Dialog on Death

by Anne Pyterek and Guy McPherson, and initially posted at Blue Bus Books

Buddha:
(to a student of his) “How often do you think about death?”

Student::
“Very often, probably dozens of times every day.”

Buddha:
“That’s not enough. You must think about death with every breath.”

Anne:
Oh Buddha, you’re just like a man! It’s so much more honest to feel! Death is not an abstract thing to think about…however often. It’s as messy and as urgent as Life. And feeling, be it about Life or Death, is way more meaningful…and true…than thinking.

Guy:
Life is urgent. The proverbial wolf is always at the door.
Let’s live. Let’s live now. Let’s live here now.

Anne:
Yes it is. And Buddha not-withstanding, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s much more important to feel Death. This opens us to the Mystery in a way thinking cannot. Feel it looming. It’s everywhere.

I had a profound encounter with a baby deer mouse the other day. She was quite young and inexperienced and had wandered from her nest. She was lost and didn’t know she was supposed to be afraid. When I picked her up, she curled up in my hand and went right to sleep. Poor thing was exhausted. I bonded with her pretty much instantly. Her infant form, twitching and dreaming in my hand, was beautiful and perfect, a miniature mammal, the same as every other baby. So alive! After a while, I wrapped her into a comfy sleeping rag and put her up in the luggage rack, hoping her mom would find her. No such luck. The next day, there she was on the bed, soaked in dog spit, half conscious and gasping for breath. I did the only thing left to do for her. I killed her. It was fast. The exhaustion, fear and pain of her brief life was done, along with the comfort and love of her mother’s nest. It was all over for her (presumably), but not for me.

Brooding on the developing Extinction Event as I’ve been, combined with the feeling of horror at what I’d done, combined with the end of a new life knocked me on my ass. I spent the whole day crying. I felt Death. And something bubbled up through this experience, some Wisdom of The Body. This tiny baby was, literally, The Earth. Every single life, from the tiniest mitochondria to the mightiest whale, and everything in between, is, literally, The Earth. This was not a thought. It was more like a revelation.

What I’m wondering, is not how often we think about death, but how honestly? Death is as constant and as persistent as Life, but how does our irrational fear of death, combined with our thinking about, rationalizing of and justification for killing influence the ways in which we treat Life?

Guy:
Thinking is good, and very difficult. As the ancient patriarch Henry Ford pointed out, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

And if you think thinking is difficult, imagine the difficulties attendant to feeling. Especially the difficult feelings associated with our demise.

How, then, do we deal with these feelings? Covering them up doesn’t work. Trust me, encouraged by cultured, I’ve tried.

Our grief-denying culture is especially astute at developing and promoting myths about grief. John W. James and Russell Friedman identified six major myths in their 2009 book, The Grief Recovery Handbook. Covering up our grief falls squarely into the myth that we ought not feel bad. Other myths include replace the loss (e.g., have another baby when your child dies, or replace your dead spouse with another), grieve alone, give it time (“time heals all wounds”), be strong (for yourself or others), and keep busy.

Anne:
Pull yourself up by your boot-straps. Yes. It’s even worse for miscarriages and abortions. Loss like that is not even acknowledged as loss. Let alone tolerated as a legitimate source grief. You need to be “over it” as soon as it happens. If a grief-denying culture cannot see the source of grief, grief is not allowed. Grief is only legitimate for something “real” and then, only in certain ways.

Guy:
These approaches do not aid the recovery from grief. They merely increase the comfort level of others while avoiding recognizing and recovering from a sense of loss.

Imagine you have a spurting wound. Blood is pouring from your femoral artery. Do any of the following statements from your friends help you heal?

“Don’t feel bad.”
“At least you have another leg.”
“Please go to your bedroom, I don’t want to see that.”
“That leg will be fine.”
“You need to be strong. Big boys don’t cry.”
“You should think about how fortunate you’ve been, to take your mind off your troubles.”

When your heart is broken, these statements do not help. To effectively deal with loss, you must recognize the loss and treat it with something beyond irrelevant, amorphous statements.

Anne:
Exactly. You have to acknowledge the reality of it and feel it…go all the way down and in, become it, even, before you can come out the other side. It’s similar to hitting rock bottom in order to recover from addiction. Because until you physical-ize it in some way, feel it in your gut and your heart, it remains an abstraction. Thinking is good, but not at the expense of feeling. The by-products of thinking without feeling are things like fear, hate, greed, exploitation, fascism, extinction events…

I spent the first 30-35 years of my life obsessively accumulating left-brain learning. (Like, really obsessively.) But when I came across the idea that it is actually illogical to be dismissive of emotional intelligence, a light-bulb went on. I began a quest (equally as obsessive!) to bring my EQ up to the same level as my IQ. Been at it for a couple decades now and, yeah–it is WAY more difficult. But it’s improved the quality of my thinking.

The cure is in re-learning feeling—and that takes courage, dedication and time.

Guy:
Recognition of grief as loss is an important point I failed to understand for many years. When I left behind my life as a academic scholar, I lost connection with colleagues, friends, and even most family members. The commonly regarded idea that I was insane — which, by the way, I’m not ruling out — led to nearly instant loss of all the relationships I cared about.

To make the matter much worse, I had no idea I was grieving because I had never connected grief with loss. I knew I was experiencing pain, but I had no label to put on it. As a result, I had no way to deal with the pain. Without a diagnosis, treatment is a blind shot at a rapidly moving target. Success seems highly unlikely.

What does success mean, with respect to grief? More appropriately, what does recovery from grief look like?

I think recovery means facing the pain head on, acknowledging it, addressing it, and then pursuing a healthy life. I’m not suggesting the pain will magically disappear. Recovering from grief doesn’t mean the memory fades into a heroin haze.

Life is painful. Feel it, and you’ll know what it means to be alive.

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Due to an overwhelming number of submissions, essays in this space will appear at the top of the page for only two days. Essays will be intermixed with questions for discussion, of which today’s is the first. If you could ask a single question concerning near-term human extinction, knowing that everyone at NBL will ponder and then offer an opinion, what form would that question take? If you’re willing, please send your question to guy.r.mcpherson@gmail.com. It will be posted anonymously for commentary in place of an essay.

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Nature Bats Last joins the airwaves Tuesday, 5 August 2014. McPherson will be joined every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern by co-host Mike Sliwa for this hour-long show on the Progressive Radio Network. Follow the page and join the group on Facebook.

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McPherson’s forthcoming book is co-authored by Carolyn Baker. Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind has been submitted to the publisher and is scheduled for release by mid-September 2014.

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Find and join the Near-Term Human Extinction Support Group on Facebook here

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If you have registered, or you intend to register, please send an email message to guy.r.mcpherson@gmail.com. Include the online moniker you’d like to use in this space. I’ll approve your registration as quickly as possible. Thanks for your patience.

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Going Dark is available from the publisher here, from Amazon here, from Amazon on Kindle here, from Barnes & Noble on Nook here, and as a Google e-book here. Going Dark was reviewed by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power, Anne Pyterek at Blue Bus Books, and by more than three dozen readers at Amazon.

Comments 53

  • Feeling all your emotions is the only sane path.On grief, I have been intimately aware of the earth for twenty years. The murder of the earth has for two decades been first and foremost in my mind. The grief is overwhelming. I don’t really know what to do other than to shift my emotional compass toward love for a few close personal human relationships and always,always for all the nonhuman sufferers.I think it is important to resist this culture we were so unlucky to be born into. That gives one a little peace of mind and redemption because after all we are the murderers. earthfirst and deep green resistance are good places to begin a journey of redemption.Direct action to stop even one forest from being destroyed gives millions of beautiful beings a chance to live lives of excellence and some of their lives are so short compared to ours that they will never have to know the complete destruction of the earth. To love and protect ALL others will be a salve for the rotten creepy plastic crap culture of asoul that we are all so toxically mired in. I love you Guy and all the heavily sorrowed souls at nature bats last. Thank you so much for loving my beautiful earth!

  • Grief is not something you do, or something you work on, or enhance, or get in touch with, or anything else. It is living. It is here now as a part of the fabric of sentience. It is personal. It is a part of who you are. To say the culture doesn’t allow it, denies it, is ridiculous. All of us are grieving, all the time, at some level, for some loss. Just notice it.

    There is nothing to fix here. Abide gently in your own natural state and you will see wonder and grief in equal measure, symbiotic twins in the dance of life and death.

  • Life is all that matters. Death is boring. Non-being is not a state to aspire towards, though it is the state all living things eventually achieve. My rage is directed towards those who are killing the planet, so it is largely directed at the First World and myself. Grief is secondary to the anger I feel, but more than either of those I appreciate the absurdity of our situation. What a bunch of dummies. What a perfectly rotten joke we’ve pulled on ourselves.

  • Speak for yourself Grant! What’s this we business?

  • Always a pleasure to read Grant’s sober response!

  • This funny in a not funny way
    There’s been a few different friends that I have witnessed going about some aspect of life in such a routine and depressed fashion.
    I’ve said to them, “You know, huh.”
    Their responses always have been,
    “Huh.”

  • @ Shep: Oh sorry. All disembodied spirits that can somehow work a computer are totally exempt from any responsibility whatsoever. But then I was lumping the human race into “we” I did not mean to include anyone who is so far above it all they can walk on water and pass through walls. I would certainly hate to think in the prospect of total annihilation anyone’s sensitivities were bruised. You are hereby absolved of all wrong doing, but still get to die anyway. That’s got to suck something fierce, eh?

  • Do you mind if I play Devil’s advocate for a minute, Guy?
    Exactly how do I lead as life of excellence. Who decides?
    Be kind…?
    I guess, not killing everything is kind, but I can’t NOT be a part of that whole thing.

  • Good question, mt. I don’t know how you pursue a life of excellence. For me, the pursuit involves questioning every aspect of contemporary culture and encouraging others to do the same.

    At least for me, the questions are as important as the answers. And perhaps even more important. Regardless of the answers, I believe their pursuit is worthy.

  • Most individuals on this planet have had nothing to do with the collapse we are now experiencing. Death doesn’t fiercely suck for me. Fact is, I’m glad that justice is a-coming for the guilty parties, which doesn’t include me, Grant, maybe you, but not me. Does that fiercely suck for u? It shudn’t.

  • Good question, mt.

    Isn’t that a tremendous question. It should be one of the questions, later on perhaps.

    I think there is only one moment, this moment, so every moment is your last moment, so you always just died.

    But here you are. In this moment. And, within certain limits, it can be whatever you want it to be.

    What you make of it depends on you, and what you are.

    And to a great extent that depends upon whether you know yourself and have self control.

    If you follow the Vedic or Buddhist or other similar related teachings and training methods you can get complete self control and thus be free from all suffering. Isn’t that a wonderful accomplishment ?

    Isn’t that what everyone wants ? To be free from pain and suffering ?

    Except that this achievement means that you are no longer really a human being at all. You’re like one of those stone buddha statues, sitting with a serene grin, while all around the wild life goes extinct, the forests burn, and the children are mutilated by exploding bombs.

    Thus we get the complacent, self-satisfied bullshit that Chefurka and Datta prescribe. For all their wisdom none of the ancient Eastern sages ever sussed Darwinian evolution or empirical science, and they accepted the appalling injustice of the soceities and cultures they lived in and made no attempt to change them.

    On the other hand, if you don’t become a stone buddha, and you empathise with the extreme agony and horror that is extant on this planet every minute of every day and night, the ghastly treatment of factory farmed animals, the terror of children being bombed, the endless cruelty, savagery, and pain – I mean this, not as an idea, but actually tuning in and sensing it – just to get near is too much.

    It’s like approaching a river of molten lava, it fries your skin off, so you have to retreat. You cannot function as a human being if you are going to merge into all of that suffering, all that agony, all that anguish.

    This is something that the Christians understand far better than the Buddhists and Hindus and Taoists, because they have the understanding that comes from praying before the crucified Christ, that is, the idea of a man who achieved perfection, but who was broken and destroyed by pain, because he participated in the midst of everyone’s ordinary lives.

    So somehow, there is a balance that has to be found, to be fully a human being, the highest potential of whatever that means, but not being destroyed by the demands. I think this is a terrific challenge.

    I think it has to be done, in each moment.

    People will have their different paths and formulations and ways of mapping and understanding what they are. You have to select the one that is right for you, yourself.

    There’s a lot of people on this blog who insist upon science and what they call ‘rationality’ as the only way to deal with their understanding of existence, and they tend to denigrate what they call ‘religion’ or ‘spirituality’.

    And then there’s the other lot, who cling to a whole range of beliefs which have no basis in logic or science at all, but which they find rewarding for one reason or another.

    The two camps always polarise and divide into groups with acrimonious relationships, and then sub-divide, until you get left with two people who agree about 99.99% of everything but still fight over the remainder and end up not speaking to one another.

    Thing is, reason and rationality and logic are NO USE, for the ultimate questions, because when it comes right down to it, we have no clue at all why any of this exists or is happening or what it means.

    You know, it might helpful to acknowledge that.

    But it doesn’t follow that reason, rationality, logic, and science should be abandoned as worthless, because they are very useful, valuable, precious.

    If you meditate a bit you can get some self control over your attention. Then you can focus awareness in different places. Then, you can concentrate your consciousness in different parts of your body, as mapped by the chakras, for example.

    Alex Gray has done wonderful paintings that illustrate these.

    http://www.ecosia.org/search/images/q/Alex+grey+chakras

    Each chakra has different mental or psychological qualities. So this means that, in each moment, you have the potential to be filled with or occupied by or dominated by ideas or sensations associated with love, or food, power, sex, creativity, god, etc. and you can change these at will.

    Most people do not know this and spend all their time stuck in one mode or another, blindly obsessed by whatever is on that level. Typically, the lower chakras, food, sex, power (money).

    So, if you wish to pursue excellence, my suggestion would be, to get some insight into this stuff, get some control, so you have some choice, in each moment, as to what level you are operating on.

    What I am saying, we have this fabulous potential as spiritual entities, which most people are not aware of. To be such, does not in any sense diminish or reduce our potential to be functioning rational, reasoning, logical humans, even scientists. There is no conflict between the two.

  • We have hard tundra burning just 70 miles south of the Arctic Ocean. No trees here, just an endless expanse of thawing ground.

    (See URL for photos. Scroll down for wildfire burning near Laptev Sea on August 1, 2014.)

    Permafrost Fires Advancing Toward Arctic Ocean Shores
    https://robertscribbler.com/2014/08/02/permafrost-fires-are-advancing-toward-arctic-ocean-shores/

  • I’m waiting for someone to say to me, “O my god! Holy shit, we’re all gonna die! How long have you known about this near term f’ed up shit?!?

    I’ll be able to answer, “Well, actually, long enough to go through the full five stages of the grieving process. In fact, I completed the last one, acceptance, six months ago.”

    Then I’ll explain the five stages of the grieving process and how NTE has been around for a few years now and that, as an emotional exercise, I’ve decided to start over with denial and work through the process again, just for fun!

    No, I’m kidding! HaHa!

    I do want to say that The Dialog On Death was super! Anne and Guy, great job, really cool! I heard love defined once as a “responsible response”. I think a lot of people are frightened and in shock. They need someone level headed, who cares, to say it’s OK, you won’t go wrong by allowing healthy emotions.

  • Deep summer, and six weeks now since the last few drops of rain. The sky still heaves through the familiar motions of late afternoon. Clouds boil up and sweep over. Thunder teases in the distance. Earth becomes dust. There is a dark sense of shifting, as the tectonics of time and circumstance toss us up, out, and away from the known world, beyond the comforting pull of gravity.

    Annie- I loved your writing about the baby deer mouse. Ask not for whom the bell tolls…..

    Guy- as for questioning contemporary culture, NTE has put more than that in question for me…
    like the nature of realty, existence, identity, guilt, grief, and anger. Who am I and what is my relationship to my fellow plants and animals, my biosphere, and to even my own species?
    My entire stucture of relevance and priorities now lie in a smoldering pile waiting to be reconstructed according to this new Knowledge, when all I really wanted was a heavy body buzz and to chill.

    Steve- good post. What a lovely phrase, “all the heavily sorrowed souls at nature bats last.”

  • More compelling and disturbing evidence from the United Kingdom concerning the Animal/Human Mutilation enigma:

  • Shep says: “Fact is, I’m glad that justice is a-coming for the guilty parties, which doesn’t include me, Grant, maybe you, but not me.”

    This is almost perfect nonsense. A wobbly three-legged dog of a belief system, but in America we’re trained to believe in opposing things all the time.

    Runaway global climate change brought about by the massive release of methane is not “justice” anymore than a hurricane or a tornado is justice. And it’s coming for everyone, not just the “guilty” which Shep isn’t part of because his computer wasn’t built by Chinese slaves, it is an 100% biodegradable lichen computer he grew from a cutting and it’s not powered by electricity, but by his shinning innocence.

    Being unable to accept responsibility, let alone any fraction of blame, is America’s favorite sport. Dodging any shred of guilt, yet relishing in the death of the “guilty” has a decidedly Christian flavor to it, where the Second Coming is assured one’s place next to Jesus with front row seats for watching all the sinners burning in hell. And this version is pleasing to them? Absolutely.

    But hell on earth is coming. For everything. Like so many people, Shep has exempted himself from that possibility. While friends and neighbors are starving to death, he will be calmly tending his garden, kept safe by God’s love or whatever it is that sets him above all others. Lovely.

  • It’s strange, UL, that the more self control I gain, the more choice I have. I have been a manipulated and obedient marionette.

  • The permafrost fires link from Robertscribbler, brought to us by MMM here, looks like one of the prime ways things could accelerate beyond even Guy’s dire projections, an equivalent of Shakhova’s methane burp, happening now in real time. (Takes a lot to scare me these days, and this did.)

    Prepare for masses of people to jump from ignorant denial, to panicked accumulation. Whatever plans you may hope to make to meet this, and ameliorate your own condition, better to be a couple months or years too early than a couple days too late.

    (Holy Toledo! Got water?)

  • Don’t worry, your government has everything under control:

    http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/25129-focus-more-radiation-exposure-wont-hurt-you-says-us-epa

    More Radiation Exposure Won’t Hurt You, Says U.S. EPA

    “Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations” means what?

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States is a full blown oxymoron when it comes to protecting U.S. residents from the danger of increased exposure to ionizing radiation. That’s the kind of radiation that comes from natural sources like Uranium and the sun, as well as unnatural sources like uranium mines, nuclear weapons, and nuclear power plants (even when they haven’t melted down like Fukushima). The EPA is presently considering allowing everyone in the U.S. to be exposed to higher levels of ionizing radiation.

    In 1977, the EPA established levels of radiation exposure “considered safe” for people by federal rule (in bureaucratese, “the regulation at 40 CFR part 190”). In the language of the rule, the 1977 safety standards were: “The standards [that] specify the levels below which normal operations of the uranium fuel cycle are determined to be environmentally acceptable.” In common parlance, this became the level “considered safe,” even though that’s very different from “environmentally acceptable.” Acceptable by whom? The environment has no vote.

    The phrase “considered safe” is key to the issue, since there is no “actually safe” level of radiation exposure. The planet was once naturally radioactive and lifeless. Life emerged only after Earth’s radiation levels decayed to the point where life became possible, in spite of a continuing level of natural “background radiation.” The reality is that there is no “safe” level of radiation exposure.

    In January 2014, the EPA issued a very long proposal (in bureaucratese, an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”) to consider raising the “safe” radiation levels established in 1977. According to the EPA, the proposal “does not propose revisions to the current regulation, but is being issued only to collect information to support EPA’s review.” The public comment period on the EPA proposal ­– titled “Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations” – has been extended to August 4, 2014.

    Comments from the public may be submitted online at regulations.gov, by email via a-and-r-docket@epa.gov, as well as by hand, fax, or U.S. mail, all listed on-site.

    Is the EPA actually immersed in a protection racket?

    The studied ambiguity of the proposal’s title – “Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations” – goes to the heart of the issue: who or what is really being protected, nuclear power operations?

    Quite aware that it is perceived by some as placing the desires of the nuclear power industry above the safety needs of the population, the EPA begins its proposal for changing radiation limits with this defensive and apparently contradictory passage:

    This Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is being published to inform stakeholders, including federal and state entities, the nuclear industry, the public and any interested groups, that the Agency is reviewing the existing standards to determine how the regulation at 40 CFR part 190 should be updated and soliciting input on changes (if any) that should be made.
    This action is not meant to be construed as an advocacy position either for or against nuclear power. [emphasis added]

    EPA wants to ensure that environmental protection standards are adequate for the foreseeable future for nuclear fuel cycle facilities.

    As far as the EPA is concerned, the uranium fuel cycle does not include uranium mining, despite the serious environmental danger that process entails. Once the environmental and human degradation from uranium mining has been done, the EPA begins regulating environmental protection from nuclear fuel cycle facilities, beginning with milling and ending with storage or reprocessing facilities for nuclear waste.

    According to the agency itself, “EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. EPA sets limits on the amount of radiation that can be released into the environment.”

    Radiation exposure is chronic, cumulative, and unhealthy [there’s more, including comments, worth reading]

  • “The plight of the urban poor” is one of those clichés which has poured off our liberal-leaning lips all of our lives, with little personal meaning.

    Today, I’m funding a 9-yr-old boy’s birthday party at school, cake, cookies, etc, which apparently doesn’t happen unless mama brings it in.

    But another call brings me news I’d been missing for a couple of months : mother of twin babies has to move, due to sister’s illness unable to pay half of $300 rent, causing her to move to neighborhood too dangerous for me to visit.

    Today or tomorrow, we’ll be out buying milk supply for a couple of weeks, but first some cell minutes. This is how you know one of these “urban poor ” families is really out of money; you can’t reach them — and they can’t reach each other– on this vital lifeline.

    How much could I have helped? Bow much could I spare? My budget is ample, but temporary. Will they be among the first to perish, hungry as they go now, though defiantly generous in feeding me when I’m here.

    My own troubles shrink to insignificance, another cliché, but true. So I dive into their world for an intense week and then retreat to my own hermitic comforts.

  • Some people are absolute fools and always jump to conclusions. I am an atheist and have been for a long, long time. I hate religions. They are the reason we have NO justice or sanity.

    Too bad some cannot see the forest for the trees. This is why this country, led by brigands since Columbus first stepped ashore and cried, “Where is the Gold! I need pussy!”, is responsible for virtually all that is happening to this once Eden planet.

  • If anyone has an interest, I have posted the following response to mikeroberts2013 at Fractal Planet:

    Sorry. I fail to follow your reasoning and argument that complexity theory and nonequilibrium thermodynamics supposedly weaken the dire implications of the evidence that McPherson reports. It seems to me that they strengthen his views. It seems to me that the complex system tipping points, rapid, unpredictable changes, and irreversibility inherent in Earth’s biosphere, make it clear that one canNOT (reasonably) reason about the evidence based exclusively on linear, Cartesian-Newtonian thinking and then come to presumably reliable conclusions and make supposedly reliable predictions (or alleged predictions to counter other’s probabilistic predictions, as so many so strongly wish here to do here with respect to McPherson). The best one can do seems to involve saying something to the effect that MAJOR, RAPID CHANGES CAN AND PROBABLY WILL OCCUR AT ANY TIME. This seems to me quite consistent with the evidence that Guy reports and his warnings, not contradictory to them as you and some others here insist.

  • @ Shep

    But you are not a fool ?

    Religions are belief systems. Atheism is a belief system. The Pre-columbian indigenous inhabitants of the Americas had religions/belief systems. Everybody has a belief system.

    I hate religions implies that all religions are the same, which is a non-sensical absurd uninformed statement, because even a few minutes study shows that they differ vastly in what they believe and in how their believers behave.

    Atheists – under Stalin and Mao Zedung were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, and the awful suffering of hundreds of millions more. Atheism does not lead automatically to justice and sanity any more than religion does.

  • Henry says, “Holy Toledo, got water?”

    I’m with you on that, buddy! Even if you knew you only had a week or so to live, having clean water is a minimum requirement.

    This company has hand pumps for a decent price. If you don’t have a shallow or deep well, find a neighbor and make arrangements to set up a hand pump if water stops flowing.

    http://www.survivalunlimited.com/waterpumps.htm

    Also, you can easily Google methods for filtering and killing germs in lake water, etc. using cloth and household bleach.

  • @ Shep

    As hurtful as so much religious belief has proven over millennia, perhaps especially the Abrahamic religions, and as gratifying as it can feel to blame religions, I think that, unfortunately, many of our human problems, and our final, fatal, self-annihilation predicament, go much deeper than just religion. Indeed, to me religions serve as A SIGN, an EXPRESSION OF, those deeper neurological and psycho-emotional processes, which relate to our neurological “hard-wiring” for a preference for immediate gratification vs. longer-term gratification. I think that people love religious beliefs, music, ritual, and so on, largely because THEY FEEL GOOD RIGHT NOW. They provide an immediate gratification charge of feel-good chemicals in people’s brains, and this provides relief, especially during times of great stress and anxiety. Thus we have our strong tendency toward many kinds of addictive behaviors. Thus, also, most of us, most often, generally tend strongly toward short-term hedonism, often out-of-touch with important realities outside of our heads, instead of toward a more reality-focused, longer-term hedonism that would have given our species a much greater chance for longer-term survival.

  • Long, and slightly off topic, but then death is not a distant prospect for many parts of the world:

    http://zcomm.org/sendpress/eyJpZCI6NzMwNzA5LCJ2aWV3IjoiZW1haWwifQ/

  • For those who missed it when first explained at NBL:
    Direct radiation is a different beast from radionuclides.

  • Bud Nye: Thus we have our strong tendency toward many kinds of addictive behaviors. Thus, also, most of us, most often, generally tend strongly toward short-term hedonism, often out-of-touch with important realities outside of our heads, instead of toward a more reality-focused, longer-term hedonism that would have given our species a much greater chance for longer-term survival.

    Exactly so.

    That’s why we see the spectre of the religious teacher, whether of the Abrahamic sort or the Dharmic sort, kanoodling around, or living high on the hog while their followers live off of crumbs, or treating people like servants and slaves.

    That’s why you see so many alpha males in politics and business and sports and entertainment (like Bill Clinton) who just can’t or won’t keep it in their pants.

    And before someone hollers PATRIARCHY, women in the same sort of position are not at all exempt or immune from the same tendency to follow the path of least resistance to short term pleasure at long term expense – when they have opportunity. Read about the decline and fall of the British Empire, and the house parties they had every weekend at the great estates. The women were in for a penny, in for a pound, just as much as the men.

    This reaction is actually built into our brain structure. When we fall in love, or lust, or limerance – the most universal of human activities, designed to propagate the species – our brains produce a chemical soup that gives us a bad case of beer goggles for our beloved. That’s got strong evolutionary purpose for our species – but it happens (as Bud says) with all sorts of behaviors that are arguably addictive and provide short term pleasure but long term suffering and even death.

    And this is just as true for noble savage types. If you want to conquer an indigenous culture, don’t fight them – bring them McDonalds. It works like a charm, every time!

    It’s like that rat in the box, with the lever hooked up to the electrodes that go into the sweet spot in the brain, so that he’ll continue to press that lever 24/7 until he drops dead.

    We’ve got that going on. We – as a species – as one of MANY species – have got that going on.

    Guy, you’re the scientist here! Isn’t that the deal? Am I right, or am I right?

    Now, I’m not saying that EVERYBODY is going to behave like a junkie ALL the time. Some people really WILL live lives of true EXCELLENCE – walking their talk, being consistent across the various areas of their own lives, eschewing that short term love affair because it’s corrosive for the long term marriage, eating all their veggies, and avoiding Twinkies, forgiving one and all and not nursing grudges, etc etc etc.

    Some people will have enough control over what Buddhism calls their “kleshas” or blind passions, where they won’t need to act as if they’ve got a bad case of Tourette’s Syndrome when it comes to having a discussion on the internets.

    Some people really will be able to drive around New York City all day long without cursing the so-and-so’s who cut them off in traffic repeatedly.

    And some people won’t need to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs or compulsive masturbation to cool the fires raging in their fevered brains.

    Some people really DO live those lives of excellence. But a lot more would just like you to think that they do. In the Gospels, those would be the scribes and the pharisees, if you wanted to take your lessons from that particular set of stories.

    As for me, I say BULLSHIT to that call to live a life of excellence. Honestly, I never did before, so why start now, when time is so short, and it doesn’t even matter what kind of life I live or don’t live? So I can assuage feels of guilt and failure, and go out in a blaze of “I’m OK, you’re not OK”?

    No, my goals are a lot more modest.

    If I can finish off the back nine without being a total lying, hypocritical and murderous asshole, and actually help a person or two as time and circumstances permit, I’m good with that. Everything else is just gravy – or beer goggles chemical soup – or whatever.

    Well…it’s time to go get some dinner – in this case something I didn’t grow myself, kill myself, butcher myself. It’s not organic, and will be cooked up for me by a little guy with a big wok in the back of my local Chinese take out joint.

    Such is life…and I’m OK with it, because there’s no point in not being OK with it, at this point. All the bunnies and butterflies are going to go the way of all flesh whether I eat dinner tonight, or not.

  • Most people on this site say waaaaay too much. Maybe they are over educated and want to show off.

    The other problem is that people here come up with the most bizarre interpretations. They take off in directions on their own. You would think they would ask a few questions first.

    In this setting one cannot possibly know a person in any depth. You have to be there.

  • @Ed “It’s like that rat in the box, with the lever hooked up to the electrodes that go into the sweet spot in the brain, so that he’ll continue to press that lever 24/7 until he drops dead.”

    An apt analogy for industrial civilization.

    Technology has given us the sense that as a species, we’re in control our fate. But it’s an illusion. Ultimately technology has given us the means to hasten our own extinction and, regrettably, the extinction of most other life forms.

  • WHAT do three enormous craters in the Siberian wastelands have to do with a terrified American climate scientist? Methane. And that’s something to scare us all.

    The end of the world could be starting right now — in a frozen Siberian wasteland known as Yamal. It translates as “The End of the Land”.

    ===
    Are Siberia’s methane blow-holes the first warning sign of unstoppable climate change?
    http://www.couriermail.com.au/technology/are-siberias-methane-blowholes-the-first-warning-sign-of-unstoppable-climate-change/story-fnjww4qa-1227006746397

  • Using one methane outlier (that was subsequently retracted by the governmental agency that had the authority), Malcolm Light forecast NTE.

    With a whole slew of outliers (“Dragon’s Breath”, “WTF?”) now identified by Jason Box, maybe there a governmental agency available with the authority to quash the outliers?

    In the case of humans, they can be droned, Gitmoed, or neutralised in a variety of ways. But unlike humans, info is much harder to corral in the Digital Age. And even if the information could be hid or officially discredited, Nature Bats Last, info or no info.

  • Hurried…thats the overwhelming feeling I get everytime I go out the door and face the world, everyone seems hurried to get somewhere or to get away from something, is it death?….maybe!

    http://recode.net/2014/08/04/i-want-it-and-i-want-it-now-its-time-for-instant-gratification/

  • @ Shep

    Most people on this site say waaaaay too much. Maybe they are over educated and want to show off.

    The other problem is that people here come up with the most bizarre interpretations. They take off in directions on their own. You would think they would ask a few questions first.

    In this setting one cannot possibly know a person in any depth. You have to be there.

    It’s also possible to be under-educated. Many ‘intuitive’ truths turn out not to be true. That’s what science has found to be the case. Educated people know this. An example being the difference between climate and weather.

    Of course, it is impossible to get to know any human being in depth, when all there is to go on is words on a screen, but being overly laconic doesn’t help either.

    Seems to me some people can convey great insight and wisdom via this medium, despite its limitations.

    For example, I submit this today. The topic concerns death. The 2nd WW was ghastly, of course, but for sheer horror, nothing in the history of the world really compares with the trenches of WW1 and when I think of the horses that were dragged into all that…

    And when you read about the people who were in charge and the staggering idiocy and irresponsibility, it defies belief… and yet NOW, we are all being dragged into a repeat performance, by people who are, amazingly, even more reckless, ignorant, vile, stupid, and insane than those people were… and most people don’t even seem to have noticed !

    That is because of UNDER education, Shep.

    History is ‘with us and in us.’

    The peace made at Versailles, Collingwood thought, had not been a wise one. And the experience of the war pushed him into reflecting on the extraordinary gulf between the increase which the growth of the hard sciences had caused in man’s ability to control nature, and the complete absence of any corresponding increase in man’s ability to understand and control human affairs. The sense of the magnitude of this gulf led Collingwood to write that at the end of the war ‘I seemed to see the reign of natural science, within no very long time, converting Europe into a wilderness of Yahoos.’

    The answer which Collingwood gave to this problem was emphatically not that the ‘human sciences’ could and should attempt to emulate the ‘hard sciences’. The art of politics, as he saw it, was in the management of specific situations. And specific situations could only be understood in the context of their history. What he provided was a philosophical elaboration of the insights contained in two quotations which Stephen F. Cohen placed at the outset of his 1985 study ‘Rethinking the Soviet Experience.’

    One was the famous remark of William Faulkner: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ The other was a comment by one of the best of officially-published Soviet writers, Yuri Trifonov: ‘History is not simply something that was. History is with us and in us.’

    A critical point that Collingwood sought to draw out was that the presence of the past in us is commonly complex and contradictory. And he also stressed that it is precisely the way the past lives on that gives us some kind of ability to recreate it, from which it follows that the faculties of imagination which enable us to link past and present, both ways, are ones which we should seek to cultivate, not suppress.

    It was a discussion which I found immensely illuminating, in part because it helped me to make sense of my own ambivalences: to grasp that the culture which Kipling celebrated, and the culture which grew up in reaction to it, in part out of the accounts of First World War experience given by figures like Owen, are both part of me.

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2014/08/on-truth-and-honor-the-mh17-shootdown-and-the-centenary-of-world-war-i-.html

  • Just to make things clear, i’m not trying to impress anyone and i’m certainly not “over educated.” I post these markers of our descent into collapse (which will eventually lead to extinction, imho) to warn us (anyone interested) that things are accelerating.

    This 14 minute video exposes the threat of the 37 mile long thinning Larson B ice-shelf to sea level rise that could in an instant raise sea-level by “10 to 13 feet around the world.” [right around the 11 min. mark]

    From the North polar region at the same time (ie. right now) we have vast quantities of methane just beginning to escape from the sea floor (via Sam Carana)

    https://arctic-news.blogspot.ca/2014/08/warm-waters-threaten-to-trigger-huge-methane-releases-from-arctic-ocean-seafloor.html

    Anyone who can listen, read, and think can draw their own conclusions.

  • “Anyone who can listen, read, and think can draw their own conclusions.”

    Thank you, Tom.

  • The burning of the Siberian tundra, of the (thawing) permafrost/peat may be a mixed blessing. Oxidation through combustion in air will produce carbon dioxide, rather than the methane of anaerobic microbial decomposition. And there will be that much less organic matter for microbes to feast on in the geologic present – but also that much less organic matter for conversion to coal in the geologic future.

  • I’m just picturing this waiting room in some state-run building:
    “Next.”
    “Yes, I’m here for evaluation.”
    “I see 10 years of search, research and some math listed here.”
    “Yes.”
    “Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Jones, you are cut-off. Too much knowledge. You ARE over-educated”!
    “But-but-but.”
    “Next.”

  • @Bud Nye/Ed:
    Otoh let’s not forget that most of the techniques that characterise civilisation- storage of surpluses, bureaucracy, massive edifice-building, etc., are anything but short-termist. Imo just as strong a case could be made for our impending non-viability being due to an excess of ‘long-termism’- always neurotically striving to meet future contingencies- than to a lack of it?

  • @ Ed:

    I think that you expressed many important ideas extremely well here. I do disagree with you, though, concerning the life of excellence issue. How so? Why? Because (even though I think of this as various positions along a continuum, not in either-or boxes) thinking of the disadvantages of short-term hedonism vs. the advantages of long-term hedonism, I strongly prefer the implications for myself and for others of living a life of excellence over the implications for myself and others of the alternative opposite.

    And here, yet another response to both mikeroberts2013 and Scott Johnson at Fractal Planet, if anyone has any interest:

    No. Again, I do not claim that “…the future of our earth system can’t be determined by what you call Cartesian/Newtonian science…”. Yet again, I claim that complexity theory and nonequilibrium thermodynamics–not me–make it clear that we cannot reliably predict the future of Earth’s complex systems using only Cartesian-Newtonian reasoning and science. I disagree with your assumption and insistence that Guy presumably has made, and continues to make, his dire prediction of an extremely high probability of NTHE, or near extinction, based only on Cartesian-Newtonian thinking and science. I do not know of anything that he has written or said to the effect, as you claim, that he bases his reasoning about the probable consequences for us only on Cartesian-Newtonian reasoning and science and that he has previously denied the relevance of complexity theory and nonequilibrium thermodynamics. Indeed, he explicitly wrote to me that he agrees with the implications of complexity theory and nonequilibrium thermodynamics.

    You seem to want to hold it against both him and me that he appears not to have written previously using those terms. You seem to reason that, “If he did not earlier refer to ‘complexity theory’ and ‘nonequilibrium thermodynamics’, and indeed, he does not write using those terms now, then he must, both in the past and now, reason based only on Cartesian-Newtonian thinking and evidence.” This seems like a pretty obviously false assumption to me. For all you and I know, he may have thought of the world in terms of complexity theory and nonequilibrium thermodynamics since he was 12 years old, but never used those terms or openly discussed his thinking about these things with anyone. Meanwhile, complexity theory and nonequilibrium thermodynamics do not replace Cartesian-Newtonian physics. They do not make Cartesian-Newtonian physics “wrong” any more than relativity theory or quantum mechanics make it wrong. Instead, these newer scientific fields define appropriate and inappropriate systems for using the different kinds of scientific reasoning and evidence.

    Meanwhile, Scott’s positive assertion to Glomerol that “…is very different from ‘climate change will have costly impacts and we need to get to work stabilizing it, which we can absolutely do'” explains much, indeed, about this blog and it’s strong, crystal clear bias with respect to “the science”. We can, presumably, dominate and control the planet just as Bacon and Descartes said, if we will just maintain our faith in our technology. Would you care to tell us, Scott, how you come by the certain knowledge that we supposedly “absolutely can stabilize Earth’s climate” despite it’s obviously chaotic nature, complexity theory, and nonequilibrium thermodynamics? It presumably has to work that way because Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, and Newton said it does? Have you not learned anything about the limitations of Newtonian physics from relativity theory and quantum mechanics? Does Cartesian-Newtonian thinking really make you omniscient? Really? This assertion doesn’t seem just a little bit grandiose to you, especially in an age of modern physics? Your statement tends strongly to support my earlier expressed thought to Lewis that, perhaps, this blog serves as a set-up to encourage as many people as possible to support highly profitable, corporate, geoengineering projects. Whether that proves true, or not, it serves as an excellent example of hubris within Baconian-Cartesian thinking taken to its logical extreme.

  • How can one live a “life of excellence” while participating in Industrial Civilization? I don’t get it.

    When at the end of the road we find that we can no longer
    function as a human being, either with or without Industrial Civilization, we all face the same dilemma. What is there left to do?

    Well, for me, there is nothing left to do. I’m done.

    Just sitting on this runaway train, staring out the window, with a cat on my lap.

    The Voluntary Extinction Movement
    Thou shalt not procreate.

    The Church of Euthanasia
    Save the planet, kill yourself.

  • Hi Guy and others, could you say if this is good news:

    According to Prof Stefan Fölster, a Swedish chief economist, the climate change will increase agricultural yields. In his 2008 book named “Goodbye to the end of the world” Fölster describes the situation as follows:

    “Let’s be honest: is it possible for six billion people to change their lifestyle in order to prevent climate change? Even if we switch to hybrid cars and move to live in eco-villages, all countries cannot afford such luxury. We know this and continue to consume as before, but we have a bad conscience. Although climate change is a reality, we don’t have to live like at the end of the world. It is already time to recover from the moral hangover and look to the future. Climate change can not be prevented, but we can adapt to it. The human species has survived past calamities, why not survive again? For example, we can prepare for sea level rise by building flood-proof houses not too near to the sea. The rising global temperature will reduce heating costs, increase agricultural yields, and allow forests to grow faster. Climate change does not mean end of the world but a change to which it is possible to adapt.”

  • Guy:
    Life is urgent. The proverbial wolf is always at the door.
    Let’s live. Let’s live now. Let’s live here now.

    And let’s get out of our heads and into the outdoors, while it is still beautiful. Breathe the air while it’s still sweet. And let’s love our lovers deeply and well. And hold our children close. And let our children go, when it’s time. Not concentrating on the horrors of death every minute, but keeping it always in mind.

    Let’s take a lot of photos and write down our stories. Let’s make a record, a true one. Not some Hollywood tearjerker. Something real, that documents our real joy and our deepest sorrow. Let’s make works of art that help us make sense out of the senselessness, if we can.

    I have a question.

    Assume you could have been born at any time in history. Would you have chosen to be born into this life you have now, or would you have deliberately chosen to be born at some earlier time? As in when we were more ignorant about the effects of man-made climate disaster.

    I have asked myself this question, and the truth is that I can’t think of a time I’d rather live, even with the obvious negative consequences we face.

    Of course, my quasi-religious, made-up, self-conjured spiritual POV says I DID choose to incarnate in 1955, for reasons of necessary spiritual growth. 🙂

  • Here in Whistler we’ve just suffered through a Yoga festival, and quite a show it was– a 600 dollar entry, extravagant impact on the community and ecosystem for the lights and show and all the rest– the town packed full of expensive new vehicles(big ‘uns too, got carry the megababy strollers, dog crates, and yoga mats)– leashes for the children but the dogs run free. . .it’s amazing what lengths entitlement can drive one completely miss the point.

    The truth can be bent a long way without breaking by the gentle pressure of wishing. . .fer sure.

    Another note from the funeral industry as we’re discussing death– it’s not really lost on the pros the dirty little secret of the emotional state of many at the memorial service– the awkward discomfort many feel of discovering that while they expected to feel some grief at the loss of someone, a lot of times they really don’t give a damn. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a display of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the emotional motivation is much akin to guilt than grief. I’ll suggest again– grief is a feeling you experience when you suffer loss. Guilt that feeling when you when you should have done something and didn’t– around here is that “didn’t do/haven’t done” “suffer loss?”

    For a tutorial on grief looks like, Gaza unfortunately is a pretty great place to start.

    I think it was Chris Hitchens who quipped about Rush Limbaugh “He’s what a stupid man thinks a intelligent man sounds like.” Straight to the point, for sure. We’ve got be careful that when we discuss things like grief, or loss, or any of the rest of this stuff that we don’t make the stupid man’s mistake and simply look for a display of what we think “grief” might look like. Or any of the rest. In my experience emotional states can near always be evaluated by looking at what is engendered by the emotive import of the sensation. People that “feel” do stuff–and it’s probably not limited to pithy blog posts. People that feel a lot do “a lot.” Judging a tree by the fruit it bears is a pretty common human tendency. I don’t think it’s inappropriate.

    Excellence: It’s been asked somewhere above as to what constitutes “excellence” or who judges whether something contains “arete”– the traditional answer is no one, of course. Rather it was argued that excellence was a quality inherent in some behavior just like a flavor in food– it was a thing in itself and was immediately recognizable. It was also argued frequently that for “excellence” to be “excellent” it had to exist– mean manifest a material component rather than simply be a state of mind– it also had to have a persistent element as things that lasted longer had more excellence than things that were less persistent. That’s not to argue that there can’t be eternal profundity expressed in an instant– but the bar is pretty high. But whatever. . . I try to steer clear of the sophism if I can.

    But in the interest of “excellence”– a value I personally hold highly– perhaps it’s my “hubris” and a fatal tendency to set myself up as the tragic hero– but damn I think it would be refreshing if there were some place one could discuss the interesting finer point sof NTHE and how it might all play out, constructive responses, practical strategies without the incessant Oprahfication of the issue. . .

    Jus’ sayin’

  • Wildfire Smoke Proves Worse for Global Warming…
    (snip)
    “Biomass burning is really complicated,” said Allen Robinson, Lane professor in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. There are many different types of fuels, Robinson said, from ponderosa pine trees to peat, and “they burn in a very poorly controlled manner, so it’s difficult to get your arms around the problem.”
    (snip)
    “Ultimately, CO2 is the biggest driver of climate change and a lot of CO2 comes from fossil energy,” Robinson said. “Looking out into the future, at least in my opinion, if you turned off wildfires … it’s not going to avert climate change.”

    ===
    Wildfire Smoke Proves Worse for Global Warming
    Climate change means more wildfires and wildfire smoke helps further heat the atmosphere
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/wildfire-smoke-proves-worse-for-global-warming/

  • Lenar Whitney, (who calls herself the “Palin of the South”) is running for Congress in Louisiana and she denounces Global Warming as a myth.

    The video is humorous at one level, but too deceptive at another. She describes unnamed experts to support her false facts and uses mistrust of mass media and big government as a lever to reinforce her misrepresentations and lay out foreign policy based upon the ephemeral fracking energy surplus. So if this is our future, we will go roaring into oblivion…

    GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX

  • “Prof Stefan Fölster, a Swedish chief economist” is a fucking moron.

    He obviously has no idea that a.) global warming is not about slow linear warming across the board, but instead climate wierding that provokes seemingly-random extremes of hot/cold/dry/wet that plants and agriculturalists are going to have a hard time handling; and that b.) atmospheric composition also has a lot to do with how plants grow. Too much CO2 is shown to reduce plants’ nutritional value for humans:

    http://newstonight.co.za/content/adverse-impacts-nutritional-quality-food-crops-increase-co2-levels
    http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/effects-of-rising-atmospheric-concentrations-of-carbon-13254108

    And that’s to say nothing of the increased ozone that Gail has been following, and the other pollutants:
    https://witsendnj.blogspot.ca/p/basic-premise.html
    https://witsendnj.blogspot.ca/p/more-links-to-research.html

    Or the 400+ nuclear plant meltdowns when cooling water becomes too warm or the plants are inundated by a rise in sea level.

    Either he doesn’t know about these things or he is being paid to lie about them.

    Nonetheless, the fact that anyone would listen to an economist about matters of physics or biology is -right there- part of what is deeply wrong with the world.

  • The latest post in this space includes the latest interview clip with Reese Jones, NTHE Question #4, and information about tonight’s premiere episode of Nature Bats Last on PRN.fm. Catch it all here.