Conversations with Great Minds

McPherson’s 4 April 2014 television interview with Thom Hartmann, “Conversations with Great Minds” is embedded below (begins at the 30:00 mark)

Comments 122

  • Excellent! Looks like BAU for Domestead Diners. At least as long as all that nice stuff inside the domes lasts – after resource scarcity sets in. Then, when the stuff becomes unserviceable junk, it can be moved out on “fridge trolleys” (if any of those are still to be found).

  • Wildwoman

    There’s nothing I’m trying to “get,” and nothing I’m trying to “fight” (your term). The whole thing is an adventure. I’m expecting nothing whatsoever. I chop wood and the chips fall where they may.

    Rex Tillerson? If he’s a worse fuck up than me, then he REALLY has a problem! :-)

  • Artleads – LOL :)

  • Why must I suffer from mental indigestion, when I don’t even eat at the damm diner? Cognitive heartburn without even walking into the joint. I’m tired of listening to the acid RE-flux disease. Fucking Clowns.

  • Tom says:

    “I guess people better start thinking about becoming somewhat self-sustaining in their living because what we have now is falling apart (and we aren’t keeping up)”

    Bob S. says:
    And add to that, folks understanding of what is happening may go non-linerar as evidenced by the increasing media attention of weather extremes. Things like the disappeared arctic sea ice and wild weather are causing folks to ask WTF?

    The transformers destroyed in CA (think it was 28 of 40 out) by a well planned sniper attack makes me wonder if we will have a working grid for much longer. Not to mention tornados and strong storms bringing down trees and power lines.

    But becoming even somewhat self-sufficient be it a Doomstead or farm is out of reach of many for a variety of reasons. However, we can all pretty much plan for an emergency should the lights go out or extreme weather hits your area.

    For me, the past year has made my neck hairs go up. I’m gonna stock 30 days of food and water to hunker in place (I couldn’t carry a can of beans a block :) should the lights go out.

    There are a number of great websites with lists out their – you know – the basics – rice, beans, canned meat and fruit, grocery store stuff. I’d need 6 food grade 5 gal. buckets for 30 days water – Dunkin Donuts sometimes throws them out or sells em for a buck or two.

    Although I imagine if the lights go out for longer than a few days, my door will be getting kicked in before 30 days :(

    So yeah, I would say stash enough basics to last at least a week or two – and maybe one of those crank-up radios.

  • For Artleads and ulvfugl, more or less.

    There was at least one rant here, and others past, about the meltdowns that will surely occur when the lights go out, simultaneously and without warning, all over the world.

    I guess I’m struggling with that particular doom scenario, and have come to be baptized in the fire of NBL. Been flamed on ye olde Oil Drum, though not quite so much at PeakOil.

    So, the scenario. A reactor melts down, the fuel rods overheat, and radiation spews indiscriminately into the atmosphere for days, weeks, months on end.

    Surely nothing could survive such an occurrence. Surely nothing could possibly live in any zone where such an event occurred.

    So did the wolves, beavers, eagles, fish, flora, and fauna around Chernobyl just not get the memo? Shouldn’t they all be dead? Shouldn’t they all be birthing massively deformed and mutated offspring, for generation after generation after generation?

    Shouldn’t the few hardy human souls who stayed behind be dead of cancer or radiation sickness? Did they not also get the memo? Those who continued to work at the still functioning reactors, which continued to produce zero-carbon power while workers contained the exploded and spewing reactor right next to them?

    I ask these questions because it seems to me the only possible way out of this mess, and mess it is, is to take a queue from nature. Nature creates closed systems. The waste of one biosphere is the food of the one overlapping it.

    If there’s to be any hope at all, we have to pull all that trash back down and process it for reuse. We can’t do that with wind mills and solar panels. It’s counterproductive to do it with coal, oil, and gas. The only way to do it is with actinides, so far as I can tell.

    Pull it down, out, and out of. We have to manage the carbon cycle. If we don’t, the carbon cycle will be happy to manage us.

    The answer to depleting flora and fauna is to grow more flora and fauna, and to mimic, as closely as possible, the way nature manages its systems.

    We’re way behind the eight ball. Guy makes a convincing case of that. But if we have 50 years instead of 15, and we make the decision we’re going to manage things, we’d have to use technology. We simply don’t have any other choice.

    And now, I await the flames :)

  • @ TemplarMyst

    Shouldn’t the few hardy human souls who stayed behind be dead of cancer or radiation sickness? Did they not also get the memo? Those who continued to work at the still functioning reactors, which continued to produce zero-carbon power while workers contained the exploded and spewing reactor right next to them?

    Not exactly sure what point you are making,or question you are asking.

    Someone made a film showing all the thriving wild life and old people living around Chernobyl.

    Some people used it to claim the radiation is far less harmful than claimed.

    Others say that film was not the truth. The wildlife actually shows terrible signs of all kinds of defects, and those people are very old and so will die anyway before the effects of the radiation become apparent.

    I tend toward the latter position. I saw some photos of wolves with tumours, supposedly from Chernobyl.

    However, it’s very difficult to be absolutely certain, isn’t it.

    It’s kinda easy to say ‘We should do this, or do that’. When do people ever do the sensible thing ? Sometimes they just cannot. We could be doing the sensible thing now, but we just don’t. Nobody agrees. Perhaps it’ll just be chaos, a mess.

  • @ulvfugl

    I believe the film you are referring to is Radioactive Wolves, available in full, free, at The other film that covers the general topic well is Pandora’s Promise, available on iTunes and now on Netflix.

    My point is the general assumptions about radioactivity and nuclear power may well be incorrect. If the primary threat we face is the carbon load we’ve placed in the atmosphere and the oceans, we ought to be advocating the use of non-carbon, or minimally carbon intensive energy sources.

    However much I wish solar and wind could get us where we need, at this point they are still heavily dependent on carbon sources. The carbon costs associated with manufacture, transport, assembly, and maintenance are probably a wash between nuclear and the renewables. It is the ongoing production that is the issue. When the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow coal or methane are the backup source. That is not true with nuclear.

    More importantly, I’m saying we need to pull carbon down, and on a massive scale. That’s essentially an energy balance equation. Uranium and the other actinides are roughly a million times more energy dense than oil. They could power filtration systems that might pull down GHGs and convert them to either inert materials (carbonate matrices) or useful fuels/fertilizers (hydrocarbon chains).

    The chemistry is not exotic. It is just energy intensive.

    I do concede, we seldom do the right thing. And if Guy is right, and we are looking at 10 or 15 years, there is no time to do much of anything except brace for impact.

    If, however, we have longer than that, we ought to be at least thinking of an option that might work. It’s not likely, in fact I think it’s the equivalent of the Hail Mary pass, but if we do have 35 or 40 or 50 years, we might have that chance.

    France took about a decade to go from carbon intensive to carbon minimal. It could be done.

    Sigh. You may, indeed, you are probably right. We probably will just go on doing what we’re doing. But we might also reach that point where we panic and repent. We ought to be thinking of what we might do if we reach that point and folk are willing to be a bit more reasonable.

  • @ TemplarMyst

    My point is the general assumptions about radioactivity and nuclear power may well be incorrect.

    I don’t believe it. I think the industry spends enormous amounts of money to try and shift public opinion in that direction.

  • @ulvfugl

    I don’t believe it. I think the industry spends enormous amounts of money to try and shift public opinion in that direction.

    My initial thoughts as well. Pandora’s Promise was definitely not funded by the industry. Robert Stone, the producer, went out of his way to avoid any monied connection with the industry, so far as I can tell. Though I don’t have as much info on Radioactive Wolves, I believe the producers were simply filming a documentary, and were surprised by what they discovered.

    But I do not ask for faith. The couple of hours you would spend watching the films are the best evidence I think exists about the reality of radioactivity and nuclear power.

    Just a suggestion, of course ;)

  • Thanks for the suggestion, but I don’t really have the time at the moment, I’m involved researching so many other things, and there’s nothing I’m going to be able to do about that stuff.

    I’m not even interested anymore in trying to save people in the way that RE and those people at the Diner are. I think it’s ridiculous.

    The way I see it, we have a year or two, or five, who knows, of peak everything, we’re surfing on the crest of the wave, us fortunate ones with computers and electricity and food and some stability around us.

    Then it’ll break, any day, any year, progressively. Imo, almost impossible to predict where and when, some people think Alaska or New Zealand or Siberia are better, but I don’t think it works like that, with climate chaos and wars and financial collapse and refugees and Fukes and pandemics and dead oceans, etc, it’s anybody’s guess.

    My care all goes to the other species and to the innocent humans, whose fault none of this is. If people want to live, let them learn to live without any of that crap technology because none of it is sustainable anyway.

    In the meantime, we have this stuff, so there’s plenty of information at everyone’s fingertips for anyone who wants to learn anything at all.

  • Fair enough. And yeah, it all may go down way faster than we can do anything about.

    I guess after doing my own research I concluded that, if there were time, and we were to try to do something about helping those other species and our own, I ought to at least come up with a scenario that might work.

    Basically process of elimination lead me to the one I’m suggesting. It’s a long shot, and full of caveats, as usual. Chances are we’ll just continue BAU and run face-first into the wall.

    I feel lucky, in many ways. I wish I could claim prescience or wisdom, but that is just not the case. The wife and I decided to not have kids. Not because I was climate or energy aware at the time, but just because we didn’t feel the overwhelming biological drive inherent in all creatures, for whatever reason.

    I do have family and friends, of course, who do have kids. And as an avid scuba diver I’ve always marveled at the natural world. It’s just such a shame, really. A devastating, mind-bending, soul-scorching shame.

    Sigh. Again.

  • Yes. I had years of feeling sick and depressed and so forth, but I’m over all that now. Just a sort of cold deadly fury towards all the smarmy self-satisfied ignorant idiots who are oblivious and who profit from ruining the miracle of it all.

    I remember reading about a marine biologist at a conference, the first time she heard about the acidification and what it was going to do to the marine ecology, and she had to rush out and vomit in the toilets she was so upset. I used to feel like that every day for a couple of years in the 1990s.

    I don’t have any children and I’m not close to me relatives, they all live on the other side of the planet.

    I used to think the younger generation could be educated to get a better understanding, but that doesn’t seem to happen.

    I think it’ll just run it’s course, global ecological meltdown. People will try all kinds of desperate schemes but nothing will be thought out, it’ll only add to the mess. I expect by 2150, it’ll be very quiet.

  • Yes, it’ll probably be very quiet before then. In the mean time, since I feel the need to do something, however futile, I’ll continue scheming and dreaming, I guess. I’m involved with a fair number of like-minded folks in my area.

    All our transition town ideas, and time sharing, and gardening, and everything else probably won’t make a damn bit of difference. But it’ll give us something to do, I suppose.

    Some days I feel like an engineer on the Titanic. If only I could figure out a way to get the pumps to work faster, and get everyone to jam enough junk into the void above the bulkheads, we might be able to limp along long enough for Carpathia to arrive.

    And then, of course, I’d be scheming on getting Carpathia’s pumps and junk organized to stop up the holes in Titanic.

    Just my nature, I guess…

  • Yes. I used to think that way. One summer, about 30+ years ago, I realised we really were heading for total catastrophe, and I spent all summer writing off for literature trying to find anybody or anywhere that had got any sensible people or good ideas, and it was incredibly disheartening, until I hit permaculture, and then I met the woman who was the first to read Mollison’s manual in UK, and did a designer’s intro, and I thought we could pull things around, so I was into evangelising all that stuff. But then, when I understood the real dimensions of climate chaos, I realised it wasn’t really going to work after all, and that was a hell of a blow.
    But it’s a slow motion train crash, isn’t it, so we may as well have some fun each moment while we can :-) What else can we do ? Everyday I go around my fields and study the birds and look at everything… it’s always fantastic…

  • Wildwoman,

    My response to you from yesterday didn’t show. Posts usually show after that long a time. So just to go back to water: it’s hard to get the mind around all of this. You could say that land is more important, coz the water is on the land. Land use determines the state of the environment…

    If you’re going to resist (fight is not the word I prefer, but whatever…) it might be best getting rid of either hope or despair.

    I don’t see it as fighting. More like responding. Like when you stand with weight on one leg, one shoulder goes up and one comes down in response–to balance the weight. It happens without thought. I try to be like that in response to collapse. Just being as much like the rest of nature as possible. If it rains, I try to slow the water down and contain it. Millions of people do that, just because it’s a practical response to the rain. If there’s drought that stored water comes in handy. You know all this…

    But what’s the use of being angry with Tillerson and “clueless” masses? They’re all doing the best they can. Do you think you’re better than those folks? I don’t believe I am. The dogawful things I’ve done in my life keep haunting me. Even though I say it was the best I could do at the time, I can’t shake the nightmare. Tillerson has nothing on me.

    So what’s to be done? Guy says it best. Do what you love. Where I differ with him is where he says that our individual efforts can’t address the crisis. Right. I’m not talking about individual efforts. I really do believe there is a potential for a collective shift in understanding among a critical mass. I don’t see it leading to paradise, but just to stopping the IC madness the way a car stops with the front wheels over the cliff, but with just enough weight behind to keep the whole thing from going over. And then finding some ways to deal with that. No possibility of going forward, and you’re lucky if you can get out of the car without toppling it. Pulling that off would be the greatest miracle the world has ever seen, IMO. Nothing new. Nothing fancy. Just not going over the edge.

    So I’m not into fighting as such. Just from commonsense, people with sufficient information on what’s going down will respond to the crisis in a different way. So assuming that it’s all hopeless just doesn’t get us anywhere. That won’t wake others up, will it? Why must one have a written guarantee of success in order to not despair? You’re right. I just don’t get it.

  • ‘The fault’s, my dear brute,
    In ourselves, and not in our tsars.’ -btd

    awfully clever/wise imo. but i do think the damned tsars greatly magnify the problem, like fossil fuels. like adding gasoline to a fire. our tsars represent the worst in us. of course, one can still blame our stars! btd rules!

  • Hallo Lidia,

    Any interest in a challenge to one of your Benevolent Dictator bullet points? You seem to continue to have an interest in posting here, so I figured you might consider it. If not, no biggie, of course.

    So then, getting down to it. The question is, are all those nukes currently under power a lethal addition to humankind’s arsenal against itself and the planet, and do they need to be shut down as soon as possible?

    As Exhibit A I present Chernobyl. There has never been a nuclear power catastrophe on the scale of the one at this particular power plant. Fukushima doesn’t come close. At Chernobyl one of the reactors itself actually exploded, blasting the lid off its containment shell.

    Absolutely massive amounts of radiation escaped into the atmosphere. 31 people ultimately died directly from the event, either through the effects of the explosion itself, or through radiation sickness or cancer in the ensuing years. The World Health Organization and the Chernobyl Forum estimate an additional 5,000 may ultimately perish from cancers caused by the event, though hard numbers are very difficult to come by. In excess of 250,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding area, and it is, to this day, a declared no-go zone, because conventional wisdom says even the slightest levels of radiation may potentially be lethal.

    In summary, this was the ultimate nightmare scenario, the worst thing that could possibly happen to a peacetime nuclear reactor. A catastrophe of the first magnitude.

    So then, what is Chernobyl like today?

    A desert wasteland, with a few stunted trees, a few hardy shrubs, and the occasional insect? Is any living thing which accidently finds itself within the exclusion zone struck dead by the lethal levels of radiation present? Those lethal levels which conventional wisdom says will remain lethal for tens of thousands of years? Or, assuming it survives the nightmare radiation, and somehow manages to reproduce, is its offspring malformed and condemned to a miserable existence, one which must surely be nasty, brutish, and short?

    I invite you to view Radioactive Wolves on PBS. If you do not have the time or inclination, I will summarize.

    In short, the nightmare scenario of the paragraph above could not be farther from the truth, and the truth challenges not only the assertion of the negative consequences of nuclear power, but the negative consequences of human civilization on nature itself.

    At Chernobyl, nature has bounced back, with a vengeance. Beavers have undone the carefully crafted irrigation channels created to provide for the unsupportable forms of monocrop agriculture which were put in place. Birds have brought the seeds of countless native and non-native plant and tree species back to the area, and their guano has fertilized those seeds and propagated those plants.

    There are catfish in the retention pond sitting right next to the reactor which exploded. They have grown old and large, not because of some mutation, but because that is what catfish do if you don’t eat them when they are young.

    There are eagles in the apartment buildings of the abandoned buildings of Pripyat, raising their young as they have for generations now.

    And there are wolves, and bison, and horses, and flora and fauna of amazing diversity and beauty. And with your knowledge of science and biology, you know that no wounded ecosystem can support top predators like wolves and eagles. This is no wounded ecosystem. It is alive, and vibrant, and healthy.

    And it is all radioactive.

    Throw a Geiger counter on a dead fish or a live wolf, and it clicks away ominously. Do the same for a tree or a bird, and the clicking continue, unabated. And so it would go, for the rivers, beaches, and streams, for the forests and the flowers, for the field mice and the frogs.

    This is the end result of the worst peacetime nuclear power plant accident in history. A vibrant ecosystem which has undone the work of generations of human beings in the space of a mere thirty years. A blip in time so incomprehensibly small a geologist wouldn’t give it even a passing thought.

    If this is the end result of an irradiated environment, itself the end result of the most catastrophic failure of nuclear power plant technology in history, how does it compare to our other forms of extracted energy? Exxon Valdez? Deep Water Horizon? Coal ponds and fracking water? By-products of the extraction and production of rare earth minerals for solar panels and cell phones? And that most pervasive of pollutants, Smog?

    I’m trying to challenge the general notion that nuclear power is the son of the devil himself (I hope you won’t mind my using the masculine to describe evil. As a male I find it appropriate). So much of the devastation wrought on the planet has been the byproduct of energy technologies other than nuclear. Nuclear power plants can drive water purification systems, even desalination plants. They can drive industrial processes that can break down, process, and reuse the plastics that are strangling the land and oceans. They can power electrical systems for transportation, and smelting operations for the production of the steel and cable needed for the trains to carry the very materials needed for their own production and support. They can turn waste carbon into fuel and fertilizers. And they can, and do, burn the material previously present in the warheads of the most fearsome weapons ever devised by humankind, quite literally turning swords into ploughshares.

    And when they explode, and people run in fear, they leave behind an ecosystem capable of obliterating nearly all evidence of human habitation in less than thirty years.

    I do not work for the nuclear industry, and I do not own stock in it either. But after only a tiny amount of research I am utterly baffled by people who claim an interest in nature who consider this technology to be the very epitome of evil.

    Over to you. If you are interested. ;)

  • TemplarMyst

    Eloquent post. And you have some serious cajones to take such an unpopular position. I love he diversity of opinions on NBL. If we could but put all the opinion cards on the table for all to see and compare, I think we’d be in a better place than now.

  • Artleads

    Thank you. This thread is fading, but there will of course be others.

    I’ve become convinced we’ve got it all backwards on nuclear energy, and that any hope there might be of extremely serious carbon emission reductions in the very short term, nuclear needs to play a very significant role. The IPCC seems to agree, if the rumors of what is in their latest report are true.

    It seems to me a question of time. If 3-4C is 15 years away, well, it’s been nice knowin’ y’all.

    If it’s 50 years away, well, maybe, just maybe…

  • Lidia,

    Thanks for the reply. Real quick, the soil biology around Chernobyl appears quite robust and largely functioning normally. There are anomalies, but they seem small and localized.

    The containment process at Fukushima is proceeding. What is leaking into the Pacific, and contained in the retention tanks, is actually quite low level.

    Contrast the ocean state near the crippled reactor with the river states in China and the United Statues where various chemical/petroleum releases have occurred.

    In the former, an essentially healthy aquatic biosphere, in the latter mass die offs, anoxic states, denial of drinking water, and ongoing visible and direct environmental and societal impact.