From the Bottom Up and the Inside Out

by Sherry Ackerman

I don’t think too many people are going to argue with the claim that the world is in a mess. It’s definitely a time when we need to re-vision our direction and make some course changes … if there is even time for that. The questions loom large. Where will these changes originate? And, how will they be implemented?

There are a lot of “plans” that originate from the top-down and the outside-in. That is, they are formulated by some umbrella governmental agency and work on the premise that the necessary changes will simply be legislated. This is fascism, any way you look at it. It’s the Nanny State. Such approaches assume that people are incapable of self-correcting, through education and consciousness-raising, and purport that government, or some authoritative agency, needs to mandate policy. These plans get churned out by Think Tanks and other talking heads and have insufficient understanding of most of the issues at the grass-roots level.

The solutions, to have longevity, are going to have to come from the bottom-up and the inside-out. That means that local communities are going to have to create their own networking solutions to deal with current problems. It also means that the motivation for the accompanying behavioral changes is going to have to be intrinsic — rather than extrinsically legislated.

Relocalization efforts mean working together, as a community, to find solutions to tough problems—economic, environmental, energy and resource needs. It means becoming sufficiently empowered to believe that local areas can do this without being mandated. We can begin to find solutions without the intervention of a boilerplate, large-scale master “plan.” This means, though, changing the way that we have thought for many years. Slowly, incrementally over the past few decades, we have slipped into thinking that “the government” will fix all of the problems — we have forgotten that we can do something about them ourselves.

I am, admittedly, a Vermonter. This type of thinking is indigenous to Vermont. When I first moved to California, I was shocked to discover that people call County and State agencies to report problems with their neighbors. Where I came from, if you had a problem with your neighbor, you walked over there and sat down to talk about it over a cup of coffee. That’s where community begins — shouldering the responsibility for trying to work things out among ourselves.

It also begins on the “inside” — with a heartfelt intention to try to build a local community where we learn to trust one another enough to enter into mutual searches for solutions to hard issues. It’s caring. It’s believing that, at the core, we all want many of the same things.

Doing it any other way opens the door to totalitarianism. It gives away our power. It asks The Man to change our diapers and give us a cup of warm milk.

This is about growing up. It’s about remembering that this is the stuff this country was founded on and it’s probably about time that we got back to thinking that way.


Sherry Ackerman, Ph.D., author of The Good Life: How to Live a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle, is a socially engaged philosopher who believes in doing “philosophy on the streets”. For more information, visit her website at

Comments 169

  • @ Sherry, (I speak to you because I’m not ready to look through all 99 responses)

    I agree that the world seems like a mess. I posit that it’s looked that way at least since the early ’40’s when I first understood that the Allies might not win The War. The mid-fifties found me teaching first aid in Philadelphia’s Civil Defense Rescue Services, awaiting nuclear annihilation, and then directing operations for them. In the fall of ’62 we played nuclear chicken with Russia.

    The truth is that none of us really knows how this particular crisis will end. I’m not trying to suggest that NTE is just like those crises. I agree with Chris Martenson (The Crash Course), who knows a lot but only says that the next twenty years will be totally unlike the last 20. It will be a “Black Swan” event. I’m comfortable with that and with learning to dance with uncertainty.

    The world we have today is the result of our reductionist mind-set in an era when holism, holarchy, systems thinking, rising feminist principles (it really needs a name but we’re not even there, yet.) It’s a material world view that contains no matter. There isn’t time, I think, to teach that paradigm shift to enough people to get them motivated but we can model it in all that we say and do.

    You mentioned Relocalization. You could have also said Transition, the successor to the Post Carbon Relocalization outposts. Hopkins came up with a solution that I think a Vermonter could live with. He doesn’t provide dogma, only a systems approach that has a lot of good ideas and promise. It’s about community and small-scale self-reliance. So far I haven’t heard him claim that anyone made it work completely, and/or perfectly. I’ve been working on a “stealth” transition town project in a community that would swiftly attack if I gave it its proper name. They are attracted, however, to the concept of fiscal responsibility. Let’s stop wasting energy. And we waste a lot of it.

    Our leaders have had at least half a century to lead us through this predicament when it was merely a crisis. We are living with the best they were able to do. “Fool me twice?” Forget it.

    The door to totalitarianism has been open since America was or became an oligarchy. The oligarchs now have technology on their side, but so do we. They too are in denial about what’s really going on and have chosen reductionism, power over, etc.. I know they have the information and have been working on their fortified retreats for decades. They’ve made up their minds about how this is and how it will turn out. But they don’t know how to dance with uncertainty.

    The world and its mess is still with us. There are things we can do and things that are beyond impossible. Like in a commercial aircraft when the oxygen masks drop, we must put ours on first and then attend to the others. Is yours on yet? If we believe that NTE is a real possibility then we must put avoiding it first. It must, and eventually will be the primary global task. I’m not waiting for that to happen.

    Complaining about the mess is fruitless. What is key to holarchism is the creation of a vision. The Transition/Relocalization movement offers an armature on which we can build our vision. That is the real challenge and we must work together on that vision, and together to make it real. And then we can dance and play ball with nature.

  • Robin Datta says: those whose lizard-brains have not yet accommodated NTE will direct their monkey brains to look for a way out

    Robin, you absolutely nailed it!

    Acceptance may be our goal,
    But we’re used to one character role;
    What we think is, in fact,
    Not the way that we act,
    ‘Cause the lizard brain’s in control.

    Robin Datta Says: Intellectual explanations are fine and dandy at the rational, verbal, monkey-brain level. Almost everyone thinks this is enough because the monkey-chauffeur is in the driver’s seat. But the boss in the back seat is the non-verbal, non-rational lizard-brain which recognises only feelings – emotions, attitudes, values.
    Whether guest essay or comment, those whose lizard-brains have not yet accommodated NTE will direct their monkey brains to look for a way out, whether through a miracle of the physical world, through coordinated societal effort (nearly as miraculous!) or the ostrich method. Something will save us! We will save ourselves! There’s no problem!

  • «And then we can dance and play ball with nature.»

    Let me guess, we are the ball?

  • Though there has been a fairly unusual long lasting cyclone in the Arctic before the beginning of the 2013 melt season, keeping the Arctic in a colder cloudy low pressure zone, NSIDC just released their Arctic Sea Ice Extent, and it looks like it is falling fast. If current trends continue, it looks to overtake the 2012 trend by mid July.

  • Ulvfugl: comment at 2:31/ July 3 is very beautiful.

    Kathy C: you are my patron saint of NTE. Your words have worked wonders for my focus. I have been very present with the forest this season and its been beautiful; exquisite, actually. and increasingly less melancholy. I spent a few years like that and still have bouts of rage, horror and despair, but not as often. Pragmatism, and the absence of hysteria in your voice, is a gift you share with Guy. thank you.

    Lydia be well.

  • Sherry,

    I recognize you from the Mike S film “Somewhere In New Mexico Before The End Of Time”.

    Did no one else here?

    A lot in the essay I go along with, and agree with Guy’s comment about it’s focus.

    I suppose the criticisms are valid when one sees NTE as a game changer – errr (cough)’ more a Gane Over theme.

    I liken what is approaching with the analogy of a ‘local natural disaster’ like flooding, a cyclone, a wildfire that take homes and bush etc. When this happens people drop everything and help if they can. They get food, water and transport going at shelters or civic centres. They help each other by dropping the class and racial and national personae. Many even help animals in difficulty.

    Paid for services are just not able to cope.

    Eventually, people go back to their lives, and take up the rigid personae again.

    Several observations make my point.

    Usually people helping out in these EMERGENCIES feel good about connecting to others who they otherwise are alienated from

    After Schopenhauer, dropping the personae is evidence of an underlying unity within culture, which perhaps currency competition and other ‘civilizing’ factors, overlay and supplant.

    I am attempting to see the world as this emergency, and drop all the outer carapace. Not ‘wear my heart on my sleeve for Dawes to peck at’ as such, but to act accordingly.

    Sherry’s essay is to me a prompt for ‘us’ to get the emergency program operating at a local level.

    As NTE is undeniably on the table, the time delay and ‘inevitability’ are what stops some from making some of these changes. AS is is rather unknown, I would rather use the tome to Grow Up’ as she puts it, than supporting the old ways.

    Go out living I say.

    Nice essay, unfortunate some here find it too optimistic.

    I also like the clear use of the word ‘intrinsic’ in the essay, it implies self authorizing.

    See a need, do it.

  • @ Kevin “The Earth worked hard over hundreds of millions of years to generate the ‘perfect’ conditions that allowed humans to develop civilisations. And industrial civilisation has messed it all up in just over 200 years.” The Earth worked hard rather it was Gaia that did the work the sum total of all life on and in and under the Earth.Including the Oceans and life in the atmosphere. It surprises me Lovelock’s profound insight is hardly ever acknowledged. :-)

  • Thank you Sherry for your article. Fascism? Fascism in Murka was alive and well when Milhouse was pResident. The shooting of anti-war students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard was an horrible lesson in police state tactics. Four dead in Ohio.

    Guy. Has the two post rule been lifted?

    Perth County Conspiracy – Stories Of Old

  • @ michele/montreal

    Let me guess, we are the ball?


    @ Red Eft

    Thank you for the compliment.

    @ Ozman

    I liken what is approaching with the analogy of a ‘local natural disaster’…

    Well then it’s obvious that YOU have no understanding or insight into the reality of the situation and our predicament because your analogy is completely absurd.

    There have always been local natural disasters, and humans have coped with them over the last million years as we evolved, and we have coped with the more recent disasters of our own making, like WW1 and WW2.

    What we face now is NOTHING LIKE any of the natural or manmade disasters that humans have faced over history or prehistory.

    To find ANYTHING comparable to the changes that are happening NOW you have to look back over millions of years of time through the geological record.

    @ Jay

    Not everyone accepts Lovelock’s theory. Many scientists reject it.

    The main competing position is probably Peter Ward’s. He has several video talks available if you google for them

    Personally, I think the two positions can be reconciled quite easily.

    The main problem we have is that there is only one Earth with life that we know of, so if you only have a single specimen, and nothing else to compare it with, it’s impossible to make any absolute statements.

  • Jay.

    Yes. When I wrote ‘the Earth’ I was not implying the processes were purely geochemical. It is an all-encompassing system, a vast interconnected combination of everything chemical, physical and biological, even including plate tectonics, which Lovelock was prompted to call Gaia -the Earth goddess.

    If we want to, we can push out the boundaries to include all the laws of mathematics, chemistry and physics. They have worked in combination for 15 billion years to create conditions suitable for human civilisation. More properly, of course, human civilisations took advantage of the conditions that the culmination of 15 billion years of stellar and terrestrial evolution had generated.

    Nevertheless, industrial civilisation has messed it up (almost entirely) in about 200 years.

    It is easy to postulate and support the argument that the destruction of the biosphere was an inevitability. Isn’t it the Fermi Principle that we will never find an advanced civilisation anywhere in the universe because advanced civilisations would always discover and exploit fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and would annihilate themselves?

    I often think about water. If the s-p electron orbital hybridisation were not just as it is, and if the electronegativity difference between O and H were not just as it is, water would not be a liquid at 20oC, ice would not float on water, water vapour would not form into droplets, and there would be no rain.

    That takes us into the realms of divine creation and teleological arguments. I have no answers in that field. However, I do know what God is not.

    Nevertheless, it is extraordinary that every single piece of this monstrously complex system fits perfectly. If rates of radioactive decay were significantly different the Sun would not exist, the Earth would not exist, or would be too hot or too cold. If ozone did not form in the stratosphere UV radiation would smash organisms that ventured to close to the surface of the seas and oceans. If there were no lightning nitrogen would be trapped as N2 molecules and would be unavailable as a building block of proteins. If cells were not able to shunt ion across cell membranes electrical potentials would not be possible; no nervous systems; no senses; no brains. And so on, And so on.

    The interesting anecdote relating to Lovelock was that he misheard the word and thought the word gyre -a complex circling system- was being suggested.

  • What I find so galling about ‘let’s just roll up our sleeves and put our shoulders to the wheel’ talk is that I’ve seen this movie before.

    In the early 1970’s, when I was bolting home made solar hot water panels on tenement roofs in the inner city, and then migrating out to the countryside to ‘live on the land’. Read some old Whole Earth catalogs from the late 60’s and during the 70’s.

    It was the exact same premise as now accept without the End of Life on Earth (NTE) as the motivator.

    The motivation THEN was The Limits to Growth, which I bought hot off the presses, first edition, and which still sits quietly on my bookshelf smiling like the Buddha, veritably chanting silently over an over an over:

    I told you so, I told you so, I told you so, I told you so, I told you so………

    People were working on this alt-whatever shit 40 YEARS AGO, with blood, sweat and tears.

    It was working, it was building a head of steam…

    And then the Lizard-Brains® killed it in the 80’s with dirt cheap oil and Reaganism and Thatcherism and NO ONE pursued alternative energy after that, NO ONE, because there was no MONEY to be made on it.

    You see, morality, common sense, common cause, all that crapola never matters, only money matters.

    Still does today as we speak. Get use to it.

    By the time the Sheeple, the Font of Human Exceptionalism, figure out their ‘money’ is worthless Ones & Zeros on a computer hard drive, it will be way to late, and they won’t budge in the right direction an iota until that happens.

    Fat Dumb and Happy, you can take that to the bank.

    So as the clock ticks off to 2030 or 2040, all the Second Hand Roses and Johnny Come Latelys to the Save the Earth Crusade who want to take a stab it righting the wrongs and trail blazing the Path to Enduring Balance and Harmony a Second Time;

    Just remember that the last 40 YEARS was pissed away by Humanity, you almost ‘got it’, it was in the palm of our collective hands in the 1970’s, and that no matter how much you could sure use an extra 40 years to getyourshittogether, no matter you pray or wish or scream and stamp your feet, it’s all gone down the plug hole.

    Mother Earth’s Lament

    …Mother (Earth) turned ’round for a soap off the rack
    She was only a moment but when she turned back
    Her baby (Gaia) had gone, and in anguish she cried
    “Oh, where has my baby gone?”, and the Angels replied:

    Oh, your baby has gone down the plug hole
    Oh, your baby has gone down the plug
    The poor little thing was so skinny and thin
    It should have been washed in a jug, …in a jug

  • Nevertheless, it is extraordinary that every single piece of this monstrously complex system fits perfectly.

    One explanation is the Anthropic principle

  • Sherry’s Vermont sure sounds nice right now, at least for the time being. I have been seriously thinking about moving to some remote rural area there. The latest climate models I have seen show that rainfall will actually stay the same or increase in northern Washington and northern New England while perpetual droughts will be norm everywhere else in the US. I don’t see myself as being selfish or self centered to want to get out of the way and watch water wars break out remotely, at least for a while. We are on a planetary Easter Island and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to reverse it. I’m now 65 and may not live long enough to be overrun by a mob in Vermont. I certainly will be if I stay in Guy’s old home town of Tucson. Its ever increasing temperatures and decreasing rain is a window into most of our planet’s future. Tucson is now on track to break its old record of consecutive days above 100F next week. Every month there seems to be a new record high but never a record low. Do my neighbors see a pattern here? Of course not. Today I went hiking in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. Much of the forest that hasn’t already burned down is dying. The Ponderosa pines will be eventually replaced by grassland.

    It seems like the people who deny global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, etc are everywhere. I saw a lot of rolling eyes the other day when I talked about the soft core overpopulation documentary Growthbusters with some relatively intelligent people at the dog park. I can’t remember how many times I have heard the “conspiracy theorist” knee jerk reaction over the years. The corporate propaganda machine is an extremely powerful “robot people” maker. Hitler’s Mein Kampf even describes how superior the US and English propaganda was with respect to that of Germany during WW1. It is far more sophisticated these days. Edward Bernays was introduced on Letterman’s show as the father of modern public relations (aka propaganda). He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud.

    After watching the premiere of “Somewhere in NM……” and Guy’s follow up lecture at the UofA here in Tucson I finally stopped thinking that I was paranoid and/or insane. I then started to think about the book “The Sociopath Next Door” that I read a while back. I began wonder how the small community like the one Guy lives in would deal with such an individual. They are experts at blending in. According to the author, about 4% of the “1st world” societies are sociopaths while only 1% are in the “3rd world.” The good old industrial revolution does have a strong effect on some people. It certainly seems like the world is run by them.

    So much for my rambling.

  • One of the services the nanny state offers is to keep the electric grid going, sometimes directly through public utilities, but always indirectly by insuring the fuel to run it, the roads for repair people to maintain it, the police to keep vandalism at bay. When the grid fails, nuclear power plants cannot be cooled and if their diesel backups work they will by regulation only have 1 week of fuel in the US because the NRC cannot imagine a blackout longer than that. No backup cooling is required for spent fuel pools. Even nuclear plants closed will take at least 5 years for reactor fuel to be cool enough for permanent storage, and most storage plans these days are designed to take 40 or more years for completion. It is safe to assume that few will be completely shut down when grid collapse happens. Grid collapse can come from solar flares, EMP attacks, failure to maintain, and lack of fuel. There are over 100 nuclear power plants in the US and over 400 in the world. If you google “world map nuclear power plants” you will find one posted by the Guardian. Based on this map I would not recommend the east coast and especially New England as a safe place to be. When the grid goes the pumps in gas stations no longer function. If it goes by EMP your car if new model may not function anyway as the electronics will be fried. Thus when a large enough part of the grid goes, there will be no way to stop the nuclear plants from melting down and no efforts such as at Chernobyl or Fukushima to limit the damage. We have NO idea what it looks like when a nuclear plant melts down with no attempt to contain it. Russia in the end used at least 500,000 workers to contain Chernobyl. For news of the problems in nuclear plants you can check out enenews dot com or google Fukushima Diary.

    Climate change is raising sea level. The wise people who run nuclear plants have chosen at least in the US to save money by not using submersible pumps to pump the water to cool reactors. That means that increasingly heavy storms with raised sea levels are threatening to take out those pumps. google “fairewinds submersible pumps” for more information on that.

    Our goose is cooked, we face peak oil, peak climate, peak phosphate, peak ground water. Pollution is taking out the trees as Gail so eloquently documents on her blog. Fracking is polluting what ground water we have left as well as streams and rivers. There are not only climate feedbacks but other feedbacks – climate endangering nuclear plants, peak fossil fuel endangering our grid and our whole civilization, depletion of ground water endangering our ability to feed our world population, climate reducing grain yields from heat, reducing crop yields from unpredictable weather.

    So I am all in favor of relying more on your local community. But if your local community is not totally self sufficient you NEED the nanny state to keep roads in repair so you can get the things you don’t produce yourself. In earlier times when I just looked at Peak Oil I thought gads everyone needs to start breeding donkeys, the roads will not only go, as the asphalt breaks up they will become barriers to wheeled vehicle. Donkeys, mules and horses breed slowly (compared to rabbits and chickens) and need to be about 4 years old before you can work them hard. We in the are way behind on preparing for a world without transport. Even if you have your lovely local community all internally self sufficient, others won’t. So you will need enough extra to free some people for police work. That means shooting those who want some of what you have, not only nasty male raiders, but women with children. If you don’t you will run out and be run over and then what was all your effort for. I decided years ago that I did not want to kill anyone to live a bit longer, so my initial push to become self sufficient died. I am hoping for a bullet to the head in the first raid. If you do fend off all who want to take your stuff, you get to kill them or watch them die. Survivors of the Holocaust often suffered from survivor guilt. In a world where most everyone would die I think those who lived would go crazy.

    But in the end, whatever else happens at some point the world’s nuclear plants all blow up and we get to try out that planetary experiment. I don’t want to be around for that.

    Now if you find re-localizing is a better way to go, go for it. Just don’t think that you are disconnecting from the nanny state. Only a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is without a nanny state. If you are not totally self sufficient within your community, needing nothing from the outside you are still connected to the nanny state.

    Of course the nanny state will not allow complete disconnect, so what we need now is an essay on how to live well in a FEMA camp.

  • Kevin, Kathy C and Artleads,

    Kathy, the article by Malcolm Light uses a data point that was erroneous and that has been removed from the dataset. No other recording station in or near the Arctic showed that spike, nor has any station recorded such a spike since. I think Guy, essentially, said this in one of his Doomstead Diner interviews. Given that the whole basis for Light’s date calculations was erroneous, the calculation is erroneous. If such a spike were to occur (and it can’t be ruled out), then the calculation might be valid, with a new starting and ending date. I’d hate near term human extinction to become another Mayan calendar episode because it needs solid science behind it to avoid being a laughing stock.

    Kevin, I understand what you say and it may not matter if extinction is 2030 or 2040 but it may matter if it is pencilled in for 2130, or 2230. Yes, feedback loops could rapidly alter the timing but scientists don’t understand enough about those feedback loops yet to be able to say just how they will pan out or how rapidly they will be brought to bear on the warming.

    Artleads, I wouldn’t use the term “rescue”. There is a grim future waiting for us, no doubt. But there are plenty of unknowns, including how feedbacks will impact on warming over time (and possibly including unknown feedbacks).

    All, I’m not looking for a white knight to ride to the rescue but I am cautioning a belief in the certainty of near term human extinction, especially the “near term” bit. Humans will definitely become extinct and there is a high probability that it will happen within several generations, in my view. But there is a wide variety of projections on where temperatures are going to go this century. And with feedbacks being poorly understood (as Guy has also said on the Doomstead Diner interview), we can’t say with any certainty just when (and, it has to be said, or if) temperature levels across the globe will become too great to support any complex life.

    Now, I admit that I have an interest in the lack of certainty. I’m currently on a rocky path to living more simply. I’d like to think that it’s worthwhile. So I may unconsciously be clutching at straws. However, certainty of near term human extinction (within 20 or 30 years – meaning life will become extremely challenging in a lot less time than that) would make my life decisions much easier, so I should really want to be convinced of certain near term human extinction.

    Make of that what you will but the upshot is that I don’t think I’m averse to concluding what so many here seem to conclude: near term human extinction. So that I haven’t yet concluded that suggests to me that the story, though bad (awful, horrendous), is not quite yet up to showing conclusively that near term human extinction is on the cards. Remember, nature bats last.

  • ulvfugl,

    In other words, all we can hope for is that there are some unknown unknowns that will magically appear from the unknowable to save us. More commonly termed ‘a miracle’.

    Just another guy with blind faith in miracles.

    I wonder why anyone wants ‘viable populations to survive’.

    It is most unlikely that any of us will be included amongst them, and their survival is not likely to be a pleasant experience for them, is it ?

    No, I’m not looking for a miracle. I’ve clearly stated my position but it seems I have to keep doing it. If you think we know everything about the climate and the feedbacks (both positive and negative) then you are in a world of your own. There really are unknowns and, given that, we can’t say with any certainty just what will happen when. Your apparent certainty about what will happen is based only on your finger in the air calculations about how all this will pan out. I’d prefer not to use that method.

    I don’t get your point about viable populations. Who wouldn’t want viable populations to survive? Why wouldn’t anyone here be included among them? It may not be likely to be pleasant but survival is high on the intrinsic behaviours list of all organisms.

    Again, I’m not expecting an idyllic future. I’m expecting a harsh future. But I’m not expecting, yet, extinction of all humans within my (probable) lifetime, or my children’s lifetimes. So I still think it’s worth trying to do the right thing.

  • @ Tony

    Now, I admit that I have an interest in the lack of certainty. I’m currently on a rocky path to living more simply. I’d like to think that it’s worthwhile.

    Hahahahaha. Extraordinary. You worry that belief in NTE might cause people to laugh at you ?

    You might die in the night from a heart attack. Do morals and ethics, or even having fun, never enter your worldview ? You think there is something to be achieved ? Something to be lost, something to be gained ? ‘Worthwhile’. Wtf.

    The End of The World, and of All Life on Earth. But it was all worthwhile…

    Just incredible. What would happen if suddenly Malcolm Light’s spike turned out to be confirmed after all ? What then ? NTE Doom back on ? I mean, does your whole future depend on effing Malcolm Light and his data point ? What a bizarre view of reality and the world. It’s like you need to have permission from the scientists before you are allowed to think. Convinced ? Not convinced ? Hahahaha

    What peculiar beings share this planet with me.


    This is rather nice. These make a lot more sense.

    Being a sandpiper
    Animals have thoughts, feelings and personality, so why has science taken so long to catch up with animal consciousness?

  • Speak Softly.

    The attacks on LTG commenced almost immediately. One of the most notable assaults was by Henry Wallich, who happened to be a central banker:

    ‘Limits to Growth attracted controversy as soon as it was published. Yale economist Henry C. Wallich labeled the book “a piece of irresponsible nonsense” in his March 13, 1972 Newsweek editorial. Wallich’s main complaints are that the book was published as a publicity stunt with great fanfare at the Smithsonian in Washington, and that there was insufficient evidence for many of the variables used in the model. According to Wallich, “the quantitative content of the model comes for the authors’ imagination, although they never reveal the equations that they used.” Considering that the detailed model and Meadows et al justifications were not published until 1974 (two years after Limits to Growth) in the book Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World , Wallich’s complaint about “the peculiar presentation of their work and by their unscientific procedures” has merit.

    Similar criticisms were made by others. Robert M. Solow from MIT, complained about the weak base of data on which Limits to Growth’s predictions were made (Newsweek, March 13, 1972, page 103). Dr. Allen Kneese and Dr. Ronald Riker of Resources for the future stated “the authors load their case by letting some things grow exponentially and others not. Population, capital and pollution grow exponentially in all models, but technologies for expanding resources and controlling pollution ar permitted to grow, if at all, only in discrete increments.”(Newsweek, March 13, 1972, page 103)

    Footnote: The models were run on one of the first spreadsheet programs to be developed.’

    As you noted, it was Thatcher and Reagan who put the final nails in the coffin of any possibility of sustainability 30 years ago.

    Repeating what I have said many times, all we can hope for now is to reduce the amount of suffering that is to come. Even doing that appears to be an impossible task in the face of the power of corporations and politicians to mislead and the failure of the general populace to pay attention to anything of importance.

  • “freak” weather happening more and more often in places thought to be “far removed” from it:

    As much as 2 feet of hail fell in parts of Santa Rosa on Wednesday evening, with reports of golf-ball-sized hail crashing through skylights and partially collapsing a roof. A National Weather Service meteorologist, who had just spoken with the Guadalupe County emergency manager late Wednesday, said he received no reports of injuries. The moderately sized thunderstorm formed north of Santa Rosa, then moved south, according to the meteorologist. “I have lived here all my life, and I have never seen this,” County Manager George Dodge told the Guadalupe County Communicator, as he drove around the town surveying damage. Storms of that type are common in the New Mexico eastern plains, meteorologist Clay Anderson said, and they often can dump a lot of big hail in uninhabited areas. “But in this particular case, the core moved right over Santa Rosa,” Anderson said. The storm began around 6 p.m., dropping paintball-sized hail for 20 minutes, according to the newspaper. One National Weather Service local storm report said nickle to golf-ball-sized hail fell. The town was then left covered in ice, stranding motorists on two Route 66 bridges. The newspaper also reported damage to car ports, neon Route 66 signs and a Family Dollar store, in addition to flooding after the hail melted. The damage comes the night before a regional youth-baseball tournament and a car show.

    Oh, would you look at that! The dag-gan weather might interrupt a baseball tournament and a car show! Of all the nerve!

    Now, just move this weird phenomenon a little and what happens to crops beneath it?

  • ulvfugl

    The analogy was concerning the social structures and class and racial prejudice that sees all of us as in competition. I was not likening the NTE and climatic chaos to a local weather emergency.

    The essay is looking more at an idea of equality and sustainability, in parallel with the rise of Fascist powers, or at least powers that divide segments of humanity in order to exploit them.

    I noted that we tend to drop our hauty ego differences when an extreme need is operating. Another example that I was alluding to by mentioning Schopenhauer is when an individual risks their life, and perhaps loses it, to save someone who they do not know, they ‘forget’ their self interest.
    Schopenhauer posits this is evidence, coming from an extreme circumstance, where self interest, self preservation, is not a ‘real’ concern, and the saving of another’s life quickly becomes as important, or more important than one’s own. He says further that this shows the apparent separation of our individual selves is merely a construct, an illusion, or a machine we use to negotiate our self interest.

    I used the analogy of the local disaster, to draw attention to the ‘need’ to collectively collaborate way beyond the usual separative self interested attitude.

    I can’t see that it was that difficult to understand. But my apologies if I was unclear.

    I think it goes without saying that the vast majority of humans do not live in intentional communities. Perhaps that is part of the problems we face, not intending much beyond our immediate concerns.

    That said I call this phase we are going through, the kind of EMERGENCY that requires us to put aside our self interest, and sacrifice for the group, for the other living beings, and for their futures.

    Just sayin. But perhaps I’m not competent to have much of a balanced view, as I feel whatever we do matters, and that’s just crazy – right?


    Sorry for the typos in my last comment. Rank amateur!

    Does anyone here know what reference Guy derives the extinction of 200 species a day figure? And would the large proportion of that 200 be microorganisms?

  • Here is a recent ABC treatment of climate change made easy to understand.

    ‘Extreme Weather’

    A few processes and feedbacks I was not aware of, like how freshwater and salty water imbalances from greater precipitation effects other factors.

    Not a bad wake up to many. They left out some details of an arctic free icecap, but beggars can’t be choosers.

  • OK I am going to spare myself writing again by just going ahead with my second post now. Then I can read stuff the rest of the day and rue the fact that I did a second post so early in the day. :)

    So a little fun
    From The Onion (which is satirical humor for those not familiar with it)

    Universe Crueler, More Uncaring Place Than Previously Thought

    Humor but of course funny because it addresses a problem we all don’t want to admit. The universe was created for us and we don’t matter in the scheme of things any more than a grain of sand matters.

    The only realm we matter is in the realms of feeling things. It matters to our dog whether we beat it or not. It matters to our loved ones how kindly we treat them. It matters to those who can and do read what we write.

    Mattering is for feeling things. If we break a rock in two it doesn’t matter to the rock. If the rock is someone’s diamond it matters, if you are a jeweler it matters how you break it. If you are the owner of a diamond it just plain matters for something you value has been changed. It doesn’t matter to the diamond.

    When feeling things are extinct – mattering goes with it. As long as feeling things exist, mattering exists. So matter to someone you care about. Was there ever anything else worth doing?

  • @KathyC, thanks for this morning’s Eye-opener. I thought about donkeys, but I’d hate to see people kill them for food. As for the de-commissioning, I remember reading an article in the local paper about VY and Entergy. It described their proposals: something like 60 years and then there long-term ongoing maintenance after that. It was so absurd I snorted out loud. When I went to get the link, I found the e-article didn’t have the time-frames in it…

    @wildwoman, yep, right here on the sofa-bed. It’s a fairly unpleasant existence at the moment.

    @Skip, be careful what you wish for. Like dmd, we’ve had ten days or more of rain and are facing ten more. Things are wringing wet, and the highs are Floridian: in the mid-nineties yesterday at my house. Millions in damages keep being reported as various towns have roads and culverts wash out. Everyone had to be evacuated from a brand-new low-income housing project that just got inundated in the Lebanon, NH, area.

    @Tony, with me gone, there’ll be all the more room for you in the “viable population”. Why someone wouldn’t be among them is that they are not physically or mentally strong enough to do what is necessary to survive. These are not choices relegated to the future; people are opting out here and now, for example, the military losses to suicide which outpace combat deaths. Survival is not the only human value. Some things are worse than death and I hope to still have two good legs to be able to dance off that cliff when the time comes.

  • Kevin M

    “…all we can hope for now is to reduce the amount of suffering that is to come…”

    Grow lota and lots of Papaver Somniferum

    No, wait, the transnational Lizard-Brains® Monopoly Mafia can’t tolerant such things unless they have a ‘piece of the action’.

    They have to make money on any and all suffering or else to them, it’s a stranded asset gone to waste.

    No poppy seed bagel for You!

  • @Speak Softly, I loved your Mother Earth ditty… Thanks.

    Plus, “stranded assets” – LOL! :-)

  • Kathy C said: «Grid collapse can come from solar flares, EMP attacks, failure to maintain, and lack of fuel.»

    In Montreal, we are in our third day of massive power failures (all over the province) due to the forest fires in the North. The particulates from the fires are jamming the transmission equipment causing the system to automatically shut down. And today’s paper says “It might get a lot worse” (which, as a certified doomer and ozonista, I beleive). I think the province is also supplying power to large parts of New England, including beautiful Vermont. There is no place where to relocate (and if there was, it would very fast be overcrowded). But hopium and a sense of immortality are sooo ingrained, sooo attractive and sooo addictive.

    Here, we are now part of the increasing territory on earth choking in a smog from forest fires (which here is predicted to last indefinetely). I am sure that this overexposition to smog from fires is rapidly causing a lot of lung cancers, among other ailments.

    On another subject, I do not do cars and planes, and in fact rarely get out of the house. But I had to go to the airport last week. The crowd I saw there was completely drunk on oil. Oil gave them mobility, and the power to fly! They just cannot beleive their luck and never think of where all this power is comin from. They LOVE TO FLY. And it only takes money. They accept more and more rules to board a plane because mobility is their wildest dream come true. Mobility is an attribute of the red line (hemoglobin), compared to the “immobility” of the green line (clorophyll). Beware of the red line!!

  • Well, we celebrated the genocide and ecocide that this great nation was founded on by doing the patriotic thing and buying a chainsaw to clear out our dead trees. The handsaw is just not gonna cut it any more. The neighbors informed us that they are going to give their trees another year. Do dead trees ever resurrect themselves?

  • I really recommend the movie God Bless America – trailer here:

    Also Django Unchained. I put off watching it because the reviews made it sound like a bloodbath, but it’s much more than that. It’s a visceral leap into the days before the lucky classes had cheap oil and coal as the primary energy slaves, and enslaved humans instead.

  • Kathy C,

    Roads: Roads breaking up due to asphalt and govt deficit would be the easy part. I’ve been experimenting for over 20 years with paper pulp-based fill for potholes. The paper comes from discard and the other materials (including earth or gravel) isn’t hard to get. More difficult would be a touch of cement to harden the mix. But if you substitute labor for cement, you just need to repair the infill more frequently. The labor would come from local communities that have an interest in passable roads.

    The point is not to obviate roads, but to take pressure off them. Harder would be to widen and adapt shoulders, and get easements from private owners to create more inviting equestrian, bike and pedestrian trails alongside, or alternative to, the existing roads. We would have a much smaller public works sector, a much increased volunteer sector, and a blending of the two in many cases.

    Food: There could be minimal coercion to get everybody to grow a little food, the more, the more the “rewards.” Even peppers on the windowsills

    The Universe: Isn’t it hard to say that the universe is indifferent to life? It could be no more and no less indifferent to life than to anything else?

    Energy: Could the nuke issue be like the roadway issue? Just as we could take pressure off the roads, can we take pressure off the over-reliance on nuclear? Given all the money and manufacturing resources in the world TODAY, how much of a lift or a stretch would it be to put solar panels on every roof in the world SOON? I know, no profit in it for the utility companies. It isn’t human nature, or the methodology, or physical resources that’s the problem; it’s the greed and power lust (and maybe stupidity) of energy corporations. Isolating the problem might not resolve it, but it won’t hurt either. If society were to be less reliant on nuclear early enough, might it be able to push for mitigation against meltdown? So, as far as I can tell, the pivot point would be to get solar panels on rooftops. They could certainly start with new buildings (even though, were I in charge, there would be no new buildings).

    The End: Whatever the means by which we depart this vale, it is more undesirable than words could explain. Somerset Maugham had this suggestion: If you are under water, just breathe deeply.


    I agree that human society has the capacity for altruism. There seems always to be a dynamic tension between “good” and “evil”. (The latter is certainly having a field day at this time.) I see very little hope for public education, but here and there we could see altruism experiments taught in schools. The fact that more, or enough, might not be done doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done. It’s not like irreversible tipping points that we’ve already overshot for climate.

    I have trouble understanding the meme which condemns humankind to basically cutthroat and competitive (or cooperative only in the service of suicide) behavior. But that’s for brainier folks than I. The picture I get is of upstream and downstream thinking existing forever beside each other. One stream making for survival, the other for destruction. (The latter having much to do with runaway population explosion.) One side is clobbering the other now, but to say that its victory is written in the stars is again only for brighter folks to assess.

  • @ tvt, thanks!

    Kathy Cassandra says: I decided years ago that I did not want to kill anyone to live a bit longer….

    kevin moore says: …all we can hope for now is to reduce the amount of suffering that is to come.


    There’s no noble fight up ahead,
    Just most of the horrors we dread;
    What you’ll have to do
    Is kill folks just like you,
    Until you yourself become dead.

    Human Legacy Ends

    “You can’t take it with you,” we find,
    But the ending of all humankind
    And all trace we were here
    Will soon disappear,
    So you can’t even leave it behind.

    (Sorry, the following won’t work for everybody:)

    Fence Straddling

    You can’t sit long on fences or walls,
    And inaction won’t mean that time stalls;
    When all’s said and done,
    It’s not too much fun:
    The pressure’s too much on your balls.

  • To cheer myself up I went to a little shop near where I used to work to get my favorite sandwich. I discovered that sometime in the past 1.5 years instead of real avocado they replaced it with mayonnaise with a tiny bit of avocado mashed in. Or maybe it’s really just green coloring in plastic. Do you see how this leads inexorably to NTE by 2030??

  • @BadlandsAK

    Hi! Yes, I know the experience. Our noble thoughts aren’t always workable. I left big bucks and a cushy airline job back in the mid seventies to “do the right thing” by walking away from flying half empty airplanes during the Arab oil embargo, and polluting the atmosphere with jet exhaust to go back to the land to live the “good life” as described by Helen and Scott Nearing.

    Land was cheap in Arkansas, so stupidly I bought more than I needed or could reasonably care for. I was going to cut the yard with a scyth and stay in shape while doing it. Yeah right! Ha ha! I felt guilty when I bought a Sears powered walk-behind mower. I was going to heat with wood while keeping in shape by cutting and splitting it. Yeah right! Ha ha! I felt guilty when I realized without slaves or a huge willing family, I needed a chain saw. Of course I was intending to buy American and local. The locals hated the unreliability of American made chainsaws of the day, so I joined the “club” and bought Swedish. Quickly learned that sometimes buying American is stupid. After about 25 trips to the local sanitation plant for compost in the old (used)63 Dodge pickup, I learned that the city compost had a pretty high level of pathogens and flushed prescriptions and wasn’t recommended for growing anything one might eat. Of course I was growing everything “organic”. Yeah right! Arkansas is the bug capital of the world. I used to wrap Scotch tape (sticky side out) around my socks to keep the deer and seed (tiny) ticks from crawling up my legs. I tried every known organic bug remedy I learned about. LOL!

    I had learned a trade that wouldn’t damage the planet and would keep things “running”….piano repair and tuning. Rural Ozarks isn’t the cultural center of the world and I learned that if people wanted their “pinnaner” tuned, it had probably been in a chicken coup for at least a generation, maybe two and wasn’t worth the trip. If they said they wanted their “Pieanner” tuned, it might lead to some work. I had a few regular clients that called a piano a piano. I bit the bullet for six years and went on to other failures before I got another job flying heavy freighters, burning 14,000# of fuel per hour in the wee hours at half the pay I had made a decade before. “Ouch”. Felt REALLY guilty now…..and stupid!

    Left that debacle after five years and bought some land in the Ozarks for another attempt at living the simple life. Actually, I’m now growing a very successful organic garden by growing things that actually want to grow here. A Permaculture concept. Don’t grow summer squash…they are bug magnets!!

    Decades later I learned that the famous Nearings of “Living The Good (simple)Life” fame depended on lots and lots of free labor from thousands of visitors over the years. Their neighbor, Elliot Coleman, of Market Gardening book fame, also used lots and lots of free labor from his college students.

    Which is a good place to end! Don’t pay any attention to the easy solutions presented at many sources. Nothing is easy! Everything is harder to do than to say. Nothing is easy without immigrant labor (slaves), or machines and the big money to keep them running.

    I just finished reading “Ishmael”. The basic concept is that mankind lived for a few million years as hunter gatherer (“leavers”), taking what was actually needed and leaving the rest. The past six thousand years, as agriculturalists, we have become (“takers”), taking everything whether needed or not, and destroying everything that we don’t recognize the need for in the process.

    Like the great 60’s Calypso song’s refrain “They paved over paradise and put in a parking lot. Don’t know whacha lost till it’s gone”.

    The concept of “leavers” vs. “Takers” offers great clarity.


  • @Tony

    You are certainly correct that there is considerable uncertainty as to the timing of die-off up to and including extinction.

    Allow me to point out that you have a bias in interpreting uncertainty – you always regard it as providing additional time. If we aren’t certain that NTE occurs in 2030 at 4:14 GMT on April 7, then it must mean that NTE will occur later than that, perhaps much later, perhaps many generations, providing an opportunity for adaptation.

    Uncertainty goes both ways. NTE could also occur much sooner than 2030. It could be 2020 for all we know.

    For example, there is still plenty of time for weather disruptions to cause major crop failures in the northern hemisphere this summer, and that would lead to famines and social unrest by spring.

    The state of the ice melt in the Arctic is still up for debate, but this could be the year and a large-scale methane release soon to follow, with 4C temps in three or four years. Instead of famine we would see no food at all.

  • @ Woodsdweller – Your post caused me to break out in song this afternoon :)

    It’s hard to take this to heart,
    But we might go out in a fart.
    As the methane keeps increasing,
    Then the Earth will be releasing.
    And I do fear it’s the way we all shall part.

  • The only realm we matter is in the realms of feeling things.

    That realm is also a part if the material/phenomenal world. The mattering is a consequence of the “I”-sense, the apparition that sustains the subtle body. The gross body, and the subtle body (mind): both are part of the manifest universe. The mind has no awareness of its own, but the uniquely solitary awareness – consciousness with content – manifests associated with it, in a manner akin to a non-magnetic piece of iron manifesting magnetism in a magnetic field. The brain (part of the gross body), the mind, and the content of consciousness are aspects of the meat-robot, as transient as everything in the phenomenal/material universe.

    Absent an appropriate substrate, no magnetic field is apparent, even when present. But unlike the piece of iron in the magnetic field, both the gross body/world and the subtle body/mind are apparitions “conjured” up as content within consciousness.

    It may be difficult for some to discern the difference between consciousness with content (=awareness) and consciousness. But that is the root of everything. No shortcut to that discernment, though. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God”: those with that discernment can attest to the veracity of this saying, and of a seeing is not in the realm of the five senses, the mind, or awareness.

    Not all oxygen carriage is by iron-based haemoglobin: some Arthropoda and Mollusca use copper-based hemocyanin. And some unicellular flagellated plants are mobile.


    What connects this weekend’s glorious summer weather with the record heatwave in Death Valley California, the devastating floods this spring in Germany, the miserably cold March in Britain, unusually warm temperatures in Alaska this winter and many other examples of extreme weather around the world?

    The answer according to some scientists is a high-altitude ribbon of fast-moving air in the northern hemisphere called the jet stream which appears to have changed from travelling in a relatively straight direction from west to east to a path that meanders widely between north and south.

    A growing body of evidence suggests that something has happened to the jet stream, a river of wind which circumnavigates the globe at an altitude of between 5 and 7 miles and at speeds of up to 200 mph. Over the past few years scientists have noticed that it increasingly becomes “locked” in one position, sometimes for weeks at a time, bringing extreme heat or cold as well as droughts or floods.

    This spring was a prime example. Instead of following its usual path to the north of Scotland, the jet stream shifted south for several weeks, bringing the coldest March in 100 years to Britain, as well as devastating rainfall and floods to central Europe and record high temperatures to Finland and western Russia.

    Over the past week or so it has shifted north again, flipping to its more usual position over the top of Scotland, allowing a mass of warm air and sunshine to move over most of the British Isles from the Azores further south – bringing joy to Wimbledon’s centre court.

    “The key question is what is causing the jet stream to shift in this way?” asked Professor Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre last month when he helped to organise a workshop of 26 experts to discuss the recent run of unusual seasons in Europe.

    One possible answer lies in what is happening in the Arctic, which has seen temperature increases some two or three times higher than elsewhere in the world, and leading to dramatic and unprecedented loss of sea ice and melting of the massive Greenland ice sheet.

    Scientists know that the jet stream is driven by temperature differences between the Arctic and latitudes further south. The smaller this temperature difference, the weaker the jet stream, and the weaker the jet stream the more likely it is to meander as travels around the northern hemisphere, said Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

    “Certainly it all fits together. We are seeing big fluctuations in the path of the jet stream and where it gets into a meandering the north-south waves tend to stand still in one place, bringing extreme weather because whatever weather you are getting tends to hang around for a long time,” Dr Francis said.

    “We see the west to east winds of the jet stream that are weaker and these winds are driven by the temperature differences between higher latitudes to the north and lower latitudes to the south. We know these temperature differences are becoming less marked,” she said.

    “The evidence is piling up and at some time the circumstantial evidence will pile up enough to prove the case. The problem is that we don’t yet have enough long-term data from the real world to verify the connection, but the climate models seem to be telling the same story,” she added.

    It is not just over Europe where the jet stream is playing up. It has meandered widely this summer over North America, producing a sharp trough of low pressure over central United States and equally sharp ridges of high pressure over the western and eastern states.

    The jet stream usually acts as a barrier between the cold mass of air to the north and warm air to the south, which means that the meandering path of the stream is bring colder than usual temperatures to places such as Waco in Texas which saw the coldest July temperature on record, and higher temperatures to places such as Death Valley, which recorded a head-splitting 54C.

    What seems to be a feature of a meandering jet stream is that the wider it wanders, the more likely it is to become locked in one position for days or weeks on end. Whatever extremes it brings, they are likely to remain in place for longer than usual.

    Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has produced mathematical evidence to support the idea that the jet stream is becoming locked in global “planetary waves” where the high-altitude wind meanders widely from its usual west-east path and becomes locked for long periods in one position.

    He and his colleague Vladimir Petoukhov have shown that Arctic warming could be behind many climate extremes seen over the past few years, including the Moscow heatwave of 2010 and the Indus river flood in Pakistan of the same year, as well as the heatwave in the US in 2011.

    “These so-called planetary waves are well known and a normal part of atmospheric flow. However, during several recent weather events these planetary waves almost froze in the tracks for weeks,” Dr Rahmstorf said.

    “So instead of bringing cool air after having brought warm air before, the heat just stays, and stays and stays. Two or three days of 30C are no problem, but 20 or more days lead to extreme heat stress,” he said.

    Meanwhile, the outlook in Britain is for the current sunny weather to last at least for another week – and possibly longer.

  • @ Tony

    If you think we know everything about the climate and the feedbacks (both positive and negative) then you are in a world of your own. There really are unknowns and, given that, we can’t say with any certainty just what will happen when. Your apparent certainty about what will happen is based only on your finger in the air calculations about how all this will pan out. I’d prefer not to use that method.

    Does it matter what I know ? You always think you know better, don’t you ?

    Yes, I am indeed mostly in a world of my own, surrounded by an ocean of maniacs, imbeciles and idiots. I can list the individuals who I consider worth listening to on a single A4 sheet. That’s out of the whole 7 billion. Guy is on the list. You’re not.

    Perhaps you’d like to list those negative feedbacks you mention ? And if you have any difficulty doing that, perhaps you should consult the Archdruid and ask him to help you out. He’s not on my list either.

    Then perhaps you’d like to list the unknowns. Oh, but of course you can’t because you don’t know what they are. ‘Might be’s’ that you don’t even have names for. That’s your method ?

    But some people were RIGHT about the loss of the Arctic sea ice last year, and some people, despite the empirical evidence, are STILL working on the assumption that it won’t happen until 2100.

    And you seem to think that the only thing that matters is temperature. That doesn’t matter. Temperature is just numbers. What matters is the effects, the results. What lives and what dies. And the reasons why.

    Who wouldn’t want viable populations to survive?

    Me. Because you’re never going to know whether they survived or not, and the conditions are going to be so nightmarishly horrific that nobody sane or compassionate would wish them upon anyone.

    Civilisation collapses. Most people die. That trauma itself, alone, is almost unimaginable. Then, having to live in the subsequent irradiated wasteland with never enough to eat, no medicines or anaesthetics. Living like hunter-gatherers, with nothing much to hunt and gather, on a toxic land fill site instead of the Garden of Eden. Etc.

    Three weeks without food, you die. That means, for a viable population, from childbirth, until reproductive age, say, mid teens, getting enough to eat, every three weeks. That’s a demanding requirement in the absence of any supportive soceity and technology, with climate chaos.

    How’s it going to be done? You don’t know. You just wave your hand and say ‘forest gardens’ without having any idea what you’re talking about.

    Btw, You stated that there seemed to be a conflict between these statements, did you figure out why there is no conflict yet ? I asked you before, you didn’t reply. Nevermind.

    Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (CO2, CH4, N2O) highest in over 800,000 years by ice core data: current year still increasing.
    Rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration: unprecedented ie has never been higher (IPCC). Rate of increase of CH4 and N2O also assumed to be unprecedented.
    Atmospheric CO2 concentration highest in 15 million years
    Ocean acidification highest in 15 million years and rate of acidification highest in 300 million years.

    @ Ozman

    Oh, I see. So you’re saying that during a crisis humans will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to assist other humans, even to the extent of self-sacrifice.

    And this is supposed to be a novel revelation ? And the corollary is that sometimes they won’t and don’t. That some profound wisdom you thought we needed to hear from you ?

    Backed by the authority of Schopenhauer ? Well. Shucks.

    But perhaps it has dawned upon you by now, that “what we are facing”, as you phrased it, is nothing like a normal emergency that can be addressed by people coming together to help one another.

    You, and some others here, are like the proverbial ‘generals fighting the last war’, the ones who always send infantry against machine guns and cavalry against tanks because that’s what you were taught, and it’s impossible for you to get your head around a new and entirely different paradigm, because you lack the imagination and insight.

    Look, the biosphere collapses, civilsation collapses, the ecosystems collapse, the climate is chaotic, most people, animals, plants, die, there’s nothing to eat. It’s nothing like an emergency where you help your neighbours and then return to ‘normal’.

    ‘Normal’ is never coming back. Sure, it’s smeared out across a period of time. It’s not evenly distributed yet. Only about half a million people dying now from climate change. But it’s rising and spreading.

    The cuckoos on Archdruid’s blog want to believe it’ll be centuries, that it’ll wind down nice and slowly and everything will be tidy and manageable. I think they will have a terrible shock.

    We’ve had 10 deg C temperature rise over a decade before, and there’s no reason that I can see why we won’t get that again. If/when that occurs, no wishful thinking about communities or viable populations counts for anything.

    We are currently following worse than the worst case scenario trajectory for emissions, and NO sign that anything effective can be done or will be done. The future is impossible.

    Other than a handful of astonishing individuals on this blog, EVERYBODY is in denial and pinning their hope on some straw or other that they desperately clutch at, whether it’s a magic technofix, alternative energy, or something wrong with the science, or that bending the numbers to stretch the time frame, will alter the physics…

    Or they wrap themselves in romantic reworkings of history, like the acolytes who follow the Archdruid, bedtime stories, extinction time stories, to keep the ghosties away…

    Or the activists who think that if everyone jumps up and down and shouts, that’ll change things, or the transitionists who think that it’s going to be a tough few years through a bottleneck but somehow we’ll emerge into a bright and rosy utopian future, whatever.

    Everybody has got their let-out clause. Everybody is telling lies to themselves, from the environmentalists to the scientists to the politicians.

    Each day that passes, more species extinct, more forest cleared, more CO2 and methane emitted, more babies born. Nothing gets fixed.

    There’s a time lag. What we have today results from the emissions of 30 years ago. Emissions have increased rapidly ever since. What we get in 30 years time cannot be changed. It’s already in the pipeline. The changes will be exponential.

    Nobody has got any answers. Nobody has got any solutions. Everybody is full of shit.

    Kevin Anderson, who at least tries to be brutally honest, admits it looks hopeless, and says now that the only way forward is to change the mind-set.

    Right. How do we do that ? He doesn’t say. Does he know ? What’s a changed mind-set look like ?

    I’d suggest start by stopping telling yourself lies. Stop pretending there are answers and solutions when there are none. Try being honest.

    Does anyone here know what reference Guy derives the extinction of 200 species a day figure? And would the large proportion of that 200 be microorganisms?

    If you bothered to read the comments on this blog Ozman you might have noticed that this has been discussed several times.

    If you go to this link you can watch a video, Facing Mass Extinction, from 2010 where several experts talk about the subject. Richard Leakey, Norman Myers, and others.

  • lol Gail, when debating neo-liberals who claim that all our problems would be solved if we only got rid of government I remind them of the wild west.
    Thanks that’s good to know about Django – I was avoiding it as well for those same reasons but now I have a good movie to watch.

    Did you see the Sundance mini-series on Netflix now by Jane Campion named Top Of The Lake? The Holly Hunter character is interesting, and cause me to compare her state of consciousness with the philosophers you and U referenced regarding letting go of unreal perceptions. She talks about the wisdom of the body yet seems to have a deep detachment.
    Is Jane Campion holding her up as a good teacher, or is she gently making fun of her…or is it a combination?
    I especially like what she said, “There is no death in nature, just a reshuffling of atoms”.

    And YES..that plastic sandwich..what a great metaphor for the worlds current problems…take out what’s natural and put in plastic.
    Back to the idea of re-localization – a virus infecting the world into a bunch of pieces is not going to solve the problem. The only advantage in re-localizing I can see is that the right hand might more easily be able to see what the left hand is doing. But like we allowed the government to be filled with the leaders it is now, so we’ll do the same in smaller communities.
    People seem to forget that it is “we the people” who made government, and if we don’t like what government is doing we have the power to change that. Changing government rather than divorcing ourselves from it and creating a bunch of smaller governments seems a better use of time.

    I’m sure Sherry is well-intentioned and she’s probably done more than I have in my life in an attempt to solve the mess we’re in, but I’m very concerned that those in power who tout the demise of big government (while they run off with the loot at the top) will use those like Sherry to cut services to the poor even more. A lot of people are suffering even now because of austerity measures, and with conservatives in power it would be even worse. They often accuse those who want basic medical care and job protection as wanting a “Nanny State” and talk about going back to the way our founding fathers wanted the country to be.
    Sadly I think the surveillance issues and the resultant increase in hate of the government will increase the likelihood conservatives will come to power next time around, causing more suffering for those who need basic services.
    @ Ozman – People helping in a natural disaster can be quite helpful as long as they have a warm bed and food to return to at night. I think a severe collapse would more result in a scenario like the book and movie The Road portrays, or more like the collapse portrayed in Margarat Atwood’s “Oryx & Crake”.
    @ Artleads – Yes I think most people are just trying to survive even though this idea of humanity being like yeast in a petri dish is not very flattering..
    I think they’re trying to feel safe in the face of death, albeit unconsciously in most cases (psychopaths perhaps excluded in this analysis).
    @ Robin – I don’t think detachment for the sake of detachment brings one close to God (or to the ‘big picture’, as I like to call it). To identify with things “out there” and not realize you are ALSO more than those things I would agree is not truth, and is the source of addiction and all this hoarding by society, but to not identify with anything is also not the truth. To practice not attaching to things is a construct in itself, and so is an attachment too.
    I more like Yoga – where you identify with love until it fills you up so much that ego is lessened, never gone completely though – could we ever not have some ego as a human being?

    I create nature art for a living, and if I tried to do it from the type of detachment you are describing it would be horrible. It works out better if I focus on the love…the beauty..the harmony of the world in its seeming chaos. Now attachments could get in the way and make it less likely for me to focus on love, but I can’t see how detachment should ever be an end result in itself. As sure as God (the big picture) is not the manifest world, it is not a total detachment from the physical world either but somehow encompasses both, or is one and the same?

    @ U – Thanks for the animal link. I just rescued 4 kittens under my porch though they might have rescued me – they are such great teachers.

  • Scenarios:

    We should have worried like crazy when Google started mapping every street in the world. But I recall being quite delighted at the time. (One company can map every house in every village in the world, but nobody can put solar panels on the roofs thereof.)

    An overwhelmingly powerful cabal has decided on how the world would play out. Who would benefit and who expended. The devious and far-sighted program has been building secretly and steadily or longer than anyone can be certain. It is way ahead of even the most progressive forces–except individuals like Orwell, Huxley and not too many others. This cabal has a brutal methodology for handling emergencies, and nothing is likely to change it. They have calculated for every kind of direct opposition. Any indirect opposition (which could be more effective) is negated by public non-solidarity, ignorance, terror and apathy.

    The above mentioned cabal is a more determinative force for NTE than are the positive climate feedback loops to be expected from now on.

    TPTB excel at playing one group against the other. The secret cabal might well double or be congruent with the so-called illuminati.
    If I had to guess at who was a member of the illuminati, I’d guess Justice John Roberts. Here’s the play for extinction by division. Repeal DOMA. Make the LGTG community happy. Dial back voting rights. Have the minority community even more alienated from gays. The neo-Nazi types smoldering in the wigs will take care of the gays when the time is right. Along with an impressive list that include Jews, minorities, the “useless” poor, environmentalists, and pointy-headed intellectuals. The minorities, elderly and infirm, weakened by voting restrictions, will be easier to deal with that way (as in to eliminate). Work in cahoots with folks like Rick Perry to dial back abortion rights. Produce more poor whites to become disgruntled Nazi types. Subjugate women and use them to propagate needed monsters or slaves.

    Things are shaping up well. The environmental and liberal communities have a hard time thinking in the dire terms of the stealthy reality. All seems sort of normal. The more clear minded environmentalists who see doom ahead don’t even quite get the human dimension of that doom, thinking it has to do mostly with greenhouse gas pollution.

    Excuse the too-rosy scenario, B9K9. I know you’re ahead in the game.

  • To practice not attaching to things is a construct in itself, and so is an attachment too.

    Who is attached? Who is practicing? The ultimate attachment is to the “I”. Once it is grokked (“in one’s bones”) as non-existent, the natural flow of everything is comprehended. Without an “I” there is no one to practice.

    if I tried to do it from the type of detachment you are describing it would be horrible.

    Detachment is one end of a spectrum, the whole of which is to be avoided. There is a world of difference between detachment and non-attachment. Being whipsawed between attraction and aversion is the extreme of attachment, while being dead to them is the extreme of detachment. Non-attachment avoids that entire spectrum.

  • @ Ulvfugl


  • @ Daniel

    Thank you, brother.

    @ Robin Datta

    Who is attached? Who is practicing?

    Who is opinionating ?

    I meant to thank you for the interesting comment regarding US Army uniforms in the previous thread. I did not know that.

    And you were/are a Colonel as well as a Dr. did I understand that right? So that must be a rather amazing and extraordinary accomplishment for a semi Dravidian Negroid. ;-)

    So you are entitled to be quite proud and arrogant. But you appear quite humble and modest. Most of the time.

    You are mistaken about the earthworms. They are rather delicate and although they have some ability to recover from injury, if severed in twain, will usually die. The two halves re-growing is urban myth. As is the reptilian brain, for that matter, which has no basis in modern neuro science, although I’ll grant it is a useful teaching aid to convey an idea.

    @ Luna

    To Luna I would mention Lao Tsu’s To the mind that is still, the whole Universe surrenders and the mind that is still would include the mind that is wholly absorbed in the creation of the work of art.

    That would be a perfectly natural expression of human being. For someone who wanted to cultivate zen, as a rigorous discipline, they’d take that natural expression and explore it as a strict formal meditation. But it’s basically the same thing.


    Excellent new website, Methane Tracker

  • ulvfugl,

    Hahahahaha. Extraordinary. You worry that belief in NTE might cause people to laugh at you ?

    Eh? I never said that. The rest of your comment is really content-less worthless drivel, completely mischaracterising my position. That’s a shame, because you often have interesting things to say. Not this time.

  • O.T.

    “Kill the I”.
    What a wondrous journey.
    Actually it’s not kill.
    Well, the onset IS kill.
    One doesn’t kill to the very end though.
    It is more like letting go of the I.
    And that is a truly wondrous journey.


  • I recall from Dmitri Orlov’s book Reinventing Collapse, that in fact in the Soviet Union that fact that it had been much more of a nanny state than the US made collapse easier for people to survive. (whatever one may think of some of his stands, he did give us an inside view of collapse within the Soviet Union). For example, the state owned housing. While it wasn’t what we think of as good housing, it was sturdy. When collapse came people stopped paying rent to the state, but what could the state do, kick everyone off the street. Who then would rent. So people just stayed. The US being less of a nanny state in 2008, when the first round of our collapse came, houses in the US were repossessed and people were thrown in the street. Our nanny state was more interested in remaining in that role for the banks and unlike a true nanny state cannot be counted on to help people stay in homes.

    In fact during the Depression what pulled us out was the actions of the state to step in and help people. If everyone was being helped by their neighbors that hardly would be necessary. In fact for years the state has increasingly moved away from assisting citizens and helping business instead (as if business can keep going if the people can’t buy)

    But all that is irrelevant. As Michele pointed forest fires can bring down the grid in various ways – even outages in a small area can lead to cascading failure as happened to the North East Grid in 2003 The grids will go eventually and all the nukes will melt down. What the state has been doing for us and what we have been doing for ourselves will cease to matter.

    I don’t think it has been mentioned but oil has crept up to overe= %103. In Peak Oil Discussions there has been much said about at what price complex societies can no longer maintain their complexity and collapse. Joseph Tainter’s excellent book Collapse of Complex Societies, says per wiki “In Tainter’s view, while invasions, crop failures, disease or environmental degradation may be the apparent causes of societal collapse, the ultimate cause is an economic one, inherent in the structure of society rather than in external shocks which may batter them: diminishing returns on investments in social complexity.[5]” We are at that point, and Guy’s wished for collapse of industrial civilization cannot be far off. Possibly too late to prevent warming from going exponential, and too early to allow for the orderly decommissioning of Nuclear Plants.

    So it goes.

    Unfortunately probably it goes too drastically for the only truly localized people, the only people who do not depend on the nanny state, the few remaining untouched or mostly untouched hunter=gatherer tribes. But even if left alone in the collapse their environs will change, probably too quick for them to adapt. For us, it is over.

  • ulvfugl,

    Sorry for my earlier little outburst. It could well be that I still haven’t explained my position well enough and you are thus having trouble grasping it.

    What is “worthwhile” is a personal thing, so what I might feel is worthwhile you might think it utterly pointless. Horses for courses. Of course, with a view of 5 billion years (when the planet is engulfed by an expanding sun), nothing might be worthwhile, but humans are cursed with a much shorter term view. At least most humans are.

    I’m not sure why you think I can’t have fun living simply but I certainly intend to included some lighter moments in my future existence. Hopefully, that intent can be borne out.

    I thought I explained that if there were a methane spike equal to the one used by Malcolm Light, then his calculations may be valid from different starting date. Of course, until that spike occurs, his calculations are valueless. My whole future does not depend on Malcolm Light’s data points. Remember that my comment was responding to Kathy’s comment about the date 2030 and her subsequent reference to the Malcolm Light article. It seems that some people here still regard that paper as accurate and are taking their dates from it. I am merely pointing out that the paper is flawed. It’s not a “bizarre view of reality” is is using reality to show that Malcolm Light’s view is bizarre (well, flawed, anyway).

    I note that you still haven’t provided a scientific argument for near term human extinction, just an emotional argument. That’s fine. If you’re convinced by your own internal argument then that’s your prerogative but please don’t rail at people just because they have a different view. It’s just possible that you might be wrong. (Note that I’m not projecting a rosy future, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m also not projecting near term human extinction, though that remains a possibility).

    Regarding your later comment, as I was talking about unknown feedbacks, I obviously can’t give you examples. For known negative feedbacks, some are mentioned here. I don’t read John Michael Greer much any more as he seems to have got lost up his own narrative.

    I realise that the effects of the temperature increase is what matters. Science gives us some information about the risks of various temperature rises, though. One could say that the rise so far is too high, given the effects. I’m of that opinion too. So I agree that the effects are what matters but we don’t know whether those effects lead to near term human extinction.

    Regarding your wish for viable populations of humans not to survive, you seem to be using an odd definition of viable which I would term not viable. But that’s your prerogative.

    I can’t find the comment where I said there was some conflict between a couple of things you’ve said. It may be related to what you said about needing to have started a forest garden 5 years ago but it’s better late than never, and your insistence on near term human extinction (in which case a forest garden is pointless). Also, I do have at least some idea what I’m talking about, regarding forest gardens, contrary to your statement, though I admit that I currently know very little more than what I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot about forest gardens and have started one, though it looks like I’ll have to start a new one elsewhere).


    I can understand people succumbing to the urge to commit suicide. I’ve pondered it myself several times. I agree that survival is not the only human value. Indeed, I don’t even see it as a value but it’s what species that were successful did quite well. Humans have been successful, in purely biological terms. They strive to survive.


    Good point. I don’t think I have an inbuilt bias towards uncertainty giving us more time but I can see how it might come across as that. You’re right that “near term” may be even nearer than 2030 though I don’t think your examples would necessarily lead to the extinction of all human life. Some communities don’t rely, or don’t rely wholly, on crops. Of course, me and mine could be among the casualties in that situation, which would make the uncertainty a moot point. Yes, the Arctic melt is one of the most worrying aspects, currently, of our changing climate, as David Wasdell has pointed out (though I’m still trying to check on the science of what he’s stated). By the way, I’m in the southern hemisphere.


    I believe that the 200 species a day figure comes from a study commissioned by the UN in the early part of this century. Some more recent research suggests that the number is probably a lot lower, though still in the category of an extinction event.

  • Kevin, there’s a new video from the Australian Broadcasting Commission that goes into the jet stream and extreme weather as you describe that’s pretty good:

    True story, Luna! Although I had been thinking less about the myriad evils of plastic and more about the problems with trees which produce avocados and other nice things to eat.

    Tony, did you really mean this?

    “Some communities don’t rely, or don’t rely wholly, on crops.”

    I can’t think of many other than very small groups of people like traditional Eskimos and Laplanders and some Pacific Islanders who mainly ate seafood of one form or another. You are aware that the food chain in the ocean is in free-fall collapse from overharvesting and pollution, to say nothing of the ongoing, permanently worsening acidification?

    Everybody else relies on crops, to feed themselves and whatever animals they raise for food.

    Barry, the basic concept of Ishmael is fiction.

    “…that mankind lived for a few million years as hunter gatherer (“leavers”), taking what was actually needed and leaving the rest. The past six thousand years, as agriculturalists, we have become (“takers”), taking everything whether needed or not, and destroying everything that we don’t recognize the need for in the process.”

    Hunter-gatherers, contrary to popular belief, were not “leavers”. Typically, tribes went into population and then ecological overshoot, and warred with their neighbors. In fact they warred with their neighbors even when they weren’t in overshoot, raiding for women, just like apes. Hunter-gatherers swiftly drove the most easily obtainable, high protein edible species – megafauna, birds, shellfish – into extinction wherever they migrated with no more thought of what future generations would eat than our contemporary society exhibits.

    This is all well-established in archaelogical and fossil records, in first-contact historical tracts, and in observations of contemporary tribes who have not changed their ways such as the Yanamomo. Most people prefer to think that the human capacity for empathy, cooperation and harmony with nature supercedes our tendency to be violent and greedy. So go ahead, anyone who feels better about it, pretend! However, for those who take the time to actually read and learn, that vision unfortunately simply isn’t born out in the facts – facts like ancient weaponry, art, skeletons with physical trauma or signs of famine, mass graves, torture, cannibalism, defensive architecture, oral legends of warfare, protective armor and on and on (for instance the ongoing debate about the disappearance of the Neanderthals, whose genetic traces are still found today in Europeans and have recently been traced only to females, meaning – oops – raids and genocide) – really, a wealth of evidence that contradicts the idealized noble savage myth.

    Since we are already doomed anyway by overshoot and climate change, it probably no longer matters. But it’s a dangerous fantasy, because it misplaces the cause of overshoot onto an external enemy – capitalism or corporatism or agriculture or stratified society – thus guaranteeing we will never recognize the enemy in the mirror. If we can’t confront the true source of our predicament, we absolutely guarantee we will never overcome it, mired in dreams of our better natures coming to the fore – as is perfectly demonstrated in Kevin Anderson’s otherwise remarkably realistic assessment.

    The difference between the idealized hunter-gatherer lifestyle and capitalism is one of scale. HUGE scale, granted. I’ll leave that for the next comment with a link to avoid moderation and then that’ll be my allotment for the day!

  • I received this link in email and below is a response to it that I also received, which I thought everyone would like to see.

    What is obvious to a disembodied observer, is painfully unacceptable to the embodied self with which we customarily identify.  40 years ago, during my visit to India, I ranted about the unfortunate appropriateness of massive nuclear warfare capabilities facing massive human population growth.  One of my Indian friends smiled kindly at me and asked, “Now that you know God’s plan, what’s your problem?”

    For those interested in the ongoing mass extinction, you might want to watch this excellent movie (for free!)–Facing-the-Mass-Extinction

  • There are so many different threads here that I can’t follow them all. Just a few observations on some of them:

    Ulvfugl and Tony:
    None of us can predict the future. There are many, many variables – in fact almost an infinite number of them – which will impact how our weather changes, what actions humans will take, how quickly the grid fails, etc.

    As an example of how unpredictable even the really big impacts can be, I offer the meandering jet stream. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall anyone predicting that the arctic icecap melting would cause the jet stream to have such deep troughs that areas only a few hundred miles apart at the same latitude which normally have identical weather would have vastly different weather for extended periods. Though this wasn’t predicted (to my knowledge), it is having a profound impact on our climate.

    That being said, the big picture is actually fairly easy to predict. There can be no doubt that human beings are in ecological overshoot. We are here because of fossil fuels. Those fuels are being depleted rapidly and are mostly past peak. As our trip down the energy curve accelerates, there can be no doubt of its consequences: everything that fossil fuels have given us will go away – which includes everything related to industrialization.

    One of the most serious threats presented by the collapse of industrialization is the meltdown of 400+ nuclear power plants and the attendant spent fuels. I feel confident in predicting that nothing will be done about these. Our system requires lots of energy and yet barely has enough now. Shutting down a nuclear power plant properly requires lots of energy while at the same time takes away a source of energy. Not going to happen willingly.

    Ocean acidification, climate chaos, collapse of industrialization, nuclear war (an almost certainty when one considers human nature in light of what we’re facing as a species), methane bomb, and all the other nasties discussed here; all difficult to predict on the small scale but very easy to predict on the large scale: extinction for humans and perhaps most other species and almost certainly before the next 50 years is up. That timeline comes from an extrapolation of all the various “hockey stick” graphs. It doesn’t matter what trend you plot, virtually all of them form hockey sticks. The end is coming and it’s coming soon.

    @Artleads: Given all the money and manufacturing resources in the world TODAY, how much of a lift or a stretch would it be to put solar panels on every roof in the world SOON? I know, no profit in it for the utility companies.

    Actually,the problem is not one of profit but rather physics. Solar panels are not a source of energy but rather are a tool for channeling currently flowing energy (sunlight). Fossil fuels are a source of stored solar energy and when used release that excess energy. Solar panels don’t do this. Consequently, solar panels deliver far less return on investment – both financial and energy.

    The important thing to remember about solar panels and indeed all “alternative” energy devices is that they are all fossil fuel extenders. In other words, they wouldn’t exist without fossil fuels.

    The production and manufacturer of a solar panel is a very carbon intense process. The ingredients involved have to be mined and transported thousands of miles. The manufacturing processes alone involve lots of energy expenditure and pollution. Then they have to be delivered to distributors, sold, and installed. That’s just one part of the puzzle. Batteries are required, as well as power regulators, wiring, etc. All of those require industrialization and none of them would be possible without the energy that fossil fuels provide us.

    This site:
    has a good analysis of how many solar panels it would take to replace fossil fuels: an area roughly the size of Spain. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t address how much carbon will be required to produce, install, and support all those solar panels. Nor does it address the scarcity of all those rare earths – after all, there’s a reason they’re called “rare” earths. Can you imagine coming up with sufficient material to cover an area the size of Spain?

    Here’s a quote from a recent bloomberg article:
    Limited supplies of five rare-earth minerals pose a threat to increasing use of clean-energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels, a U.S. Energy Department report found.

    The substances — dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium — face potential shortages until 2015, according to the report, which reiterates concerns identified a year ago.

    The 2011 report studied 16 elements and related materials, including nickel and manganese, which are used to make batteries. The analysis of so-called critical elements began after rare-earth prices jumped following imposition of export restrictions in 2010 by China, the world’s major producer.

    The bad news is that even when we have all those solar panels, batteries, grid infrastructure, etc., the solar panels wear out in 20 years and have to replaced. Back to square one then.

    Of course, all of this is flight of fancy anyway since the bulk of our fossil fuel use is related to transportation. The few electric vehicles notwithstanding, there are no viable ways to use solar power for most transportaton. Sure we could ramp it up and make it happen, but we’re out of time. We’re already headed down the energy curve. Besides, the jury is still out as to whether electric vehicles are ultimately any “greener” than gasoline powered cars.

    The only way to stop global warming is to end the industrial economy – yesterday. The irony is that even if we wanted to do it now despite its futility, destroying the industrial economy requires industrialization.

  • The Real Dr. House

    “The only way to stop global warming is to end the industrial economy – yesterday. The irony is that even if we wanted to do it now despite its futility, destroying the industrial economy requires industrialization.”

    Thanks for the patient and thorough explanation. Yes, what I said about solar panels NOW was based on the fact that they couldn’t be installed LATER, for the reasons you describe.

    I was totally off on the rare earth component. Were some early solar panels (not PV) filled with water? In the Tropics, just running water through undulating PVC pipes on the roof gets water to near boiling temps. Geothermal works in all climates. I also remember hearing that the built environment consumes contribute about 45% of global warming. And yes, anything to be done has to be done now or never.

    No question that you need industrialization to get off industrialization. I mentioned solar panels (inaccurately) as a stopgap way to get off the desperate need for nuclear, realizing that a sudden stop to ind civ would lead to the sort of chaos no one could survive.

    Where I live, it would cost more to get off the grid (converter ? cost) than it costs to supply the grid with my solar panels. So I quite understand that there must CURRENTLY be a mix of fossil fuels and alternatives, for cost and other reasons.

    Based on the fine insights on NBL, I came to believe in the need for ind civ to be reduced in scope–size and degree of damage–while being maintained for as long as possible.

    I have no reason to think that my suggestions or anything else can save life on Earth. OTOH, I’d like to see us do things that would be consistent with survival if we DID have a ghost of a chance for life. That would require the de facto end to ind civ and an aesthetic retooling that would actually make radical simplicity attractive. The least that this would do is to enable a more gradual, controlled and peaceful exit.

    But your point is well taken that PV panels on all roofs won’t do. NBL is also crystalizing a long held view that the less we can get away with doing the better. Small-scale endeavors are easier to correct, and more cost/energy effective than large-scale ones. Solar on roofs had seemed about the least drastic large-scale intervention possible. But any inducement to let go of such “positive ideas,” especially grander ones, is appreciated.

  • Industrial civilization is totally dependent on financing.

    From small businesses all the way to corporations of various sizes, all need a constant ‘fix’ of credit, i.e. fiat ‘money’, magically pulled from the asses of buttboy banker gangsters and their central bank Capos Pimps.

    Forget climate and population overshoot and peak oil/everything for a moment.

    Peak finance is the bottleneck/fulcrum that I see bring down industrial civilization very, very quickly.

    The fiat credit/money is the lubrication of the global financial economy and it is a digital ponzi construct scheme that is now pulled as tight as a banjo string.

    The .0001% that call the financial shots have managed to keep the global ponzi going these last 5 years with one of the most impressive smoke-up-your-ass and mirror-mirror shows ever know to the minds of men or mice.

    But it’s coming to an end, finally.

    Ya, they might try one last desperate attempt to roll all the bad private and public gambling debts into one massive Global Big Bad Bank Special Drawing Rights Kabuki, but that to shall fail, and with a lethal exponential thrust to the heart.

    When interest rates begin to Spike, which is just starting as a colossal bond market collapse begins, the whole edifice of accounting fraud known as global finance will evaporate over-nite.

    Unlike physical systems like weather/climate, fossil fuel energy infrastructure, food production, manufacturing etc…, financial accounting can collapse with a set of keystrokes over the course of a couple days.

    No one gets payed, no one gets payed for delivery of goods waiting on ships in port, no one gets payed for service or medicine, no one can service their own debts….

    Fiat money is just a Belief System, like Religion, it’s in your head, and if you wake up one morning and have no confidence in the ‘money’ someone is paying you in, everything seizes up very, very fast, like a race car engine that looses oil pressure.

    Ever been in a car where the engine seizes?

    I have on several very memorable occasions.

    It happens so fast you can’t react quick enough to even turn the engine off.

    Your engine is Toast so fast at first you simply can’t believe it just happened.

    It’s close to instantaneous for most human’s reaction times, at least at high speeds, which is where global finance operates, at very high speeds.

    Well kids, that’s how quick the global ‘money’ system will fail.

    No more money to pay fracking crews. Hey, but, but, can’t you pay them with methane?

    No more money for that hip operation. Hey, but, but, can’t you just pay the surgeon with some organic chickens or something?

    No more money to pay your property taxes. Hey, but, but, can’t you pay with ‘sweat equity’, you know, work it off using your valuable skill set as an Office Kubicle Krill?

    Forget climate, forget resource depletion, forget food shortage…

    The Master trigger is NMC (no-more-credit).

    The Global Ponzi is now tighter than a bull’s ass in fly time and as W Bushit said, “this sucker’s gonna blow”

  • Artleads, water has been used for a very long time as a medium for heat storage and transfer. Many modern systems use water, as you note. In fact, if I remember correctly, Guy’s mud hut utilizes a solar water heater.

    One of the more interesting “alternative” power sources I’ve seen is actually quite antiquated by our modern way of thinking, yet it’s widespread adaptation only a few decades ago would have made a huge difference in our current situation (other than overpopulation, of course). It also uses water as a heat storage device.

    See the wiki entry for it. Quite fascinating, IMHO.

  • I would like to believe that the ideas suggested in the above essay was a way forward but my own expereience has shown me that, in my area at least, “making” community and “working” together is at best, a feel good project. I have been involved with a group of people for 8 years now that are working together to address how we might restructure our living arrangements in the face of collapse(in all it’s forms) and we have done many good things, ONCE, and then everyone wants to move on to the next good thing. We have a very long list to point at that we have “done” but the fact is that nothing is done because it requires sustained and often mundane efforts to keep the various projects going.People get excited about the next new project and the fall by the way side as the newness wears off. It seems to me that people will only stick to things once they have to. At the moment it is way too easy to slip back into the comforts of civilization. On the other hand,I have met some wonderful people and appreciate having people around that know the lingo (TEOTWAWKI,TPTB,NTE,etc). It makes it so much easier to have a rational conversation.

    A few years back someone wanted to start a Transition Town here and there was a national meeting held in my town. Alot of the Transition movement gurus came and my group went as well. To a person,we were all put off by the feel good requirement that seemed to permeate the meeting.There wasn’t any room for doubt or questions of DOOM. There was also this very odd finger wagging thing that people would do when they sat in a circle talking and sometimes the finger waving was accompanied by a high pitched undulating trilling sound. I was thinking “What the F”. I found out later that the finger waving meant “I agree with you” and the jungle bird being attacked by a howler monkey sound meant ,I agree strongly.

    For those of you who know the tune to THE CANDY MAN
    ala Sammy Davis Jr. I share a ditty I made up at the time

    TRANSITION TOWN(sung to the tune of THE CANDY MAN)

    Who can take peak oil
    Sprinkle it with dew
    Add a dash of hope
    And a miracle or two
    Transition Town can
    Oh,Transition Town can

    Transition Town mixes climate change with love
    And make collapse feel good

    Transition Town takes
    All your fears and makes
    Them satisfying and delicious
    They view doomy people as suspicious
    They only want good thoughts and wishes

    Who’ll take a dark tomorrow
    Mix it with a dream
    Ignore the coming sorrow
    And collect up only cream
    Transition Town can
    Oh, Transition Town can

    Transition Town mixes climate change with love
    And makes collapse feel good!

  • @ thestormcrow, those lyrics are REALLY good!

    Kathy Cassandra says: Mattering

    All of what our lives consisted,
    We thought would have always persisted;
    But of you and me,
    There’ll be nothing to see,
    As if we had never existed.

  • Gail: great posts today and links (though a bit late now, eh)

    thestormcrow: appreciate the tune and its message

    TRDH: always like what you write and your patience

    Speak Softly: I used to think like that; I thought it would blow in 2008, but then “they” started “inventing” ways that kept the charade going til now; it seems they’ll do anything until they can’t, just like the rest of us insane meat robots.

    Since it’s all interconnected anyway, any one of a number of triggers can actually set civilization into nose-dive mode: biological (including population overshoot); socio-cultural; economic; environmental (including all the stuff that climate change causes from pandemics to volcanos and earthquakes), and resource scarcity (oil, water, rare earth minerals, etc). There are still others, and they all impact and rely on each other, from climate change to Wall Street bonuses. It will only be of interest as lore when it finally happens, because we’ll all be running to stay in place and will have no time for anything other than survival.

    We Are All Cogs in the Bone-Crushing Wheel of Capitalism

    (begins with)

    Two important papers on capitalism by Richard Smith were published in the last few years explaining how capitalism, due to its structural mechanisms, cannot be reformed in any way to make it “sustainable”. In Smith’s papers, Green Capitalism: the God that Failed and Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism, four primary dictates of capitalism illustrate that no matter how herculean the effort to “green the economy”, whether through energy or other areas, the end result of inexorable environmental destruction as well as incredible social inequality are inevitable.


    July 2, 2013 – ANTARCTICA – Scientists have seen evidence for a colossal flood under Antarctica that drained six billion tonnes of water, quite possibly straight to the ocean. The cause is thought to be a deeply buried lake that suddenly over-topped. Satellites were used to map the crater that developed as the 2.7 km-thick overlying ice sheet slumped to fill the void left by the escaping water. The peak discharge would have been more than double the normal flow rate of London’s River Thames, researchers say. The location of the flood was Cook Sub-Glacial Lake (SGL) in the east of the continent, and the event itself occurred over a period of about 18 months in 2007-2008. It was detected and described using a combination of data gathered by the now-retired US Icesat mission and Europe’s new Cryosat platform. The American spacecraft’s laser altimeter first noted a drop in the ice-surface height associated with the slumping. The European satellite’s radar altimeter was then employed to map the shape of the crater that resulted. “The crater’s a big feature,” said Dr Malcolm McMillan from the UK’s University of Leeds and lead author of a report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “It covers an area of about 260 sq km, which is about the size of Edinburgh, and was as much as 70m deep,” he told BBC News. “We knew from the Icesat data there had been a big elevation change, but it’s only now with Cryosat that we’ve been able to appreciate the true scale of what happened.” The geometry of the crater has enabled the team to gauge the volume of water involved in the outburst and the rate at which it was dispersed. The group’s upper estimate is 6.4 cubic km – very nearly as much as is stored in Scotland’s famous Loch Ness. At the peak of the flood, water would have been flowing away from Cook SGL at a rate of 160 cubic metres per second, the team says. This dwarfs all previously reported sub-glacial “purge” events.

    “Further downstream, there was an inflation of the ice,” explained team-member Hugh Corr from the British Antarctic Survey. “But whether all that water reaches the ocean, or re-freezes onto the underside of the ice, or even melts more ice with its heat – we just don’t know. It will, though, change the lubrication.” Certainly, six billion tonnes of water that was previously stored on land would be a lot to lose to the ocean in a short time. At present, Antarctica is losing mass at a rate of between 50-100 billion tonnes a year, helping to raise global sea level. This study suggests that a not insignificant fraction of this mass loss could be due to flood events like that seen at Cook SLG. “This one lake on its own represents 5-10% of [Antarctica’s] annual mass imbalance,” said Leeds co-author Prof Andy Shepherd. “If there are nearly 400 of these sub-glacial lakes then there’s a chance a handful of them are draining each year, and that needs to be considered,” he told BBC News. –BBC

  • Bernhard: “Kill the I”.

    Actually it is no more possible than draining the water from a mirage in the desert. The closer it is approached, the more its unreality is recognised.

    Neanderthals, whose genetic traces are still found today in Europeans and have recently been traced only to females

    Until but a few years ago, most genetic lineages were mapped on the basis of mitochondrial DNA that is inherited matrilineally. On this basis it was believed that modern humans had no overlap with Neanderthals. Meaning that no lineages of Neanderthal women survived into modern human populations. Improved sequencing techniques allowed mapping of nuclear DNA which showed some overlap. Which still means that while no Neanderthal women’s lineages survived to modern times, any mixing would have to be through modern human women or the male offspring of Neanderthal women.

    Industrial civilization is totally dependent on financing.

    Anything much bigger than Dunbar’s number (=about 150 humans, the number that one person can know personally) requires an exchange system that does not depend on a network of community interconnections and mutual obligations. Hence record numbers of unoccupied houses, simultaneously with record numbers of the homeless.

  • The global fresh water predicament we have watched get worse by the year is finally getting to the point of generating catastrophe:

    I see that a freight train hauling petroleum has derailed and exploded in Canada, erasing a section of a town. I suspect the energy required to replace the houses and the train will far exceed the energy being carried by the train.

    The Canterbury region [of NZ] has been hit by ferocious winds, and power is still out in many locations. Once again energy and resources are required to return the region to something resembling its former state.

    I see much of this as similar to falling off the EROEI curve. As climate chaos and the general running down of complex industrial systems increase, the amount of energy and resources required to maintain status quo is INCREASING, right at the time when the availability of cheap, high-quality energy and resources are DECREASING.

    It is all much as many of us began predicting a decade or more ago.

    Speak Softly.

    Yes, the financial system can seize-up very quickly, which is why TPTB have put in many new mechanisms to stabilise it, including the overt manipulation of credit, the overt manipulation of interest rates, the overt manipulation of commodity prices, the overt manipulation of energy markets, the reporting of phoney unemployment numbers, phoney GDP numbers……ad infinitum.

    We have been hearing warnings of ‘imminent collapse’ for 6 or 7 years, yet TPTB always manage to hold it off……and will continue to do so until they can’t.

    One of the main factors allowing the continued expansion of the numerous financial bubbles seen around the world seems to be the incredibly short memory of most people.

  • @ Tony

    Eh? I never said that. The rest of your comment …etc

    In other words, you have no idea why I find your antics laughable, and that’s the best ( I assume ? ) response you could think of.

    I note that you still haven’t provided a scientific argument for near term human extinction, just an emotional argument.

    I didn’t respond to your request that I supply my arguments in support of NTE, because you obviously couldn’t even understand the basic simple stuff that you were already encountering.

    For example, I said at the start I consider Light and the methane spike as being totally trivial and completely irrelevant.

    And you are STILL going on about it. I gave you the other links to the methane stuff which you had not even bothered to check out yourself before shouting your mouth off here.

    If you wonder why I “rail” at you, it’s because your egotistical conceit and arrogance exemplifies our problem. You see, your implicit assumption that if you do this and this and this, somehow you and your progeny are entitled to survive, I see as a gross over-estimation of your significance in the scheme of things.

    Treating nature, the biosphere, with this degree of hubris, reckless disrespect, completely disregarding all the laws of arithmetic, of biology, of physics, as if humans are entitled to please themselves and can have and do whatever they wish. That’s the catastrophe. We all vanish forever.

    My position has never been influenced in any way by Light or his paper, i never read his effing paper, his stuff re geo-engineering seemed completely crackpot. The methane spike I was talking about was not Light’s paper.

    You don’t need Light telling you that we’re going to become extinct at 2.46 pm on a Thursday in August on 2029 to be able to work out that we can have a 10 deg C global temperature increase over a decade caused by a methane spike. We know that because it has happened before.

    I gave you the link to Sam Carana’s methane website and others. You quibble about every minor irrelevant detail, like a girl choosing a fucking wedding bouquet and completely miss the point of what the information actually means.

    For known negative feedbacks, some are mentioned here.

    Which ? Where ?

    …but we don’t know whether those effects lead to near term human extinction.

    Don’t we ? What do we think it leads to ? What temperature do you think makes NTE certain ?

    Regarding your wish for viable populations of humans not to survive, you seem to be using an odd definition of viable which I would term not viable.

    My definition of a viable population is a population that survives for several generations, ‘self-sustaining over the long term’ is the biological definition.

    I can’t find the comment where I said there was some conflict between a couple of things you’ve said.

    Not what *I* said, the info that I gave you at this link, and you remarked that there was a contradiction. I replied that there was not. There is not. Do you understand WHY there is not ?

    @ Bernhard

    Who ‘let’s go’ ? :-)

    @ TRDH

    None of us can predict the future. There are many, many variables – in fact almost an infinite number of them – which will impact how our weather changes,

    Nonsense. George Perkins Marsh. All kinds of events can be predicted and the situation we are in now has been accurately predicted. We’re talking about, climate not weather.

    As someone says in the Facing Mass Extinction link that I posted above, the same one Gail posted, you don’t need the detail of every grain of sand to see that the beach is disappearing.

  • you don’t need the detail of every grain of sand to see that the beach is disappearing.

    The problem is the beach is disappearing gradually, if it disappeared all at once it might get some attention. But as it is now, with regard to species loss, nobody cares, and you especially don’t care if you just made a billion dollars from a system that is causing the beach to disappear. The same is true for climate change, if it’s gradual, people will merely adjust to the degradation they caused, and can be made to forget there ever was a stable climate by the media propaganda system. But it’s only a matter of time before the warming planet begins to severely affect food production, and it is only then that people will ask where the beach went. Until that happens, there’s still a beach and the water is fine. See:

  • Gail,

    Yes, I meant that (some communities don’t rely wholly on crops). These would be those still living in primitive ways, of course but my comment was in the context of human extinction, remember. In addition to primitive communities, some less primitive communities and individuals rely for some of their sustenance on food forests and other permaculture systems (e.g. chinampas) and may be able to survive wholesale crop failures.

    Regarding hunter gatherers, I’ve read evidence for both stories about how they lived. Yours, I think, was the received wisdom up until a couple of decades ago but I’m not sure the evidence is as strong as you think. Richard Heinberg has mentioned this on occasions and John Zerzan collected some essays about it in “Against Civilization”. However, I’ve come to think that humans probably can’t live sustainably at the levels of population we have now, even living primitively, though at much lower densities (with maybe a few hundred thousand around the globe) they probably could. Once an ecosystem has reached its climax state, its various species would be living sustainably, until the ecosystem is perturbed.


    I don’t know why you seem to read my posts as though they were composed of entirely different words to the ones I wrote. Could you give an example of my egotism? Certainly, like most organisms, I tend to put myself first (where “myself” equals my family and I) but that’s not egotism. I have no inflated sense of my own abilities, knowledge or intelligence. I have no thoughts that I’m intrinsically more important than anyone or anything else. I don’t even see humans as special so I’ve no idea why you regard my posts as hubris. I raise Malcolm Light only because that is the source of the 2030 (or thereabouts) date that Guy often (previously) used and that many here have stuck to. I’m not fixated on him and certainly don’t build my world around him. If his paper is treated as gospel, here, I merely point out that it is a flawed paper. If you don’t want to talk about him, don’t. What have I missed that is so simple? You keep talking about such stuff but you never think to explain where I’ve gone wrong. When I ask, you claim not to want to waste your time but you still keep replying to me, for some reason.

    Sorry for that bad link; I don’t know what happened there. This is it:

    I did check out your methane links. I actually keep a fairly close watch on much methane news, because it is such a potential risk. To date, there is no spike in the records. Coloured charts occasionally appear to show huge methane concentrations in certain parts of the atmosphere but the actual data for those don’t show a spike and continued elevated level. At least not that I could see. I’ve seen climate scientists comment on such graphs without seeing a drastic increase in methane, yet.

    I’m not sure what temperature makes NTE certain. I know that as temperatures increase, land temperatures increase even more than the average and continuous periods that will be unsurvivable will proliferate. I don’t know if they will proliferate everywhere that humans are or can be. Neither do you.

    The two records that could be regarded as conflicting are: Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (CO2, CH4, N2O) highest in over 800,000 years and, Atmospheric CO2 concentration highest in 15 million years. As I said before, strictly, one is contained in the other but it could be read to conflict (800,000 years versus 15 million years). It’s trivial; I mentioned it in passing because I notice these things. Don’t make such a big deal of it.

  • @ Tony

    I read what you write Tony, since you arrived here. I think your attitude is both implicit and explicit, e.g ‘primitive’, ‘less primitive’.

    The methane spike I was talking about is THE famous methane spike, the one that happens over a decade.

    You don’t know what temperature makes NTE certain ?

    It’s trivial; I mentioned it in passing because I notice these things. Don’t make such a big deal of it.

    I make a big deal about asking why you said there’s a contradiction in those statements because it helps me to understand why you appear to be so clueless.
    You don’t understand what you’re looking at there.

    But it’s not my responsibility to teach you, os it, it’s your responsibility to learn. When people here ask me things I try hard to give them the best answers I know of. I don’t like it when people waste my time which is very precious to me.

    The problem is putting blind faith in science and scientists is a means the blind lead the blind over the cliff. That’s because science as practiced is reductionist and compartmentalised. For example, I read a study that says that global temperature increase will not have very much effect upon global crop yields before 2050. So these guys sit at their computers and gather lots of numbers and crunch them and come up with a lot of statistic and graphs and publish a paper that gets peer reviewed and then innocent members of the public, viz. Tony, will read it and say, ‘Hey look there’s still going to be plenty to eat, the science says so’. This is totally idiotic. The study leaves out the hydrology, as if the only thing that effects crops is temperature. That’s just insane.

    But even worse, re the so called negative feed backs. The Met Office website that Tony linked to has it that a negative feedback at present, limiting global warming, is the amount of of CO2 that is absorbed by the ocean.

    But if you do a bit of joined up thinking, and understand that you can’t really separate climate and oceans and us and our future, except when doing reductionist science, as far as NTE is concerned this isn’t a negative feedback loop AT ALL, because the same thing that has happened to the jet stream, that it slows and blocks, will happen with the ocean currents.

    And the acidification and the anoxic dead zones that result can cause a mass extinction event quite independent of climate chaos and all the rest. And instead of taking up CO2 and heat, and giving us O2 from phytoplankton, the oceans RELEASE CO2 and heat and clouds of toxic gases such as hydrogen sulphide, which drift overland, killing most living things.

    It’s difficult to have much confidence in anything the Met Office say re climate, when, according to Peter Wadhams, they are still using the computer models that have the Arctic summer sea ice going in 2100. Seems to me they don’t take existence seriously.

    Don’t miss Mike Sosebee’s video at xraymike’s.

  • With thanks to Sherry Ackerman, I’ve posted a new essay. It’s by Jamey Hecht, and it’s here.

  • Ulvfugl, you don’t need the detail of every grain of sand to see that the beach is disappearing.

    I’m not sure why I included you in my original post since I know from ample firsthand experience . . . sigh.

    If you had just read a little bit farther you would have seen this:
    “That being said, the big picture is actually fairly easy to predict. “.

  • You know, ulvfugl, we’re not really that far apart. I see all the damage we’re doing, as you do. I would discount the prediction about effects on food, also, given that yields and stocks are declining already. And so on. The only difference is that you appear to have concluded, from the cascade of bad news, that humans and most other species will become extinct in the near term. All I’m really saying is that I don’t, yet, see it getting that bad that quickly, though I have never ruled it out as a possibility.

    I probably give more weight to the science than you seem to, because science is the way we learn about how the world has worked and how it works now. I do also give more weight to what scientists who are active in the particular area of concern say. However, we don’t know everything, and never will, so there are unknowns which might come into play, either to quicken or slow our demise.

    In the meantime, I do what I can, little though it is. I’m interested to know how the view of certain near term (within a few decades) human extinction affects how people live their lives. If I was certain of it, I’m fairly sure that I’d abandon attempts to live more simply, more sustainably and more self-reliantly, unless I started to get more pleasure from those attempts than I do now.

  • “If I was certain of it, I’m fairly sure that I’d abandon attempts to live more simply, more sustainably and more self-reliantly, unless I started to get more pleasure from those attempts than I do now.”

    The point, I believe, is that ‘…to live more simply, more sustainably and more self-reliantly…’ has no quid pro quo bearing on what’s happening in the broader world, much of its social and ecological misfortunes being, by definition, beyond human scale.

    Please forgive my forwardness if I suggest that what would make more sense for you is to do exactly what makes you happy. That might do the earth more good, ironically, than a reluctant compliance with conservation measures that don’t fit the scale of the macro problem in any event.

  • Artleads, I’m not reluctant to do those things but I am finding it difficult, primarily because of the isolation I feel in trying to do them (at least I think that’s the reason). I’m not used to going against the flow. But I do feel that I would be less happy continuing to do the things I used to, unless I felt that it didn’t matter what I did. I can’t continue to damage my own habitat simply because it’s easy and more comfortable to do so, but if I was sure of near term human extinction, then I think I’d probably say, “what the heck, I might as well fold back into the society of everyone else around me.”

  • Tony,

    A professor once told me, upon flunking out on a study program, that I should take a certain specified subject at a community college. That, she said, would set me up for some undetermined (my terms) kind of success. “You’ll know when you’re ready,” she said. So I’d say we have to find that inner voice within that somehow tells us when we’re doing what we should be doing, what is right for one’s particular individual “gifts.” It may or may not save the world, but that’s an issue of faith, not of reason. I don’t believe there is any reasonable way to save the world. Best of luck to us all.