Mechanistic Progress; Holistic Wisdom

by Eamon Farrelly

Solving a problem relies first upon a trustworthy identification of the problem. This can be easy with simple problems, like a flat tire. It can be extremely difficult with complex problems such as climate change or the social ills of poverty and exploitation. It should be a no brainer that complex societies create complex problems with not one but various strands of the root establishing any particular issue. Most analysis that gets peddled by the architects and shills of the dominant culture is usually lacking in comprehensive diagnosis. This was summed up famously by H.L Mencken when he said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

In our culture, it is not uncommon for positive outcomes of a system or arrangement to be credited widely to the culture as a whole. This is evident for me any time I try to have a discussion about the destruction wrought by a culture dependent upon industrialism and technology. Those who have never questioned the society in which they live immediately point out medical advances, knowledge of the cosmos, communications technology, etc. as these pinnacles of human development and existence, as if these inventions and discoveries are the new floor for human existence which we can never again sink beneath. These advances are attributed to democracy and capitalism, and the theme becomes, “Industrial capitalism may not be perfect, but it has given us a standard of living once unfathomable, and there is no conceivable reason to not only retain these developments, but to continually expand upon them.” This is bundled in a word; “progress.”

There is a very intentional paradox that comes into play if the problems created by industrial civilization’s “progress” are trotted out. Poverty for instance, is often blamed on the individual who struggles with it. Staunch defenders of capitalism will nit pick the minutiae of decisions and habits of each individual poor person who ever dares associate their condition with overall social or cultural architecture. The resounding lie is that anyone can rise on the economic ladder should only they work for it. This lie is successful because on it’s face, it appears true. Anyone could become rich. But not everyone could become rich. Not everyone could be middle class. Capitalism requires a struggling underclass that can be forced through social conditions and laws into taking low wage work. Low wage work is the majority of the work available within a capitalist paradigm, and thus it requires a majority of people to be trapped in a social condition which will leave them no option but to undertake this work.

Arthur Young, an English writer and pamphleteer of the mid and late eighteenth century wrote, “Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.”

Poverty is a necessary condition of capitalism. How an individual navigates this poverty is in part up to them, but they do not create the condition, and they do not create the other social parameters which stem from it.

Social conditions from access to education, housing, and food, quality of medical care, level of policing in one’s neighborhood, race, perceived gender or sexual orientation, access to a clean environment, etc. will all play a role in the development of the individual from the time they are a newborn, or even in utero. Black children raised in a poor urban community with a high crime rate, lack of grocery stores, and lower quality education will clearly have a disadvantage economically relative to upper middle class white children who attend higher quality schools and eat a more balanced diet. This should be obvious. When the disadvantages manifest as individual inability to escape poverty, or as criminal behavior or drug addiction, the blame is always place squarely and solely on the individual.

In Dr. Bruce K. Alexander’s paper, “The Roots of Addiction in a Free Market Society” it is argued that the dislocation caused by capitalist society is a major factor causing addictive behavior. He writes:

[D]islocation is the necessary precursor of addiction. … [F]ree markets inevitably produce widespread dislocation among the poor and the rich. As free market globalization speeds up, so does the spread of dislocation and addiction. In order for “free markets” to be “free,” the exchange of labour, land, currency, and consumer goods must not be encumbered by elements of psychosocial integration such as clan loyalties, village responsibilities, guild or union rights, charity, family obligations, social roles, or religious values. Cultural traditions “distort” the free play of the laws of supply and demand, and thus must be suppressed. In free market economies, for example, people are expected to move to where jobs can be found, and to adjust their work lives and cultural tastes to the demands of a global market.

Alexander goes on to reference specific native tribes in North America removed from their lands and stripped of their cultures and he directly links their high incidences of addiction to this dislocation. What his paper clearly lays out, is that social problems have social causes.

Whenever a person in the US snaps and goes on a rampage with a firearm, the society that created that individual is rarely implicated, and never implicated with any level of seriousness. Such implication would have serious ramifications for the ego and identities of those who support the dominant culture. It would also create a condition of responsibility society would then be compelled to address through altering it’s internal parameters. To ignore the culture that creates the psychosis, nihilism, and other mental and emotional disfunction prerequisite to waltzing into an elementary school with a rifle and murderous intent is to essentially declare that the occasional massacre of children or movie patrons is OK, a necessary evil of our otherwise high and glorious “way of life.” Instead of the culture taking responsibility for the monsters it creates, guns are blamed, whether an abundance or a lack.

The scope with which most social critique is attended is variable depending on the desired outcome. A macro view is applied to hide the blood in the cracks, a micro view zoomed in on the individual whenever the culmination of a sociopathic culture of death results in an individual acting out this cultural psychosis in a socially “unproductive” way. Should Adam Lanza or James Holmes had joined the Marines and manifested their violent sociopathy in an Afghan village or from behind the controls of a CIA drone attacking weddings in Pakistan or Yemen, we would likely never have known their names. People would clap for them as they walked through an airport in their fatigues.

No doubt, the prescription psychotropic drugs both Lanza and Holmes were taking affected their behavior. I do not think this is contrary to the thinking that the dominant culture generated their psychosis. In fact, I think it proves the point. More and more people in the US are taking prescribed anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. The numbers are one in five men, and one in four women are taking these mind altering drugs. If industrial civilization and capitalism provide such a wonderful “standard of living;” if this way of life is the pinnacle of human existence, why does almost a quarter of the population require a drug to make them feel better about it? Add in the number of people who drink alcohol or smoke marijuana, and it’s likely that a large majority of the population needs to achieve an altered state of consciousness on a regular basis merely to cope with the daily requirements leveled on their shoulders by this society.

But if we zoom out, we see happy shoppers and smiling twenty somethings taking “selfies” by the thousands.

If we cannot identify the cause of a problem, we will not likely solve the problem. If depression, addiction, and poverty, or even cancer, pollution, and climate change are viewed with the improper lens, these problems with social and cultural roots will always be attacked at the individual level. Individuals are blamed for their addictions. Individuals are blamed for their poverty. Individuals are even blamed for their cancer, and treatment is always about the individual, never prevention of the spread of toxins which cause it. This blame will not always sound like condemnation, harsh and critical as the blame attached to poverty, because cancer crosses class and race demographics. White grandmas get cancer, so we won’t be mean about it. But illness prevention is offered through individual diet, individual exercise, never through a social change that bans coal fired power plants, the creation and ultimate incineration of plastic, or the use of sodium nitrite in meat. Of course individuals can do their best to maintain their health and fitness. But we cannot not breathe in the dioxin or glyphosate in the air.

Even in the case of climate change and ecosystem collapse, what are the solutions proffered by capitalists and purveyors of the dominant culture? Individual reduction in consumption. Individual bicycling. With this focus on the individual behavior, corporate profits are safe and anyone who raises the alarm about ecological destruction and climate change can be attacked for their lifestyle impurity while the message itself drowns under screams and howls decrying the use of a car or computer by she who raised the alarm. I suffer this madness regularly both as a writer who publishes my work online, and as a direct action activist who has used a pick up truck to transport the materials and people into forests where tree sit campaigns blockaded the construction of tar sands infrastructure. Never mind the basic equation that I’d be willing to burn one million barrels of oil if it were able to prevent the shipment and ultimate burning of several hundred thousand barrels of oil per day for the next decade or two. Never mind Jevons’ paradox and the fact that conservation of oil by one individual only results in extra consumption by another who takes advantage of increased supply. The idea that the solution to a problem with global reach and social, economic, and cultural underpinnings rests entirely on the individual is patently absurd and intellectually lazy.

Striking one’s gaze in an intentionally overly broad or overly minute direction is an obfuscation employed regularly by the media, politicians, and others who have a vested interest not in solving problems, but in perpetuating them and profiting off of false solutions. A recent study demonstrated that two thirds of the emissions responsible for climate change are generated by ninety companies globally. According to the author of the study: “There are thousands of oil, gas, and coal producers in the world, but the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two.“

The implications of the study are fascinating and grabbing headlines, but I fear there is a reductionism in the reactions to the study, as a complex and global problem which has not one taproot but many roots that stretch and meander in various directions, is being described as something that can be halted by focusing on a busload of individuals. To be sure, the power of these individuals is great, and I in no way want to diminish the negative impact of the decisions these people daily make. Financing climate change skepticism, altering media coverage through advertising and influence, and regularly seeking investment for new coal, oil, gas, bitumen, and kerogen projects is absolutely disdainful behavior with globally deleterious ramifications. These individuals and these companies should be pressured and punished respectively. But lacking a cultural and social shift away from capitalism and antiquated profit and domination based definitions of “progress,” such pressure and punishment will ultimately prove ineffective at solving our penultimate problem.

We look at our bodies and we see flesh. If we look at them under a microscope, we can see our tissues are comprised of cells. A little more zoom and we can see the organelles within the cell. Building those organelles are compounds comprised of molecules which are in turn built of atoms which consist of variously charged particles, themselves containing quarks and on and on possibly to infinity. If we turn the device around and look outward we see that our planet exists within a solar system, spiraling around a galaxy, itself but one small galaxy housed within a universe of billions of galaxies which itself may be housed within a larger super universe that might be nothing but a quark within God’s cat’s butt. This is all to demonstrate that scale and scope offer perspective, but the perspective is meaningless without context of where it resides within the whole.

Mechanistic thinking and reductionism was a product of the enlightenment period In this time, the conceptualization of the Earth as a living entity was diminished. It is commonly known that indigenous cultures looked to the Earth as a living entity with spirit and flesh and consciousness. Even the ancient Greeks and Renaissance Europeans held such views, surprising as this may seem. Of course, cultures varied in their interpretations of how this was to play into their behavior, but the predominant response was that as a living Mother, the Earth must be respected, and her resources must be harvested and utilized consciously and with care.

This view of a living universe, with even stars and planets as living and conscious entities was stripped away during the so called “enlightenment” period. Carolyn Merchant writes eloquently on this transformation in cultural concept and it’s disastrous results for ecology:

Whereas the medieval economy had been based on organic and renewable energy sources–wood, water, wind, and animal muscle–the emerging capitalist economy was based on nonrenewable energy–coal–and the inorganic metals–iron, copper, silver, gold, tin, and mercury–the refining and processing of which ultimately depended on and further depleted the forests. Over the course of the sixteenth century, mining operations quadrupled as the trading of metals expanded, taking immense toll as forests were cut for charcoal and the cleared lands turned into sheep pastures for the textile industry. Shipbuilding, essential to capitalist trade and national supremacy, along with glass and soap making, also contributed to the denudation of the ancient forest cover. The new activities directly altered the earth. Not only were its forests cut down, but swamps were drained, and mine shafts were sunk.

The rise of Francis Bacon’s scientific method came hand in hand with new cultural understanding. The Earth was dead, inert, without life or feeling. The Earth and nature were impediments to an increase in human “standard of living.” Belief systems which held the Earth to be a living and sacred mother to be tread upon delicately and with care were obstructions to progress and wealth accumulation.

Merchant continues:

The removal of animistic, organic assumptions about the cosmos constituted the death of nature — the most far-reaching effect of the scientific revolution. Because nature was now viewed as a system of dead, inert particles moved by external rather than inherent forces, the mechanical framework itself could legitimate the manipulation of nature. Moreover, as a conceptual framework, the mechanical order had associated with it a framework of values based on power, fully compatible with the directions taken by commercial capitalism.

The emerging mechanical worldview was based on assumptions about nature consistent with the certainty of physical laws and the symbolic power of machines. Although many alternative philosophies were available (Aristotelian, Stoic, gnostic, Hermetic, magic, naturalist, and animist), the dominant European ideology came to be governed by the characteristics and experiential power of the machine. Social values and realities subtly guided the choices and paths to truth and certainty taken by European philosophers. Clocks and other early modern machines in the seventeenth century became underlying models for western philosophy and science.“
While civilizations based upon exploitation and expansion predate the thinking of Bacon, Decartes, and their contemporaries, these “enlightenment” thinkers founded a nihilism which became the cultural basis for an exponential increase in the rapacious destruction of the living Earth as well as the destruction of people’s and cultures which refused to adopt such methods of thinking and behaving.

This mechanistic view, this selective lensing of poverty, addiction, disease, and psychosis has the elites of money and privilege singing the praises of the dominant culture and maneuvering the levers of power for ever more of the behaviors and policies that are bringing about these maladies while never solving them. Viewed as merely cogs in a grand social machine, individuals suffering poverty and addiction are told to shape up or be removed into a cage where defective cogs are isolated.

Humans globally now stand on the precipice of catastrophe. Mechanistic approaches to food production have boosted short term yields at the expense of long term soil health and fertility. Despite water now tainted with glyphosate and phosphorous and soil stripped of the organic material which provides fertility, scientists are genetically modifying plants and trees to continue raising production yields despite common sense screaming that dominating nature is shortsighted and priming society for an agricultural collapse. Human attempts to manipulate nature under the mechanistic view that one part can be destroyed without affecting the whole continue to fuel climate change even as storms of record size and ferocity make landfall across the globe and as the jet stream is skewed bringing extremes of cold and hot into regions both south and north of their usual boundaries.

The ability to view the world holistically is not merely the ability of the grand scientist or mathematician who can compile and compute all of the variables in a system and spit out an accurate prognosis of a given issue or problem. As our ecological and social problems beg for holistic approaches, society instead seeks more and more compartmentalized “experts” who have spelunked into the deep caverns of their niche specialties. Hence the economists who don’t understand peak oil, the business people who don’t understand climate change, and the doctors who treat the symptoms, never once seeking the causes of various diseases and conditions.
The holistic ability this era craves is wisdom, itself the product of patient and caring people, listeners and observers who understand where the value of science and logic both begin and end. Wisdom is rare, it is quiet, it is humble, and thus is almost never even requested let alone respected by the dominant culture.

“Progress” is the grand value of the day. It is to be unquestioned. No endangered species or human culture is allowed to stand in the way of progress — not even if that endangered species is the human animal herself. It was a demented and flat thinking culture that wrote the definition of progress which is now vaunted, and if there is any hope for humanity I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that this hope at least partially resides in a redefining of “progress.” New widgets, wealth accumulation, and the bending of nature to the whims of the capitalist should not by default be considered progress. More often than not these contrivances do not advance the comfort or position of but a minority of the human population, and they do so on the backs of the poor majority. More often still, such “progress” is so destructive ecologically that were it not for mechanistic reduction hiding the costs from view, one would have to be a dedicated and shareholding huckster to call it “progress” at all.

If the survival of our species and the living web we depend on is a concern at all, we must begin to understand progress as peace, not production. Progress must mean equality, not subjugation. Progress must mean sustainable stewardship, not domination and control. Most of all, we must foster the wisdom that we are all linked with each other and with the living world, and that we cannot manipulate each other or the world for a benefit in one capacity without likely causing a deficiency in another. We need to praise the slow and thoughtful analysis which attempts to understand all parts of an issue. Where the living planet is concerned, we must understand that our meddling has consequences that multiply themselves in seen and unseen ways, thus meddling should be kept to a minimum and undertaken with grave attention.

The scale of human industrial activity is so large and it’s rate of process so fast, that such a revolution in consciousness seems unlikely absent some cataclysm which halts the furious pace of capital flow. To be sure, the cataclysm is waiting in the wings. Whether or not the challenges it brings are met with true progress of the mind and being is to be seen.


Eamon Farrelly has no fancy credentials. He lives with his partner in occupied Shawnee territory where he does his best to care for the small wooded parcel they call home. He is a frothing biocentrist who spends his free time haranguing the oil and gas and timber industries with his comrades in Earth First!

Comments 84

  • Eamon: Nice explanation of the mechanistic mindset. It’s why no one seems to be able to change anything, this outdated paradigm has most of the population held within that worldview by their own desires and needs. i’m not too sure about your conclusion as being through peaceful means (though I agree it’s the only way to go), due to our history all along (how are the masses going to change from being violent and ignorant in the midst of collapse?). Enjoyable, well-thought out read.

    Today on As the World Burns:

    Smoke from wildfires adversely affects immune system, UC Davis study says

    (newspaper article begins)

    A novel UC Davis study with possible implications for human health has found that exposure to wildfire smoke makes young rhesus monkeys more vulnerable to disease.

    The research, conducted by UC Davis and the California Air Resources Board, found that rhesus macaque monkeys born at the university’s Primate Research Center in the summer of 2008 – an unusually intense fire season – had depressed immune systems compared with those born a year later.

    The study is timely given scientists’ predictions that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

    Researchers measured the effects of fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5. That matter lodges deep in the lungs and its presence has been linked to health risks, including asthma and cardiovascular disease.

    During late June 2008, PM 2.5 levels spiked at ARB measuring stations in Davis and Woodland, not far from the primate research center, said Lisa Miller, professor of veterinary medicine at UC Davis and a researcher at the primate center. Smoke had drifted into the Central Valley from more than 2,000 fires ignited by lightning strikes. More than 1.2 million acres burned.

    “In 2008, monitoring locations had readings of 75 micrograms per cubic meter for a 24-hour period,” said Miller. “That is extremely high.”

    The current national standard for safety is less than half that amount. Additionally, wildfire smoke also causes higher ozone levels, which are linked to asthma, lower birth weights and heart problems.

    (further down, just before it ends, we read)

    “With changing climate there is a higher potential for catastrophic fires,” Bytnerowicz said. “And this year may be a really bad one with the almost lack of snow in the Sierra Nevada. These conditions will be predisposing for potential fires.”

  • Too far gone. It is more important for various corporations to make money than it is to have a living planet:

    “The results are clear: The power to grow our economy and put Americans back to work lies in the private sector.” — which is fairly easily translated to “let the goddamn companies do whatever the fuck they want.”

  • Eamon says; “… such a revolution in consciousness seems unlikely absent some cataclysm which halts the furious pace of capital flow.”

    Is a “revolution in consciousness” where & when people (the stupid proles especially) finally get the “right ideas” & proceed with love & affection for mother earth & all living things?

    For example; Yuppies stop flying for skiing vacations, cultured Israelis stop murdering the Palestinians, Bankers abandon compound interest as a vicious scam, & everybody worships mother earth in the clear light of their new ecological consciousness.

    Could a cataclysm generate (cause?) a twisted & bonkers revolution in consciousness (the wrong ideas,so to speak) & make people more stupid, hungry, & desperate?

    Is a revolution in consciousness similar to Jesus coming back – again?

    David Korten came to my town of Willits in Northern California & told a smiling new age flock that a Goddess was coming any day now.

    David said that Rianne Eisler’s brilliant a new paradigm about feminine values was a revolution in consciousness.

    The smiling new agers were out for a good time.

    They ate up Korten’s new age foo-foo with a spoon & pissed themselves with glee, as in Rudolph & reindeer.

  • This essay/thesis is one of the best things I’ve ever read.
    Eamon you cover all the grounds, causal, effect and solution, so clearly and perfectly.

    As I read this work of genius it reminded me of my undergrad thesis about poverty and the effects on women and how women need twice as much education to reach the same level of income as a male, and of my Master’s in education and learning how there are three levels of education in our country and how students are tracked to fit in these categories as workers, managers and owners and paired with teachers to “guide” them into these 3 life long roles.

    The system is rigged, no doubt about it, to serve the owners, and we do have the mechanists and enlightenment philosophers to thank because they fed into the most pervasive illness on Earth, Greed, and made it a positive facet of human nature.

    Add to that the Protestant Ethic that permeated the early colonies, which was the idea that god smiled on those who had great wealth, so those who worked hard and pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, would achieve greatness in the world and in god’s eyes.
    If a person fails to succeed, blame that person, not their unfortunate luck, or lower intelligence, or physical handicap, or gender, or color, etc., etc…. Oh, and god hates him/her, so they deserve to be blamed and isolated and left in the streets. “Blame the victim” is one of our favorite pastimes in this country today. Our culture does not want to take responsibility for the deaths of 22 first world, mostly white, elementary school children…. For that matter, nor the deaths of children from our drones overseas.

    All of these Western philosophies and ideologies were and are, as you so clearly explain, a murderous violence on the natural world, seeing it as only a dead, emotionless resource, and not as part of our own living organism, holistically. And as you eloquently point out, even people fall into that “collateral” category when “damaged”.

    I agree 10000000000% (bazzillion) with you; We need to see ourselves as part of a larger organism, as cells of a living being, rather than as isolated events that have no impact on anything else. We need this switch to survive on this planet. We need to heal our hearts and feed people from a different place, not from the place of greed.

    I saw a terrible story the other day of the Congo Pygmies, who are so intimate with nature and deeply entwined with Her rhythms that they have been forced to hunt elephants for their tusks. And I saw another story about an American family living in Beijing and suffering from pollution illness from the factories there, brought on by the gluttonous consumerism of Americans.
    The sickness of greed has permeated the entire planet’s societies and is harmful in a way that we have never been able to accomplish before. And it is killing the patient, Earth, and all of her organisms.

    The big question is HOW to heal the greed sickened hearts? How do we do that? Can they be cured? Would the touch of the Dalai Lama heal them?
    Is it even possible? Is there even time?
    The sick, psychopaths are going to kill every last thing on the planet to fill their emptiness. How do we stop them?
    If we don’t, the Earth will go Venus and I doubt even Mama can come back from that.

  • @Gerald SPezio,
    thanks for reminding folks of the great Rianne Eisler.
    Her decades long work bringing out into the open the Divine Feminine and the sacredness of all life & not just the masculinist forces, the honoring of the male and the female as equal energy and equally sacred.

    Eisler incredible book, “The Chalice and The Blade”, from 1987, gives an anthropological & historical perspective and many insights that can benefit our goal to heal the greed stricken men that are murdering us all. Eamon, have you read this incredible book?

    Several years ago I wrote an essay that looked at how we are fragile beings, both physically and emotionally. We love to play, snuggle, make love, laugh and cry.
    We have no fur, no scales, no fangs, no poison, no claws, no quills.
    We are designed for love and sweetness, not war and death.
    We are made fragile by our own choices over millions of years, through evolution that served us as social, loving creatures.
    And in the last 6000 years we have fallen away from that, forged metal to allow us to pummel the crap our of each other, and hardened our hearts to ignore the suffering of women, children, and all the other Earthlings we live with. And we are about to kill the whole thing.

    The Goddess has always been here, She is not coming or returning, She IS us, in us, beneath our feet as we tread on Her body each day, as we wake to Her light, Her tears in the rain, Her soft caress as She blankets Her body with snow. Which is our body.
    But men have forgotten this truth and they will remember Her when She returns into their hearts as a flame upon dry grass….

    :) Thanks for the reminder!

  • @pauline

    6.000 years is awfully charitable.

    Try 60,000.

    On every continent expect Africa, homo sapiens are, by the most objective definition, an “exotic” or “invasive” species. You seldom find the “ancient pioneers” mentioned in the same category as black rats or European starlings, yet we’ve inflicted far more damage by inserting ourselves like splinters and burs into the ecosystems of Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas… ecoystems that were unprepared for such a cunning and anamolous predator. From continent to continent, anywhere from 75 to 100% of the megafauna went extinct within a few generations of human settlement. The giants that evolved in Africa saw the apes drop from the trees; they knew what we were capable of, while American elephants had no reason to fear us. In geological time, it would’ve been over in the blink of an eye. Mammoths had a gestation period of nearly three years, making them especially vulnerable to hunting pressure. Worst of all is the notion that experienced hunters would’ve known how long it took these creatures to reproduce, that the Pleistocene brain was keen enough to deduce extermination as a likely outcome; yet they made a conscious decision to stick with business as usual: blitzkrieg and bloodlust; short term gains over long-term benefit. Sustainability was as much a myth back then as it is now.

    It is still quite fashionable to blame this amazing die-off on naturally occurring climate change; yes, the world was getting warmer while the sapiens left Africa, but the mammoths and ground sloths survived greater fluctuations many times before.

    See this:

    When humans showed up, the megafauna vanished:

    The more complex a coincidence becomes, the less likely it is, in fact, a coincidence.

    The human race has always been in the habit of claiming dominion over the Earth. This predisposition is not the product capitalism, nor the industrial revolution, nor the plauge of Abrahamic patriarchy. Rather, capitalism, industry, and patriarchy are products of this predisposition. No, we don’t have fur, scales, or quills. But we do have opposable thumbs, and we didn’t acquire this level of dexterity to bless the meek and wash the feet of the poor. It came to us through intelligent manipulation of our surroundings, which (kill-or-be-killed surroundings) would’ve led immediately to ape-against-ape conflict. If you’re a chimp in Africa, that stick you’re using to pry open the beehive had better be strong enough to clobber a competitor over the head if he tries to steal your honey. I could go on and on, but there’s no point in trying to put it more eloquently than Robinson Jeffers:

    “But whence came the race of man? I will make a guess.
    A change of climate killed the great northern forests,
    Forcing manlike apes down from their trees,
    They starved up there. They had been secure up there,
    But famine is no security: among the withered branches blue famine:
    They had to go down to the earth, where green still grew
    And small meats might be gleaned. But there the great flesh-eaters,
    Tiger and panther and the horrible fumbling bear
    and endless wolf-packs made life
    A dream of death. Therefore man had those dreams,
    And kills out of pure terror. Therefore man walks erect,
    Forever alerted: as the bear rises to fight
    So man does always. Therefore he invented fire and flint weapons
    In his desperate need. Therefore he is cruel and bloody-handed and
    quick-witted, having survived
    Against all odds. Never blame the man: his hard-pressed
    Ancestors formed him: the other anthropoid apes were safe
    In the great southern rain-forest and hardly changed
    In a million years: but the race of man was made
    By shock and agony. Therefore they invented
    the song called language
    To celebrate their survival and record their deeds.
    And therefore the deeds they celebrate —
    Achilles raging in the flame of the south,
    Baltic Beowulf like a fog-blinded sea-bear
    Prowling the blasted fenland
    in the bleak twilight to the black water —
    Are cruel and bloody. Epic, drama, and history,
    Jesus and Judas, Jenghiz, Julius Ceasar, no great poem
    Without the blood-splash. They are a little lower than the angels,
    as someone said. — Blood-snuffing rats:
    But never blame them: a wound was made in the brain
    When life became too hard, and has never healed.
    It is there that they learned
    trembling religion and blood-sacrifice,
    It is there that they learned
    to butcher beasts and slaughter men,
    And hate the world: the great religions of love and kindness
    May conceal that, not change it. They are not primary but reactions
    Against the hate: as the eye after feeding on a red sunfall
    Will see green suns.”

  • Pauline, OOPS, tongue in cheek – Rianne Eisler is a genuine crank & crazy as a loon.

    The Chalice & the Blade is phantasmagorical literary flapdoodle, as was Eisler’s crackpot mentor, Marija Gimbutas.

    Here is another look at Slapsie Maxie Weber’s preposterous philosophical idealism.

    Maxie knew that ideas in people’s heads cause everything.

    Maxie sought to find the irrational in his own ridiculous rationalism.

    And he found it too.

    Maxie’s magnum opus, THE PROTESTANT ETHIC & THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM holds that CAPITALISM IS CAUSED BY SPIRITS because angels & witches are too unscientific.

    I was taught Maxie’s Spirits Causing Everything Theory as infallible gospel by well meaning scholars in the early sixties.

    World renowned “sociologist,” spiritualist, & believing rationalist Maxie Weber in his own words.

    “The peculiarity of this philosophy of avarice appears to be the ideal of the honest man of recognized credit, and above all the idea of a duty of the individual toward the increase of his capital, which is assumed as an end in itself. Truly what is here preached is not simply a means of making one’s way in the world, but a peculiar ethic. The infraction of its rules is treated not as foolishness but as forgetfulness of duty. That is the essence of the matter. It is not mere business astuteness, that sort of thing is common enough, it is an ethos. This is the quality which interests us.

    “What was the background of ideas which could account for the sort of activity apparently directed toward profit alone as a calling toward which the individual feels himself to have an ethical obligation?

    “For it was this idea which gave the way of life of the new entrepreneur its ethical foundation and justification.

    “Rationalism is an historical concept which covers a whole world of different things. It will be our task to find out whose intellectual child the particular concrete form of rational thought was, from which the idea of a calling and the devotion to labor in the calling has grown, which is, as we have seen, so irrational from the standpoint of purely eudaemonistic self-interest, but which has been and still is one of the most characteristic elements of our capitalistic culture.

    “We are here particularly interested in the origin of precisely the irrational element which lies in this, as in every conception of a calling.”

    Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1905 – Chapter 2

    The Witches of the Free Market as a title was rejected by Weber’s German publisher, for being too spiritual & scientifically indefensible.

  • @ Eamon

    Most excellent essay. Thanks.

    Interesting comment on RC. Also the earlier comments re ‘hope’. I think this blog was the first place on the planet where the ‘hope koan’ was cracked. Now it eats up everyone else.

    For all we know, we may have long since passed the point where the anthropogenic warming that has already occurred, plus the additional anthropogenic warming already locked in, by our cumulative GHG emissions is already sufficient to trigger various feedbacks that must now inevitably lead to the complete collapse of human civilization and the mass extinction of most life on Earth.

    @ G Spezio

    Max Weber’s great work is a massive landmark in the intellectual history of the human race. People write like that a century ago, it was the accepted literary style.

  • Thank you Eamon for a thoughtful essay. In spite of the lateness of the hour, we all must do what we can as we rapidly approach NTHE. As I have mentioned in a previous comment months ago, accepting NTHE is the key imho, and even though I came to that point years ago, I can totally understand that it is a difficult place to arrive at for many (most) individuals. Still, I continue to talk to the people I come in contact with, and occasionally the message gets through. But for the most part, it’s like I’m talking in black but they are only listening in white. That doesn’t mean that I stop passing on the information, because it seems like the right thing to do at this stage.

    On a less serious note, thanks for the laugh- “nothing but a quark within God’s cat’s butt”
    It was the best laugh I have had all day.

  • Nicely done Eamon.

    Here is the latest for the hypocritical dominate society.

    In most Canadian provinces the price of your guilt(ticket)for distracted driving is no more than $200.00 Assuming you do not kill or maim one or more people or cause property damage.

    In most Canadian provinces the price of your guilt(conviction) for drunk driving (Assuming you do not kill or maim one or more people or cause property damage) is a year suspension, a criminal record, $500.00 to $1500.00 fine. You must have a breathalyzer installed in your car,for one year at your own expense $1000.00 to $1500.00. You must pay for and attend some safe driving classes $500.00 to $700.00. Plus you may have up to a 40% surcharge on your insurance for a year, then 30%, 20%, etc.

    So what are the chances that society will turn distracted drivers into the same social pariahs as drunk drivers or smokers? Where is the outrage from MADD? You won’t hear it, because MADD like many many other NGOs is now corrupted and exists mostly to keep their people nicely employed and feeling important and powerful. They take money from big alcohol and even have their own line of non-alcoholic beverages. Sound like any environmental groups many of us use to support? I have given money to Greenpeace and MADD, but I will no longer financially support any organization. All gifting is now local and consists of my time, possessions I do not need and making a giant pot of spaghetti once a month for the local homeless shelter. I like NBL because it’s small and unorganized. At NBL you hear how and what regular folks do to manage day to day and for the dark days to come. This is why I continue to visit NBL. I think others feel the same and like me are tired of politics, organized religion, dogma, credentialism, institutions, progress, and the endless stream of people who are mostly wrong but never uncertain.

  • @ Jason Frank

    So explain to me, please, how/why the African megafauna are still there.

  • “If the survival of our species and the living web we depend on is a concern at all, we must begin to understand progress as peace, not production. Progress must mean equality, not subjugation.” Well said, but alas, like the Sermon on the Mount, as effective as fart in a storm.

    You did a fine and enlightened piece of work, Eamon. There are thousands upon thousands of people out there that disparately realize that our, their time is up. Finding NBL and your essay can be the prescription needed to ease the loneliness and confusion many feel. I’m sure that, as the many are drawn to NBL, this article will go a long way to helping people get their lives in order. As I worked to understand the science and deal with the emotions regarding NTE, I was all over the web and especially NBL, searching out what was necessary to know and understand. It’s all here and your effort is a worthy addition. Thanks! (:

    “INTELLECT IS THE UNDERSTANDING OF KNOWLEDGE”. A well wrought, clearly written work like Eamon’s makes intellect possible.

    WooHoo! I dig the Nature Bats Last song! Is there a website where somebody is gathering NTE music?!? Neal Young started a site for anti war songs called, Living With War. Check it out. We need a clearing house like that for NTE and coming collapse music, poetry, videos, etc. The poems from the previous writer would make a good start.

  • @ G Spezio

    You might do well to recall that the left brain/logos logical positivist analytical rationalist scientism that you appear to admire so much, was well represented around the same period that Max Weber’s book was published, I think, by Lord Kelvin, who declared that the physicists had discovered all that there was to be discovered of physics, and had explained the whole Universe, so their work was finally completed…

    Zizek explains fascism

  • Anyone could become rich. But not everyone could become rich. Not everyone could be middle class.

    Very true. In the more developed feudal systems the “Lord of the Manor” was expected to provide the security for all the serfs and vassals. Not to worry: extinction is an equal-opportunity provider.

    Instead of the culture taking responsibility for the monsters it creates, guns are blamed, whether an abundance or a lack.

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

    People would clap for them as they walked through an airport in their fatigues.

    They do. The names happen to be different, and they wear camo BDUs. Uncontrolled violence is the stock-in-trade of the riff-raff; the military prides itself in controlled violence. However the ones capable of surviving the greatest danger while dispensing violence “with extreme prejudice”, such as Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs are amongst the quietest and most polite of the military personnel that I have come across. There was a medic staff sergeant working in a unit with me who years previously had been awarded a Silver Star for killing 76 Viet Cong. He was one of the quietest, kindest and gentlest persons around.

    such pressure and punishment will ultimately prove ineffective at solving our penultimate problem.

    Without solutions, there are no problems: if it does not have a solution, it ain’t a problem. Corollary: “The chief cause of problems is solutions.” – Eric Sevareid.

    NTE is not a problem, either way: whether you accept it or not.

    and on possibly to infinity.

    Not quite.

    Humans globally now stand on the precipice of catastrophe.

    What’s transpiring is moving at exponentially increasing speeds, but starting on timescales that have always been way outside our anticipation and planning. So it seems – for now – we’re still on the precipice.

    It is commonly known that indigenous cultures looked to the Earth as a living entity with spirit and flesh and consciousness.

    Consciousness-existence is the ground of everything, but consciousness is not reflected everywhere.

    if there is any hope for humanity

    – It soon will be dashed. Hopelessness is not thus vulnerable.

    If the survival of our species and the living web we depend on is a concern at all,

    When it might have made a significant difference, it was of no concern. Now? The concern should be Minimise Suffering Exeunt All vs. “Last Man / Last Community Standing”.

  • I’ve always argued capitalism is a pyramid scheme for this reason which is eloquently stated above: anyone can become rich (presumably on a level playing field, which isn’t always the case either) but everyone can’t become rich.

  • Thanks for the kind words.

    @Tom: When I suggest being peaceful, it is truly my desire. Peaceful relations with other people, with our land and ecosystems. However, I am not a pacifist, not as far as dealing with aggression is concerned, and I very much consider the oil and gas industries, the banking industries, and others to very much be assaulting life on Earth. Those who endanger us all should be given no quarter. I condemn no course of action people decide to take concerning these industries and their infrastructure.

    “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”
    ― Edward Abbey

  • @ulvfugl

    Most of them aren’t. What you see today represent a tiny percentage of remnant survivors.

    When homo sapiens split off from homo erectus, there were several rhino and elephant species in Africa. Today there are two distinct rhinos and one species of elephant (the Asian elephant originated in Africa but no longer resides there). Those other species who went extict did so right after the sapiens/erectus split. Again, this would be a tremendous coincidence if hunting pressure had nothing to do with it, seeing as how the pattern repeats itself on each successively colonized (or humanized) continent. But that very same hunting pressure is what preserved the surviving Africa megafauna (by means of natural selection). One could argue that because a few of them survived, it circumstantially proves the Overkill Hypothesis: that is, they bore witness to the evolution of the human ape, and passed a distinct wariness on to their offspring. That’s precicely why there aren’t any of them anywhere else.

    When the sapiens began their migration, they found Ice Age mammoths on new continents who couldn’t possibly recognize them as a threat. It was the Dodo principle played out among titans. The first migrants entered Asia and, within a few generations, the Asian elephant was the lone survivor. Dwarf rhinos like the Javan and Sumatran retreated to the densest, most inhospitable jungles. When we got to Australia, EVERY SINGLE LARGE ANIMAL DISAPPEARED within a thousand years. Before the introduction of camels and cows, the largest surviving Australian mammal was the kangaroo.

    I myself did not believe any of this until I actively started researching it a few years ago. Driving so many large animals to extinction just seemed like more than early humans would’ve been capable of. But then I thought about the whales, and how by 1970 they were almost all gone… I mean over 90% of the rorquals, gone in just about 200 years of intensive commercial hunting. Try hunting an elephant with a bow and arrow, and a blue whale with a spear in a rowboat, and then tell me which was the greater challenge.

    For further info I’d recommend reading “Twilight of the Mammoths,” by Paul S. Martin. Also “After Eden” by Kirkpatrick Sale, some exerpts from which are pasted below.

    “Some thirty-five genera died out in North America by about 11,000 years ago, 73 percent of the larger animals and all of the biggest ones, a number that may be as high as 50 to 100 million animals; as many as 46 genera became extinct in South America–were the hunters getting more proficient as they moved along?–and an astonishing 80% of the large mammal genera.”

    “According to an elaborate simulation of human population density and numbers of mammoths run by Steven Mithen of the University of Reading, there would not need to be any great rampage of hunting to wipe out a mammoth herd. If mammoths were like modern elephant populations it would take as many as twenty years for them to reproduce their full number, so a regional extinction could happen in a fairly short period if only a score of adults were killed each year. Mithen figures the required hunting intensity to push mammoths to extinction in all possible combinations of mammoth/human population densities and population characteristics is only 0.75 mammoths per person per year, or nineteen per year for a band of 25 people, roughly one every three weeks, just the right rate for a regular supply of meat.”

    “They took a few animals regularly, maybe drove a herd or two over a cliff, and had no idea what the eventual effect would be on the local population: there had always been mammoths, why would there not always be mammoths? Besides, if one tribe refrained from killing them, even if it realized that the numbers were dwindling, how would it know if another tribe nearby would make the same decision? And if the meat supply from other species was scarce, there may have been no good alternative to killing mammoths, who were after all a very economical source of meat: one adult male would supply something like 2,500 pounds of meat, which would feed a band of 25 people (at 4.4 pounds per person) for three weeks if it were cured and stored. It would require a lot of rabbits and partridges (and, for that matter, deer) to equal that, and a lot more time and energy than killing a single mammoth.”

    “Extinction. This is a heavy charge to make. It proclaims that Sapiens had become a species so technologically powerful, so efficiently deadly–and so psychologically fixed on its superiority to the rest of life–that it could eliminate whole other species from its habitat. Not necessarily by intention–in fact, probably by accident, not taking the time and care to figure out the long-term effects of its actions, though surely as hunters intimate with the ways of their prey they knew that mammoths took a long time to gestate and a long time to grow to reproductive age, and had arrogance not overpowered humility they might have realized their effect on the dwindling herds and switched to other animals.”

  • Meltdown. Our zeitgeist. Not just the physical out of control meltdown at Fukushima but meltdown as the meme that crystallizes the retreating status of civilization and the end zone of mass/human extinction. Meltdown as deformation of the artificial yet corporeal habitat made by humanity. The melting of expectations and lifestyles as poverty blankets the landscape in an avalanche. The melting away of hard won democratic values and human rights… as the resource base that provided the surplus to achieve such laudable goals diminished and dissipated. The meltdown of individual and community empowerment as victimization is imposed upon and absorbed into distracted mass psychology like an insidious environmental toxin. Meltdown as dumbed down education and entertainment shrinks below the lowest common denominator of intellectual capacity… parallel to increasing stress and decreasing attention span. Meltdown of physical fitness as food is depleted of vitality and nourishment, morphed into a commodity of maximum shelf life and appeal to infantilized taste buds… and exercise is spun as an unfashionable distraction from substitutional consumption. Meltdown of clear cognizant thinking as the pharmaceutical industry sells and seeps chemical anti-depressants into 20% of the male population and 25% of the females. Even sleep is melting down as we allocate it less and less time in favor of safely filtered, guaranteed to be pleasant, virtual reality screen time – ‘the preferable reality choice’. Apparently the only available personal strategy is to keep your cool and think for yourself, at least until the heat melts your wax.

    The only possible answer to victimization is to wake up, stand up and fight back. Individuals have power that they have been tricked into idling. Getting into personal empowerment is a prerequisite to altering those things that can only be dealt with cooperatively. Unfortunately, the core meltdown, the meltdown focal point at Fukushima… is beyond human control.

  • Eamon

    Liked your essay.
    It covers many matters that have been part of my interest for the past five years.
    But what I liked most was the fact that you do not have fancy credentials. After reading your essay, no credentials required.
    I hate this modern society where credentials worth more than the content. And credentials are one more example of this society of technicians, and increasing specialization, where the capacity to operate a specific system, or to handle a very specific area of knowledge, worth respect, and better income.
    I will recall the words of Geoffrey Chia, taken from one of his essays, “the definition of increasing specialization is knowing more and more about less and less, until the ultimate super specialist knows everything about nothing”.
    It can be seen that a holistic approach (from within society) of our problems has become more difficult as the years go by.

    I have been thinking for years about what you cover in your essay, trying to find a basis to build a durable society. Unfortunately, for the time being, I have concluded that we need a Homo Sapiens mark II, because there are some issues that cannot be solved.
    I disagree with “Progress must mean equality, not subjugation”.
    Anything that is sustained in equality will fail, because the biggest problem about equality is that we are not equal. But I guess we can have “no subjugation”, despite not being equal.

    I always hear expressions about we are equal, but what I see is that we are all different. I would rather use the word “gifted” to describe what makes us different. The point is that some have “more valuable” gifts than others, in relation to the activities required to keep a group or society working in a sustainable way of living. That means a much simple life.
    My view of a durable society requires that the different gifts be valued, so some people will be more valuable (to the group) than others. But at the same time, all are required.
    So, two situations, the less gifted has to accept that others have more valuable gifts, and on the other side, the gifted with more valuable gifts has to accept a responsibility with the less gifted. The more gifted, will have to share their gift, and receive in exchange something “less valuable”, but in a simple life, the difference will be meaningless. Ethics must be practiced, and life has to be simple.
    This is a very simple way to show the problem, because, if we take a holistic point of view, many other things have to be considered, and the problem becomes very complex, with no easy solution. I do not want to begin a discussion here about this, because it may turn into “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”.
    I just want to show my point that future society has to learn how to deal with the fact that we are different, and that we will never be equal.
    I know by my own experience that you can be “more” gifted, and give more than what you receive, but in this society, that does not work, and the others “less gifted” take advantage of you.

  • Eamon,

    Excellent, thought provoking article! I do have one concern about it: your frequent reference to capitalism instead of to civilization more generally, including socialism and communism, which suffer the same weaknesses so often and appropriately emphasized here but attributed misleadingly only to capitalism. For sure, capitalism has turbocharged the degrading processes, and especially industrial capitalism, but I think it misleading to focus exclusively on it and not to emphasize the ecologically unsustainable nature of all of civilization during about the past 10,000 years, which includes socialism, communism, and numerous other Earth-killing arrangements. Even so: good work!

  • @ Jason Frank:

    Thanks for the comment about the megafauna die-off. It is a subject of much interest to me, limning my/our nature from the beginnings our species and its interactions with all in its milieu lost in deep in time so long before any indications of humanly recorded events. Not quite the stories we tell ourselves. If only the (extinct) six species of New World elephants could talk and leave written records… and other species too!

  • @ Jason Frank

    I seem to have taken the opposite trajectory to you. I completely accepted the thesis that Homo sapiens caused the extinctions of the palaeo megafauna, when that idea was first floated, years ago, and argued it on forums, I didn’t need convincing, it seemed obvious.

    I’m now much more sceptical. Look, I don’t buy the ‘dumb animals surprised by these smart new predators’ thing at all. Animals are very smart. They learn in one day if some nasty thing is trying to kill and eat them, and they don’t forget. And, if humans are just like yeast, in Africa, how come they didn’t just keep eating all the meat until there were no zebras and wildebeestes and antelopes and elephants left, and it was all turned into Homo sapiens, long ago ?

    Obviously, I’m not saying our ancestors were sweet, cuddly, fluffy folks who never did any harm. Sure, the Maori seem to have caused the mass extinction of NZ species, etc, just that there’s so much detail and so may questions, I don’t think it’s simple, I don’t think the case is settled. Same goes for Jared Diamond. I bought into all his stuff without question. Now I’m highly sceptical about all of his work.

    Also, I think the Homo sapiens, Homo erectus and all the other human genealogical tree stuff has major problems, because we are applying a species paradigm we’ve derived from studying other species which apparently does not fit our species and needs a fundamental rethink.

    Some time ago we replaced a linear view of our evolution by one represented by a branching tree. It is now time to replace it with that of an interwoven plexus of genetic lineages that branch out and fuse once again with the passage of time.

    This means, of course, that we must abandon, once and for all, views of modern human superiority over archaic (ancient) humans. The terms “archaic” and “modern” lose all meaning as do concepts of modern human replacement of all other lineages.

    It also releases us from the deep-rooted shackles that have sought to link human evolution with stone tool-making technological stages – the Stone Ages – even when we have known that these have overlapped with each other for half-a-million years in some instances.

    The world of our biological and cultural evolution was far too fluid for us to constrain it into a few stages linked by transitions.

  • Everyday is like Christmas.
    Each morning when I wake up I get to open a new present.


    Monday, 13 January 2014

    Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier

    Giant Antarctic glacier beyond point of no return, research says

    and this is related (but on another blog: Desdemona Despair)

    Warmer temperatures forcing emperor penguins out of their traditional breeding grounds to make gravity-defying journeys up 100-foot ice walls

    Emperor penguins are having to struggle up 100-foot walls of ice as warmer temperatures force them out of their traditional breeding grounds, a study has shown.

    The gravity-defying march of the penguins was spotted by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists in satellite images of four colonies.

    The birds normally breed on thin sea ice, close to easily accessible food sources. But ice forming later than usual in recent years has compelled them to move to much thicker floating ice shelves.

    Experts believe the unusual behaviour could indicate that the penguins are adapting to environmental change.

    Lead scientist Dr Peter Fretwell, from the BAS, said: “These charismatic birds tend to breed on the sea ice because it gives them relatively easy access to waters where they hunt for food.

    “Satellite observations captured of one colony in 2008, 2009, and 2010 show that the concentration of annual sea ice was dense enough to sustain a colony. But this was not the case in 2011 and 2012, when the sea ice did not form until a month after the breeding season began. During those years the birds moved up on to the neighbouring floating ice shelf to raise their young.

    “What’s particularly surprising is that climbing up the sides of a floating ice shelf – which at this site can be up to 30 metres high – is a very difficult manoeuvre for emperor penguins. Whilst they are very agile swimmers they have often been thought of as clumsy out of the water.”
    As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, bats, kangaroos, koalas etc are having a lot less success trying to adapt to (sudden) high temperatures. Let’s see what happens this spring and summer as this kind of weather arrives here in North America and the northern hemisphere. i’m sure the bugs and pests will love it, not so sure how humanity will do.

  • OK, I’ll buy into the Mega-fauna debate.

    Look, it is possible the surviving Indigenous cultures who may have, or may not have, significantly contributed to the swift decline of Mega-fauna, learnt from their mistakes, and thus adopted a more respectful and ‘nature conscious'(can’t believe I’m writing that !?) cosmology, cosmologies. Maybe they payed dearly for exhausting those food sources, and had to become keener hunters, chasing smaller animals, which can’t have been fun, nor easy.

    Early Tribal Peoples weren’t dumb.
    Just Sayin.

  • Also down here….

    ‘Parts of SA prepare for five days above 40C’ (105 F)

    “Preparations for Adelaide’s third worst heatwave on record are being put in place as the city and other spots get set for five consecutive days of 40 degrees Celsius or above.

    The Bureau of Meteorology says Adelaide has only twice had such a run of heat in its recorded history, most recently in January 2009 and before that in 1908, with the temperature soaring above 40C for six days in a row on both occasions.”

    Adapt or not….

  • @Bud Nye

    Regarding capitalism, I target it specifically because it has been the dominant economic paradigm of human civilization for the last few hundred years. Even China’s communism is a state capitalism. It’s hard at times, because we have economic systems, political systems, and cultural systems. Then there is the technological method of production behind these systems, i.e. industrialism.

    Also, there are certain traits unique to capitalism concerning the power structures created amongst people when land is privately owned and people are born as renters, immediately dependent upon the owner class and needing to toil for the rich to attain sustenance. This feeds back into cultural paradigms as well.

    It’s all a complete clusterfuck begging for a conscious reworking.

  • @Godofredo Aravena
    You wrote:
    “My view of a durable society requires that the different gifts be valued, so some people will be more valuable (to the group) than others. But at the same time, all are required…The more gifted, will have to share their gift, and receive in exchange something “less valuable”, but in a simple life, the difference will be meaningless.
    I know by my own experience that you can be “more” gifted, and give more than what you receive, but in this society, that does not work, and the others “less gifted” take advantage of you.”

    You are coming from a scarcity perspective, the term “being equal” is not about who gets more of the pie or who can chop more wood. It’s about our humanity.
    We are all equal in that we are human animals who love, hurt, need human companionship, and need food, water and shelter to survive.

    It’s not about whose gifts/skills are more valuable. That is the patriarchy speaking. That is why we are in the mess we are in.
    Worrying about the “less gifted” taking “advantage” of you is a fear based perspective and coming from the deep wound that this culture has promulgated on all of us, especially it’s men.
    This culture has destroyed our men and women and our innate sense of nurturing each other. It denies that tenderness is good, that weakness is valuable, that being vulnerable is ideal. This culture is founded on fascist brutalism, idealizing bullying, competition, and violence to achieve any goal. It idealized the king of the hill mentality, rather than the cooperative village.

    You may not realize it, but this is NOT a durable society that you have described, because you described our own current, modern culture that is falling apart and has murdered millions in its wake and has murdered the planet.

    A durable society, one that lasts, would be based on cooperation, love, tenderness, caring and celebration, joy, music and sharing of the fruits of the cooperative labor of the community.
    Not worrying about whose gifts are more valuable.

  • Pauline
    I value your comment. I was expecting something like what you wrote.
    But you get me wrong.
    I understand you, because it is a very complex issue, that seems to be simple.
    My point is about how to create a durable natural order within a group of humans. For that, you (for yourself, and not telling to anyone) have to recognize that others are better than you (for some, or many things). We are clearly not equal. Even twins are different.
    The clue is that you have to look for those that are better than you, not the other way around. In the tasks that others are better than you, you will be at most a runner-up. But logic says that you should do what you do well. Logics says that we are not free to choose what to do, if we are looking for the survival of the group, clan or society.
    If we are honest with ourselves, there is a lot of people that is better than ourselves for many tasks. Then we step aside from those tasks. We choose what we can do well.
    I guess this point about being equal is one of the greatest problems of modern society.
    I have been studying the complexities of human groups for the past 20 years based in my experiences, and concluded that this ideal about we are all equal leads to failure of any human organization in the end.
    You say
    “A durable society, one that lasts, would be based on cooperation, love, tenderness, caring and celebration, joy, music and sharing of the fruits of the cooperative labor of the community.
    Not worrying about whose gifts are more valuable”.
    That is too idealistic. And a structure within the group will be required.
    For example, you mention “music”, and that means that in that group you will need somebody with musical gifts to compose the music, and some others with the capacity to make instruments, and others that can play the instruments. Gifts are part of human nature. And you cannot avoid that some gifts will be more valuable than others. There is nothing wrong about that. Envy is the problem, when you cannot accept that some are better than you. Our egos, one of the other problems we face.
    In a simple and honest life (with love for the others), to be “highly” gifted will impose you more responsibility, not privileges.
    It is curious to note that we hear that humans (persons) are unique, and at the same time, we hear that we are equal. That is a total contradiction.

    Nature, something that is a good starting point if we are looking for any durable solution, recognizes that within the groups of animals some levels of organization are required, the best for each task.

  • @ulvfugl

    …”And, if humans are just like yeast, in Africa, how come they didn’t just keep eating all the meat until there were no zebras and wildebeestes and antelopes and elephants left, and it was all turned into Homo sapiens, long ago?”

    -I won’t say there weren’t other factors at play in various places at various times, but there’s no evidence to support the claim that natural climate fluctuations coinciding with the human invasion were severe enough to cause the most thorough extinction of large animal life since the dinosaurs. Other than climate change (Noah’s flood?), I don’t see anything having as profound an effect as human hunting pressure.

    A blue whale is easier to harpoon than a dolphin. A mammoth would’ve been easier to kill than a zebra or wildebeest. And again, it comes down to factors like gestation period, plus the sheer numbers of wildebeest and zebra, or the fact that they run 40 mph while traveling in massive, amorphous herds. It would’ve been impossible to separate one of them from the herd and strike a killing blow while running alongside them on foot. That’s why early Americans didn’t bother with the buffalo until the Spaniards introduced horses in the late 1600s. Maybe they might’ve done as the Inuit did with caribou: set up cairns and drive a herd into a rocky bottleneck and ambush them at a river crossing; but that method depends upon a very specific kind of topography, which happens to be absent on the African Plains. I think the best explanation would be that after a majority of the megafauna disappeared, the human populations that had grown accustomed to such a gratuitous bounty would’ve crashed—and never recovered, at least not until they domesticated sheep and goats. The same thing would happen this very instant if the modern world lost access to ubiquitous wheat, corn, rice and soy. If you have a smaller family group, it suddenly becomes worth the effort to pursue smaller or mid-sized prey. If these lower populations densities remained stable between the fall of the mammoth and the advent of domestication, there’s no reason to think humans would’ve been able to drive the smaller and mid-sized mammals to the point of extinction.

    Then, as OzMan suggests, there is a certain shift in consciousness to consider…


    “Look, it is possible the surviving Indigenous cultures who may have, or may not have, significantly contributed to the swift decline of Mega-fauna, learnt from their mistakes, and thus adopted a more respectful and ‘nature conscious’ (can’t believe I’m writing that !?) cosmology, cosmologies. Maybe they payed dearly for exhausting those food sources, and had to become keener hunters, chasing smaller animals, which can’t have been fun, nor easy.”

    -Yes, I think you are absolutely right here. And I think there’s evidence to suggest that ancient shamanic traditions like cave painting actually arose during this time period as either a desperate plea for “hunting magic” or (as I’m more inclined to believe) a profoundly spiritual, structured religion of repentance.

    I guess it all depends on how much you’re willing to allow for coincidence. The earliest carved animal/human ivory sculptures (like the Lion Man), and the first cave paintings depicting both large and mid-sized Ice Age mammals originated in southern France and Spain about 35,000 years ago; at that time, these areas were home to the densest human populations on the continent. If there were lots of humans, there would’ve been lots of hunting pressure, so prey would’ve been very scarce. Desperate times call for desperate thinking, so maybe they painted shrines to the animal spirits, either praying for a miraculous return or begging forgiveness, humbling themselves, and pledging a deeper respect for the mysteries of nature. I’ve had this conversation with people who are into shamanism, and apparently any entertainment of this possibility borders on blasphemy. Most would prefer to believe that climate killed the mammoths, and that the caves were painted in loving tribute to the animal spirits, and that the Paleo hunters dwelt in perfect harmony with their prey, and each animal gave itself up in sacrifice, because they knew that humans were special, and they wanted us to thrive. If this was the case, why didn’t the shrines appear where game was plentiful? I suspect indigenous hunters may have renounced their “original sin” after the fall of the mammoths and developed pantheistic Earth-worshipping traditions in response to their own prior mistakes, a sort of dogmatic precaution against resource-depletion which evolved into a conviction deep enough to equivocate empathic consciousness with the preservation of the soul.

    The Cheyenne people originated on the eastern banks of the Mississippi around what is now Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The elders tell that they lived in villages and grew crops, but when those crops began to fail (perhaps because the soil was exhausted?) they moved west in the late 1600s and became nomadic hunters. After stealing horses from the Crow and Comanche (who got them from the Spaniards) they learned to hunt the buffalo, which became their sacrament. They lived the way humans ought to live, with minimal impact on their landbase and a profound respect for the integrity of Creation.

    Precisely how and why they arrived at that point of humility is what matters most. If the human race has a predisposition to locust-like behavior, then we do, in a sense, need to be saved from our sins and ourselves in order to live in a way that is fundamentally right on this tiny, precious planet. Unfortunately, nobody repents when they’re riding high. It only happens after you’ve hit rock bottom.

  • “Industrial capitalism may not be perfect, but it has given us a standard of living once unfathomable, and there is no conceivable reason to ((not only retain these developments, but to continually expand upon them)).”

    – This implies the majority is of the opinion that there is no reason to retain these developments.

  • “Envy is the problem, when you cannot accept that some are better than you. Our egos, one of the other problems we face.”

    This can be applied to the sexes. Increasingly, I see that women are better than me (and men in general) for handling the pressing concerns of the world. While I resisted this knowledge and was barely aware of it for a long time, it feels good now to just let go.


    Your post about heading West to be with your son was most touching. That looks like acceptance with grace.

    Very impressive article and comments.

  • You know, sometimes I listen to BBC news on the radio, and I cannot work out if what I hear is quoted verbatim from a government source, or is the interpretation put on it by the editorial staff?

    “Govt. says massive economic benefits outweigh any environmental concerns”..

    ..Phew! That’s a relief then! ….or, wait a minute…. for a moment I thought I heard someone shouting: “THIS IS HOW TOTALLY OUT TO LUNCH YOUR GOVT. IS- DO YOU GIVE A FLYING FUCK?” …. No.. must’ve been my imagination..

    The UK govt. are ‘getting behind’ fracking, which has brought “…so much good to North America..”- that last being a direct quote from some D. Camoron, who is, I believe, the Prune Mystifier of Airstrip One, or some such title… Apparently, there’s this ‘global competition’.. it’s a bit like tiddlywinks except in this version you have to bore holes in your vital organs and the winner is the one who can say “echo-gnomic grout!” with the most holes, or something…anyway Dave Catamaran, the Mime Printer of a green and pleasant landfill, or something like that…he’s great ’cause he keeps me competitive in spite of myself…

    I think I’ll go and lie down for a bit….

    @Eamon Farrelly:
    That’s a cracking essay, like many good things, deserving much wider dissemination than it’s likely to get…

  • @ Jason

    Yes, well, I’m not going to go too far with this, because I really don’t know, and I don’t know how the argument can be settled one way or the other.

    But I’ve met some of the young academics who come up with these theories and write PhDs in offices, and deal with hypothetical idealised spherical mammoths and hypothetical idealised spherical humans, so to speak, and who have never been near real wild animals or real wild humans out in the wilderness..

    I’ve also met the animals, they are so amazingly intelligent, sophisticated and underestimated. Their behaviour can change in one generation.

    C’mon, re Africa, humans can run down ANY land animal, to exhaustion, even horses, and those zebras and whatnots have to go to watering sites, and although they do run fast in big herds, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how you could dig holes for them to fall into, or make long rope-net traps to trip them up, or whatever, and if a lion can get close enough for a fifty yard surprise charge, a human could hide and get close enough for a fifty yard arrow shot ? and anyway, what about all the forest creatures ? If the argument was correct, the only stuff left would be the ones very difficult to catch, no ? :-)
    But there will always be the counter argument, and I am being provocative :-)

    I remain deeply suspicious. It can all look very convincing on the page but it’s like the arguments for the origin of civilisation and the firsts cities, they all sound more or less plausible and convincing, and then along comes Gobekli Tepe which is so totally weird, strikes me are always trying to impose our modern over-simple rationality onto stuff that is very much stranger than we can imagine.

    Off on a slight tangent. Guinea Fowl know from the egg that a tiny black dot up there in the blue means danger of death, and they do their alarm call and hide. They don’t need to learn that. It works just as well for a silver jet liner at 30,000 ft. Anybody want to explain how that works ? Evolutionary-wise ?
    How did the info get encoded, I mean, and passed on.

    @ Artleads

    Increasingly, I see that women are better than me (and men in general) for handling the pressing concerns of the world. While I resisted this knowledge and was barely aware of it for a long time, it feels good now to just let go.

    So, yesterday you were an irresponsible man.
    Today you are an irresponsible man, but you’re expecting women to take responsibility for your irresponsibility.
    When are you going to grow up and take responsibility for yourself ?

    Have you asked the women whether they WANT the burden of yet another irresponsible child/boy-man, Artlead ?

  • Someone from RE land..

  • Guy, thanks for the update in Transition Voice (I saw the article on geo-engineering over at Seemorerocks).

    For anyone thinking that the climate will be stable and only slowly change over long periods of time,
    Tuesday, 14 January 2014

    Sea freeze in Norway

    Just a few days (or a week) ago Scandinavia was enjoying Just a few days (or a week) ago Scandinavia was enjoying warmer-than –usual temperatures

    The sea froze so fast that it killed thousands of fish instantly


    13 January, 2014

    Norwegian public radio (Google-translated) reports on the instant dead (sic) of thousands of fish in a bay in the island of Lovund, Norway. An air temperature of -7.8 C (17.96 F) combined with a strong east wind froze the sea water instantly, trapping and killing the fish you can see in this fishapocalyptic image: (take a look)

    The dog owner says that he has never seen such a phenomenon. NRK claims that the herrings were chased by cormorants into the bay when the deadly freezing happened. Aril Slotte—the head of pelagic fish department at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research—says it is not uncommon for herring to get very near the shore when chased by predators, sometimes getting trapped by the low tide in areas like this bay. [trapped is one thing, FROZEN INSTANTLY is another]

  • Sorry, going off topic immediately.

    Jason, the population of France around 35,000 years ago was about 5000 humans, according to what I’ve read.

    Images in Chauvet have been dated to around 38,000 years ago, Lascaux about 17,000 years ago….so that civilization lasted at least 20,000 years. From Spain to what is now Russia…..evidence of trading, of movement, and of stability, actually.

    Frankly, I don’t know if humans drove mammoth extinct. But when we were in France visiting the caves (I’m obsessed), we spent some time with a paleo-anthropologist who was quite sure that early humans did NOT kill off the mammoth. She pointed out how thick the coats were, then the skin itself, and said flint/ivory/bone arrows could not penetrate deeply enough to kill them. Which, of course, does not preclude other methods.

    The scenario you float….that the caves were a form of repentance and were painted in desperate times….does not coincide with any of the scholarly work I’ve read about those times. I love the paleolithic and have read lots and lots and this is the first time I’ve ever heard that theory. No one has ever suggested that this was a time of desperation. Rather, this civilization lasted for 20,000 years….longer than any that followed.

    I swear, those caves are Rorschach tests. People project their own theories onto them.

    I will also add that earthquakes, volcanoes, and extreme weather events were of course also happening at this time.

    Having said all of that, you have to add humans into the picture. Given what we know about us, I’m sure we added our own little signature to the extinction process.

  • @ Doomer Support

    Apologies for 3rd post, but there does seem to be some tech problem.

    My earlier post didn’t appear for hours, as have comments by other posters, which means they get missed unless you go to the top each time and scroll down. It’s making the discussion a bit disjointed.

    And they don’t update, on ‘Comments’ either, or in the numbers at the head of the essay.

    @ 18000days

    BBC is only reliable for trivial froth about stuff that doesn’t really matter. For serious geopolitics, etc, it’s become totally controlled spin and propaganda, and it’s outrageous that it’s a criminal offence not to pay to be forced to have it blasted into your home. I gave up listening and watching years ago.

    Monbiot documents the insanity of the idiots who have the power.

    @ wildwoman

    Hey, I wanted to say that ! You said it much better than I could ;)
    Effing Rorschach, hahahaha, yes, actually, that’s the whole Universe, One Big Inkblot… ;)

  • Many comments are landing in the spam folder, for reasons unclear to me. I log in every couple hours when I’m available, but sleep slows me. Ergo, the comments that don’t appear for hours.

  • Florida citrus growers worry that deadly bacteria will mean end of orange juice

    So much for globalization eh?

    Eamon Farrelly writes:

    “The scale of human industrial activity is so large and it’s rate of process so fast, that such a revolution in consciousness seems unlikely absent some cataclysm which halts the furious pace of capital flow. To be sure, the cataclysm is waiting in the wings. Whether or not the challenges it brings are met with true progress of the mind and being is to be seen.”

    Who knows? Take away their orange juice and it just might foment a revolution. LOL

    Thanks for your article Eamon.

  • @ Gerald Spezio

    “Maxie’s Magnum Opus ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ holds that capitalism is caused by spirits because angels and witches are too unscientific, etc etc etc.”

    Why do you bore us with “irony” like that?
    And which academented institution did you attend in the early 60s where you were taught from such bad translations?
    Let me be a boring German and enlighten you on the meaning of the German word “Geist” translated as spirit in this essay. There is no really good equivalent for this word in English, that’s precisely why you native English speakers now use the German word zeitgeist, a word which doesn’t really work in English translation. “Geist” can mean, intellect, mind, all pervading idea, imagination or mindset, the word which is the best translation here in my mind. So it should be interpreted as the “mindset” of capitalism, which leaves out spirits, angels and witches entirely. I’d apply for a refund from the institution which taught you about “Maxie and spirits”

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen, and may your studies improve.

  • Dear Eamon,

    Better late than never: A great essay, so full of insight and wisdom. I usually don’t get around to reading things here until everybody’s commented. I think you see things very clearly. Thanks!

  • @wildwoman

    According to Spencer Wells, there was a massive influx of homo sapiens from Asia who entered Europe by way of the Levant and made their way into southwest and central Europe around the time the caves were painted. The Y chromosomes of most men in Europe today can be traced back to this one Asiatic population (evidence for domination by the new migrants). The genome studies that confirm this were completed 2 or 3 years ago.

    From “After Eden,” by Kirkpatrick Sale:

    “A human migration of this magnitude (the preponderance of the Asian gene in Europe suggests large numbers in the original sweep) would have greatly modified European society in a few thousand years. Presumably the newcomers absorbed the earlier Sapiens populations that had come along the Mediterranean route, displacing the Neandertal populations in their path, and merged their culture with the Aurignacian, form which it would not have differed much in any case since they both arose from the same Levantine roots; this process would account for the variation in Aurignacian toolkits at different geographical locations and for the interesting number of sites with evidence of Sapiens occupation in this period.

    “Add this population influx at a time of growing food scarcities, and it is obvious that human societies would have had to take great measures to survive, and again art can be seen as a reasonable ritualized response. That this was a particularized response to the great stress of maintaining the hunt under severe climate and migration pressure [the climate pressure he’s talking about is extreme cold, not heat] is further indicated by the presence of very little portable sculptured art and a total absence of cave paintings at this time in other parts of the world (the Levant, for example, or northern and southern Africa) where such pressures did not exist. Ofer Bar-Yosef has pointed out that ‘imagery is related to ritual,’ and the rituals developed in western Europe were unique, a product of a particular kind of stress that led to the ‘particular social structure of groups, i.e., the intensity and frequency of social interation on all levels.’ In the Levant, by contrast, where there was abundant plant and animal food throughout this colder period–‘this region was more lush than many other parts of the Old World and well suited for continious habitation by human groups’–there was no such stress and hence no recourse to art; it was not until later, after 13,000 years ago [domestication and agriculture], that the area experienced population pressure and the art of the Natufian culture was created in reaction to it.

    “Art in whatever form, and the rituals that attend it, imply something like religious belief, if we can use ‘religious’ in the broadest sense to include a deliberate use of symbolic ceremony invoking other forces to satisfy human wants and needs. And so it is just now, a little after the introduction of cave art, that we find unmistakable evidence of deliberate human burials for the first time, accompanied by ornaments and artifacts, sure evidence of some belief in an afterlife, and hence a belief in what could be considered a human ‘soul,’ and hence what we can only call religion.”

    – – –

    Much of this boils down to art theory, and of course that’s all speculative, because you can’t really get into the mind of any artist, but I happen to believe that the inspiration behind early art is suggestive of prayer-based religious invocation. Why did people paint nothing but Christ during the Middle Ages? It wasn’t because he was handsome. It was because the Medeival world was a scary place, and they were desperate, haunted, and traumatized. Postmodern artists have the luxury now to create art for art’s sake. In elementary school, I was told to draw pictures of things that made me happy. Degas painted the same freakin’ ballerinas over and over again; Monet painted a bunch of innocuous haystacks because there wasn’t anything particularly traumatic about Gay 90’s France. They didn’t have to stalk and kill wild creatures and butcher carcasses and worry about mending their buckskins or staying warm in a yurt through seven months of snow and subzero temperatures. If they did, their art would’ve sprung from more tragic motivations.

  • If the human race has a predisposition to locust-like behavior, then we do, in a sense, need to be saved from our sins and ourselves in order to live in a way that is fundamentally right on this tiny, precious planet.

    The predisposition starts with physics, with entropy and the arrow of time, carrying over into chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and all the way into the boardrooms of major corporations and the ruling cabals of empires. In spite of any apparent exceptions at any point in the continuum, the overall behaviour of the system remains the same. The apparent exceptions serve to leverage the process in their favour.

    C’mon, re Africa, humans can run down ANY land animal, to exhaustion

  • @Godofredo Aravena:
    “Gifts are part of human nature. And you cannot avoid that some gifts will be more valuable than others.”

    I would like to understand how you arrive at this conclusion? In your ‘music’ example, you mention the composer, musician, and instrument maker. All their efforts depend on, at the very least, someone harvesting timber from the forest and processing it into manuscript paper, fiddlewood, and so on. Do you view their gifts as less valuable because: a) They have been traditionally held to be so? b) You believe that anyone can do their work, whereas composers, musicians and instrument makers have rare skills that demand higher recompense? If you believe that they do, are those skills there by nature or by nurture?

    What about the truck-driver that brings these ‘highly skilled’ artists and artisans their food, or the labourer that maintains the road the truck-driver drives on? Are their gifts less valuable? and if so, are they intrinsically less valuable, or just less valuable from cultural habit?

    Yeah for some reason I expect better of the BBC. It’s useful for keeping my ‘abnormalcy bias’ in check for those rare occasions when I have to interact with ‘real’ people..
    I remember when you could turn on the box late at night and be surprised by some weird shit- like the film mentioned in this link: A rare treat even back then.. these days? Forget it…

    That Monbiot link seems to explore a whole catalogue of “exactly wrong” decisions made… you know.. “what is the stupidest possible response to these challenges? OK, let’s do that…” Not to suggest that I, or anyone, would be making any better decisions in a decision-making job within the system.. afaict it’s precisely a system for making “exactly wrong” decisions..

  • Geist is cognate with ghost – meanings and connotations can diverge widely along various evolutionary paths.

    What does that word even mean?
    How about talented or skilled. Like, hey that 10,000 hrs work you put in practicing the guitar has really paid off – you sound gifted.
    The real gift is opportunity. Our species will probably go extinct in 20 to 100 years. In the mean time there is only horror and death. More people suffer and die everyday, but for some people their biggest complaint is the lack of recognition of their unique and special gifts. Tell it to these kids.

  • There are delays and distractions on the long path, that’s why I take it when I can. When I’m not rushed by circumstance it is a superior experience to get there casually. Once there, the journey embellished with fascinating detail, is over. Rest and sleep are long paths, I take them when I can, and I like to dawdle there in the unfolding efflorescence, in the minutia, the fleeting details. Details that never happen without the enabler – slow time. In frenetic traffic, life is blurred. The status of busyness is fraudulent, overrated.

  • A bit hot down-under…..

    Check it out for yourselves.
    Adelaide’s last night min. temp was 27.3 C. Tonight’s is fore cast to be 29 C

    Just a one off eh?

  • @ Jason

    The genome studies that confirm this were completed 2 or 3 years ago.

    Again, I am highly suspicious of the claim. I don’t have the info or the expertise to contest what you say, but I’ve been reading Maju’s blog for a long time, and other’s that he links to, where he regularly critiques these ‘genome studies’.

    You’ll have to dig a long way back into the archives to get to 2 or 3 years ago, but along the way, if you bother, you’ll find that a lot of these ‘studies’ are amazingly flimsy, and get superceded in months.

    You know, some PhD guy, does a paper on one or two samples, and some fairly speculative computer modelling…and we have suddenly zillions of Asiatics moving into Europe… six months later, it’s a different story, they’ve evaporated, because some other guy found some other samples, and another computer model ‘proves’ that it was the Europeans that went to Asia…

    And your art history theory… hmmm ;)

  • @Chocolate. Why aren’t these people raising food rather than chocolate? We know why. Why are we urged to buy “fair trade” chocolate as the answer to their problem? We know why. What would we do without chocolate and coffee?

    Regarding this excellent essay, I would like to add a comment about the food chain lie and how that lie sets the pace for the rest of the dead earth thinking, the production of things from the mining of elements. People need food and food comes from the soil and the soil needs the people’s waste. If we don’t practice the food cycle, we must move on to richer lands and when there isn’t any more richer land, we die off. There are billions of organisms in a gram of soil and they get their energy from the sun so they can grow and build the soil. Go figure. Do the math. Most highly educated people, the ones pushing the levers, don’t have any idea what soil is and how to maintain it. The whole (holistic) idea has been hidden to allow the growth of industrial civilization, specifically cities, and exploitation of the earth. Even now, the best that environmentalists can come up with is “composting” along with references to the negatives of Roundup. No other mammal composts. They ALL practice the food cycle. Why don’t we? That’s the only way to maintain soil. We truly are no smarter than yeast. If it weren’t for global warming and/or radiation, we would go extinct anyway from exempting ourselves from the food cycle. I think most of us don’t even know it (because we don’t want to know it). The cultures that lasted thousands of years did practice it. How do I know? It’s a law. “If you throw something away, you don’t have it any more”. So simple, no credentials needed.

  • Ozman: geez, louise! 2013 was THE HOTTEST YEAR EVER, for Australia according to records. It looks like this year may even get worse!

  • OzMan: You aren’t allowed to make jokes, appear flippant or be otherwise jovial about anything any more. It’s 2014 and we all must be Serious, Concerned and above all else DEEP. Only in this way can we come face to face with the greater ramifications of going from First World Success Stories to those depressing pictures of people starving in the Third World in that well-meaning, but completely useless magazine that is always asking for money.

  • dairymandave: thanks for the information. You might have heard about the problems with bananas and oranges lately – pests and diseases are devastating crops.

    Scientists ‘incredibly concerned’ for fate of banana as plagues and fungus infections spread across world’s supplies – ‘I can tell you with near certainty that climate change is behind these pests’

    We’ve read of similar problems (from climate change and its effects) with coffee trees, grains, and other plants, while just one snowstorm in the Midwest killed ~ 100,000 head of cattle last year. Fish populations are declining (from a variety of factors, one being our trawling of the ocean bottom), wildlife (like moose, bats, kangaroo, parrots, bees, and koala) are having trouble adapting and fighting off disease and pests while humanity, ever blind to our place in all this, has novel diseases to fight amid other troubles caused by our own industrial waste (like Fukushima radiation, PCBs, and pharmaceuticals in the water supply among many other factors).

    One can almost see the confluence of all these environmental problems rising to a head in the coming years, which should be “interesting.”

  • PCBs […] in the water supply

    Some kid in the late 1960s took a transformer he’d found dumped somewhere to the bath with him to play with. No sooner has he submerged the transformer in the hot bathwater than a clear oil with a penetrating odour emerged from the transformer and rose to the surface, quickly covering the boy’s skin from head to toe.

    When the boy pulled the plug he unwittingly dumped a large quantity of PCBs into a city’s water supply, the more so as this particular city recycles its waste water.

    I know about this because that kid was me.

  • Tom: Here’s an out of the box question. Which marvelous invention turned out to be the worst? Electricity, internal combustion engines, or Roundup. The first two have killed hundreds of millions of people and will result in extinction while the last, Roundup, hasn’t killed anyone that I know of. So the answer is Roundup. In light of our over population problem, it hasn’t killed enough. Well, I’m not the only one who is twisted. Remember Al Bartlett? He first pointed this out.

  • With thanks to Eamon Farrelly for his contribution, I’ve posted a new essay. Courtesy of Geoffrey Chia, it’s here.

  • Jason, I have much respect for Spencer Wells. Still not buying the desperation theory though. We are talking a spread of 20,000 YEARS here. Have you seen the caves? Any of them? How and why would starving people build scaffolds to reach ceilings? Seriously? These people spent a whole lot of time carving deeply into stone….doesn’t that suggest a thriving community? Who has TIME to create art when starvation is threatening? It just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Collecting and mixing paints alone would have taken hours. Being in a cold damp cave, with sputtering mammoth oil lamps, crawling around in mud, constructing scaffolds, painting ceilings, I dunno, sounds like healthy people to me.

    People painted Christ during the dark ages because that was all they were ALLOWED to paint by the Inquistion folks. Anything else might see them on the rack. Your reasoning here is faulty, I think.

    And boy, Monet painted many things other than haystacks, dude.

    In elementary school, I was told to collect insects and then kill them so they could be pinned to a board. This was called “science”. Schools teach lots of stupid things.

    Hey, DMD, nice to see you again. Roundup probably has made many people sick. So the corporations make money getting us sick then “treating” the illness….win/win.

  • @ Martin

    Some kid…

    Aaaah. So that explains…. ;-)

    Some curious monkish visions of the Otherworld.

    @ Ozman

    Sherwood Forest

  • logspirit

    Thanks for speaking through poetry, which you do so well.

  • here’s some more of that mechanistic progress, by the people who clearly don’t get it:
    Energy News

    Chasing the Dream of Half-Price Gasoline from Natural Gas

    A startup called Siluria thinks it’s solved a mystery that has stymied huge oil companies for decades.

    [selected quote; for those interested, read the article]

    For years, chemists have been searching for catalysts that would simplify the process, skipping the syngas step and instead converting methane directly into a specific, desired chemical. Such a process wouldn’t require costly refining and separation steps, and it might consume less energy. But the chemistry is difficult—so much so that some of the world’s top petroleum companies gave up on the idea in the 1980s.

    Siluria thinks it can succeed where others have failed not because it understands the chemistry better, but because it has developed new tools for making and screening potential catalysts. Traditionally, chemists have developed catalysts by analyzing how they work and calculating what combination of elements might improve them. Siluria’s basic philosophy is to try out a huge number of catalysts in the hope of getting lucky. The company built an automated system—it looks like a mess of steel and plastic tubes, mass spectrometers, small stainless steel furnaces, and data cables—that can quickly synthesize hundreds of different catalysts at a time and then test how well they convert methane into ethylene.

    (further down)

    Yet in spite of the challenging chemistry, Siluria says the performance of its catalysts at its pilot plant have justified building two larger demonstration plants—one across San Francisco Bay in Hayward, California, that will make gasoline, and one in Houston that will only make ethylene. The plants are designed to prove to investors that the technology can work at a commercial scale, and that the process can be plugged into existing refineries and chemical plants, keeping down capital costs. The company hopes to open its first commercial plants within four years.

  • @ Artleads
    Thanks for the encouragement… always good to know someone is listening and appreciating. I don’t hit a home run every time but I step up to the plate. (heck, got to talk to somebody who’ll listen)

    I think most of us here are going through similar frustrations with the state of the world. Each day brings mounting evidence of obstinate and willful ignorance, which congeals my feelings that, although there might still be a (very) slim possibility of avoiding human and other extinctions – we are not going to achieve sufficiently broadscale comprehension and willpower to make the necessary changes. Yes, very frustrating. I’ve had close friends who refused to listen to the type of health and nutritional advice people like me can offer, and several of them have died. Theoretically they could have lived, but they suffered from a fatal dose of mind control. The programming contained hidden blocks specifically designed to stop them from opening their minds to new perspectives. I have some surviving relatives who are stuck in that ubiquitous, locked down stubborn state. It tears my heart apart. I wonder how to break through and reach them. I guess I can’t. I guess we can’t reach the masses and redirect our ‘leaders’ – and our world is going to die. What a drag. To have answers in your offering hands, but people refuse to accept them. Or am I overestimating general intelligence and the power of propaganda… OK, maybe it is a very smart dog, but are we attempting to teach it calculus? Are we duped or stupid? Or… both. The yarn keeps getting more tangled.

  • Cowgirl Apocalypse Haiku #105

    Man in suit and tie
    bends to make tiny stitches
    with needle and thread.

  • I wish my niece with 20-years-on Lyme disease, and since a few years now, with heart complications, could meet you. She brushed my Vegan suggestion aside, unfortunately.

  • Sea level rising while very few are paying any attention:

    Antarctica’s massive Pine Island Glacier ‘has started a phase of self-sustained retreat and will irreversibly continue its decline’ – Could raise sea level by 1 centimeter

    One of the latest indicators that climate change is progressing whether we’re looking or not comes from a study in the journal Nature Climate Change finding that one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica has started melting irreversibly.

    An international team of researchers found that Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, the single largest Antarctic contributor to sea-level rise, could add as much as one centimeter to ocean levels within the next 20 years.

    The glacier “has started a phase of self-sustained retreat and will irreversibly continue its decline,” Gael Durand, a glaciologist with France’s Grenoble Alps University, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    The team of researchers used state-of-the-art ice-flow models and field observations to help determine how the glacier’s ice flows will change in coming years.

    “At the Pine Island Glacier we have seen that not only is more ice flowing from the glacier into the ocean, but it’s also flowing faster across the grounding line — the boundary between the grounded ice and the floating ice,” Dr. G. Hilmar Gudmundsson, a researcher on the project, told Planet Earth Magazine.

    The glaciologists found that that glacier’s grounding line, which has already receded up to 10 kilometers this century, is “probably engaged in an unstable 40-kilometer retreat.”

  • From eco-friendly BP

    BP study predicts greenhouse emissions will rise by almost a third in 20 years

    Energy firm’s analysis finds switch to other fuels like shale gas will do little to cut carbon emissions

    (quote from the article)

    BP predicts that global emissions will rise 29% by 2035. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that emissions must peak by 2020 to give the world a chance to avoid a further two degrees of warming, beyond which the effects of climate change become catastrophic and irreversible.

    Hahaaaahaahahahh -(cough, choke)- aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

  • @ Tom

    You beat me to the draw this time, I was just going to post that one ;)

    Some interesting battles going on, they are playing catch up to NBL

  • Good news dairymandave! Your favorite bio-engineering company has won a crucial Supreme (kangaroo) Court case:

    Monsanto critics denied U.S. Supreme Court hearing on seed patents

    The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Monsanto Co’s biotech seed patents on Monday, dealing a blow to a group of organic farmers and other activists trying to stop the biotech company from suing farmers if their fields contain a few plants containing the company’s genetically modified traits.

    The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and a group of dozens of organic and conventional family farmers, seed companies and public advocacy interests sued Monsanto in March 2011. The suit sought to prohibit the company from suing farmers whose fields became inadvertently contaminated with corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and other crops containing Monsanto’s genetic modifications.

    Monsanto has genetically engineered its specialty seeds to withstand dousings of glyphosate, the main ingredient in the company’s Roundup herbicide.

    The group asked Monsanto for a pledge not to sue, but the company refused, saying: “A blanket covenant not to sue any present or future member of petitioners’ organizations would enable virtually anyone to commit intentional infringement.”

    The biotech crops are widely used throughout the United States. Monsanto has sued more than 100 farmers for patent infringement, winning judgments against those found to have made use of its seed without paying required royalties.

    The group of Monsanto critics lost in district court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

    “Monsanto never has and has committed it never will sue if our patented seed or traits are found in a farmer’s field as a result of inadvertent means,” said Kyle McClain, the company’s chief litigation counsel.

    “The lower courts agreed there was no controversy between the parties,” McClain added, “and the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case brings closure on this matter.”

    OSGATA President Jim Gerritsen said he was disappointed in the high court’s refusal to hear the case.

    “The Supreme Court failed to grasp the extreme predicament family farmers find themselves in,” said Gerritsen, a Maine organic seed farmer. “The Court of Appeals agreed our case had merit. However, … safeguards they ordered are insufficient to protect our farms and our families.”

    Let ’em eat Roundup!

  • @ ulvfugl

    Aaaah. So that explains…

    I think the proximate cause of my evident insanity is mercury; specifically, playing “alchemist” and heating it on the cooker in my Mum’s aluminium egg-poacher.

  • ulvfugl: you find so many cool/interesting/weird/serious sites and links that i’m continually reading to catch up, so if I get lucky once in a while, it’s only random chance.


    Here’s something to show i’m not ALL doom and gloom (well, not all the time anyway).

    Check this out – it’s fascinating. Apparently Leonardo Da Vinci conceived of a musical instrument (like he conceived of a helicopter) that was never built. Until now:

  • @ Martin

    Mercury ? Alchemy ? Poaching ? gottverdammt… lots of very hot baths and massive overdoses of psilocybe might help, but it’s probably, far too late, the damage will have been done, irretrievable, what with the PCB on top, but then you do seem remarkably sane, compared to… well, the man on the Clapham Omnibus, whom I must admit I have never yet met, thank my… shudder.. I’ve always kept well away.

    But then I’ve never met you either, Martin, so how can I judge sanity, via a text box ? Perhaps you are hiding under the table chewing a rag ?It is fraught with peril and risk, and I hesitate to diagnose mercury poisoning remotely, although I did meet a man who made a rich living by remotely dowsing people’s conditions, with a pendulum, which he held over the letters that they wrote to him, I watched him do it, it was usually aluminium poisoning, from the pots and pans, and they’d send him a postal order for ten pounds, and he’d tell them this…

    Where was I ? Oh yes.. he was one of the clique studying under C S Nott, the pupil of Gurdjieff, with which I was briefly involved, another was an executive running the British telephone service, when it was those black things with round dials you stuck your finger in and turned, that made sparks and rang bells, probably…well, it must have happened on another planet..shortly after the first turtles crawled out of swamps and decided to be land dwellers and call themselves tortoises.. how’s my prose style coming along, Martin ? punctuation time ?

    You see, Martin, I was, by the good grace of my parents, for a very short period, provided with the very best education that money could buy. But, alas, it did not suit me, and I decided to become a revolutionary instead. Reading Tolstoy possibly did it. Or maybe Lenin or someone like that, Kropotkin or Dickens or Godwin or Shelley or dozens of twits who rushed off to help in the Spanish Civil War.. the Franco one, not the Goya one..

    Anyway, I went to be a worker, to learn the ways of the working man, to get blisters and callouses, so that I would not be shot, when the revolution came. You know, they’d check the hands, they could tell the bourgoeuis clerks and aristocrats in disguise… soft white hands, up against the wall, bang !

    So, I went, with my newly acquired trade, to consult my colleague, about the state of a piece of work. And, I quote ‘Well, fuck me, the fucker had no fucking idea what the fucking hell he was fucking about with, did he, what a fucking fuck up’. And I realised I was in a foreign country… and did not have a fucking clue what fucking language these fucking people were fucking talking…

    Now I know some people will take offence at this rude and vulgar speech. But why ? You want the BBC’s Queen’s English ? So that the voice’s of 90% of the people never get HEARD because they don’t speak PROPER ?

    You know, I worked for 12 years with people who were completely inarticulate and incapable of saying anything much, who liked jokes, who’d been dumped on building sites to dig holes and lay drains and mix concrete and knock down walls and all that stuff. They worked in really bad weather and when they were ill. The money was crap. And they weren’t bad or good, but I grew to love them, and speak their language… it’s just as good as anybody else’s language… just as good as bird song and the language of prairie dogs and bees…

    Some of the poor souls had futile hopes that they could find something better, some day. Usually what happened, the firm went bust, and they were back on the dole, or they just got old doing the same thing..
    I CHOSE to do that. I didn’t NEED to do that. Like fucking Tolstoy, if you like.

    Oooh lala.. Tales from the Freudian Crypt… Maybe you like, Martin ?

    @ Tom


    Look, the Titanic is sinking everybody is going to die, there are lifeboats, but there’s no land and nobody is going to come and rescue anybody, it’s a horror movie, the worst possible thing that could happen is happening, and most people don’t understand this and although more and more do and will, most just carry on in denial and insanity..

    This is so, SO dreadful, for you and I and others here, that it’s completely impossible to cope with, until we find a way to cope with it… which you and I have done. We don’t kill ourselves, or get drunk, or give up, or any of the shit that lesser mortals assume or expect.

    We’ve seen this for a LONG time. I wonder how Daniel is ?

  • @ Martin

    To be, erm, very slightly more serious than in my comment,earlier today.

    Do you recall what we were talking about a few days ago ? Human forms being occupied, Crowley, Dee, etc, invoking spirits,etc. Mark this :

    During our life at Tavistock House [1851-60], I had a long and serious illness, with an almost equally long convalescence. During the latter, my father suggested that I should be carried every day into his study to remain with him, and, although I was fearful of disturbing him, he assured me that he desired to have me with him. On one of these mornings, I was lying on the sofa endeavouring to keep perfectly quiet, while my father wrote busily and rapidly at his desk, when he suddenly jumped from his chair and rushed to a mirror which hung near, and in which I could see the reflection of some extraordinary facial contortions which he was making. He returned rapidly to his desk, wrote furiously for a few moments, and then went again to the mirror. The facial pantomime was resumed, and then turning toward, but evidently not seeing, me, he began talking rapidly in a low voice. Ceasing this soon, however, he returned once more to his desk, where he remained silently writing until luncheon time. It was a most curious experience for me, and one of which, I did not until later years, fully appreciate the purport. Then I knew that with his natural intensity he had thrown himself completely into the character that he was creating, and that for the time being he had not only lost sight of his surroundings, but had actually become in action, as in imagination, the creature of his pen.

    – Mary Dickens, Charles Dickens by His Eldest Daughter, 1885

  • To: 18000 days
    I was trying to take an example from the activities Pauline mentioned. In the group Pauline mentioned, if there is music, there will be need for somebody to compose it, somebody to perform it, and somebody to make the instruments. And not everybody is up to these tasks. So the people with the skills (and gifts) required, will be in a different position compared with the rest. How important for the survival of the group will be these skills, is the status that will have those that handle these abilities. Recompenses, not necessarily. But the rest of the group may want to give something special in return.
    By nature or nurtured?.
    I guess that by nature first. Then if the structure exists, later nurtured. But what I have seen is that gifts by nature are the basis. Somebody gifted will turn the gift into practical skills by practice and own interest, with or without education.
    The truck driver is an interesting example. Both activities are at the same level. Both are needed. Is the group that gives a higher value to the performers. But at the same time, the skills required for being a truck driver are lower. If you can´t sing well enough, you have to accept the truck driver position.
    In a post collapse society, the scale of value for the activities will change. Today, too many activities are over valued.

    To Apneaman
    Gifted, that is. There is no other way.
    You are not going to spent ten years of your life doing something that does not make you feel comfortable.
    What Malcolm Gladwell says is that to become successful are required 10 000 hours of focused practice. But talent is part of the trick. And then, an attitude towards becoming better. Something that I would include as part of a gift. What I have seen is that many people spent their lives doing mainly more of the same. No efforts to become really better.
    The point is that we are better for some activities than others, and there will others better than us. In any group, you can order all the “members” in a scale going from “the worst “ to “the best”, in relation to a specific activity.
    The talent (gift) is something quite complex though, because the need to become better is part of the gift.

    What is still not quite understood here is that I am not talking about recompenses, that tendency to relate skills with recompenses is a legacy of our industrial civilization. Recompenses, will come from the group, as a natural response, if seemed appropriate. Like clapping, a very simple way to give a recompense. We will be doing things for food, shelter and security.
    I am just saying that for the benefit of the group, persons will have to do what they do best.
    The goal is the survival of the group. If I do not receive a recompense, will I go on strike? No way. You have to do your part. The recompense is the survival of all the members of the group, you (me) included.
    As I said before, we are parts of a system, with no specific privileges, because we need the others, as we as society need the planet. But the inertia of our culture built around individuals is heavy. To change the switch, from a complex, too complex society, where the real value of some activities is highly over valued, compared to a basic group survival society, requires a different point of view. Where clearly what we can do better for the survival of the group is what will matter. And to choose, the bests for each activity will be the chosen ones.
    I see a tendency to link being better for something with some special status. Well that is true in some way, but in a survival situation, there is no space for special status, and recompenses or special benefits. And in any case, the special status will always come from the group, it is a relative issue. It is not a right.
    Another thing that many fail to see is that the persons with higher valued skills (or gifts), will have a higher responsibility, something that they will not be able to avoid. If you don´t do it, in a survival scheme, and you know how, who then?. Would you go on strike?.
    I insist, we are not equal, and we will have to learn to live with that, in a post collapse society.

  • A “revolution in conciousness”, and a “true progress of the mind”; that, to me, sounds like another fine example of placing the burden of change squarely on the shoulders of the individual. Not that I disagree with the assessment, but had a long giggle over the irony.

  • By the way, there is no such thing as Capitalism, that is only an idea. There are only Capitalists.

  • @Grant Schrieber:
    “and above all else DEEP.”
    You win ‘Oxymoron of the month’ … :)

    @Godofredo Aravena:
    Thanks for the reply. I remember reading somewhere that in a ‘primitive’ society- one without bureaucracy, industrialisation, specialisation, etc., everyone knows about 90% of what everyone else knows, with the implication/corollary that any mature ‘individual’ (the word is faintly ridiculous in this context) is able to perform the function of another member of the tribe with 90% effectiveness. I guess it would take a few generations for a post-collapse society to ‘shake down’ into anything similar. As things stand, survivors are more likely to resemble the Golgafrinchans in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”:

    Regarding specialisation, I also remember reading somewhere that the shaman was the proto-specialist, the first to offer a ‘non-essential’ service and sell it to the mystified punters..

  • @ 18000, Godofredo, boys and girls,

  • Random sayings that come to mind:

    No more water, the fire next time

    No more MLKs, the women next time

    Too late, too late shall be the cry…

    Keith Preston talks about 40 years to turn things around through practical, grounded struggle. Maybe not. Better stick to magic.