NTHE Question #9

Now that you know near-term human extinction is inevitable, would you still want to have lived the life you are living now or would you have preferred to live during a different time period of our human existence on Earth?

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Catch Nature Bats Last on the radio with Mike Sliwa and Guy McPherson. Tune in every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, or catch up in the archives here. If you prefer the iTunes version, including the option to subscribe, you can click here. This week’s show will feature an interview with two people living well outside the mainstream, brief segments on breaking hopium with Lindsay Morrison and Forrest Palmer, news beyond the mainstream, Doomer of the Week, and an update on the climate-change front.

Most importantly, we’re throwing out the script and paying attention to feedback offered here. It’s bound to be better than last week.

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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 before 1 October 2014.

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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 96

  • We’re all going to die, of course, and all those people who did live in previous eras are now dead.

    I use to think living in the mid-1800’s, in Europe would have been interesting, with all the happenings in art, music, literature, science, technology. If you had the leisure to pay attention to it.

    Now I think there is no more interesting time than the present, for those same reasons. I grew up in the ’50s and will be dead soon enough. I can’t think of a better time to have inhabited earth. I do feel sorry for many people who are younger than me.

  • Now is cool, it is what it is. But having transferred from a radical Catholic Worker type Christian to a fairly standard Buddhist, I tend to believe that I have been present in a different genome in several different times, not that I remember any of those. Less than an educated guess, just merest of a hunch, I infer that I was a nun or monk or shaman at times and had an affinity for trees.

    My present genome would not have survived without antibiotics in my youth, pleasantly I have not been ill now in 4 years and am in my 50’s. If transferred back with my genes, I would have died very young.

    It was kind of fun throwing blood on the missile silo awhile back. The very expensive fabric cover of the microwave sensors had to be replaced because the salt in the few specks of blood that landed on it. USAF was not happy. But North Dakota did not indict for the trespass for the previous launch control facility sit in for the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assasination and dropped all charges for the occupation of the silo, the 10th and final nonv-violent civil disobedience in memory of the birth of MLKJR. in North Dakota. And that field was soon decommissioned.

    I’m cool with living and working with the mentally challenged and trying to ride the bus or bicycle as much as possible. I did dramatic things to try and wake people up. I encourage people to do that if they haven’t yet, but if you do it in an elegant and loving way a couple of times, not all are called to be as committed in that manner as Phil Berrigan was or Fr. Carl Kabat is.

  • The life I’m living now is about the love of the family and friends I have. I wouldn’t want to be anywhen without them.

  • This is the best time to be alive, imo.

    Welfare recipients it could be argued live better richer lives than kings and queens used to live only a few hundred years ago. Egyptian pharaohs would have swapped all they had to live the sort of lives most of us live now.

    An average person can have a better life now, than at any other time in history, imo.

    Everyone goes extinct or dies, not everyone who has ever lived has had privileged access to all the amazing stuff we have now. We are the beneficiaries of all the generations that have gone before us, we are living at the zenith, the peek of almost everything which is truly an amazing position to be in, imo.

    I am very glad to be alive right now. I have everything I could possibly want, within reason.

    There are armies of people making amazing stuff that I can afford to purchase if I so choose, Food and drink from all over the world, music, art, books, entertainment, world travel, etc,etc… Life has never been so good for so many as it is now.

    Best Regards
    Alex D

  • Question 9:

    Long answer:

    If you’re happy where you are, then how you got there doesn’t matter.

    If you can’t live with yourself now, what makes you think living in some imagined “golden age” would be any different? There’s not a year within the 20th Century that isn’t marred by war, post-war or depression. The 19th, 18th and 17th Centuries aren’t any better. Then when you get into the 16th Century and before you have nothing but war and wonderful diseases to go with you miserable existence.

    Being American is pretty damn sweet, especially if white and male. Why not sit back and see how this whole human existence thing ends?

    Short answer:

    Anytime anywhere is good if you got the cash.

  • There are no (unacceptable) answers to hypothetical questions that change nothing in reality. It’s akin to asking whether you’d have rather been a butterfly or elephant. Hey, have fun with though.

    http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/lockdown-using-a-tactic-unseen-in-a-century-countries-cordon-off-ebola-racked-areas/

    Lockdown: using a tactic unseen in a century, countries cordon off Ebola-racked areas

  • @mrogness

    Phillip Berrigan was a true hero of mine.

    @Steve

    1955-1959: The ultimate, I hate to say it, American Dream. Too bad it only lasted 5 years. What an empire! Didn’t bother anyone in particular but blacks which I hated. Just had fun with our toys. The richest boy in our private high school in Atlanta got a brand new Mercury for his 16th birthday. I remember it well as he cruised in for the first *fall* day of classes. Red and White and Beautiful with gigantic, wide, white wall tires.

    Several years later, in 1958, I was 16. Got a brand new Black Chevrolet Caprice with three on the column. I thought I was hot stuff. Immediately put skirts on it, installed a *Duntov* cam with solid lifters w/o my parents knowledge, changed the rear end ratio and strutted to *Rusty’s* to display my good fortune. We were not rich in comparison but we were keeping up with the first families.

    What life would I select today? NOW!!!!! I am having a hell of a lot of fun watching the destruction of the upper class. I did not know it then but I read and learned about Phillip Berrigan et.al. and I turned my ship around. It was satisfying doing it. Would not change a thing, even though I was clueless for the first 40 years of my existence.

  • Everyone who ever lived lived in the now. It is not possible to do otherwise. While it may be fun to fantasize about living somewhen or somewhere else, the time spent imagining that is time you are not living but are instead thinking. The truth is that all times and places were exactly like this–humans thinking instead of living. The only way that living somewhen else means anything is if you were to somehow remember your future life and could compare it to this new now. That would mean time travel. If you wish to avoid the now using this somewhen else trope, try to imagine you are from the future then marvel at how wonderful the now is compared to it. Or, better yet, skip the future imaginings and simply marvel at the now.

  • I don’t accept NTE as inevitable, although it appears to have a probability above zero. It sounds too much like religious fundamentalism to simply declare “inevitability”. We don’t know what we don’t know.

    But having said that, generally I feel that too much addiction to this particular body/mind device is not particularly healthy or useful for a person. I suspect the “alive-ness” that is looking out of these eyes at these words as I type them right now is not encumbered by the limitations of our little world.

    Elizabeth Kubler Ross is famously known for writing about accepting death and the stages of that grief process. But she was far more deeply involved in the exploration of life AFTER death. I recommend a small book to you all by her, “On Life After Death”.

    Having read that you might consider that there is no point in the question above. Your life is not an experience to be enjoyed, it is a lesson to be learned. Perhaps she is right.

  • Dear Alex D,

    Your comment implies that you’re a materialist: “access to all the amazing stuff we have now” and that it’s the “stuff” that’s important. You never gave me that impression before.

    Yours seems like the blinkered view of a Western male. But don’t forget, so many people alive now are missing out on these material comforts and gizmos and wouldn’t agree that they’re living “at the zenith, the peek of almost everything”. That seems very linear thinking to me. You don’t seem to be considering complexity. Please think again.

    I agree with you about being glad to be alive now, and I count my blessings which is, I think, what you really wanted to convey.

    However, thinking that another time in our history might have been better, more fulfilling, interesting etc is a fantasy most people with imagination indulge in once in a while (I think). But it’s a fantasy, no more, because there are so many things to consider once you start thinking about it: Do you imagine yourself with the kind of consciousness you have now? What about gender, class, race etc? I could go on …

    When indulging in this fantasy, I like to imagine myself as far back as possible, into times of which we’ve only had a few glimpses – maybe when this island I live on now was still joined to the Eurasian continent. Or even further back … But would I want to be a man or a woman, grow old? I don’t know, and it’s just fantasy. Oh, to be an invisible time traveller! Now that would be nice.

    Grant,

    as usual you’re pretty much spot on and practical.

  • Species extinction is normal on Earth. Of the 107 billion HS that have been born, we are the last. No previous species had nor will any future species have the opportunity to contemplate and witness its own eradication. It’s an extraordinary time to be alive on the planet. Make the most of it!

  • I can fantasize a me flying through dark heading toward a violent and stormy crash. Oh wait, I am.

  • “No previous species had nor will any future species have the opportunity to contemplate and witness its own eradication.”

    What an unusual and strange bit of human exceptionalism!

    I prefer to think that someday sentient canids or cetaceans or whatever will discover our artifacts, and perhaps take them as a warning sign, and perhaps do things differently.

    And that’s just on this planet!

  • Alot of peoples questions are hypothetical and some people aren’t interested in those kinds of conjecturings. But being that most of the things that we pride ourselves on as humans (art,literature,science, etc.) all starts with….
    “Imagine that”…
    “Do you suppose”….
    “What if”…
    “What do you think would happen if”…
    “Wouldn’t it be cool if”….

    I guess I’m game.

    So for me,choosing a different time to live my life in, knowing what I know now , would depend on whether I was able to keep on knowing what I know now.

    I can’t imagine living in the past with my current knowledge and finding any peace whatsoever. As each new invention was heralded by people around me I would be waving my arms and saying ‘No,No,bad idea.It will lead to ….(fill in the blank). Fire? – No!! Wheel? -Bad idea! Money? – You’ll get screwed!! Cotton gin? – Stop!! Passenger Pigeon Stew? – Asshole!!

    I would be just as much of a Doomer as I am now.

    AlexD said –
    “There are armies of people making amazing stuff that I can afford to purchase if I so choose, Food and drink from all over the world, music, art, books, entertainment, world travel, etc,etc… Life has
    never been so good for so many as it is now.”

    If you only count humans in the “life has never so good for so many”. All of that amazing stuff is on the backs of every other living thing and all of the habitat that is being plundered. For me ,that knowledge is the hard part about being alive at this time in history.

  • Shep,

    I remember those Mercurys well. My uncle bought one at that time–yellow with black (I read that Thelonious Monk bought one–red with black–too :-)). I was in or close to NYC most of that time. It was a heady moment in the art and culture world. And racism didn’t *feel* any worse than it does now. Professional blacks had not yet fled the ghetto. There were far fewer people, far less hysteria about everything except communism. Everyone was safer. I remember, after some downtown Manhattan night outing, walking all the way up Fifth Av, without seeing or being bothered by anyone. But the popular music scene was really, really bad.

  • http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/cdc-scientist-kept-quiet-about-flu-blunder-report-n182101

    CDC Scientist Kept Quiet About Flu Blunder – Report

    A government scientist who accidently mixed a deadly strain of bird flu with a tamer strain and sent the mix to other labs kept silent about the potentially dangerous lab blunder, according to an internal investigation. The accident happened in January at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. No one was sickened by bird flu. But unsuspecting scientists worked with the viral mix for months before it was discovered.

    CDC officials have called the incident the most worrisome in a series of lab safety problems at the government agency. Earlier this summer, a lab mishandled anthrax samples and both the bird flu and anthrax labs were shut down. “We all feel horrible this happened,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who oversees the CDC’s Influenza Division — which includes the lab where the bird flu accident took place. Because of employee privacy rules, she said she could not name the lab scientist but said disciplinary actions are taking place.
    [reaction video of embarrassed and angry CDC director (wiping the mud off his face) included]

  • Thanks for playing. Every answer has given me food for thought, even those who found the question irrelevant. To those people, let me say that I disagree, because:

    Making this imaginary construct has allowed me to gauge for myself whether or not continued existence in the face of NTHE makes sense. This is a blog where it has been suggested that the most reasonable response to NTHE might the a thoughtful, well-executed suicide. For me personally, living at a time when mankind is hurtling full speed ahead towards oblivion is…if not perfect, at least worth it to hang around and witness.

    The human imagination can be an important tool. Use it or lose it.

    I actually made responses to nearly everyone, but then my battery died and I lost the window I had open….so there you are, saved from my goofy feedback by a random event… or divine providence. You decide.

  • @ Jan S.

    Thank you for the comment on my statement: “No previous species has had nor will any future species have the opportunity to contemplate and witness its own eradication.”

    If by human exceptionalism you mean intelligent life, there is no evidence that this has occurred more than once in 500 million years, so that would seem to be a strong argument of it’s extreme rarity. As for it happening in other places in the universe, you might find the debate by Carl Sagan and Ernst Mayr of interest. In that exchange Mayr explains why the likelihood of higher intelligence is so rare. I side with Mayr and The Sixth Extinction caused by HS seems to be proving him right – higher intelligence is a lethal mutation.

    http://www.astro.umass.edu/~mhanner/Lecture_Notes/Sagan-Mayr.pdf

  • Sorry to inject St Roy:
    Because we describe our “intelligence” as a “higher” intelligence, does not make it so. I’d suggest we have a ‘different” intelligence, than say a cow, I just don’t know if it is better. Better than what? How is it better?

  • sorry again
    I’ taking “higher” to imply a step up, improved—BETTER. Perhaps you didn’t mean that.

  • My father was a ‘slave’. His father was a ‘slave’. I don’t know anything about his father but I would be shocked to discover he was anything other than a ‘slave’. I too have lived as a ‘slave’, living in various places in which wealth is transferred to selfish, greedy ‘elites’ who lie to everyone on a constant basis in order to acquire more for themselves and their mates while they poison everyone and everything. You have to go back a long way in my ancestry for ‘slavery’ and wealth transfer upwards to not have been the dominant system.

    I conjecture I may have had a far more fulfilling life if I had been born 3,000 years earlier [in the same location, the south of England]. No government, No taxes. A thriving living environment almost unspoilt, the only ‘development’ being a few wooden and stone observatory-temples, some defensive earthworks and some burial mounds. But all this musing about hypothetical question is of no consequence or help. The ‘machine’ rumbles on, destroying everything that matters, crushing all who oppose it.

  • I would LOVED to have lived at the earliest “stage” of homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago. I would like to have been be part the first group of humans, or individual, to explore the regions out of Africa. To have truly been free to travel, discover, and live off the land as sustainable as possible. Exploring for the sake of exploring, settling in regions for less than a year at a time. No map making, conquering, or claiming land. The world would still be full of life, even during a glacial period in time. Living off insects, plants, and the occasional small animal. Sure I might have run into a Neandertal or Denisovan, but would have been well worth the experience. With a little bit of luck and resilient immune system maybe I would have lived until the age of 30. 30 years living at that era would beat living 100 years now, imo.
    Oh yea, and no offspring either.

  • I was ment to be a hunter/gatherer.

  • @ Eddie

    “This is a blog where it has been suggested that the most reasonable response to NTHE might the a thoughtful, well-executed suicide. For me personally, living at a time when mankind is hurtling full speed ahead towards oblivion is…if not perfect, at least worth it to hang around and witness…….The human imagination can be an important tool. Use it or lose it.”

    It might be wise to take that ‘imagination’, and ‘use it’ to imagine what it is you’ll actually be ‘witnessing’. And then, even a ‘poorly executed suicide’ might begin to make a little more sense in avoiding ‘unimaginable’ suffering……………whenever that day arrives of course. Imagine that.

    Hard to see what’s never been seen
    Even harder to be what’s never been
    But then again…..
    Just try living at life’s end.

  • Seems some people think they will be viewing the end from their easy chair, like the way most of the well-off enjoy a good war, riot or disaster. Well, it’s not going to be like that. The ‘screen’ most of us will be watching will be the front door as we wait for a couple of hoardlings to bash it in to rudely molest us and take our goodies. And we deserve it, don’t we. Us rich fuckers, enjoying our lives of plenty. All these years, watching our armies and business scuts roam the world, bashing in front doors, seeking those who’s lives they may devour.`

    If I HAD to choose a time to live, I too would go for the dawn of mankind. I think it may have been a time of simple, uncluttered minds. A time of simple wonder and joy. Short but fulfilling.

  • @ Daniel

    I’ve given that eventuality a great deal of thought, actually.I hope when the really bad times do come I’ll be doing more or less what I do now, which is to try to relieve pain for people who are suffering. I expect the pay will be less, but I’m okay with that.

    I don’t rule out suicide either, but I feel it’s premature to give it serious thought, as of yet. I certainly can’t get my mind around it as some kind of noble sacrifice, like if 6.5 billion of us would just quietly off ourselves, it’d improve chances for those who are left.

  • @mt

    Higher Intelligence is a generally accepted term in biology for cranial capacity or brain power. I don’t think anyone would argue that Homo sapiens don’t have more of that than other species. But many, including Guy, would argue that sapience or wisdom is a misnomer.

  • I’m curious about those commentators who would have preferred an earlier life style, an almost prehistoric one. I suggest those commentators have an idealized concept of what life was like in those times. It was surely simpler, for sure, but I feel certain that it was not easier. Today we think it is a tragedy for parents to bury their own children. As I understand it, in ancient times it was a common occurrence. How many primitive societies would have chosen not to accept an easier life-style, had they been given the opportunity? Maybe the Amish do, but their motivation my be more religions than something else. Didn’t most societies choose to make their lives easier, when given the opportunity?

  • Alex D

    “Egyptian pharaohs would have swapped all they had to live the sort of lives most of us live now.”

    Maybe Egyptian peasants, but not pharaohs. Lest not all of them. Take Ramesses II. He lived to be 90 or 91 and ruled for 66 years. He had 6 consorts one of whom was Nefertari. It was officially recorded that he sired 156 children, but it was probably more since he could have any woman he wanted to (WTF why did they name a condom after this guy?). Warrior, conquer, peacemaker, bringer of prosperity and a God. Did not even have to wipe his own ass. I’m thinking a lot of guys would gladly swap lives with him.

  • Just passing along an email…

    EDUARDO GALEANO

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1568586124/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20

    “Lost and Found

    The twentieth century, which was born proclaiming peace and justice, died bathed in blood. It passed on a world much more unjust than the one it inherited.

    The twenty-first century, which also arrived heralding peace and justice, is following in its predecessor’s footsteps.

    In my childhood, I was convinced that everything that went astray on earth ended up on the moon.

    But the astronauts found no sign of dangerous dreams or broken promises or hopes betrayed.

    If not on the moon, where might they be? Perhaps they were never misplaced. Perhaps they are in hiding here on earth. Waiting.”

  • Kirk says “If I HAD to choose a time to live, I too would go for the dawn of mankind. I think it may have been a time of simple, uncluttered minds. A time of simple wonder and joy. Short but fulfilling.”

    Homo Sapiens were always fearful, easily spooked creatures. Look at the gods they created to explain their world. Human beings are not and have never been puppies. Pleasures found at the dawn of man remain more or less unchanged: love, friends, a fully belly. The bonus now being that a broken leg is no longer fatal.

  • @ Steve

    “It was surely simpler, for sure, but I feel certain that it was not easier.”

    Easier life doesn’t always mean better or happier. See Mike Rowe’s Ted Talk for some insight. http://www.ted.com/talks/mike_rowe_celebrates_dirty_jobs

    “Didn’t most societies choose to make their lives easier, when given the opportunity?”

    I’m sure the majority has. That’s why we’re in this mess. Only a small percentage of people choose the path less traveled because of the challenge not because it’s easier.

  • One of the things I learned from my foray into Buddhism is that happiness doesn’t come from the situation you’re in, it comes from your response to the situation you’re in. If you’re not happy where/when you are, it’s unlikely you’ll be happy anywhere/when else.

    I treat my existence here as being a student in “Earth School”. Everything that happens contains a lesson, if I wish to see it that way. Since I do wish to see it that way, and I love learning, I don’t wish I was in any other situation than I am. In my opinion other situations would not be better or worse, they would simply contain different lessons. I might as well learn from the curriculum I’m enrolled in.

    I’m content with my current situation, and therefore with everything in the past that has conspired to bring it about. As a result I have few regrets about what I’ve done or what has happened to me – and those two statements are essentially identical as far as I’m concerned.

  • I’m with E-Man: it would have been amazing to have “lived at the earliest ‘stage’ of homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago.” I often wonder what the natural world would have been like before humans made their imprint upon it writ large.

    I agree that it is interesting being alive today with our accumulated knowledge, means of communicating, and the various technological gizmos that make life so easy. But knowledge/technology/modernity is a double edge sword – it comes with the awareness that the biosphere is dying because as a species, we seemingly cannot find a way to live sustainably.

  • Alex D

    I like all the gizmos too, but their costs are more than what we pay at the cash register. How many people can actually say a getting a computer made their life more rewarding?

    Paul C – Maybe these guys need a new response to the situation. If they came to Canada do you think they would still feel unhappy? Collecting around $600.00 a month for a single person on income assistance(more for family’s)with access to: clean water, energy, education, personal security, health care (including eye glasses & emergency dental), public library’s,parks, public transit, help finding employment (including resumes, interview skills, work specific clothing allowance, bus fare,) and much more.

    E-waste In Ghana: Where Death is the Price of Living Another Day

    http://accrareport.com/feature/e-waste-in-ghana-where-death-is-the-price-of-living-another-day/

  • I don’t envy anyone in an earlier time but for two things:

    1.) greater community solidarity (possibly, or perhaps what I mean is greater individual societal integration, and

    2.) not knowing the extent of our planetary degradation and the nearness of NTE.

    Otherwise, I can think of many contexts which might be intriguing, but I have to admit as a modern woman that no context before that of the late 20th century would have afforded me the independence I’ve experienced. Even having been born 10 years earlier would have meant I wouldn’t have gone to the college I went to, and my financial life would most likely have been steered by a husband. I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience relationships where reliable birth-control was normative. It’s unlikely I would have launched my own business. Etc.

    That said, my life’s “successes” are ashes, when I realize what they have cost. IF I were to live my life over, there’s a distinct possibility I would choose a time -any time- when the idea of NTE wasn’t imminent. Because as much as I am skeptical about stories, human life seems impossible to live without them. And NTE breaks all the stories. Ashes. Go to the library book sale, books 25¢ a pop. Who wants them? What do they have to tell me that is relevant? They are all dead ends. Relationships. They are always based on sussing out reciprocal benefits, but these are The Critical Alliances that will have to see you and the other folks through very bad patches to come, which most of them are completely unaware of. Here be dragons. Many dead ends. Who has been here? Long ago we knew, most of us, to what tribe/caste/union/syndicate/guild we belonged. Now many of us belong to nothing… I nothing but the common tribe of far-flung “doomsters”.

    For a long time, the vague memory of a book has stuck with me. It’s a book I passed on to a friend, but I believe it was called “The Blue Flower”. What it impressed upon me was the hardship of day-to-day life in 18th century Germany, even among the (relatively) well-to-do. The pervasive cold (the forests having been chopped down), the ever-present disease… What we (in the developed parts of the modern world) perceive now as a distant abstraction is about to become the everyday situation it was back then, and worse, obviously. I think for most of us it’s beyond our current comprehension how bad it can actually get.

    Only now many of us will face these things not as part of a coherent holistic existentialism, or (as many were induced to think of it at the time) an expression of the will of a supernatural divinity that they could all concur upon… but raw, and with disparate ideas and scapegoats, and ultimately alone. And with most people rageful and entitled and miscomprehending or uncomprehending of the forces that have brought them to this point, I reckon.

    I, back in 2007, not nearly so long ago as many, took the red pill. Part of the time I wish I had taken the blue pill, but only part of the time.

    Every era of human existence has been ‘amazing’, for those in the front row able to witness the material changes as well as changes in perception. But every ‘amazing’ leap forward was just a coffin nail, so?

  • I would actually like to have lived in the future, after the revolution has gone down. This era has been just about realizing as much psychotic bs as possible and living in massive denial. To the battlements y’all………

  • Firstly,

    we don’t get any other life than this one. The unique configuration of archetypal substrate, welded to a particular life experience and a Name, only comes once, the one we have now.

    Secondly,
    what’s wrong, or problematic about the one we are having now?

    Another time, another era, sounds too Hollywood to me.

    This life is fantastic, and if it isn’t then there is most likely too much fear around.

    We only die once, so get out and live the long once.
    Cheers all.
    🙂

  • You don’t have to be a NTHE believer to ponder on this question. I think everyone ponders on it.

    At least since the beginning of Ag, unless you were a member of the Elite class of the society, this has been one of the better times to be alive, at least in the 1st world nations. Even just moderately well off, you had opportunities people in the past couldn’t dream of, even Kings and Pharoahs. Fly to visit Mauna Loa in Hawaii, or Machu Pichu in Peru.

    The 1800s in Britain was the time of Charles Dickens and the Workhouses, the 1700s saw war just about everywhere, the 1600s and back, Plagues and so forth.

    So you have to work your way back to H-G societies, I think right up to the 1700’s the Tlingit and Haida and Coast Salish lived pretty nice lives in their potlatch system, and a very bountiful ecosystem of the time.

    As I have mentioned before I really would have liked to have been aboard the first cat-rigged sailing canoe that made it to the Big Island of Hawaii, though I have been informed here that actually New Zealand came after Hawaii in the list of places the Polynesian Navigators made it to.

    In any event, as SR mentions, these are interesting times, and everything goes extinct at some point, so if in fact its true this is the time, you won a heck of a lotto ticket, because only one generation of any species witnesses extinction.

    I personally do not believe anything ever vanishes from existence,all things and all souls exist into eternity, and all you need to do is make your connection with eternity to experience all things at all times.

    For right now, I live in this time, and as I always say, “It ain’t OVAH till the Fat Lady Sings. 🙂

    RE

  • I don’t like the way I’m living even though I don’t think NTHE is inevitable. I’m not sure that the kind of life I’d like to live ever happened on this planet, though it may have done.

  • @RE ” all you need to do is make your connection with eternity to experience all things at all times.”

    Heh. This sounds like catching the #64 bus [in Rome, leads to the Vatican from Stazione Termini].

    How is it that nothing is demonstrably “eternal”, but the human ‘soul’ is supposedly an exception to this? This is like “American Exceptionalism” on an individual scale.

    My “connection with eternity” is that whatever organisms and processes are around at the point of my demise can take advantage of the left-over material of my own extinguishing process. It may well be that other organisms and processes are sufficiently diminished in themselves as to not be able to fully take part. As we see along the train tracks in Chernobyl, the weeds that did not grow. The dog that does not bark.

    Experienced a couple of great presentations from Dr. Elaine Ingram recently. She promotes a line of “know and support your soil microbes”, and has done great work in inoculating dead soils with life. However, when I asked her whether, if soil microbes were lacking due to circumstances other than the grossly physical (compaction and flooding leading to anaerobic conditions, biocide applications), her applications of microbe life could really persist in time, she didn’t really answer. IOW, if the soil is currently inhospitable to life-sustaining microbes, applying microbes, in some cases, is not going to *make* it hospitable, necessarily.

    I don’t want to deny her obviously strong work, but I wonder to what degree soil microbes may not be subject to the same adverse conditions noted by Gail in re. trees and other plants. What is the effect of a doubling of C02 and tripling of methane on microbes? What’s the effect of increased ozone? If microbes sustain plants, part of the bargain is that plants sustain microbes (with “exudates”, released carbohydrates plants serve up at the root level in exchange with bacteria and fungi for a variety of nutrients).

    When we read about a 45% reduction in invertebrates, well… soil microbes are invertebrates. If their “ecosystem services” have been reduced by almost half within recent years, and are on a continuing slide down for whatever reason, that is going to mean death: plant death and animal death and people death.

    Seeing all the sick plants, one can’t help but think the microbes may well be absent/sick as well, and that we can’t really heal them, even if we are now in possession of more information about how they interact than we were decades ago.

  • oops. “Ingram” => “Ingham”

  • “@RE ” all you need to do is make your connection with eternity to experience all things at all times.”

    Heh. This sounds like catching the #64 bus [in Rome, leads to the Vatican from Stazione Terminal.

    How is it that nothing is demonstrably “eternal”, but the human ‘soul’ is supposedly an exception to this? This is like “American Exceptionalism” on an individual scale.”-L

    It’s actually more complicated than that. You have to get a few transfers along the way. lol.

    Seriously, that is a way more complicated problem than could be treated in one post. In fact, we have an entire Forum dedicated to these topics on the Diner, called Spirituality & Mysticism.

    http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php/board,8.0.html

    If you really want to engage on such topics, I suggest dropping in and visiting with the Diner Philosophers. Ka will give you an earful from Barfield to Aquinas and take you for a tour through the Bhagavit Gita while you are at it. Ashvin will cite you chapter and verse from the Bible, and then give you the Legal, Logical & Scientific Justification for every single one of them. Trust me, arguing with a Fundy Lawyer is no easy task! LOL. Knarf will give you the perspectives of a Buddhist Monk, which he has been for 23 years.

    It’s very entertaining stuff. 🙂

    RE

  • “greater community solidarity (possibly, or perhaps what I mean is greater individual societal integration”

    Community coheres through voluntary non-coercive horizontal non-hierarchical interactions, with almost no transactions. Society is maintained through hierarchical, vertical transactions enforced by the threat of, and/or the use of coercive violence, with monitoring, prescription and proscription of horizontal interactions. The stronger the community, the weaker the society. But society is sustained by vertical wealth transfer from the bottom to the top, and it tend to progressively dismantle community.

    “all you need to do is make your connection with eternity”

    From other traditions (non-dual), a wave does not need to make a connection with the ocean. And water cannot “attain” wetness. Just as any individual wave ceases to exist, so does the body-mind complex and even any purported soul.

  • @Apneaman,

    I don’t know about “them”. I can only speak for myself, which is what the question asks us to do.

    Different people obviously have different beliefs about happiness. For many of us, our happiness is modulated by our perception of whether or not we are “doing well” relative to others. For me the Buddhist view broke that cycle of judging myself relative to others, and in doing that made me more content simply with simply being who I am. That of course goes directly against the Western cultural imperative of always striving, which results in one being happy only when they’re better off than someone else.

  • In response to Paul Chefurka, not only does life become about being better than others, it is commodified and made about being better than others in terms of money (though power and fame are closely related intangibles). The “rat race” is about playing this game regardless of context: I see it everywhere, from academia to the government to the private sector (where it flourishes most).

    The thing is that it is society that enables all this, and it’s a complex set of feedbacks. Why do humans generally yearn and envy people with wealth, power, and fame?

  • @Ram,

    IMO we are predisposed to such striving because it’s an evolutionary adaptation that improved our chances of survival in the world where the adaptation was being made. This gives us a genetic predisposition to “race to the top”. We can see this behaviour reflected even in ecosystems, as described by the Odum/Lotka Maximum Power Principle.

    The addition of large amounts of surplus energy to human societies over the last millennium has taken the brakes off the social and personal expressions of this adaptation, and has greatly magnified its destructive power. We don’t usually recognize this urge for what it is because we tend to be blind to the operation of our own instincts.

    The fact that some individuals can break away from the herd mentality and be content with what is, is a testament to the plasticity and reprogammability of the human neocortex. Unfortunately, the amount of inner work it takes to achieve this means that it will be a path adopted only by the few, leaving the may to continue devouring the planet in response to algorithms laid down in our genes before we even became human.

  • To all those who are saying ‘now is the best time to live’. I don’t think you will be saying that when the STHTF (really). It will be like asking a Palestinian whether now is the best time to live.

  • @Bailey

    Hit the nail on the head, but, eventually the 1% will be fprever crushed too.

  • Paul, supposing such a gene or set of genes encoded proteins that somehow led to being predisposed to a “let’s race to the top” trait in the context of the environment where it arose, and such a trait was fixed in the population, it doesn’t mean it will always be the trait that is selectively advantageous. Evolution isn’t about “race to the top” but “survival of the fittest” where fitness is defined based on current environmental context and is relative. If tomorrow the “race to the top” trait genes/proteins ended up being disadvantageous in terms survival fitness, they would be removed from the population.

    However, I think at this point you’d be hard pressed to find a gene or gene network that is predisposed to a “let’s race to the top” trait (and in general, I myself don’t think such complex behavioural traits are directly encoded by genomes—the molecular causal evidence for it doesn’t exist). I think this is a cultural trait and is purely programmed to a largely general purpose neocortex: as you yourself pointed out, such a “let’s race to the top” is a product of Western culture.

  • Oh, finally, an easy question!

    I’d love to have lived with the cave painters in Europe. Anywhere those caves exist. Whatever society or civilization or community or insert your word here produced them must have been fairly “advanced” in that they could support art and artists.

    Evidence suggests that hunter/gatherers spent less time on survival issues than we do working to earn money to pay for our survival.

    I think to have seen Earth 40,000 years ago or so would have been quite something.

  • I am remembering a conversation with a friend that I had a while back where this question was asked. My friend’s answer was immediate and unwavering.
    She said she would like to be alive and on the beach, millions and milions of years ago, at the moment the first slimey blob of matter crawled out of the ocean,on its’ way to evolving into humanity, so that she could firmly plant her boot print on it.

  • “first slimey blob of matter crawled out of the ocean,on its’ way to evolving into humanity,”

    The “blob of matter” would have been a slime mould or a jellyfish. That would be a different lineage from the highly organised creatures that came ashore and were our great*umpteenth grandparents.

  • To Robin –
    Yes, of course you are right. I think she was just getting her particular point across. She also mentioned something about wishing that she could time-traveling with a pair of loppers so that she could cut off our particular branch on the evolutionary tree.

  • @ Lidia

    Because as much as I am skeptical about stories, human life seems impossible to live without them. And NTE breaks all the stories. Ashes.

    Do you really understand this thing about stories yet ?

    Your comment is a story. My reply here is a story. This whole thread is a story.

    For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

    E = MC2

    Are stories.

    To live without stories is to have a silent mind, zen, mushin, wu wei. To see ‘reality’, ‘that which is’ clearly, just as it is. The experience of being is not a story.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mushin

  • I like pain-free dentistry. Unfortunately, when we start to see how comfortable modern life has made (some) people, it’s hard to go back. And so NTHE stares us in the face.

  • Craig Dilworth in his outstanding book on the human predicament theorizes that the high point of humanities existence came in Europe 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthals had just gone extinct and modern humans had the whole place to themselves. There would have been abundant game and low population densities and humans creative impulses were just starting to blossom as evidence by the cave art from the period. Life would have been good. At least they weren’t facing near term extinction.

  • I’ve read that every time humans migrated into a new continent or land mass, they hunted the local mega-fauna to extinction within 1,000 years. We’re doing the same thing now as they were doing then.

  • Steve, yes but imagine the inclusive fitness payoff to colonizing new lands. What it must have been like to be the first humans to walk onto North America or Australia or New Zealand. Encountering lots of tasty creatures that had never seen the apex predator before. You could just walk up and club them over the head. Those would have been the best of times for human beings.

  • Tom, I can walk up to any kind of meat I want, without a club and pick it out of a cooler, already skinned.I think that’s pretty sweet.

  • Steve, that’s true as well but now the planet is full and running out of resources. We are facing die off if not extinction. In those days the planet was empty of humans and full of resources, so plenty of excess carrying capacity. Our urge to breed and pass on our genes was satisfied.

  • Do you really understand this thing about stories yet ?

    Your comment is a story. My reply here is a story. This whole thread is a story.

    For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

    E = MC2

    Are stories.

    I overstand it! 🙂

    The point is the relevance of any of it, which, imo, extinction takes away. OR rather, the idea of extinction takes away the past illusion of relevance.

  • Lidia

    Pretend NTE got canceled due to overwhelming demand or sumthing.
    Are our stories then relevant again? Why or why not?

  • “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
    Of cabbages–and kings–
    And why the sea is boiling hot–
    And whether pigs have wings.”

  • Paul C

    I was trying to demonstrate that happiness is likely not possible until and unless some basic requirements are met. Many studies on happiness have drawn that same conclusion. I agree that judging oneself relative to others is a losing situation. Many of the people in Canada, receiving the benefits I listed, are unhappy for that very same reason. Yet if they compared themselves to over half the planet (probably way more), they might feel differently. If you lived in a daily survival situation, do you think you could find contentment even with Buddhism?

  • @Apneaman

    Anyone living in a place where hot water comes out of a tap on demand is living a life of extraordinary luxury.

    Happiness is very much associated with equity in distribution of resources and with natural justice, which is why the present system is so toxic to social arrangements as well as being toxic to the environment.

    But you already know that.

  • @Apneaman, who says, “Pretend NTE got canceled due to overwhelming demand or sumthing. Are our stories then relevant again? Why or why not?”

    Well, relevant means literally to be raised up, as in a surface relief, so that it is held apart, special, containing useful or distinctive information, and so forth. So what is relevant is purely a matter of surrounding context.

    Back again to the tune without a tuning fork: No story is relevant when there are no more organisms with the capacity to convey and receive it. At a sufficiently large scale, NTE or no, we can also say that all stories, all human experiences, are irrelevant, I believe. But at an individual scale, over the relatively short period of time humans have had the capacity to invent and relate stories, there is some (often dubious) communication value. Notice that people don’t change attitudes and behavior, for the most part, even when the story around them changes. Notice that people can buy into many opposing stories over the course of a lifetime, or even simultaneously. How ‘relevant’ can a story like religion be, when so many people shop for one? Intrinsic to the sellers of most religious stories in particular, is that you have the option to change story! I find this particularly ironic. My ‘born-again’ sister couldn’t understand the logical flaw when she argued against my atheism: “That’s just another belief!” JUST! Just another belief! Implying, just as unreliable as any other…

    So, while stories seem to be inextricable from the human condition, I also see them as being irrelevant for this reason. A lot of times stories are interchangeable, hot-swappable. But I do think there is an actual truth (not a story) at the bottom of it all. However unlikely it is that a human will ever grasp what it is entirely, that unlikelihood doesn’t mean an objective truth doesn’t exist.

    So I guess at the moment I view stories as a kind of reflexive tic; they can be something we do to rationalize behaviors after the fact, or are attempts to impose pattern and “sense” even where none may exist, or where the sense is contrary to our druthers. Stories can be beautiful, too, but I don’t know that I can hold them as retaining meaning in the long run.

    I think stories fulfill another purpose—a social-organizing purpose—and that with No Story, both society and community fall apart (thank you Robin Datta for proposing that interesting distinction). So the story-telling is a kind of necessary pheromone, or enzyme, that stimulates responses and catalyzes and engages mechanisms of construction, destruction, dispersion, or aggregation among individuals, but the particular content is not as relevant as merely Having The Story. Any Story will do, really. That doesn’t mean stories can’t run a gamut from being closer to or further away from any real underlying truth. I don’t think all stories are created equal, I just think they are all equally irrelevant in the long term. Even if I were to somehow stumble across THE 100% Absolute Truth of the Universe.. even that would be irrelevant to the overall process, which marches on regardless of what we tell ourselves about it.’

  • @Ram,

    I don’t think a gene or even a set of genes codes for the kinds of behaviors I’m talking about. I think instead they are attributes of the entire structure of the organism – a holistic, system-level feature of life itself.

    The kind of thing I’m talking about is probably best described by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s concept of “structural determinism”. If genes play a role, it would more likely be in determining how these survival imperatives are expressed in species or individual organisms. IMO the imperatives themselves are are encoded at a system level rather than the component level of genes. Just my opinion.

    @Apneaman,

    I agree with kevin moore above when he says that happiness is usually related more to equity of resource distribution. If that was not true, there would have been no happy or contented hunter-gatherers, and we know for a fact that there were/are. Happiness in the presence of uneven resource distributions is certainly more difficult to attain, but even that is possible with a bit of work. One “merely” has to decide that access to resources or social status are personally irrelevant, and that quality of life is an inner, rather than an outer, phenomenon. The examples I usually point to are the Indian sadhus.

    Would I personally be able to find happiness in such a situation? I’ll find out when I’m there, I guess.

  • Robin Datta

    Very much enjoyed the Jabberwocky…

    The poor oysters! So many walruses and carpenters in high, deceiving places, and we are all the oysters trotting along. : (

  • Paul, if the genes don’t encode the behavioural traits, then how can you say that we are we evolutionarily predisposed to such traits? How can they be passed from parent to offspring and how can they become evolutionarily advantageous? I assumed you were talking about biological evolution, but is that the case? Or are you talking about evolution in terms of culture and society?

    I am generally talking about genetic systems (networks), rather than just collections of genes or a single gene or just the components (and what I research is structural systems biology). Genes by themselves don’t do anything other than be transcribed and translated. The genes encode proteins (and in some cases, regulatory bits of nucleic acids, but it’s mostly proteins). The proteins interact and form pathways and systems, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, populations , etc. The systems do the work we observe and call life. The genes contain the programming for the system to behave in a particular manner. A single change in DNA sequence affects the behaviour of the system in big and small ways. There’s no evidence of any particular genetic system being responsible for complex behavioural traits. In the end, all the encoding has to come from the genes – that is what is largely passed on from parent to offspring. There is some evidence of other kinds of information transmission from parent to offspring during the creation of the zygote and during gestation but they are limited and none of them include complex behavioural traits (so far).

    And as I also said, if such a system was considered fit at some point, then alternate systems would be also in times like this. But we aren’t seeing evidence of that either.

    I think there is systems level information transmission, including neuronal systems in the neocortex at multiple scales, but it is largely influenced by cultural and societal factors.

  • @ Paul Chefurka

    You wrote: “@Ram, I don’t think a gene or even a set of genes codes for the kinds of behaviors I’m talking about. I think instead they are attributes of the entire structure of the organism – a holistic, system-level feature of life itself. The kind of thing I’m talking about is probably best described by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s concept of ‘structural determinism’. If genes play a role, it would more likely be in determining how these survival imperatives are expressed in species or individual organisms. IMO the imperatives themselves are are encoded at a system level rather than the component level of genes. Just my opinion.”

    I largely agree. If you have not read it, Andrew Schmookler in his book, The Parable of the Tribes, The Problem of Power in Social Evolution, discusses this at length. His thesis exists as an expression of Howard Odum’s probable fourth law of thermodynamics, his Maximum Power Principle. Schmookler: “…societies inevitably and naturally select for power.” He insists that, yes, “humans are insane”, but we exhibit our insanity like baboons in a zoo. With civilization–which developed through biological systems maximizing power–we suffer from a mismatch between the environment we evolved in and the new, civilized environment (our “zoo”). One important upshot of this? To “blame” ourselves makes no sense. Why not? Because the biological and physical SELECTIVE PROCESSES work outside of the arena of human existence, as you suggest. In my opinion, Part 2, “Peace and War” in Jared Diamond’s most recent book, The World Until Yesterday, What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? and Hugh Brody’s book The Other Side of Eden, Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World, serve as excellent, almost essential background for Schmookler’s The Parable of the Tribes. It seems to me that Lewis Mumford did a superb job of explaining historically WHAT happened–and Schmookler does a superb job of explaining, with significant detail, the processes of HOW and WHY it happened, again, as an expression of Odum’s Maximum Power Principle with humans victims of the processes. Raging against ourselves and against these processes makes about as much sense as raging against gravity.

  • “Genes by themselves don’t do anything other than be transcribed and translated.”

    Indeed. Individual pixels on a screen. There is much regulatory complexity behind that final series of events. Some nucleotide sequences modulate the expression of other sequences that directly or indirectly modulate the expression of other sequences etcetera.

    And then there is the overlay of the potential complexity of the histone code:

    “To give an idea of this complexity, histone H3 contains nineteen lysines known to be methylated — each can be un-, mono-, di- or tri-methylated. If modifications are independent, this allows a potential 4^19 or 280 billion different lysine methylation patterns, far more than the maximum number of histones in a human genome (6.4 Gb / ~150 bp = ~44 million histones if they are very tightly packed). And this does not include lysine acetylation (known for H3 at nine residues), arginine methylation (known for H3 at three residues) or threonine/serine/tyrosine phosphorylation (known for H3 at eight residues), not to mention modifications of other histones.”

    Few will disagree that survival/homeostasis and (over)replication are built-in features of all organisms, even if no “genes” are found for this. They have been hard-wired into all organisms since LUCA (the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and quite likely before that time. Many behavioural features addressed in sociobiology are recognised as heritable rather than as acquired.

    Societal and community influences may effect their changes in a generation, as in interbellum Germany. Persistent effects can modify the hard wiring over evolutionarily short time frames as in the case of brain development from late Homo erectus to Homo heidelbergensis, and thence to Homo neanderthalensis and Homo callidus. Whether ten thousand years of domestication since the advent of agriculture and hierarchical societies has been sufficient to hard-wire certain behaviours into Homo callidus may be debatable, but the shrinkage of the human brain over the last twenty thousand years, is not: that shrinkage may perhaps be related to the invention of the atlatl (~30,000 years BCE) and the bow & arrow (~17,000 years BCE).

  • @BudNye: Raging against ourselves and against these processes makes about as much sense as raging against gravity.

    I’m so pissed that we don’t fall up. Coming down is the hardest thing.

  • Robin, as I said, there is some evidence of direct regulatory effect of nucleotide sequences, but largely they are replicated or at least transcribed (by proteins) for some functional effect (i.e., regulatory RNAs). The histone code involves histone proteins that are phosphorylated by other proteins (enzymes) and methylation of nucleotide sequences occurs by other proteins (enzymes) as well. These proteins are transcribed and translated from other genes and using other proteins that are themselves methylated and phosophorylated. Life is a big network (interactome) of interacting nucleotide sequences and proteins and small molecules, ions/metals and water. Epigenetics is also a major field of study.

    Nonetheless, many of the mechanisms for survival (replication) and homeostasis are well elucidated and understood (even though there’s always a lot more to learn). Homeostasis in a dynamic manner is IMO best explained by the theory of complex adaptive systems. But the processes are generally observable and modellable at the molecular level. Likewise, the molecular basis of epigenetic effects have also been observed and modifying the germ line is how variation can occur, so there are mechanisms to help drive this process in an efficient manner, but efficiency is evaluated in the context of evolution, not based on our ideas of what efficient is.

    People may be recognise complex social traits as inherited, but until there is causal molecular evidence, I think it’s pure speculation and in some cases, simply wrong (as evidence has later been uncovered to disprove certain claims from on marker-based studies). It is better to look at the evidence and let it speak for itself rather than to impose our human ideas top down on what the genetics should be like and then stop looking when you think you find what you’re looking for.

    The larger the size of the network (interactome) involving a particular trait, the more likely it is that the environment will dominate in guiding its behaviour within an organism and within a population due to the chaotic nature of these networks.

    Thinking biological evolution selects for maximising traits in some absolute sense (and according to human judgement) I think is incorrect. Biological evolution selects for traits that are sufficient to survive in the context of the environment. Traits that maximise resource use are generally quickly selected against in biological systems.

    But it doesn’t appear that Paul is claiming that the complex behavioural trait of “let’s maximise resource use” is encoded at the genetic level. He is claiming some other structural encoding.

  • http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/08/looting.html

    The REAL Looting Is Happening On Wall Street … Not In Ferguson, Missouri

    [begins]

    Who Are the Worst Looters?

    The looting in Ferguson, Missouri is inexcusable.

    The hoodlums – apparently out-of-towners – are not only stealing and destroying private property for no good reason, but they are giving the peaceful protesters against the shooting of Michael Brown a bad name, and provoking an armed (and over-militarized) response by the police.

    But let’s put things in perspective …

    Nobel prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz and well-known economist Nouriel Roubini say that we’ve got to jail – or perhaps even hang – some bankers before they’ll stop looting the economy.

    Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals – and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future.

    [it’s a good read]

  • Before I forget – can someone explain how one comments on the Forum? I don’t see any “reply” or “comment” area (and i’m a tech idiot). Many have put up so much great content there and I have no way to respond. [hey, maybe it’s better that way . . .]

    http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2014/08/humans-have-tripled-mercury-levels-in.html

    Humans have tripled mercury levels in upper ocean – Pollution may soon overwhelm deep seas’ ability to sequester mercury

    [begins]

    (Nature) – Mercury levels in the upper ocean have tripled since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and human activities are to blame, researchers report today in Nature.

    Although several computer models have estimated the amount of marine mercury, the new analysis provides the first global measurements. It fills in a critical piece of the global environmental picture, tracking not just the amount of mercury in the world’s oceans, but where it came from and at what depths it is found.

    “Nobody’s attempted to do a more comprehensive overview of all the oceans and get an estimate of total mercury in the surface and some deeper waters before,” says David Streets, an energy and environment policy scientist at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, who was not involved in the study.

    Researchers collected thousands of water samples during eight research cruises to the North and South Atlantic and Pacific oceans between 2006 and 2011. To determine how mercury levels had changed over time, they compared samples of seawater from depths down to 5 kilometres with water closer to the surface, which had been more recently exposed to mercury pollution from land and air.

    Their analysis reveals that human activities — mostly the burning of fossil fuels, but also mining — had boosted the mercury levels in the upper 100 metres of the ocean by a factor of 3.4 since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The total amount of anthropogenic mercury in the world’s seas now stands at 290 million moles, with the highest levels in the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans.

    [there’s more]

  • “The looting in Ferguson, Missouri is inexcusable.”

    Bull hockey!

    Absolutely, not true!

    Blacks have been looted forever in this country (and always will be until NTHE). They do not stand a chance in this society. The little piddly stuff they gain I’m sure is done out of pure unadulterated anger at the injustice in this country. Jim Crow still lives and reigns. That’s is probably why the kid was stealing cigars. His body language was as pure a picture of the relentless racism as any I have seen. Who wudn’t be pissed at the masters. Brutal.

    Try to be black and see how you like it before you criticize.

    The black Panthers had it right: blacks have a right to defend themselves and (I add) take back what has been taken.

  • Better photo, Guy looked like death warmed up in the other.

    If the world ended in 1989

    From a nuclear strike, would you mind?

  • Tom,

    You’ll have to sign in and create a password. Once you’ve done that and ticked the option “forever” for your password, the forum will welcome you with “Hello Tom” and you’ll have all the options for commenting there. Sometimes the “forever” option for your password seems to go off. If it does, simply re-enter your password. In cases like that, you’ll also notice that the “Hello Tom” will be missing on top of the page.

    I hope this helps.
    I would never want to miss your comments and links.
    Regards Sabine

  • Robin Datta,

    Thanks for mentioning “Societal and community influences may effect their changes in a generation, as in interbellum Germany.
    Now I know why I’m such a Baddie! Even worse, I suppose, than that generation, considering I’m a specimen (meat robot) belonging to the one after that.

    I shall have to google that fantastic theory so that I can feel suitably contrite.

  • The latest essay for this space is posted here, courtesy of Keith Farnish. Catch Nature Bats Last tonight on the radio at 8:00 p.m. Eastern (prn.fm).

  • Sabine: thank you for the help (my password doesn’t seem to work in that location but does on the Log In place above on the right – i’ll try again). Listen to this conversation and let me know what you think (if you’d like) – it actually deals with what we talk about here:

    http://www.upworthy.com/a-woman-is-scared-for-the-future-so-she-calls-up-some-scientists-their-responses-surprising

    A Woman Is Scared For The Future, So She Calls Up Some Scientists. Their Responses? Surprising.

    Michele Morano finds it hard to sleep at night because one thing is always on her mind. Then she began to speak to scientists, and her anxiety went down a ton.

    At 5:14, a scientist tries to skirt a pretty darn important question from Morano, which felt kindaaa sketchy at first. But then she finally explains why she didn’t wanna answer it at first. And her words are heart-lifting.

  • @Ram, you’re correct that I think that complex behaviors related to survival and growth are encoded at a structural level. IMO at least some of the underlying shaping forces are thermodynamic in nature, as described by Stanley N. Salthe in his papers on MEPP, by the Odum/Lotka MPP, and by Eric Schneider and James Kay in their paper, “Life as a Manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics”.

    Not being a microbiologist myself, my opinions about the role of genes or gene networks in behavior are necessarily those of a layman. That being said, IMO trying to understand organismic or social behavior in terms of genes is like trying to understand Proust by reading a dictionary. System behavior is several holon-levels above the operation of genes, and is formed by a variety of influences including environmental ones.

    The fact that life is a persistent dissipative structure (as recognized by Prigogine) is evidence of its thermodynamic roots. Social behavior as codified in human cultures shows the same pattern of dissipative organization constrained by environmental factors.

    In this interpretation, the development of self-organized complexity can be viewed on a continuum. It starts with natural self-organizing phenomena such as tornadoes, develops through autocatalytic chemical processes like Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions, through viruses, bacteria, higher life forms, on to animal and human social behavior and finally to human cultural behavior. Influences and pressures at each level add to those that shaped the underlying levels, but do not replace them. This is the reason I think that our inability to fully address global problems (climate change, ecological damage. the growth paradigm that results from surplus energy, etc.) has some of its roots all the way back in non-equilibrium thermodynamics.

    As Bud Nye pointed out, the human social behavior described by Schmookler (yes, I’ve read “Parable of the Tribes”) can be seen as system behavior that follows the operation of the Odum/Lotka MPP. It’s the same principle at work in ecosystem succession.

    Turning to the cognitive dimension, much of the behavior that concerns us on this board has unconscious origins. This seems to be rooted in the fact that our brains evolved to have large numbers of relatively special-purpose parallel processing circuits that do most of our heavy cognitive lifting without requiring our conscious participation. These circuits seem to have evolved through successive adaptations in order to facilitate efficient decision-making in a high-density information environment. While our genes may carry the instructions for building these circuits, they don’t code emergent properties like status-seeking, climate change denial or cognitive dissonance. Those are structural features, and the best way I’ve found to understand them so far is through evolutionary psychology rather than evolutionary biology.

    As you might guess from the nature of my argument, I think the salient unit of natural selection is the organism in toto rather than the genes themselves (pace Dr. Dawkins).

    At a still higher level, cultural features like corporate wealth-consolidation or expressions of political power emerge from a combination of universal organismic behaviors like status seeking (evolutionary psychology), the existing structure of society and its persistent institutions (“structural determinism”) and the society’s available resource infrastructure (non-equilibrium thermodynamics). Cybernetic control and feedback loops link each of these domains.

    Some of the control linkages seem to have preferential directionality, an example of which as described by anthropologist Marvin Harris in his “Principle of Probabilistic Infrastructural Determinism”. This principle seems to be related to Maturana’s “structural determinism” in that the structure of the lowest level of the sociocultural system (what Harris called the infrastructure) probabilistically influences the layer above (the structure, in Harris’ terms), and the structure of our institutions shape our social superstructure of values and beliefs. Influences seem far less likely to flow downward. In other words, changes to a society’s environment shape its values much more often than changes to its value system reshape its interaction with the environment.

    The existing structure at each level constrains the available system responses to any changes in the underlying levels. At each level, the influence is probabilistically upwards, and the response of the higher level is constrained by its existing structure. Not coincidentally, this seems to explain quite well why environmental and social-justice activism, based on the assumption that changing our values will influence the way we relate to the world, has been largely unsuccessful at anything beyond a local level – the world simply doesn’t work the way activists believe it does.

  • .
    just sittin’ 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.

    Somewhere, there are children eating dirt.

  • Consider the following:

    You need an annual income of $34,000 a year to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic’s 2010 book “The Haves and the Have-Nots”.

    To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it’s $5,000 per year.

    Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000.

    America’s poorest are some of the world’s richest.

    Nowhere else is the world do the poor have flat screen TVs, cellphones and some even cars. As an Angolan politician once said to me: if I die and return, I’d be happy to return as a poor American.

  • “Nowhere else is the world do the poor have flat screen TVs, cellphones and some even cars.”

    Can you give us a link for those stats?

    They do in Canada, even more so…for now. I think it’s similar in most English speaking, white folk dominated countries and the Scandinavian countries.

    Kevin Moore, whats the state of the welfare state in NZ?

  • .
    you don’t need a link – either you get it or you don’t.

    The point is (as Stormcrow said):

    All of that amazing stuff is on the backs of every other living thing and all of the habitat that is being plundered. For me, that knowledge is the hardest part about being alive at this time in history.

    From CNN Correspondent Garrick Utley

    NEW YORK (CNN) — As scientists note the arrival of the six billionth human being on the planet, they also are warning that 16 percent of the world’s population is consuming some 80 percent of its natural resources.

    That’s the estimated toll the wealthiest populations on the globe — the United States, Europe and Japan — are taking from the earth’s natural bounty to sustain their way of life.

    In the U.S. alone, says Emily Matthews of the World Resources Institute, every man, woman and child is responsible for the consumption of about 25 tons of raw materials each year.

    Americans, while making up only four percent of the world’s population, operate one third of its automobiles. U.S. citizens consume one quarter of the world’s global energy supply.

    Perhaps a more graphic example is that of the lowly quarter-pound hamburger. To produce just one requires 1.2 pounds of grain to feed the cattle, and 100 gallons of water — part of the hidden cost consumers never see.

  • @pat

    Who said I “need” it? I just want it….for someone else who really does need it.

  • @ Eddie

    You state:

    “I’ve given that eventuality a great deal of thought, actually.I hope when the really bad times do come I’ll be doing more or less what I do now, which is to try to relieve pain for people who are suffering. I expect the pay will be less, but I’m okay with that………I don’t rule out suicide either, but I feel it’s premature to give it serious thought, as of yet. I certainly can’t get my mind around it as some kind of noble sacrifice, like if 6.5 billion of us would just quietly off ourselves, it’d improve chances for those who are left.”

    NTE is probably the most difficult concept the human race has ever had to consider. If it’s not, then I’m curious as to what might be of greater significance. And within this emerging reality, the slow realization that the only peaceful way to exit it, other than by natural causes, will probably need to come by our own hand.

    It is terribly difficult to talk about death, especially suicide, without eliciting any number of attacks, falsehoods and mischaracterizations.

    With that said, I’m at a loss as how to respond to what you’ve written, because frankly, you’re not making any sense, and/or have failed to truly grasp what we’re discussing here.

    Your first three sentences not only contradict each other, but imply the opposite point as to the one you’re attempting to make. That is, unless you’re being sardonic. But I don’t think you are.

    I’m not telling you this to be mean, condescending or arrogant, but it’s rather clear you haven’t given this “a great deal of thought”, or if you have, you’re still missing a few critical pieces to the puzzle.

    Namely, the only way you, or anyone for matter, are going to be “relieving pain” once extinction is full throttle, is if you’re going to be able to feed them, which you most likely won’t be doing, because you yourself will be starving. And if you do have food, you surely aren’t going to be sharing it, that is unless, you plan to commit passive suicide.

    While for most everyone, it’s nearly impossible to imagine, but what NTE equates to is basically in one generation, everyone dies. And the vast, vast, vast majority of that death will be unimaginably horrific. And the cause of such a mass die-off can come in only a few different ways. The vast majority of humanity will either starve to death/dehydration, be killed through any number of forms of predation (war, nuclear fallout, murder, genocide, bio-agents), or they will kill themselves. And let us not forget any number of virulent vectors and diseases.

    And your last two sentences, which I take as attempting to characterize my position, has little to do with what I’ve at least written in this space. I have said repeatedly, that I’m not suggesting people kill themselves anytime soon, but mentally/emotionally prepare ourselves for an “eventuality” that is fast approaching. And it might behoove us to rethink the meaning of life and death today, in context to NTE, so as to start the process of letting go, so that we might better accept our untimely extinction whenever that day does arrive.

    Remember Eddie, NTE means no one is left. You seem to be taking a PG rated perspective in regards to a XXX outcome, so it’s not surprising that you are mischaracterizing the meaning of suicide in context to it.

  • Daniel,

    Your last three paragraphs of your answer to Eddie explain it all so well: “… but what NTE equates to is basically in ONE generation, EVERYONE DIES”.
    (my capitals)
    Some people here should contemplate this thought more often because this is precisely what we have to grasp intellectually and emotionally, I think, before we have real common ground for discussion. Getting to this common ground is a very private journey (if I may call it that) and needs research and imagination. I am there, on that common ground, but I’m lucky to be old enough. I’ve had the opportunity to get here over a long time, starting with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which affected me greatly when it first came out.

    Your comments and essays are always profoundly relevant. Thanks.

    Lidia,

    Your thoughts on soil life are also very relevant here (if I may use the word, hopefully in it’s correct context, as the story is still worth telling). How could it not occur to people that once life in the soil decreases and eventually dies out, the basis for all life has been taken away. The Living Soil – our common (mythical) Mother.

    You don’t need a degree in biology for that, just interest in and awareness of Other.

  • .
    “Strut, fret, and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance, and it is futile to seek or to affirm meaning where none can be found.”

    However, since you are here:

    In her article, How To Buy Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky reports people on the brink of death wish they had spent more time “connecting with friends, nurturing intimate relationships, socializing at parties, consuming art, music, and literature, learning new languages and skills, honing talents, and volunteering at our neighborhood hospital, church, or animal shelter.”

  • @ Daniel

    One last statement and then I’m going to let this go. If what I say makes no sense, then just consign my comments to whatever bin suits you.

    Perhaps what I wrote might make more sense to you if I could put it in a better context.

    For one thing, I expect to be feeding people for as long as it’s humanly possible. That’s my goal one, and I’ve got the training for it. I probably know as much as anybody (other than my teachers) about how to grow food in a deteriorating climate environment, and I’m continuing to gather knowledge from every promising source I can find. How long I can keep growing food,I don’t know.

    I’m not a climate scientist, but I do have a biology degree, among others…but that isn’t important. What’s important is that I’m a life-long student of whatever I’m interested in, which at the moment is growing food, making electricity, and collecting water.

    Second, it isn’t clear to me (and I don’t think to anyone else either) whether the first wave of this collapse is going to be primarily environmental or whether it might begin with one of the many possible other kinds of collapse scenarios that have been talked about, like infectious disease or failure of the JIT delivery system most of us depend on for everything we eat. Or war.

    Whatever the scenario turns out to be, I expect the negative events to play out over a period of time, like months, or even years. I see nothing wrong with trying to do what I can to mitigate the effects of climate change, disease, and social collapse until such time as that becomes impossible.

    As for this:

    “. I have said repeatedly, that I’m not suggesting people kill themselves anytime soon, but mentally/emotionally prepare ourselves for an “eventuality” that is fast approaching. And it might behoove us to rethink the meaning of life and death today, in context to NTE, so as to start the process of letting go, so that we might better accept our untimely extinction whenever that day does arrive. ”

    I’m in full agreement. No argument from me at all. But then you were critiquing me, and not I you. I’m glad you aren’t taking the Martin Manley approach, but it has been mentioned here, and recently.

    (I think and feel that it’s always been a good idea to live one’s life with an acknowledgement that catastrophe can strike…whether that might involve a few people or everyone on earth.) Dying involves letting go, almost always…maybe every single time. And I’m good with the ideas of hospice and gifting, and all those other good things I’ve heard mentioned here.

    On the relief of suffering…My day job involves treating people in pain…each and every day of my life. As long as people are still breathing, I don’t see the need for that going away. And since I have a license to possess and dispense almost every legal drug that exists, when the time comes to mix the last batch of kool-aid, I expect I might be doing the mixing.

    I like this site and the people who post here, even you. I read and sometimes I comment. You think I don’t get it? Fine. I can live with that.

  • .
    Martin Manley was a hero.
    .

  • “Strut, fret, and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance, and it is futile to seek or to affirm meaning where none can be found.”

    From Donald A. Crosby’s book, “The Specter of the Absurd: Sources and Criticisms of Modern Nihilism” (great reading, by the way)

    In her article, How To Buy Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky reports people on the brink of death wish they had spent more time “connecting with friends, nurturing intimate relationships, socializing at parties, consuming art, music, and literature, learning new languages and skills, honing talents, and volunteering at our neighborhood hospital, church, or animal shelter.”

    From Daniel McNeil’s article:
    http://www.moabsunnews.com/opinion/article_a644be4a-fc16-11e3-a623-0017a43b2370.html

  • .
    .
    now I’m going to try to find some obscure something that phil cannot reference!

  • Phil Says:
    August 20th, 2014 at 12:49 pm
    “Strut, fret, and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance, and it is futile to seek or to affirm meaning where none can be found.”
    From Donald A. Crosby’s book, “The Specter of the Absurd: Sources and Criticisms of Modern Nihilism” (great reading, by the way)

    …And as a part-time ‘i’-crosser, ‘t’-dotter, and source-pedant, I feel compelled to gratuitously draw attention to Donald’s source… 🙂

    She should have died hereafter;
    There would have been a time for such a word. —
    Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing.
    — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)