The Knife and the Nun

I started exchanging physical labor for fiat currency when I was about 12 years old. Nine-month stints spent within indoctrination facilities were interrupted by summers spent clearing fields of woody debris: Small landowners converted forests to fields and other youngsters and I tossed sticks onto a “low-boy” trailer pulled by a slow-moving tractor. At the end of the day, my mom wouldn’t let me into the house until she sprayed off the first few layers of dirt with a hose. My first job was called, “picking sticks.” It was miserable work for little pay.

A couple years later, when I was stronger, I moved up the small-town ladder. Former forests had become fields of alfalfa, and I bucked bales onto a trailer pulled by a slow-moving tractor. A short ride later, we stacked the bales in the barn. The per-hour pay of $2.50 represented a modest improvement over my previous employment. Equally importantly, I felt more like a man and less like a boy when I took responsibility for my own shower at the end of the work day.

Beyond Sticks and Bales

A few odd jobs later I landed the premier employment opportunity for an 18-year-old athlete living in a small town in the interior western United States. On 1 July 1978 I secured the title of Fire Control Aide I for the Idaho Department of Lands. I wore the uniform of the era: leather work boots, a long-sleeved cotton shirt, blue jeans and a Bowie knife on my belt (the latter for easy access to cut a fire hose).

Naturally, this gig was strictly for summer. I was headed for college and, unlike the majority of today’s youngsters, I was prepared for college, at least with respect to knowledge and work ethic. I was, of course, socially, emotionally, and psychologically naive. But I was certain the ticket out of a life of labor in Nowhereburg went through college.

Along with another neophyte smokechaser, I was driven by our supervisor to the remote field camp where we were stationed. Neither of us possessed a vehicle — I bought my own first car a few years later, a thought anathema to today’s generation of entitled teens — so we were relegated to bumming a ride with anybody headed in the right direction. Since that direction included only the barest semblance of civilization, there wasn’t much traffic. On that first day of employment, the supervisor spent considerable time teaching us how to read a map along the route while he hammered into us the importance of introducing ourselves to our few neighbors as we completed the “make-work” tasks befitting young men employed for their ability to conduct strenuous manual labor for many hours at a stretch between weeks spent warding off boredom (at the time, all Fire Control Aides working for the Idaho Department of Lands were men).

It was cloudy and cool as Bill and I were driven more than two hours onto the wild Joseph Plains (named for the famous chief of the Nez Perce tribe). By the time we arrived, rain was falling. Three days into an uninterrupted downpour, we were called back to town and ordered to drive the WWII-vintage Willys jeep. Bill hailed from the city and he seemed even more inept than me so, assuming control as a control freak would, I took the wheel. The seat belts were buried beneath the recalcitrant only seat, so we didn’t bother with them.

The wipers swept the windshield erratic only when I decelerated. The defroster didn’t defrost. And every puddle in the pock-marked gravel road shot through the floor boards. Trying to cure these three ills simultaneously with a roll of paper towels led to the expected conclusion. Right before the lights went out, I recall the road coming up to meet my face.

So much for assuming control of the situation.

Now What?

Thrown from the vehicle, I awoke flat on my back and opened my eyes to utter darkness. “That’s not right,” I thought. I closed my eyes, rubbed them with my fingers, and opened them again. Cleared of the blood that had pooled in the sockets, my eyes found the clouds. I blinked into the falling rain. Problem solved.

Turning my head allowed me to see a swath of detritus between me and the jeep, now firmly lodged against a pine tree, albeit surprisingly resting on four wheels. Two shovels, two canteens, a hose reel, and two Pulaskis — the famous fire-fighting tool wielded by my grandfather and father before me — comprised a 10-foot-wide strip about a hundred feet from me to the tree.

Bringing myself to a standing position proved challenging. I had no feeling in my left leg below my hip. Yet again I thought, “that’s not right.” My two-sizes-too-small brain was stuck on obvious, with only three words at my disposal.

I remembered my traveling companion, and shouted his name a few times. Bill finally responded, and seemed no worse for wear. He wasn’t limping, and his head was bleeding slightly less than mine. Next up: find a ride to town.

Within a matter of minutes, a pickup truck appeared on the scene. The rancher rolled down his window and silently looked us over. I asked for a ride to the nearest hospital, and he invited us onto the bench seat.

Bill propped up his head — now I noticed it wasn’t staying upright unless he held it up — and introduced us: “I’m Bill, and this is Guy. We’re Fire Control Aides with the Idaho Department of Lands.” The uppercase letters in our shared title were obvious. I was proud of the title, too.

The man behind the wheel responded, “I’m Jack Green.”

Rinse and Repeat

Lacking feeling in my left leg, I asked Jack to take us to the nearest hospital. He pointed out that the nearest hospital was run by nuns in Cottonwood. I said that’d be fine. He recommended spending the extra half hour to drive to the hospital in Grangeville. I insisted to the contrary, my leg causing concern I was unable or unwilling to articulate while Bill and I passed the roll of paper towels back and forth to swab our bleeding foreheads.

Yet again, Bill pushed his head upright on his neck and introduced us, his voice tinged with pride: “I’m Bill, and this is Guy. We’re Fire Control Aides with the Idaho Department of Lands.”

Jack responded, “I’m Jack Green.”

Immersed in self-pity, I stared out the passenger-side window at the rain-soaked countryside. Every few minutes I’d wrest the roll of paper towels from Bill, peel off the outer layer or two, and apply it with all the pressure I could muster to my lacerated forehead. His own head unsupported by his hands and the roll of paper towels, Bill’s head would then fall onto his shoulder. As if for the first time, he’d push his head upright on his neck and introduce us, his voice tinged with pride: “I’m Bill, and this is Guy. We’re Fire Control Aides with the Idaho Department of Lands.”

Ever the gentleman, Jack would respond, “I’m Jack Green.”

A few dozen repetitions of this routine left me with one remaining nerve, and it was raw and exposed. Every time Bill introduced us, I yelled at him to shut up. The rancher, cool as the falling rain, never failed to introduce himself in the same level tone.

There’s no way I was riding an extra 30 minutes with these two fools. I didn’t know many Catholics, but I wasn’t afraid of nuns. We’ll take the first stop, please.

About My Leg

Covered with blankets but still shivering from shock shortly after landing bottom-side up on a gurney, I was congratulating myself for making it this far. I was still worried about my numb left leg, but I could no longer hear Bill’s endless identical introductions, and the hospital didn’t seem so bad. It probably helped that I’d had no prior experience with hospitals. Not as a patient, in any event.

Had I been fully cognizant, the veritable absence of activity would have served as a warning beyond the one offered by Jack Green. Not only was I not fully cognizant, I was self-absorbed, as usual, and also busily bargaining with the Christian god I thought I’d abandoned a few years earlier. Blood was pouring out my forehead, I was shaking like a hummingbird in hailstorm, and my left leg was dead.

Enter the nun. She came in behind me, removed the blankets to expose my naked backside, and promptly removed the blade of the Bowie knife previously embedded into my left cheek. The one characterized by the large muscle known as gluteus maximus. The feeling returned in my left leg quite abruptly. My leg afire in pain, the nun waves the broken blade before my eyes and asks, “Is this yours?”

My immediate thought: Please put it back.

My second thought: I should’ve listened to Jack Green about the hospitals.

The latter thought was reinforced several times during the subsequent 24 hours. For example, the ER doctor was stitching up my forehead while the nun was pouring Novocaine into the new hole in my left cheek. Each burning drop of Novocaine caused my head to jerk into the man with the needle, thus assisting the mostly incompetent doc with the suturing process. Far more importantly was Bill’s broken neck, which the hospital failed to diagnose. I can only imagine how much money I cost the Idaho Department of Lands when Bill and his family sued the organization. Then, as now, I had the good fortune of having nothing for which to sue.

Silver Lining

As always, I’m Mr. Silver Lining. Shortly after the voluminous reports were complete, every vehicle under the care of the Idaho Department of Lands sported a roll-bar. In this most litigious of societies, my actions induced the organization to protect against idiocy by protecting idiots. We progressives call this progress.

And there’s a bit more, although it’s as personal as this self-indulgent essay. If you’ve made it this far, there’s still time to avert the worst.

I learned a lesson about immortality. I don’t have it.

I learned a lesson about control. I don’t have it, either.

I learned a lesson about hubris. Suddenly, I had less. By now, I have considerably less than I did in 1978.

Comments 208

  • Think on this.
    In order for evolution to proceed we have something called selection. What that means is that some critters die before or without reproducing and other dies only after reproducing. Think of all the bacteria, protozoa, mammals and other hominids that had to die so that evolution could deliver homo sapiens. They all died so we could be. Is there anything about being human in the present day that makes all the deaths that got us here worth it? All those deaths just so we could suicide our species and most if not all of the rest of the species that also got to today…..
    Think on it.

  • A life without examination
    Isn’t worth it (Socrates citation);
    But I’m not persuaded
    It gets much upgraded
    On closer investigation.

  • Upon closer investigation
    Life isn’t worth examination
    I have to conclude
    In the end we are food
    Which I suppose is reincarnation

  • Think on this;

    If phytoplankton had evolved to be multicellular, then worms, then legs and so on, there may have been little green beings walking around and getting their energy by lying in the sun, rather than eating their neighbor. There might have been peace on earth.

  • Now, if some of those algae strings manage to get close to shore rather than die in deep water, and then come ashore, a new species colored green could be walking around. Might take some time.

    At least man didn’t destroy time…well not yet anyway.

  • dairymandave, don’t they need a few minerals as well as energy from the sun? And don’t they need space to soak up the sun? And don’t they have any wastes?

    What keeps their numbers down so they each have a place in the sun, a few minerals and a place for their wastes? They would fight for room, a few minerals and toilets.

  • dairymandave, I was listening to Paul Wheaton (a sometimes-annoying but generally informative and well-meaning permaculture promoter) on a podcast where he mentioned farmers in Montana or someplace like that spending $3000 on chemicals for a crop that brought them $3000. The only thing that made this madness seem to “work” was the fact that so much agribusiness is hugely subsidized.

    My husband and I spent a nice evening at a local diversified organic farm. They seem to be having fun, although I don’t know how they are making out money-wise so far:

  • .
    Dying’s a subject profound:
    It’s about being stiff in the ground;
    But it’s all good with me
    If I could guarantee
    When it happens, I’m nowhere around.

    H/T: Woody Allen, of course

  • Now, if some of those algae strings manage to get close to shore rather than die in deep water, and then come ashore, a new species colored green could be walking around. Might take some time.

    From the Wikipedia article on mitochondria:

    “A mitochondrion contains DNA, which is organized as several copies of a single, circular chromosome. This mitochondrial chromosome contains genes for redox proteins such as those of the respiratory chain. The mitochondrial genome codes for some RNAs of ribosomes, and the twenty-two tRNAs necessary for the translation of messenger RNAs into protein. The circular structure is also found in prokaryotes, and the similarity is extended by the fact that mitochondrial DNA is organized with a variant genetic code similar to that of Proteobacteria. This suggests that their ancestor, the so-called proto-mitochondrion, was a member of the Proteobacteria. In particular, the proto-mitochondrion was probably closely related to the rickettsia. However, the exact relationship of the ancestor of mitochondria to the alpha-proteobacteria and whether the mitochondrion was formed at the same time or after the nucleus, remains controversial.”

    From Moselio Schaechter’s blog, Small Thingd Considered:

    How an Endosymbiont Earns Tenure

    In the protozoan amoeba, Paulinella chromatophora, each cell contains two photosynthetic entities called chromatophores. When the cell divides, one is inherited by each daughter cell and promptly replicates.

    Plastids and mitochondria are organelles in eukaryotic cells that originated from bacterial endosymbionts via invasion or enslavement or a synergistic amalgamation, depending on your viewpoint. Since these events occurred more than one billion years ago, it has not been possible to trace the evolutionary steps in the transition from endosymbiont to mature organelle, a process referred to as organellogenesis.

  • “The chromatophore of Paulinella tells a different story, making it truly unique in the sphere of organelles. Sequencing of its rDNA revealed that its ancestor was from a different group of cyanobacteria—the Prochlorococcus/Synechococcus clade, a cluster that happens to be the food for Paulinella’s phagotrophic close relatives.”

  • From Moselio Schaechter’s blog, Small Thingd Considered:

    Caught in the Act

    “In the year 2000, researchers discovered a new microbial eukaryote on a sandy, intertidal beach in Japan, a member of the recently described Katablepharids. The Katablepharids are yet one more group of single-celled eukaryotes, motile by means of their two flagella, heterotrophs that feed on algae. Interestingly, nearly all the cells of this new species contained a large green “chloroplast.”

    Further investigation disclosed that when Hatena divides, one daughter cell inherits the whole “chloroplast” while the other daughter is colorless. The “chloroplast” is actually an endosymbiont derived from Nephroselmis, a kidney-shaped green alga abundant in Hatena’s habitat. Gone are its flagella, cytoskeleton, and endomembrane system; degraded are its mitochondria and Golgi apparatus. Its plastid has swollen to more than 10 times its original size and is engaged in very active photosynthesis. Since it is so highly modified compared to the free-living form, its identity had to be verified by analysis of its SSU rDNA sequence.

    What about the other daughter cell, the colorless one? It develops a complex feeding apparatus at its apex and then dines on algae like other Katablepharids. Interestingly, cells lacking the endosymbiont were never seen to divide. Instead they ingest a Nephroselmis of the appropriate strain which then transforms into a new “chloroplast.””

    – That is like a human eating the right kind of green leafy vegetable, and then sprouting leaves!

  • From Nature Magazine..

    Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere

    Even this missing the mark with talk of a ‘few generations.’

  • Kathy C

    You wrote:

    “Is there anything about being human in the present day that makes all the deaths that got us here worth it? All those deaths just so we could suicide our species and most if not all of the rest of the species that also got to today….”

    I’m sure I posted this view somewhere a while back on a previous thread…

    All the life alive today has a direct link to the first life form(S).(possible multiple forms), and has experienced no death!

    There is only a series of division, conrtraction in size, then recombination after some genetic shuffling. But all the life has always been alive since then. Yours, mine Guys even ulvfugl, and the frog in my drain, the kangaroos whose poo I collect, the bacteria in our gut, all of it.

    There is another way of thinking of it:

    there has been no death in the chain of being in all present life. Remarkable !

    No death! Not one!

    Just smaller bigger, halving recombining.

    The selection process, we usually call natural selection just manages to change the forms of life, not the fact that life exists, and cuts off all the rest.

    The greater strategy of our carbon based life, our DNA replication is that to survive it/life/we/us organised to keep adapting to micro-environments, because the Earth is always changing, and there is so much diversity of environments.

    It actually blows my mind when I considder these simple ‘hidden’ understandings which we are part of.

    Such beauty in diversity.

    We are playing with that now, with NTE.

    Imagine the images and understanding of life on Earth that will depart when David Attenborough finally dies?


  • Well, forget that idea. Here on the farm we have about 400 acres of plants competing for the sun and the only thing keeping them from fighting is they are grounded by roots.

    Pretty soon, humans will be grounded, too.

  • Lidia; I have considered organic for many years and watched some neighbors go that way. There is a lot of dishonesty involved in the game. It boils down to simply getting more money for your milk sold. Our milk is probably just as “organic” as theirs is. Pasturization is also a problem. One farm I am aware of has two barns. One for the cows that didn’t need antibiotics and another for the ones that did. Another farm I am aware of just lets the sick cows die. My wife and I don’t want to operate that way.

  • Ozman “there has been no death in the chain of being in all present life.” Obviously you don’t mean by death what I mean. I mean that event that we are programmed to avoid. I mean that event that makes the rabbit run from the fox and the human put locks on their doors. I mean that event that if it occurs before passing on genes, means that that particular combination of genes does not go on. I mean that event that causes soldiers to leave sperm in sperm banks so their gene line can go on even if they are never able to have sex with their wife again. I mean that event that is considered the ultimate punishment that humans give each other.

    I find that the knowledge of the recycling of materials through living beings is beautiful, and I like the thought of my ashes becoming part of other life. I once told my sons to put my ashes under tomatoes, one said, aw mom how about a watermelons. However I don’t expect my ashes will care one way or another. Nor will the watermelons. My sons might think, ah mom you are better as a watermelon, but it will be their thought not mine.

    Dairyman grasses are grounded but not their seeds – a few make it elsewhere to compete – and dandelions do a great job of moving, not them but their seeds. Then there is the strangler fig “per wiki “They all share a common “strangling” growth habit that is found in many tropical forest species, particularly of the genus Ficus.[1] This growth habit is an adaptation for growing in dark forests where the competition for light is intense. These plants begin life as epiphytes, when their seeds, often bird-dispersed, germinate in crevices atop other trees. These seedlings grow their roots downward and envelop the host tree while also growing upward to reach into the sunlight zone above the canopy.[2][3]”

    Others spread under the ground. Bermuda grass rhizomes are always sneaking into my garden…..tough stuff

  • Fuck Monsanto

    “Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more. This is revolutionary,” said Dr Surendra Chaurassa from Bihar’s agriculture ministry. “I did not believe it to start with, but now I think it can potentially change the way everyone farms. I would want every state to promote it. If we get 30-40% increase in yields, that is more than enough to recommend it.”

  • The dinasours lasted a lot longer than we did, 200 million years, by being very good at eating each other. Guess that way works best. Absent that asteroid, they might still be around eating humans for dinner.

    Turtles have been very successful by being very slow. Carrying their house around on their back really slows them down. Slow seems to work; who can they chase? Too bad they can’t do photosynthesis on their backs.

    Maybe there was a time when little green beings evolved but they became so successful that they didn’t last very long. Same old story. Maybe they are hiding somewhere and come out in the night to make crop circles.

    I think I’m getting cabin fever. Happens every year about this time.

  • Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, “Now Besso” (an old friend) “has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us…know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Immortality doesn’t mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.

  • My husband told me about Philosopher Charles Stevenson this morning as I discussed with him the use of a novel definition that is not the usual definition to try to prove something. Stevenson coined a term “Persuasive Definition”. Using the term differently than was obviously intended does not constitute winning an argument. Lets take mammals for instance, if they stop breathing and their brain and body separate into their minerals they can no longer breed and pass on their genetic material. If that happens before they have passed on their genetic material they are not represented in future lifeforms. Thus death in that sense is a crucial event along with mutation and other means of changing genetic code. Death in that sense also makes room for new ever changing creatures by giving up minerals and a space on the planet.

    Can we agree that there is a moment in each person’s life in which their physical body stops functioning and the stuff within it begins to disintegrate and at that point they are no longer able to pass on any more genes. If they have already passed on genes it is only 1/2 their genetic code. As we realize from breeding chickens back and forth, after several generations the original genetic donors become irrelevant. Still some people think of that is a way of “living on”. Yet their body and their full set of genes breaks up and that pattern is lost.

    I will refer to death from now on as physical death of the body, if others will find some adjectives to describe the kind of death they don’t think happens. I have killed roosters and eaten their bodies, I know physical death of the body is real. In fact Oz and U if you will accept that their is a physical death of the body, you need not comment on any post I make about death as they physical death of the body is all I am ever referring to.

    Per wiki
    A persuasive definition is a form of definition which purports to describe the ‘true’ or ‘commonly accepted’ meaning of a term, while in reality stipulating an uncommon or altered use, usually to support an argument for some view, or to create or alter rights, duties or crimes.[1][2] The terms thus defined will often involve emotionally charged but imprecise notions, such as “freedom”, “terrorism”, “democracy”, etc. In argumentation the use of a stipulative definition is an example of the definist fallacy.[3][4]

    Examples of persuasive definitions include:

    atheist – “someone who doesn’t yet realize that God exists”[4]
    Democrat – “a leftist who desires to overtax the corporations and abolish freedom in the economic sphere”[4]
    Republican – “an old white man who feels threatened by change.”
    fetus – “an unborn person”[3]
    Loyalty – “a tool to get people to do things they don’t want to do.”
    Persuasive definitions commonly appear in controversial topics such as politics, sex, and religion, as participants in emotionally-charged exchanges will sometimes become more concerned about swaying people to one side or another than expressing the unbiased facts. A persuasive definition of a term is favorable to one argument or unfavorable to the other argument, but is presented as if it were neutral and well-accepted, and the listener is expected to accept such a definition without question.[1]

    The term “persuasive definition” was introduced by philosopher C.L. Stevenson as part of his emotive theory of meaning.[5]

  • Kurt has an opinion on extinction:

  • @ Kathy C.

    I think the problem lies with what the definition of ‘life’ is, not with the definition of death.
    You want to talk about discrete individuals. There’s a clear distinction to be made be made, Life on Earth as discrete independent individuals, makes no sense because such things have never existed, it’s been a continuum, made possible by the contributions of all living things.

  • Guy wrote “I learned a lesson about immortality. I don’t have it.”

    Ozman wrote “There is another way of thinking of it:
    there has been no death in the chain of being in all present life. Remarkable !
    No death! Not one!”

    U posted the quote “Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world.”

    Question – I write about death and invaribly such responses from the two of you. Guy writes in the essay that leads this thread that one of the three lessons he learned is about his understanding that he was mortal, and that gets no response from either of you? Oz I do see that you corrected his wording so that he made it clear that he learned he was not immortal. As far as I know that must mean he learned he can die. Yet you don’t follow up with him that we can see it differently, that there is no death, nothing has died. U as far as I can see you did not tell Guy – don’t worry death doesn’t exist.

    What is different about my mention the death in the context of selective deaths that move evolution forward from Guy’s expression of learning about his own mortality that elicits your responses??

  • Ah U you posted while I was writing. AGain, Guy writes of experiencing the knowledge of his mortality as a discrete individual. Why did you not challenge that?

  • Two comments from Bertrand Russell –

  • @ dmd

    B. Russell :The trouble is that no one knows what a belief is, no one knows what a fact is, and no one knows what sort of agreement between them would make a belief true.

    @ Kathy C.

    It’s about how the words ‘life’ and ‘death’ are defined. They have multiple meanings.

  • Isaac Asimov on life and death for individual humans (for those of us who believe in life, death, and individual humans): “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

  • Fwiw, this guy, Ron Garrett, reckons he destroys the multiple universe interpretation of quantum mechanics, along with several others. But he’s a Google software engineer, not a physicist, so what does he know, eh. But if he’s right, then I suppose Lanza’s theory re the end of death is just another load of nonsense.

  • Guy, Asimov was quite a guy. Now I admire him one bit more! I first read his book on DNA in a high school microbiology class. It may have been the year that the book was published. I had no idea how relatively new the information was.

  • The problem with Indian rice farmer’s new found dramatic harvest yield techniques is that it will just predictably promote have twice as many children. What a shock.

    There has been NO longterm effective ‘governor’ to human reproduction since ‘agriculture.

    The first steam engines routinely exploded because the idea of engine ‘governors’ had not been perfected. Limits, limits? We don’t need no stinking Limits!

    ‘Governors’ to human consumption of resources have NEVER been perfect on a wide global scale, hence the 7 billion plus we have now.

    Sure, a few pitiful examples through history here and there, but the mental mindset of ‘to Infinity and Beyond’ is still the H sapian sapian Modus operandi. ‘Intelligence’ without Wisdom, quite a plan.

    I recall hearing that a lot of New Guinea tribes would have a major pig hunt every 7 or so years to keep the pigs from totally destroying the island’s eco-system.

    They were that enlightened, but it also coincided with the mark of a major cycle of tribal warfare, the pig meat being the ‘power’ for the increased level of ritual island wide violence. One of the general rules was that as a male, you could not have children with a woman until you had killed at least one man from another tribe, thus help to balancing out the total resource drag on the island.

    Your adversary’s Head was your ‘proof’ you did the deed. Kind of half sovereign, half ticket stub to fatherhood. Your opponents death ‘made room’ for your offspring, a zero sum game in island ecology.

    Stable population can be achieved in many ways.

    In general though, the millions slaughtered in warfare has not proven a winning eco-strategy through out history. We have 7 billion and counting. A Big Fat Human Failure in self restraint.

    An all out nuclear exchange coupled with bio-warfare and geo-warfare might do the trick globally now, finally.

    A change in ‘reproductive aspiration mentality’ will Never happen in time with H sapian sapian and switching to organic crop methods that increase yield will just beget = = = = = more mouths to feed, Not ‘enlightened’ self interest or sustainable Anything.

    Give a man a fish an he’s fed for the day, teach a man to fish and he’ll over populate the planet, kill the oceans and eat every living creature in it.

    Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand job’ was based on the fatal assumption that H sapian sapians are rational beings, nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Dave, actually there are animals that are green and use their green to make food – I was listening to a talk by Lynn Margulis recently in which she discussed it. Here is one example Most clams live in deep, fairly dark waters. Among one group of clams is a species whose ancestors ingested algae—a typical food—but failed to digest them and kept the algae under their shells. The shell, with time, became translucent, allowing sunlight in. The clams fed off their captive algae and their habitat expanded into sunlit waters. So there’s a discontinuity between the dark-dwelling, food-gathering ancestor and the descendants that feed themselves photosynthetically.
    Who knows, maybe the guys at Monsanto are working on green pigs and cows as we speak??? They have already made glow in the dark pigs

  • U It’s about how the words ‘life’ and ‘death’ are defined. They have multiple meanings.
    Exactly what I was saying. Now you know what I mean when I say death and have no need in the future to tell me there is no death. You now know I am referring to the death in the usual sense of the word as used by most people. It is the event that among humans that triggers the production of a death certificate, among chickens makes them available for human food, among squash bugs makes them unable to eat my squash, among disease bacteria makes them unable to render me fit for a death certificate. If we humans didn’t die in the usual sense of that word, Social Security would really be in big trouble.

  • Bhutan plans to become the first country in the world to turn its agriculture completely organic, banning the sales of pesticides and herbicides and relying on its own animals and farm waste for fertilisers.

  • Kathy C: Others spread under the ground. Bermuda grass rhizomes are always sneaking into my garden…..tough stuff

    Josh and I were just talking yesterday that if not for the bermuda’s aggressiveness, we would actually have a very easy time with gardening. That stuff is tough and spreads even into the most well mulched places!

  • @ Kathy C.

    Why are you picking an argument ? When people say Life on Earth, as in the sense Ozman was using the word life, and as in the sense YOU first used the word, as all the lives that had ended to produce us, as on evolution, they are NOT using the word life in the sense that produces a death certificate when it ends, are they.

  • Kathy C asks: What is different about my mention the death in the context of selective deaths that move evolution forward from Guy’s expression of learning about his own mortality that elicits your responses??

    C’mon, you must know that it is your absence of penis that guarantees your comments will be targeted! There is no mystery (or even quantum mysticism) in this….just your good old garden variety misogyny. As we are all aware, the big U has some problems in this area.

  • physical death of the body is all I am ever referring to.

    In other words, death of the meat-robot. Those who grudgingly and half-heartedly acknowledge science while try to inject an extract of “spirituality” called “consciousness” into it and revel wallowing in the quagmire. The true separation of church and state lies before that quagmire, with spirituality in that paradigm restricted to Messrs. Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo, Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker, Hennessey, and their ilk.

  • @ wildwoman

    That’s a boring wind up.

    Surely people here can distinguish between the meaning of the word ‘life’ when applied to the existence of an organism that contributes towards the overall evolution of life on Earth, and the meaning of the word ‘life’ when applied to an individual human’s span between birth and death. It’s not something that should need to be explained.

  • .
    More Stage Three

    Some bargain to cut down death’s dread
    Thinking they’ll live forever instead;
    I think they’re misled
    About what lies ahead,
    Because, as is said, dead is dead.

  • mortality as a discrete individual.

    Intellectual recognition of that fact coupled with the desire for the “I” to persist is the source of the problems, including the problem of religion. The problems will not be solved until one recognises that there is no “I”, but only an meat-robot sans awareness.

    Injecting awareness/consciousness into the material world or into the meat-robot does solve any problems.

  • .
    Belatedly here comes the dawn:
    Liar’s rules have been putting me on;
    It’s not like before,
    Ain’t playing games any more,
    And I’ll feel better once I am gone.

    H/T: The Byrds

  • .
    Looking all the way back to my birth,
    I wonder, what was it all worth?
    It might not be bliss
    Where I go after this,
    But at least it won’t be the earth.

  • TRDH “That stuff is tough and spreads even into the most well mulched places!”

    I would revise that to say “especially into the most well mulched places”. It comes upon mulch and says “Oh boy, easy passage here”. I thought nothing could kill it, but in the chicken yards the chickens managed it – they are persistent and relentless.

  • Regarding Bhutan going organic; I didn’t read success in that story. Some day before extinction, there will be no fertilizer or chemicals to buy. Then we will learn all about what we thought we knew. The entire earth has been organic for 4 billion years. It will be again. Won’t need any laws to make it happen.

  • Wildwoman, interesting theory – maybe I need a sex change operation.

    Wonderful movie based on a true story about a young man who got a sex change operation
    Beautiful Boxer (2004)
    Based on the real life story of Parinya Charoenphol, a Muaythai boxer who underwent a sex change operation to become a woman. The movie chronicles her life from a young boy who likes to wear lipstick and wear flowers to her sensational career as kickboxer whose specialty is ancient Muaythai boxing moves which she can execute expertly with grace and finally her confrontation with her own sexual identity which led to her sex change op.

    More on Parinya

    I don’t think it works as well female to male tho…..

  • U are you saying that any time you post something that disagrees with something I have said I must refrain from further comment or else I am picking an argument?

  • @ Kathy C.

    You’re free to conduct yourself in whatever way you wish, it’s not for me to tell you what to do. You pick an argument with me on most threads and usually end up complaining, or insisting you’ll never discuss with me again, whatever.

    I didn’t address any comment to you. I posted the Lanza quote because I thought it was interesting that an eminent scientist should claim that death has been ended, so to speak. You took it upon yourself to respond to me and to Ozman. You seem to want to continue haggling. Why ?

  • Kathy C says: Emotional Return on Emotion Invested?

    Good one! :D

    #1 best seller pop psychology sensation!

    “Emotional Return on Emotion Invested”

    Part I: EROEI

    Extraction costs limit supply—
    If you like, you can check it with Guy;
    It’s too late to deny
    Energy’s tie
    To the notion we’re soon going to die.

    Part II: Relationships

    Sometimes, as much as you try,
    Some people just pump you dry;
    Take this and apply:
    If you don’t say bye-bye,
    Push it too much, you could die.

    Part III: NTE

    Analogy’s now explained why
    Things in your life go awry;
    But this book, with doom nigh,
    Was not such a good buy,
    Because soon we’re all going to die.

  • Kathy C

    You ask a very important question, or nexus of questions.

    I will answer without deflecting from what you ask.

    “Death is utterly acceptable to consciousness and to life”

    Those are the first words in an earlier edition of Adi Da Samraj’s spiritual Autobiography, ‘The Knee of Listening’. They challenge our base assumptions about mortal existance, and are supposed to be controversial, but nevertheless true, IMO.

    I do put the emphasis on the whole of sentient and living biomass as the corpus of life, in my previous comments. Individual lives are very real and significant. I pointed out from an evolutionary POV the lifeform of our DNA is the way it is . so life will continue to exist, and for that priority to occur, the form of life must alter, but not the essence.

    ‘Chicken consciousness'(BTW, please anyone search engine that term for a whole new world of cinematic reading!)is different from dolphin and ant and human and dare I say plant and protozoa consciousness, but only in the extent the physical vehicle(the body) allows the whole of the conscious domain of existance to be experienced, or realised. There is a reason life wishes to persist, and IMO,(please contest) it is so consciousness can be fully realised.

    Death has not occurred in the stream of existing living beings, which I wrote before. Individual death is ‘di rigur’ or inevitable because of an as yet ununknown genetic limit to living in this biosphere, and the integrity of DNA over many years of replication, or something like this. The net result is these physical carbon units have a shelf life, which varies with life experience(sugar, drugs, alcahol, radiation and UV exposure, heavy metals etc).
    As humanswe are not just the meat body, we love and feel things, as you know full well. I don’t add that to the meat body if anything I add the meat body to that,(loosely, conceptually).
    When a bay dies in your arms it is your heart that feels the love and lodss of the little child’s ife chances, and there is no saying much else, you just feel it.
    My brother at the age of 14 died in my bed by my side, and I tried to revive him, not knowing to hold his nose closed when I blew into his mouth. How absurd and surreal now it seems some 35 years later. The truth was that his body had given up, it had been punctured so many times with experimental drugs to ‘cure’ Acute Lymphoblastic Lukemia, when the problem was nuclear testing but TPTB in some life or death rat race economic/political game. His body smelled like a disinfected hospital which still reeked of drugs, and when I blew into his lungs I could smell the death there.
    I was sad he had died. My mother was sleeping in her easy chair, exhausted by the ordeal of trying to save her sons life, and getting few answers from doctors at the specialist level. At the time he passed, she was asleep, but was brought to him and me by a neighbour who was watching over things while she rested.
    After the moments passd and we moved to the lounge room my mother disclosed that as she was sleepng she had a vision, or a dream of mybrother. He was standing on a mountainside, waving goodby, saying ‘By Mum, thanks so much, I love you goodby. Just waving, with a beaming smile.”
    I do not feel death was anything other than a release for my brother, and one where he learnt a powerful spiritual lesson, which is not really appropriate to go into here, because it relates to family issues, mostly between him and my mum. His spirit moves on!
    The family grieved for several years. Altogether death may not come to the majority with such clarity or ‘positive’ overtones, I’ll admit. A ot of individual death is horrific, as you point out, being chased by a fox, the chicken runs.
    To conclude I am saying that feeling the depth of the heart response to an individual’s death is human, and ust so, not in conflict with acceptance of ‘death’ as a passing moment which is both necessary and inevitable. However, I do not accept that that is the end of the matter(pun intended). My experience is otherwise, not just my reasoned belief.
    Your compassion for those you nurse, and indeed all beings you defend is something I admire, and understand comes to you very fast and very strong. I will say that others are perhaps more detached.
    So to me, death in itself is nothing to be overly troubled by. Losing loved ones, or even becoming aware of others unfamiliar but in threat of death, or dying, or dead is something to grieve and be motivated to stop if it is caused by our problem making way of living.
    I was fortunate to be with my mother in hospice when she died, and it was educational to say the least, but her and I had made our peace, and she ‘thirsted’ to go at the end. Her’s was an easy death.
    Much more could be said, ut better just leave it at that.

  • OZ, thanks for sharing. I find joy and comfort in the hope that I am right and after death is nothingness. Even if I am part of some whole that is continuing from when the first self replication started or the planet was formed or even farther back, it means nothing to me if I was not aware of it. Likewise if I join that somethingness after death but lose self awareness it is the same as nothingness. I like the idea that after I die I might be incorporated into the flesh of a tomato that someone eats with the juice running down their chin, but I sure don’t want to be aware of that. I think awareness is really not all it is cracked up to be, even living as a privileged first worlder. The painful awareness of those of us of privilege are compensated by joyful awareness. For many I doubt there is enough joy to compensate for the pain. I am quite sure growing up on a dump in Brazil and being hunted for sport by rich kids is a situation in which the joy of life is far out weighed by the fear and pain.

    Given that we are about to extinguish most if not all self replication it seems that all the self replication and selective death before replication that went on to result in humans, is well, wasted. Death in the stream of living things may soon be upon us. Only the thermopiles perhaps can save this stream of living from death. Given the endless bodies ripped apart to feed other bodies over millions of years I think (most days) it is best for this stream of living things to end.

    I was already comfortable with my own mortality, I am becoming comfortable with NTE, the mortality of the stream of life….

    I had a vision once as well of someone who was close to me and died too early (leaving a wife and 3 young children). He smiled and looked happy. I decided that my brain gave me that picture to help me deal with his death – and that is enough comfort – nice to have my brain comfort me than nag at me as it sometimes does). I no longer seem to need such visions to comfort me when someone dies. I am comfortable with the sweet nothingness….

    Not sure if that responds – Again thanks for sharing pieces of your story. Sometimes pain makes people hard, it did the opposite with you, made you more caring and thoughtful…..

  • ‘Chicken consciousness’(BTW, please anyone search engine that term for a whole new world of cinematic reading!)is different from dolphin and ant and human and dare I say plant and protozoa consciousness,

    None of these “have” consciousness. It is consciousness that illuminates one’s awareness of them – and of one”self”. Sunlight illuminates a sunny day, but none of the myriad objects that one can see on a sunny day “has” light.

    As humanswe are not just the meat body, we love and feel things, as you know full well. I don’t add that to the meat body if anything I add the meat body to that,(loosely, conceptually).

    A meat-robot neither “loves” or “feels”. Those aspects attest to the complexity of its programming. The awareness of the “loving” or the “feeling” is conflated with “loving” and “feeling”. Awareness Itself is without characteristics or content, the Void. One cannot carry any baggage into it. Hence, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”.

  • Thanks for the link Guy. Yes, the “arctic death spiral” is deeply troubling. I think within a year or so most of us will have awakened to the fact that the biosphere (and thus we humans) are in deep, deep trouble.

  • Bob Conway Says:
    Thanks for the link Guy. Yes, the “arctic death spiral” is deeply troubling. I think within a year or so most of us will have awakened to the fact that the biosphere (and thus we humans) are in deep, deep trouble.
    Unfortunately, what should viewed as life-changing or even civilization-changing data will continue to get less emphasis than what Kim Kardashian is wearing thanks to the owners of the MSM, our main organs of information dissemination. This shouldn’t come as any surprise considering that much of their money comes from advertising sold to oil and car companies.
    It’s even more sobering to think that for every one of us discussing the latest scientific data, there’s probably a million people discussing 2000 years old biblical writings and how they are the only source of data anyone needs. People in that group would include our most recent ex-president.

  • Gail

    Watched the ‘Four Horsemen’ video linked by you at the end of the previous thread. Some good info there, with a lot of emphasis on our power as individuals…eyes wide open ..sort of thing.

    The Brittish productions always seem to have a backgrounding that we can figure this complex situation out, and ‘by gingos we can fix it’. Of course it can be fixed, but the money is on it not being fixed(mixed metaphore and deep irony together there, Ha).

    As if good old Brittish know how can get the job done.

    I mean, these smart people are almost all saying it is a simple con.

    Wow, so all the higher economic and political education is not needed to understand this con, just to keep it going, one step ahead.

    Good general intro to those financial issues though, thanks from me.

    The tanks of retained contaminated water are getting full, Tepco is planning to discharge it to the sea due to the lack of capacity. [URL]

    At 19:36 of 2/16/2013, a subcontract worker found the contaminated water overflowing from the desalination system installed outside of reactor5 and 6.

    The volume of overflowed water is nearly 20 m3. Tepco discribes it as “leakage” but it was actually an “overflow”.

  • Guy, Thanks for the link to the article about the Arctic Death Spiral

    Of particular note is this paragraph Climate scientists and ice experts are now using phrases like “unprecedented”, “amazing”, “extreme”, “hard to exaggerate”, “incredibly fast”, “death spiral” and “heading for oblivion”.

    I suggest we start charting the various expressions of climate scientists that convey surprise. I would suggest that it has gone from linear to exponential and that that chart is the only one we need to evaluate how bad things are. Just as economists keep data on consumer confidence we can start a record of climate scientist confidence in previous models :)

  • How about starting a list of new feedbacks. There are many more than 8. However, that list won’t accelerate…I think.

  • Dave, yes I think there are more than 8 but not a big enough number more to make it go exponential. However the rate at which many of them contribute to the feedback is probably exponential or has the capacity to go exponential.

    Again if we add in Peak Oil giving us less ability to respond to climate change, such things as forest fires may take a sharp upward curve in both number and area burned.

  • Thank goodness I grew up with a family (way back in the old days when grandma and grandpa lived in the same household) that endowed in my brothers and me the value of nature. This is a shocking article:


    If You See A Turtle In The Road, Run It Over!
    Requires no explanation. The more interesting question, which is unanswerable, is what percentage of drivers who noticed the turtle in the road tried to run it over.

    CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson University student Nathan Weaver set out to determine how to help turtles cross the road. He ended up getting a glimpse into the dark souls of some humans.

    Weaver put a realistic rubber turtle in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched over the next hour as seven drivers swerved and deliberately ran over the animal. Several more apparently tried to hit it but missed.

    “I’ve heard of people and from friends who knew people that ran over turtles. But to see it out here like this was a bit shocking,” said Weaver, a 22-year-old senior in Clemson’s School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences.

    To seasoned researchers, the practice wasn’t surprising.

    The number of box turtles [image above] is in slow decline, and one big reason is that many wind up as roadkill while crossing the asphalt, a slow-and-steady trip that can take several minutes.

    Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant species on this planet by taking a two-ton metal vehicle and squishing a defenseless creature under the tires, said Hal Herzog, a Western Carolina University psychology professor.

    “They aren’t thinking, really. It is not something people think about. It just seems fun at the time,” Herzog said. “It is the dark side of human nature.”

    Herzog asked a class of about 110 students getting ready to take a final whether they had intentionally run over a turtle, or been in a car with someone who did. Thirty-four students raised their hands, about two-thirds of them male, said Herzog, author of a book about humans’ relationships with animals, called “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat.”

    The Obligatory Hope

    Weaver, who became interested in animals and conservation through the Boy Scouts and TV’s “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, wants to figure out the best way to get turtles safely across the road and keep the population from dwindling further.

    Among the possible solutions: turtle underpasses or an education campaign aimed at teenagers on why drivers shouldn’t mow turtles down.

    The first time Weaver went out to collect data on turtles, he chose a spot down the road from a big apartment complex that caters to students. He counted 267 vehicles that passed by, seven of them intentionally hitting his rubber reptile.

    He went back out about a week later, choosing a road in a more residential area. He followed the same procedure, putting the fake turtle in the middle of the lane, facing the far side of the road, as if it was early in its journey across. The second of the 50 cars to pass by that day swerved over the center line, its right tires pulverizing the plastic shell.

    “Wow! That didn’t take long,” Weaver said.

    Other cars during the hour missed the turtle. But right after his observation period was up, before Weaver could retrieve the model, another car moved to the right to hit the animal as he stood less than 20 feet away.

    “One hit in 50 cars is pretty significant when you consider it might take a turtle 10 minutes to cross the road,” Weaver said.

    Running over turtles even has a place in Southern lore.

    In South Carolina author Pat Conroy’s semi-autobiographical novel “The Great Santini,” a fighter-pilot father squishes turtles during a late-night drive when he thinks his wife and kids are asleep. His wife confronts him, saying: “It takes a mighty brave man to run over turtles.”

    The father denies it at first, then claims he hits them because they are a road hazard. “It’s my only sport when I’m traveling,” he says. “My only hobby.”

    That hobby has been costly to turtles.

    It takes a turtle seven or eight years to become mature enough to reproduce, and in that time, it might make several trips across the road to get from one pond to another, looking for food or a place to lay eggs. A female turtle that lives 50 years might lay over 100 eggs, but just two or three are likely to survive to reproduce, said Weaver’s professor, Rob Baldwin.

    Snakes also get run over deliberately. Baldwin wishes that weren’t the case, but he understands, considering the widespread fear and loathing of snakes. But why anyone would want to run over turtles is a mystery to the professor.

    “They seem so helpless and cute,” he said. “I want to stop and help them. My kids want to stop and help them. My wife will stop and help turtles no matter how much traffic there is on the road. I can’t understand the idea why you would swerve to hit something so helpless as a turtle.”

    I hope you now fully understand my interest in exoplanets

  • Even in the midst of an economic depression, carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere is increasing. From 2003 to 2012 the average annual rise in CO2 was 1.79 ppm. From 2012 to 2013 the average annual rise in CO2 was 3.53 ppm. All those feedbacks, described here, are hitting home.

  • Guy, Can I infer that this is a surprise to climate scientists and add it to my Climate Scientist Confidence index? So maybe the guys at AMEG were being optimistic. estimates have been made of the times of the various extinction events in the northern and southern hemispheres and these are shown on Table 1 and summarised on Figure 7 with their ranges. The absolute mean extinction time for the northern hemisphere is 2031.8 and for the southern hemisphere 2047.6 with a final mean extinction time for 3/4 of the earth’s surface of 2039.6 which is similar to the extinction time suggested previously from correlations between planetary orbital mechanics and the frequency increase of Great and Normal earthquake activity on Earth (Light, 2011). Extinction in the southern hemisphere lags the northern hemisphere by 9 to 29 years.

  • People hit turtles on purpose.

    Melt, Greenland, melt, faster faster faster!

  • Of course, Kathy: Mainstream scientists continued to be stunned with every new bit of data. I continue to be stunned that they are surprised.

  • dairymandave, you could come over to the Ning forum ( and make a compilation of the feedbacks, if you have been keeping track of them.

    As for your neighbor’s cows, organic and so forth, I think that you might be thinking at too large a scale. If half the cows need anti-biotics, then my tenderfoot/layperson’s opinion is that it sounds like there are too many cows for that operation or they are poorly treated.

    I came to NBL via the Internet route of investigating permaculture, but I know other people came from other routes so I hope you aren’t offended if I post some basic permaculture material that you might’ve already considered:

    Greening the Desert:

    is a classic one.

    This video talks, in part, about pastured cattle, which might interest you: A Farm for the Future.

    Sepp Holzer’s work is extraordinary:

    It’s not just organic vs. non-organic. Diversification is equally important in order to give all the plants and animals on your smallholding the best chance for good health.

    While NTE would make this all go away, it seems like a worthwhile way to pass the time until then, better than working for the ag.chemical companies and Big Pharma, anyway (70-80% of all anitbiotics produced in the world are used in raising animals for human consumption).

    Re. pasteurization, I don’t know what the NY laws are, but in Vermont you can sell raw milk from the farm, and under certain conditions you can even deliver raw milk directly to customers ( Raw milk cheeses are a “value-added” product that dairies here have had success with. This organic operation is in my town: (warning, brief sound intro).

  • @Frank, I saw that article when it came out and it shocked me, too. I think that our culture is so diseased that such attitudes are almost inevitable. When you look at what is done to human children and to women, it’s hard to hold out hope for turtles.

  • @Lidia

    With my limited skills I’m trying to make the ning more efficient in carrying information. So far I’ve added 3 RSS feeds that seem relevant and I’ve added a twitter feed which I populate with links I find here and elsewhere on the net. Anyone who knows how to run a ning site or can give me ideas on how to provide more precise news feeds, please contact me. I really do want to add sections (probably within groups?)that can be more informational about things like sustainability (or as my brother calls it “Prolonging”). Thanks.

  • Frank,

    I saw the turtle story too – really is sad. they should have made the fake turtles stink bombs…

  • I had a truck driver tell me once that it’s common practice for big rig drivers to run over animals intentionally, particularly dogs, with the idea of preventing some animal loving driver from causing an accident when they try to avoid it. God forbid that a human should be hurt if all it takes to avoid it is for an animal to die.

  • .
    Thoreau’s famous quotation
    Can prep us for expiration:
    It helps us concede
    That most of us lead
    Lives of quiet desperation.

  • .
    Six degrees more will displease
    Those who like an occasional freeze,
    But there’s greater unease
    For the one who foresees
    When it’s shooting right past six degrees.

  • Dr House, aren’t we fantastic rational beings, we can rationalize any kind of behavior.

    Btd, yes! or should I say yes :(

  • @ Brad Phillips

    Can’t help with that stuff…

    First time I’ve heard the notion ‘prolonging’… that’s an interesting idea. Are we going to have a split here, between the prolongers and the – what will the name be ? bring extinction on fasters ? – like wildwoman, above, who wants the ice to melt more quickly ?

    Here’s something about biochar for the prolongers

  • The typical middle of the road cheery green optimism from the informed environmentalists, full of hope and hand waving…

    Stuart Staniford’s emissions and climate projections

  • .
    “A lot of lives could be saved if people had a few minutes.”

    “On short notice, an alert to a big city would do more harm than good.
    All you’d produce is panic.”

    —Fail-Safe (1964)

    There’s not any fix-it mechanic
    Who can stop doom’s disaster titanic;
    If dots being connected
    Is too unexpected,
    All you’d produce is panic.

  • Lidia, they sell raw milk at our farmer’s market here in NE Fl and I am surprised, as it is supposed to only be allowed marketed for pets (though many sell and buy it under that guise for human consumption also). I buy it and make grain milk kefir – I am careful to ask the vendor of the cleanliness conditions of the cows.

  • Lidia; I will try to explain our position as to farming. We have been here on this place nearly 40 years. I will be 70 this spring. The typical day is 16 hours but one must do something all day long and we like what we do – variety is the spice of life. So long days are OK. Fact is we need to figure how to get out of the business because we are tired of the burden and slowing down isn’t an option. Bank payments and taxes must be paid, labor costs more each year as well as everything else. It’s easier to just keep going than to try to change anything. It doesn’t make sense to use fuel and electricity to produce organic milk or cheese and then truck it refrigerated to a metropolitan area to sell it to the well to do. People around here aren’t interested in organic.

    We plan to quit in one year but just how we don’t know. Would like to hold on to the land but taxes may not allow that. At least we will hold some of the land. It’s fair to say that the farm owns us.

  • ‘Given the endless bodies ripped apart to feed other bodies over millions of years I think (most days) it is best for this stream of living things to end.’ -kathy

    interesting p.o.v.. to a large extent i share it, including the assertion that gaian biological consciousness seems more of a curse than a blessing. it’s termination may indeed be compassionate /’virtuous’. (in this context the word ‘consciousness’ is applied most broadly to include all life species which interact with it’s environment as if it has some awareness of it and responsiveness to it (like a houseplant near a window will bend towards the sunlight)).

    otoh it does seem a shame that the awesome beauty/pleasure part of this life must die along with the suffering.

    i’m intuitively inclined to think that consciousness is a transcendent phenomenon. but ‘i’ will no longer be beyond death. good. hopefully there are other (sur)realms of consciousness that are less painful and more pleasurable.

    ‘ As Ken Caldeira so grippingly points out (and I tried to make graphically clear in my Stanford talk last year), each molecule of CO2 released thermal energy when it was formed “” that’s why we formed it. In the case of electricity generation, about 1/3 of its thermal energy went out a wire as electric power, the rest was released promptly as waste heat. But each molecule of CO2, during its subsequent lifetime in the atmosphere, traps 100,000 times more heat than was released during its formation.

    A hundred thousand is a big number. It means that running a handheld electric hairdryer on US grid electricity delivers a planet-warming punch comparable to [the heat given off by] two Boeing 747s operating at full takeoff power for the same time period. The warming is delivered over time, not promptly, but that don’t matter; the planetary heating is accrued, the accountants would say, the moment you hit the switch.’ -from a link from a link from guy’s link above to an article written on the shockingly rapid rate of arctic ice melt.

    dr. house, glad to see from your recent posts that u’re still with us.

  • the virgin terry Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 7:19 pm
    ‘Given the endless bodies ripped apart to feed other bodies over millions of years I think (most days) it is best for this stream of living things to end.’ -kathy
    interesting p.o.v.. to a large extent i share it, including the assertion that gaian biological consciousness seems more of a curse than a blessing. it’s termination may indeed be compassionate /’virtuous’.
    Does anyone else find this attitude more that a bit bizarre? It does sound that NTE of all life is something the two of you have been rooting for for a long time. Though I’ve never met anyone with this attitude, there must be more of you out there. Which leads to some interesting speculation. Would such people seek out positions where they could fulfill this desire for the extinction of life? I am specifically thinking of a position like missile launch officers on a nuclear sub or silo. Do you feel like you missed your calling here? I wonder if the military has a method of screening out such people. This is fascinating!

  • @ Ripley

    Yes, I share your view, Ripley. It’s self-centred egotism, all about the person’s feelings, imo. ( And this coming from someone accused of egomania and narcissism, ahahaha.)

  • This is weird. A fuller explanation does seem to be in order, does it not? Maybe I’m missing something. But if a person feels the existence of all life is a crime, how does the person justify hanging around rather than committing suicide, since that person is such a major example of the crime?

  • Oh boy……I can almost hear the ramparts being built.

  • Dairymandave I can understand that you feel locked in to the existing systems. The one of debt is especially pernicious. I hope to buy land outright so that property taxes will be my only ongoing land-ownership expense, and those are pretty low in VT for land under “current use” appraisals for recreation, forestry or ag. Those rates could always go up, of course, as conventional RE development becomes less lucrative.

    My husband & I are in our early 50s and have no children. What I hope to do is to find some younger folks, keen on small-scale diversified farming but who have no grub stake, and work with them toward their eventual full ownership. Maybe that is a pipedream, but I think we have just as good a shot picking our heirs as folks do who roll the genetic dice.

  • Guy, thanks for the Arctic death spiral article and the other items (Greenland melting, CO2 emissions) and trying to get this thread back on topic.

  • Fascinating interview with Lynn Margulis:


    “I do think consciousness is a property of all living cells. All cells are bounded by a membrane of their own making. To sense chemicals—food or poisons—it takes a cell. To have a sense of smell takes a cell. To sense light, it takes a cell. You have to have a bounded entity with photoreceptors inside to sense light. Bacteria are conscious. These bacterial beings have been around since the origin of life and still are running the soil and the air and affecting water quality.”

    and. . .

    “When evolutionary biologists use computer modeling to find out how many mutations you need to get from one species to another, it’s not mathematics—it’s numerology. They are limiting the field of study to something that’s manageable and ignoring what’s most important. They tend to know nothing about atmospheric chemistry and the influence it has on the organisms or the influence that the organisms have on the chemistry. They know nothing about biological systems like physiology, ecology, and biochemistry. Darwin was saying that changes accumulate through time, but population geneticists are describing mixtures that are temporary. Whatever is brought together by sex is broken up in the next generation by the same process. Evolutionary biology has been taken over by population geneticists. They are reductionists ad absurdum.”

    Take Away: Reducing Nature to Math is Reductionism ad absurbum.

  • Another bit from the same article:

    “Your perspective is rather humbling.
    The species of some of the protoctists are 542 million years old. Mammal species have a mean lifetime in the fossil record of about 3 million years. And humans? You know what the index fossil of Homo sapiens in the recent fossil record is going to be? 
The squashed remains of the automobile. There will be a layer in the fossil record where you’re going to know people were here because of the automobiles. It will be a very thin layer.

    Do we overrate ourselves as a species?

    Yes, but we can’t help it. Look, there are nearly 7,000 million people on earth today and there are 10,000 chimps, and the numbers are getting fewer every day because we’re destroying their habitat. Reg Morrison, who wrote a wonderful book called The Spirit in the Gene, says that although we’re 99 percent genetically in common with chimps, that 1 percent makes a huge difference. Why? Because it makes us believe that we’re the best on earth. But there is lots of evidence that we are “mammalian weeds.” Like many mammals, we overgrow our habitats and that leads to poverty, misery, and wars.”

  • dairymandave Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 7:32 am

    How about starting a list of new feedbacks. There are many more than 8. However, that list won’t accelerate…I think.

    David Wasdell on feedbacks:

    and. . .

  • The Diagram of Doom could use some updating.

  • Advances in connecting (meat and hardware) robots

  • When I was dating my wife, 49 years ago, we would turn into her driveway and see frogs sitting there doing whatever frogs do in the night. She made me stop, she got out and removed all the frogs before we drove up to the house. One reason she and I farm is to make life more pleasant for a few animals. Ours don’t get eaten alive or have 200,000 tics on them. They don’t freeze or starve and if they get sick, we treat them, even do surgery if necessary. They are fed a perfectly balanced ration, far, far superior to what most humans eat. (yes, that is the key to making milk which pays the bills). A term has been given to this: CCC, Constancy, Consistency, and Comfort.

    Anyone who doesn’t know what goes on out there in the wild must live in the city. In fact, that’s why there are cities; a place to get away from wild nature, as far as possible, up 200 floors. Let the farmers deal with it. A place where you watch the sun rise and go to the park or the beach. Life if full of beauty (in the eyes of the beholder) but also full of horror. The evolutionary process depends on lots of suffering to make it work. Evolution seems to be the purpose of life; to see what emerges next. Variation and selection are polite terms for violence and death. Watch “Gladiator” to get the picture. They called it a spectacle, a picture of survival of the fittest. There is a DVD series named “Rome” which indicated that the romans were more honest about reality than we are. I thought it was an extremely high quality series, but rough. Life is rough and always has been until the industrial era. Even now it’s rough for most of the world. Look around and see. Why do we or any other species have eyes? Two reasons; first so we can chase food better and second so we can avoid being eaten better. Not so we can enjoy sunsets. That’s a fringe benefit. If this is too real, so be it. I have spent my life making life more pleasant for a few animals and my family, contrary to what the media tells everyone. The greatest crime I committed was using fossil fuels to do it.

  • Ripley But if a person feels the existence of all life is a crime, how does the person justify hanging around rather than committing suicide, since that person is such a major example of the crime?

    Actually it is up to the parents to justify having a child not the child to justify their existence. In the age of contraception they have to take the responsibility. That is why I have advocated people to get permanently fixed before contraception no longer is available (a position that appears to be very unpopular to some who think that their rights are more important than the possible child’s rights). Once born there are strong programs in our brains to stay alive – and….
    Razors pain you;
    Rivers are damp;
    Acids stain you;
    And drugs cause cramp.
    Guns aren’t lawful;
    Nooses give;
    Gas smells awful;
    You might as well live.

    Meanwhile Indian farmers who are loaded with debt are killing themselves in large numbers – it seems that if they die their debt is erased so their death does a service to the family. They don’t die easy for the usually drink the pesticides they had to buy – the very thing that put them in debt.

    Instead of asking folks who talk about the reality of life to go off themselves, why not help some Indian farmer get out of debt so he can care for his family without killing himself.

    Kantibai’s husband died after drinking the chemicals he used to farm with. After his death Kantibai discovered her family was in debt.

    This has become a familiar story in India where nearly 300,000 farmers killed themselves to get out of debt between 1995 and 2011. In the state of Maharashtra alone, 4,453 people committed suicide in 2006. That’s around one every eight hours. As I’m writing this, I hear of seven farmers who’ve died in the past three days. It’s like a swathe of desperate people trying to push the reset button.

    I don’t try to justify my existence, but like Dave I have treated my critters to a good life, and I have spent most of my life helping other humans to have a better life.

  • dmd: Just a thought on your condition. If you’re trying to “get out” of the business of farming, but own the productive land, why not try the co-op route, whereby people rent acreage/plots, grow their own, raise whatever and you “manage” it all (screen prospective clients, consult, determine money matters so that it all works for everyone, etc.)? i just noticed Lidia’s response and think that may be a good idea.

    Robin: yeah, but as soon as it’s updated it’s obsolete!

    Anthony: nice! i agree that mathematical modeling comes under the same criticism as “the map is not the territory.” Scientists that rely only on this (and/or statistics) miss the point, are biased in selectively cherry picking (or ignoring) data and when complete their “theory” or model only concerns numbers (or trends or patterns) and not the actual events/conditions in the real world. As for “overrating ourselves” – oh man, don’t get me started. It starts with that whole “image and likeness of God” bullshit and goes downhill from there. Yeah, we’re so effing special (clever) because we can figure out so many ways to kill everything around us (including each other and the very environment we depend on for our existence). i wonder what cancer cells call themselves – the crown of creation? Magnificent mitosis machines?

  • 500 comments behind, oh my!
    And I haven’t even read your entries, Guy.
    Haven’t managed my weekly blogentry for two weeks (although I did post about Emergency Interpreting for the Deaf, which is one of my passions).

    Have you seen this?

    “On the Cusp of Global Collapse?
    Updated Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Historical Data”


    Research on the new strain of coronavirus, which has killed almost half of those who have caught it, has found that it breeds in the human body faster than SARS and can evade the immune system as easily as the common cold.