Memento Mori

by Brutus, who writes at The Spiral Staircase, where he specializes in reviews, armchair social criticism, diatribes, rants, and jeremiads. This essay is cross-posted here.

Prior to the 20th century, the specter of early death was never far from people’s minds. Accordingly, death was integrated into life, meaning that as a normal fact of life, everyday knowledge of death made life precious. Average life expectancy in the mid-40s back then masks the reality that people, if they survived childhood, did in fact get old. What lowered the average was infant and child mortality. Cemeteries with graves preserved from that era demonstrate this pretty clearly. When early mortality rates began dropping due to a variety of factors, including improved diet, hygiene, and medicine, it may well be that omnipresent awareness of early death receded while a sense of stalking death remained. Today’s child mortality rates vary widely across the globe, with many African and Southeast Asian countries still reporting rates well above 100.

As early mortality rates declined, so, too, have fertility rates. Factors balancing these two trends are too complex to sort and summarize succinctly, but it’s curious to observe that as GDP per capita rises, wealthy populations tend to fall below the minimum replacement rate of 2.33 children per woman. The cluster of poor countries along the vertical axis of the graph below suggests that some peoples are still over(re)producing, perhaps in part because a high rate of early mortality requires more births to raise a child to reproductive age successfully.

This excess of reproduction is reflected in human history prior to the 20th century and throughout biology, where many species, especially insects, have very large broods. Even small mammals reproduce in litters. But survival is exceedingly difficult, as the young are often killed and/or eaten by their own parents and siblings. Calls to mind Tennyson’s famous lines from his poem In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849):

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law?
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed?

There is ample reason to remain mindful of death, despite its being shoved to the margins of awareness in the modern world. It may also be understandable why we would rather not acknowledge death, considering our forgotten history with early mortality and the hideousness of so many 20th-century wars and genocides. The biggest reason to be mindful, however, is simply that we are and always have been, like the rest of nature, in an ongoing, survival-of-the-fittest struggle, though survival pressure is also shoved to the margins of awareness.

An impressive article by Ross McCluney entitled “Intentional Ignorance” at his blog The Future of Humanity correlates population demographics with resource availability and provides this familiar graphic of world population extending back 12,000 years:

World Population Curve

It should be obvious that exponential curves don’t lead to infinity but have hard ceilings, but we ignore that inconvenient truth. When world population falls back down the other side if the the curve, as it inevitably must, the population spike might be better described as a death spike (referred to elsewhere on The Spiral Staircase as a megadeath pulse). Popular culture has made this a big joke (see here as well):

Dr. McCluney’s headings are reproduced here to show the comprehensiveness of his survey:

1. Introduction and Background
2. System Simulations
3. Reading the Records
4. Peak Oil, Peak Lithium, Peak Everything
5. Species Dieoff — Is that our fate?
6. Are We Smart Enough?
7. Political Failures
8. Are We Intelligent Enough Politically?
9. What’s a Person to Do?
10. PostScript

Although Section 5 acknowledges the possibility of human (and other) extinction, which is inevitable over evolutionary time anyway, the text doesn’t actually discuss or project what might happen with much clarity. For instance, he never uses the phrases mass extinction or extinction event so remains open-ended about our collective fate, though not thoughtlessly optimistic.

Others have read the same writings on the wall and come to the worst possible conclusion: near-term human extinction. See, for example, here, here, here, here, and here. (If I tend to cite the same websites again and again, it’s partly due to my limited intake of mainstream media — by choice — and my assessment that only a few individuals, certainly not governments or corporate entities, are capable of and willing to tell the truth, awful as it may be. The conspiracy of silence is actually pretty bizarre.) For these truth-tellers, near-term human extinction isn’t merely a scenario, it’s a surety on par with death and taxes. But the death contemplated here isn’t the final resting place or other euphemistic mythology we all know will be our individual fates. Rather, it’s the extinction of homo sapiens sapiens sooner rather than later, and with it most of the rest of the biosphere. Quite a different matter. That’s the meaning of specter, by the way:

noun — 1. a visible incorporeal spirit, especially one of a terrifying nature; ghost; phantom; apparition; 2. some object or source of terror or dread

If the mounting evidence of this eventuality, delayed only slightly (perhaps a few decades, but who really knows? — by definition we won’t be around to witness it), hasn’t yet gotten through to you, I accuse you of being brain dead. Scared, haunted, dispirited, depressed, and even nihilistic I can understand; ignorant or in denial I can’t. Not anymore. So grok this: it’s done, we’re cooked / doomed / screwed / fucked, our fate is sealed, it’s all over but the shouting (and I would add, the suffering). But memento mori, for what life is left to us is precious and shouldn’t be squandered like we did engineering for ourselves an early death as a species.

Comments 247

  • wildwoman, getting a board game together is harder than it looks:

    Simpler plan: get a standard Monopoly board, and paste “Unexpected” on every square. :D

  • @Daniel et al “who was the first person to record that fact (that the path of mankind was certain doom)?”

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Archimedes:

    The term power was used by the Greek mathematician Euclid for the square of a line. Archimedes discovered and proved the [b]law of exponents[/b], 10a 10b = 10a+b, necessary to manipulate powers of 10. In the 9th century, the Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī used the terms mal for a square and kab for a cube, which later Islamic mathematicians represented in mathematical notation as m and k, respectively, by the 15th century, as seen in the work of Abū al-Hasan ibn Alī al-Qalasādī.

    Then there is the famous “wheat & chessboard problem”:

    When the creator of the game of chess (in some tellings an ancient Indian mathematician, in others a legendary dravida vellalar named Sessa or Sissa) showed his invention to the ruler of the country, the ruler was so pleased that he gave the inventor the right to name his prize for the invention. The man, who was very wise, asked the king this: that for the first square of the chess board, he would receive one grain of wheat (in some tellings, rice), two for the second one, four on the third one, and so forth, doubling the amount each time. The ruler, arithmetically unaware, quickly accepted the inventor’s offer, even getting offended by his perceived notion that the inventor was asking for such a low price, and ordered the treasurer to count and hand over the wheat to the inventor. However, when the treasurer took more than a week to calculate the amount of wheat, the ruler asked him for a reason for his tardiness. The treasurer then gave him the result of the calculation, and explained that it would take more than all the assets of the kingdom to give the inventor the reward. The story ends with the inventor becoming the new king. (In other variations of the story the king punishes the inventor.)

    Again, I repeat, not only were our current circumstances put into motion long ago, but the ultimate outcome could easily be demonstrated mathematically millennia ago.

    To get all wound up in a “woe is me” kind of trance is the very definition of juvenile behavior. It is what it is, so you basically have two choices: be happy or be sad. Since neither has ANY bearing on the outcome, it’s simply a matter of what you can actually control in the here & now: your won mind.

  • In a report titled, “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally awakens to the disaster we’ve triggered. Ever conservative and optimistic, the agency claims our quick-changing agriculturists will alter course in time to keep the food appearing in the supermarkets.

  • @Gail “Meanwhile, I’m shocked, shocked…the federal appeals court would not grant petitioners’ application to vacate the stay in the NDAA…”

    The double “shocked” hints at satire (if only it was followed by something like “taking place [insert location]”). Well played; however, on the off chance it is sincere, then shame on you.

    Look, the sh!t discussed here and elsewhere on the ‘net amongst a seemingly small cadre of ‘those in the know’ are in fact subjects of official meetings stamped with “Top Secret” warnings of 20 year sentences if matters were to leak.

    As someone else asked, why are we now in god-forsaken places looking for the last remaining reserves of precious juice? The outcome is known, and, as many surmise, is probably a lot closer than many realize.

    All that happened with Hitchens’ lawsuit is that a few people from the puppet’s regime showed the judge what’s really goin’ down on the energy front – and it ain’t pretty.

    As continuation-of-government (COG) is the absolute #1 priority (what, you actually believed in that “by the people, for the people” nonsense?), what’s coming down the pike is going to require wholesale abandonment of any remaining Constitutional provisions.

    Once they read the judge the riot act, it was a rubber stamp decision. One shouldn’t be surprised; rather, one should take these events as black letter markers on what is really happening.

  • The government has released a slew of drafts about climate change impacts from various agencies. Comments are open to the public if anyone wants to vent. The USDA forest analysis is a particularly funny one, which is excerpted here:

    B9K9 you obviously don’t know me…that’s okay, no reason you should.

  • B9K9 Says: …not only were our current circumstances put into motion long ago….

    What started it all was Big Bang,
    From which all of the future sprang;
    I’m caused to harangue
    In determinist slang
    As a part of the whole shebang.

  • Btd, that pretty much says it all.

    Wildwoman, every time any scientist says he or she is shocked, surprised, astonished, amazed, about some new event on the ground with the climate it is one tick down. Each scientist is allowed one tick per event, but multiple ticks may be recorded per event for each scientist who is stunned etc. For instance every scientist who expressed surprise at the demise of 2012 Arctic Sea Ice qualifies for a downward tick. Any non-denier scientist who expresses surprise for something not being as bad as they thought it would be gets a tick up. Maybe we can publish our chart on Zero Hedge. :)

    There is a collapse game already available. Get a set of Jenga blocks. Write the name of a feed back on each block – or some percent of that feed back – like Greenland 100% melt for 5 days, 10 days, 15 days. And levels a methane on others. See how many blocks you can pull out of the tower before it crashes.

  • @Brutus:

    There are many ways to be present in the world

    And to reach an awareness of its status in the real. The real according to one tradition is that which neither comes into existence nor goes out of existence, is immutable, and can be experienced, (even though it cannot be known: not an object, only the, and the only subject). Getting there requires shedding of all baggage, including the “I”.

    Shortcuts may offer to avoid dealing with the mountain of detritus under the rug. With them, one may believe that such baggage has seemingly vanished – while it remains quite obvious to others. Hence the admonition in so many traditions that there is no shortcut.

    I lived for well over an “age” in Kentucky. An age being seven years, in the Judaic and Vedic traditions. In Louisville and Hoptown. (Hopkinsville, to outsiders).

    About seven miles from the Jefferson Davis birthplace memorial, which attracted a throng of white sheets on his birth anniversary. And the slaveowner’s flag flew at many houses. But the mountainous eastern part of the state was, like West Virginia, with the Union. And the birthplace of that other side’s leader is also in the same state.

    I think the Appalachians are the only place in ‘mericuh where one can hear English, probably a consequence of their isolation, a consequence of the terrain.

    There are only two races recognised in Kentucky (besides the Kentucky Derby): whites and n$&#%§s. And I was not white. Otherwise I might return to Kentucky today.

  • Public Health, Thermodynamics and the Cat Food Commission

    “Sixty years ago Karl Polanyi anticipated the present crisis when he wrote that belief in “free market forces” –a dogma at the core of neoliberalism – is a direct threat to the “natural environment…[which also] would result in the demolition of society.”

  • Comments are open to the public if anyone wants to vent.

  • @B9K9

    At first I thought the coding for this board was bbcode. Low and behold it’s html. So if you want bold you’ll have to use the
    anchor tags. 8-)

  • ulvfugl sez:

    Yes, de-colonisation of the mind and identity…. possible ways and means… please, let’s have a blog post….

    It’s not clear that your call for a blog post is directed to me personally, but I will offer that I’m unqualified to do it. Although I’m well enough read and and try to be honest with myself, I’ve never lived outside the U.S. and am thus a product of this environment even though I resist a lot of it. That’s my type of decolonisation: resistance and refusal to participate, such as my very small information intake from the all the usual and official organs of deceit. But I’m still an analytical thinker, which is the preferred curriculum in schools everywhere.

    I sensed early on that such an approach to life is a subtle charade, so I’ve spent most of my adult life examining alternative worldviews, mindsets, and styles of consciousness. But I don’t really try going there — meditation, drugs, naturalism, etc. I’m trapped within the one I inherited. Further, I cannot imagine being the sort of guru needed to chart the way forward to something else and wonder if such a person is really all that desirable, since the teaching ends up being made into dogma. Instead, it’s a very individual journey.

  • @ Brutus

    …directed to me personally…

    ‘Twasn’t directed towards anyone in particular, Brutus, maybe towards Guy, as it’s his choice and he knows the range of folk available…

    Yes, the ‘analytical thinker’ bit. We’re overloaded with them. Getting us nowhere. Imho.

    …the sort of guru needed to chart the way forward to something else…

    Forward to something else ? NTE ?

    We’ve got lots of minor gurus, with visions of alternative tech and eco-communities and so forth… Dave Pollard’s diagram of the new political landscape has a good schematic, I don’t see how any of them fix the mess, they’re just something to do.

    …it’s a very individual journey…

    Yes, that’s the major weakness. I have nothing else to offer. The so-called wisdom traditions all fail, for changing the masses in a hurry, in the sense of political activism. We don’t have a Ghandi or a MLK, and if the feedbacks are irreversible, we can’t fix the mess anyway.

    Perhaps the concept of reality tunnels might be helpful if someone smarter than me wants to think about possibilities, there’s a load of cross references…

  • Dave Pollard’s link

    Me, I think mass extinction event inevitable, but H, I, J, in the meantime…

  • I was sceptical of the 9-11 event from the first time I saw it on television. It was on every major network within minutes. All the guilty partieswere declared before any evidence was shown.The first questions of any criminal investigation were erased. Who had the most compelling motives for the event? Who had the means to turn two central iconic buildings in New York into a pile of steel and a cloud of dust in seconds?[i]

    Other questions soon arose in the aftermath. Why was all the evidence at the crime scenes removed or confiscated?

    Who was behind the continuous false information and non-stop repetition of “foreign/Arab terrorists”when no proof of guilt existed? Who was blocking all independent inquiry?

    Even 11 years on these questions are still not answered.

  • Humanure in the MSM science spotlight..

    Flushed with success: Human manure’s fertile future

  • Science digest requires a login, so I am posting the whole thing..

    We shouldn’t pooh-pooh the idea of fertilising crops with our urine and faeces – it’s safer than it sounds and the benefits would be huge

    See more in our photo gallery: “Sewage solutions: Six alternative toilet technologies”

    LOCALS call them honey-suckers, but don’t be fooled by the name. They cruise through the high-tech streets of India’s newest megacity, sucking up its lowest-tech problem: sewage. These trucks empty Bangalore’s million septic tanks and pit latrines, where the majority of its 10 million inhabitants relieve themselves.

    In most places, sewage trucks discharge their cargo into streams and lakes, adding to local pollution. But in Bangalore, the honey-suckers head for farms outside the city, where their stinking loads are in demand to fertilise vegetables and coconut and banana trees. The farmers pay good money for human waste; it produces bumper crops. For them, it is sweet.

    The honey-suckers of Bangalore are evidence that the world of excreta is being turned upside down. Realisation is growing that our faeces and urine are not simply waste to be disposed of as fast as possible, but a valuable resource. Flushing sewage into rivers is not just an environmental catastrophe, it is also a ludicrous waste of nutrients that could be helping to feed the world.

    Consider what you excrete. You produce some 500 litres of urine and 50 kilograms of faeces a year. Besides the water and organic carbon, your annual output contains around 10 kilograms of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium compounds, the three main nutrients plants need to grow – helpfully in roughly the correct proportions. This is sufficient to fertilise plants that would produce more than 200 kilograms of cereals, says Christine Werner of the German development agency GIZ.

    Scale that up and the world’s population excretes 70 million tonnes of nutrients annually. Applied to fields, this could replace almost 40 per cent of the 176 million tonnes of nutrients in chemical fertilisers used by the world’s farmers in 2011.

    Spreading human sewage on fields that grow crops doesn’t sound appealing, but it is safer than you might think. Urine is normally free from the pathogens that cause diseases, while soils help to filter and clean bacteria found in faeces. Processed and handled correctly, the organic carbon and nutrients in urine and faeces makes soils more fertile and better able to hold moisture. The benefits would be huge. Recycling our waste onto fields would increase food output and make life a lot easier for poor farmers, who often cannot afford fertiliser. For example, a typical family in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, annually excretes nutrients equivalent to 100 kilograms of chemical fertiliser, worth a quarter of a typical rural income, according to a study by Linus Dagerskog of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden.

    Replacing chemical fertilisers would also conserve supplies of phosphate minerals, which are running low. And while nitrogen in the atmosphere may be practically inexhaustible, converting it into fertiliser is a major user of the world’s energy. Just as the world has to find ways to reuse scarce metals, so we need to find ways to recycle nutrients.

    Thanks to public health campaigns, most people in urban areas – an estimated 2 billion people – have access to private or communal toilets. Unless they are connected to a sewer, these toilets empty either into pit latrines, usually little more than a hole in the ground that allows liquids to seep away while solids accumulate, or into septic tanks, where bacteria and an anaerobic environment encourage the solid waste to decompose.

    These repositories need periodic emptying or they overflow into the streets. Few municipal authorities step up to the task, so private enterprise has stepped in to fill the gap. Latrine and septic-tank emptying is a vast industry, little discussed and little regulated.

    In India, despite laws banning the practice, an estimated 1 million people from lower castes, mostly women and girls, are still paid to scrape the shit from the nation’s 100 million or more tanks and latrines, usually with nothing more than a shovel and bucket. They dump the contents in nearby drains or on waste ground. Such places are notorious. In the Ghanian capital Accra, most of the contents of the city’s septic tanks end up on the city’s mockingly named Lavender Hill.

    The fast-growing cities of the developing world are trying to deal with their waste in the way most industrialised countries do, by connecting every building to sewer networks. These take sewage to distant treatment plants that remove solids and other dangerous contaminants before discharging the effluent into rivers. But the infrastructure needed is vast and expensive, says Stanley Grant of the University of California at Irvine, and the treatment is energy-intensive. It also leaves behind solids, which contain most of the valuable nutrients, that end up as landfill.

    Sewer networks also rely on huge amounts of water to flush toilets – water that in many places could be better used for drinking or irrigation. Dealing with the contents of flushing toilets typically requires more than a third of a city’s water supplies, with growing cities taking water from farmers who need it to irrigate crops and feed growing populations.

    Pull down your pants

    As a result, few of the world’s megacities – and even fewer of the thousands of medium-sized urban areas – have fully functioning sewer networks. And of those, only around a tenth deliver their contents to functioning sewage treatment works. Most discharge raw waste into rivers, where it turns thousands of kilometres of waterways into lifeless open sewers. Further downstream, raw sewage helps create dead zones that now cover 250,000 square kilometres of ocean. “We need to take the waste out of waste water,” says Grant.

    He and others are urging governments to take a fresh look at what we are trying to achieve with our sanitation systems (see diagram). They should be based not on flushing our problem away but on “closing the loop” in our nutrient cycle, says Pay Drechsel of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

    Drechsel thinks it’s a good thing that farmers in some parts of the world are recycling sewage onto their fields – though they are doing it unofficially, usually clandestinely and often outside the law.

    They are reviving an old tradition. Before the invention a century ago of the chemical process for converting nitrogen from the air into the nitrates plants can use, sewage was widely spread onto urban “sewage farms”. Traditionally, it was collected in the dead of night to avoid offending people’s sensibilities – hence the term night soil – and used to grow vegetables and other crops.

    Campaigns to improve public health and the introduction of flush toilets meant that the practice grew obsolete in most places. Even so, where sewer systems developed, farmers still sometimes competed for the network’s outpourings. In a few places, this has persisted. Since the 1890s, most of the sewage from Mexico City has been piped untreated to the fields of Tula valley to the north. Today, the megacity’s 21 million people continue to fertilise more than 100,000 hectares with their faeces. The remains of the city’s digested beans, tortillas and chilli peppers double yields of corn and almost triple the rentable value of farms, says Blanca Jimenez of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. Shit has made Tula valley farmers wealthy.

    The practice is going through a purple patch in many urban areas in the developing world (see diagram) – especially in dry regions where farmers value the guaranteed year-round irrigation as much as the nutrient supply. In Pakistan, sewage grows a quarter of the country’s vegetables. In the Indian state of Gujarat, farmers compete for the sewage at annual auctions, preferring it to freshwater irrigation.

    Now, the honey-sucker trucks are offering farmers another option – the sewage from millions of septic tanks and pit latrines. Increasingly, the drivers of these trucks have found that they do not have to run the gauntlet of public opprobrium by dumping their loads onto wasteland or into drainage canals. Farmers within and around cities will gladly take their “honey”.

    “Sometimes the drivers charge the farmers, and sometimes they pay them. It depends on the season and the market,” says Vishwanath Srikantaiah of Biome Systems, a Bangalore-based consultancy that has investigated the practice in the city. Typically, farmers put the sewage into drying pits to kill pathogens and to concentrate the nutrients so that they can be dug into the soil more easily. During the dry season, though, they pour still-liquid sewage into dug channels, like regular irrigation.

    The economics are good. Like the outflows of sewers, latrine slops increase the income of some farmers by thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, a single truck driver can service a population of 20,000 people, and generate an income of $50,000 a year, twice the price of a new truck.

    Vishwanath says that septic tanks emptied by honey-suckers offer not only a cheap alternative to the construction of sewers, but a superior solution – saving water while delivering fertiliser to farmers, improving soils and boosting food production. Their services should be scaled up not shut down.

    Not everyone agrees. The biggest argument against agricultural recycling of sewage – whether from sewers or latrines and septic tanks – is that it carries disease. While urine is largely pathogen free, faeces are rich in viruses, bacteria and worms. There are more than 2 million deaths a year worldwide from diarrhoea and other diseases associated with human waste. Most of these are down to poor hygiene, such as a lack of hand washing, and in areas where people still defecate in the open. Farming or eating the crops fertilised by sewage is thought to play a minor role.

    The trouble is there are few reliable studies. A rare investigation of farmers, by Indian researchers, looked at 22 villages near the Musi river, which is little more than a sewer for the city of Hyderabad. It found that almost half of households irrigating their fields with the sewage flow reported fever, headaches and skin and stomach problems during the previous year – twice the rate in a control village that used clean water for irrigation. The highest disease rates were among women who weeded the fields.

    Another study looked at what happened to the crops grown by sewage farmers in the cities of Ghana. Most of them grow salad vegetables such as lettuces that are sold in street food and eaten by some 700,000 people, says Drechsel. He calculates this could cause up to half a million cases of mild diarrhoea a year, nearly one per consumer.

    The instant reaction is to ban the practice. But a more practical approach would be to improve hygiene. To maximise the benefits of recycling sewage onto land without creating health problems, safe practices for handling faeces are vital, says Drechsel. The parasitic protozoa and viruses present in faeces cannot multiply outside the human body so simply storing the waste in ponds before applying it to the fields kills many dangerous pathogens as the sewage dries out. But this requires months rather than weeks to be fully effective. Things can be speeded up by sprinkling wood ash or rice husks over the faeces, or by adding other alkaline materials such as lime. In combination with washing salad vegetables before sale, this can eliminate more than 90 per cent of the health risks, says Dennis Wichelns, principal economist at IWMI. Incinerating the waste destroys all pathogens and parasites, but it reduces the nutrient content. The problem, Wichelns admits, will be finding ways to encourage farmers and food sellers to adopt such practices.

    An end to flush and forget

    The best way to grab most of the advantages of nutrient and water recycling without imposing health hazards is to treat sewage before giving it to farmers. A typical sewage works will remove obvious solids like sanitary towels, and leave the rest to settle to the bottom of ponds, before using bacteria to eat some of the organic material. These processes can remove most pathogens while leaving behind most of the nutrients.

    Irrigating with treated sewage effluent is increasingly popular in developed countries short of water too. For example, Israel uses around 70 per cent of the treated effluent from its sewage treatment works for irrigation.

    With more intense chemical treatment, sewage effluent can be reused for drinking. In Singapore, for example, they have branded their treated effluent NEWater. “It is cleaner than regular tap water,” says Yap Kheng Guan, senior director of Singapore’s water utility. While most of the NEWater goes to industries that need very pure water, such as microchip manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, some is added to the city’s drinking water reservoirs. Orange County in California filters treated sewage through rocks beneath the county, before pumping it up to fill the taps of more than 2 million residents. And London’s drinking water has typically been drunk several times by people living in towns upstream of the river Thames, each time being cleaned up and returned to the river before being extracted again.

    The truth is the days of “flush and forget” must come to an end, even in the developed world. We should be recycling our faeces and urine in the same way we recycle scarce metals. In some places, that will involve advanced technology. But in much of the world that is a long way off. And where water is in short supply, even flushed sewer systems may be an unaffordable luxury. For billions of people in developing countries the best option, both economically and ecologically, may be septic tanks, the honey-suckers and the return of the sewage farm.

  • Thanks to Daniel for educating me, re Baltasar Gracian, whom I’d not heard of, good thing I happened to scroll through or I’d have missed those links

    Memento Mori

  • You know that story about how the little girl at the seashore with her grandfather happen upon a thousand starfish washed up and stranded on the beach? She agonizes over the mass death, picks one up and throws one back into the ocean. Grandpa says “it wont matter” (or something to that effect) and she says “it matters to that one”. This is where I am.

    I do move turtles off the road. I try not to indulge in the anger towards the already dead that run them over. I try and make things better for individual creatures, environments, situations, I encounter. Will it stop the NTE? of course not, but you still have a life to spend on the way there. There is a way to rejoice in the little beauties and also recognize the truth in the Tennyson poem quoted above. Somebody wrote in the comments last post about how life on the farm was an education in the horror of the natural world. I agree. I stopped talking about NTE, PO, collapse, etc. with others; but I do think this, the herd is nervous, death is in the air and everyone can smell it. I think more people are awake than some of you think.

    I feel grief; not about my death, about the death of other living things. About carelessness and selfishness and foolish superficial concerns. It blows my mind to still see left/right political arguments considering our collective situation. But I dont feel depressed. I dont argue much, I dont need to be agreed with, I sure wouldnt make it my business to inform a young family their kids are doomed. Then what?

    I come here because this is a smart group of people and I have learned so much. This situation is horrific and remarkable somehow all at once. It is standing at the edge of self inflicted abyss as a witness. I cant do anything about it, but i have to know, and I have to be in it fully. I am not checking out.

    @Kathy C: I saw the squash borer eggs because I had my reading glasses on.

  • .
    You can prep for a date with perfume,
    You can prep the meal you consume,
    For the fun to resume,
    Or a test, I presume,
    But there’s no way to prep for doom.

  • Musing: I notice that most people – including all of my friends, and even the ones that believe in climate change etc etc. – really don’t seem to care. It leads me to the question of whether there is something wrong with me that I do. What’s the point? Maybe we are supposed to be bacteria blazing through the last of the agar in our little petri dish. But I struggle with why I can’t get comfortable with the hedonistic attitude I witness everywhere. Why the hell do I care when the universe itself doesn’t give a rat’s ass?

  • ‘Be Drunken’
    Be Drunken, Always. That is the point; nothing else matters. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weigh you down and crush you to the earth, be drunken continually.

    Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please. But be drunken.

    And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace, or on the green grass in a ditch, or in the dreary solitude of your own room, you should awaken and find the drunkenness half or entirely gone, ask of the wind, of the wave, of the star, of the bird, of the clock, of all that flies, of all that speaks, ask what hour it is; and wind, wave, star, bird, or clock will answer you: “It is the hour to be drunken! Be Drunken, if you would not be the martyred slaves of Time; be drunken continually! With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please.”
    ~ Charles Baudelaire

  • Kathy C

    Re the postings…

    My assessment was about quality, not quantity. You and ulvfugl are neck and neck IMO.

  • Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please. But be drunken.

    The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Omar Khayyám

    Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
    A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse–and Thou
    Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
    And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

    In the Sufi tradition, the “Loaf of Bread” is virtue, the “Flask of Wine” is insight, the “Book of Verse” is guidance, and “Thou” is the Reality, the Self of all selves.

  • ulvfugl

    No I have not really read about the Crusads battles, like you mentioned.

    I heard somewhere the men on the Enola Gay, were fixated on hitting central Hiroshima, and aimed their targeting on a christian enclave there, from a different denomination to their own, WTF !!!

    The Chaplain to those men, I’m not sure if he was also a crew member, had a deeply felt remorse and self disgust for his endorsment of their actions, and publicly recanted any blessings he bestowed on them, saying that no divine being would ever desire such a thing as a nuclear bombing of a city, as they did.

    He gets points for coming clean, but somehow I don’t think the guy forgave himself deep down. I would find it well nigh impossible too were it me. But to be fair, I would not have done it in the first place.Imagine if Christians had actually obeyed Jesus on the ‘thou shalt not kill’ commandment?
    A different world would be now…perhaps.

  • The second mission of the Army is to take care of the troops. Not bringing to bear all the force one can exert on a vacillating adversary to quit vacillating, thereby not shortening the conflict by even one minute and not saving the life or limb of even one soldier under command is a betrayal of that soldier’s trust and loyalty.

  • @ Ozman

    …not really read about the Crusads

    Essential reading, dear Ozman, if one wishes to understand European history, and indeed much else, and full of incredible, mind boggling incidental stories, google Children’s Crusade, and Melisende of Jerusalem, for example.

    …But to be fair, I would not have done it in the first place.

    Hahaha, yes, an interesting thought experiment, to place yourself in the role of, well, any character in history, and consider what you would have done, in those circumstances…

    Afaik, there’s no solid evidence that Jesus ever existed, although someone came up with those words attributed to him. The trouble with the ‘thou shalt not kill’ commandment, is that it lacks some qualifications and detail. If Christendom had stuck to it, what happens when the awesome magnificent ferocity of Genghis Khan arrives, like army ants, devouring everything in their path ? Didn’t his conquest kill so many people that it actually effected the climate, I seem to recall ?

    Some people claim buddhists are superior at pacifism but I think the reality has been they are often just as bad as everyone else, just human. There’s the big difference between what works for an individual, and what works when scaled up for a tribe or a nation or state.

  • @ Robin D.

    That’s all very well, if you follow that religion, and if you are a part of the soceity, but I personally, do not follow that religion, nor do I belong to any such soceity.

    You seem to think that you can apply rationality to war. I do not accept that initial premise.

  • Heck, we’re all going to die… some music.

  • You seem to think that….

    Each person has a perspective.

  • During the middle ages, half the crop land was left fallow. I believe that waste was applied to those areas and left alone for a year. They made it work. Another good idea is to apply human waste to areas that grow animal feed. Then apply animal waste to areas that grow human food. Spreading on fresh vegetables is asking for trouble. Using trucks is not in the future.

    In conclusion, it’s too little and too late. First, the cities must go. We need an asteroid…or NTE.

    By the way, an asteroid may cloud the air for a while and cause cooling but when the dust clears, we continue to warm up. The CO2 is still up there. So will be the radiation.

  • @ Robin D.

    Each person has a perspective.

    Yes. Some 7 billion of them. Each with a mind that tells them stories, according to their belief system, according to their cultural conditioning.

    So, my own position would be, move to higher ground, no belief system.

    That does not make your perspective wrong or incorrect or faulty, although it means the view, the panorama, is more limited, because you see it through a filter.

    In fact, I respect what you said …thereby not shortening the conflict by even one minute and not saving the life or limb of even one soldier under command is a betrayal of that soldier’s trust and loyalty.

    If one happens to be involved in that business, then do the work honourably and properly. It’s not the soldiers who make the wars, is it, or who cause the fuck ups.
    I see soldiering as controlled violence, which, as in martial arts, is a skilled trade.
    It would be much better if there were no need for it. But we ( in Britain ) tried that long ago, re the Vikings, by saying ‘Please don’t come here and kill us, here’s some Danegeld if you’ll go away and kill someone else’. Didn’t work, did it, just encouraged them to come back more often. Bastards. :-)

    But what I am saying, I have no such loyalty, I serve in no army, nor follow any religious doctrines, and if I choose to fight for anything, then my constituency is the fauna and flora, and the very small portion of humans who love and respect nature and wildlife.

  • OZ man “My assessment was about quality, not quantity. You and ulvfugl are neck and neck IMO.” Is that a compliment or an insult?

  • Bailey “Why the hell do I care when the universe itself doesn’t give a rat’s ass?” Programming. Critters that pass on their gene have their genes in the next generation. Critters that have gene programs to try to stay alive are more likely to have their genes in the next generation. Why are you aware of the mess we are in when others are oblivious – bad programming. The efficient brain uses energy to be aware of the most likely treats. Chickens are afraid of hawk shapes, not duck shapes even though migrating ducks might carry H5N1 and vultures don’t attack live adult chickens. Depressed people do not function as well so the brain uses denial and happy chemicals to keep most people unaware of the fact that life is meaningless and constantly vigilant of strangers.

    All that said, the world is awash with meaning. When someone you care about hugs you it usually means they like you. When your dog wags its tail upon seeing you it definitely means it likes you. When you see a snake shaped figure in the grass it means you should make sure its not a copperhead (here in the south anyway). When you hear the phone ring it means someone is calling you, a robo call is in place, or someone dialed a wrong number.

    We are meaning detecting devices so we constantly search for meaning, its just that sometimes we try make that MEANING we are searching for when all there is is meaning.

  • Redeft – ah reading glasses for borer detection. Smart move. Caring about what you can do not what you can’t do, also smart move. That is why I could care for babies in Haiti and not have it get to me. Each night a few would die, each day there would be a few more. What got to me was realizing that with a species out of balance, saving babies might not be good. A big stretch of depression over that realization….

  • So here we are, a small collection of individuals professing our allegiance to Mother Earth and trying to do the right thing in our everyday circumstances, while down in DC, where our vaunted “watchdog agencies” are on the job everyday protecting us from harm we have this example:

    Unidentified viral-fungal-like pathogen crosses into multiple kingdoms: Plant & Animal/Human. Rarely, if ever, seen in nature before.

    Following a 6 year approval battle, the USDA fully deregulated Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa in January 2011. A week later, they partially deregulated GM sugar beets. This occurred despite Secretary of Agriculture’s Tom Vilsack’s knowledge of a stark warning letter by Dr. Don M. Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology, Purdue University two weeks prior, who found a link between the modified organisms and the proliferation of the new pathogen. Huber knew about its presence in Roundup Ready soy and corn and sought to hold off the GE alfalfa calling the situation an “emergency.”
    (read the rest if you can stand it)

  • Now, i know most of us couldn’t care less about the financial sector where it’s like the wild west, but ya just gotta here this short video:

    Wall Street Setting Up Financial Armageddon

  • Jeez, Tom, one could get the idea that TPTB don’t care about us, huh?

    Yesterday, I could laugh. Today, not so much.

  • Kathy, I agree with you and I guess I understand why I care from a causative perspective. But why do I continue to care knowing this has no ‘effective’ value? Even from a local perspective, all my environmental effort has been a waste over the years. I do need some of those happy denial chemicals.

  • Tom, I am no longer a believer that any ‘soft’ problems can bring the economy down. There has always been and will always be financial rabbits in the hat to keep this machine going. I have been hearing collapse since the 80’s. Only when the ‘hard’ wall of environmental, food, water, resources etc problems hit, will it truly collapse (but then far too late).

  • @kathy c: what else could you do once they were here? I believe your compassion towards the individual babies was the correct response. Considering the context of species overshoot saving babies was like adding drops to a waterfall.

  • Kathy C

    “Is that a compliment or an insult?”

    Nice framing there, which I didn’t foresee of course.

    Maybe I will keep my compliments to myself.

    But I get it now. In both your and ulvfugl’s view I compared you each to a rotten apple. How could I have been so stupid. I was actually saying I think you both are sweet Cherries, but, not to worry.

    No insult nor any complaint intended.

    And I was rather specifically pointing to and praising the links you both bring, not the bickering, nor criticism of either of you two.

  • One cummudgeon does not a feud make.

    Healthy self assurence, resolve, doggedness, and determination are fine attributes in a world where people will always be lining up to criticise.
    If that turns out to be the case, I would be asking myself why it has turned out that way, at least in the beginning when I first noticed it turning out that way, and then at periodic intervals therafter untill some light came on the subject. But that’s just me.

    Of course, it may just be that it is ‘par for the course’ when one discusses things outside the mainstream, and in that case my previous statement could be moot, but those characteristics I just named:

    ‘Healthy self assurence, resolve, doggedness, and determination’

    are also attributes of the terminator, who exists for a special kind of unalterable mission, and purpose, and perhaps where humans are concerned, could be tempered with some greater compassion, flexability, supportive gestures and communality of heart.

    Come to think of it, that may just make the terminator human.

    Just sayin.

  • Bug city or Bird haven…either way it aint good.

    ‘Insect Drone Swarms to be “Hidden in Plain Sight”‘

    A snippet:

    “As drone expert, P.W. Singer said, “At this point, it doesn’t really matter if you are against the technology, because it’s coming.” According to Singer, “The miniaturization of drones is where it really gets interesting. You can use these things anywhere, put them anyplace, and the target will never even know they’re being watched.”

    This is the promise made to be fulfilled in the Air Force video below. Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs), combined with the ability to harvest energy, will enable insect-sized drone swarms to be dropped from military aircraft to stay aloft for a prolonged amount of time, offering a host of functions, including assassination.”

    Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it Superman?….no it just a bird.

    Think again.

  • Orwellian climate double-speak dominating discussion

    Groundbreaking study glimpses life in a warmer world:

    The 15-year research project, led by the Government’s research company, GNS Science, has found some startling conclusions that have stunned the international scientific community.

    Climate change models, used by governments to predict how quickly the planet will heat up due to man-made carbon emissions, are underestimating the dangers, says research leader Dr Chris Hollis.

  • Well stated indeed: Red Eft Says:
    February 21st, 2013 at 7:10 pm

  • OZman – sorry to put you in a bind there. But of course you are a wise person who can see the good in the many multiple ways of looking at the world. So thank you for the compliment :) And thank you for being so open to all ways of seeing things. I don’t see some of the things you see but I respect you for the way you treat your seeing what you see, if that makes any sense.

  • @ Red Eft

    “I come here because this is a smart group of people and I have learned so much. This situation is horrific and remarkable somehow all at once. It is standing at the edge of self inflicted abyss as a witness. I cant do anything about it, but i have to know, and I have to be in it fully. I am not checking out.”

    Me too, except the “checking out” part! I feel totally “checked out” when I listen to people talking about stuff that doesn’t matter anymore, like who will win the Super Bowl or the new car they just bought.

  • @ Guy McPherson

    Isn’t it amazing, the scientist, revealing the past and the remarkable insights that science provides, then looks to the future, forgets all about science, and gives us this wonderful fantasy based upon what ? fanciful optimism ? nothing at all ?

    Strategies to reduce emissions since the Kyoto Protocol have “failed dramatically”, he said, and given the amount of greenhouse gas that’s already been pumped into the atmosphere, climate change is “inevitable”.

    Soaring temperatures and rising sea levels will cause massive disruption, hardship, and famine, and are “certainly going to claim human lives”, he said.

    But despite the gloomy outlook, he is convinced mankind will adapt and ride out the storm, which could last for millions of years.

    “Over the next few centuries, global warming will impact on human infrastructure and how and where we live,” Dr Hollis said.

    “It’s threatening human civilisation, but we’re not talking about survival of the human race. We have time to prepare and the ability to adapt, but we need more debate about how we’re going to do that.”

  • I’d say it’s a bit of fanciful optimism, but mostly nothing at all

  • Guy Climate change models, used by governments to predict how quickly the planet will heat up due to man-made carbon emissions, are underestimating the dangers, says research leader Dr Chris Hollis.
    I checked the article and it further says The 15-year research project, led by the Government’s research company, GNS Science, has found some startling conclusions that have stunned the international scientific community.

    OK the word “stunned” is in there so this is another tick down on the Climate Scientist Confidence chart.

  • @ Guy McPherson, Kathy C.

    Yes, ‘stunned’…. wish they’d STOP being stunned all the time, if they paid more attention they’d stop walking into lamp posts…
    It’s rather like when Monsanto talk about ‘sound’ science, you know it means junk :-)
    Btw, re Tom’s Monsanto horror story, I think I read last night, bait dropped by air carrying synthetic rabies vaccine, appears to be spreading rabies to species that never previously had it ?? Didn’t keep the link, and anyway it’s all too much, there’s only so many ghastly stories I can assimilate… sigh…

    Ah well, I’m listening to this


  • Got a big low pressure cell here and plenty of rain on the east coast at the moment, with high winds up further north.

    With the last link…notice that on Saturday 10:00 pm, which is still about 19 or so hours in the future from now as I post, the low has split and moved Westward, or perhaps dissipated to nothing… Well’just see if it does….or hang around and keep raining.

    Does anyone think they are just not calling it what it is…a tropical storm? On the news it was reported winds reached 188 km/hour at Balina in NE NSW on the coast. The same website states storm and hurricane force winds are 88 km/hr plus.

    More flooding I suspect.

  • Richard Duncan’s latest update to his Olduvai Gorge theory has been posted at The Social Contract. It’s here.

  • Did anyone see “Dilbert” yesterday?

  • The transition dilemma ( TD) states that a successful transition town would also be a magnet for desperate and dangerous people. This problem could be solved in each town by a reliable communication network and a strong defense unit.

    Isn’t that slightly naive and unrealistic ? As Ripley, B9K9, and some other voices have mentioned, there’s sections of the population who are equipped and highly trained to take over anything THEY want.

    Re SH freaky weirdness, the priest laughing all through the funeral service, making jokes, as if it was a comedy routine, the inappropriate strange behaviour of so many parents and others, all hints at mind control, imo, Paul Simon singing Sound of Silence at the funeral, which is a military-intelligence code word for certain psychotronic weapons of mass mind-control… does anybody think that such technology and other devastating techniques would not be deployed and used by TPTB, to get whatever they wanted, in the event of social collapse and chaos ? They have long range emotional disruption stuff, how are the transition town permies and hippies and compost makers with their ‘strong defence units’ going to compete against satellite weapons and laser beam weapons and drones and neuro-chemicals and all kinds of classified crap that incapacitates people that nobody has even heard of ?

    SSSS (Silent Sound) mass-hypnosis do-able

  • @Guy McPherson

    Guy, thanks for the update on Duncan’s Olduvai theory and other informative links in this thread. I became aware of Duncan’s Olduvai Theory many years ago via Jay Hanson’s website

    Brutus, thank you for your essay.

  • More bad news:

    “A climate tipping point of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels has been discovered.” From today’s journal Science.

    And as we all know, we’ve passed that mark, so it’s all downhill from here, folks.

    Some will hold on to hope.
    Some will deny to the end.
    Some will check out early.
    Some will think they can be the last ones standing.
    Some will turn to violence.
    Some will turn inward and wait.
    Some will decide to fill their last days with love.
    Some will descend into religion, mainstream and/or fringe.
    But all will die, some horribly, some gently, some in between.

    And all will believe their choice was the “right” one, the “moral” one, even when the circumstances that gave rise to these unreal concepts are gone. But without them, it seems humans are totally adrift!

    Bloom County cartoon:

    Grandpa and Milo are playing a new war boardgame that Grandpa has just purchased and brought home to the boarding house.

    Grandpa has the first move:

    “My card says I move one tank division over your border.”


    “WOOSH! I respond with 500 thermonuclear missiles speeding to the west!”


    “The ensuing world-wide firestorm burns every living thing off the plant earth as it sails off into space, a charred relic of four billion years of evolution! ** I WIN ** !!”

  • Another take:

    Quote: “To really internalize this information means you would need to accept things like:

    – You are among the last people that will ever walk the Earth
    – Your children won’t survive to middle age
    – All of the beauty, culture, and scientific discoveries we’ve unlocked will return to the ether from whence they came.”

    Then all these stupid comments at the end of the post, including all reactions you can think of. One commenter says this:


    Some of those tipping points that are noteworthy are:

    1) the fact that eHux is now missing from over 40 percent of it’s natural range. Ehux is significant because: A) they are the primary carbon pump-down processors for the oceans, B) they are the basis for nearly all food chains, C) they are the primary producers of free atmospheric oxygen, and D) their outgassing of dimethyl sulfide becomes the primary condensate source for 80 percent of oceanic cloud formation, which profoundly affects planetary albedo. —> Positive feedback escalating unchecked

    2) a significant portion of the Gulf Stream has split off from the primary current and is now running up the Fram Strait, dumping very warm tropical water onto the underside of the polar ice, increasing the rate of melt from the underside and accelerating the loss of sea ice, as well as increasing the rate of destabilization of glaciers on land that are being held back by the sea ice. —> Positive feedback escalating unchecked

    3) another side effect of the Gulf Stream is that the deep sea water in the polar seas begins to warm at a much deeper level than previously, which destabilizes the methane clathrates at or below 3,000 meters. This past summer at least 4 teams took CO2 readings of 400 ppm and identified at least 8 separate ocean plumes of methane a kilometer or more in diameter. Current hypothesis is the CO2 levels are a result of the decay of some of that new methane. —> Positive feedback escalating unchecked

    4) those are all troubling enough but the one that scares me most is the effect of latent heat in relation to ice melt and temp increases. We will get some bumps and hiccups along the way over the next few years but the second that polar ice is gone, we are likely to see enormous temp increases. And they are saying it’s very likely the Arctic sea ice will be completely gone by 2017. Another contributing factor to this is that global dimming is masking aproximately 2 degrees of warming that has already occurred. Combine those two – the ice goes out and something disrupts the oil supply so planes, cars, trains, boats and factories all shut down and we are very likely to see an 8 degree jump over the course of one summer. —> Positive feedback escalating unchecked

    And the reality is that all these denier asshats are just trolling. They are both ignorant and stupid and the sooner they get deselected the better it will be for the rest of us. They will not be convinced and you should quit trying. Even when something unthinkable happens, say a city like Chicago gets summer temps of 145 for 3 weeks in a row and the power fails and we lose half a million people to heat stroke in 3 days, those deniers will be saying it’s just a fluke.

    The science is real, and anyone with a modicum of intelligence can learn what it is and understand it. If you don’t learn the science then you are choosing to remain willfully ignorant, and to me, that is utterly contemptible. There is no controversy about global heating. There are simply 3 groups: 160 governments and 97 percent of thousands of scientists in dozens of disciplines around the world who understand more or less what is happening and are in general agreement about it; the paid flacks owned by the Heartland Institute, the Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobil who are exceptional liars trained to sow confusion; and those who lack sufficient basic scientific education to be able to distinguish between the previous two groups.

    While we do not know this for certain, the data is extremely compelling and appears to be warning us that we may be facing our own extinction. If this is true and we can intervene and lessen that likelihood and you idiots laugh and point and make fun without doing your level best to see if it’s true or taking steps to mitigate that possibility, then you deserve every second of a very miserable end. Unfortunately you will take your families along with you, so once again the many innocent suffer at the hands of the ignorant and arrogant few.

  • BCN: great cartoons (maybe THAT’S the way to reach the masses!)

    U: yeah, i read somewhere where a couple of college kids hacked a drone too (and we know Iran did it, so it’s possible). About the powers that be and their supposed weapons: once there’s nothing to eat and no available water, once the environment becomes too toxic to even be breathing the air or walking around (radiation) their weapons will become useless, like cars, trucks, tanks and airplanes. When we’re all in the same boat (think of a tsunami) people will be powerless, money will buy nothing of any value and all will be swept away. Whether some last another day or weeks may make them wish they had died with the rest. The police and military will be unable or unwilling to continue in their roles as they learn of the predicament that NTE is.

    Guy: yeah, i think that the “we still have time” meme gives people the impression that we WILL do something about it, though “what” we can do borders on grasping at straws at this point, and no one ever says WHEN we’ll tackle the problem (wait til they discover it’s far too late). It’s complete nonsense.

    Ya know what else is nuts? i told you all that i’m trying to do the best i can with the remaining time, so i’m involved with a few environmental groups. One of them is trying to get our local state senator to co-sponsor a bill to put a moratorium on fracking in our state (PA). To do this we need to convince him that tbe constituents in his district support this. So the group split up the tasks of calling religious leaders, business people, high school and college student representatives and various other environmental organizations to attend a sit-down with the senator in about a month. Well i got to call a conservancy group that does good work here in southeastern PA this morning to ask someone to please attend. The snooty woman on the other end of the line carefully explained how they’re a relatively small group that has limited resources and would have to decline. i was stunned – i though this would be a “no-brainer.” All they have to do is send someone out to sit and listen! How the fuck hard is that! What, you can’t afford the gas? i tell ya – i was so pissed i jumped all over the lady and told her she was sticking her head in the sand. She called me obnoxious and gave me the “don’t lecture ME” routine before she hung up.

    i’m probably the wrong person to be schmoozing with comfortably employed desk people so that they’ll participate in this fucking losing battle to care about where they live and what’s going on that threatens us all. i can’t stand the glacial pace of incremental change for the better when the environment is turning to shit every day. These people should know that we’re running out of time and if they don’t – i don’t have time for them!

    i’m about this close to throwing in the towel, but i’ll calm down, learn from the experience and try again with a much larger environmental group that already is working up in the area where the fracking is taking place and do more questioning than rhetoric to see if they’ll send a rep. Now i know why some brave people go the “terrorism” route: blowing up equipment, sabatoging plans with petty destruction (like flattening all the truck tires), and chaining themselves to trees and bulldozers.

    sorry for the rant .. .

  • More coverage of the Science article from the BBC, with some impressive pictures:

  • BCN: that’s why i think the collapse is going to happen quickly as all that permafrost melts, while humanity tries the feeble “hail Mary” pass of a geo-engineered technical fix (letting jets use dirtier fuel in their commercial flights which will somehow reflect incoming sunlight).

  • OzMan says: Sarah Connor screaming “we’re all dead!”

    You’re already dead, ‘cause ahead,
    Too much heat will become too widespread;
    Think you’re safe and alive?
    You’re not going to survive—
    Everyone! You’re all fucking dead!

  • Have a look at the weekly average C02 at Mauna Loa:

  • Yep as Guy noted Duncan’s latest Olduvai is up
    No mention of what happens to the nuclear reactors when the grid goes down. That will be my main question to him on the discussion on America2point0 – when it commences.

    As U notes stunned perhaps comes from walking around with your head in your studies and then suddenly looking up and there is a lamp post. Whack.

    Ah well I was stunned when I realized that we had been looking at Duncan’s projection of grid collapse for years and until sometime after Fukushima occurred it didn’t dawn on us what this meant. Yet the information was out there. We just didn’t put two and two together. Duh…

    Basically BtD has the best commentary on what is ahead. Forget the experts….

  • If you’re a low-lying island state, climate change is not some abstract problem far out on the event horizon, it’s more of an urgent existential threat—the kind of thing you’d hope would spur the leading global security body to take bold action. If only it were that simple.
    In the latest episode of Slate’s video series The World Decrypted, Carne Ross deconstructs the U.N. Security Council’s latest puzzlingly passive response to global warming.

    Here’s some additional background on the story:
    This report suggests that some low-lying states may need to be evacuated within a decade, as the rate of sea level rise is worse than anticipated: Oceans are rising 60 percent faster than the U.N. had projected. The island state of Kiribati is already making plans to relocate its population.

    Not sure, will this qualify for a tick on my Climate Scientist Confidence chart? No stunned or surprised scientists but a puzzled former British diplomat – maybe 1/2 a tick.

  • @ Tom

    About the powers that be and their supposed weapons: once there’s nothing to eat and no available water, once the environment becomes too toxic to even be breathing the air or walking around (radiation) their weapons will become useless, like cars, trucks, tanks and airplanes. When we’re all in the same boat (think of a tsunami) people will be powerless, money will buy nothing of any value and all will be swept away. Whether some last another day or weeks may make them wish they had died with the rest. The police and military will be unable or unwilling to continue in their roles as they learn of the predicament that NTE is.

    I agree, when things reach that terminal stage you describe. But that wasn’t my point. I was commenting upon Duncan’s Transition Town defence idea.

    Transition to what ? That terminal condition ? Well, long before we’d get there, there’s be the stage I mentioned. That is, some folk have the technological advantage.

    Yes, technology depends upon technology depends upon technology. You can’t keep the high tech stuff going without the spares, the back up, the knowledge base, so eventually, that advantage declines.

    But look, for example the Mexican drug cartels, folks of that sort of ruthless mindset. They don’t care about ‘transition’. If they want electricity and they see a nuclear power plant that makes it, they’ll seize it for themselves. They’ll kidnap the technicians and make them work it at gunpoint if necessary. I mean, they’ve set up their own alternative mobile phone network. If somebody tries to prevent them, a few disemboweled corpses convey the message.

    Perhaps this kind of mediaeval warfare using 21st C. tech only lasts a decade, I don’t know. I don’t know what Transition Towns in USA look like in Duncan’s imagination, or what sort of defences he thinks they’d need to be impregnable and yet still be able to feed themselves. But seems to me, from the lessons of history, so long as there is some oil left, some electricity left, some big guns, then the baddest guys will grab them and carve out territories they think they can hold for themselves, using all the traditional methods, basically cunning and guile, brute force, destruction and terror.
    You reward the troops with the looting, rape and pillage. That’s how it was always done.

    I just can’t imagine Transition Towns full of gardeners and food being left to get on with life in peace. That would only happen if their defences are so massive and superior that they’d deter any attack from any quarter. To keep that going they’d need their own highly regimented command and control. Who’d really want to live like that ?

    And then it’s still all in vain, because, as Kathy C. and others keep reminding us, you can’t defend against climate change or Fukes going off… if it doesn’t rain for a year, or the precipitation is highly radioactive…

    It’s back to that thing about prolonging, extending, trying to stretch out survival, which is a very natural response. But how far does anyone want to go down a path that leads nowhere ?

  • BC Nurse Prof says:

    Some will hold on to hope.
    Some will deny to the end.
    Some will check out early.
    Some will think they can be the last ones standing.
    Some will turn to violence.
    Some will turn inward and wait.
    Some will decide to fill their last days with love.
    Some will descend into religion, mainstream and/or fringe.

    And all will believe their choice was the “right” one, the “moral” one, even when the circumstances that gave rise to these unreal concepts are gone. But without them, it seems humans are totally adrift!

    @ BC Nurse Prof:
    #1: Dayum, that’s good!

    With near term doom now intervening,
    Blown minds will be wildly careening,
    And snag any belief
    To get mental relief
    And to think that life still has some meaning.

  • Six tanks at Hanford are leaking…

    …but no reason to worry.


  • A quick update on the massive rainfall hitting the mid Eastern coast of NSW, Australia…

    ‘Big rain, wind and surf heading south in NSW’
    Brett Dutschke, Friday February 22, 2013 – 23:36 EDT

    A snippet:

    “Heavy rain, strong winds and large waves have been hitting the north coast of New South Wales hard but now the focus is shifting further south.

    In the 36 hours since 9am Thursday rain has been as heavy as 360mm in Dorrigo, on the Bellinger River, just inland of Coffs Harbour, its heaviest rain in four years. Wind has been as strong as 126km/h at Cape Byron, near Byron Bay. Waves have exceeded 12 metres off the coast of Bryon Bay and Coffs Harbour.

    Rainfall, wind and waves this high are typical of a category one cyclone.

    Between Lismore and Port Macquarie rain has brought widespread falls of 100-to-200mm, wind has generally gusted 70-90km/h and waves have averaged about four-to-five metres.

    As a result, major flooding has affected some rivers and the surrounding areas, trees have come down, roofs torn off and beaches have suffered significant erosion…..

    This won’t be the end of it regarding rainfall. The atmosphere will still be fairly humid and unstable. Low pressure troughs and moist northeasterly winds will generate showers and thunderstorms each days for the next week, mainly about the slopes, ranges and coast.

    This follow-up rain will cause aggravation for some of these areas, most likely on the north coast, where the heaviest falls should again occur.”

    It seems that at 979 Milibars the ow in the South has compressed all the patterns hanging on the East coast, which corroborates some of the predictions of CSIRO climate reports of future extended weather patterns, hanging longer in zones they previously vacated in a day or two. It is the same with hot dry, or wet windy systems, due to the lessened pressure differential in the mid lattitudes, (The Jet Stream in the Northern Hemisphere).

    If I went for a waalk in some of the places I usually go for 3-6 hours at a stretch, today, it would seem like a scene from ‘The Road’. I don’t mean boats stranded up here, or trucks in the middle of a pylon bridge, just the ‘wet dark cold grey’, something even Winston Smith would be used to.
    Welcome to just the beginning of the nightmare folks, water management, when it comes,and when it doesnt will define our near term existance, along with food availability gaps and housing shortages(due to affordability).

    I think it was ulvfugl who stated recently that TPTB have still got an infinite number of trix in their bag of bandages to keep the industrial economy rolling along. I have the same sinking feeing, or better stated, I have the same view, that leads in some weaker moments to the same sinking feeling. Then at other times I feel up for these challenges, everready to just go live in the bush, eek out some kind of neo-scavenge life with dignity.

    I went scouting over the last few days for a few sites to build a pallet tunnel humpy, and guess what, inthose two places I found evidence of someone doing the same thing some time back.

    These places were abandoned, but both had remnants of tyre planting beds, which was difficult to tell if it was for food or the green ‘alfalfa’ for medicinal smoking rituals…eh..ehm?

    Anyhow I have a design that looks like it will hold up ok, which I can replicate several times in various locations.

    It’s either that or go walkabout around this Great Southern Land, or just flap in the wind here, so to speak. There is the issue of family, which is still 6 against 1, in old world rekoning.

    Might see if Guy would periodically take my journal entries if I go ahead and move to the bush, as an Aussie style HDT living experiment, but in my case living off the debris of the oil age, NOW.(Guy, any chance?) At least it won’t be a shock when down the track it all does pile up and regurgitate itself out it’s own cloacka, (Industrial Civilisation I mean).

  • BenjaminTheDonkey

    February 22nd, 2013 at 2:39 pm
    OzMan says: Sarah Connor screaming “we’re all dead!”

    Maybe John Connor was a poet, as well as a geurilla soldier, close to as great as you? He inspired, (past tense on a future scenario,??) the remnants of humans, with the succint wit so in the rubble/varigated trenches they get a laugh before ‘the mechanical foot’ of climate change catastrophe gets them/us.

    “Everyone! You’re all fucking dead!”

    This brings to mind that if we live mechanically, the walking dead, it is so, we’re all dead.

    But, at least we are carrying the fire, we are carrying life! This ai so very clear to me, how does it get missed by the many many many marching to the grave, gravely marching ?

    Fucking Spiritual Man!

  • And then there is this, just as good a boost as your morning cup of coffee…

    ‘Chart Of The Decade – Atmospheric Methane Concentrations Over Time – Energy Bulletin’

    And here for your viewing convenience, so anyone can print a poster for their wall and manually keep track…but you will have to add a few blank sheets on the top to get thes cale right.

  • BC Nurse Prof Says:
    February 22nd, 2013 at 2:52 pm
    Have a look at the weekly average C02 at Mauna Loa:

    I have been digging into this inbetween classes this week. The change from the same week last year is approx. 3.5 ppm. The average change from Y.O.Y. Feb to Feb from 2000 to 2012 is 1.87 ppm.
    Looking at week to week change from Sept. 2012 and I noted an odd jump in ppm every 4th week starting in November. I’m unable to tell is this is what is actually measured or due to how the data is being assembled.

    Now, there is a dramatic increase (eruption?) of methane in the Barents Sea that started last month. See here:

    However, it is not at all clear if that could be related to CO2 measurments on Mauna Loa, and I’m not saying it is. That being said, the fact that both are occuring at the same time is interesting. Also interesting is that both are happening the winter after the large decrease in Arctic Ice. It could be that there is an area of the Pacific that has become a source rather than a sink. . . It could be the huge smog cloud from China made its way across the Pacific thereby causing a jump in the reading. Additionally, this is only a few data points. That being said, atmospheric CO2 has been accelerating at an accelerating rate for decades. If this is not a hiccup and is the new normal doubling time then, well, that is very bad.

    In my limited view the jump is unlikely to be as simple as one easily identified cause.

    Disclaimer: Reducing nature to math is reductionism ad absurdum. It reduces natural processes to the manageable, not the knowable.

  • One last thought before I bug out and go put some rain covers on the vegetables in the garden…

    Industrial capitalism by its very constituent institutions, agencies and functions systematically alienates humans from each other, fundamentally interrupting an ancient, powerful, and necessary aid in our happiness and survival – what we ordinarily call’ Community’.

    But, and here is the unique trick to ‘Industrial Capitalism’, it then sells it back to us. It follows therefor, if you have little money, or assets transferrable t money at will, then you have little access to community.

    What was that I heard about an epidemic of mental illness, and psycho-social disorders…..?

    An alternative is to make a quick study of human responses to natural disasters, and some industrial dissasters, like the 6.3 magnitude New Zealand Earthquake in Christchurch on Feb 22nd 2011 , where it is people themselves who still respond to their own needs as a complete group, regardless of the usual ‘social wealth gradient’- they all just give to each other, food, water, bus loads of supplies, blankets.

    ‘Grace Vineyard Community Response to 2011 ChristChurch Earthquake HQ’

    It is so sad that these manufactured roles are only shifted, and discarded when TSHTF, but still, maybe it will be rediscovering each other as equals that will help us go out with some of our 2 million years of humanity in tact. It may be a continual series of ‘humman induced’ natural disasters that force us into each others homes/remnants-of-homes and allow all to help each other, finally ridding ourselves of such a sick social structure, (especially in the West) that can come up with social inequality as a default.

    ‘Chinese flood victims in dramatic rescue from raging river’

    ‘China Army PLA mobilized 300,000 people fighting flood natural catastrophe’

    If you look at the actual people responding, and being helped it is clear they are activating a zone of social and community participation that is fully available to them, their giving selves are in the forfront of conscoiusness, temporarily supplanting the highly ritualised, ordinary boxed in ‘civilised’ norms and constraints of the ‘ modern commercial persona’.

    While clearly a piece of soft church propoganda, the ‘Grace Vineyard Community Response to 2011 ChristChurch Earthquake HQ’ video actually shows people, kids doing community activities, some games, music, singing, all of which look to be what normal humans do. Not anymore, excepting a disaster, or a ‘commercial’ festival,( which was probably once a thaksgiving for harveat festival way back.)

    Many actually feel relief, after the initial shock passes over. If you have lost a loved one, that may never pass, but others, even complete strangers assist and give unselfish human support.

    WTF is all this competition, (the Kardishans….OMG!! competitive cooking, or Uber cooking…! Shoot me now, PLEASE!)…and everything is now mediated by a commercial transaction …. WTF!

    To think that human ‘Culture’ could disappear to such an extent…
    But, yes, just don’t watch.

    I don’t, but billions do.

    Maybe we should welcome all the human disasters we can get…sans the suffering of course. That would be a real trick.

    Checking garden now…

  • @ Ozman

    …on the Bellinger River, just inland of Coffs Harbour…

    That’s the area where all my family and relatives live, I have not been in contact for many years, we fell out over the sort of issues discussed here.

    I’m still thinking about Duncan’s ‘strong defences of the transition towns’ notion.

    If perchance, the Fukes get put to bed safely somehow, ( which is impossible, in fact there are a few hundred new ones being planned to be built ) and much of the population dies from some pandemic, and the utopian transition communities keep transitioning to a ‘sustainable’ future, after the ammo has all run out and there’s no more steelworks to make howitzers… then, maybe

    The most efficient and effective low tech weapon using sustainable materials was the spear. Anybody can make one, anybody can use one. Simple. Except that, defending the theoretical transition town, how many folks reading this are actually willing to stick a spear into another human being attacking them ? It’s no good being squeamish or hesitant, is it.

    Anyway, next green tech weapon is the bow and arrow. Don’t need to be quite so up close and personal. But surely the best ever, in the historical record, has to be the Chinese repeating crossbow. Build a high stone wall around your transition town, and have thousands of these installed ready for use. I reckon they trump everything else until armour, gunpowder and firearms come along.

  • BC Nurse Prof Says:
    February 22nd, 2013 at 2:24 pm
    More coverage of the Science article from the BBC, with some impressive pictures:

    Yeah, one of the scientists is quoted as (paraphrasing) “melting permafrost will be bad for infrastructure built on it”.

    Blinders. . . .

  • “The blink of an eye”

    Pamphleteer: Hello Sir, are you aware of Climate Change?

    Norm: “If I think it is something I can do nothing about, or someone else is ‘in charge’ or makes those decidsions, I will switch off, maybe even bleet denial arguments previously scaffolded by MSN.”

    Pamphleteer: “OK…(?) Would you like to know more about Climate Change Sir, and what you can do about it ?

    Norm: “Eerr..? My life is full just now… I… I can’t cope with anymore truth, er… infomation, um… are they the same…. I don’t have the skills, intellegence or ethical framework to know the difference… I’ve been colonised and branded from birth by corporations, even while at school …. I’m all at sea…I…?

    Norms 6 y/o child: “Daddy, daddy, can we go to the movies now, please?

    Norm: “Errr….yes, some welcome distraction,( with embedded reinternalizations of the prescribed dominant norms of consumer uncritical thinking heirarchical society), from the stress of self reflection on my limitations as a human being, my silent participation in the destruction of the living planet, my lack of power, and authority to get that power…OMG, I’ve become …a…(Horror in voice) A CONSUMER.(Relief in voice) Now where was I, oh yes…

    Pamphleteer: ” Um, Sir, would you like to take a pamphlet, and read it with your daughter later, after the movie ?

    Norm: Nah! Not interested. OK, lets go, what would you like to distract with..err. see honey..?

  • BC NurseProf left off substance abuse on her otherwise very impressive list. Tom, I suggest a cocktail or some other substance of your choice. Having trouble recruiting from people who should know better is frustrating to say the least.

    Kathy C, I think the phrase, “happening sooner than projected/modeled/etc” is just another way of saying SURPRISE…..and so should be added to the index. Thoughts?

    Great links.

  • @ OzMan: Thanks dude! :D

    John Connor

    The life that you know is now passed—
    Big changes are coming on fast;
    It’s just as Mom ranted:
    Stuff you take for granted,
    It’s just…it’s not gonna last.

  • ulvfugl

    I hear you. Maybe time to get in touch, eh ?

    But in passing, I suggest if you do, that your greeting phrase not be, ‘Hi, heard you are having a bit of rain there…I told you so”.

    That will …well, you get the picture.

    Also on the issue of ramparts as defences…plenty of C4 and Plastique floating around.

    IMO anything we can imagine that is reasonably possible will happen, somewhere, sans widespread nerve agents or bioweapons, or Nuke failure.

    Notwithstanding all those, it will probably settle back into cooperative groups, and the occasional aggressive raiders, if some survive the bottleneck, that is.

    We will see!

  • Early today I read about the ancient-cave study at In the discussion there, a commenter linked to the Limits to Growth graph updated “with every predicted component recalculated with actual data from 1970 to 2000 graphed in broken lines” (… ). This was my introduction to the graph. When Guy cited the Olduvai Theory, I compared the Limits graph with the picture of the Olduvai cliff. Powerful visuals for a newbie!

    In the CD discussion, there was a brief mention of non-maintenance of nuclear reactors due to grid failure, and one commenter posed the question, How fast does a reactor go critical without maintenance?

    @Kathy: Would you please assist me by answering that question? Many thanks for your help.

    @ Guy: Does your current level of understanding regarding non-maintenance of nuclear reactors due to grid failure alter any views you presented in Walking Away from Empire? My warmest thanks to you.

  • The Weather Channel is doing a special on February 28th titled Hacking Mother Nature, basically promising new ways to “control” the weather, i suppose to get people to think that technology will once again save the day and enable humanity to undo all the damage.

    DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Michigan Department of Transportation says one-fifth of the lights along freeways in Metro Detroit aren’t working — and copper thieves are mainly to blame.

    MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said roughly 20 percent of the lights on poles and beneath overpasses on freeways in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties are dark.

    “We are responsible for about 5,500 light poles and also about 5,000 individual lights that are installed beneath overpasses,” Morosi told The Detroit News. “Right now we’re estimating 1,100 outages to those poles for a number of reasons.”

    The main reason for many of the outages, according to Morosi, is copper thieves – who are stripping metal from the transformer cabinets

  • Getting closer to reality
    Dr. Ricky Rood’s Climate Change Blog
    Should we just adapt—and not worry about our continued emissions of our energy waste into the atmosphere, ocean, and land? What would be adapt to? We started talking about the “new normal” when we calculated, in 2011, the 30-year average of temperatures from 1981 to 2010, and a new, warmer average “replaced” the 30-year average of some earlier period. In 10 more years we will have the next warmer “climate,” then the next, and the next—the “next normals.” There is no new normal. And the warming will be speeding up. There is no “just adapting” to this; there is no stable climate to adapt to. We must manage and limit our carbon dioxide waste or we will still be chasing the “new normal” in a thousand years.
    full post at the link

  • Kathy: that wunderground article comments section shows lots of deniers are still out there arguing about the data, charts and “implications” but don’t, won’t or can’t see the direction we’re heading. It’s sad really.

  • @Tom
    Kathy: that wunderground article comments section shows lots of deniers are still out there arguing about the data, charts and “implications” but don’t, won’t or can’t see the direction we’re heading. It’s sad really.

    It’s an excellent psychological study in cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias – even from those who could be presumed as very intelligent otherwise. I have been going back and forth with a local meteorologist (denier) who has been misleading the public. I recently sent him the Climate Summit Dr. Francis videos on the weather climate link. Haven’t heard back from him in a while lol. They have too much invested in being right about their ages old denial position.

  • Btw, congrats to Brutus for being the first person I’ve come across who has read The MASTER and his EMMISSARY, and who has understood the contents well enough to write an intelligent blog post about its significance ! Bravo ! :-)

  • Also, slightly related to the actual topic, memento mori, the catacombs of Naples are fascinating

  • @ Ozman

    …plenty of C4 and Plastique floating around.

    You must have missed my earlier qualification, those low tech wooden weapon scenarios only apply if/when all the ammo and modern stuff is no longer available. It’s an unlikely hypothetical situation. But it followed from the suggestion, by Duncan, that transition towns could have ‘strong defences’. Are they going to be roofed with anti-drone netting with a mesh size similar to mosquito netting, because these thing will be able to deliver nano-bio-infectious agents of all kinds, diseases genetically modified to kill certain racial groups, diseases designed to render a population temporarily paralysed or dysfunctional, whatever…

  • Speaking of acceleration of acceleration (in Climate Change) the concept was first brought to my attention in Flight Surgeon’s school in the description of forces causing injury that are generated in aircraft accidents/crashes. It was referred to as jolt, but is widely known as jerk.

    Accelerating jerk is known as snap or jounce.


    In physics, jounce is the fourth derivative of the position vector with respect to time, with the first, second, and third derivatives being velocity, acceleration, and jerk, respectively; in other words, the jounce is the rate of change of the jerk with respect to time. Jounce is defined by any of the following equivalent expressions:

    Currently, there are no well-accepted designations for the derivatives of jounce. The fourth, fifth and sixth derivatives of position as a function of time are “sometimes somewhat facetiously” referred to as “Snap”, “Crackle”, and “Pop”.

    Velocity = distance per time^1
    Acceleration = distance per time^2
    Jerk, jolt = distance per time^3
    Jounce, snap = distance per time^4
    Crackle = distance per time^5
    Pop = distance per time^6

  • Could Humans Go Extinct?
    There’s a chance we’re living in end times.
    By Fred Guterl|Posted Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, at 10:57 AM

    The unmentionable is getting more mentioned these days

    No matter what we don
    We all will die, ’tis true
    T’was always so
    Mortal ya’ know
    So don’t be sad and blue

  • Bluebird asks: @ Guy: Does your current level of understanding regarding non-maintenance of nuclear reactors due to grid failure alter any views you presented in Walking Away from Empire?

    At the time, I believed bathing in ionizing radiation eventually would kill all humans and most life on Earth. I feared that rapid climate change and accelerating environmental decline would do the trick even more rapidly, so I was promoting the notion of collapse as a solution to these disasters. Now, however, as everything falls apart at once with no serious leadership on any issue, I don’t believe there’s much hope for any except a handful of species. They’re still worth resisting the dominant paradigm.

  • Kathy C says:
    No matter what we don
    We all will die, ’tis true
    T’was always so
    Mortal ya’ know
    So don’t be sad and blue

    All My Trials

    Hush little baby, don’t cry,
    You know mother was born to die;
    Too late, humankind,
    Too late, never mind:
    All my trials soon be gone by.