Uprooting Civilization

by Keith Farnish at the Earth Blog

Farnish pic 1



Uprooting Civilization (Part 1)

I have a great fear. It has been with me for years now, haunting the background to my thoughts. This fear surmounts climate change, deforestation, peak oil, global pandemic, soil depletion, indeed any worry that any reasonable person might keep at the very top of their worry-tree. It surmounts, but also encompasses these things, and more.

And it’s such a simple question that caused this worry. So simple that at first there doesn’t seem anything to fear from it at all, until you take a much closer look at its implications.

“Are humans naturally civilized?”

I want to look away from those words, because my fear is that the answer is “yes”, that we were always going to end up this way and there is nothing we can do about it.


Does This Matter?

If you are civilized and have never known any different, it’s possible – though I struggle to accommodate this point of view – to imagine there simply is no other type of human: We are a civilized species and that’s all there is to it.

Of course, this is blatantly not the case, as there is absolutely no evidence for civilization, in any form, having existed prior to about 10,000 years ago; whereas humans have been around for at least 200,000 years in almost precisely their current evolutionary state. This means that civilization has existed for about 5% of modern human history. Even then, when we say “civilized” we are really only talking about the types of civilization which encompass a number of key traits – accumulation of surplus; accommodation in areas of dense population; forms of government, also implying hierarchy and power structures; trade beyond the immediate community, and the specialization of roles aside from functional sex divisions.

That measure puts civilization being around for no more than 5000 years, or 2.5% of human history. So, humans are not, historically, a civilized species; although from a population perspective far more civilized people than non-civilized people have lived on earth. This latter point seems to skew the issue slightly, but it need not – more humans may provide more opportunity for mutation, but there is little evidence to suggest any significant evolutionary mutations have taken place. That said, it doesn’t mean that we are not already evolved to become civilized. Indeed, many anthropologists and social scientists would have us believe that civilization is the inevitable result of human evolution.

Why I am so very scared of this is because of what civilization has done to the global ecology, and what it is almost certain to do to the future of humanity if it continues. Much has been written about this, some of it by me, a great deal more (and better) by other people. Little more needs to be said. If we are naturally evolved to be civilized then our genetic “terminator code” – for that must be its primary function – looks destined to be something we cannot reprogram, and certainly not simply walk away from.

As Dave Pollard so tersely illustrates, it looks something like this – we are travelling from left to right, and are currently in the middle:

Farnish pic 2

The push pin of human history.

On the other hand, if we are not naturally a civilized species, then we can be persuaded to shed the sarcophagus of civilization – the unnatural creation of a few toxic dreamers; even assisting with its termination and reconvening in other, uncivilized ways. The losses will, of course, be great, but far less dreadful compared to a world where humans will be civilized right up to the end.

I believe it is about time we faced up to this, and looked at the possibilities that arise from even asking this question, lucidly, and with grim determination to see it through to whatever consequences it leaves us to face.

Are We Naturally Civilized?

Here is a hypothesis: Through the processes of evolution, humans have ended up civilized.

Ok, how do we get to that point in a convincing way? Evolution in humans is a particularly slow process, to the extent that we can be almost certain of evolution having no active part to play during the growth of civilization.[1] If humans evolved to be civilized then we must already have been evolved that way by the time civilization began. This is entirely possible in a biological sense, just as by the time the first land-based animals wriggled or squirmed out of the sea they were already at least partly evolved to be out of the sea. Of course there had to be a hell of a lot of intermediate stages towards being land-bound, otherwise we would be talking about some kind of divine intervention, because a single mutation in a single organism would not provide the necessary genetic material for continued success in this new venture. This goes as much for potentially civilized humans as for potentially land-based animals.

Essentially, if humans evolved to be civilized, then there would have been humans before who were slightly less evolved to be civilized, and before then slightly less so, and so on. Similarly, there are a range of situations that could have arisen that made it possible for anything from the slightly “civilizable” humans to the ideally suited human, to make the next step to Homo sapiens civilis.

But that assumes it is possible to evolve in such a way. In order to gauge that possibility we need first to look at some of the key characteristics of Homo sapiens civilis. Below, I have made a list that I believe an inherently civilized populace must adhere to, in order for civilization itself to thrive. The analysis is very tricky, because it requires the extraction of some kind of inherent human characteristics from the characteristics of civilization itself.

I am going to take a stab at these, but they are open to challenge. What is far more important in the end, though, is whether these characteristics are natural to humans, through the evolutionary pathway.

1) The Desire to Accumulate

Civilization requires the accumulation and retention of surplus in order to maintain continuous habitation of a place, especially under times of stress. More than this, though, civilization needs people to want to keep accumulating even when there is no stress, i.e. proactive rather than reactive. This desire creates economies and, specifically, growth – which is what capital economies require in order to exist.

Storage of food surplus is a characteristic of very many species, particularly those that hibernate, and need to rapidly stock up on energy upon waking. To a lesser extent the same applies to those that have lengthy time periods between food availability, although that energy is usually stored internally. On the other hand, storage of surplus where there is little or no regular food stress is almost unknown in non-human animals, unless I am missing something significant. It’s simply not needed, and if utilised would be an inefficient use of energy; plus the risk of losing that surplus to external causes is extremely high. In fact, on that latter point, only with the advent of tools, and particularly the use of non-permeable materials, has mass food storage been effective against theft, rot, weather damage and so on.

In non-static cultures, storage of anything for much later use runs counter to the needs of regular movement. It is not useful to accumulate as it is too difficult to carry any more than a few days food around, unless you also include what is doing the carrying. Imagine transporting an armchair or a bed on a horse and you get the idea. So, it’s only as people started to settle that accumulation had any evolutionary benefit. There are question marks over the time of the first properly settled humans, but most contemporary literature suggests settlement is synonymous with civilization, and it began in earnest around 10,000 years ago: which seems to answer the question of accumulation, regardless of whether you consider it to be a useful human trait or not. Humans could not have been genetically predisposed to accumulate before civilization because it had no evolutionary benefit. The response to stress in non-civilized cultures is to move on to where there is less stress.

Begging the obvious question, where could we move to now?

2) The Need for Hierarchy

Without hierarchy it is impossible to build structures (physical and political) and institutions at any significant scale – there has to be a power base, and those willing to carry out tasks on behalf of that power base, enforced by still others. A three level system is simple compared to even a small historical civilization. For this to happen people have to readily accept hierarchy, but more likely feel an innate need for it.

Pecking order comes close, as do insect colony structures, but these hierarchies are fixed in type – civilization allows for many different hierarchies, indicating that the type of hierarchy, if not the need for it, is not hard-wired. Non-civilized cultures have a wide range of structures, the vast majority at the egalitarian and/or titular leader end of the scale, as opposed to the multi-layered, fixed hierarchy the largest civilizations require(d) to maintain their size. And here’s the rub: small groups of humans don’t need complex hierarchies; as with accumulation of goods, a bureaucracy (for that is what hierarchy entails) is an inefficient use of time and energy with so few people. Of course, that could be argued for any hierarchy, and that may be a key point: they make large civilizations possible, but they don’t have any real function except to allow for the concentration of power over a large number of people. In an ant colony, where numbers equal strength and longevity in the event of great losses this is important; in human colonies, where vast collective numbers have only existed for the last 5,000 years or less, the evolution test clearly fails.

3) Disconnection from the Real World

This is not a classic characteristic of civilization but it’s inherent in allowing civilization to thrive, for without disconnecting then few or indeed, none of the destructive behaviours uniquely exhibited by civilized people would be tolerated – rather like shitting in your own back yard without a disposal system in place. Except the shit is happening on a much larger scale, and the back yard is formed of major habitats; the whole global ecology in the case of industrial civilization. Another key aspect of disconnection is the loss of community, but that is best addressed in the next section.

It’s difficult to envisage any organism on Earth that is disconnected from its ecological partners. To be sure, humans are not actually disconnected in a physical sense – habitats disappear and ecologies change, humans suffer; the larger the habitat loss and ecological change, the greater the human suffering. This is really about mental disconnection, for which sentience is required, i.e. a conscious effort to disconnect, regardless of physical realities. Human definitions of sentience are obviously human-centric; we can never appreciate with any accuracy what it means for, say, a tree or a toad to have knowing awareness. What we can do, though, is appreciate whether any non-human species is knowingly disregarding its natural connections with other organisms for some purpose.

I am yet to see any evidence this is the case. Mental disconnection may imply some recent re-wiring to permit our ignorance of the real world, but it serves no evolutionary use and so cannot have led to us becoming civilized.

4) Individualism over Collectivism

The term “selfish gene” has been used and misused countless times as a way of justifying individual action by civilized human beings – the claim being that we act in a certain way to benefit ourselves alone because that’s the way we are genetically programmed.  Civilization appears to be successful because of the isolating methods used by those in power, urging us to aspire, strive and achieve. Always implicit is for this to happen at the expense of others. Thus, as successful individuals we can uniquely be the best within our social set, or whatever grouping we attach ourselves to. This, we are told, drives humanity forwards towards whatever goals are set for the next stage in our development.

What is never clarified is that human genes, as with all social animals (and, surprisingly, most “solitary” animals) cannot successfully propagate beyond a generation or two in isolation. For one, genetic diversity is required to reduce the risk of dangerous mutations; further, all organisms to a greater or lesser extent, require a level of collaboration in order that the selfish gene pool is successful. The distinction between the gene and the gene pool is critical. Individualism can get you so far, in very particular situations that, usually, require rapid decision making. Collectivism, however, is the only way humans can genuinely thrive for any significant period of time.

And this has been demonstrated repeatedly, even within a civilized environment. As Rebecca Solnit has shown in A Paradise Built In Hell, the natural reaction of even civilized people in crisis situations is to help each other and, in the longer term, build protective communities. We could call this “uncivilized” activity, but really it’s human activity. Collective behaviour is only curtailed where authority is enforced. Humans never evolved to be individuals.

Humans never evolved to be civilized.

In the second part of this essay I will consider how civilization could have come about even in the absence of evolutionary benefits, and what the future of humanity might be if it turns out I am wrong about our natural selves.




Part Two

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“There were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane”

Francis Ford Coppola

The Non-Evolutionary Perspective

We now know, perhaps with some relief, that evolution was not a key factor in creating a form of humanity that is now dominated by industrial civilization. To that argument I would add the critical caveat that because civilization is the primary reason for population growth and, as much as the great organs of the industrial world would like us to think otherwise, it is only this huge population – skewed in favour of civilization – that gives the impression of humanity being a civilized animal. Much like the USA claiming that Hawaiʻi is American because it is full of Americans.

But there’s little doubt that civilization is a significant, if recent, part of human history. It is also true that civilizations of many different varieties, sizes and timescales, have cropped up, apparently spontaneously across the world. This gives the impression that, if not a natural attribute of humanity, the “need” to be civilized is strongly built into the cultural make-up of a great number of humans. If one were to take the pragmatic approach then you could say that humanity is civilized, at least in terms of numbers and dominance. That doesn’t mean it is a good thing; it’s just a fact. Why this has happened in the absence of an evolutionary drive is an obvious question, and one that is very closely linked to how this happened in practical terms.

The “how?” part of the question is essentially a matter of brute power, the harnessing of nascent hierarchies and the exploitation of human vulnerabilities to benefit a burgeoning elite. I am not going to get into a discussion about the history of global civilizations, nor the impact of them on humanity and the wider environment – A Short History of Progress, by Ronald Wright is an excellent primer if you want to know more. What I will attempt is an explanation of why civilization happened in the first place, the spark that lit the fire that has now engulfed the Earth.

Origins of Civilization: Practical

It’s important to get this one out of the way first. The reason I want to address practical origins is because they are often seen as the primary reason for civilization’s birth, without actually addressing the root causes. In a way these “origins” are merely a link between the deeper reasons for humans becoming civilized, and the practical outcomes, such as agriculture, deforestation, large settlements, war, slavery and imperialism. But there is a key “why?” and that, I believe, takes its cue from the end of the last glacial period, approximately 12,000 years ago. For around 100,000 years prior to the recent retreat of northern hemisphere glaciation, there existed a state commonly known as the Ice Age. Paleoclimate analysis (http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc.html) vividly shows the changes that took place in the heartlands of civilization, such as the Near East and southern China as the glaciers retreated. From mainly desert conditions, there rapidly developed significant areas of lush forest and others with a relatively temperate climate, peaking between 10,000-9,000 years before the present day. Under such conditions of biological plenty, formally nomadic people had less of a need to move in search of water, in-situ vegetation and, perhaps critically, building and fire-making materials. Humans are social creatures; they are also opportunistic. Under such conditions staying still for a while made perfect sense.

But that does not explain the rise of civilization.

We know from Part One of this essay that there is no natural urge to accumulate surplus, form hierarchies or allow oneself to exploit the land to its limits; the urge would have been to move on as a collective band of humans once things became leaner, but they didn’t become leaner, at least for those in power, because, agriculture rapidly took hold, storage became a basic task and a few people found they were able to dominate many. From this came imperialism, or at least widespread trade, and so it goes…

Despite the obvious conjunction between newly greening lands and a roaming population, or at a least a population that only stayed in loose settlements as with many current indigenous people, civilizations only sprung up in a few specific areas. From these they were able to spread, and the ideas of civilization started to dominate wherever they touched. This would indicate a natural pattern of human cultural development if it wasn’t for the fact that non-civilized populations still exist in relatively resource plentiful conditions all over the world. It seems, then, that civilization – or the urge to become civilized – bears more resemblance to a disease, such as cancer, than a gene. Could it be that although eventually conditioned to become civilized, the initial urge to move towards this state was the result of a flaw in a few humans that found an opportunity?

Origins of Civilization: Psychological

Humans are, like many other mammals, communal animals that innately protect the collective above the individual. This is demonstrated by the presence of banishment in tribal peoples as the most severe form of punishment for a transgression against the tribal body, and the absence of selfishness or pride in ancient tribes. Contrary to what writers such as Jared Diamond[2] continually suggest, growth in population or resource hardship – while causing stress – does not cause major conflict in uncivilized, settled, human groups; instead, in the absence of other limiting factors, it leads to migration, or alternatively the splitting off of a group from the main tribe, much as bees swarm when a hive becomes overcrowded. This resistance to conflict and the development of a larger, more hierarchical population, has its roots in natural human connections. Extensive anthropological study[3] has shown that the optimum size for thriving human groups is between 100 and 300, beyond which dependency connections become weaker and splitting off becomes almost inevitable. The corollary of this is that even though humans are more than capable of living in large populations, they will not be connected to each other in the same way than if they were living in smaller groups. Where populations cannot easily disperse, hierarchies will inevitably develop which, like disconnection, is anathema to evolutionary behaviour.

The fact that hierarchies have developed, contrary to natural human behaviour, indicates something acting against our evolved need to be connected and communal. And this is where the “fatal flaw” comes in. I don’t believe for a moment that there was some spontaneous, innate urge to resist natural human behaviour; instead we have a situation that seems to relate to psychopathy – the mental state in which humans lose the need to relate to others, instead being solely driven by their own, often material, self-interest. Psychopathy has repeatedly been shown to go hand in hand with a high level of persuasiveness and authority, possibly enough to change the dynamic of a group from equitable to authoritarian, and then to one with layers of control, i.e. a hierarchy. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s see whether there is a possible model of the Psychopathic Origins of Civilization.

Let’s suppose an individual within a tribe has psychopathic tendencies. The first instinct, from a civilized point of view is perhaps that he (for it is predominantly men who exhibit such behaviour) will use their influence to rapidly establish power over the tribe. There are two flaws here. First, the concept of “power” in an ancient tribe is a non sequitur – there are no structures to ascend, beyond titular leadership, no ladders to climb, so there would have to be some kind of precedent to first establish the concept of power. Second, such obvious behaviour that could easily be hidden in a civilized society as “mere” ambition would be anathema to the collectivism of the tribe; thus such a person would likely find themselves ostracised or even banished.

So, how could psychopathy work in an uncivilized context? As we have seen, any activity that does not benefit the whole community is not an evolved response to a situation. But, what if certain non-collective activities could be sold to others as being of longer term benefit to the tribe? In other words, could a person driven by personal gain persuade others to do things that could benefit that person alone, in the belief that everyone would gain from these things? This is tricky as there is conflicting evidence as to whether ancient societies had (have) a concept of the future, but there are societies that do exhibit a greater level of forward planning for whatever reason, for instance forest “gardens” and more established settlements. This type of environment would provide a better platform for the psychopath than tribes that predominantly live in the now. So, it may be that a select group of hunters are instructed to stockpile food for themselves, rather than the whole tribe, in the belief that some hunters need to be better fed. In lean periods those select few would be stronger and, as a result of there being less food available, the remaining people weaker.

It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to see the beginnings of a hierarchy here. As this key behavioural change – note, we are still talking about something that is not innate – starts to appeal to a wider group of people who experience short-term personal gain, the simple change in behaviour develops into a cultural change. Acceptance in a small group may bleed down to the tribe as a whole, and thus become embedded in that society; inequalities notwithstanding. The normalisation of having one group benefitting more than others makes more complex hierarchies a possibility, not least because the more advantaged “upper tier” can impose their will upon those lower down. Any tribe that has embraced a culture of power over equality would not be averse to imposing that culture upon others – the belief that whatever is predominant must be morally right is endemic in all modern societies, and thus it is likely to be true in the earliest hierarchical systems. It must, therefore, be “right” to impose its beliefs on all other societies.

Imagine a group of tribes living within reach of one another. If all choose the way of peace, then all may live in peace. But what if all but one choose peace, and that one is ambitious for expansion and conquest? What can happen to the others when confronted by an ambitious and potent neighbor? Perhaps one tribe is attacked and defeated, its people destroyed and its lands seized for the use of the victors. Another is defeated, but this one is not exterminated; rather, it is subjugated and transformed to serve the conqueror. A third seeking to avoid such disaster flees from the area into some inaccessible (and undesirable) place, and its former homeland becomes part of the growing empire of the power-seeking tribe. Let us suppose that others observing these developments decide to defend themselves in order to preserve themselves and their autonomy. But the irony is that successful defense against a power-maximizing aggressor requires a society to become more like the society that threatens it. Power can be stopped only by power, and if the threatening society has discovered ways to magnify its power through innovations in organization or technology (or whatever), the defensive society will have to transform itself into something more like its foe in order to resist the external force.

[source: http://www.context.org/iclib/ic07/schmoklr/]

I didn’t write this essay with the Parable of The Tribes in mind, but it seems I have been led there through logic. Does this make the Psychopathy Hypothesis correct, or could this situation have been reached through other means? Whatever the precise cause, we appear to have a situation where civilization is not inevitable, and instead – shocking to many – the result of a damaging psychological flaw in a very small number of people. This is dramatically different to the myth that the powers that be would have us believe; that civilization is both an inevitable, and a welcome development in human history, and that we should never question the reasons it came about for fear of finding some very unsavoury answers.

A Niggling Doubt

But what if I am wrong? Let’s say we did evolve to become civilized.  Maybe the increase in our frontal lobe size, perhaps due to the uptake of cooked meat, created a natural propensity for power and hierarchy, the acquisition of material goods, and the desire to live beyond the beyond the means dictated by our connected selves. Would we be stuck in this terminal situation, or could we evolve again?

In fact this need may be inevitable, for the civilized human is not a natural survivor. Established civilizations thrive where resources are plentiful, including vast numbers of human slaves, and crises for the ruling classes are absent. In the absence of such human and non-human capital, and in the presence of unmanageable crises, civilizations fail…and those who are not adapted to uncivilized living fail with them.

On the other hand, those people who have thus far escaped the hand of civilization have remained connected and more than able to survive in uncivilized conditions. In all likelihood, many people who live within civilization may still be connected, or have the will to become reconnected and relearn the lessons of our ancient past. Those who survive will be the new seed of human evolution. Whether humanity evolved to be civilized or not, the future of humanity appears, in all cases, to be uncivilized.


[1] For various complex reasons related to recessive tendencies, we can’t write-off evolution leaving us stranded when civilization collapses.

[2] This is the same person who claims that all tribes can benefit from the input of civilization.

[3] see, for instance Dunbar’s Number – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/004724849290081J

Comments 59

  • As Gandhi remarked when he was asked what he thought of Western Civilisation, “I think it would be a very good idea.”

    I think humans are capable of anything any other biological species is capable of, and more. But this is almost a cursed ability – as I tell my group, being given enough rope to either pull yourself or hang yourself.

    I think making claims about biological evolution and genetic programming needs to be done carefully and going where the evidence points to, not where one’s ideas take you. I think we are capable of living in a symbiotic and sustainable relationship with our environment. It didn’t have to be this way.

  • But if you strip this down to the bare bones, it is again asking
    “What if females ate males after sex?” or another question of dubious merit.

    Ram says: “It didn’t have to be this way.”

    But it IS this way, so what’s the question again? What if we as a species learned to live with one another and the planet in a peaceful tranquility that only brought about death to vegetables, fruits and grain? I suppose we wouldn’t be facing extinction, this discussion would not be happening and our lives would be radically different.

    It’s a circle jerk of hypothetical reasoning. What would it have been like if Hitler won the war? Our lives would more or less the same except we would wonder what would it be like if Hitler lost the war instead.

    Face the extinction headed your way. Looking backwards to Eden is a waste of time.

  • I agree with Grant, take your medicine, quit complaining.

    Unless you are a poor child eating dirt, shut up!

  • Complexity exists to eat, and it must eat heartily and reproduce or it will cease to be complex. Civilization, like the ecosystem that gave rise to it, is no more than a temporary complex state that eats a variety of finite resources pumped or dug from the earth by the likes of Rosneft, Exxon and Peabody Coal. As humans came from a seemingly timeless ecosystem, perhaps they haven’t noticed that their cancerous civilization is of limited duration. We have evolved to be civilized if you’re an optimist or a cancer if you are a realist. The primitive tribes you mention must combine into a larger organization capable of acquiring sufficient energy to let specialization flourish under the aegis of some religion. Temples get built, tools evolve, information gets recorded, eventually. It really took the cold ape to the north to discover the usefulness of those buried deposits of fossil fuels and from there, in a manner similar to the Pre-Cambrian explosion, we get the human technological explosion. Shame it won’t last. Go take a look at modern “civilization” and see what it really is, a flow of resources and energy on concrete and steel arteries, cellularity, a forlorn attempt at everlasting life, dopamine, but most of all it’s about eating everything and growing in complexity until it collapses for lack of proper nourishment.

  • i’m with Grant on this one (too).

    Guy, keep up the good work on your radio show. I know it will improve each time and you’ll be in the groove before long. i’ll be listening either as it happens or on the replay.

    I came across an interesting recorded conversation and would like to get some feedback on it if anyone is interested (and certainly AFTER you respond to Keith’s well-written essay here). It’s at the bottom of the last thread (so as not to interrupt this one).

    Meanwhile, that pesky ebola keeps spreading. We have suspected cases now in Austria, New Mexico, New York, Maryland and elsewhere. This is not looking good.


    Beautiful and sad GIFs show the ongoing destruction of the oceans

  • Looks like a(nother) interesting regurgitation of Paul Shepard’s theses (without credit being given though). Not that I’m against them, they are the most brilliant ideas I’ve had the joy to discover in the past 20 years. Really encompassing indeed, and quite subtle.


  • IMO it largely comes down to available flows of surplus energy: the more energy, the more complex the structure of civilization.

    That means it’s a natural process, and that so long as surplus energy is available, some form of civilization will emerge. The actual form that emerges is different from place to place and time to time depending on energy availability and other environmental factors, but the general outcome of organized societies is the same. I don’t think there is any way around it.

    If GlobalCiv 1.0 were to crash, any subsequent societies would still complexify to the limit of their available energy flows, raw materials, and environmental support. No matter what they tried to learn from the past.

    Sorry, it is what it is.

  • clean water, hot and cold, runs freely from the tap

    El Nino is coming, with droughts all over the map

    there’s plenty of food and more

    in the dumpster behind the grocery store

    go to the mall, get a new shirt

    and somewhere, there are children eating dirt

  • I talked to a niece in Arkansaw yesterday on the phone. “Uncle, Miiike, know whaat?” (pause)”Ya’ll got yellow water there?’
    “What! Yellow water?”
    “Yesss. Ours is yellow.”
    You’re kidding. Do they frack near you?”
    “What’s that?”

  • “humans have been around for at least 200,000 years in almost precisely their current evolutionary state.

    but there is little evidence to suggest any significant evolutionary mutations have taken place.

    evolution having no active part to play during the growth of civilization.”

    Let’s not overlook the loss of Homo callidus brain substance over the past 20,000 years: the amount lost for the average adult male would equal his fist.

    Brain volume is lost across the board in all domesticated mammals including humans. with their increasing compliance and less disruptive behaviour. Humans too have had severe domestication.

    Also the size of the teeth have been shrinking by about 1% per millennium.

    “too difficult to carry any more than a few days food around, unless you also include what is doing the carrying.”

    Ungulates and nomadic animal husbandry make the wealth march on the hoof.

    PBS: The Journey of Man – 13 videos Describes the spread out of Africa 50,000 years ago – prior to civilisation.

    “The response to stress in non-civilized cultures is to move on to where there is less stress.”

    Responses to stresses seen in many lineages including most spore and cyst forming microbes: includes dieback, formation of the more durable cyst or spore, which tides over hard times. They have been through innumerable diebacks and near-extinctions to develop such adaptations.

    “small groups of humans don’t need complex hierarchies”

    “Small” here would be Robin Dunbar’s number, 150. Eusocial species have hierarchies built into their phenotypes. Quasi-social species also have hierarchies, but these tend to be more fluid, with the role of alpha male and alpha female moving amongst different individuals.

    “how civilization could have come about even in the absence of evolutionary benefits,”

    Pet house dogs and cats like a comfortable couch. Seeking the creature comforts of civilisation is common to many animals. Microbes move through a gradient towards high sugar concentration. Homo callidus has similar preferences, but also has the technology to to set up one’s preferences.

  • “What would it have been like if Hitler won the war?”

    My parents would not have met. There would be no Pakistan or Bangladesh. B-) The Internet would be mostly in German. German would be de rigueur for all studies in science beyond baccalaureate world wide. There would be no history of the Holocaust (the victors write the history). Also, quite possibly no Jews. No Israel. No I.

  • Leslie White,anthropologist,studied and wrote of how the “evolution” of culture depended on our energy source..so too bad we started burning fossil fuels..the nukes…

  • Evolution never acts with intent; it imply stumbles upon successful changes in genotype and phenotype.

    Human brains evolved to become bigger and more complex because that went hand in hand with making better tools and weapons, and with understanding the best ways move around and kill animals. .

    Human bodies evolved to become better at running and throwing because that went hand in hand with increasing access to high-value food supplies.

    Humans evolved to become killers. Killing is what the human species does best, better than any other species ever to have evolved. With my adaptations I can kill anything from aphids to whales. Sorry anything from bacteria to whales (though bacteria inside my body can present a problem).

    ‘Kill people who are not closely related to you. Cooperate with people who are closely related to you.’

    Selfish gene theory still holds true, even though many seem to not understand it and then argue against it.

    The clever thing the ‘elites’ did at the ‘dawn of civilisation’ was to trick the masses into thinking they were related to the elites and that the fortune of the masses depended on the success of the elites. We see this faux narrative maintained and repeated on a daily basis.

    I agree with Grant, pat and Tom; we just keep going over the same ground, and most of it is irrelevant.

    By the way, recent anthropological discoveries push back the dawn of civilisation many tens of thousands of years. People living in caves accumulated stuff and stored stuff at least 100,000 years ago.

    Much more important to me is the matter of how much longer my local council is going to continue squandering community resources on useless infrastructure, unsustainable ‘development’ and entertainment etc. (‘bread and circuses’), and in doing so make everything worse. Also of great interest to me is the matter of how much longer politicians can succeed in lying on a continuous basis.

    The answer to both questions seems to be what I suggested several years ago: until they can’t.

  • I agree with Grant, Pat and Tom; we just keep going over the same ground, and most of it is irrelevant.


  • I like the show’s song-NBL

  • Some great comments, leading to a lift off point for me, which came to me on my 2 hr morning walk today.

    The cementers here are pretty sure withing a human generation or two Earth habitat will not suit our survival here.
    Weather it is the chop type extinction for humans or a few stragglers holding like barnacles to the little areas still viable, we aren’t sure.
    But to me we need to get the message
    this place is not for our next phase of existence/evolution/being.
    We need to shed the material form, and not get attracted back, (to the hell hole soon arriving here).
    What do you think a car is?
    It is a ‘grosser usable vehicle’ many use for joining the dots in their civilised lives. We can see that has had an effect, and all the happier people I have ever met, have been in the process of shedding skins, not putting on new metal ones!
    So get real guys, this place has to be left behind, and very soon.
    Self-Realise off the rock, into real Bliss, but to do it, and not be attracted back, you gotta do it in one life, (as traditionally it has been so). So start now, today.
    Luckily there is help!
    Gather with your contemporaries and friggin work out a way!
    I could point many to a way, but they know it from me by now.
    If you look carefully, you will find the Path is clear now(cleared, and like a superhighway). Every bit of Work necessary that you can’t actually do yourself(breathing, eating, exercising…)has been DONE FOR YOU!
    No Star-ship will be needed, just let go of the need to have a material body from the end of this one life, and things should be fine( er.. did I just suggest that?)
    Start today, just breath deeply.

  • We will remain in this current state of civilized living until the means allowing us to do so are no longer available (and that will likely be the end of us to a large degree). Simple as that. A leopard cannot change its spots.

  • Shrinking human brain:
    Selection for smaller brains in Holocene human evolution
    Discover Magazine
    If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?
    Here are some leading theories about the why the human brain has been getting smaller since the Stone Age.
    By Kathleen McAuliffe|Thursday, January 20, 2011
    Decline of the Empire
    December 3, 2011
    The Incredible Shrinking Brain

  • Civilization or not? Death or glory.

    With Civilization, we have rolled the dice against time in hopes our social development catches up to the technological. Our warmongering and ever sharpening swords made for better plowshares. Some of those plowshares are the reason we have pictures of Mars, live up to three times longer than we should, and possess the potential to one day populate the stars, assuming we survive the coming turbulent years.

    Had we never evolved or remained uncivilized then our world would be greener but it would also be the same floating tomb it has always been destined to be. The sun is yellow, marking it as halfway through it’s lifespan. When it dies, the ecology dies with it, pretty or not. Mankind has the potential to preserve the history of that ecology and even bring life back to the many species martyred so that the world might survive the coming super nova that will erase even the most extreme extremophilic organisms on this rock.

    Like Carl Sagan said, in so many words; we are the detritus of dead stars, inheritors of the same cosmic violence and decay as every other thing on this planet – machines of vicious transmutation who turn death into concepts and concepts into machinations, physical and social. Peace and love are alien to our very nature as creatures in this world – our mobility and potential are all that separates us from the rest.

  • @Robin Datta

    Not only the incredible shrinking brain but also the incredibly obese body, suffering mal-nutrition and a veritable ‘feasting ground’ for all sorts of diseases.

  • Hi Aurélien, I don’t know who Paul Shepard is, but if we independently both have the same ideas then maybe we’re onto something :)

  • You cannot equate civilization with people “storing stuff” or even “accumulate”. If this were the case you can extend the notion of civilisation to apply to squirrels and crows and many other species. The concept of civilisation then becomes meaningless. I would also suggest, that certain anthropologists have an agenda (most always have in the past-there record is not very good in certain areas to say the least).For the sake of coherence I would suggest civilisation began in certain specific areas post the last ice age; that is what is generally meant by the term (beginnings of sedentism, fencing off, small scale agriculture, record keeping, formation of elites, gods outside of the natural world and so on). I think this is what Keith means when he’s talking of civilisation and this definition seems perfectly reasonable imo.

  • Nathaniel, peace and love are our creations AFAIK. If there’s anything worth saving about humanity, I think these concepts that transcend our biology are worth something. At least those are the reasons I live, peace and love.

  • From the “Who of us can see that we are Secular Humanists thread on the Diner:


    CFS Principles

    Helping people is better than hurting people
    Cooperating is better than Competing
    Being Nice is better than being Mean
    Laughing is better than Crying
    Being Hopeful is better than being Hopeless.
    Working to make things better is better than letting the world collapse around you without a fight
    Making Frackers Miserable is a Noble Profession
    Castrating Frackers is a reasonable response to Fracking
    Muslims and Christians should shake hands and agree to disagree
    Zbignew Brezhisnky and Henry Kissinger should be issued a First Class Ticket to the Great Beyond.
    Honeybees should be protected
    Monsanto MUST DIE!!!

    Does anyone here disagree with these Basic CFS ideas? If so, please justify your reasons.


  • .
    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.

  • Ocean acidification (CLIM 043) – Assessment published Jun 2014

    1. Ocean acidification in recent decades is occurring a hundred times faster than during past natural events over the last 55 million years.

    2. Surface-ocean pH has declined from 8.2 to below 8.1 over the industrial era due to the growth of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This decline corresponds to an increase in oceanic acidity of about 30%.

    3. Observed reductions in surface-water pH are nearly identical across the global ocean and throughout Europe’s seas.

    4. Ocean acidification already reaches into the deep ocean, particularly in the high latitudes.

    5. Models consistently project further ocean acidification worldwide. Surface ocean pH is projected to decrease to values between 8.05 and 7.75 by the end of 21st century depending on future CO2 emission levels. The largest projected decline represents more than a doubling in acidity.

    6. Ocean acidification may affect many marine organisms within the next 20 years and could alter marine ecosystems and fisheries.

  • Swell and sea in the emerging Arctic Ocean

    Another positive feedback loop: further reductions in seasonal ice cover in the future will result in larger waves, which in turn provide a mechanism to break up sea ice and accelerate ice retreat
    Ocean surface waves (sea and swell) are generated by winds blowing over a distance (fetch) for a duration of time. In the Arctic Ocean, fetch varies seasonally from essentially zero in winter to hundreds of kilometers in recent summers. Using in situ observations of waves in the central Beaufort Sea, combined with a numerical wave model and satellite sea ice observations, we show that wave energy scales with fetch throughout the seasonal ice cycle. Furthermore, we show that the increased open water of 2012 allowed waves to develop beyond pure wind seas and evolve into swells. The swells remain tied to the available fetch, however, because fetch is a proxy for the basin size in which the wave evolution occurs. Thus, both sea and swell depend on the open water fetch in the Arctic, because the swell is regionally driven. This suggests that further reductions in seasonal ice cover in the future will result in larger waves, which in turn provide a mechanism to break up sea ice and accelerate ice retreat.

  • Re: RE. Nice list. But I’m going to take the bait and disagree with the categorical laughing and hoping bits. Let me state my reasons, with no need to ‘justify’.
    Laughter is good medicine, but not necessarily the best medicine. When experiences and events evoke, compel and call for tears, then crying is better than laughing: more honest, more courageous, more meaningful – a deeper response. Tears are a gift: expressive, fluid, often instructive and always productive of an internal shift. Without tears, I would know myself much less, and be stuck in a kind of emotional strait-jacket. An experience weeper knows that there are many kinds of crying. I welcome them all,the knowledge tears bring – and, above all, the healing.
    Realism is better than either hope or hopelessness. These days, hope is a kind of chimera (‘a horrible or unreal creature of the imagination; a vain or idle fancy’) and an impediment to clear thinking.
    I have friends who continue to hope (and, thus, to believe) that, for instance, reducing their speed while driving to their summer home, or obsessively separating their trash or shelling out for ‘green energy’ is ‘good for the planet’; that shopping at the trendy farmers’ market for localorganicseasonal veggies – ‘Yeah, kale!’ – somehow ‘makes a difference’. Hope has thrown a monkey-wrench into their thought gears, addling the process almost beyond repair; they are among the most self-deluded folks I know.
    Sure, we all have our blind spots and suffer from what someone nicely described as ‘swiss cheese thinking’. And hope doesn’t help; for me, it’s unnecessary, a non-issue, a non sequitur (under the circumstance) and a non-sense. I don’t miss it at all.

  • Using my roll-over postings…

    Earth Overshoot Day

    In less than 8 Months, Humanity exhausts Earth’s budget for the year.

    August 19 is Earth Overshoot Day 2014, marking the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We will be operating in overshoot.

  • I have no hope.

    I don’t have freeze-dried food, water, and ammo stored in my basement.

    I will be at the mercy of the marauding hordes soon enough. Of course, when I hear them coming, I will be ready – me and my cats – with a nice surprise for them.

    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.

  • @Modern Monkey Mechanics

    In my assessment linked below, anything over 50 million humans is unsustainable. This implies that we began operating in overshoot on January 3, at 2:39 PM.

    “No really, how sustainable are we?”

  • .
    someone just emailed this to me, don’t know source:

    You do what you do because of how you are. We probably won’t disagree here. Why else would you do what you do? Because of the way someone else is? Of course not. You might eat chicken curry because you like it. You detest horrible pop music because you always have. You choose to learn BASE jumping because you have the inclination and because caution isn’t hardwired into your genes. Every predisposition and preference and decision you make is a product of who you are.

    It would be a hard sell to say: I do what I do not because of the way I am but rather because fairies tickle mushrooms, or because my parents messed me up (both of which would suggest somebody else was responsible for what you do anyway).

    I floss my teeth because I’m afraid of gingivitis.

    I mentor a kid because it’s rewarding to help somebody.

    I gulp down water because my experience and instinct taught me it quenches thirst, and I want to be quenched.

    I do all these things because of who I am. Simple as that.

    Can you think of any other reason you would do what you do OTHER THAN THE WAY YOU ARE? If so, please tell me.

    Now, to be responsible for your actions, you must be responsible for who you are. As we just saw, you do what you do because of who you are. If that’s true, and if you’re going to take responsibility for your predispositions and preferences and decisions, you must be responsible for how you are. In other words, you must have had some role in creating yourself.

    Ah. Here comes the crux of the argument: nothing can be causa sui – nothing can create itself. At first blush, that’s not hard to believe. I mean, a robot can’t create itself. A lamp can’t do so. A panda isn’t going to give birth to itself. And so on, including human beings. You didn’t make yourself.

    People begin to really take issue with the argument here, because we have the feeling, some unreasoned yet seemingly irrefutable sense, that we play a role in choosing who we are. However, because nothing can create itself, it becomes obvious that two things claim responsibility for creating the “me” which is ultimately responsible for my choices: 1) my genes, 2) my earliest experiences. In fact, we don’t get to choose either one, so this takes us to the last point in the argument: if you cannot be ultimately responsible for who you are, you cannot be ultimately responsible for the things you do, and therefore, moral responsibility is impossible.

    But, you might want to claim: I choose whether to do wrong or right, or you might say: I make the choice between stealing food or paying for it. Yes, you do, and always your choice is based on who you are, and since you can’t create yourself, you’re not ultimately responsible for what you choose. We do, of course, have an intrinsic sense of responsibility for our decisions, at least those of us with a conscience. Yet this is something also inherited from our genetic makeup and life experiences and therefore something for which we’re not responsible.

    The trajectory of our life can be selected, but the decisions always will be based on previous life experiences and innate proclivities that we didn’t independently select, so this proximal sense of responsibility is only illusion. It’s an illusion so powerful that we grant culpability to every human being that might treat us well or ill. Though we have good reason to do so in many cases (such as promoting beneficial behavior and protecting ourselves against dangerous circumstances), that doesn’t mean we’re correct in assigning praise or blame.

    Take any action somebody performs. Ask whether the decision was a product of who she is. Inevitably, any behavior consciously performed (any behavior done intentionally, because what else would we want to hold her accountable for?) will stem from who she is. Since she can’t ultimately be responsible in any way for who she is, she can’t be ultimately responsible for what she’s done.

    Here’s an apt example that serves to show how our choices – those decisions that seem to be made with independence and freedom – are simply products of wiring. An intelligent man began feeling ill. He noticed dramatic changes in his own emotional stability, his thinking. Hours after killing his wife and mother, he climbed into a bell tower and shot pedestrians down with a case of guns before being gunned down by the police. In his suicide note, he wrote that he couldn’t provide a logical explanation for his behavior and asked for an autopsy. The medical examiner found a tumor in his brain that impinged on the amygdala, a region of the brain “involved in emotional regulation, especially of fear and aggression.” It’s a simple case of a man carrying out decisions that were a product of an altered state of consciousness, one caused by a bundle of anomalous cells.

    The above is an extreme example, but it’s nevertheless appropriate because we are each and every one of us like this man – products of circumstances beyond our control. We inherited these neural structures. We were exposed to certain stimuli that shaped our personalities. Brain tumors strike at random all the time, something for which nobody is culpable. That is who we are.

    So I can do whatever I want? I can steal or kill or maim without being responsible for it?

    The answer hinges on the idea of the self, the concept ME. You – your experiences and genetic inheritance – are responsible, though you’d like to think there is a self separate from the mechanics of the brain. But remember, that brain in no way created itself, so it is the experiences and genetic inheritance that are ultimately responsible for the actions you’d call your own. In this society and in any society that I’d want to call home, we won’t allow a bundle of experiences and genetics to commit theft or murder or assault without recourse. Yet at the same time, to place blame verges on cruel or even downright barbarous when the criminal is an instrument of circumstances beyond his control.

  • pat, in The Matrix, the case is made that the choice space (apparently necessary to avoid stagnation in the system) can be reduced to something very small to make the system functional. It appears modern society has done that. All our choices boil down to either nature or nuture, but the point about the choices involving nurture is that they can be overcome or transcended. It is possible to blame brain cancer on a particular mutation or the causal agent of that mutation BTW.

    I recommend Limits to Growth commissioned by the Club of Rome for a rigourous computational modelling approach to modelling the consequences of growth with finite resources. I think it is one of the cases where predictions made (even with a very simple model) are in line with what is happening in reality. Not only that, it gives one a rough idea of what quality of life you can expect based on when sustainability is achieved.

  • Paul Chefurka – The Many Faces of Denial

    Guy McPherson – The Many Faces of Grief

    1. Nomads: Nomads have not yet resolved their grief and do not seem to understand the loss that has affected their lives.

    2. Memorialists: This identity is committed to preserving the memory of the loved one that they have lost.

    3. Normalizers: This identity is committed to re-creating a sense of family and community.

    4. Activists: This identity focuses on helping other people who are dealing with the same disease or with the same issues that caused their loved one’s death.

    5. Seekers: This identity will adopt religious, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs to create meaning in their lives.


  • pat typed:

    someone just emailed this to me, don’t know source:

    You do what you do because of how you are. We probably won’t disagree here. Why else would you do what you do? Because of the way someone else is? Of course not. You might eat chicken curry because you like it. You detest horrible pop music because you always have. You choose to learn BASE jumping because you have the inclination and because caution isn’t hardwired into your genes. Every predisposition and preference and decision you make is a product of who you are.

    Etc., etc.
    Let me help you out there (took 5 seconds). This quoted material is from an interesting-looking blog called “The Good Nihilist”:


  • .
    thanks phil

    like i’ve said, everything i post is just cut and paste – i don’t give a flip where it came from

    August 20, 2014 by Pete Thomas
    By-the-wind sailors, as the gelatinous, oval-shaped critters are sometimes called, began washing ashore in Washington and Oregon more than a month ago. Since then the mass stranding has taken on the form of an alien-like invasion, with the critters showing as far south as Southern California, and as far north as British Columbia.

  • @pat. The big Catholic church in our neighborhood, about three blocks away, recently completed a $100,000+ bell tower to the glory god and disposable income.

    I tried my best and was finally able to formulate a personal response regarding having to listen to that damnable bell continually declare its uselessness. I’ve decided that, every time the bell goes off, I’ll silently repeat, “and somewhere, there are children eating dirt.”

    Thanks for the reminder, I’ll keep it close.

  • “you’d like to think there is a self separate from the mechanics of the brain.”

    The “you” – (“I”-) sense is another thought, although a very special thought, the “I-maker” (ahankara). The whole of non-dualism in the Vedic and Buddhist traditions is to grok that it is a mirage.

    An absence of the sense of doership, from grokking the phantasmic nature of the “I”; recognising that the meat-robot is interacting with its environment:

    “A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. Because while speaking, evacuating, receiving, or opening or closing his eyes, he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and that he is aloof from them.” BG 5:8-9.

  • @ Robin Datta

    …he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and that he is aloof from them blahblah

    and your fucking meat robot rubbish… which all means that you arrive at exactly the same Cartesian dualism as Western scientific materialism, where this world, planet, is ‘just stuff’, devoid of any sacred quality, which we can mess about with just as we please, pollute it, remake it, however we like, just as in the Judaeo-Christian traditions, when it is all ‘the Creation’, ‘Stuff’, left for us to master and dominate, by a Creator who has fucked off somewhere far way, some imaginary domain called ‘Heaven’ completely separated and isolated from ‘Earth’.

    Datta, there is NO spirituality in what you repeatedly proclaim on this blog, it is a dead formulaic repetition, that contains no sensuality, no compassion, no heart or soul. A bleak, meaningless, analytical, lifeless, loveless dogma.

  • I apologise for the bad spelling in my previous comment – too hasty.

    I read the essay through again. And some things seem a little too emphatic to me.

    The issue of ‘getting started on the arms race’ where a neighboring group, (which is usually closely related kinship wise), decides to get aggressive that seems to need an equal and opposing mobilisation, and change of culture, to remain intact, needs some unpacking IMHO.

    It seems to me there is only one reason why neighborly competition style aggression turns nasty, and evolves into annihilation warfare:

    Population density exceeds carrying capacity of the land, for HG subsistence. Yes, we know from rat in cage experiments known as ‘The Behavioral Sink Experiments’,once this gets started it takes a greatly resilient culture to resist the temptation not to turn to the Dark Side.

    ‘Behavioral Sink’


    I would point out that huge population increases only have coincided with Christianity and Capitalism in Europe combining with such Zeal and violent rigor that to prevail in that unique way of living, they went out and colonised all manner of places, (including Afraidia).


    The coming of Christianity with its special brief that supersedes all other cultural relations to the Divine projections, meant that infant life was preserved, even if infants were unwanted due to local population pressure. Infanticide was widely practiced all over the world, and also its superior counterpart, fertility management, such that breeding of more babies when required, was removed as a practice by violent Priests who wielded clubs of eternal damnation.

    Don’t forget, we are the only high order primate, that has the capacity to walk the planet AND with an all year round fertility cycle. It did not just arrive as an adaptation, it was a huge advantage in the HG evolution scenario. It is weird in the extreme to assume presettling-down human groups did not know how to utilise their own fertility.
    Christianity, with its narrow view of the universe, began the decline in women’s cultural power, and also their own deep knowledge practices of population management. After Derrik Jensen – once you get ‘towns’, which are by definition ‘places that import stuff to stay viable’, the game is up.

    I think also Keith has vastly underestimated the degree to which post nomadic peoples used water transport, the sea and rivers, to continue a form of coastal nomadism that linked cultures over greater distances.

    Probably the correct sequences of how we got here will remain a mystery, but I feel it is a mistake to ask the ‘inevitability’ question. At least to ask it too much at the expense of practical perspectives of the NOW.

    We ARE here now. This is our problem because of the path our species went, be it a conscious choice or otherwise.

    I think the defensive warrior sub-group always present in Hunter-Gatherer groups was expanded into a true Class because the stories told to adolescents changed. Adolescents are the easiest to manipulate and get a workable result in terms of situational power to change a culture. It always starts with the stories we tell our children, and the key one that does the trick in this vein, is that there is ‘others’,( a concept well considered in the TV series LOST).

    Who the frig are others ?

    What a concept !

    That has gotta change, and fast.

    Cheers noodles.


  • @ pat and phil

    Thanks for the good nihilist quote and attribution. Good to know I’m not the only one preoccupied with such stuff. But I’m not sure that illness is always an external force that determines behavior. I wonder if we don’t create (or not create) many of our illnesses, so that they, too, aren’t part of who we are? This is not a new question. I’ve seen it discussed, even on this blog.

  • “A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. Because while speaking, evacuating, receiving, or opening or closing his eyes, he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and that he is aloof from them.” BG 5:8-9

  • @ Robin Datta

    As I have frequently mentioned, it would be more impressive and convincing if you offered us insight of your own, based on first hand direct experience, rather than copy/paste dogma from ancient text to co-opt authority and give yourself status to which you are not entitled.

  • @ Ozman-you said humans are the only apes to have year round fertility. I believe this is incorrect,
    AFAIK bonobos also share this year round fertility; they, as it happens, being our nearest relative.

  • You may have little to worry about as far as anthropogenic global cooking is concerned. Core heating appears to be a much larger problem.

    This fissure just opened up in Northern Mexico.

    On the upside, a large Yellowstone blowoff will precipitate a Volcanic Winter. That’s one of the Negative Feedbacks possible here to stop runaway Venusian style greenhouse effects.


  • @RE

    You once again demonstrate your ignorance of climate science. If there were to be a major eruption in Yellowstone (or anywhere else) there may well be a short-lived cooling period due to particulates or aerosols blocking incoming radiation. However, once that cleared (2-3 years) the carbon dioxide released by the eruption would add to the warming. And since that CO2 would be around for a very long time it would be better to think of it as a positive feedback than a negative feedback (even though that concept does not really apply to the situation you postulate).

    I still find it staggering that you could have such a long connexion with this blog and still know almost nothing.

  • Okay, so I sign in under NBL network above on the right, where it says
    Reader login and then I go to the Forum and it asks for the same information, which I type in, but then it’s not accepted. What do I do beside stay off the Forum? Why is this so damn difficult (or am I just stupid, as usual)?

    Kevin: I see that some book called Dirty Politics is having a big impact on the coming election. Trouble is – I can’t figure out the “bad guys” from the “good guys.” Care to clue me in?

  • The forum requires a separate login. It also requires a separate sign-up. The password given by the forum will be different to start with.

  • http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2014/08/global-warming-already-having-profound.html

    Global warming already having profound impacts on lakes in Europe – ‘Cyanobacteria like it hot, which is part of the reason why we’re seeing more toxic algae blooms’


    New evidence from studies in Europe shows that a warming climate, in particular, is already having a profound impact on lakes, according to Dr. Erik Jeppesen at Aarhus University in Denmark. As I have noted in earlier posts, this is an important issue because other studies show that lake temperatures are on the rise throughout the world.

    Remember that so-called ‘expert’ in a video posted on the last thread which denied sea-level rise as spurious or nothing to worry about?
    Compare that to this:


    Greenland Ice Loss Increases Fivefold From Late 1990s, West Antarctica Not Far Behind

    In the early 1990s, it would have been hard to imagine the rates of glacial ice loss we are seeing now.

    There were few ways to accurately measure the Greenland Ice Sheet’s mass. Snow fell, glaciers calved. But observations seemed to show that the great, cold ice pile over Greenland was in balance. Snow gathered at the top, glaciers calved at the edges, but human heating of the atmosphere had yet to show plainly visible effects.

    At that time, climate scientists believed that changes to the ice, as a result of human caused heating, would be slow and gradual, and would probably not begin to appear in force until later in the 21st Century.

    Ice Sheet Response Starts Too Soon

    By the late 1990s, various satellites had been lofted to measure the gravity, mass and volume of structures on the Earth’s surface. These sensors, when aimed at the great ice sheets, found that Greenland, during a period of 1997 to 2003 was losing mass at a rate of about 83 cubic kilometers each year.

    This rate of ice loss was somewhat small when compared to the vastness of the ice sheet. But the appearance of loss was early and, therefore, some cause for concern. More monitoring of the ice sheet took place as scientists continued their investigation, for it appeared that the ice sheet was more responsive to human warming than initially believed.

    A Doubling After Just Six Years

    By 2009 another set of measures was in and it found that the six year period from 2003 to 2009 showed a near doubling of ice mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Rates of loss had jumped from 83 cubic kilometers each year to around 153 cubic kilometers. The doubling caused consternation and speculation among climate scientists. Greenhouse gas heat forcing was rapidly on the rise and the world’s oceans were warming faster than expected as human emissions continued along a worst case scenario path. It appeared that the ocean was delivering heat to the ice sheet bases even as atmospheric warming was melting larger areas upon the ice sheet surface.

    These changes to the massive ice sheets were occurring far more rapidly than previously considered. [read the rest]

  • Breathing may become problematic:



    Robin: oh, that’s just great! Who designed this stupidity and why do we need a separate sign-in? Why not make it so arcane as to have no comments then? Make the sign-in in Sanskrit or Cyrillic! How about the guest having to figure out the solution to some Diophantine equation first? I call bullshit on this. It’s unnecessary, time consuming and leads to frustration (at least in my case). Forget it, I have other things to do.

  • Guy Mcpherson, frequent flyer, putting the ME in MEthane.
    Travelling to spread his CO2 message by flying on a freakin aeroplane.
    Asked as a child what he wanted to be when he grew up
    Create a blog of doom he replied and live in a little mud hut.
    Guy Mcpherson, frequent flyer, putting the I in Insane!

  • @KM

    I find it equally difficult to understand how you figure the earth returned to balance after numerous Supervolcanic eruptions over the millenia which all pitched enormous amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere, acidified oceans, released methane yadda yadda.

    You are an ideologue who ignores most of geological science, as is Guy. You are focused on one small part of a very large system, which is Homo Sapiens input. Solar Radiation is a large factor, as is the total energy output from the Earth’s Core, which is clearly on the increase.

    You folks simply ignore much of science to pursue your own ideological agenda of NTHE resultant from Anthropogenic causes. It does not hold water on a scientific level. Very poor science overall. You need to research this better.


  • @ RE

    You need to research this better.

    Says the man who shouts his mouth off about everything under the Sun, demonstrating shameless ignorance on most subjects, and whom we have learned has only one primary interest in life, which is pimping himself and his ego.

    As Guy and others here have often remarked, the Earth will probably will return to balance in some 10 or 15 million years. As usual, you bring absurd strawmen of your own invention to try and smear this blog.

    But there is also the possibility that this time, it may not happen, if we are right on the edge of the zone where life is possible.

  • if females ate males after sex there would be a clamour for vegan prostitutes

  • .
    here phil, try this one:
    “All people, except those who suffer from certain mental illnesses, crave relationships that comfort and nurture them. In healthy relationships, individual differences are seen as assets, not liabilities. Each person’s strengths are respected and sought out when needed. In healthy relationships, there is no attempt to reshape the other person. We accept others as they are.”
    So why do we here at NBL beat up on people? Just because I don’t have a clue as to what half the people here are talking about, doesn’t mean I have to beat them up. And, just because I think “I get it” and some don’t get the same “it,” or whatever, doesn’t mean I have to attack their ideas.

    If I don’t like what you say, or I don’t agree with it, or I don’t understand it, then I just ignore it and move on.
    Somewhere there are church bells ringing and children are eating dirt.

  • Even then, when we say “civilized” we are really only talking about the types of civilization which encompass a number of key traits – accumulation of surplus; accommodation in areas of dense population; forms of government, also implying hierarchy and power structures; trade beyond the immediate community, and the specialization of roles aside from functional sex divisions.” – Keith

    Toynbee did a lot of work on this and the results are that it does not matter if we are civilized or not, because we are suicidal even as a civilization:

    In other words, a society does not ever die ‘from natural causes’, but always dies from suicide or murder — and nearly always from the former, as this chapter has shown.”

    (Civilization Is Now On Suicide Watch, quoting “A Study of History”, Toynsbee).

  • kevin: don’t worry about it; I appreciate your effort.

    44 south: I figured that in politics – they’re all cut from the same cloth – but was just looking for who ‘the people’ will get the best ‘deal’ from (to keep business as usual going) and who gets ‘it’ and is trying to inject some sanity. Your response indicates nobody (in any position of power) gets it there either. Thanks.


    Greenland ice loss doubles from late 2000s

    A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice each year.

    Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

    “The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

    “To us, that’s an incredible number,” she told BBC News.
    [read the rest]

    There’s also a threat of enormous melt lake outflow there.