Hope, Redux

Stephanie Jo Kent has penned a thoughtful essay at Reflexivity. The final paragraph includes a comment and a question for me: “I have been listening and watching for ways to stimulate robust processes of social resilience. One idea is to talk about the difference between hope and hopium. Would you be willing to elaborate?”

I assume Steph’s reference to “social resilience” includes the desire to maintain industrial civilization, which I think is a terrible idea for many reasons. But perhaps I’m jumping to an incorrect conclusion. Steph, will you clarify?

With respect to the question, I spoke and wrote about hope way back in August 2007, when this website was launched. In that long essay — the bloated, unedited, transcript of a presentation I had delivered a few days earlier — I described hope as follows:

I view hope as the left-brain product of love, analogous to democracy as the product of freedom, or liberty. Notably, Patrick Henry did not say, “Give me democracy or give me death.” Like the rest of the founding fathers, Henry knew that freedom was primary to democracy; without the guiding light of freedom, or liberty, democracy breaks up on the shoals. Love keeps our left brain in check — that’s the message of the world’s religions. But our right-brain love creates the foundation for hope: love for nature, love for our children and grandchildren, love for each other. Without love to light the way, hope breaks up on the shoals.

Mind you, hope is not simply wishful thinking. And that’s a problem, considering we’re immersed in the ultimate “wishful thinking, something-for-nothing” culture. How else to explain books such as The Secret, which proclaims that happy thoughts will generate happy results, including personal wealth? How else to explain the prevalence of, and widespread acceptance of, casinos? And it’s not just acceptance: it’s adoration, if the boob tube and the local movie theater are to be believed. Not so long ago, gambling was frowned upon because, instead of adhering to a culture of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, it reflects the expectation that a person can get something for nothing. No, hope is not wishful thinking.

And another thing: hope is not a consumer product. You can’t walk into Wal-Mart and order up a carton of hope. Indeed, given the demise of cheap oil, there’s unlikely to be a Wal-Mart — or any other large institution, for that matter — to walk into at all within a few years. Even if Wal-Mart, the federal government, or the University of Arizona somehow find a way to survive, we’re going to have to generate our own hope, one person at a time. Just as an economic collapse happens one person at a time, so too must hope happen one person at a time.

Many years later, after much time reflecting, I’m caught between my earlier description and the gradual merging of my view with the definition offered by Derrick Jensen: “hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.”

In other words, my earlier description of hope is giving way to the notion of hope as wishful thinking, also known as hopium. I’m certainly not willing to give up, and I constantly encourage acts of resistance that will allow opportunities for the living planet to persist into the future. In so doing, I’m channeling iconoclastic author Edward Abbey: “Action is the antidote to despair.”

Hopium is the drug to which we’re addicted. It’s the desire to have our problems solved by others, instead of by ourselves. It’s why we keep electing politicians while knowing they won’t keep their promises, but finding ourselves too fearful to give up the much-promised future of never-ending growth on a finite planet.

Knowing we cannot occupy this finite world without adverse consequences for humans or other animals, but afraid to face that truth, we turn away. We watch the television, go to the movies, gamble at casinos, play on Facebook, and generally applauding while the world burns we take a flame-thrower to the planet. Nietzsche nailed it: “Hope is the most evil of evils, because it prolongs man’s torment.”

Finally, Steph, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nietzsche was right. I used to think hope differed from hopium, back when I had hope. Gradually, I’ve come to see hope and hopium as one. Let’s get off the crack pipe, and onto reality. May Pandora release the final gift from her container.

This essay is not intended to suggest we abandon (1) resistance or (2) joy-filled lives. Life, including human life, is a gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the others in our lives, human and otherwise. Let’s live as if there is more to life than the treadmill onto which we were born.

Let’s live.

Comments 354

  • You know the Shift is nearing when the Owners give the thumbs up to ‘end-o-the-world’ Memes that are not tradition ‘scare’em’ disaster movies, but romantic comedies: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

    Hey, it’ll be fun!!! The goal of all MSM memes is conditioning the Sheeple People to Accept their fate, apparently with a smile on their faces.

    This movie’s premise is that an asteroid 70 miles wide named ‘Matilda'(waltzing? haha) is on a collision course with Earth in three week’s and nothing can be done about. One of the primary comic devices of the movie is watching the many people who still want to just continue their daily routine and going to work as usual, but that becomes increasingly dysfunctional and absurd. Like the restaurant that’s still open and serving food but the whole staff decided to drop some Ecstasy, it just seemed appropriate, like ‘casual Friday’ at the office, to makes things running smoother ;>)

    It occurred to me watching it that this is actually what it might look like. The coming financial implosion simultaneously occurring with a political and supply chain collapse as a stand in for the Asteroid. If will all just pretend it’s normal, maybe it will be syndrome. Jiminy Cricket on Vitamin X. The American Dream writ large to the very End.

    Like George Carlin said, “That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

  • Speak softly, I just added that to my netflix queue – one viewer said this of it
    I was hoping this would be a comedy, but it is appropriately categorized as a drama. Accept it for being that, and you’ll probably be much happier with it. I’m sure viewers will be split on whether Carell’s character ends up making the right choice, but I was fairly satisfied. What’s “right” when the world is ending, anyway?

    Good question, perhaps the only question – what is right when the world is ending.

    A recent book on the same subject is “The Last Policeman” and another is “Everything Matters” – maybe they are preparing us…..

  • I feel confident that time will reveal who is the truly “fucking nuts”.

    Great truths are first seen as great heresies, yes?

    Ignorance by consensus rules until Physics, Chemistry and Biology tap them on the shoulder. . . aka “Nature Bats Last”.

  • . . .perhaps a better phrasing would be “. . . until Physics, Chemistry and Biology hit them upside the head with a baseball bat. . .”

  • depressive lucidity Says:
    March 1st, 2013 at 9:37 am

    “no one can convince 5 billion people to drink poisoned Cool Aid.”

    AFAIK what occurs through propoganda is that the elite end up poisoning the peoples minds such that they beg for the cool aid. Society begs for jobs, growth, Arctic drilling, pipelines, debt slavery, wars, gun control, erosion of the Constitution, etc. . . .

    The best form of coercion is to have people ask for or even demand it from their leaders.

    Take the so-called Reverend Jesse Jackson. he is pro gun control in a big way. Can you imagine telling his black constituency they should not be allowed to arm themselves? This after slavery, KKK, Jim Crow laws, the rapes, beatings, murders. The current level of incarceration of young black males? Can you imagine?

    Can you imagine telling Native Americans they do not have the right to arm themselves? Can you?

  • Hi Anthony,

    You are correct that TV played a role in the desensitization process. Additionally, at least during my military service term, the military did not hesitate to wash out recruits who failed to show necessary traits.

    I also note a difference in the proclivity to fire on enemy between Europe and Asia. It’s far more difficult to fire on people who are just like yourself (German) than the Japs, Gooks, or Chinks.

  • H iAnthony,

    I am with you on the gun issue. I can’t imagine a US where the only people with guns are the crooks and cops (i.e. one in the same often).

  • @ Anthony

    The best form of coercion is to have people ask for or even demand it from their leaders.

    This was from December-ish, supposedly from a DHS source, spilling their secret agenda. How reliable it is, is questionable, of course.


    But yes, standard strategy, deliberately create intolerable turmoil and chaos so that the people are begging for intervention. The first corporation, the East India Company did it in India, sending spies into areas they wanted to take over, to identify rival groups, then followed by provocateurs, who would cause outrages ( murders, massacres ) which each side would blame on the other, so that there would soon be riots and conflict. Then EIC could send in its ‘peace keepers’ to restore order, and they’d be gratefully received. And once established, they’d stay, welcome or not.

    It’s very easy if there are Sunni and Shia, or Catholic and Protestant, or blacks and whites. If there isn’t a suitable division, it’s not hard to create one. Fear and violence lead to hatred and paranoia, scapegoats. Divide and rule.

    British Gvt wanted to retain Northern ireland as part of UK. Best way was to keep troops there, which needed a conflict. Turned out that MOST of the top IRA leaders were working for the British. So most of that fucking bloodshed, bombings, murder and mayhem, can be blamed on fucking MI5 and the fucking British Government.

    It’s the Gladio strategy that the CIA used in Europe, ( and all around the world ) and US Gvt use against its own people. Just like the Austrians were so grateful to be annexed by Hitler because their own country was in such distress, they thought things would improve. Of course, they got a very unpleasant surprise.

  • Almost sounds like JR himself may be coming around to being classified as a “fucking nut” himself, but then a brush with cancer tends to concentrate the mind:


  • I was thinking about signs and signals all around us of impending doom in modern culture. The d-KOS dude seems to have missed most of them, even if they had Dope Slapped him up the side of his head. Is that what the ‘d’ in dKOS is for?

    In Poker there is always the ‘Tell’. It can be almost anything under the Sun.

    I recall reading a guy who was very very good at poker, about to go into a national poker contest, and having his brother, who had played with him for years, give him the ‘gift’ of exposing a ‘Tell” in his game that he himself had never been aware of, as a birthday gift. His brother had used this ‘Tell’ against him for decades and could still beat him more often than not because of it.

    Turns out that when ever his brother had a good poker hand he would use a slightly larger denomination of chip. A poorer hand, a smaller denomination chip.

    No one can have total objectivity on their own “Tells’, and neither do large social organizations. They have “Tells” signals, of intention that transcend conscious planning and thought that an aware, engaged populous should be on the lookout for.

    To a willfully ignorant, sleep walking, over medicated ‘citizenry'(cough), the DHS ordering 450 million rounds of hollow point ammo and ‘no hesitation targets’ should be a “Tell”, but to the Well Washed Masses of the western ‘democracy, not so much I guess, the Sheeple appear to be Thick As A Brick.

    “Really don’t mind if you sit this one out…

    My words but a whisper….your deafness a shout…”

  • @ Speak Softly

    Who was it who said something like ‘If you’re in a pro poker game and after ten minutes you don’t know who the sucker is, then it’s you’.

    Yes, i used to think, once, that melting of the Arctic icecap would be the Tell that would wake everybody up. Sigh. How naive I was.

    @ Gail

    I find that Joe Romm page and comments so sad and so funny, slowly, slowly, they catch up, slowly, slowly, the true horror sinks in… what if it really IS too late ? That’s going to keep happening to more and more people… Of course, they only think of themselves, not about the species already going and gone…

  • Gail Says: https://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/03/01/1644511/for-climate-hawks-the-five-stages-of-grief-are-reversed/
    “For Climate Hawks, The Five Stages Of Grief Are Reversed”
    Last line of article:
    “It is impossible to believe. I myself can’t believe it.”

    Kubler-Ross deals with doom’s curse
    By grieving before things get worse;
    If your goal is denial,
    Delay for awhile
    By doing the steps in reverse.

  • I have to admit, being 57 years of age and hearing of multitudes of imminent economic, environmental, and other apocalyptic scenarios since the 80s’, I am a bit skeptical concerning timing of NTE. The earth is remarkable and we don’t know what various corrective mechanisms are currently taking place related to our blunders. For example, recent reports show that increased volcanic SO2 from recent volcanic activity is the primary reason the earth hasn’t warmed more (and warming can volcanic activity via plate tectonics).

    However, regardless of arguments of science reports yada yada, common sense tells me that the industrial way of life, and continual overpopulation are not something the earth can ultimately deal with in a ‘business as usual’ approach. So, there ‘may’ be some valid points concerning the critique of timing with us doomers, but where I do fit with the doomers is that the fossil fuel industrial lifestyle and our population will result in our eventual extinction (something that the status quo science and current government institutions do not get).

  • @uvlfugl

    The vision is still too new to be able to explain easily. Is it a “third model”? I’ll let others decide. The thumbnail sketch looks something like this:

    The 4th Law of Thermodynamics (aka LMEP) ensures that as energy flows into an open system from its environment, order arises spontaneously in the system. This order is the mirror of the disorder (entropy) created in the environment that the energy flowed out of, as required by the balance equations of the Second Law. The key is that even in the open system there has to be at least one energy gradient. I intuit from the nature of the LMEP (though I don’t know for sure yet) that the “clumpier” the energy is, the more order arises. Since this is a fundamental law of the universe, it works at all scales, in what is essentially a fractal process. The same tendency is of course a feature of all ordered systems that arise as a consequence: thermodynamic energy flows created a fractal set of spontaneously ordered systems and subsystems. Like superstrings, galactic clusters, galaxies, stars, planets etc.

    The next step is the arising of primitive life, as living forms are more effective energy-absorbers/entropy-creators than simple matter. From there begins a process of extensive amplification, as the living forms become more complex (i.e. they become more efficient entropy engines). On our planet around that point they created an oxygen atmosphere that made yet more energy available through oxidation.

    Multi-cellular life arises in response to the self-organizing aspect of the order-creation process. Speciation begins, in the search of ever more order. Then small critters, which lead to bigger, more complex critters. Around this time creatures begin to reproduce sexually, which kicks off the whole Darwinian manifestation of the process (which isn’t essential, but is useful).

    Life forms start to cluster together in groups because it’s more efficient. The beginnings of “social” organization appears. Specialized energy-seeking aspects of structure appear, like motility and eyes, that make it easier to see and move towards distant energy. And brains begin to develop. It’s easy to see that for a creature with eyes and motility, a brain is a marvelous entropy engine, because it allows much more complex energy-seeking behavior over greater distances.

    In response to brain development, social organization becomes ever more complex, leading to mutual aid in energy-seeking activities (pack hunting, keeping watch for the herd as it’s grazing, etc.) Then the cortex of the brain develops, and keeps the process accelerating.

    As the brain becomes more complex and capable of abstract thought, it begins to tell itself stories about why it’s seeking more and more energy – stories like, “I want my children to have a better life than I did.” Language develops in order to increase the level of organization through abstract communication. Hierarchy arises spontaneously because it’s more ordered than a uniform herd of creatures, and as a result it creates systems that are more effective at gathering energy. Social structure starts evolving towards the form we know today.

    The more energy the species finds and uses, the more structured it becomes – hierarchies become more pronounced and universal, and larger groups like countries begin to appear. And all the time the amount and types of energy the species is able to find and use is increasing. At the same time the brain is telling the organisms stories about why it’s doing all this: to survive, to “get ahead”, to leave a legacy, to create beauty (aka order) in the world, to defend its right to grow and find more energy so it can survive and get ahead, etc.

    Built into our very matter, down far below our genetics, the social structures that have arisen from the ordering process and the stories we tell ourselves about it all, buried so deep within us that it’s an unquestioned part of our being, is the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics, telling us to look for energy. We are now living with the consequences. But even when they become painfully evident, that Law keeps us moving up the energy gradients of the world, and telling ourselves stories about why it’s essential that we do so.

    Can we break its grip? I don’t know, but logic and experience both tell me that even if it’s possible it’s going to be a Herculean task, accomplished in the face of ferocious opposition. After all, to stop searching for energy feels like suicide to the organism, and the way reality is constructed from the very bottom on up, suicide is an extremely unattractive option. So we keep moving, keep building, keep burning.

    We truly are Burning Man.

    So if the Fourth Law does turn out to be irresistible, and we are destined to burn out, what do we do when we comprehend the true state of affairs?

    As best as I can tell, we try to keep living despite it all – doing good things, adding joy to the world, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Taking pleasure and love where it is – right here, right now. Regaining our equanimity any way we can, and recognizing that in the end all we can do is live. Trying to develop:

    “The courage to change the things I can,
    The serenity to accept those things I cannot change,
    And the wisdom to know the difference.”

    I think that’s what the vision looks like.

    Bodhi Paul Chefurka

  • According to author and Harvard University instructor David Ropeik, social pessimism can become a dangerous positive feedback loop. Ropeik charts the rise and fall of hope and fear registered in a survey over the last eleven years – revealing Americans’ increasing pessimism that the future is more threatening than promising. “That is really scary,” he says, “because the way the human animal responds to such a general sense of being threatened, is to grow even more tribal and divided, more closed minded and unable to cooperate, more and more locked into an ultimately destructive combat that is more about fighting for our own individual tribe than for solutions to the huge overarching problems we all face in a society that, like it or not, we share.”

  • Since 2001, the top five oil companies in the United States have recorded profits of $464 billion through the first quarter of 2007:
    ExxonMobil: $158.5 billion
    Shell: $108.5 billion
    BP: $89.2 billion
    ChevronTexaco: $60.9 billion
    ConocoPhillips: $46.9 billion

    In 2012 Big Oil earned well over $100 billion in profits, while the companies benefit from continued taxpayer subsidies. Average gas prices also hit a record high last year, showing how a drilling boom may help oil companies’ profit margins, but not consumers’ wallets.
    ExxonMobil — now the most valuable company in the world, passing Apple — earned $45 billion profit in 2012, a 9 percent jump over 2011. Meanwhile, Chevron earned $26.2 billion for the year.
    I think I found out why there’s been no progress on climate change over the previous decades, and why nothing will be done in the coming decades…and why we’re heading for 1350 ppm CO2, not 350. With this kind of money to fund armies of lobbyists to promote their agenda in all the world’s power centers, these trends won’t be coming to a sudden halt, nor will the industrial economy collapse, not as long as profits are this good. Honestly, can anyone envision the convincing argument that gets these people to walk away from this kind of money?

  • Uncle Noam Chomsky – Forum on Capitalism, Future of Capitalism, sponsored by Northeastern University Economics Dept. – 2013-02-25

    Speech Capitalism vs. Reality:
    [audio src="http://www.radio4all.net/files/chuck@wmbr.org/727-1-Noam_full_speechw.intro.mp3" /]

    [audio src="http://www.radio4all.net/files/chuck@wmbr.org/727-2-Noam_Q_and_A.mp3" /]

  • Bluebird, psychologists spend their time thinking about states of mind, not the state of the world. So the author worries about how pessimism might have a feedback loop, but never tries to find out why people are more pessimistic these days.

    In Nazi Germany there were Jews that were optimistic that Hitler wouldn’t kill them all, and Jews that were pessimistic about Hitler’s plans, and Jews that were realistic and immigrated. Realism can look like pessimism, but it is based on facts not fears.

    I agree that people who sense things are not right are becoming pessimistic and fearful and that it can make them act in negative ways.

    OTOH many who have been following Peak Oil and Climate Change have been realistic about the future and making plans. Now realism calls us to see that Climate Change has progressed faster than even the most pessimistic thought. It has forced a new realism on us, one that gives us precious few options as to how the face the future. My sense is that most who have been being realistic are not shattered by this, do not become tribal, divided, unable to cooperate. What I sense coming from the realists here is that most are preparing to meet their inevitable end with their values and human compassion intact.

    I vote for realism, wherever it takes you. If you are realistic you know you will die eventually and Near Term Extinction just means that you might die sooner than you thought (for us older folks not that much sooner) and that extinction will happen sooner than expected (all species go extinct and the sun won’t last in its current state forever). Realism allows you to make good use of what time you have.

    I realize that realism and pessimism can look similar, but the first is an assessment of what is and the second is a state of mind about what may be real or may not. And the cheerful optimist, if they have no grounding in reality is no help at all – sometimes worse than no help.

  • Joe Romm getting it
    Indeed, my rational side finds it hard to believe that we’re going to avoid catastrophic global warming, as any regular CP reader knows. But my heart, in denial, is certain that we will …The great New Yorker write Elizabeth Kolbert perhaps best summed up this form of denial. Her three-part series, “The Climate of Man,” which became the terrific book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, famously ends:
    It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.
    It is impossible to believe. I myself can’t believe it.

    He can’t believe it but I think he finally knows it. Maybe now he will let Guy post a comment on his blog????

  • @dairymandave

    That looks like it might be on point. I’ll read it when I wake up a bit more. Thanks!

  • @ Paul C.

    Thanks very much.

    Energy flows into an open system and order arises spontaneously, form appears.

    So once the ‘form’ has a place to do it, Earth, and an energy source, Sun, it stabilises, and seeks to maximise its ‘orderliness’ of space time by maximising its intake of energy… ?

    Don’t know how well I’m understanding this, if at all ?

  • One more thought on the resilience of the earth: the earth may adjust to various changes but extinction is also one of those adjustments. This won’t be the first time, and maybe not the last. Next time the little green people will get wiped out!

  • Wow – great stuff people!

    So if we go back to the parable about the tree of knowledge and why a human should avoid it – is it that this result comes to pass? Or would the result happen anyway due to the trajectory of all things from dissolute to composition and back?

    u: those were some great links – i had never heard of gladio and must have been asleep during chem when your last link was going on. Amazing!
    This is new stuff to me too and it’s gonna take a while to absorb. Just fascinating!

    dmd: thanks for the background link to the topic Paul brought up.

    Paul: this is awesome stuff, thanks for introducing it!

    Bluebird, Kathy, others:
    On our human reactions to our predicament – pessimism seems to be a failure to come to grips with unforeseen (sp?) change, and the “5 steps” seem to be our road to adaptation of that which we didn’t see coming (probably because most of us are so short-sighted, unconscious or unaware of the consequences of our actions). And to tie this to Ripley’s comments (re profit/greed underlying the resistance to meaningful change) and Anthony’s agenda, it would seem that the “smartest people in the room” (the big industrialists, capitalists, bankers/Wall Street military industrial gang) aren’t very intelligent at all – since they are in effect forcing us into an early extinction scenario that may possibly have been avoided if we had begun transition out of fossil fuels back in the 1960’s or so.

    The problem, of course, comes with the attendant overpopulation that occurs (whether by Paul’s gradient or our “biological wiring”) leading to the same result eventually. In other words, it looks as if, no matter what course we as humans took to get here – we would have eventually “hit the wall” in any case, but in some of the simpler models (ie. less population for longer periods of time) we may not have killed off all life as it’s apparent we’re currently doing.

  • the earth may be resilient in short time spans but sun and earth end

    The Death of the Sun
    All things must end. That’s true for us, that’s true for the Earth, and that’s true for the Sun. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but one day in the far future, the Sun will run out of fuel and end its life as a main sequence star and die.

    Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/18847/life-of-the-sun/#ixzz2MO4vy780

    The question of resilience it seems should never be if, but how long

  • Yep, that’s the core of it. It’s not quite “intake” of energy, but close. It maximizes its transformation of energy. The transformation (breaking down the potential energy gradient) is what both allows it to do work for its own benefit (increasing its own order) while at the same time creating entropy for the universe.

  • @Tom

    I think our biological wiring is just the way self-ordering complexity has chosen to express itself in us. It’s the way we developed to fulfill our part in the program. So there really is no difference between the wiring and the underlying energy gradient idea. Think of thermodynamics as the paint, and our human psycho-physical-cultural nature as the “Mona Lisa” or “Starry Night”.

    The CEOs and other “power people” you mention are neither smart nor stupid, and in a strange sense they’re not even greedy. They’re simply natural occurrences born out of the self-organizing ordering process of human culture. Hierarchies emerge because they are more ordered than a uniform group of peer nodes in the network, and can transform more energy. And the more energy gets fed into the system, the more pronounced the ordering becomes, and the steeper the hierarchies have to become in response. Their intellectual and emotional response to the situation, what we see as greed, is simply their brains’ way of explaining to themselves why it’s good for them to fulfill this role. We think of it as greed, because that’s how our brains justify to us the feelings of lack that come from not being near the source of maximum energy transformation.

  • @ Tom

    …must have been asleep during chem when your last link was going on.

    I was never taught that by physics, chem or biol teachers, I don’t think they were aware of such knowledge. One of the great weaknessnes of specialisation and reductionist thinking. There’s more amazing videos of that stuff. What’s most astonishing is that some of the forms that appear are identical to cross sections of plant stems, etc, and very close to other biological morphological structures.

    As I understand it, the way form arises on some of those vibrating plates is roughly similar to how forms arose in the Universe, from fluctuations and variations on the Cosmic Background Radiation from the Big Bang, everything that exists here has been bathed in that since Sun and Earth first appeared…. I’ve even read the suggestion we may be able to hear it, perceive it


  • End of the world by Rev. Billy

  • And Reverend Billy’s Freakstorm: Rev. McKibben’s Fire & Brimstone

  • u: thanks – i’ll check it out.

    Kathy: that guy is such a clown, but at least he’s passionate about the direction we’re heading.

    Here’s a little look at our water problem (esp. in the big cities)


    Up Shit Creek in Water Wars, Sinkholes, and more AGW Feedback Loops


  • @Paul, dairymandave,

    Interesting stuff! I have long posited that neg-entropic processes as life, crystal formation etc. are the result of fractal energy gradients (bridges of free energy towards entropy). The seeming defiance of such neg-entropic phenomenon (in light of thermodynamic law) is balanced by a corresponding increase of entropy elsewhere (and hence the bridge of free energy ‘bottlenecks’ via such processes toward entropy).

    Backing off from the canvas a bit, though I wonder if there are any teleological implications; Current theory is that very shortly after the big bang, a remarkably small window occurred by which the lighter elements formed (nucleosynthesis) and the universe did not immediately go towards stable iron. Of course, it is these lighter elements of H and He by which energy results via the path towards heavier elements (in the stellar processes).

    It the universe had within minutes of the big bang, gone directly to iron, time itself would not have existed, since time is the derivative of entropy (time itself being a metric of ‘movement’). Life would have never existed without the flow of energy gradients resulting from nuclear elemental transformation.

    That being said, the ultimate expansion of the universe and eventual heat death, are not a slam dunk..

    Expanding Universe Violates Conservation Laws

  • Tom, Rev. Billy is no more a clown than the preachers he mimics. He started with the Church of Stop Shopping and has moved on to the whole ecology/climate change stuff. I find him a hoot, my husband can’t stand him :)

  • @ Paul.

    Correction. My ‘Yes. But…’ should have been a ‘Yes. And…’

    @ Bailey

    But that’s where the quantum stuff comes in ! Infinite number of multiverses, somewhere there’s one which is just a massive lump of solid iron… and there’s an infinity of yous, of Baileys, somewhere, in one of them, identical in every other respect to this one, there you sit, except that you decided not to make that comment after all… :-)

    Actually i don’t believe that crap, but some deeply serious physicists do, or so i am lead to believe…

  • @ulvfugl

    Yeah, I personally suspect that the ‘contrivations’ of mathematics by which much of string theory, M-branes, and multiverses arises, is…1) to try and resolve the difficulties between quantum gravity and general relativity and..2) To get around possible conclusions based on a universe which goes back to a point where ‘something came from nothing’, where all physical laws break down, and scientific reductionism is no longer possible.

  • @ Bailey

    Yes, indeed, and at that point our opinions conveniently converge ;-)

  • That’s true ulv. However, all of this ontological musing aside, it does beg the basic question of ‘what are we to do’ given the current reality that we are ‘entropy engines’ which by a resulting exigency are destined toward maximal energy utilization (releasing free energy from CO2 into entropic heat). Though paradoxically, we are creating more CO2 in the process!

  • @ u (may I call you u?) ;-)

    Yes, cellular automata seem to hold fascinating clues to the way reality works. I don’t now if they can be said to model it, I’m not enough of a math-head to penetrate that deeply. I tried to read Stephen Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science” back in 2003, and at the time I thought he’d gone clinically insane. I still have that enormous brick of a book, and I should probably dig it out and reread it in light of what I’ve learned in the last two or three years. Thanks for the reminder about Conway and the whole field.

  • @ Bailey

    Well, I don’t share the doubts you expressed earlier in the thread.

    I’m thinking that the examples of taoist hermits and Bishnoi and the Kogi and some others, who don’t maximise their energy through put might be relevant… not sure of that, I’ll wait until I understand Paul’s thesis better

    I wonder what you think of P. Kingsnorth’s And so I ask myself: what, at this moment in history, would not be a waste of my time? And I arrive at five tentative answers:


  • @ Paul

    Yes, you can call me ‘u’ with the implication that we are speaking informally, so I may be tempted to lapse into my usual vernacular ad hominem vulgarity ;-)

    Thing is, the entropy and thermodynamics, from my angle, is essentially, physics, so I wonder how we get from there to biological life, as it originated…. which isn’t so hard to imagine, if vibration, energy, sound, standing waves, automatically create structure.

    Then the structures become stable. That would be something like crystals, nearly viruses… water droplets surrounded by an oily film of molecules, a skin, bacteria, then they need to able to replicate, as per Conway’s rules, and then to be able to seek out energy…

    Once all that’s taken care of, the rest is straightforward Darwinian evolution, and we end up with, as you say, the board of directors of Exxon sitting around their table maximising profits….



  • @ u

    Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s the way it works. The cymatics videos are fascinating from this perspective. My partner has long been convinced that symatics says something profound about the way the world works, and i finally understand what she means. Swenson say repeatedly that the universe is in the order-production business, and that organization appears with a probability of 1, Boltzmann be damned.

    @ Bailey

    The article about conservation laws takes place well above my pay grade, though it reminded me of two things. One is sitting in my bedroom at the age of 13 calculating the Lorentz-FitzGerald equations for fun (it’s a wonder that I turned out normal :-) ) The second is that if we run into a situation where the universe violates its own laws, it’s quite unlikely that it’s the universe that has made the error…

  • @ Paul

    Much easier if Boltzmann was wrong, and Swenson feels right to me, for sure.

    Have you searched for any criticisms of his work ? I might later on if I have time.

    Very short TED talk on cymatics

    [video src="http://video.ted.com/talks/podcast/EvanGrant_2009G_480.mp4" /]

  • @u

    I have found no substantive criticisms of Swenson’s work so far. The closest was a paper on “Thermoeconomics” in which the author dismisses all the entropy theorists from Schrödinger and Georgescu-Roegen to Prigogine and Swenson – largely (as far as I can tell) on the basis of “I don’t believe it.”


  • @ Paul

    “I don’t believe it.” Hahahaha

    Yes, I’ve read Georgescu-Roegen and Prigogine a long time ago, I seem to recall Prigogine had something like 90 university degrees… great to listen to

  • I just read P. Kingsnorth’s article in Orion magazine. I was touched, and I was astonished by the wisdom of such a young person. I think I understand the scythe thing, but only because my husband bought a scythe from these folks:


    and went to Victoria and did a workshop, and bought another scythe, and two more blades, and then he stripped a maple branch and made another snath, and spends hours swinging this thing in the grass. There are other things I wish he would be doing, but when he comes back up to the house, the look on his face is such that I don’t say anything. He keeps a copper dipping thing-y on his belt with a homemade sharpener in it. We have some blue stone around here that he makes honing stones with, then keeps one in water in the copper thing. He stops scything every 15 minutes and swipes the stone along the blade, puts the stone back into the water and keeps going. At the end of the week, he’ll sit in the sun by the tool shed and peen the blade for an hour before putting it away.

    Most of our neighbours say he’s crazy, but in the next breath they’ll say something like, “My grandfather used to have one of those. As a kid I saw him swing it. He told me he could do an acre a day. I wonder where his scythe went… Maybe it’s in my garage somewhere.”

    Go to the Scytheworks website above and click on the picture of the barefoot girl in a skirt. You’ll see a video in which she brings down the grass around a tractor. This video always makes me cry, and I don’t know why.

    There are problems with scythes, of course. Steel, for one. But are we inevitably on Paul Chefurka’s path? Paul, does this process ever go backwards? I guess I mean: are there places where it can go backwards?

    So, are we going to talk about Ted K. again? Or Ivan Illich? The way Kingsnorth read these works is the way I read them. I clicked on the link because I wanted to know what he thought were things that were worth his time, now, at the end of this world. What I found was something that clicked inside my head. Withdrawal:

    “If you do this, a lot of people will call you a “defeatist” or a “doomer,” or claim you are “burnt out.” They will tell you that you have an obligation to work for climate justice or world peace or the end of bad things everywhere, and that “fighting” is always better than “quitting.” Ignore them, and take part in a very ancient practical and spiritual tradition: withdrawing from the fray. Withdraw not with cynicism, but with a questing mind. Withdraw so that you can allow yourself to sit back quietly and feel, intuit, work out what is right for you and what nature might need from you. Withdraw because refusing to help the machine advance—refusing to tighten the ratchet further—is a deeply moral position. Withdraw because action is not always more effective than inaction.”

    This is what I’ve been struggling with. My inclination is withdrawal and paying attention. But my lifelong indoctrination has been to do stuff, teach stuff, etc. I’m tired of feeling that obligation thing. I’m beginning to think this is wrong. Wrong for me, at least. Not because it is in some way “moral” as he says in the quote above, because morality is simply a human concept that we invented to put pressure on others to make them behave. I just recoil at the notion that I have to beat people over the head with the insights that I’ve spent decades learning. They’ll just have to do the work themselves. If they want to learn to scythe, fine. My husband can show them. If they want to make a rhubarb pie, fine. I’ll show them.

    There are only five weeks left in this, my final semester. Yes, there are two students out of 45 that “get it”. I can see it in their faces. I hear it in their words. They ask me about the books I suggest in class and I give them my copy. I gave away my copy of “Deer Hunting With Jesus” this week. Is it worth the abject misery of being crushed in the university system to see those two faces? No. They’d get it no matter what I do. I’d probably have statistically higher rates of having people “get it” by handing out books on a street corner.

    This morning I dug up half of one of the gardens. I was completely surprised by the fact that the soil did not freeze this winter. Here. In Canada. The soil did not freeze. At all. I dug through the last patches of slush and flipped over black dirt and worms. I think I’ll plant some peas tomorrow.

  • BCNP: i get it (as an adjunct, read “slave”) loud and clear. i too have withdrawn to the point that i don’t even want to work any more at a job for money, but would rather spend the time contemplating while working around my home and gardens. My wife wants me to attempt to get a full-time job with bennies (at 63 i ask who is going to hire me, but i’ll try, to keep her happy).

    Here’s a quick pre-look at the two year anniversary of Fukushima:


  • Oh my what a great post BC Nurse. I have seen the girl scything around the tractor – it is absolutely beautiful. I thought to get a scythe early in my peak oil days, but never did and now my body can’t do anything more than 15 mins at a stretch. Funny for someone who does a continual mulch garden, but I love to dig. Ah well the worms like it better if I don’t dig much and my knees certainly appreciate me not digging much. Worms. Slush. Are you sure you are still in Canada???

    This winter has seemed cooler than last, but we really haven’t had any super cold days. Not once this year has the soil gone crunchy from frost or have I had to switch to my heavier gloves and jacket. So I think it is just that there have been more cool days but no really cold days. High today 44, high in a week is supposed to be 74.

    I am all with you on the obligation to do something. It seems that it is in fact the obligation to do something to make life better that has gotten us into this mess and we cannot fix it by doing something more.

  • Tom: An adjunct – you poor thing! I’m so sorry to hear this. Slave, indeed. Can’t you earn more, in food instead of money, by staying home and gardening and raising animals? That’s what I tell my husband, anyway. As a full professor, they pay me a lot. But then more than half of it is taken away because this is Canada. I don’t begrudge that because we get good things in return, but I actually believe I’d be better off if I just produced the food myself instead of working for money to buy the food. Besides, the food you can buy is toxic.

    My husband is on the tenure-promotion-treadmill, teaching journalism. He likes it, so far, and he’s good at it. He will burn out, of course, but he’s a lot younger than me, so it will take some time. So he can earn the bux to pay the property taxes and I’ll move dirt and compost from one pile to another. Wax on, wax off.

    The Tao of Winter in Canada: Chop water, carry wood.

  • Does anyone have the link to NTE (Near Term Extinction). It was mentioned in an earlier post and of course I cannot find it. Thanks everyone!

  • Thanks, Kathy C.

    Oh, yeah, this thread is supposed to be about hope.
    I gave it up and I’m much better for it.

  • BC Nurse, you might like the video “Obey” (which is up on my blog – trying to avoid 2 link moderation, so click on my name if you want to see it). It’s a little bizarre (music and effects – for me, maybe, cause I’m older) but is full of wisdom, like this:

    “O my soul, do not aspire to immortal life,
    but exhaust the limits of the possible.”

    – Pindar


    “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

    – Augustine

    Personally, I prefer this to “acceptance” which is being widely preached.

    Also, there are some other fascinating words from Orwell and Camus, and these stirring words:


  • Thanks, Gail, I’ll go look at them when I go to my office on Monday. I can’t watch videos on a dial-up connection out here in the boonies.

  • @BCNP

    The process can go backwards locally. While the averaged global movement is always forward (at least for as long as possible) the whole process is very clumpy. I think it has to be to work the way it does. so that means that there will be hyper-urban clumps and bits of bucolic backwater. The danger to the parts that are moving backwards is that they may be absorbed by the more active parts of the system, may become “involuntary resource donors” or may be at risk from “well-mixed” global threats. Those are risks, not certainties, though. Within those constraints it should be possible to find or create situations that aren’t about Maximum Power.

    Speaking of winter (and I love your Tao line) I’m in Ottawa and it’s been a real bear of a winter. The polar jet stream has apparently been dipping way south right over us, and at the moment we have 8-foot snowbanks, and more snow than I’ve seen in 15 years. OTOH three weeks ago it was +10C. Welcome to the Brave New World.

  • Gail, excellent posts on your blog Wit’s End, both the current one and the previous one. You have put a lot of work into documenting what is going on with the trees. Down here, out in the country where the pollution is not quite so bad, they make sure none die from ozone by cutting them down in their prime and hauling them out. A near neighbor just had about 50 acres of mixed hardwood and pine clear cut. Not sure if he will leave it fields or put in planted pine for them to cut down in 20 years – but it is a scar on the land and words cannot describe how awful it looks. It almost feels like a personal violation to see it.

    For anyone who hasn’t yet figured out that names showing up in blue can be clicked on to take you to the posters blog, Wit’s end is at https://witsendnj.blogspot.ca/ which I can post without violating the 2 link moderation rule :)

  • Paul: Yes, I’ve heard about the terrible winter you folks have had in the east. It’s because of this:


    We’ve had a warm winter. It has stayed right around freezing all winter, with lots of snow. The avalanche danger in the Rockies right now is classed as “extreme”. Ten or more people die in avalanches in this province every year. There is so much snow in the watershed now that if we get a fast melt there will be flooding for sure.

    But the biggest danger for us will be a hot summer. What Australia is having now will be what we get this summer, I’m afraid. Last summer we didn’t see the sun for months because we got the smoke from Colorado AND from Siberia. When fire sweeps this part of the world, it scours everything off the land, as it has for millions of years. Until people stopped it from happening. Now it will come back, with a vengeance. Like the hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria, they want their world back.

  • Ripley

    Do you have links for those figures you posted on the big profits of Oil companies?

    Also your concluding paragraph:

    “I think I found out why there’s been no progress on climate change over the previous decades, and why nothing will be done in the coming decades…and why we’re heading for 1350 ppm CO2, not 350. With this kind of money to fund armies of lobbyists to promote their agenda in all the world’s power centers, these trends won’t be coming to a sudden halt, nor will the industrial economy collapse, not as long as profits are this good. Honestly, can anyone envision the convincing argument that gets these people to walk away from this kind of money?”

    The $24 000 question…you said it.

    What more penetrating insight is going to flush out the underlying reasons for widespread climate change denial, political obfuscation, and inaction dynamics, (an oxymoron of my own), of most public institutions in Anex-1 countries ?

    I have no reasonable answer to your question, and am greatful for such a clear potent analysis in so little words.


  • Paul: It can go backward locally? Can “local” be a whole planet?

  • Addendum.

    I don’t even think the realization that their children will die would do it, bt that’s just speculating on my part… otherwise they would have done it by now…No?

  • Pilot 17

    NTE isn’t a blog, or a website, or any famous theory. It’s just the end of life on this planet. We know that earth was formed about 4 billion years ago. Complex life on the planet is having its day in the sun, so to speak, right now, and in another 4 billion years, the sun will die. So we know that in the long term, all life is extinct. NTE says that extinction is coming much sooner than that because of what human beings have done with fossil fuels. Soon. Like in 30 years. Read some earlier posts of Guy’s and you’ll get the idea. Maybe this one:


    And then come back and tell us what you think.

  • Hope

    The future is going to be hot,
    And even though we can’t do squat,
    Something internal
    Makes hope spring eternal,
    Whether it’s welcome or not.

  • Oh Right. On ning. I forgot.

  • BC Nurse Prof,

    Near Term Extinction is a blog (and has a website). I see that Guy posted the link two “blogs” after yours. I thank you for the link to Guy’s earlier blog on “Climate Change Summary and Update.” I have already faithfully read it as I have been a loyal NBL follower for some time. I don’t post often, but I do appreciate the help from all of you. I hope you don’t have a “firestorm summer” in BC like they did in Tasmania/Australia. I have a cabin in NW Montana and even the Northern Rockies Ecosystem is visibly different than when I was a kid (40 years ago). I fear we are doing such irreparable damage to our planet. I don’t even recognize the Rockies as I remember then. Thanks to you and Guy! Keep up the dialogue and incoming Climate updates!


  • @BCNP

    Although looking at the world through “entropy glasses” can help make some things clearer, it doesn’t give us any new options. Anyone who has taken the warnings seriously for the last decade or four has sussed out the available options already.

    No it can’t go backwards globally. It can’t even really go backwards locally. Entropy is God’s own one-way function. It can look like it’s gong backwards locally for a while, but even then, in the end it has to turn around.

    The best thing to do, from a thermodynamic perspective, is to get into an “insulated” place – a place that works something like like a thermos bottle, with enough barriers to slow the flow in or out as much as possible, both metaphorically and physically. A place that lives on sunlight flows or the equivalent, and doesn’t grow in terms of activity or human numbers.

    As Guy has found, there aren’t many places like that left, and they’re hard to live in, especially for us civilized types.

  • Please everyone don’t forget, when the grids of the world go down from solar flares or EMP or more likely from the effects of Peak Oil (lack of fuel and lack of infrastructure maintenance) there are 439 nuclear plants in the world that will go Chernobyl/Fukushima but worse. They used 500,000 sacrificial lambs otherwise known as humans to get Chernobyl somewhat contained. Who knows how many in Fukushima. Try please to imagine all those plants melting down, all their fuel pools burning up with NO way to control, contain, slow them at all. That is our future. We can argue about anything we want, but those plants are going to blow no matter what. There IS NO HOPE. Only hope that we can live each day in harmony as best we can with nature and other humans.

    Unless that is someone thinks they can get the world to decommission all those nuclear plants before the grids go. In that case we await the methane time bomb to do us in. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/05/21-3

  • Jeeez, I’ve missed a lot in my life, didn’t realise that Rod Swenson is a kinda complex, erm, multi-dimensional, character…. Captain Kink’s Sex Fantasy Theater ? Um… well, this is the more ( or less ? depends on your perspective and tastes, I suppose ) interesting aspect of the work, at least as it connects to what Paul has been saying here, and what I was thinking, re Lovelock and Ward’s models of the Earth as a system..

    Evolution “on” Earth needed revising to evolution “of” Earth now. But such an evolutionary unit does not fit within the terms or observables of Darwinian theory. According to Darwinian theory the Earth cannot evolve because evolution, as that which follows from natural selection, is defined as the consequence of a competing population of reproducing or replicating entities, or a population of many while the Earth system is a population of one. This “problem of the population of one”, the inescapability of which is confirmed with every breath each of us takes, is found not only at the planetary level, but in from the origin of life (which arose as a population of one) to the rise of civilizations, and more generally in ecosystem succession at every level.

    All these systems are flow structures that pull resources into themselves in their own self-production through the coordinated motion of their components with a set of empirically traceable circular relations. They are all self-organizing or ACK systems. The circularly causal relations that constitutes them exist through the dissipation of environmental potentials (or energy gradients) where output feeds back on input to amplify growth from the initial instabilities where they originate. The macrostructure (what we call the “thing”) at one level is constituted by the flux of the lower level components. Dust devils, and tornadoes are non-living examples which make this easy to visualize where can see literally as they come into being that the origin, evolution (or development) of ACK systems, the transformation of some previously less ordered or incoherent set of components into a dynamically ordered or coherent set is inherently a process of selection. As the system appears, emerges, develops and grows (or evolves) we see some number of smaller microstates or degrees of freedom selected from a larger initial set.

    More here :


  • I haven’t had time in RL to closely study Paul C.’s line of thinking, but I do remember an email exchange I had with someone years ago.

    They thought, conventionally, as I had done, that humans worked *against* entropy to create order, but something dawned on me leading me to point out that this order is frequently only in the human mind. The more humans exert civilizing and organizing efforts, the more banana molecules move from Costa Rica to New York, the more petroleum molecules move from Saudia Arabia to China, the more gold molecules move from Africa to Zurich, onto gold-leafed paintings, into our dental work, even into our fancy liquors and then the sewage system!

    Just imagine where every scrap of the stuff in your local landfill came from, and the enormous propensity and capacity that humans have developed to disperse energy and materials will become more clear.

  • Some background info re Swenson

    …what he saw as the discrepancies between biology and physics particularly as relating to evolutionary and culture theory and became focused on spontaneous order production or self-organization. By 1988 he had “proposed and elaborated the law of maximum entropy production as the missing piece of the physical or universal law that would account for the ubiquitous and opportunistic transformation from disordered, or less ordered, to more highly ordered states,” [8] and in 1991 he and Michael Turvey explicitly connected this thermodynamic account to J. J. Gibson’s law-based account of information to build on Swenson’s view of evolution as an epistemic process and argue that the evolution of cognition, intelligence, and knowing follow directly and opportunistically from universal or physical law [9]. From that time until the present Swenson’s work has continued in the elaboration of these principles addressing more specifically the issues of human ecology, the emergence of meaning, and intentionality.


  • The Law of Maximum Entropy Production is a part of Non-equilibrium thermodynamics, also known as NET

  • A book on Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics, substantial sections of which can be read online, is

    Into the Cool

  • A discussion on Self-organization

  • If I’m understanding this correctly, Swenson’s contribution, ( if it is right, that’s an important proviso ) is indeed as revolutionary and mind-blowing as Paul C. indicated in the previous thread.

    What he appears to be saying, removes evolution and the origin of life from the hands of the biologists. So Darwin and Dawkins et al, fade into the background somewhat. That’s kinda radical !

    The key insight and logic he offers is this quote :

    …according to neo-Darwinian orthodoxy, evolution is taken to be the result of natural selection acting on populations of replicating or reproducing entities showing random variation and competing for fixed resources … But this assumes replicative order or ‘the struggle for life’ to begin with.

    Evolution did not come into the world with life; life was the product of it. In addition, it is now well-recognised that the Earth system at its highest level has evolved, functions, and is evolving, as a single global entity, but because there is no competing population of Earth systems on which natural selection can act, that is, because the global Earth system is a population of one, neo-Darwinism cannot address this global evolution and in fact denies it.

    Since natural selection cannot thus account for the spontaneous and active production of replicative order out of a ‘dead’, purposeless, or aimless world of physics which it requires first to act, and since it cannot explain global evolution itself, it is clear that evolution is not reducible to natural selection.

    In fact Darwinian evolution or natural selection can only be a process internal to a more general evolutionary process which is the product of a more fundamental principle of selection which must reside in physical law ( since if principle of selection does not involve competing replicating or reproducing entities it cannot be biological ).

    Selection in this case, and thus competition ( without implying end-in-mind ), must be between macro or ordered and micro or disordered modes. But given Boltzmann’s claim that according to the second law of thermodynamics ordered states are ‘infinitely improbable’ , how can this possibly be ?

    He then goes on to develop his argument.

    I can see a number of points where his line of thought could be attacked, particularly re Earth as a single evolving entity. I believe it is, but plenty of reductionist scientists don’t accept that, e.g. all the critics of Lovelock’s Daisy World, including Peter Ward.


  • @uvlfugl

    You saw it! That’s it. By solving the “problem of one” with the order-creating properties of the LMEP, Swenson has also casually solved the issue of Cartesian dualism and swept Darwin off the table. I’m just getting into the Gibson connection with ecological psychology now.

    It’s a bit of a mind-fuck, isn’t it?

  • @ Paul

    I think Darwinian evolution still holds up ok, but it becomes secondary, a subset…

  • I think part of the issue the Swensonites face is a semantic battle over the meaning of the word ‘evolution”. It’s been so thoroughly co-opted by the geneticists that the evolution of single systems can’t even be called evolution, although any common-sense view tells us that it is just that. Add in the issue of end-directed change (“Oooohh, teleology! Burn the witch!”) and the embedded enculturation of 50,000 years of humanocentric perception, it’s going to be an uphill fight. but I’m convinced of its core truth, and that makes the game worth the candle.

    You used the right word – radical. This is a radical idea in the true sense of the word that Guy used some time ago, of “going to the root”. In fact it fits all six definitions of the word:

    1. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental.
    2. thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms.
    3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms.
    4. forming a basis or foundation.
    5. existing inherently in a thing or person.
    6. (slang) excellent or cool.

  • Greedy Lying Bastards Unravels Koch and Exxon Hidden Climate Agenda

    It’s got almost 7,000 Facebook likes already, it has hundreds of followers on Twitter, virtually every newspaper, political blog and news outlet is talking about it and it’s not even due to be released until March 8, 2013 – It’s safe to say that Greedy Lying Bastards is causing a tad of a storm.

    And so it should. Unequivocally titled to convey its message, this American documentary film focuses on what its director argues is the “climate change denial campaign.”

    Produced and directed by filmmaker, writer and political activist Craig Rosebraugh, Dirty Lying Bastards investigates the reasons why, despite there being scientific consensus that climate change is placing the planet on the brink of disaster, efforts to tackle the impending catastrophe were deliberately stalled.

    (The above link includes an interview with the film’s director. See the trailer at greedylyingbastardsdotcom.)

  • Personally, I prefer this to “acceptance” which is being widely preached.

    Acceptance in lieu of action is cowardice. Rejection in the face of contrary reality is folly. Both are from attachment: the former to an aversion to risks, the latter to an attraction to an alternate preference.

    Without expectations, there is no acceptance or non-acceptance: only < thusness, the recognition that in the grand system of things, everything is just perfectly normal.

    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on:
    nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it

    BC Nurse Prof: The Tao of Winter in Canada – that was a good one!

  • @u

    Darwinian evolution is a subset. Exactly so.

  • Life. Our efforts to eliminate it appear to be futile. If only we could keep the stars from exploding. And carbon has a lot to answer for, it’s always up to no good. We are 2% different from chimps, if we had evolved to 4% different, we would seem like chimps to that creature.


  • @ Paul

    Darwinian evolution is a subset. Exactly so.

    Not completely clear about the relationship though…

    Is it similar to how we THINK we are following our own rational behaviour, when in fact, closer scientific examination revealed that we are following ancient biological imperatives.

    And now we discover that what we THOUGHT were ancient biological imperatives turn out to be following even deeper imperatives, i.e. the energy gradients of physics ?

    Yes, re previous comment, so much is about the language and how it is used and defined. Perhaps just have to coin new terminology rather than fight over the old.

    The biologists will be very unhappy about having their turf rolled up and taken away, and heck, most physics departments wouldn’t even know what to do with it and will say hey, that’s not our turf, we don’t want it, we don’t understand that stuff !

    What I seem to have got from this, so far, that I didn’t have before – don’t know why I didn’t have it before, and if someone else DID have it before ? – it’s kind of seamless, all the way from the Big Bang to the Exxon board room, it just sort of rolls out, like a carpet, inevitably, which is not at all how I want it to be, it appalls me… so I hope I’ve got that wrong…

    One thing that falls out of that, we are relieved of moral culpability, perhaps, because any blame rests with the creator, Creator, of the rules in the first instance…

    But another puzzle… where exactly ARE these rules ? I mean, starts with Big Bang, cosmos expands, lumpiness means galaxies, and stars and the periodic table and planets and sound vibration can create form which is as close to dammit as the beginnings of life… all following ‘rules’… but they are invisible ? How can that be ? How do these rules just appear out of nothing from nowhere ?

  • I thought this was a good video to watch before watching Guy’s “Two sides of the fossil fuel coin”. Notice that the first comment refers to Guy.

    The ending is interesting…when questioned.

  • “I believe in evading and disintermediating the state,” he said. “It seemed to be something we could build an organization around. Just like Bitcoin can circumvent financial mechanisms. This means you can make something that is contentious and politically important—not just a multicolored cookie cutter—but something important. It’s more about disintermediating some of these control schemes entirely and there’s increasingly little that you can do about it. That’s no longer a valid answer.”
    He added, “The message is in what we’re doing—the message is: download this gun.”


  • Pessimists live longer and healthier lives


    Huh, based on this most of us here are on track to survive extinction. . . .no mean feat that.

  • – it’s kind of seamless, all the way from the Big Bang to the Exxon board room

    Good one, u. One of those don’t know whether to laugh or cry lines.

  • @ Paul

    Darwinian evolution is a subset. Exactly so.

    What Swenson says :

    (1) Self-organization or spontaneous ordering is a process of selection; (2) this selection process is governed by a “physical selection principle”; (3) this principle is the law of maximum entropy production; and (4) natural selection is a special case where the components are replicating.

    So, yes, we appear to have understood him, thus far. His new ideas are 1,2,3, and then we get to Darwinian evolution at 4.

  • @ Ripley

    Yes. Kinda makes me feel ill. But then, if we’re smart enough to understand this stuff, how come we’re not smart enough to find sensible ways forward ? Rage Against The Entropy or Rage Against The Laws Of Thermodynamics grrrrr

    2% different from chimps ? Look what that did !

  • LOL, I read that about pessimists living longer. I am so many standard deviations from the norm, I don’t think I fit on the scale though.

  • Re, Pessimism, try this one,
    – We are nothing but heat engines so that universe can find a faster path towards its heat death,
    – We are a prototype of parasite and virus which cannot be surpassed.
    – There is no God, meaning, or purpose to life.
    – We are destroying every other species and only have a matter of decades (at the most) before most of the planet is extinct.
    – We have damaged the ‘hardware’ of the planet which resulted from its very formation, such that highly evolved life is likely to never return.
    – 99.999% of humans are so deep in cognitive dissonance they can never realize the above if there was not another species left, and they blood was boiling from the heat – they would still be digging for more oil.

    Okay, now I am so full of bliss and excitement, I could shoot myself :(

  • dmd: i watched that presentation you linked to and he too doesn’t want to tell the kids that “we’re basically toast” in their lifetime by pulling back at the end. Some of the students in the audience started to connect the dots when the moderator cut off questioning. Hmmmm.
    Also, have you seen this?:


    u, Paul, Ripley, others: principle 3 has me a little confused. Why should it be maximum entropy production when everything else in life procedes along a gentle curve responding to conditions – like fire. Fire goes exponential when there are entire forests to burn and tons of oxygen, but smolders and may even go out in an enclosed room with ample fuel but not enough oxygen. Why do scientists say it’s maximum when it clearly depends on conditions? Is it that i’m misinterpreting and that what they’re saying is actually what i just wrote, but they assume that it’s conditional (and i just didn’t get the memo)? Sorry to slow down the discussion.

  • I don’t understand this very well, Tom, but in so far as I can grasp it, self-organising forms, kinda ‘want’ maximum entropy, so, for example, these cell-like structures appear most strongly when the heat throughput is maximised… is that right ?


  • music ( and paranoia )