Collapse: What is it? Can we avoid it? When it does occur, how can we best respond to it?

by Geoffrey Chia

This essay was written in April 2012 when Geoffrey Chia had given up any hope that systematic transformation of the GIMME establishment was possible and therefore became convinced that collapse was guaranteed (but had not yet come to grips with NTHE). His despair was summarised in these words: “In the past I was naive enough to think that if we used rational evidence-based argument to engage the wider public and the government with these issues, that it would be possible to effect change. Arguably my misplaced faith in the goodwill and good sense of humanity can now be regarded as a foolish notion, justification for a misanthropic viewpoint if ever there was one.”

Instead of talking about “stages of collapse” in the manner of Orlov, he categorised collapse as follows: “we can roughly grade the degrees of collapse according to the spectrum (narrow or broad), the duration (short, medium or long term) and the geographic extent (regional, national or global)”

Collapse will occur to different extents over different time periods in different locations but with the same long term ultimate global result — total collapse of all centralised service provision — everywhere, permanently.

View pdf here


Trailer-A Man Named Guy from Pauline Schneider on Vimeo.

Support the making of Pauline Schneider’s film here

Interview from about a week ago: Climate Changed: Dr. Guy McPherson to share findings on hot button issue, Brian Lorraine for The Uniter (Winnipeg), 5 February 2014


Dave Cohen joins the “shoot the messenger” club with a series of unsupported, ad hominem comments rooted in his fear of the future. Check out his latest incoherent ramblings here. There’s no need to comment: As he indicates, he won’t allow disagreement. In the spirit of John Michael Greer, he exerts strong control over the commentary. And, as of this morning, he’s revised the essay and terminated comments.

Comments 52

  • Staying Alive

    You used to be sinful or mad
    If you killed yourself when you were sad,
    But life’s getting rougher:
    To no longer suffer
    Will turn out to be not that bad.

  • Transition towns. Nice idea. And it would seem to make sense for “isolated” intentional communities to work with such towns. Maybe that would make each more resilient.

    If the proximate jurisdiction–town, city, parish, county, neighborhood, etc.– has more than 1000 souls, it may be too big to manage. Large cities offer special problems. Some highrises have more than a thousand residents. Maybe it’s possible even there to form small units–like one story of the building–that cooperate, store food, batteries, whatever, that grow something on the window sills… Of course, the difficulties of working with neighbors will often be overwhelming. But not always. So what’s the harm of working with neighbors to be more resilient when those neighbors are open to it?

  • I think Mr Cohen Just entered that “stage of denial” on that grief spectrum . I am sure he`ll get over it sooner than later since otherwise he is a pretty coherent and sensible individual . So he`ll be ok just takes some time. Hehe

  • Hmm… disconcerting to see Dave Cohen say that, since, as Etyere says, in most of his writing he’s pretty articulate. Just wondering if there’s any chance he was ascribing the slur against you to his straw man Michael Tobis. Although his edit (lessening but not clarifying the slur) would suggest otherwise.

    *sigh* And I just praised him (justifiably I think) for calling Eliz Kolbert for waffling on the message of her new book. Eric Lindberg ( was right: “This is difficult. Let us be patient and tolerant with ourselves and each other.”

  • Cohen is interesting, but a real a-hole. At least when it comes to how he runs his blog. He also edits posts and gets rid of comments silently which is disconcerting and Orwellian in that it seems like a rewrite of the past.

    Greer is polite and does not rewrite. These are important distinctions.

    Cohen thinks Greer and McPherson (and many others) are delusional. Cohen defines delusion as disagreement with Cohen. Cohen is basically an intolerant person. But he is smart and sheds light on our predicament. See John 9:25.

  • I’m not sure what game Tobis & Cohen are playing. Tobis appears to be fill the role of controlled opposition, while Cohen might simply be dealing with the initial stages of KR.

    I guess the simplest questions to determine their respective motivations would be two-fold:
    – have they had the opportunity to travel; and
    – have they spent any time studying history?

    While spending a few years overseas, my entire family (I’ve mentioned in the past that my dad was an agency guy) got caught in the middle of a full blow battle when I was 16. Since he and a handful of others were highly valuable ‘assets’, we got spirited out of there by a complement of special forces. I’ve still got photos taken out of the back of the troop carrier as we traversed complete mayhem.

    Six months before this event, my parents, while on their own solo trip, got caught in another war that broke out while they were visiting; and six months after our exit, the place were we temporarily landed (before flying into Germany) devolved into its own civil war.

    Anyway, I guess the point of this is to note that the vast majority of the world is comprised of nation-states that are amalgams of different tribal, racial, ethnic, religious & cultural divisions. Each is just waiting to blow – all they need is the slightest excuse to let loose the dogs and exact revenge on years/decades/centuries old grievances.

    The only thing holding this ball of wax together is fossil fuels. And just like peak oil isn’t really about the actual peak, but the ability to continue economically extracting the precious juice, the danger posed by peak civilization is the steep downward curve of the slope.

    For those who are unsure of what is occurring and where we’re collectively going, then I guess it’s somewhat satisfying to conduct interesting debates about various scenarios and possible outcomes. But if you’ve personally reached a point where you can confidently say “goodbye to all that”, then the issue becomes more of an intellectual chess match.

    The big challenge is what can be taken through the bottleneck and be re-purposed for future usefulness. Perhaps a re-visit to Ferfal’s list of items that disappear vis-a-vis a cross reference to the things he wishes he had will shed some light on the puzzle.

  • That’s too bad about Cohen. I liked what he had to say here, mostly:

    …as Sami Grover correctly perceives, determinism makes a mockery of activism. In my view there is no point in getting frustrated by our inability to change big environmental outcomes (e.g., the climate, marine ecosystems, the 6th extinction) because there was never any possibility that humans would be able to understand their own behavior sufficiently to be able to change it.

    Determinism is altogether intolerable to humans generally, and in particular to activists like Sami Grover, who want to change the world. That view must be vigorously rejected, which Sami did.

    Which brings me back to Elizabeth Kolbert, who did an interview with Mother Jones to publicize her book. I recommend that you read the entire thing, but also wanted to repeat her concluding remarks.

    MJ: At one point, you note the possibility that “eventually travel and global commerce [will] cease.” What does that suggest about the future of humans on this planet?

    EK: Humans will eventually become extinct. People treat that as a radical thing to say. But the fossil record shows us that everything eventually becomes extinct. It depends what “eventually” means. But the idea that were going to be around for the rest of global history… I don’t think there’s any scientist who would suggest that is true. It could be millions of years from now. We may leave descendants that are human-like.

    MJ: Is this book a call to action?

    EK: I very carefully avoided saying what it was. What I’ve laid out requires action commensurate with the problem. We’re talking really huge global-scale change, and I did not feel that I had the prescription for that kind of action so I’m going to leave it to the reader.

    I believe Kolbert wrote the book (in part) to dispel the argument from ignorance with respect to the Sixth Extinction. There is nothing “rudimentary” (quoting Sami) about our knowledge of how human expansion is affecting other species on this Earth.

    No one can say they don’t know what’s happening. Nobody can say they don’t understand what is causing the Sixth Extinction. Kolbert’s book, and several others, including David Quammen’s Song of the Dodo, are there for everyone to read.

    Then there is Kolbert’s answer to the question about whether the book is “a call to action.” For the know-nothing activist, who lives in a world in which anything is possible, everything is a call to action, despite overwhelming, ubiquitous evidence that humans are not only causing the Sixth Extinction, but are also doing virtually nothing to prevent it. A few marginal species conservation “victories” (after the species in question is >90% reduced) do not constitute persuasive evidence that humans have the wherewithal to stop themselves from destroying large parts of the biosphere.

    So Kolbert says, carefully, that the book is not “a call to action” because she is loathe to specify what the book is meant to accomplish. Kolbert did not feel she “had a prescription for the kind of action” required to fix the situation. In fact, she is bearing witness to how humans are changing the planet, as she said in this interview.

    And that’s what I’ve been doing, too, on DOTE.

    Thus Kolbert does not puff her readers up with phony obligatory hope. Good for her.

    Kolbert is too polite to say it, but the book is not “a call to action” because there are no collective actions that would fix the mass extinction problem. Humans would have to be something other than they are. And if we were a different species, there probably wouldn’t be any need for a “call to action” because we wouldn’t be detroying ourselves and large parts of the biosphere. That’s the essence of determinism. Humans are a species, so what you see is what you get.

    (bold emphasis mine)

  • Dave Pollard

    I quote part of the Lindberg article below, since that part conforms with the narrative I’ve recently (and long) been involved with. :-)

    . “The Transition Movement has, in particular, pinned its hopes to this sort of historical necessity. This has allowed it to engage only in small-scale, unobjectionable, moderate, and peaceful activities, most of them with a positive message, and yet at the same time hold out the hope for radical, revolutionary changes. If previous revolutions provide a record of radical, destructive, and violent means being used to achieve what turn out in the end to be very minor, often retrogressive changes, peak oil provides the promise of profound and revolutionary changes, even as human agents have only to employ moderate, productive, and peaceful means. History–not fallible and corruptible humans–would do the dirty work. Our job would be to adapt, adjust, and provide a cheerful response. To put it another way, the decline of world oil production and the ensuing economic collapse or contraction would do the destructive work that has ruined so many radical or revolutionary efforts. Local Transition initiatives would, in this case, be free to perform only the constructive and productive work of building a better alternative. There would be no Transition Reign of Terror.”

  • And the critique of the Transition strategy, why it is useless and hasn’t worked and will not work, is that there is quite enough oil and coal and gas (and nuclear for that matter) to totally destroy the biosphere, and it will keep being extracted and used until it can’t be extracted and used… for one reason or another.

    It looks increasingly likely that the reason will be that we will all be dead.

    So much for Transition.

    Obviously, I could expand on the DETAIL, but why bother. We have a whole bunch of fucking EXPERTS to do that for us. I’ve read them all, over the last few days.

    You know, there’s USA, Venezuela, Saudi, Iraq, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, Japan, etc, all these economies, zillions of people, zillions of dollars invested in infrastructure and industry, all geared up to coal and oil and gas, and people think that somehow it’ll be left unused in the ground, even if solar and wind and biofuels get very cheap…

    India and Brazil and everybody wants more and more growth and stuff and more people get born every day…

    If alternatives become CHEAP and demand for OIL drops, then OIL becomes CHEAP and demand for OIL rises… just because it’s energy and everybody wants energy… Try making it illegal or putting a big tax on it… works really well for cocaine, doesn’t it.

    CO2 emissions are rising faster than ever, following the BAU worst case scenario.

    Holmgren’s argument is that the only thing that has ever been demonstrated to reduce emissions was a financial crash that caused economic recession.

    But even that was a fairly small reduction and didn’t last very long.

    Anyway, his paper spooked a lot of people, including Hopkins and the Transition Movement.

    The basic problem IS that nobody wants ANY action that’s actually going to have any effect that causes THEM to suffer.

    It’s fine, so long as OTHER PEOPLE suffer and die. It’s fine so long as everybody and everything goes extinct some unspecified time in the future.

    Not ME. Not NOW.

    Jensen and Hedges. A month old, 700 views, one comment.

  • Looks like Arctic ice growth has peaked already. Anyone want to predict amount of ice for September? This year, Beckwith is being far more cautious with his predictions. “We’ll see.”

  • We keep rolling this same ball of wax around the Beach, examining the specifics and delving into detail before moving on to another aspect of our “situation.”

    Remember it isn’t JUST the extracting economy or the diminishing ecology or any one problem. It’s the whole thing all at once that’s so intimidating and hard to deal with. Sure capitalism is actually DRIVING the collapse, but its myriad polluting by-products and the increasing human population are also major factors, but by this time no matter what we do – even the church of euthanasia – wouldn’t stop what we’ve done to the planet.

    It’s over, despite protests and arguments to the contrary. We’re just cresting the hill of long descent and it will become increasingly dire as we go forward. Already we see the rise of novel diseases for which we have no protection or defense; volcanic action is increasing in number and intensity (even under the sea!); sinkholes and landslides are occurring every day; it’s pouring in Great Britain, as it has been for weeks now, and here on the east coast of the U.S. we’re about to be clobbered by yet another snow/ice/sleet event – where the last one took out so many trees that the debris is everywhere.

    In short, our habitat is reacting to our centuries of negligence and abuse and won’t support life for much longer: the trees are all dying from tropospheric ozone, disease and pests, the oceans are being radiated on top of years of plastic, toxic chemicals, trash and garbage being dumped into them, so they won’t support marine life for much longer, as we witness the mass die-offs in increasing numbers all over the globe; the atmosphere is changing in composition from the emanation of methane in ever larger quantities (not to mention all the other gaseous pollutants) – so that there will be nowhere that will sustain any life whatsoever after say 2030. It’s only going to continue to get worse – even after we’re gone! We’re talking thousands of years for just the CO2, whereas the radiation will last for hundreds of thousands of years (at least)!

    ulvfugl: thanks for the above link of the two heavy-hitters conversing – wonderful.

  • second post (first didn’t appear)

    President Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia on Tuesday as the southern state awaited what the National Weather Service called a potentially “crippling” ice and snow storm “of historical proportions.”

    The roads in Atlanta, usually clogged with traffic, were unusually quiet at midday Tuesday as students and workers stayed home to await a storm that could potentially knock out power in some areas for days.
    [read the article]


    Record Brazil heat pressures crops, energy prices – Northeast is in worst drought in at least 50 years, hundreds of thousands of cattle have died

    January was the hottest month on record in parts of Brazil including its biggest city, São Paulo. The heat, plus a severe drought, has kindled fears of water shortages, crop damage and higher electricity bills that could drag down the economy during an election year for President Dilma Rousseff.

    The scorching conditions don’t constitute a crisis quite yet, officials say. Weather has been mostly normal in other regions including Brazil’s soy belt, where a record crop is still expected. Summer rains could return in February and March to refill reservoirs, as they did last year when similar concerns over a possible energy crisis proved to be overhyped.

    Still, the risks are considerable because Brazil’s economy is so fragile at the moment. Any disruption to food supplies or power costs would complicate the government’s ability to meet the center of its 2014 inflation target of 4.5 percent, and the region’s orange and coffee crops are already showing signs of stress, farmers say.
    [read the rest]

  • To Artleads
    Transition movements have no future. They are acting, or the action plan is based in a soft change process. That requires a long time to accomplish, time we do not have. Time that will not be available.
    Otherwise we need a revolution, and there´s no room for that so far. Revolution, by the way, that probably has little chance to succeed too. By the same reason, they will be an answer with known practices, to face a totally new reality.
    The scenarios after collapse cannot be predicted, they will be different depending on the place we are looking at. The collapse of the world economy in a blink, and globally, is something never seen before. How can we be prepared for something never seen before?.
    Add to that climate and biosphere change.

    It seems to me that the BAU economy is sustained in such a delicate equilibrium, that it can break down in a very short period time. As the economy is so connected at a world level.

    I believe that we will have to develop partial solutions along the way, as the process unfolds. Solutions to situations in front of our eyes, locally, depending on our personal situation.

    We cannot be prepared for the unknown. We can imagine a thousand scenarios, but in the end, there will be a different approach for every family in the planet. So the possible scenarios are more than thousands.

    But at the same time, I guess that a few people will find a way, people smart enough to handle the situation. And to the change of the world we have known. No ready available technology, in the long term, everything to be made, or repaired.
    And climate change.
    A very interesting challenge, seen from another point of view.

    In the meantime, nothing is going to happen towards a change, the train will keep on running. BAU forever.

    I agree with Ulvfugl

    “The basic problem IS that nobody wants ANY action that’s actually going to have any effect that causes THEM to suffer.
    It’s fine, so long as OTHER PEOPLE suffer and die. It’s fine so long as everybody and everything goes extinct some unspecified time in the future.
    Not ME. Not NOW.”

    Conclusion, no way to be prepared, and no way to avoid collapse.

  • Copied & pasted to txt:

    Collapse: What is it? Can we avoid it? When it does occur, how can we best respond to it?
    What is it?
    The term collapse with reference to the fate of human societies probably has many different definitions. Some may look to the ideas of Joseph Tainter or Jared Diamond.
    My take is this: in simple practical terms, for you and I, for individuals and families, collapse means the breakdown of the essential services on which we depend. What are the essential services? They are:
    – Energy – we rely on electricity (mostly coal fired) and to a lesser extent on gas to run our appliances and for comfort and home entertainment. Physical comfort is no small thing. For example, heating in winter in cold countries or cooling during summer heatwaves can make the difference between life and death.
    – Fresh water supply
    – Food supply
    – Sewage disposal
    – Waste disposal
    – Shelter and security (law and order)
    – Transportation and transport fuel
    – Health services
    – Communications (probably the most robust of the systems due to multiple redundancies but also
    relatively less important compared to the other essential services)
    Interruption of one or two of the above can be regarded as a narrow spectrum collapse.
    In the wider context, disintegration of the framework which facilitates the delivery of all those services (ie the economy) will cause paralysis of society as a whole and therefore a broad spectrum collapse. Accordingly, even if there are no actual resource constraints but if there is breakdown of the economic system (which governs the production and distribution of goods and services), the result will be the same as a physical broad spectrum collapse. Greece in the near future may be an interesting case in point, notwithstanding the bandaid measures taken so far by the EU.
    On a personal note, as a consequence of the South East Queensland floods in January 2011, I had no mains electricity for two weeks. I could still use battery powered devices such as torches and radios and I had a gas barbeque for cooking. The main inconvenience was lack of refrigeration. A friend in an unaffected suburb kindly let me use her washing machine. Interestingly, the night before the Brisbane river broke its banks, the supermarket shelves had emptied of bread and other perishable essentials, because the flooded highways were impassable to supply trucks. This highlights how local stores have limited stock to cater for interruptions. For me, this was a narrow spectrum and temporary (only brief) collapse, trivial compared to the hardship experienced by others.
    Other people lost their homes and all the contents. For them it was a broad spectrum (loss of all residential systems) but still a temporary collapse (although a much longer disruption of 6 months to a year). Luckily only a handful of deaths occurred as a result of those floods.
    Examples of more disastrous contemporary events befalling others in 2011 which caused broad spectrum and even longer term collapses were the earthquake in Christchurch and the tsunami in Japan which claimed considerably more lives.
    We can also consider the degree of collapse by geographic extent. The Brisbane floods affected only a few suburbs and coping with the aftermath was comparatively easy. Destruction in Christchurch was extensive but not universal, however even if a whole city is destroyed, so long as road and railway lines are quickly restored, resources can be brought in from other parts of the nation to mitigate the harmful consequences. The rest of the country can pitch in to rebuild the destroyed area. New Zealanders and Japanese have a reputation for being able to deal with their natural disasters efficiently and stoically. The example of hurricane Katrina affecting New Orleans however was one of woeful incompetence and disregard of the general (mainly poor and black) population by the Bush regime.
    You may recall the catastrophic floods of 2010 in Pakistan in which an estimated 2000 people died and 20 million people were displaced. That could be regarded as a nationwide collapse. Relief had to be brought in internationally.
    What does broad spectrum permanent nationwide collapse look like? Unpleasant to think about but
    important to consider, because most countries are headed inexorably in this direction. We know what dysfunctional societies look like, so called “failed states” which we see on the news broadcasts every day: people dying of dehydration, starvation and infectious diseases due to lack of basic services. Extreme hardship, misery and suffering. Exploitation of the vulnerable and weak by gangs of armed thugs, tribal warlords and extremist militia such as the Taliban. Think of Ethiopia, Somalia and large areas of Pakistan, Afganistan and Iraq (especially the refugee camps).
    In the great unravelling of modern industrial society as we know it, how are things likely to pan out? Short of a nuclear war, we will not experience broad spectrum, global and permanent curtailment of all goods and services immediately. Disruptions due to resource constraints are likely to be sudden but stuttering: initial interruptions will probably be narrow spectrum, infrequent and brief, but as time goes by curtailments will become broader in spectrum, more frequent and more prolonged and finally there will be permanent loss of all necessary services in those societies which fail to adapt to the new realities, causing widespread chaos and death. Shortages will be patchy: different geographic locations will have different spectrums of shortages. Some will be completely unaffected. The petroleum rich countries will initially not feel the pinch at all1 as their oil profits skyrocket and their international purchasing power escalates. However they too will ultimately be doomed with the inevitable depletion of their oil fields, unless they can transition to sustainability. Only those societies which have planned ahead, which learn to do more with less, which have resilience and have redundancy of systems will be able to repair and restructure their systems to become more sustainable. Societies like France and Germany, which have non fossil fuel based electricity and transport (electric railways) have an advantage. In others we will see turmoil and a great die off. Interruption of the petroleum supply alone will result in the broad spectrum collapse of most of the USA, which has defiantly refused to address their addiction to oil and their hugely wasteful consumption. Their armed populace will take to the streets and shoot each other for the last remaining crumbs on the supermarket shelves.
    Can we avoid it?
    In a word, no. In the past I was naive enough to think that if we used rational evidence-based argument to engage the wider public and the government with these issues, that it would be possible to effect change. Arguably my misplaced faith in the goodwill and good sense of humanity can now be regarded as a foolish notion, justification for a misanthropic viewpoint if ever there was one. However at least I tried my best. There is perhaps a 1% chance we may not be too late and it may still be possible to persuade everyone to reduce their consumption and waste, to restructure our economy from a delusional endless growth to a sensible steady state system and to build a 100% renewable electricity grid and an electric rail system for the nation. I continue to encourage, support and work towards such worthy goals but at the same time I suggest that we should all plan for the 99% probability of global disruption. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.
    From the previous examples, we can roughly grade the degrees of collapse according to the spectrum (narrow or broad), the duration (short, medium or long term) and the geographic extent (regional, national or global).
    Collapse may be caused by “natural” disasters (although it is increasingly harder to argue that the more frequent and more extreme weather events we are witnessing are natural).
    Collapse may be caused by economic mismanagement and wild sharemarket speculation as in the case of the Great Depression (which many historians believe contributed to the genesis of World War Two). The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 in particular exemplified an economic disruption caused by corporate malfeasance which almost brought down the entire global economy. The root causes of that event have not been eliminated, merely plastered over and temporarily suppressed and will therefore explode more dramatically and more destructively in the near future. The other reason why global financial collapse is inevitable, quite apart from unsustainable debt, is that the present pyramid scheme we call the economy depends on endless growth – which has now halted in most countries. When a Ponzi scheme can no longer grow, it collapses. That is a simple fact.
    Triggers for collapse have in the past and will in the future also be related to resource scarcity. Petroleum depletion will result in confrontation between nations. Competition between countries for other crucial resources such as water will also trigger conflicts and war, which will exacerbate the already considerable human suffering. There is an intimate link between the true economy (production and distribution of real and worthwhile goods and services)2 and resource availability. Disruption of one affects the other.
    What we are now witnessing is an unholy convergence of multiple factors, a gathering of the perfect storm. In this context, a New Scientist article in January 2012 revisited the projections of the MIT scientists who published the seminal work “Limits to growth” way back in 1972: collapse.html?full=true
    Some excerpts:
    “..instead of stabilising at the peak levels, or oscillating around them, in almost all (computer) model runs, population and industry go into a sharp decline once they peak. “If present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next 100 years. The most probable result will be a sudden and rather uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity,” the book warned (forty years ago)…
    The most strident criticisms came from economists, who claimed Limits underestimated the power of the technological fixes humans would surely invent. As resources ran low, for instance, we would discover more or develop alternatives.
    Yet the Limits team had tested this. In some runs, they gave World3 (the simulation program) unlimited, non-polluting nuclear energy – which allowed extensive substitution and recycling of limited materials – and a doubling in the reserves of nonrenewables that could be economically exploited. All the same, the population crashed when industrial pollution soared. Then fourfold pollution reductions were added as well: this time, the crash came when there was no more farmland. Adding in higher farm yields and better birth control helped in this case. But then soil erosion and pollution struck, driven by the continuing rise of industry. Whatever the researchers did to eke out resources or stave off pollution, exponential growth was simply prolonged, until it eventually swamped the remedies. Only when the growth of population and industry were constrained, and all the technological fixes applied, did it stabilise in relative prosperity.
    The crucial point is that overshoot and collapse usually happened sooner or later in World3 even if very optimistic assumptions were made about, say, oil reserves. “The general behaviour of overshoot and collapse persists, even when large changes to numerous parameters are made,” says Graham Turner of the CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences lab in Crace, Australia.
    In 2008, Turner did a detailed statistical analysis of how real growth compared to the scenarios in Limits. He concluded that reality so far closely matched the standard run of the World3 simulation program.
    There will be no more sequels based on World3, though. The model can no longer serve its purpose, which was to show us how to avoid collapse. Starting from the current conditions (2012), no plausible assumptions produce any result but overshoot. “There is no sense in only describing a series of collapse scenarios,” says Dennis Meadows, another of the original authors of Limits.”
    Hence global collapse is all but certain. Particularly the way things are going now with the failure of climate mitigation agreements, the relentless pursuit of business as usual and with arrogant and ignorant fools determining policy in our societies. Policies in which the short term greed of the few is given priority over the long term need of the many. One only needs to consider the recent antics of Clive Palmer and his delight at the LNP win in Queensland to realise the truth of this insight. True democracy, rule of the people, by the people and for the people, cannot work properly if the majority of people are too stupid to realise that they are being royally screwed by vested interests and being given false hope and illusory promises by the likes of Tony Abbott.
    The latest bean counting bufoon to expose his astounding grasp of unreality is David Murray, retiring chairman of the the Future Fund (and documented global warming denialist) who in his last few days of office took the opportunity to fire some broadsides at the carbon tax. Yet another economic delusionist who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. Of course, as an experienced banker, his opinion about global warming supersedes that of thousands of climate researchers around the world – he knows better. To bankers, money is magically and mystically created by conjuring it up from debt3, requring no effort on their part. This is the fractional reserve banking system which has now brought us to the verge of catastrophe. You cannot get more removed from reality than that.
    When it does occur, how can we best respond to it?
    This is like asking, “how can we best respond to being hit in the head?” The answer is to avoid being hit in the head in the first place. Or at least to wear a helmet.
    The key to confronting collapse is advance planning. Waiting for trouble to occur then trying to respond to it is basically useless. However that is the situation most people (the clueless sheeple) will find themselves in. What are the keys to avoiding or minimising personal disaster when faced with societal collapse (whether narrow or broad spectrum, temporary or permanent, local or global)? Everyone’s starting circumstance will be different, however everyone’s considerations will be the same: to ensure ongoing access to energy, fresh water, food, sewage disposal, waste disposal, transportation and transport fuel, physical security, health services and communications.
    The broad principles are:
    – to do more with less resources (eg increase energy efficiency) and to minimise waste
    – to be as self sufficient as possible, ideally to be capable of getting completely off-grid (and hence be
    immune to any grid failures)
    – to establish redundancy of systems
    – to widen your social support network (the local Transition Towns group will be a good place to start)
    and find a practical skill useful to others
    What specific action can we take? For possible action at a community level, I wrote the “Gaia Village project” article (see For possible action at an individual level, I wrote the “low footprint catamaran project” article which has been published in the latest edition of Multihull World Australia magazine. That article does not purport to give all the answers, only some suggestions. Many aspects of the catamaran project are directly applicable to land dwellings (apart from a reverse osmosis watermaker – unless you live by a river or on the coast). The main difference is that yachties are far more parsimonious with their resource consumption, especially fresh water. The main problem with living on a boat is that you cannot grow your own food.
    Whereas moving into an ecovillage which is completely self sufficient in water, food and energy seems like the best response, there are a number of caveats.
    Firstly, if your community becomes successful and is known to be thriving while the rest of society around you is crumbling, be prepared to defend your turf. Will you build electric fences around the perimeter? Will you deny those pleading at your gate for food? (If you feed them, word will get out and more people will come asking for more food). Will you be willing to shoot violent intruders?
    Secondly, insular communities can become dysfunctional and personalities can clash causing breakdowns of the establishment. Many an idealistic village has turned dystopian. Open and fair participatory processes for the resolution of disputes must be established and no single charismatic individual can be allowed to gain absolute control.
    Thirdly, consider the worst case scenario. If, for example, the “guaranteed” supply of water from your local creek or spring runs dry and there is no rainwater to harvest, what will you do? Can you access an alternative supply such as a bore hole? Or will the whole community have to disband? This highlights the importance of redundancy of supply (the need for backup) of vital resources.
    The most important ingredient to facing collapse is mental preparedness. In that respect, I hope this little article has been helpful.
    There are numerous uncertainties we face and all we can do is go by the best information available to us (which most emphatically does NOT come from the Murdoch press). Each of us tends to be only interested in our own little microscopic patch of the world and how things affect us personally. Nevermind if billions are dying and suffering elsewhere, if it is not happening here, it is not happening. To think that events at a distance are not going to affect us in this interconnected world is unrealistic. Particularly if Australia remains addicted to imported petroleum for all its needs, especially for the production and distribution of food.
    My critics would say to me, “You are a pessimist and an alarmist. I, on the other hand, am an optimist and I believe in a rosy future for humanity. So stop upsetting me and go away because I want to watch Celebrity Big Brother”.
    My reply is this: There is a difference between the optimist who accepts the evidence based reality of the situation, then plans appropriately to achieve the best possible outcome, and the fool who simply denies the indisputable avalanche of facts laid before them.
    Geoffrey Chia, Cardiologist, Brisbane, April 2012
    1 Unless they are invaded by America in the name of “the war against terror”, “removal of a brutal dictator” or “spreading democracy”
    2 As opposed to the bogus economies and illusory numbers of sharemarket speculation, cyberwealth and Internet bubbles. Those who claim that most of the wealth in our modern world is generated by the Internet are delusional. As Colin Campbell says, you cannot eat the Internet.
    3 Sounds utterly bizarre but is in fact true. Look it up!

  • Thanks ulvfugl for the Jensen – Hedges interview

    It really cuts through the syrupy sentimental Goo that usually passes as deep ecological thinking. Neither guy takes any prisoners.

    Jensen gives a great example of how the Lakota dealt with fellow tribe members who killed bison out of season.

    Jensen completely rejects the notion of tolerating ‘the tragedy of the common’ meme in a community that is de rigueur in industrial society.

    If a member of the Lakota violated something as central to the integrity of the tribe as hunting bison out of season, the whole tribe reacts by burning down their teepee and destroying their weapons and reducing them to beggary as an outcast, which in effect could be a death sentence. This is the sane correct response to socio-psychopathic behavior in their midst.

    Amen brother.

    Contrast Jensen & Hedges (sounds like a powerful new cigarette brand) with some one like Bill ‘Pinocchio’ Mckibben, poster boy for controlled ecological opposition.

    Fibbin’ Mckibben speaks with a Green Forked Tongue.

    Jensen & Hedges speak the truth

    A tribute to the Green Washers out there.

  • The Deep Green Resistance movement believes that civilization, particularly industrial civilization, is fundamentally unsustainable and must be actively (and very urgently) dismantled in order to secure a livable future for all species on the planet.

    Yes! Civilization must be destroyed! We must all organize to dismantle all aspects of civilization. Start now! Quit your job, stop paying taxes, and wander the streets aimlessly. Default on your credit cards, mortgage, and auto loan. At least you can say you did your part.

    Just sitting on this runaway train, staring out the window.

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  • Godolfredo

    “We cannot be prepared for the unknown. We can imagine a thousand scenarios, but in the end, there will be a different approach for every family in the planet. So the possible scenarios are more than thousands.”

    The biosphere doesn’t need to be meddled with via industrial capitalism/civilization (or the maximizing of selfishness, disorder and greed), which can morally be resisted at nearly every turn. Viewing the planet as mere stuff to plunder for money is so stupid; it would make one laugh if it didn’t make one cry instead. IC seems to be winning handily (although looks can sometimes deceive, or you could even say that IC is a paper tiger run on bluff).

    IC is a well integrated totalitarian global program of greed and stupidity trumping sanity and survival. It is entirely insane. It’s like a classroom of kindergarten children run amok and throwing metal chairs. One sees the evil in the eyes and oozing out of every pours (sp). They behave that way because they can get away with it, not because that is inherently their nature. It is entirely unacceptable.

    But what can be done about that? IC holds all the levers of global power, and this power increases exponentially, just like population. There can be shouting and pleading and cajoling at the macro level for this hegemony to moderate and do better, but a system cannot be changed like that. Climate violence and social violence (which I have not so far been separating) operate like an opponent’s thrust in judo. It is the opponent’s thrust that brings him down. IC is creating the rope by which, THEORETCALLY, it is to be hanged. I don’t know how to use climate violence and social violence effectively to hamper IC, but it might be worth smart people’s consideration. IC created this violence, and will confront it in one ludicrous fashion or other. A father abuses a son, and now the son is big enough to abuse him back. Two bulldogs are fighting over a bone. A third dog comes in and takes the bone away. This is what I’m suggesting regarding climate and social violence. Resistance, transition, whatever, takes as much advantage of this gratuitous violence as it can.

    But I never said I was hopeful that resistance would find the vision, good sense, or unity to so take advantage. Neither do I wring my hands over it. I make a suggestion that seems like common sense to me, and people are free to do what they like with it. Or correct me too.

    All the climate, political and social mayhem that is occurring at the macro scale approximates to the bulldogs fighting over a bone (even though it is the innocent that are being most hurt–nothing we can do to change that), and the resistance, like the third dog stealing the bone, can only do what it can do. That is, IMO, to push back against insanity at the local level in millions and millions of cases, all dealing (as you suggest) with their own local peculiarities as well they can. One local struggle connects to the next local struggle, and in unity lies strength. As we all know, one can never predict success. But unless such struggle makes you unhappy (which it does not do me) I see no harm in going for it.

  • “There is a difference between the optimist who accepts the evidence based reality of the situation, then plans appropriately to achieve the best possible outcome, and the fool who simply denies the indisputable avalanche of facts laid before them.”

    Thanks, Robin, for putting the text in. Best quote is almost dead last. Burying the lede again. Sigh.

    Only problem is knowing what the best possible outcome actually is.

    Ulvfugl, liked the Jensen and Hedges vid a lot, but sweetie, the date on it is 2010. It might have only been posted a month ago, but it’s not that new.

  • Shit, forgot to include support for Ulvfugl’s request for essays on how we might help non-human species through what is coming. Haven’t quite given up on humans yet, but am beginning to think along the lines of trying to mitigate for as long as possible the damage to everyone and everything else.

    Nothing can be saved indefinitely, I get that, but if there are real actions we can take, I’d really like to get started.

  • @ wildwoman

    Eeeek. How dumb of me not to have checked. Well, that’s EVEN WORSE then.

    Four years have passed by, and absolutely nothing has been achieved, and EVERYTHING has got WORSE, and all the fucking McKibbening has been proved to be exactly what I and others said it was, here and on xraymikes, a ploy to defang any serious effort to cut back on emissions, and the ‘useful idiots’ are still being ‘useful idiots’ and still falling for it.

    Over on Real Climate there was a couple of links to very serious presentations in Berkeley by entrepreneurs and scientists who are getting California sorted, and I watched about half way, and it turned out they are still in the cuckoo land where it’s all going to be done by solar panels on roofs and changing the light bulbs… by 2050…and those are the VERY SMART people… and I don’t know whether to break down and roll around on the floor screaming or what… over here the strongest winds so far this winter ripped down and broke off trees in my garden…

  • When thinking about practically saving non human species, I would read about Robert MacArthur and E O Wilson’s theory ‘Island biogeography’

    Basically the size of an eco system (i.e. island – urban island) determines it’s capacity for biodiversity.

    It need not be water, it could be The Industrial Disease Clusterfuck, that surrounds wildlife habitat but the ‘island’ effect isolates species and possible breeding mates on near by islands and thus tends to minimize diversity and richness of eco habitat.

    Just putting your efforts into joining abutting pieces of wild land by getting rid of industrial ruins and human junk in between them helps enormously to allow species to link up the adjacent chunks of habitat into larger undisturbed parcels and thus helps take pressure off wildlife and promote more bio-diversity.

    Look down on a map of large swaths of the industrial/suburban wasteland and what remains of ‘Nature’ is pitiful little disjointed specks of undisturbed land.

    Forget ‘saving’ the human fakakta experiment gone septic.

    Give the flora & fauna as large of an undisturbed area as possible.

    If industrial disease collapses too slowly, the starving unwashed masses will slaughter and devour every last animal they can get their perverted little hands on and wipeout all the creatures great and small. Personally a Great Plague several magnitudes larger than the Black Death of Mid-evil Europe is needed to avoid starving humans from eating every last speck of the planet in one last sick blow out orgy of greed gone wild.



  • Tom says: We keep rolling this same ball of wax around the Beach, examining the specifics and delving into detail before moving on to another aspect of our “situation.”

    It’s over….

    Details, Details

    There’s two ways to use every threat
    Of extinction to get less upset:
    The first is to learn,
    So you can discern
    What’s important, and what not to sweat.

    Learning is useful—you bet!
    It can help you remember, and yet,
    Getting lost in detail
    Of the ways we will fail
    Can also be used to forget.

  • ulvfugl,

    Thanks for the Benson & Hedges clip.
    I was caught by both speakers’ view that neutralizing a CEO (or other high-value player) would not change a corporation’s behavior.

    Taking their view as a(n) hypothesis, do you (or anyone…Bueller?) know whether this has been tested experimentally ?

    I have long conjectured that it is possible to modify such behavior over time if there is the will not only to neutralize a targeted HVP but also to neutralize whoever takes their place until the negative aspects of holding the job become overwhelmingly greater than the positive aspects.

    Jensen mentions the head of BP, who probably lives in a walled estate with private security to insulate them from political pressure. But BP’s CEO probably has any number of ‘right-hand’ people who aren’t so insulated. What if one of those people had picketers outside their door 24/7 ? How long would it take to get them to request a job transfer ? How many times would you need to repeat this process before nobody in the organization would volunteer to put their name in that particular box in the corporate org-chart ? Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I’m guessing picketing is tactically where Hedges might start…maybe a little symbolic blood on the doorstep at home or at the corporate HQ. I reckon Jensen’s followers would skip over such tactics and take a more direct approach.

    Any history you’re aware of on this idea ?
    Maybe it *is* possible to change corporate behavior.

    Harpo Marx had trouble remembering names.
    His default term for someone whose name he couldn’t remember was ‘Mister Benson’
    Good morning Mr. Benson…this just in from Memphis…

  • I used to believe the PTB thought they could possibly make it through the bottleneck. I have now come to believe that they also know their collective geese are cooked along with everyone else.

    That is, when systems begin to fail, their private armies will disappear into the night, leaving them vulnerable to the mobs gathered outside the gates. The ones who might conceivably survive will have donned peasant clothing and grown some calluses so as to “pass” once on the outside.

    So why do what they do today? Well, the Titanic really is a good analogy that helps explain a lot of human (in)action. In this case, imagine a handful of 1st class passengers had advance notice that the ship was going to sink in 24 hrs, but (a) there was absolutely nothing they could to avert the future from playing out; and (b) possessing advance knowledge conferred to assurance of survival.

    If the die was cast, to what purpose would it serve to warn & alarm the other passengers? In fact, since there wasn’t any guarantee of survival, why make even the most rudimentary preparations? In this type of environment, what would be left to do during the remaining hours left alive?

    Predictably, one could foresee a complete breakdown in decorum and public behavior. Debauchery would rule the hours, with all social conventions cast aside so those in the know could enjoy their last moments of freedom with zero obligation to convention.

    I think that’s where we’re at now. Jensen, Hedges, et al like to discuss what is happening, but they haven’t quite gotten to the point of joining the other side in the party to end all parties. This sucker is going down, anyone with half a clue knows that, there’s nothing anyone can do, including our so-called leaders, so just party on Garth.

    As an aside, Paul over @ Gail’s blog brings up the same point I used to pose, which is, if there is some kind of miracle out there, why isn’t being readied for market? Isn’t there anyone out there who wants to become the first $trillionaire?

    The answer, of course, is that there isn’t any magic bullet ie the Titanic is going down in 24 hours. Hence the present day actions of anyone in a leadership position; it’s why the gas peddle is fully depressed, even though the engine is smoking.

  • @ infanttyrone and roger

    Any history you’re aware of on this idea ?

    Yes, I’ll start threads in forum later, as per rules, or you can >>

  • Reply to infanttyrone: The closest approximation to the sort of tactic you envision that I can think of off the top of my head would have been the Brigata Rosso (sp?) in Italy in the 1970s. They did scare the bejesus out of the faint-hearted amongst the bougeoisie. Then it was revealed that nearly all Brigata activity was either provoked or simply executed by the usual security agencies. Ditto for the Rote Armee Fraktion in Germany.
    You don’t want to travel down that rat-hole.
    The flipside of the process is common practice. The best known and documented instance is also from the 1970s. That would be COINTELPRO. I was caught up in that myself and served time for purely fictional transgressions invented by the provocateurs who were my handlers. I was a ridiculously minor actor in peripheral sideshows of the 1960s but was nevertheless an employment project for undercovers. When I was released from prison, Christmas 1971, the Revolution was over. There was then still a sort of remnant Left in America, all their energies were absorbed in efforts to defend comrades and ‘leaders’ from BS criminal charges. Of course anyone who was imaginably an actual threat was dealt with summarily. I’m thinking now of my friends Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Think for a moment and you should have your own examples. Multiply a few orders of magnitude to include those we never hear of.

    What you and Benson&Hedges are mumbling about has zero chance ever because it is just an amateur re-creation of State violence. In that game the State holds all the trump cards. No one is ever permitted to mess with the State monopoly on violence. Also be aware that your IP and mine have just been tracked and our comments filed. I’m an old man and I don’t give a shit. But don’t post this stuff on a public forum, don’t post it on Guy’s site, and if you have any sense don’t think about it at all. TPTB would just love it if someone went and did something stupid. Don’t play their game. You sound sort of genuine and I’ll briefly give you credit for not getting paid to provoke.

  • @oldhippie

    I’m not far behind you in years and remember the years of “Who’s the plant ?”

    I’m not sure attempts at public shaming of 2nd or 3rd tier players would not have some effect. Probably not enough of an effect, sure.

    I’m not suggesting trying anything beyond picketing and a little bit of theater…call it misdemeanor-level violence if you want.

    I suspect that people who might be disposed to felony-level violence don’t need any strategic or tactical advice from me, much less encouragement.

  • I cannot help but wonder what knowledgeable people are to do when a species like Homo sapiens is confronted with a colossal planetary emergency that it appears to have induced. Do human beings not have an original, overarching obligation or perhaps an absolute duty to warn of such a dire situation? What honor should be bestowed on first rank scientists and other esteemed professionals in possession of well-established science who pose as if they “see no truth, hear no truth and speak no truth” regarding known causes of the clear and present danger while mainstreamed, false (preternatural, pseudoscientific) knowledge is deliberately allowed to stand unchallenged as if it represented the best available science?

    Ecological Science of Human Population Dynamics

  • Do human beings not have an original, overarching obligation or perhaps an absolute duty to warn of such a dire situation?

    Warn about the “splat” at the end of the great view on the way down? Pontificate about jumping off a cliff without a parachute?

    The “population” harangue was appropriate for an era prior to fossil fuels. All increase in population since that point in time has been predicated on energy derived from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels by being non-renewable on human timescales, lock in overshoot. Overshoot locks in its correction, dieback. The situation is not correctable, and therefore not dire, but inevitable.

  • What I see and read often (in general) is that when the point is collapse, famine, die-off, overshoot, extinction, and so on, it is always referred to “them”, “the humans”, “the people”, “the population”. Something distant, somewhere else, with somebody else. Another world maybe? Not us, not me, not my family. Others.
    The point is that we are them, the humans, the people, the population. It could be written a list containing names of the participants, all of us would be in that list, and our family and friends.
    I feel myself as part of the situation ahead, and that is why I avoid to be so generic, because I see that in my case, the situation will be slightly different from USA, or Australia, or England, to name some countries. Worse in some aspects, but probably much better in others.
    I always think locally, what will happen here, in my country, in my city, in the surrounding hills and valleys, what will happen with the roads, and so on. Is there any place to go, to live, to maybe start a new life. Many things to consider. I still do not have a clear idea of what would be the best option.
    Once the collapse begins (soft or hard way), it will be my personal problem (different from my neighbors´), I will have to face it, and somehow have to find a way (for me and my family first), or at least try.
    This generic stuff enhances the perception of something distant. Others.
    Like a movie. Like the book of Jared Diamond.
    But, most of us will be starring the movie, our own (personal) reality show of survival (maybe at any cost).
    It is not the same to see in the local TV that there was a car accident with one injured, than seeing on the TV screen the image of your car, and the name of the injured is your son´s.
    Whatever comes is going to be our own reality show.
    Are we seriously considering what really means starring our own reality show?
    The clock is ticking.

    My granddaughter loves this song, a cover of the original song from Mecano.

  • ulvfugl: sorry to hear about the trees in your garden. It’s snowing really hard here – so hard that one can’t even see the remains of the last snowstorm (last week) that didn’t melt (because it’s remained cold throughout). It’s supposed to snow all day with ice mixed in around 11 or noon and then possibly switch to rain before finishing up as snow sometime tonight ~ 10 or 11 p.m. i’m beginning to wonder about “snow-load” on my roof (it’s about a foot now).

    People Who Live Downwind Of Alberta’s Oil And Tar Sands Operations Are Getting Blood Cancer

    A new study has found that levels of air pollution downwind of the largest tar sands, oil and gas producing region in Canada rival levels found in the world’s most polluted cities. And that pollution isn’t just dirtying the air — it also could be tied increased incidence of blood cancers in men that live in the area.

    The study, published last week by researchers from University of California Irvine and the University of Michigan, found levels of carcinogenic air pollutants 1,3-butadiene and benzene spiked in the Fort Saskatchewan area, which is downwind of the oil and tar sands-rich “Industrial Heartland” of Alberta. Airborne levels of 1,3-butadiene were 322 times greater downwind of the Industrial Heartland — which houses more than 40 major chemical, petrochemical and oil and gas facilities — than upwind, while downwind levels of benzene were 51 times greater. Levels of some volatile organic compounds — which, depending on the compound, have been linked to liver, kidney and central nervous system damage as well as cancer — were 6,000 times higher than normal. The area saw concentrations of some chemicals that were higher than levels in Mexico City during the 1990s, when it was the most polluted city on the planet.

    “These levels, found over a broad area, are clearly associated with industrial emissions,” said Stuart Batterman,” one of the study’s co-authors. “They also are evidence of major regulatory gaps in monitoring and controlling such emissions and in public health surveillance.”

    The high levels of dangerous pollutants may be harming the health of residents downwind of the industrial center. The study, which examined ten years of health records, found incidence of leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in men was higher in communities closest to the sources of pollution than in the surrounding counties. Though the study could not definitively link the uptick in cancer incidence to the increased pollution, the researchers said it was enough to call for reductions in the emissions from the industrial center.

    “We’re seeing elevated levels of carcinogens and other gases in the same area where we’re seeing excess cancers known to be caused by these chemicals,” said lead author Isobel Simpson. “Our main point is that it would be good to proactively lower these emissions of known carcinogens. You can study it and study it, but at some point you just have to say, ‘Let’s reduce it.’ ”

    [read the rest]

    Ninety-seven scientist say a hand held over flame hurts. Three say it doesn’t, and, if it does, it is not the fire’s fault.

  • I guess it takes a while for posts to “take” with the new “fix.”

    Fishin’s Gone

    A Dead Zone the Size of New Jersey Is Growing in the Gulf of Mexico

    Every year, a massive “dead zone” blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. Inside its amorphous boundaries almost all life is extinguished. There’s simply not enough oxygen for marine creatures to survive.

    The phenomenon is caused by what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls “excessive nutrient pollution”—a surplus of nitrate-heavy fertilizer runoff produced by agricultural operations along the Mississippi River. That runoff bleeds out from farms and ranches across the south into the nation’s mightiest—and dirtiest—river, and eventually winds its way into the Gulf.

    All those nutrients cause massive algae feeding-frenzies that suck up all of the available oxygen, creating what scientists call “hypoxic” (very low oxygen) and “anoxic” (no oxygen) zones. Dead zones. They occur in oceans all over the place, but the one that consumes vast swaths of the Gulf of Mexico is especially huge. Here’s how huge: this year, NOAA expects that dead zone will be between 7,286 and 8,561 miles wide.

    Or, in the NOAA report’s words, “That would range from an area the size of Connecticut, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia combined on the low end to the New Jersey on the upper end.” That puts this year’s aquatic death radius in the running to be the biggest ever—the largest Gulf dead zone on record thus far was the 8,481 square mile behemoth that grew in 2002.

    “It’s the largest in the Atlantic. The second largest in the world,” R. Eugene Turner tells me in an interview. Turner is an oceanographer at LSU; he created one of the models behind NOAA’s startling projections.

    “We know it’s manmade. We know it wasn’t there in the 50s and 60s,” Turner says. “And one third of U.S. fisheries are harvested in that region—or were.”

    So why is the dead zone so big this year? Mostly because of all the flooding in the Midwest. The unusually stormy spring and early summer seasons have led to larger-than-usual nitrate-rich runoff to flood the Mississippi. By way of comparison, last year, a time of epic drought, saw the fourth smallest dead zone on record.

    And that means dead zones like this one are likely to continue expanding. As climate change continues, the warmer air will hold more moisture—scientists expect to see more extreme weather events like flooding in already wet regions as carbon continues to concentrate in our skies.

    “Climate variability and climate change are part of the reason we have variability in the prediction every year,” Turner says. “And it’s part of the reason it’s getting bigger ever year.” Climate affects the discharge of the river, he says. The more runoff upstream, the larger the dead zone. He also notes that it warms the waters, which ripens conditions for the deadly algal blooms.

    Meanwhile, that excessive carbon is also getting absorbed by oceans—which crowds out oxygen and further expands dead zones. A 2009 study from the Monteray Bay Research Institute foungt that “low-oxygen ‘dead zones’ in the ocean could expand significantly over the next century. These predictions are based on the fact that, as more and more carbon dioxide dissolves from the atmosphere into the ocean, marine animals will need more oxygen to survive.”

    Furthermore, these dead zones also cause more climate change, too. A 2010 study from scientists at the University of Maryland found that hypoxic zones produced more of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide—thus perhaps making the dead zones a dangerous feedback loop to take into account.

    Clearly, aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico—fish to plankton to very endangered sea turtles—can’t catch a break. On top of record-breaking oil spills and regular industrial pollution, it’s now got a dead zone that will regularly kill everything within an area about the size of New Jersey.

    “It’s really pretty amazing we’re having this kind of effect,” Turner says. “It’s not exactly taking care of mother Earth.”

  • “We now have an answer to why global temperatures have risen less quickly in recent years than predicted in climate change models. (It’s necessary to add immediately that the issue is only the rate of that rise, since the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998.) Thanks to years of especially strong Pacific trade winds, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change, much of the extra heat generated by global warming is being buried deep in ocean waters. Though no one knows for sure, the increase in the power of those winds may itself have been set off by the warming of the Indian Ocean. In other words, the full effects of the heating of the planet have been postponed, but are still building (and may also be affecting ocean ecology in unpredictable ways). As Matthew England, the lead scientist in the study, points out, “Even if the [Pacific trade] winds accelerate… sooner or later the impact of greenhouse gases will overwhelm the effect. And if the winds relax, the heat will come out quickly. As we go through the twenty-first century, we are less and less likely to have a cooler decade. Greenhouse gases will certainly win out in the end.”

    Despite the slower rate of temperature rise, the effects of the global heating process are quite noticeable. Yes, if you’re living somewhere in much of the lower forty-eight, you now know the phrase “polar vortex” the same way you do “Mom” and “apple pie,” and like me, you’re shivering every morning the moment you step outside, or sometimes even in your own house. That southern shift in the vortex may itself be an artifact of changing global weather patterns caused at least in part by climate change.

    In the meantime, in the far north, temperatures have been abnormally high in both Alaska and Greenland; Oslo had a Christmas to remember, and forest fires raged in the Norwegian Arctic this winter. Then, of course, there is the devastating, worsening drought in California (and elsewhere in the West) now in its third year, and by some accounts the worst in half a millennium, which is bound to drive up global food prices. There are the above-the-norm temperatures in Sochi that are creating problems keeping carefully stored snow on the ground for Olympic skiers and snowboarders. And for good measure, toss in storm-battered Great Britain’s wettest December and January in more than a century. Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere, there’s heat to spare. There was the devastating January heat wave in Australia, while in parts of Brazil experiencing the worst drought in half-a-century there has never been a hotter month on record than that same month. If the rains don’t come relatively soon, the city of São Paulo is in danger of running out of water.

    It’s clear enough that, with the effects of climate change only beginning to take hold, the planet is already in a state of weather disarray. Yet, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare points out today, the forces arrayed against dealing with climate change couldn’t be more powerful. Given that we’ve built our global civilization on the continuing hit of energy that fossil fuels provide and given the interests arrayed around exploiting that hit, the gravitational pull of what Klare calls “Planet Carbon” is staggering.

    Recently, I came across the following passage in Time of Illusion, Jonathan Schell’s 1976 classic about Nixon administration malfeasance. Schell wrote it with the nuclear issue in mind, but today it has an eerie resonance when it comes to climate change: “In the United States, unprecedented wealth and ease came to coexist with unprecedented danger, and a sumptuous feast of consumable goods was spread out in the shadow of universal death. Americans began to live as though on a luxuriously appointed death row, where one was free to enjoy every comfort but was uncertain from moment to moment when or if the death sentence might be carried out. The abundance was very much in the forefront of people’s attention, however, and the uncertainty very much in the background; and in the government as well as in the country at large the measureless questions posed by the new weapons were evaded.”~~~Tomdispatch

  • Hi Guy,

    Do you concur with the explanation provided above for why global temps. have risen less quickly than predicted by climate modeling?

    Thank you.

  • Regarding the call for ideas that would help some of the other species survive, I believe that providing for the controlled shutdown of nuclear facilities, as they become unnecessary, is our best bet for that.

    Shutting down the nuke plants would take a huge investment and the means would have to be organized and put in place well before collapse and designed to be completed after collapse has arrived.
    Maybe this could be done if each plant were upgraded at the right time with the necessary staff and their provisions and security. Also needed would be all the necessary materials and tools such as fuel for generators, reliable generators, water source for cooling and the many items needed to prevent melt down.

    I have no idea if this could even work. Even if the fuel rods were cooled, they would still be in place, but better contained.

    Just maybe the earth would have a chance to renew if we shut down the nukes. Most of the harsh effects of climate change have happened before and the planet’s bio systems recovered.

    BUT! The $64K questions is, will we do it? Will we make such a huge investment in something that would only benefit the future of species other than our own? Closing the plants could be a final generous statement from mankind saying that maybe we weren’t so bad after all.

    I wish I could see it happening. But, I don’t think the PTB have the class for such an action. Unless they do it for the sake of their own fat asses it will never get done.

  • Yes, FriedrichKling, I agree. I’ve included this information in the large and growing post about climate change.

  • RE:
    Here’s another opportunity for you to dodge and deflect a simple question.
    I did not ask, “Who do you want dead. Or, how many will you “save”. It was a very simple question. It was meant to be rhetorical. Certainly most people, besides the sociopaths, would feel bad.
    What do you plan to do about all the dead things lying about growing disease?

  • If you are willing to join demonstrations, write your public officials, and sign petitions, then you have to ask yourself what are you really asking for?

    Do you want all civilization to cease? Do you want to run naked through the woods gathering nuts and berries?

    As long as you have a job, pay taxes, have a mortgage, etc., then you are participating in the destruction of Every Living Thing on Earth. At least own up to it.

  • “Just maybe the earth would have a chance to renew if we shut down the nukes.”

    Glad to see this point being made, and that others like Pat and Kathy C have emphasized it too.

    “BUT! The $64K questions is, will we do it?”

    Very good question. More likely if (supposedly powerless) people do something than if they don’t, IMO. That still doesn’t mean very likely, just more likely.

  • When the SHTF and it’s painfully obvious to all what will be the New Reality, we will be herded into FEMA camps – and the weakest of us will be human sandbags at various nuclear power plant sites.

    I watched the trailer for the “A Man Named Guy” movie – is it a comedy? From the trailer, you wouldn’t think it’s serious. Anyway, Pauline Schneider is full-tilt on Guy – and her recent blog activity is dominated with Guy references and links. Maybe her efforts will catapult Guy into a new realm of recognition among the masses. I wonder if all interested parties are prepared for that…

    When we see Guy on the Today show with Matt Lauer, we’ll know the message is really getting out there.

  • @pat

    “When we see Guy on the Today show with Matt Lauer, we’ll know the message is really getting out there.”

    By the time we see Guy on Today talking to Matt Lauer, it’ll be so late in the game you’ll be lucky to survive until lunchtime.

  • Here’s one for all the depressed,confused,worried,troubled,miserable & brokenhearted.

    Start at 30 secs.

    If you get over it,call me tomorrow when you are ready to open your “present”. I always enjoy a great celebration.

  • “Once the collapse begins (soft or hard way), it will be my personal problem (different from my neighbors´), I will have to face it, and somehow have to find a way (for me and my family first), or at least try.”

    One form of collapse that stands out more sharply than others is climate collapse. If climate has not already collapsed, someone might help me to get the definition of collapse more clear.

    Something else that is relatively clear among the others is that IC presents a universal (united) system that affects everyone similarly everywhere. Whoever and wherever you are, IC is a force that tends to be driving the following:

    Mining, FF extraction, deforestation, inequality, toxicity, militarization, homogenization, population overshoot, species loss, etc.

    So we don’t have a great variety of discreet issues to address, we have one; in short, the pillage and toxification of the entire biosphere. Billions of people are too beleaguered and uninformed to address this onslaught. But billions more are in a position to look at it critically (whether they do or not). Addressing the IC force is not only a personal issue, I is also (and more effectively) a social one, affecting one community at a time. It takes more than an individual to stop a nearby nuclear installation; it takes a group. And only if such groups (despite their differences) unite around the planet will they become an effective counter to IC. My 2 cents.

  • @Martin, I want to say sorry for the cheap shot over at, Hospice is a Busy Place. Anyway, there it is.

  • 1)
    From Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology at MIT:
    “If I’m wrong, we’ll know it in 50 years and then we can do something.”

    The good news is I’ll be dead in 50 years and I have no children!

    From J. Sloman:
    Are you feeding the poor? Are you Shakespeare? Doesn’t matter. It’s all insignificant in the end. If not today, then tomorrow. If not in a thousand years, then in a million billion. The whirling clusters of galaxies don’t even notice.

    Not only that, but the fact that everything is insignificant and nothing has any intrinsic meaning doesn’t mean anything either.

    All the meaning is supplied by us human beings. We supply the value judgments—this is good, that’s bad, this should happen, that shouldn’t happen. Existence has no value judgments about itself; it has no meaning, it doesn’t need or want any, to speak metaphorically. All the “good,” “bad,” “right,” “wrong,” etc. is supplied by us humans.

    Existence not only doesn’t care about any of that, it’s not even aware of it. Whatever you or I might ever do to make a difference in the world or our little corner of it is like a drop in an infinite sea — meaningless, empty. In fact, all is emptiness, completely empty — like empty characters in a video game, or like a robot in a machine factory pondering what its meaning is.

    Just sitting on this runaway train, staring out the window.

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  • Paul, you said above that “Greer is polite and does not rewrite.”

    I take issue with the first part. The last part is true; Greer doesn’t rewrite.

    But he’s only polite when he’s dealing with people who sympathize with his two social groups: one, the Druids, and two, the Right-Wing Working Class.

    But if you either criticize one of those two groups or your position puts you in so much as even a DANGER of criticizing those two groups, Greer drops the politeness and berates you on all your supposed character flaws and psychological defects (that He Knows From The Voice Of Experience your REALLY have).

    He’s published about four blog posts in a row, for example, demonizing atheists and writing his own version of what atheists “really” think (basically, he thinks atheists “secretly wish to be gods”, not something as simple as “atheists have no gods”).

    So yes, Greer is polite in his disagreements, as long as you don’t disagree with him about something substantial. If you do, expect to be compared to a recalcitrant child and a toddler for not immediately giving him a confession of wrongdoing when he asks for it.

  • No worries, Kirk.

  • Geoffrey Chia’s latest contribution for this space is posted here. Below the essay is my latest radio interview.

  • I was accused of having so sense of humour !

    For Valentine’s Day…

    For you all !

    Love from ulvfugl !


  • “But he’s only polite when he’s dealing with people who sympathize with his two social groups: one, the Druids, and two, the Right-Wing Working Class.”

    Im going off-topic but I find the guy (Greer) slightly ridiculous. He sets himself up as some authority figure. I heard a radio show wherein he was blasting the New Age movement for its grab-bag qualities- yet at the same time he publishes books like The Celtic Golden Dawn (talk about a total mish-mash to anyone aware of occult history).

    I dont find his slow descent thesis at all realistic. How could anyone who examines climate change, nukes, etc?

    His fiction is embarrassingly bad as well (which I wouldn’t remark upon, except I read a screed of his touting the aesthetic superiority of non-television viewers).

  • GhostInTraining,

    At NBL, it’s okay to make off-topic comments on a thread that has become old because Guy has posted anew. Anyway, your comment isn’t really off topic. :)