Who Is the Mysterious Sam Carana of Arctic News Blog?
Dialog on Death, Round Two
by Anne Pyterek and Guy McPherson
ANNE: I think I know the answer to this, but let me ask you anyway. The word “positive,” as in positive feedback loop, obviously does not mean positive in the sense that it’s good. I’m thinking it means something that keeps making more of itself, good or bad. Is that accurate?
GUY: Yes, that’s exactly right. Because of the ambiguity generated by the term “positive feedback,” I now use the term “self-reinforcing feedback loop.” These phenomena feed upon themselves, much like a snake eating its own tail.
We’ve triggered more than three dozen self-reinforcing feedback loops. Probably the most dire in the near term are methane release from the shallow floor of the Arctic Ocean and methane release from permafrost. Methane is many times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and it breaks down into carbon dioxide.
ANNE: I guess the term “vicious circle” would be pretty accurate too … or “virtuous circle” for things that really are positive, like the water cycle or the nitrogen cycle …
ANNE: You know, ever since I read your book, I’m seeing feedback loops where ever I look. But social feedback loops. There’s that (I think, famous) flowchart that shows how, no matter what a woman does, she’s always wrong. You know the one I’m talking about? It’s a bit more convoluted than a simple loop, but I suspect the environmental feedback loops are, as well.
GUY: I don’t know the loop you’re thinking about. I know the question about a man speaking in the forest with no woman present: Is he still wrong?
I’ve been asked recently about social feedback loops, and why I didn’t include them within my forthcoming book, Extinction Dialogs. I’m no social scientist, and I think preceding the word “science” with another word suggests the discipline in question isn’t all science. Since I was asked the question, and informed about my ignorance and idiocy for not including these loops in the book, the social feedback loops have become increasingly apparent to me.
As an example, I’m reminded of a line from desert anarchist and iconoclastic writer Edward Abbey: “Civilization, like an airplane in flight, survives only as it keeps going forward.” There’s no scaling back civilization. If it slows, it crashes. One of my own definitions of civilization comes to mind: “Must go faster.”
ANNE: Exponentially faster and faster ’til the engine explodes! I absolutely agree about preceding the word “scientist” with anything. Being a social animal is more than enough expertise. This obsessive and infantile dependence on the opinion of “experts” is part of what’s keeping the vicious circles spinning so fast. I’m picturing a juggler, right now, with multiple plates all spinning on tall sticks, the rest of us waiting with bated breath for the inevitable crashes.
Perhaps your critics ought to write their own books. Losers.
The other thing I’ve been thinking about is the Book of Revelations. I can’t help but notice the similarity between what’s going on with the living planet and lurid death-cult fantasy of John’s hallucination. It’s not Gawd. It’s not a prediction. It’s a feedback loop. The death cult has wanted an apocalypse from the start and their twisted fantasy has been spinning faster and faster, contrary to all natural tendencies of Life. It re-created the world in its own distorted, exploitative and hateful image. And this world view has finally reached the saturation point: Death.
GUY: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Most people participating in this culture don’t have a clue where we’re going. I’m reminded of a bumper sticker I saw years ago: “Where am I going, and why am I in this hand-basket?” I doubt the driver recognized the irony as he drove his automobile straight to the hell we’ve created.
Climate change is hardly the only problem we face. Nuclear Armageddon rears its ugly head, despite warnings from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. The Sixth Great Extinction proceeds apace. And don’t even get me started on rape culture writ large.
ANNE: Oh, I know! It’s all rape culture! I’ve spent the last decade writing fiction about Rape Culture. Those things you list are the inevitable, ultimate by-products of the woman-hating, war-mongering death cult of the so-called (barf!) Heroic Age. All down hill from there. Eco-psychology 101 says what we do to ourselves, we do to the planet and what we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. Nothing else is possible. When you live on a sphere, everything comes back around. Feedback loop. Patriarchy could never create anything but death — spectacular technicolor mushroom clouds of Death; Death on an obscenely epic, Biblical scale; Death that is the be-all, end-all, the Death, even of Death itself.
GUY: We do death really well. We glorify it, while denying it will happen to our individual selves. We put death on display in books, magazines, music, television shows, and movies.
ANNE: We even sexualize it. I attended some Pentecostal church services in Louisiana, once (long story). The women in the congregation were, literally, overcome by really loud orgasmic shrieking at the idea of their vengeful god smiting the nonbelievers with his flaming sword. And how many movies cast guns and knives as sexy phallic symbols? And vampires? And serial killers? The links between sex and death in literature are too numerous to count. Only patriarchy could romanticize death. Death is where it’s at.
GUY: But it won’t happen to us.
ANNE: No. Never to us.
GUY: As the Buddha said, “The trouble is, you think you have time.”
Of course, that’s not our only trouble. Patriarchy is the root of many and perhaps most of our predicaments. I don’t know if it led to currency and the subsequent love of money — the Christian root of all evil — but patriarchy + money = death at a larger scale than most people can imagine.
ANNE: It definitely led to power, which currency measures … and only the extremely rich and powerful can pull off large scale destruction. Another feedback loop, of epic proportions.
GUY: Non-civilized people need not imagine the scale of destruction (these are the so-called “primitive” ones).They live it every day. The same goes for non-human species.
ANNE: 200 species a day.
I would imagine most people can’t even name 200 species. And as long as they’re not an iconic, majestic or noble species, it doesn’t seem like anybody cares.
The older I get, the more of an animist I become. The better I get at communicating with and understanding the other animals, the elements, the pulse of the earth, the more I know this is all that really matters. Civilized humanity spends half its time making up stupid things to fight about, and the other half fighting about it — and they’re so proud of themselves for it, patriotic. The justifications are so transparently stupid and arrogant. It really is embarrassing to be a member of this species.
GUY: I doubt many people can name even a dozen plants within a few hundred meter of their home. But everybody knows a few warm, fuzzy mammals with forward-facing eyes.
Patriotism is a special target of mine, although I rarely speak or write about it. Patriotism to the country in which one happened to be born is bizarre. Lack of patriotism to the lands and waters that allow us to live is beyond bizarre. And yet nearly everybody I know cheers for the national flag while ignoring or destroying the country on which the flag is planted. Again, a line from Edward Abbey resonates with me: “A patriotic must be ready to defend his country against his government.”
ANNE: Thomas Jefferson said something along those lines, too. But even he…the one the so-called patriots love so much… is ignored. Civilized minds, enamored as they are by the lure of the abstract, routinely consider the map more real than the territory it describes. This desperate, overwrought devotion to artificial constructs, like god and country, football teams, zip codes or what-have-you, drowns out the very quiet truth. We don’t even have a word for loyalty to the land. Drawn on political boundaries have meaning to civilized minds but forests? They only exist to give us lumber. Meadows? Parcel them out for malls and subdivisions. Rivers? That’s for flushing our toilets into. We’re so proud of our language, consider it the thing that “separates” us from the other animals (and that’s good, why?). This imagined separation enables so much destruction.
GUY: Here we get into the concept of resources. Had we been treating our non-human neighbors and relations rather than resources for the last few thousand years, I suspect the world would look a lot differently today. Alas, we’ve commodified virtually everything on the planet, including air, water, food, and companionship. Remember personnel departments? Now we have departments of human resources. We are all cogs in the planet-destroying machine, slaves to imperialism.
People often tell me the whole system isn’t working as planned. Au, contraire! It’s working exactly as planned. It’s not working for you, and it’s not working for me. But it’s working.
ANNE: It’s totally working as planned! Consider that line in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34:25) where Yahweh promises to rid the country of wild animals so that the sheep can dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the forests. The current “forest service” is fulfilling that promise every single day. They’re killing all the predators to make room for cattle — not to mention pandering to loggers, real estate developers & ATV manufacturers. And since they’re biologists — the “experts” — and use science-y sounding euphemisms like “management,” nobody minds.
Or the ever popular Genesis 1:28 — “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” That’s taken on a life of its own. It’s morphed into Big Ag — Big Everything, really. And it’s working way too well. It’s working so well, it seems like what Big Everything’s really doing is breeding a whole new type of cattle: Consumers. 7 billion and counting, and they’re all behaving like good livestock, buying everything they’re told they “need.”