mostly been campaigns against oppression. Who are the oppressors in the climate-change movement?

    Moore: Transnational petrochemical industries, their leaders, their investors, and the politicians they control.
    For a long time activists were unclear about this. The corporations were happy to claim that they were simply responding to public demand. Only recently has it become clear how much corporations have been manipulating public demand. They build and maintain infrastructures that force consumers to use fossil fuels. They convince politicians to kill or lethally underfund alternative energy or transportation initiatives. They increase demand for energy-intensive products through advertising. They create confusion about the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels. They influence elections to defang regu­latory agencies that would limit Big Oil’s power to impose risks and costs on others. And, whenever possible, they work outside of democracies.
    If you own stock in a petrochemical industry, you’ve got to dump it. If you benefit from a fund that owns stock in a petro-chemical industry — a university fund, a retirement fund — you’ve got to insist they dump it. No excuses, no delays.

    DeMocker: Part of me wonders why people even need to be convinced that we have a moral obligation to protect the future of our planet.

    Moore: There’s a disconnect in our culture separating what people do from what they really care about. I love my children and my grandchildren more than anything else. I care about their future. I love this world with a passion. The thought that we might be losing songbirds, trading them for something I don’t care about at all, like running shoes, makes me angry. And still I drive to the store and buy running shoes. I don’t think I am different from other people in this regard.

    DeMocker: What leads us to forget our obligation?

    Moore: I don’t know. But the fact is, many well-meaning people are blithely destroying the world on which their children’s lives depend. Environmental activist Derrick Jensen says that if aliens landed and did to the planet what the industrial economy is doing, it would be considered all-out war. Yet instead of fighting them, we invest in our own destruction. We damage the ecosystem simply because we no longer recognize that we live in an impoverished world. But we also do it because we ask less and less of ourselves. We don’t expect ourselves to be generous or openhearted. We think greed is ok. Even our visions of a better life are simplified and denuded and strip-mined.

    DeMocker: Maybe we don’t destroy so willingly. I certainly feel forced to in many ways.

    Moore: It isn’t easy to change. Our choices are all tangled up in nets of profit and entrenched patterns of environmental destruction. But if we understand exactly how skillfully we are manipulated, we’ll get angry, and that will motivate us to make changes.
    We are at a critical point. We have a very narrow window of opportunity to get it right, and to get it right, we first have to imagine a new world, story by story.

    http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/444/if_your_house_is_on_fire?page=1

  • Guy

    I have been considering the essay above and specifically how you feel about your failure.

    I am guessing your initial impulse was to stop the juggenaught of industrial civilisation and thwart the destuction of the biosphere so it could continue to sustain human and all the other existing life-forms?

    Correct?

    Well, yes you have failed so far very badly.

    But realistically, just for the moment, what ‘could’ one intellegent person, as you say in ‘Walking Away From Empire’, born at the Apex of Empire actually do more or better or with greater personal conviction than you have done so far?

    Yes only little things. Not meaningless things, but little things, all of which, also would make little difference.

    But you are doing a lot, and most here know it, and praise you for that work.

    Other people are doing a lot, in many different ways as well.

    I personally feel your lectures are a bit formulaic, but I have never run lectures anywhere and I guess they just are that way. That is just how I feel about them, not you.

    I just want you to know once you did begin this act of resistance, and went to the mud hut, it has begun something you perhaps will never really know where and how it actually will do something toward your actual goals.

    No one person ever changed human destiny, and therefore no one person is responsible for the failures to live up to the highest human goals, of love, peace and happiness for all beings.

    I think the endeavour, or ordeal you commenced could never be a failure, just something only Hercules himself would be sorely tested in accomplishing.

    Praise to you Guy for the path you have taken.

    If you write poetry, now would be a good time to share it, IMO.

  • ulvfugl Says:
    December 15th, 2012 at 4:38 am

    you stand up, and take full responsibility for everything you do.

    ‘Rest of the species’ stuff doesn’t really come into it.

    Is that an answer to your comment, or did you mean something else ?

    No, that’s a very good answer. I’m just wondering what bloggers think about the idea that we have no responsibility for what we do. Because that is the idea that I am seeing increasingly presented here on this blog, and I don’t see anyone challenging it, or even commenting on it.

  • I think taking responsibility is hard work. I think, quite naturally, we are tempted to take the path of least resistance. It saves energy. Ted Kaczynski wrote about it somewhere. Capitalism exploits this tendency we have, absolutely ruthlessly. ‘Convenience’ they call it.

    John Brown, famous chairmaker, screamed at me about this, in one of his most noble rants, about an advertisment in a woodworking magazine which proclaimed ‘NO SKILL REQUIRED ! if you buy our machine’…

    ‘What the FUCK is the point of being a skilled woodworker ? The whole POINT is that you can be proud that you can do this stuff, that you have SKILL, that you learned, and these fucking capitalists try to steal it and take your money and pretend they can sell it back to you in the shape of their useless fucking machine that will break, and will take twice as long to set up as it would take to do the whole job by hand…’

    …at that point his head exploded…

    When I first came here, 25 years ago, to a new life, I designed all my habits. I had been a kitchen designer. You know, there’s rules. Stuff you use a lot, frequently, gets stored nearby, at arm’s length, stuff you use rarely, maybe you fetch a stool to reach it on a high shelf. And I’d done permaculture design, me at the centre, concentric zones, all that stuff, and so I had one bag for biodegradable waste, another for plastic, another for glass, designing my whole life, the first time with conscious thought and time and consideration and several adjustments, then it becomes habit, on autopilot.

    So, there’s one shop where I buy most stuff including mass produced bread, and another that bakes their own much nicer bread, but it’s a long walk, just for the one loaf. But I do it, training my habit. Then one day, I’m tired and it’s wet and cold, so I settle for the inferior bread in the shop that sells all the other stuff. And of course, that’s what all the other folk also do, so eventually, the poor baker closes, because not enough customers will make that extra effort to walk that 15 minutes there and 15 minutes back in the rain and wind, just for the better bread…

    That’s human species stuff. Our weakness. We like homemade food. So corporations make stuff that mimics homemade jam, biscuits, cakes, whatever, but really, it’s full of crap, fillers, additives, synthetic gunk, churned out in vast factories, thousands and thousands of tons of it, but it’s convenient, saves the trouble and work of growing and gathering fruit, cleaning up, if you made it yourself.

    They’ve studied us, like mice or ants. Every single thing about us, and worked out ways to exploit us. You know, those bloody gadgets that sit beside the bed, that would make a really foul cup of tea, ready for when you wake, then ring the alarm and switch on the radio… and every single thing that a human does through the day and night, their entire lives, has been analysed, for business opportunities, to market some fucking product that would tempt them… those fucking vibrating chairs, to relax you after a hard day at the office, then a waterbed with a stereo attached, and on and on and on… and it’s all guaranteed to break…

    So I suggest designing a daily and nightly life that designs out all of that crap, as much as possible. Bare essentials. If you want music, get an instrument and learn to play it. DIY is actually much more rewarding. Fight the path of least resistance. Do the 15 minutes in the rain for the homemade superior bread.

  • Ripley & ulvfugl
    Can I jump in here?

    Personally I am one of those who does not believe humans are a failed species.

    I am aware others do, however, if we all challenged everything we disagree with that others write we would be back with trolls again and I feel many are relieved that this last few essays comments have been much better discoursed or ciscussed in that department.

    I am not quibbling with Ripleys question, but apart from a sort of pressure cooker relief valve that I suspect some might have by way of clearly delineating what is a personal responsability for all the FUBAR we now have, and what is collective responsibility, the question is valid in so far as it asked generally.

    I have not objected or questioned such statements as ‘a failed species’ because to me , although I completely disagree, I sense where some regulars are coming from, and to them it is a way of understnding and explaining what is a very insane longterm outcome.

    It is one explaination, although, as I just wrote, I don;t agree.

    I also think it is a way of encapsulating the self-deluded and selfrighteous attitudes many report they rub up against all the time in their experience of the ‘masses’. And I also guess they wish to generalise the responsibility for the mess to that species wide failure.

    Those are some very big generalisations to be wielding, but in some defined scientific Darwinian rekoning, it is a POV, and not really irrational.

    Ripley’s question points to the concept of ‘a failed species’ as a device of personal obfuscation of responsibility, if I read it correctly.

    Who can take responsibility?
    Is that concept really obtainable now?

    I was just following ulvfugl’s last link to the DeMocker-Moore interview and on the question of responsibility Moore is in no doubt in her response:

    “DeMocker: The major paradigm-changing social movements in history — the civil-rights movement, the abolitionist movement, the independence movement in India — have mostly been campaigns against oppression. Who are the oppressors in the climate-change movement?

    Moore: Transnational petrochemical industries, their leaders, their investors, and the politicians they control.
    For a long time activists were unclear about this. The corporations were happy to claim that they were simply responding to public demand. Only recently has it become clear how much corporations have been manipulating public demand. They build and maintain infrastructures that force consumers to use fossil fuels. They convince politicians to kill or lethally underfund alternative energy or transportation initiatives. They increase demand for energy-intensive products through advertising. They create confusion about the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels. They influence elections to defang regu­latory agencies that would limit Big Oil’s power to impose risks and costs on others. And, whenever possible, they work outside of democracies.”

    But suppose we go further back and say who were the groups who preceeded the petrochemical industry advocates?

    Look at the coal barons, and before them the forrestry woodcutters and fisheries managers etc.

    Many here and elsewhere point to the beginning of aggriculture way back 12000 years ago, but does it really matter how far you go back in the thought experiment it is lost in the moments when humans introjected their instincts and developed a subconscious mind in order to generate the rational understanding of patterns in nature and self awareness. A pattern irecognition system is concommittent with being cognitive enough to be separate from the daily immersion in the patterns of nature.
    That separation is way back and lost in ancestral species differentiation, such that no one alive since Aggriculture could be responsible for that high level of mind(and stupidity).
    Instinct is the key t me.
    Instinct is not a lack of reflective intellegence, it is the demonstration that an instinctive ability or motivation is active in consciousness. Many problems arise for us when our instincts are repressed, culturally, or otherwise undeveloped and are therefore hidden to us, and are therfore also more easily exploited by others.
    Zipping to now, I don’t see a problem ethically if as ulvfugl stated that there is a time in life where you get yourself together and begin to take responsibility for your own actions/life.

    To me part of that is becoming self aware of where your own carbon unit stops and others begin, and therefore where the bahaviour of your own carbon unit has consequences to the biosphere and so on.

    Then to generalise the rest of humanity as failed is going too far for me but why would I criticise ulvfugl or others for going down that path.
    I believe the root causes of this FUBARed planet lie in the failure to adequitely address adolescent development as a worldwide culture. It has been in the interest of those at the Apex of Empire Managment Inc to promote adolescent mentality because that is the demographic that is in a transition from letting go and rebelling or rejecting parent/culture dominant norms and customs, and moving toward an unknown adult engagement, which after time becomes unknown as elders are also adolescents, or regressed dried up industrial fodder, with no viable models of mature human beings, with adult cosmologies freed from doubt.

    The adolsecent is also now an efficient enough moneyearner or regulator, with the characteristic of being easily manipulated re those spending habits, to milk very reliably back to Big Money Inc.

    Who is ultimately responsible for this mess?

    My short answer is those who can be, and by definition they are the ones trying to understand it all, and doing what it may take to change it.

    Also by definition, those who cannot take responsibility, almost universally believe it is someone elses responsibility.

    So it is mine? and anyone else who gives a danm enough to practice counter-egoic counter-industrial-civ thought and behaviour. It follows that none of that is accomplished overnight, but to me the vomit response is a clear indication you are on the right path when in the privacy of your own localised moments you become aware just how far back, and so comprehensively your ‘culture’ is based on murder, rape, plunder, genocide, crimes against the human genome, (Depleted Uraniom Weapons and Nuclear Industry), endless starvation, malnutrition and disease of millions of people, killing and poisonning of wildlife and oceans and rivers…Are you vomitting yet?????

    That is a better path IMO, for the visceral rejection of all that is destructive is a sign that healing and a realignment is underway, at least in one’s own carbon unit… but you gotta start somehwere, and it is always noww!!!

  • BTW

    ulvfugl

    Great link to the DeMocker/Moore interview. Hoping to get my patner and kids to read it tomorrow…(hoping…)

    All

    This site… can we somehow get it pirate-shifted onto school websites worldwide by some cyber-stealth-hidden-iphone-app?
    That might do something….No?

  • How many men does it take to tighten a screw

    http://fukushima-diary.com/2012/12/express-it-took-160-people-cost-4-million-yen-to-tighten-a-screw-of-a-nuclear-plant/
    “It took 160 people, cost 4 million yen to tighten a screw of a nuclear plant”
    Posted by Mochizuki on December 15th, 2012 · No Comments
    Introducing an important tweet as [Express] for simultaneous update.
    Once a large screw became loose at a running nuclear plant. When a nuclear reactor is generating power, the radiation level is extremely high, so 30 workers were prepared to tighten the screw. They were queued to run for the screw 7 meters away one after one.
    The dosimeter beeps when you get to the screw and count 1, 2, 3. Some of them had the dosimeter beep before they even found a wrench. Only to tighten the screw required 160 workers and 4 million yen in total.

  • Ripley, of course in fact all of us think we have responsibility for what we do. There are people with a brain defect that believe their arm or leg is not there. When the look in the mirror and see a hand brushing their teeth they wonder whose hand it is. Some people have even had a surgeon cut off the arm or leg they say isn’t theirs. Its called somatoparaphrenia. http://www.cracked.com/article_19369_the-6-most-mind-blowing-ways-your-brain-can-malfunction_p2.html for more info look the condition up on wiki. But such disconnect from the actions of our body are brain defects, not normal thinking. Still it is clear that it is the brain programs that cause us to think our arm and our leg are ours and under our (whoever our is) control, since a defect in the program can occur with brain damage.

    So we are programmed to see our body as ours and under our control. If we in anger throw a cup on the floor most people admit their own responsibility, except my mother who said it was our (me and my siblings) fault for being bad kids. So you can see that ownership of our body and its actions can get a bit cloudy. My mother probably wouldn’t have thrown that cup on the floor if we had not angered her, of course other mothers don’t throw cups on the floor when their kids make them angry.

    Do we only do what we choose to do? Are our actions controlled by our unconscious brain, our education or indoctrination, our lack of knowledge or experience in some area? The law allows exceptions for or gradations of responsibility for mental illness, low intelligence, fear (as is claimed in the Travon Martin case in FL), rage (husband finds wife in bed with another man), age etc. Just what is the right age of responsibility for murder or climate change??? What criteria should we use for responsibility for climate change?

    Its a sticky issue you raise. Every time I use electricity I am responsible for the early deaths of copper miners in South America (about 45 average age). Every time I use my computer I am responsible for the raping of lands that have the raw materials in it. Every time we use a cell phone we share responsibility for the horror that the Congo has become, arms cut off, women raped with broken bottles, children forced into armies. If we get electricity from windmills we are responsible for the pollution of parts of china where the rare earth metals are mined for the magnets that make them efficient.

    But I am also responsible for saving leaves from the dump to make rich soil in my garden, even as I am responsible for the gas I use to drive to town.

    But those who plan a murder, or plan to drop a bomb on Hiroshima, or lie us into a war in Iraq, or cut corners as the drill in the Gulf, or build a nuclear plant over a fault line, or shoot up a classroom of students, are they not somehow more responsible? Well the last might be a mind control subject used to get gun control per some conspiracy cites? Who knows if he is a mind control subject is he responsible. To what degree is our whole civilization mind controlled? Because some of us can step partly back from civilization, does that mean everyone can or that we are poorer subjects for mind control.

    I think who to blame is the wrong question. I am not sure what is the right question to get the solution of avoiding extinction. I think there isn’t one.

  • Another exceprt from the DeMocker/Moore interview linked by ulvfugl
    just above:

    “DeMocker: You and your students have a “hope-o-meter” for the future of the earth, with a one meaning very little hope and a ten meaning no worries. Where are you on your hope-o-meter now?

    Moore: Honestly? I’m about a one. I see feedback loops in the natural world that are going to make climate change much harder to address. As ice melts, it frees methane, a potent greenhouse gas. As forests are destroyed, they release carbon dioxide. By every measure global warming is increasing more rapidly than the most horrifying predictions of the past. And I can see the political feedback mechanisms kicking in: the more politicised the issue becomes, the more money will be thrown into debating it instead of addressing the crisis. It will be hard to get out of this one.

    DeMocker: So why do you try?

    Moore: People tend to think that we have only two options: hope or despair. But neither one is acceptable. Blind hope leads to moral complacency: things will get better, so why should I put myself out? Despair leads to moral abdication: things will get worse no matter what I do, so why should I put myself out? But between hope and despair is the broad territory of moral integrity — a match between what you believe and what you do. You act lovingly toward your children because you love them. You live simply because you believe in taking only your fair share. You do what’s right because it’s right, not because you will gain from it.
    There is freedom in that. There is joy in that. And, ultimately, there is social change in that. That’s the way we respond to a lack of hope. A person could be at zero on the hope-o-meter and still do great, joyous work. Even — especially — in desperate times, we can make our lives into works of art that embody our deepest values. The ways of life that are most destructive to the world often turn out to be the ones that are also most destructive to the human spirit. So, although environmental emergencies call on us to change, they don’t call on us to give up what we value most. They encourage us to exercise our moral imagination and to invent new ways of living that lift the human spirit and help biological and cultural communities thrive.
    Over the weekend I sat for an hour in a warm pond in beautiful sunshine with my one-year-old grandson on my lap, splashing and scooping. I’ve never seen a child so happy. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy. That type of immersion in the world is a lesson in responsible caring. We can find the ongoing strength to do this work if we keep in mind that it is powered by love.”

    She nails it !!!

  • After some quick searching, I couldn’t find a definition for “failed species”. And if we use the term, it would be helpful if it was defined.

    Just because a species goes extinct, does that mean it has failed? Or, is it considered a failed species only if it self-destructs? What about a species which has gone extinct but its progeny are now evolved into a different species?

    There have been literally millions upon millions of species which have gone extinct since life first showed up here on Earth. If we are looking at percentages, then the entire planet should be considered a failure.

    If we use extinction as a measure of failure, then humans are not a failed species. We’re not extinct yet. We may certainly become that soon enough, but once we get there, we’ll never know it – we’ll already be gone.


  • Kathy C Says: “If we must have someone to blame”

    Needing somebody to blame
    Suggests that an unconscious aim
    Is using projection
    For changing direction
    Away from one’s own guilt and shame.

  • I don’t agree with Kathy C. on this, which is not surprising, because we have radically different conceptions as to what a human being is, and it’s probably not useful to re-open that can of worms at this point. Neither do I agree with Moore.

    Kathy said Do we only do what we choose to do?

    That’s the point of training. One trains oneself constantly, to be more fully conscious of every thought and action and impulse, so as to gain choice, so as to gain control. Otherwise, there can’t really be full responsibility, or indeed, moral responsibility.

    I mean, if you walk into a room and out again, and you were so absorbed in your own internal world that you never even noticed the body laying on the floor in the corner….

    A lot of people are like that. They are living in their own dream world, scarcely aware of what happens around them. I have a public footpath close to my house. I see them walking, staring at the ground a couple of yards in front of them, never noticing anything else. I could be standing still in the hedge a yard from them, – indeed I have been – and they would not see me…

    Re the costs of all the things we use. That goes back to what I said about designing one’s life. You do it to try and minimise your eco-footprint. Zero impact is impossible. What you want is to fully understand the costs of what you have and what you use. You need certain things to function. You need certain stuff to stay alive as a biological organism. Just the essentials. The way I see it, it’s making a base camp to fight from.

    Which leads on to the Moore stuff, which seems very dated to me, would have been fine five years ago. Has she contemplated NTE ? Hope and despair are both pointless, IMO, but I draw from martial arts and zen traditions, leaving the base camp to fight, so to speak, you don’t go with any expectation whatsoever, neither of winning not losing, neither hope nor despair, are appropriate, the frame of mind is ‘beyond the opposites’. You just do it, because it is the right thing to do, because it is something to do. Action within emptiness, or emptiness within action, sort of thing. Just the Universe expressing itself.

    How can you take responsibility for anyone other than yourself ? Unless you are a general or a CEO or president or something, who pays others to follow orders. I can’t command the 7 billion, I can only control myself.

  • Yes, TRDH, that’s very perceptive of you, I hadn’t caught that until you pointed it out. I don’t think Charles Darwin would accept ‘failed species’, it’s much more the ugly travesty of American social darwinism, anthropocentric values, capitalist success and failure in the marketplace, kinda thing…

  • Humans A species that failed to last as long as most species then. “A typical species becomes extinct within 10 million years of its first appearance,[3] although some species, called living fossils, survive virtually unchanged for hundreds of millions of years. ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction

  • ulvfugl: Though Darwin might not accept applying whatever biological meaning to “failed species” in a strict sense, i believe the argument can be made that we, in fact, are just that – if even only a special case (ie. we were so effing brilliant that we did the same thing all other species that could exploit a host for as long as it was useful did – but we “studied” them and called it science so nobody out on the street paid it the slightest attention and we humans ourselves are somehow immune from our discoveries in “nature,” or none of it applies to us).

    All our culture and civilization is but a glorified ant farm that overran its resource base while it simultaneously destroyed its own living space with toxic pollution. Real bright species – and a bit self-congratulatory too, don’t you think, naming ourselves “sapiens” when, looking around, we’re anything but. Clever, i’ll give you but “wise” – no, we’re a long way off.

    i don’t know what you and Kathy C were discussing and agreeing to disagree about “being human” but i don’t think philosophy, sociology, biology, psychology, neuroscience, mathematics, religion or medicine has the entire picture or description. i’m not even sure that’s the kind of knowledge one understands from “studying it” while living it (and subsequently ignoring the fact that the way we’re living is killing us and the entire planet). It seems anymore that any honest description of humanity must include the word “delusional.”

  • Tom, it’s ‘us’ applying ‘our’ human judgements and values to biological evolution of life on Earth, which, as I understand it, Darwin and scientists in general try hard not to do.

    Of course, if one just looks at it as a member of the public, without any attempt to be scientific, then you can make any judgement you like. You can say the dinosaurs were bad because they look ugly, so it’s a good thing they have gone.

    I don’t think we know enough to be able to say, unequivocally, what our place in the Universe, in the scheme of things really is. Most biologists and physicists want to deny any purpose, any teleology, whilst most religions and many spiritual people want there to be some deeper meaning. The internet has a smorgasbord on offer, reincarnation, multiverses, panpsychism, alien abduction, everything anybody could possibly want…

    It does seem such a tragic shame that we have messed things up so terribly. Talking about ‘our species’ seems kinda crazy. Have the people on this forum really got anything at all in common with the lunatics burning off the methane from the Bakken Shale ? Might as well be completely different species.

  • Auntiegrav: I disagree. I think Keith Farnish’s work is very important. And I will happily post a link to his book Underminers, which can be read online for free: http://underminers.org/ Note also that Guy is featured in Chapter 10.

    Michael Irving: interesting that bit about Naomi Klein justifying her decision to have a child. One thing it made me reflect on: if I didn’t have a child of my own right now, I might have already killed myself. Instead, I also want to fight like hell. But in spite of this, if I could hit rewind, if I could go back in time and not conceive my child, I think I would do it. Now she’s here, and I will love her and defend her to my last breath. But if I could do it over, I would.

    wildwoman: can’t wait to hear about your experience with jury duty.

    thestormcrow: I think a case each of harmonicas and kazoos.

    BadlandsAK: you wrote something for KB that it turns out I needed to see. So just know that your words have a reach and an effect that are sometimes unanticipated: I was never more lonely than while sleeping in a tent on a beach in Mexico next to my husband of more than ten years. I decided to divorce him. If people don’t care for at least some of the things you care about, it makes relationships difficult. I find that if I can get to a place where nature makes me feel really small, it wipes my mind clear and I can make difficult decisions. Just find somewhere to be still and draw on the wisdom and power of nature. While you still can.

  • Excellent posts here. I see people dealing with the most important issues in human existence and coming here to discuss them. Nowhere else do I see such insight and questioning. I have a couple of things to add.

    Good question, TRDH, what is a failed species anyway? I kinda thought that was one that killed itself off, with more marks taken off for killing off other entire species. But I now take the biological view. In my days of philosophy classes, I took the philosophical view. I argued for one definition of a concept, such as “responsibility,” over another. I followed the path of thought from ancient Greece to the post-modernists and eco-feminism. I had no exposure to Asian views, so I can’t comment there. I was good at this, and I got good grades. Now I see it means nothing. I have another point of view.

    In order to belive anything has meaning, you have to study how the existentialists deconstructed the concept of meaning. Sartre, Camus, etc. To make a long story short, they argued that only when you realize that all life means nothing, is nothing, represents nothing, has no future, no present, nothing – only then you can make meaning for yourself. And only for yourself. And you also have to know that the meaning you construct for yourself might cause society to kill you for it. Responsibility is one of these meanings.

    It helps to understand gravity by imagining two dimensions instead of three, even though the comparison doesn’t work perfectly. In a two dimensional world, say, a sheet of rubber with steel balls laying on it at various points to represent planets, imagine people living on the two dimensions of the rubber sheet. They see asteroids, comets, other heavy things, being drawn towards the steel balls because the balls distort “space” into another dimension of which the people are unaware. They see straight line movement being interfered with and call it gravity. Now imagine us in three physical dimensions, viewing gravity and thinking it is a property of the mass of the planets, when actually what is happening is that mass is distorting space into another dimension of which we are unaware.

    That kind of step-away-from-the-situation-to-see-it-better is what I’m going to do to help describe my new point of view that is not philosophical any longer. In my philosophical view, I was lost in the human propensity to take words and thoughts as real and true. “Failed species” is one of those thoughts. So is “responsibility.” So here goes…

    Imagine the planet as a very large ecosystem. Not Gaia – no thoughts, no judgements, just a complex interacting set of large and small ecosystems. There is no “tendency to equilibrium” or to any other physical state other than that which can be explained by the laws of physics. (A friend of mine calls his farm “entropy acres.”) Now view earth from this perspective. Things are happening, molecules are moving around, gasses changing places, heat being trapped, similar processes to those that have happened for a very long time. It began 4.5 billion years ago, and the sun has another 4.5 billion to go before it’s lights out. These changes are so small, really, just a blip on the timescale of biology. But small creatures have radically changed this planet before. Think of the bacteria that first used sunlight to crack a water molecule to get oxygen and food. Photosynthesis. No biggie? Only the biggest change on the planet EVAH. Oxygen was toxic to most life. (Somehow, manganese was involved and I can’t explain that, but I read about it this week.) So mostly all new life had to evolve, and it did!

    Now imagine another change just as dramatic. Maybe even more. Humans may have caused the creation of Venus 2.0, we don’t know and we’ll never know it if we manage to do it. Humans, just larger collections of cooperating bacteria.

    Now imagine people realizing they might have triggered this change. Imagine them spinning around trying to assign blame. It’s the corporations! It’s the GOP! It’s the scientists! It’s agriculture! It’s the economy! Imagine the bacteria that developed photosynthesis saying: It wasn’t me! It was those blue bacteria over there! No, it was the red ones! The yellow! The yellow! Kill all the yellow ones!

    Imagine people saying: But we created Bethoven’s fifth symphony! We painted the Mona Lisa! We appreciated flowers! We created philosophy and science! We know the laws of physics! We walked on the moon!

    These exhortations are ridiculous in this light, no? Our appeal to some sort of “rightness” or “wrongness” or “justice” or “responsibility” or some mitigating behaviour that should derail our extinction, sounds so much like pleading with a parent to avoid being punished. These have no more force or truth or impact than the same objections were they cried by bacteria. They mean nothing. No one is listening. Indeed, there is no one to listen. No parent, no dog.

    If you read Charles C. Mann’s “1491” and “1493” you’ll see what we’ve been up to. We never change, we just do what humans do. Over and over again. Just like bacteria. We are horrified, but then we do it again. And again. None of it matters, really. Biology just ticks along, oblivious to us. When you realize that it doesn’t matter, when you REALLY realize it doesn’t matter, then you can decide that it matters TO YOU.

    That’s all you can do. That’s all you ever could do.

    So here we are, self-aware bacteria, criticizing our own behaviour and where it has gotten us, trying to blame someone else or trying to reverse the process.

    “We” should kill the economy! “We” should all grow food! Should should should. More human constructs that mean nothing.

    Just remember, none of it matters to biology. But it may matter to you. Conduct yourselves accordingly.

  • TRDr. House: All i’m pointing out is that, whatever our supposed “purpose” is or was, we (okay, i’ll concede the point that “we ain’t dead yet”) are ‘on the verge of’ failing to even stay alive (not to mention the destruction we’ve caused the living planet, not unlike cancer) DESPITE being the self-labelled ‘apex of life’ (according to us, because we possess language and what we think is some kind of “special” brain – which is looking more and more delusional as we head into ecological and civilization collapse – as opposed to being the ‘image and likeness of God’ as some would have us believe).

    BCNP: Excellent! That’s what i got out of the NewScientist article! It’s as if we’re existing and ascribe meaning to our deeds and “lives” when in reality there isn’t any such thing as a separate “us” in the first place! That we’re about as important as any other species in that we had our place and went through our “program” all the way to self-destruction. Maybe there was a “right way” to live on the planet once, but it mutated (like lots of other stuff) and now we’re looking at the end comin’ down the road. i throw out cynical “judgements” like the “failed species” label because i’m so pissed that all the “fault” was us all along! How could we be so damn ignorant?! But it’s just frustration and reaction to “blowing it” for the other species while we were at it. i appreciate your viewpoint at the end there – it’s all personal in the end.

  • Beautifully stated, BC Nurse Prof. I especially liked the bit about the construction of meaning.

    What is the meaning of meaning ;-)

    Much that I agree with. Perhaps even all of it…

    However, what if you are mistaken ? What if there is something else ? Isn’t it rather a big responsibility to take on to declare that all is now known ? And also meaningless ?

    No, actually, I don’t agree. I maintain there is ‘something more’, the mysterious spiritual element… it’s not biology, and it’s not a human construct either. It might possibly have something to do with quantum entanglement, quantum non-locality, and consciousness, but that remains conjectural at this time.

  • ulvfugl: You may be right. If right is the correct word. I remain unconvinced, is all. But people have convinced me of things before, and I may be convinced of other things in future. Who knows? I say no one knows.

    Someone may ask, “Is everything relative, then?” Even “relative” is a human construct. What’s relative to a pig? A paramecium?

    As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbs) says as he screams at an ant on the ground: “Don’t let them tell you what to do! What about YOUR needs? Leave now and live your own life!”

    There are fungi that invade their host and cause the insect to crawl to the top of the forest and bite into the top leaf to hold on tight before dying in that position. Then the fungus fruits out of the top if the insect’s head, opens, and throws spores into the wind. Did the insect decide for itself to crawl to the top of the tree? How did a fungus make the insect think to do that? Are we really in charge of our thoughts?

  • BC Nurse Prof, not for me to convince people, but I began from a scientific position, I remember seeing a book when aged about 18, with descriptions and paintings of chakras, and being outraged, ‘how can people get away with this rubbish ?’ but a few years later, I understood, it was me that was grossly mistaken, I had been mislead by this materialist culture which does not understand how to know the inner world, or the spiritual domain.
    But I explored it as a scientist. The final words of the Buddha, ‘ Don’t take anything I say as truth just because I say it, try it and test it for yourself’, which is really much the same as the scientific empirical method.

    This has been the essence of my disagreement with Kathy C. She thinks I am following ‘a religious faith’, a dogmatic teaching. Whereas the particular school that I adhere to ( Soto Zen ) is, I maintain, a way to get free from all belief systems, including Soto zen… I mean, what it aims for, is direct experience of raw natural reality without any cultural interpretation… if that makes any sense. So one does not overlay a biological or a philosophical or any other ‘constructed reality’ upon ‘what is’.

    This is significantly further than where the existentialists, Sartre, Camus, etc, were able to go. I don’t know, you may recall, Nausea, Sartre kinda reaches that point, and sees a tree, roots and branches like writhing intestines, and feels sick, and can’t handle it.But the zen student stays with it. Like the raked gravel and rocks and moss of the Japanese zen gardens, to transcend all meaning and categories. The existentialists got lost, in nihilism and hedonism. The zen student has 2000 years or so of profound teaching to support them, of great masters who have made all the mistakes and found ways around the hazards. The buddhist ethics are instilled first, so they are habitual, and so forth.

    You could arrive at much the same position by reading Wittgenstein. He started by thinking there was a way to pin down reality with logic and words. But that turned out to be impossible. He ended by realising that words create an illusory reality that we lay over the actual reality, and thus we spend our whole lives living in a false world. At least, that is how I understand him. Some have other interpretations.

    Yes, there’s some nice examples of the parasites and their victims here :

    http://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/1/i.full

  • Paul Chefurka Says: As my acceptance deepened, my need to alleviate my distress by projecting dire consequences became less urgent.

    B the D answered: Now THAT is an interesting point. If it’s not already in the literature, you might have yourself something there.

    Paul, does this work? Did it alleviate your distress to project dire consequences? I think I know what you mean, but I’m not sure. Can you elaborate?

  • Jennifer “if I could hit rewind, if I could go back in time and not conceive my child, I think I would do it. Now she’s here, and I will love her and defend her to my last breath. But if I could do it over, I would.”

    Likewise. I feel for you having to raise a child in these times, but I know you will do as well as anyone could do.

    I wish I could make people understand that when I urge them to get their tubes tied now it will be a small gift to themselves. When birth control fails, they will not risk conceiving a child with a very short lifespan and the guilt and pain they will face raising that child in a dying world.

  • Guy’s essay is being somewhat hotly debated on 2 peak oil sites I blog on. The essay was posted not by me. I sort of marvel. We have been discussing the dieoff that will come with peak oil – estimates of remaining populations have run from 1 billion to 500,000. Now the dreaded E word is spoken and protests abound. Why such a heated discussion. I realized as I pondered this today that in part it is because people get some meaning out of believing humanity will continue, but I think mostly it is this. Dieoff lets you imagine other people dying, but you by dint of preparation, or just because you live in the US of A will survive and make it through the bottleneck. Extinction allows no personal exemption. People are dying off now from floods, hurricanes, droughts, famine etc caused by climate change. But that is over there and only once in a while in the US and the numbers here are always smaller. Uttering the E word strips the denial away. Even if we only had a dieoff I hardly think the US of A or the first world is going to be hit lighter, probably it will be hit harder. All these years, studying about Peak Oil and still folks don’t internalize dieoff much less extinction.

    So it goes.

  • BC Nurse Prof

    Your recently posted view is great IMO. I wonder if you are simply describing a process of deconditioning of all the cultural ideas, meanings and cosmology a single carbon unit must go through BEFORE it’s own meanings can be created, formed or otherwise become known to it, perhaps ‘realised’ tacitly?

    I feel that this is what goes on in Authentic spiritual practice, as opposed to the half baked religion business that simply reinternalises dominant norms by rehashing cultural stories of ‘chosen ones under oppression’ or ‘avouding suffering by tetreating to subtle mind states’ etc.

    Aspects of the process have begun culturally, through the feminist movement and ecological movements, and the essence of post-modern discussion about deconstructing the meta-narratives, or grande stories we recycle, and reinvent, and tell ourselves, now universally via mass communication, but this occurs in spits and starts on the cultural stage.

    Think of slavery. It still exists, especially sexual bondage, which is estimated by a recent aquaintence of mine as amounting to between one third to one quarter of world GDP,(including the unaccounted for black economy Dark-GDP).

    Slavery and racial discrimination, like apartheit, was challenged, and narrow civil rights for a few were challenged, but in the USA BTW only after the lives of non-WASPs had accrued more ‘economic measurable value’ to the USA economy. But still, in terms of ethical values, it is simple to make the argument slavery is unfair, barbaric and ‘wrong’ to enforce.

    So in that particular area cultures of European decent have made some ‘enlightened’ progress, that first had to identify the ‘old world’ meanings, stories/narratives of dominance and racial superiority, stuff like phrenology and earlier notions of Darwinian fitness etc, then the ideas about equality, and inclusiveness and identity emerge and convene to form a new meaning, which struggles but is then adopted by many, (but not all).

    What I’m pointing to is that that impulse to clean up the detritis in our unconscious cultural baggage is ‘active’, and has some cutting power, but continually is at odd with profit based exploitation, and just conservative inertia.

    However, as any modern politician knows, with wedge politics and public rhetoric, if you let any light through, it is the end of your way of discoursing your argument, as it will grow to root out all the tendrils of fabricated story-lies that keep the exploitative status quo operating. That is one reason we live in a polarised political world at present, because the heat is on the ‘old world’ ways, and a new world, or freedom from dictation of what the world is, and our place in it is, is hammering at the Bastile dorrs.
    The very real power to direct military, and distractive entertainments, and disinformation should never be underestimated, for as an older story about the Buda points out, at the very last moment before the Buda’s enlightenment, Maya, the force of worldly bondage, threw everythig in ‘her’ arsenal to distract him from that realisation. That is what in a similar way the 1%, and its empire is doing in our time, trying to impede ‘our’ becoming significanly self aware to render ‘it’ the 1& and the empire unnecessary.

    Keep hammering, I say, but with profound Love, for it only clear, powerful, Love, felt through the very direct exchanges between beings that has the clarity, understanding, and power to smash illusions and delusions about all that is of no value to a greater world….

    Great posts here of late, I agree. More first time commenters too. Ace!!!

  • you don’t go with any expectation whatsoever, neither of winning not losing, neither hope nor despair, are appropriate, the frame of mind is ‘beyond the opposites’. You just do it, because it is the right thing to do, because it is something to do.

    Hope and despair are two sides to the coin of expectation. Hopelessness is desirelessness.

    Action within emptiness, or emptiness within action,

    “Action in inaction and inaction in action” is noted in a passage in a traditional text.

    How can you take responsibility for anyone other than yourself ?

    In the Army, it is pointed out that one can delegate authority, but one can never delegate responsibility. Responsibility for the actions of others is tempered by the circumstances in which the commensurate authority was delegated. Such delegation of authority can be implicit of explicit, witting or unwitting. Filling the gas tank of one’s car is an example of implicit and unwitting delegation of authority to the petroleum industry to act on one’s behalf. Taking an airplane journey involves is similar.

    All of these factor into the circumstances that temper one’s responsibility (and culpability).

    So here we are, self-aware bacteria,

    The idea of a separate “self” (as contrasted with “non-self”) is an illusion generated in awareness. Awareness is neither “self” nor ” non-self” and not dependent on either.

    Failure is falling short of goal. Species are DNA”s way of continuing itself. Dinosaurs are extinct, but the DNA in the dinosaurs from which birds evolved continued into birds. The same goes for the DNA of a lungfish that once crawled out of the water onto land. But as a general rule, almost all species are dead ends for DNA. Like the roots of a tree exploring many crevices and coming to many dead ends, so too do the branches of the tree of life come to many dead ends. If the purpose includes reconnaissance, then no dead end is a failure.

  • “involves something similar.”

  • If you have no children, it’s much easier to accept NTE. If your extinction is imminent, stop eating. It’s been done before. If you have children, that’s a lot more difficult. Or so I imagine, since I have no offspring.

  • So here we are, self-aware bacteria,

    But you don’t get a human, unless you have a planet, a biosphere.

    So, by the same token, self-aware biosphere.

    and you don’t get a biosphere, without first a Universe, so, by the same logic, self-aware Universe.

  • Action in inaction and inaction in action” is noted in a passage in a traditional text.

    Talking, words, it’s hard to explain, but this man can show how it’s done, in a practical sense.

  • Kathy C
    Per your last comment…
    I remember seeing a Science doco about human evolution which mentions that at a certain period in the last interglacial I think the human species was separated into two populations, one in europe, the other in Africa. I think it is supposed to be Neanderthals, and Homo Somethingus, but…
    The European population had pretty good conditions to live under, plenty of rain, lots of animals and selife to hunt, varied microecosystems to move to in changing seasons etc. Over in Africa they were doing it very tough, droughts, scarce aminals to hunt, long distances to travel to some habitable conditions that always changed.
    Ordinary thinking might lead one to conclude that the population in Europe would do better and survive down the evolutionalry track, but in fact they went under, and we are descendents from the African groups.

    There is some ideas that there was gene exchange, if you know what I mean, so it is a bit moot there, but the whole story, in essence, points to tha fact that it was the need to adapt and struggle with conditions of environmental adversity that lead to survival, because it among other things selected those who had an adaptation of cooperative mind, apart from the anatomical differences.

    The modern concept of theaory of mind, at times considered to be a defining attribute to our species alone, is the Sapien part of our inhetitence from these earlier times. We selected the mind and its denial of instinct as a simple day to day operating system, to borrow a computer metaphore. Sapiens have the ability to hold abstract pattern recognition to the monent of self recognition, and in the catch 22 chicken-egg way, that selected characteristic ‘freed us from purely biological instincts and realised an aspect of self then emerging.

    People like Shoppenhauer and Jung and Joseph Campbell, have variously put the view that this project of accruing ‘mind’ or self awareness has been at the expence of other functions, and if I read then correctly, there is a pendulum of cultural emphasis over lengthy time periods in historic times at least where feeling subsides and rationality dominates, and then it begins to reverse.
    But over time, ‘culture'(also a survival tool) has developed ways to record and pass on major influences from its history that mean accumulation of bodies of knowledege get passed on,(also selectively so, through pathways of privelege and non-privelage).

    We seem to be now at that Apex where rationality has been pushed to absurdity, and as th aTao posits, if one element becomes extreme it can morph into its opposite, as balance.

    We see this wholesale now with industrial lying, on an epic scale.

    The politician says at a public forum…

    “As your elected representative it is a privelage and an honour to serve the community”

    We know the lie is obvious, as cash for legislative votes is endemic in most democracies.

    So Your last comment is well taken by me, and yes it is a bit of a game changer, the old NTE, the 500 000 to 1 billion get out of die-off clause is rejigged to mean:

    NO ONE, IN THE PRESENT HUMAN FORM WE RECOGNISE AS SAPIENS, WILL SURVIVE.

    Some other smaller, (better heat regulation), Homonid, with ant eating proclivities,( abundantly adaptive insects likely to survive for a time, but when the plants die off, who knows), may emerge, who knows?

  • Ozman, if the forests and the phytoplankton go, then there’s no oxygen to breath, so it seems very unlikely any land or sea mammals would survive.

    It might take a couple of centuries to reach that point, but that counts as instant, in geological time. Doesn’t allow for genetic evolution to adapt.

  • Kathy C Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 11:29 am
    So no blame is called for. But heck, I want to have fun on the way down, so I am going to blame BP, and the Nuclear Regulation Association, and any scapegoat I can find for the state of affairs even though I know that in the end there is no blame. We just are a failed species, one among many, one of the shortest lived. Too bad for us…..

    Kathy C Says:
    December 15th, 2012 at 7:39 am Ripley, of course in fact all of us think we have responsibility for what we do. (then in the same post)
    I think who to blame is the wrong question. I am not sure what is the right question to get the solution of avoiding extinction. I think there isn’t one.

    If we have responsibility, when someone behaves irresponsibly, that person, group or corporation is to blame for the consequences of their behavior. You can’t say you believe in responsibility but not blame. This is known as cognitive dissonance or doublethink.

  • Ernst Walter Mayr was one of the 20th century’s leading evolutionary biologists.

    Mayr viewed intelligence is a kind of lethal mutation. 

    I would say that looks like why h. Sapien Sapien is a failed species, a dead end with a Capital ‘D’.

    Consciousness and intelligence are connected concepts, a picket and a fence.

    I just ‘retired’ and I cope with the end of the world by sleeping as much as possible, I.e. being unconscious.

    It works well.

    My goal is to sleep about 20 hours a day. It leaves enough time for chores, eating, etc.

    Try instead of booze and drugs.

  • Liag Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 11:23 am

    …lots of great stuff. a great example (there are many to choose from imo) of a ‘regular’ comment to nbl that humbles me in the best way and makes me feel that not only am i not completely alone, i’m blessed by the cyberspace companionship of sheeple i can look up to and learn from.

    thanks, guy, for the gift of nbl this holiday season, and always.

  • This one’s for Guy.

    The invention of ‘Canned Laughter’ should have been a wake up call to Industrial Civilisation we were being had.

    ‘CANNED LAUGHTER’

    And…

    ‘Artificially Sweetened: The Story of Canned Laughter’

    http://www.neatorama.com/2012/08/22/Artificially-Sweetened-The-Story-of-Canned-Laughter/

    An excerpt:

    “The following article is from the book ‘Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Tunes Into TV’.

    What if the studio audience isn’t laughing at what’s supposed to be funny? What if there isn’t a studio audience at all? There’s always “sweetening” – tweaking a program’s audio wth a laugh track or some other canned response. This is the story of “canned laughter.”

    SILENCE IS DEADLY

    Laughter is contagious. That’s why radio comedies in the 1930s often employed studio audiences – their laughter showed listeners at home which lines were supposed to be funny, and make them think the show itself was well liked by many people. Television continued that tradition. The problem: Sometimes nobody in the live audience laughed, or they laughed at the wrong parts, or too hard, or for too long.

    LAUGHING ON THE INSIDE

    In the late 1940s, CBS sound engineer Charley Douglass came up with the solution for the problem of underwhelming audience responses: artificial laughter. Making fake laughter was fairly simple: create tape loops of ideal audience responses, then insert them wherever they were needed.

    Douglass started collecting audiotapes of shows from the CBS archive. He listened carefully to them, analyzing why one laugh worked and another didn’t. Douglass soon noticed that laughter came in many varieties: An audience could titter slightly, chuckle, or roar. And then there was the timing: the instant laugh, the surprised laugh, the delayed one, and, with a particularly intelligent or obscure joke, the rolling laugh as members of the audience got the joke at different times. Douglass realized that dozens of taped laughs would be required.

    Ideally, Douglass thought, the canned laughter should be hearty but not too loud, enthusiastic but not disruptive, and just long enough to not throw off the performers’ delivery. He aimed to make it consistent and reproducible, and realistic enough to augment and even replace an actual audience…..

    Douglass’s work is carried on by his son Bob, but not with his dad’s Laff Box: Using what could more accurately be called the Laff Laptop, which contains hundreds of laughs accesible only through proprietary software, Bob does electronically what his father did with hand-cut recording tape.

    The responsiveness of the new technology is such that sweetening is now routinely added in real time during the seven-second delay on live award shows, including the Emmys and the Academy Awards. Even live sports presentations are sweetened now, with augmented boos, gasps, and cheers from the crowd. As the saying goes, you can’t believe everything you hear.”

    I can reccommend the u-tube insert on this link with Milton Berle and Mickey Rooney telling it like it became.

    When TV, movies and industrial entertainment was growing, but people in the West were also perhaps seeing the destruction of ‘community’, ‘canned laughter’ was a very inexpensive way of manufacturing consensus on what is some of the unconscious issues in the culture best laughed at, rather than see solemnly and with chagrin. It also completed the separation of capital inluenced live broardcast entertainment from unreliable returns due to ‘real’ unpredictable responses. A similar thing took place at large stage events with lip syncing hit songs, to ensure product reliability, of popular hit songs.

    Anyone could work out it works better on children, because they are usually taking their cues from the social arena about what is OK and what is not, what is significant and what is not.

    (This explains to me why I never found Lucile Ball and Jerry Lewis funny.)

    I remember several months ago rewatching the first 5 episodes of the 1062 sit-com ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’. They must have used every canned laugh there was. For those who dont know it is about…

    “… a poor backwoods family transplanted to Beverly Hills, California, after striking oil on their land.”
    The situation is designed to disguise the Oil barrons real identities, as these simple folk are as unsophisticated as is possible, and counter posed by the greedy banker, Mr Drysdale, and his frigid, upperclass, but fair natured secretary, Miss Hathaway.

    The banker takes all the heat on the greed front, but perhaps it also pressaged the wat to ordinary folk buying shares into an oil portfolio that films like the 1965 epic ‘Giant’, starring James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, which left an oily, greedy tinge in the mouth.

    IMO, hese are good examples to make the argument that big investments in modern storytelling in the 1950’s, where youth rebellion was becoming fashionable, subsequently required closer ‘tweaking’ by Big Money Inc., so it was toned down and turned to comedy, but then when it rose again, with directors/producers coming of age who went into the business in the 40’s and 50’s, we got violent and racist junk like Hill Street Blues, and Starsky and Hutch, The Sweeny, and even the rediculously serious face saving but popular TV series ‘FBI’, starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Inspector Lewis Erskine.

    Never did I see a more serious show intended to reassure a population that the investigative fellows in charge were on the case. Another was called ‘Adam 12’, a cop show where the cops actually read people their rights and never infringed a suspects civil rights, and went by the book. The two main characters, officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed, patroled the LA presinct, catching the bad guys and teaching all the kids who watched their ‘rights’.

    But we now know from Mike Ruppert’s ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ and others that during the late 60’s and 70’s the CIA was expanding and running the cocaine trade and making many millions. Trusty FBI.

    (Moved on a bit from canned Laughter there…)

    Canned Laughter, just another tool in the Industrial Empires repotior to invoke consensual group ideas, and dimmed mental criticallity.

    Audiences used to throw rotten fruit, but they have to be really there to throw it.

    There is nothing quite like the ‘sound of silence’ in an auditorium, when you are trying to be funny….especially concerning NTE.

    How about handing out rotten fruit at your next lecture/talk Guy?

  • Kathy C: . . . Now the dreaded E word is spoken and protests abound. Why such a heated discussion. I realized as I pondered this today that in part it is because people get some meaning out of believing humanity will continue, but I think mostly it is this. Dieoff lets you imagine other people dying, but you by dint of preparation, or just because you live in the US of A will survive and make it through the bottleneck. Extinction allows no personal exemption. . .

    When I first started waking up to all this I began “preparing”. I started gardening and raising chickens and goats and educating myself on so many things that I never would have imagined only five years ago. I was convinced that die-off was coming, but I really didn’t think I’d be one of “them”. After all, I was “preparing”.

    I think what made me realize that I just wasn’t all that special was when I began to include the nuclear reactors in my calculations. I can find ways to adapt to some unknown weather weirding (or so I told myself) or peak oil or collapse of all civilization, but radiation was a different story – it’s a killer in sufficient quantity. There’s no way to protect against that, at least not for very long. If the entire northern hemisphere and most of the southern is fried then there’s nowhere to go.

    Extinction of the species is now easier for me to accept, at least intellectually. I doubt I’ll ever accept any of this much beyond an intellectual standpoint – until it starts to get so bad that it becomes real to me.

    Right now I can easily switch back and forth between the two worlds. One is the world where nothing is wrong and life just keeps going on every day like it always has. The other is the world we talk about here and the world which is plain to see if one looks just below the surface. That ability to jump between the two makes it easy to deny reality.

  • Guy

    You are doing important work.You are having a big impact. You need to give yourself a break once in a while. The pressure of delivering the message and the act of personally confronting these realities would kill the average man. By the time you left Mass you were clearly exhausted. Your own personal early extinction will not help the world. Take care my friend.

    I went to two of your talks in Mass. Once with my wife and once with two friends.I thought I knew what to expect when I walked in the first time and you wacked both my wife and I upside our intellectual heads. Good thing too – thank you. Our new awareness regarding the time frame of the upcoming changes has already caused us to make changes . Changes that will impact our lives and the future of the earth in positive ways. Will it make a measurable difference? I don’t know and I don’t care – we will continue.

    Regarding the reaction of the University where you spoke- it is unimportant. The straight response from the powers that be should not be unexpected. What really matters is that a group of students and faculty listened and heard. The will absorb, digest and discuss your perspective. What the School Administration says will have no impact whatsoever on their ideas. The response you got from the system is a sure sign that you are on the right track. You know these things.

    Get out of the Mud Hut for a while – take a break – get out of your head if you can –
    seek a little comfort – take time to rest and get perspective on things

    Best Regards – Ron

  • ulvfugl

    It might take a couple of centuries to reach that point, but that counts as instant, in geological time. Doesn’t allow for genetic evolution to adapt.

    True that a couple of centuries is an instant in geological time. However, you are not talking about continental drift; for unicellular organisms passing through hundreds of generations per year, two centuries is plenty of time to adapt. I believe the research finding a 40% reduction in phytoplankton since 1950 concluded increased ocean stratification (due to warming) rather than acidification was the main problem.

    When we start harvesting phytoplankton for food or fuel because there is nothing else left to eat or burn is when I’ll start worrying about them.

    I entirely share your pessimism for the future of trees. I’ve read that only 20% of original forests remain. Given how little original forest remains, is it likely destruction of the remainder will cause a problem with oxygen? Presumably much of what replaces original forest also engages in photosynthesis (obviously apart from areas paved over or lost to desertification).

    The first listing when I search for “oxygen decline” in google seems well balanced and doesn’t anticipate lack of oxygen being a problem anytime soon.

  • Well, my take, although I accept that Guy’s position is a possible future, is that no-one can predict the future exactly and may be wildly out on the time frame. Who knows what black swans may emerge to change the human predicament fundamentally? Just as an example, if a supervolcano erupts, that would fundamentally change future events and conditions, as well as populations, and no-one knows when the next one will blow though some are thought to be overdue. I’m sure people can think of other potential black swans.

    There are many unknowns. What, I think, Guy does is project what some models predict and how some scientists see certain feedbacks onto an otherwise unchanging world but, as we know, things change. I couldn’t believe civilization got past peak crude oil but the global financial crisis did have that side effect. I’m definitely not saying “everything will be fine” but we just don’t know the precise future path of the planet and humanity.

    However, I do know that civilisation destroys the environment and so that is a good reason to alter one’s lifestyle to as simple a one as possible. I’m trying to do that, within some confines of my personal situation and emotions. And I see that there is good reason to do that. Instead of despair it’s the morally right thing to do (in my opinion), to live as simply as one can, to live as sustainably as one can and, since the future is uncertain, that might actually be of benefit in the future, probably in all futures except near term human extinction, which just might not happen.

    By the way, I don’t see this as blind hope, just a recognition of human inability to see into the future. If it doesn’t work out the way Guy thinks, then, in that situation, each of us would probably think that they could have done more (or anything) to prepare for a different world.

  • Tony Weddle Says:
    However, I do know that civilisation destroys the environment and so that is a good reason to alter one’s lifestyle to as simple a one as possible.

    It’s interesting that even within the industrial system waste could be reduced by a huge amount with very little change in lifestyle, in fact lifestyle might actually be better. I live in the US, where deliberate waste IS the lifestyle, here, we’re not even trying to conserve energy. In Germany they build houses that use 90% less energy. Heating buildings is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. These kind of savings could be implemented across most sectors of the industrial system. But the political will is not there because of the entrenched vested interests. A 90% reduction in CO2 could have, at least, bought us some time. But it will not happen in system where greed and irresponsibility rule.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house

  • Yorchichan, my comment re the oxygen was in reply to Ozman’s comment, and his vision of some new hominid evolving.

    It may take a couple of centuries before the phytoplankton and forests which supply our oxygen have gone – it could be sooner – and the residual atmospheric oxygen level drops, and keeps on dropping thereafter.

    The planet will not be suitable for mammals, such as ourselves to live on, so new hominids are not going to evolve. What’s more the oceans will be dead zones, from acidification, and will remain so time periods which preclude any chance of recovery, except in terms of geological time.

    Kill the economy

    I think oxygen was discussed somewhere on that thread, you seem to have missed it, it’s a bit long for me to trawl through.

  • BC Nurse Prof Says:
    December 15th, 2012 at 1:44 pm
    So here we are, self-aware bacteria, criticizing our own behavior and where it has gotten us, trying to blame someone else or trying to reverse the process. “We” should kill the economy! “We” should all grow food! Should should should. More human constructs that mean nothing. Just remember, none of it matters to biology. But it may matter to you.

    That’s really the only thing I’m interested in. I just want to know what you, and everyone else, thinks right action is. You obviously think posting on a blog is one of the shoulds you should do. How and why did you decide that was such an important thing to do? I mean you could have gone out and shot 20 school children, but you didn’t, how did you decide not to do that instead? Like you say it wouldn’t have mattered to biology.

  • Tony, you wrote “What, I think, Guy does is project what some models predict and how some scientists see certain feedbacks onto an otherwise unchanging world but, as we know, things change.”

    I can’t speak for Guy but it really is not so much what some models predict, it is that things are progressing so far ahead of what the main models predict that suggests that we are nearing the end.
    see this. http://neven1.typepad.com/.a/6a0133f03a1e37970b017744cf5360970d-pi

    Sure we passed peak CONVENTIONAL oil in 2005 and the economy, held together with string and sealing wax still wobbles on. That just means that when it does collapse it will be over a huge cliff instead of a hill. One of the ways we held it together is to go heavy into oil sands, and fracked oil and gas which result in more CO2 emissions.

    Sure anything can happen, EXCEPT for getting the CO2 already in the atmosphere out of the atmosphere at any time in the near future. Or reducing the acidity of the oceans at any time in the near future. Most of the things that could happen would speed up our demise not save us. Nuclear war could give us nuclear winter and well fry us directly or with radiation. Solar flares could shut down civilization and create 400 Fukushimas.

  • Otto Matic – I too sleep more these days. I once told a teen that her fights with her parents were probably nature’s way of preparing them and her for her leaving the home to go out in the world. If teens become intolerable, parents are less likely to hold on. Don’t know if that is true but it sure sounded good when I said it.

    Perhaps the increased nap time for aging adults is a way of preparing for the ultimate nap :)

  • Otto, one more thought – the idea of intelligence as a lethal mutation is explored in the novel Blindsight by Peter Watts, available free through the creative commons at http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm I think I am up to 6 readings at last count. My all time favorite science fiction book

  • ulvfugl

    You may be right about the oceans becoming dead zones and I believe large parts of them already are. My only real point is that because of their short lifespan, phytoplankton (excepting quite possibly the calcifying types) should be able to evolve quickly enough to survive ocean acidification. Whether more rapid pollution or other changes will cause a phytoplankton die off much greater than that which is thought to have already occured nobody knows. Similarly to on land, in general the smaller the ocean dwelling plant or animal the greater its chance of surviving the ravages of mankind.

  • Yes, Yorchichan, small stuff like bacteria evolves quickly, but so what ? Jellyfish thrive in the present-day ocean dead zones.

    The phytoplankton will have to cope with acidification, temperature change, and possibly UV light from damaged ozone layer, and who knows what else.

    There’s no reason to suppose that it will evolve to produce O2 is there ? It doesn’t do that now because it want’s to benefit life on Earth. It just happens to be a component of the system that we are destroying. If I’m remember rightly, Robin calculated that without the forests and phytoplankton, the 22% of oxygen will last some thousands of years. That still doesn’t give time for genetic evolution of higher life forms and ecosystems to evolve and adjust.

  • Today’s computer-simulated climate models, the foundation of all UN climate negotiations, represent the “almost complete disregard for reality,” says Werner Krauss, from the Helmholtz Geesthacht Center for Materials and Coastal Research. “A world is being saved that only exists as a model.”

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/top-researchers-call-for-an-end-to-united-nations-climate-summits-a-872992.html

  • Ripley, when a puppy chews up a shoe if the puppy if you see him do it he is clearly responsible. Yet it is a dogs nature to chew on leather so he is not responsible. However because of the way his is programmed if you punish him appropriately you can cause him to cease chewing on shoes – he is programmed not only to chew on animal skin, but also to obey the alpha wolf. Same word “responsible” but he is both responsible (he did it) and not responsible (he is programmed to do it) but we mean different things when we use the word in each case. Punishment is appropriate if it puts in place a stronger program – don’t mess with the alpha.

    We could really use 2 different words for the different types of being responsible. I think we should blame and punish those who mess up the environment just as we punish the dog who chews on leather (and provide him something acceptable to chew on). How else can polluters engage the program to avoid behavior that is costly to them, if the behavior has only rewards and no cost. We can also attempt to educate people to see pollution as costly to themselves in the sense that they need the world to survive. But if we don’t understand our programs and how they lead to the vicious cycles of civilization over and over and over, and just sit around blaming the corporations or whoever NOTHING will change.

    Since I believe that we have run this cycle to the point that NOTHING can be done, I will throw darts at BP. But in the end we are a species that is so damn good that we get a very short run. Bacteria that live in the deep rocks and reproduce very very slowly get a long run. http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2011/02/09/buried-microbes-coax-energy-from-rock Just the way it is.

    Feeling that we are responsible for our actions is just that, a feeling that our conscious brain is in control. We think we are in control but we don’t even know who “we” is. Is it the unconscious brain that steps on the brake before the conscious brain even sees why it is doing that? Is it the unconscious brain that finds the solution to a problem the conscious brain can’t – and reveals it while the thinker is concentrating on shaving. The unconscious brain IMO is responsible for running our body but we the conscious side can’t control it. The best we can do IMO is consciously feed it the best info we can so that maybe we (our body run by the unconscious) will do what we (the conscious) think it should do. Sometimes that happens, sometimes not. Like Paul of Tarsus, we often do the bad we do not want to do, and don’t do the good we want to do. We ask ourselves why we did something. We are not one self but many.

  • Incidentally, I learn that oceanic dead zones are another feedback loop that I didn’t know about before.

    The oxygen level decreases, and nitrous oxide production increases. Nitrous oxide, N2O, is three hundred times more potent as a greenhouse gas, than carbon dioxide.

    Apparently, in shallow coastal water, c. 300ft, N2O production can exceed 10,000 times normal ocean N2O levels. Currently, low oxygen areas produce about half of the ocean’s N2O.

    So this appears to me to be a classic malign negative feedback loop.

    Higher temperatures, acidification, oil spills and other pollution, over-fishing destroying the ecology, eutrophication, and so forth, all lead to dead zones.

    The dead zones release N2O, which speeds up global warming and acidification, which expands the dead zones, which means that the effect becomes the cause, and you’re back to the start of the feedback loop, and on and on, round and around…. until something breaks the cycle…

  • Kathy C. we don’t even know who “we” is.

    Which is why, very often, the first koan given to beginners who go to zen retreats is to answer the question ‘who am I ?’

    You keep on asking it until you do know.

  • Actually, that should be ‘positive’ feedback loop shouldn’t it ? I mistakenly used ‘negative’ in the sense of bad. Positive in the sense of amplifying.

  • Kathy C Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 11:29 am
    So no blame is called for. But heck, I want to have fun on the way down, so I am going to blame BP, and the Nuclear Regulation Association, and any scapegoat I can find for the state of affairs even though I know that in the end there is no blame.
    December 16th, 2012 at 5:08 am
    I think we should blame and punish those who mess up the environment just as we punish the dog who chews on leather

    (So now you do believe in blame…or maybe not..)

    But if we don’t understand our programs and how they lead to the vicious cycles of civilization over and over and over, and just sit around blaming the corporations or whoever NOTHING will change.

    (As they say on the game show: is this your final answer?)

  • The guidelines allow the NCTC, for the first time, to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, using “predictive pattern-matching,” to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. The data the counterterrorism center has access to, according to the Journal, includes “entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others.”

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/12/13/national_counterterrorism_center_s_massive_new_surveillance_program_uncovered.html

  • America is not the greatest country in the world (anymore).

    ‘The Newsroom – Opening Scene’

    Not bad, but I think only children believe in the greatest this and that in the world, so it is a bit soppy.

    You gotta wonder about a group who have to keep telling themselves they are the greatest. I mean David Letterman, has been opening his late show for so long with the line, “….its New York, the greatest city in the world”.

    I rekon Reykjavik is far better, the streets are heated by geothermal, only 89,000 residents, and it even has an original name too, not a ‘new’ somthing.

    Yeah ulvfugl, with all that ‘freedom’ in the USA they need a lot of survelence to keep everyone free… makes a lot of sense….hole in the head kinda sense.

    Still if they have it, we’ll get it soon enough too, if there is time. But probably well get the freedom and the survelence at the same time.

  • Tony Weddle: Well, my take, although I accept that Guy’s position is a possible future, is that no-one can predict the future exactly and may be wildly out on the time frame. Who knows what black swans may emerge to change the human predicament fundamentally?

    No one would argue with that, I don’t think. Nor do I think anyone here will say adamantly that such and such will happen on this date or that one. However, when a situation requires a black swan in order for the course to be changed, then one can feel fairly confident in a potential outcome.

    Sure, there are many unknowns. But virtually every chart one sees on the wide range of topics discussed here shows the classic hockey stick. Population growth, CO2 emissions, energy demand, resource depletion, Arctic ice loss, etc. They all show the hockey stick. In a finite world, that type of change can’t go on very long. And that’s the whole point. We are nearing the end of life as we have known it. There are now more than 7 billion people on the planet. There are almost certainly going to be far, far fewer humans in the seemingly near future.

    Even if we somehow found ways to increase our energy efficiency using such techniques as the “passive house” to which Ripley linked, that only kicks the can a little farther down the road. Studies have shown that energy efficiency only leads to greater longterm energy use. That extra time is unlikely to change our behavior and it certainly won’t reduce our population. On the contrary, we will simply grow our population more, increasing the strains on the system making the crash even more certain. By the way, I’ve followed the passive house concept for quite a while and think it’s a very interesting technology. However, the increased amount of petroleum-based products used in that type of construction is quite a bit higher than in conventional housing. So, I just don’t think it would have made much difference in the long run.

    With respect to peak conventional oil, as Kathy C mentioned, the reason the impact has been muted has been due to nonconventional oils. But, as multiple sources attest, fracking sites are peaking and declining in a period of years instead of decades seen with conventional oil. So, look for the effects of peak oil to start showing up shortly. The financial system is so grossly overleveraged, that financial collapse is long overdue and could happen anytime now. As you say, one black swan would be all it takes. With the collapse of the financial system, the rest of the house of cards would collapse almost instantly. Even without a black swan, collapse of the financial ponzi system is a certainty – just a little farther out.

    Even if none of those things were issues, there can be no doubt that we have reached our limits with respect to providing food and water to the entire global population. Even without global warming. Yet, population continues to grow unabated. When you add in climate change/weather weirding, major social upheaval is a given.

    You’re right, there are too many variables to make an accurate specific prediction. But, big picture, not so much. The shit is going to hit the fan, and soon.

  • …there are too many variables to make an accurate specific prediction….

    What is kinda astounding, is the utter recklessness, the staggering ignorance, considering that we have nowhere else to exist !

    No mention anymore of the precautionary principle, that we should err on the safe side, for the sake of future generations… and reading the IPCC stuff, it’s incredible how often they say they can’t be certain about this or that, because of lack of data, I mean, it’s everyone’s future we’re talking about, everyone’s children’s future, and whilst there’s always plenty of money to blow things up and kill people, and to bail out banks, but we can’t say how much CO2 is coming out of the boreal peat, whatever, because nobody has been there with instruments to have a look !

  • .
    We all evolved from the muck;
    Traits once needed now leave us stuck
    Caring less about some
    Generations to come,
    Than wanting to come when we fuck.

  • Ulvfugl, if the unconscious brain is unconscious you can’t know it. Whatever you come to know, is not the part that is unconscious. You can assert you have come to know it, but how can you ever know that there is not some part that you cannot know?

  • The REAL Dr. House Says:
    December 16th, 2012 at 8:24 am
    Even if we somehow found ways to increase our energy efficiency using such techniques as the “passive house” to which Ripley linked, that only kicks the can a little farther down the road. Studies have shown that energy efficiency only leads to greater long term energy use.

    Well I did say that “a 90% reduction in CO2 could have, at least, bought us some time.”

    But can you please explain WTF your last sentence even means?

  • Kathy, I wouldn’t assert anything that isn’t supported by experience.

    What one does is to train consciousness. It’s possible to train consciousness to experience vastly more than the average person comprehends. This has been known for millennia in the various traditions, but is also now well established scientifically. By constant training the whole structure and functioning of the brain is changed. It changes anyway, for ordinary people, just in the course of ordinary life, but I mean in a way that follows a discipline and a purpose.

    Imagine consciousness as a light. By constant training, you can make it much stronger and brighter, and carry it into areas that are normally dark.

    Quite apart from the ancient traditions, which have studied this stuff for centuries, there’s plenty of people learning lucid dreaming, and how to get out of body experiences and so forth, just because they find it intriguing and the research is interesting.

    But havn’t we had this conversation before ? You ask me something about this stuff, I try and explain, then you tell me it’s impossible, I get increasingly frustrated, and the whole exchange is fruitless… nevermind ;-)


  • Table 1: Major reservoirs involved in the oxygen cycle

    Sphere

    Reservoir
    Capacity
    (kg O2)

    Flux
    In/Out
    (kg O2 per year)

    Residence
    Time
    (years)

    Atmosphere

    1.4 * 1018

    30,000 * 1010

    4,500

    Biosphere

    1.6 * 1016

    30,000 * 1010

    50

    Lithosphere

    2.9 * 1020

    60 * 1010

    500,000,000

  • It’s a fairly safe assumption, that for many here, as with Guy, we have come to the threshold of acceptance of NTE from a background of collapse preparedness. This has put many of us ahead of a wicked curve…. so to speak. For many, the acceptance of collapse of civilization has inadvertently prepared us in ways we did not foresee. In ways still unforeseen.

    This decadal process has taken us far from any socialist inspirations we may have once possessed in our youth, and deposited us unto libertarian rural homesteads and ideologies to await the death of our industrial means, well outside the humanity we liken ourselves to be championing. Imagining we were/are somehow limiting our footprints and living as true stewards of Gaia, even though we had long oiled the gears of the machine in becoming landed gentry, all the while bemoaning the rot of capitalism. We are all hypocrites at best.

    So, it strikes me as odd, as to why some might now question the growing anomie resulting from our acceptance of NTE. Did we imagine that we were somehow living by example, while ignoring that it was only ever a privilege. We all have the neighbors we can afford. We speak of responsibility, but to whom? Long have we been living a hopelessly contorted fantasy, projecting agency and ethics unto an utterly indifferent world. I need look no further than a mirror to find who is to blame.

    We are all, now, false in this new empiricism, still living out old constructs and comforting lies to ourselves.

    Thinking monkeys/bacteria of what quantum mysteries might lie beyond our myopic sapience. Smug in our relative western immunity pondering whether or not, we’re a failed species, as gyres of our garbage choke the life out of an entire planet. Taking issue with the possible immorality of abandoning our moral imperatives, as if we’re somehow standing guard, when in fact, we have long left our posts.

    We are well beyond whatever past imperatives have brought us here. Long after the empiricism has laid waste our delusions, our old dreams still remain; residuals of past vested interests which are buried deep, in both our subconscious and collective conscious where they will most likely remain amidst our remains.

    We are nowhere now, other than where we imagine ourselves to be.
    We are living through the decimation of our planet’s biosphere. There is no cause for joy, hope, empowerment or happiness to be found in NTE. It is an all consuming abyss. We can attempt to project whatever ad hoc peace and wisdom we believe we’ve managed to glean from the wreckage of our existence, as how best to rise above the despair, but once the attrition of famine sets in, there is and will only be one path that can possibly ease such suffering. The actuality of “letting go” in the face of NTE, eventually begins and inevitably ends with the same act.

    We have been studying a reality which only science could reveal, only to discover that it unveiled a certainty which only metaphysics can now interpret.

  • @TRDH

    You stated:

    “However, when a situation requires a black swan in order for the course to be changed, then one can feel fairly confident in a potential outcome”.

    Brilliant!

  • Thinking about the Titanic and at what point everyone knew. Will we reach a point like that and if we do, will we wish for the days when everyone was asleep. Or will most everyone just keep complaining about the weather?

  • Ripley, But can you please explain WTF your last sentence even means?

    I’m assuming you’re referring to the last sentence of mine which you quoted. In that case, I think wikipedia can do a much better job than I can of explaining Jevon’s paradox. It can be found here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox
    Short snippet: In economics, the Jevons paradox (/ˈdʒɛvənz paɹədɒks/; sometimes Jevons effect) is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.[1]

    See [1] in the wiki article for a link to a study on this topic.

  • The updated version of Jevons’ paradox is termed the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate. Wikipedia link is here.

  • @ DMD

    That is a very good question, and I suspect “our acceptance” of critical mass acceptance, is just one of many factors yet to be figured into our own plans for the future. But if critical mass awareness proves to be non-linear in nature as well, and given consumer confidence is the bedrock of the world’s economy, then even passive “NTE speculation”, will greatly proceed actual physical limits.

    While permanent drought makes famine inevitable, famine doesn’t necessarily connote drought.

    In other words, we could reach the end long before we actually do. The problem is, capitalism is incredibly adaptive. It, or rather we, have an almost infinite ability of paying Peter to rape, steal and murder Paul.

    It’s most likely not going to be the weather that kills us, but rather each other. I am a childless man, so I will eventually and quietly take my own life when the time comes, but if I had starving mouths to feed, there would be almost nothing I wouldn’t do to keep them alive for as long as I could…..and I’m a pacifist.

  • Ripley,

    It’s not our waste that wrecking the planet, though that obviously doesn’t help, it is our lifestyles. Reducing waste, though admirable, would not be a solution.

    Kathy C,

    You’re right that the CO2 already in the atmosphere has condemned us to a pretty horrible environment … if no black swan comes along. What it may not do, yet, is condemn all life to extinction. We just don’t know the future in detail and so there is no reason to give up, if that is the message that some people get from Guy’s talks. [To my mind, that wouldn’t be a good reason to give up, anyway.]

    The REAL Dr. House,

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts at all that the shit will hit the fan, and not too far into the future (for some, it has already hit the fan). I’m not saying life may be a doddle, because of a black swan event. I’m not saying it will be a smooth slope down. I’m not even saying that most people will survive the coming turmoil. All I’m saying is that this century may not see the end of all life, or even humans. There is good reason to think it might and individuals may me utterly convinced by those reasons but no one can see the future – humans, and the beginnings of a new tree of life might still be around for a long time to come. I think Guy needs to add that rider – that, even though it looks likely that all, or nearly all, life will cease this century, we just don’t know that for certain – that view relies on uncertain predictions. So do what’s right and live as though you want a habitable planet for your kids.

  • Daniel, And I’m a farmer. Can’t seem to stop. Seems like the right thing to do. Or maybe the wrong thing to do. Our neighbor pointed out that we have a lot of hamburger walking around here. Meaning I could be forced to stop long before the weather gets intollerable, as you pointed out.

  • @ Tom

    You stated:

    “I think Guy needs to add that rider – that, even though it looks likely that all, or nearly all, life will cease this century, we just don’t know that for certain – that view relies on uncertain predictions. So do what’s right and live as though you want a habitable planet for your kids”.

    All of science is based on uncertainty. Acceptance of NTE is not derived from knowing any one thing for certain, but rather the probability of observable phenomena, either behaving one way or another. In fact, almost every aspect of our lives is based on probability. What aspect of our lives is based on knowing anything for certain?

    Believing something to be certain, isn’t certainty.

    The “certainty argument” has been a straw man used against climate science for decades, and it’s definitely going to find ample traction in any debate about NTE.

    I for one, don’t believe in debating NTE. I consider it only be a commiserative endeavor for those who have, or are in the process of accepting it.

    NTE is solely based, on newly discovered non-linear rates of change now in effect. There is no such thing as certainty, just increasing probability. And to empiricists (and that’s the key distinction), that’s all we need to base our perspectives on, given there honestly isn’t anything else in which to quantify the likelihood of future events.

  • Daniel

    You wrote:

    “I am a childless man, so I will eventually and quietly take my own life when the time comes, but if I had starving mouths to feed, there would be almost nothing I wouldn’t do to keep them alive for as long as I could…..and I’m a pacifist.”

    Does that include or exclude eating people? Would you be one to carry the fire? ….aka ‘The Road’.

    Noting you are a pacifist, as people actually die in other ways than being killed for their callories, would it matter in considdering the above questions if it were ‘roadkill’ we were considdering?

  • @ Ozman

    While I haven’t really given it much thought, I think I must have put in the word “almost” as a caveat in regards to cannibalism. I would imagine that when the time came when I knew I could no longer provide for my dependents–which could be attending to the infirmed as well–and cannibalism of my weaker neighbors was the only option, I would seek to take the life of my dependents. I might be misanthropic, but it stops at eating people.

  • @ Tony Weddle

    Sorry Tony, I posted something addressed to you, but I used the name Tom by mistake.

  • I am so glad to have come across Guy’s videos and blog today. See, I have been aware of the painful truth which he lays out so poignantly for years now; Though I may have lacked all the knowledge of how soon our sojourn would end, even intuition tells you that a parasitic species cannot consume its host indefinitely. I have experienced the painful loneliness which my inward knowing (and grieving) has caused for years concerning the destruction of nature on every front. At least now I don’t feel so alone!

  • Pictures of our future when the nuclear plants all go Fukushima – snippet below but please read the whole article about the consequences of the DU in Fallujah
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33332.htm
    The medical recommendation of the gynaecologists to the women of Fallujah is simple: “just stop”. Stop falling pregnant because it is likely you will not give birth to a healthy baby. These words carry a shocking implication: a city of about 300,000 with a generation of young women who may never be mothers; and a generation who may not live, or at least not a healthy life.

  • @ Bailey

    You said:

    “….Though I may have lacked all the knowledge of how soon our sojourn would end, even intuition tells you that a parasitic species cannot consume its host indefinitely.”

    Well said….

  • ulvfugl

    The chance of a species of phytoplankton evolving into a non-photosynthesising creature is the same as that of a tree evolving into a human being. That is, zero. Too many simultaneous complementary mutations are required. Even if by some miracle this did happen, there would still be plenty of other phytoplankton species to carry on the good work (Or would there? See the link below.)

    The counter to the oceanic dead zones is life itself. Life is constantly striving at the edges of habitability to change dead zones into living ones. The noteworthy exception is of course humans, who constantly strive for the opposite effect.

    In support of what you say about mass oceanic extinction:

    Evolution at Sea: Long-Term Experiments Indicate Phytoplankton Can Adapt to Ocean Acidification

    The title appears to contradict you, but if you read the article:

    “environmental changes comparable to what happens right now in the oceans have repeatedly resulted in mass extinctions, even though these changes were 10-100 times slower than what we observe today”

  • Guy McPherson Says:
    December 16th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
    The updated version of Jevons’ paradox is termed the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate. Wikipedia link is here.

    You mention in your talk how a Neo-classical economist hijacked the climate debate. Now you’re quoting their theories. If the mud hut suddenly became 90% more efficient at holding heat, this theory says you will, for some strange reason, begin to use even more energy to heat it. Why would you do that?

    There is nothing in the laws of physics that says in a society can’t decide to cut energy use by 90% across all sectors, if it wants to . But I do agree that if the society is run neo-classical economic theory that defends the idea that “we can have infinite growth on a finite planet with no consequences”, it will never happen. And wouldn’t you agree that it is this idea that must be killed before the industrial economy can be brought down?

  • Ripley, neoclassical economists caught up with Jevons only 140 years later. The ideas about efficiency and conservation forwarded by Jevons and substantiated by Khazzoom and Brookes apply at the level of societies with respect to finite materials, not at the level of individuals.

  • Then would the theory apply to a society that decided it wanted to cut energy use by 90% across all sectors, because it no longer wanted to the live under idea that “it can have infinite growth on a finite planet with no consequences?”

  • When I brought up the example of the Passive house that uses 90% less energy, it was merely to show that it is possible to reduce the energy use that’s killing the planet. The laws of physics don’t forbid it, but the system of human decision making we live under, does.

  • Ripley, Then would the theory apply to a society that decided it wanted to cut energy use by 90% across all sectors, because it no longer wanted to the live under idea that “it can have infinite growth on a finite planet with no consequences?”

    First, no such society exists.
    Second, we are all going to have our energy cut by more than 90% in the not too distant future.

  • Well, you state the obvious. And you bring up other things rather than stick to the example and question on the table. The is called: avoiding the issue.

  • The REAL Dr. House Says:
    December 16th, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Then would the theory apply to a society that decided it wanted to cut energy use by 90% across all sectors, because it no longer wanted to the live under idea that “it can have infinite growth on a finite planet with no consequences?”

    First, no such society exists.

    REAL Dr. House,

    Actually you’re wrong on that point too. Look up energy use per capita by country.

    Switzerland, UK, Japan, and a bunch of other “societies” use 50% less energy per person than the US. Chile uses 75% less. So they’re are obviously societies that can use way less energy than the US and still exist.

    Need I go on?

    It wouldn’t surprise me if you are an American. America has a miserably low rated medical system, with a lot of greedy incompetent doctors. Medical malpractice is common there, as are people would don’t reason very well. You seem to be a combination of the two. Your medical license needs to be revoked. If I were you, I would go away before someone discovers your whereabouts, and sues you for malpractice.

  • Kathy C

    DU – Nuclear War by other means….

    You really know how to kick a guy when he’s on his knees,(me).

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