A Tragic View of Human Destiny and the Latest from Reese Jones

by Bud Nye

I wanted to respond to NTHE Question #11, “Why is this happening? Or, better yet, When did it start?” Unfortunately, I have found that I cannot comment any longer at NBL due to Page Not Found errors. Partly for this reason, and partly because of its length, I decided instead to write this essay in response to Question #11. Here, using gender neutral language and writing in E-Prime (English without using “is”), I have paraphrased in my own words two short sections found early in Andrew Schmookler’s book, The Parable of the Tribes, The Problem of Power In Social Evolution (1995).  The first section reviews the parable of the tribes while the second one presents “A Tragic View of Human Destiny” (pp. 31-32). Finally, I make some comments that connect this essay with other important ideas found in several other places.

A brief review of the parable of the tribes

Schmookler’s parable of the tribes contains the lesson that no one has the freedom to choose peace while anyone can impose the necessity for power upon all. To illustrate this principle, imagine a group of tribes living within reach of one another. If all choose the way of peace then all many live in peace. But what if one tribe has ambitions for expansion and conquest while the others choose peace? What can happen to the others when confronted by an ambitious and potent neighbor? Four possibilities exist: (1) the ambitious tribe may attack and defeat another tribe, utterly destroying its people and seizing its lands for use of the victors. (2) It may defeat another tribe, but rather than exterminate its people it may subjugate them and transform them to serve the victors. (3) Another tribe might flee from the area into some inaccessible (and relatively undesirable) place, while its former homeland becomes part of the growing empire of the power-seeking tribe. (4) Another tribe, observing these developments, might decide to defend themselves in order to preserve themselves and their autonomy. Ironically, successful defense against a power-maximizing aggressor requires a group to become more like the group that threatens it. Only power can stop power, and if a threatening group has discovered ways to magnify its power through innovations in organization or technology (or whatever), the defensive group will have to transform itself into something more like its foe in order to resist the external force.

Thus, four possible outcomes exist for threatened groups: destruction, subjugation, withdrawal, or defense (imitation), and in every one of these outcomes the ways of power spread throughout the system. Schmookler calls this the parable of the tribes.

The inevitable spread of power through social systems serves as a powerful theory of social evolution. It strongly shows that power works as a contaminant, a disease, that once introduced will gradually yet inexorably become universal in the system of competing societies or groups [and I suspect within families and among individuals as well]. Once it begins, the profound social evolutionary consequences of the struggle for power has more importance than the inevitability of the struggle: a selection for power among civilized groups inevitably occurs—and, significantly, this happens despite the preferences of the people involved. Civilization, a direct consequence of the energy made available through agriculture, brought this new evolutionary principle into the world. Here we find the social evolutionary black hole that we have sought as an explanation for the harmful warp in the course of civilization’s development. This idea has great simplicity, and its logic compelling.

A Tragic View of Human Destiny

Since the rise of civilization, a strong note of torment has occurred in the human condition. The problem has involved not only that the circumstances of civilized life entailed suffering, but also that the suffering brought guilt: those afflicted often believe that they experience someone or something justifiably punishing them. All the more reason occurs for a sense of collective guilt when so many of the world’s ills seem to come directly from the minds and hands of humans. A theme therefore recurs in the thoughts of civilized peoples that humans have a flawed and sinful nature, and that this sinfulness plays a causal role in the agonies of humankind. Indeed, that view occurs very frequently today, even among people with no theology of sin and retribution. [Note the many comments posted here at NBL that express this theme.] Those who see in our species a threat to the survival of the entire ecosystem, who look upon the carnage we inflict upon our own kind, and who regard the ever-growing mountains of armaments as a manifestation of insanity also seem to suffer guilt for belonging to so dangerous a species. Using a very commonsense view of human action, they regard the unquestionable destructiveness of our works as indisputable proof of the monstrosity of human nature. [In my previous essays, “McPherson’s Wrong!?” (https://guymcpherson.com/2014/06/mcphersons-wrong-about-global-warming-thoughts-on-some-possible-psychological-and-emotional-motivations-for-the-attacks-on-guy-mcpherson/ ) and “What ‘purpose’ do I have?” (https://guymcpherson.com/2014/07/bits-from-reese-jones-and-bud-nye-and-an-idea-from-daniel-drumright/ ) I expressed a similar view as did the late, famous clinical psychologist Albert Ellis. Though humans probably qualify as a fundamentally insane species, the parable of the tribes suggests that the civilizational drive for power for the most part does not serve as an expression of that insanity as I previously indicated. Indeed, paradoxically many choices that humans have made based on the constraints of the inevitable spread of power among social groups suggest sane thinking and behavior, in those situations, despite their ultimately tragic consequences for us and other life on Earth. Might a sometimes rational-thinking species behave in ways to produce the sixth mass extinction? Unfortunately, yes. The parable of the tribes explains how and why.]

People who adopt the parable of the tribes do not hold the human monstrosity view. This theory does not advocate an indictment of human nature. It emphasizes that irresistible social evolutionary forces that have swept us along since the (agriculture-based) breakthrough to civilization have depended very little on human nature for their origin and their direction. The social change process toward ever increasing aggression and domination required only that: (1) we have creativity enough to develop culture to a certain (temporary) point of freedom from natural limits, and that (2) we have the capability of aggressive behavior—not necessarily an inclination toward it. Almost any animal can behave aggressively under the right conditions. If a society needs its members primed for collective aggressiveness, the society can bring out that inherent capacity for aggressiveness, encouraging it to hyper-develop. We have no need for Ardreyesque images of bloodthirsty primate hunters to explain the bloodiness of civilized history. [See Robert Ardrey’s books African Genesis and The Territorial Imperative.] Thus, any creature who met those two requirements would have experienced a similar fate. Its nascent civilized culture would, like ours, have gotten caught up in the parable of the tribes with its social evolution compelled toward power maximization including all of its destructiveness. Similarly, wherever else in this immense universe life may have evolved, and evolved to the point where a cultural creature has temporarily broken free of some biological energy constraints, we may suppose that the same problem of power has arisen. Unless circumstances of terrain prevented simultaneous contact and anarchy among societies, the parable of the tribes would plague these extraterrestrial civilizations as well. The eruption of such cultural freedom out of the tight, preexisting biological energy order inevitably leads to the problem of power.

It seems more than appropriate to feel alarmed about the destructiveness of our civilized systems. It also seems fitting that we each take responsibility to do what we can to avert catastrophe. But no good reason exists for tormenting ourselves for guilt as a species. Nature laid down the path of our misdeeds before us like a streambed where the rainwaters inevitably flow. Civilization, as we see in in history, has occurred neither as the fruit of human choice nor as a reflection of fundamental human nature. It remains true that our problems stem from our not staying in the place originally given us by nature, but this occurred not due to any special hubris or ambition on our part, but due to our creativity. We live like the hero who cannot escape the fate described before their birth by an oracle. As the old and chastened Oedipus says of himself in Oedipus at Colonus, “we have suffered our deeds more than we have acted them, have been more the victim than the criminal”. Individuals who qualify as neither murderous nor suicidal may find themselves forced to choose between murderous and suicidal courses of action. When unchosen overarching circumstances foreclose all acceptable options, one cannot regard the subsequent choice as a free choice.

The parable of the tribes presents a tragic picture of human destiny. The parallel with tragedy goes beyond that of the inevitability surrounding the action. We discover also the tragic paradox that first confounds one’s common sense and then leads one to a deeper awareness. We find the hero of tragedy trapped in a world where everything seems paradoxically twisted into its opposite. The hero’s very blessings become their curses. Their strengths become their weaknesses. Their freedom of action becomes the means of their entrapment. So, also, according to the parable of the tribes, humanity exists in relation to the evolving systems of their own creation. A tragic paradox changed humanity’s liberation from the energy-limited regime of nature into bondage to the ways of power based on the energy made available first through agriculture and later through fossil fuels. Because all things seemed possible, one thing—power—became necessary. The very fact of open-ended development based on new, temporarily available sources of energy sealed the trap shut.

The insight of tragedy involves the fact that while humanity can do much, we cannot control the consequences of our heroic doings. Like Heracles, humanity has gained great strength and, maddened by forces beyond our ken, we use this strength to murder our own family. Like Oedipus, we explore the mysteries of the origin of our kingship and discover blood upon our hands. We tragic heroes propel the action, but do not have mastery of our destiny. In the same way the parable of the tribes shows that with the rise of civilization human creativity ceased to drive the mill of cultural evolution but rather became its grist.

Yet the fall of the tragic hero has occurred paradoxically, the very loss becoming a kind of gift. Humiliation transforms by a deeper awareness into a saving humility. Only when the tragic hero recognizes their limits in the face of forces beyond their control can they cease to assume the role of helpless victims, the prey of a destructive destiny of their own unintended creation. So also with civilized peoples. Only when we attain a tragic wisdom about our story can we hope to lead history beyond tragedy.


I think that Schmookler’s parable of the tribes beautifully explains how non-equilibrium thermodynamics and Howard Odum’s maximum power principle express themselves in human social systems. (See Odum’s Environment, Power, And Society For The Twenty-First Century, The Hierarchy of Energy, 2007.) Schmookler: “…societies inevitably and naturally select for power.” Schmookler suggests that, yes, “humans are insane”, but we exhibit our insanity like lions and baboons imprisoned within a zoo, not expressing our behaviors in the more cooperative ways that we did as hunter-gatherers over hundreds of thousands of years in the environment within which evolution adapted us. With the coming of civilization—which occurred through biological systems maximizing power—we suffer from a severe mismatch between the environments we evolved in and our new environments, which consist largely of cities.

Just one of many possible examples of our insanity within our civilizational zoo involves the grandiose narcissism that occurs so blatantly and so often throughout societies today. Consider how often here at NBL, almost every day, people scream at each other variations on the theme of “How DARE you suggest that things don’t work as I believe they do!”: “You’re an idiot.” “You’re so full of bullshit….” “You are a simpleton.” “How old are you? Six?” Bigotry and sectarianism? Yes, right here in River City: strongly held magical religious, political, and economic beliefs; strongly held science-based beliefs and opinions; the list continues without end of people insisting on their favorite (abstract, symbolic) ideas of how the world presumably must work: the idea that “MY way is the RIGHT way!”—and, world-wide, often willing to kill others for and/or to die for those abstract, self-centered demands about how the world “should” work.

Most anthropologists now concur that Neanderthals occupied Europe for over 100,000 years without expanding their territory by crossing major bodies of water and without causing the extinction of megafauna species. We very closely related humans, on the other hand (and so closely related that we interbred with Neanderthals), expanded our territory by crossing major bodies of water, and we quickly caused megafauna extinctions wherever we went. For some of the evolutionary genetics research regarding an apparent human “Faustian gene”, see the work of the “father of paleogenetics” Svante Pääbo. He thinks that we should have the ability to identify the basis for our madness by comparing Neanderthal and human DNA. “If we one day will know that some freak mutation made the human insanity and exploration thing possible, it will be amazing to think that it was this little inversion on this chromosome that made all this happen and changed the whole ecosystem of the planet and made us dominate everything.” “We are crazy in some way. What drives it? That I would really like to understand. That would be really, really cool to know.” (These quotes come from The Sixth Extinction, An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, 2014.)

So it appears that all humans have a strong predisposition for insanity: for thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that remain out of touch with physical, biological reality. Meanwhile, a continuum may exist across cultures such that some cultures express that insanity predisposition much more often and more intensely than others. Across all of human history, it seems likely to me that modern industrial civilization, with most of us living in our city-zoos radically disconnected and alienated from the real biological world in which we evolved, expresses our highly emotional human insanity predisposition much more frequently and more strongly than any previous human or non-human culture. Thus we proceed with causing the sixth and fastest mass extinction in geological history, and our own self-annihilation, just as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What do societies inevitably and naturally selecting for power, and the severe mismatch between the environments we evolved in and our new environments, imply? One important implication involves the idea that it makes no sense to blame ourselves for much of the human and ecological horror that has occurred throughout history and continues today. Why not? Because the biological (see Howard Odum), physical (see non-equilibrium thermodynamics and complexity theory), and social (see Andrew Schmookler) SELECTIVE PROCESSES work outside of the arena of human existence. It seems to me that Lewis Mumford (The Myth of the Machine, The Pentagon of Power) did a wonderful job of explaining historically what happened, while Schmookler does a superb job of explaining, with significant detail, the processes of how and why it happened socially, again, as an expression of Odum’s maximum power principle with humans, and subsequently negatively impacting many other species as well(!), victims of the processes. Does it make sense for us to feel alarmed about our destructiveness, especially the destructiveness of our civilized systems, and to work and fight to minimize that destructiveness? Yes, certainly. But emotionally raging against ourselves and against these physical, biological, and social processes makes about as much sense as raging against gravity. (Meanwhile, contrary to popular belief, anger does not serve as a necessary or good motivator for effective action. As just one of hundreds of possible examples of evidence of this assertion, consider the obviously counterproductive ineffectiveness of the many childish, angry, ad hominem attacks, insults, and counter-attacks so often made here and on other blogs.)As I described in my essay, “What ‘purpose’ do I have?” the fundamental processes of nonequilibrium thermodynamics, complexity theory, and the maximum power principle produced life, along with the social selection for power among humans, and those overriding principles, those laws of nature, ultimately determine the course of life on Earth, including human life, NOT HUMANS with our religious, economic, and scientific beliefs and technology.

But self-centered human supremacist beliefs run deep among us, and they die hard. Meanwhile, the ideas of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, complexity theory, and the parable of the tribes, which have resulted in human-caused ecological collapse and global warming, as well as the idea of soon-coming human extinction, all directly and dramatically challenge the grandiose, human supremacist beliefs that “Humans are special in the universe” and “I am special in the universe.” Do I in particular and humans in general, qualify as unique? Yes, surely. Do we qualify as special in the universe, fundamentally different from other life? No. Certainly not.

Why do we so often have so much trouble integrating these realities within our thinking and emotions when we have known for most of our lives that we would die? At least a partial answer to this, I think, looks like this. We grew up in an arrogant, narcissistic civilization with deeply held human supremacist values that far more often than not deny death. Whether we wanted it to happen or not, we deeply internalized these beliefs and values in highly emotional, usually non-conscious ways. The parable of the tribes, and the now near certainty of near term human extinction, crush these very deeply held, grandiose, human-centered, self-centered, human supremacist beliefs.

Let’s consider one interesting and important implication of all of this. Especially given that, as David Ehrenfeld wrote, “The world is not only more complex than we think, it is more complex than we are capable of thinking” it amounts to an arrogant, human supremacist assumption that any of us might presumably know how the world really should work. Yet many of us strongly believe that the human caused sixth mass extinction now well under way supposedly should not happen. How do we personally resolve the cognitive dissonance that results from these two mutually contradictory beliefs? We can repress the reality-based evidence and reasoning, deny its relevance, and more strongly embrace our grandiose, self-centered, wishful thinking, or we can revise our cherished model, redrawing our maps more accurately to represent the territory, and change our paradigms as needed. If we do the latter, we realize that the laws of nature determine the course of life on Earth, including human life, not humans with our many magical, grandiose, self-centered beliefs, no matter how much we may grieve the horrific loss of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of species, including our own. Acknowledging and accepting the apparent realities of our predicament does not mean that we cannot or should not work and fight for needed changes. It does mean that we need not burden ourselves with counter-productive guilt and shame as we do the needed inner grief work and outer social change work.

Among so many other losses, somewhat like giving up the belief in Santa Clause I find myself grieving the loss of my deeply held, childish, self-centered, grandiose beliefs concerning my alleged “special” place in the universe that I learned so “well” as a child. Perhaps some others reading this find themselves grieving the loss of those beliefs as well.

Extinction Support Group (ESG)

Almost two years ago two friends and I started a group in Tacoma that we now call our Extinction Support Group (ESG). We meet once a month in order to provide social and emotional support for those who understand what we see happening in the world. For most people this understanding comes in emotionally and socially painful ways. Very easy to manage, the group works informally and with a continually changing meeting leadership. If anyone would like a copy of our most recent Agenda and Tool Kit as a template for help in starting a similar group of your own, I will feel glad to send you a copy if you will send me an email request at bud.nye@gmail.com.


Catch McPherson’s latest interview by Reese Jones here. It leads to others, too.

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.
I apologize for the extremely unprofessional behavior exhibited by the Progressive Radio Network staff on 16 September 2014. Nature Bats Last on the radio was “postponed” 70 minutes before it was scheduled to air. No reason was provided by the studio, and no alternative dates have been proposed.


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.


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


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


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 79

  • tldr;

    Seriously, you really need to separate the “white male” concept of power for which you speak, from the need for “empowerment” of minorities and the genuinely disenfranchised.

    Power to the people is a laudable concept, even where it mimics the old white male grasp over the nature of language.

    Failure to define “power” by not limiting it to conservative white power, simply destroys your argument. You are looking at this from the perspective of White Privilege. I suggest that you check your privilege.

  • Bud Nye: try two things. Clean your browser cache. Block all third-party cookies, and allow session cookies. Clean all cookies after each session.

    If you use Windoze, try Browzar: it’s small, uses the IE engine and cleans cache automatically after each session. Other alternatives are the Acoo browser, the Gecko browser, Google Chrome Opera and Firefox.

    Put a shortcut to the IE cache on your desktop so that you can access and clean it manually.

    Try StartPage and DuckDuckGo for search engines to connect to NBL.

    Try a VPN service. Some are free.

    I have IOS 7 on the iPhone 5 and Private browsing on Safari.

  • Seems to me you want to ‘discipline the children’. You want to turn the wild monkey people into nice civilised well-behaved rational, reasonable, robots.
    Some people feel compelled to do this to horses and dogs. They don’t like them to be ‘the way they are’, they need them to be orderly and controlled under all circumstances. It’s a sort of fascism. Everybody in neat rows with identical uniforms. No squabbling or giggling or mischief.
    We are not special in the sense of being superior, but we are special, in the sense that we are what we are.

  • Mr Nye, or anyone:

    Don’t know a thing about Schmookler but Phillip Appleman is the best for me as he beheads all religions of any stripe, and as one said: “I agree with Phil the fact there is no meaning OF life does not mean there is no meaning IN life.”

    Are you familiar with his poetry etc.?

    Some examples: Dismiss the Bill Moyers connection!

    1. “The Labyrinth: God, Darwin , and the Meaning of Life.”


    2. http://billmoyers.com/segment/the-poetry-of-philip-appleman/

  • While there is always room for error, I don’t believe to have called anyone here an idiot who was not expressing themselves idiotically.

    Online communication is not the same as conversation and one can’t see facial expressions, hear tone of voice nor consider the time between responses. A hot response may seem to be angry, but venting off steam at a foolish notion does not translate to a red-faced fit of rage over on the keyboard. In other words, what is said online carries far less weight than what is said just about anywhere else.

    The main focus of this entire blog is the rapidly closing curtain on the human farce. To assume that anger, cursing, accusations would never arise is a terrible assumption. The end of human existence is emotionally charged. How can it not be?

    To the overall essay, it seems as if this is baby boomer justification for everything. There’s a bit of the “I’m screwed up because my parents raised me wrong, the kids are screwed up because they are genetically wired to be that way. It’s not my fault.”

    I’m not sure it matters what theory best describes the human condition. Methane is being released at an alarming rate. Oil companies are in control of entire governments. Buying stuff no one possibly needs is the sole reason for life for generations of Americans. We’re up to our necks in shit. Which view of humanity on how we got here is besides the point.

    The only question remaining is What are we going to do about it? And from what I can tell, the answer is appears to be Nothing.

  • on Alex’s latest hatchet job:

    “present both sides of a very important argument”

    faux noise, is that you?

    this is exactly the same game the corporate media plays

    instead of looking at the DATA, and giving airtime to the scientists who collected the data, so they can put a human face to that data, we get this ‘he said she said’ game, where mere opinions from unqualified agenda driven hacks, with a proven track record of BANNING those trying to focus on the data, are given equal time (actually more than equal time since the 2 denialist hacks are stacked against 1 presented scientist while pretending no other exists) who then proceed to attack the character of said scientist rather than address the data.

    Scott soundly rejects the data AND those who presented it to him, (by banning them) while now lying about it, Alex keeps playing this ‘fair & balanced’ faux noise game over & over again, while pretending no other scientists that bear the data, plus focuses on a strawman – a specific date which even he admits uses the word MEDIAN, hoping his dumbed-down audience won’t catch it’s meaning.

    “it’s tricky recording and interviewing at the same time”

    it’s tricky after decades of experience to do a live interview, tricky keeping notes too

    the ‘ol incompetence excuse

    long ago when I did air a few of his shows, I quickly tired of having to edit out the self-promotion, the donation nags and the non-relevant fluff, besides which his business-as-usual, always leave the audience with a note of hope at the end agenda, wore thin, even before his first hatchet job on Guy

    the hatchet job was simply the last straw..

    so now he’s gone into dig in & double down, repeated intentional hatchet job mode, seeking out and giving airtime to the worst hatchet hacks he can find, while pleading incompetence and inability to produce a quality show

    My community affairs is to take a quick break from otherwise 100% music to pack as much information as possible into 1/2 hour, so you can get back to living (what’s left of) your life. (I listen to the radio while doing other stuff most the time, but also intently in headphones – especially the Jazz show)

    But Alex’s core agenda is to generate controversy, spectacle and sensationalism, to keep you listening, (and donating) rather than keeping you informed.

    the jerry springer of ecology radio..

    At this point I regret ever airing any of his shows

  • @ Bud Nye: Just one of many possible examples of our insanity within our civilizational zoo involves the grandiose narcissism that occurs so blatantly and so often throughout societies today. Consider how often here at NBL, almost every day, people scream at each other variations on the theme of “How DARE you suggest that things don’t work as I believe they do!”: “You’re an idiot.” “You’re so full of bullshit….” “You are a simpleton.” “How old are you? Six?” Bigotry and sectarianism? Yes, right here in River City: strongly held magical religious, political, and economic beliefs; strongly held science-based beliefs and opinions; the list continues without end of people insisting on their favorite (abstract, symbolic) ideas of how the world presumably must work: the idea that “MY way is the RIGHT way!”—and, world-wide, often willing to kill others for and/or to die for those abstract, self-centered demands about how the world “should” work.


    I just want to thank everyone for all the LULZ!

    Back atcha!

  • Thanks for this thoughtful and informative piece on the parable of tribes. Just one aggressor causes those attempting defense to become contaminated and ultimately imitate the aggressors at a societal level and within family systems. I have seen it intuitively, but never had a clear systems understanding of it intellectually. This does help me to be more clear and free in heart and mind.

  • I’d like to go a bit further back than the tribes of the species Homo sapiens, us. For hundreds of thousands of years we walked this Earth with several others species of Homo. Homo = human. Once we were not the only ones. Just imagine if we hadn’t driven the others to extinction, which we must have done considering the very tiny amount of Neanderthal DNA in us. I believe that scientists are finding the DNA of another Homo species in modern East Asian populations. It’ll be interesting what else will be revealed.

    Back to my point, first our very ancient ancestors eliminated the other Homo species and then, as they spread across the globe the distinct megafauna of the continents and islands they made their own. Think of the giant sloth and the giant kangaroo, which incriminate the ancestors of the Native Americans and the Native Australians. My point is, we are one species and all culprits, if indeed that’s the right word, I’m not so sure. Therefore, I’m not eaten up with guilt either, why should an individual of the species be? Because it’s as a species that, as ulvfugl says: “We are what we are.” Always have been. No mutations there, I think. Only individuals can work on themselves to be consciously different. That’s hard work!

    But now our species is causing the death of our biosphere, and as Grant says: “We are up to our necks in shit. Which view of humanity on how we got here is beside the point.” It’s the shit, ancient and current, people here discuss among other things. And art, and science, and philosophy and humour etc.

    People just like to talk about it on this beach of doom (as it was known once). Why would they not show anger? I call it passion, and we should be able to display it here. If not here, where else?

    I’m well aware that I’m just repeating a story here: The story of the story-telling, symbol loving (nasty) little monkey Homo sapiens who exterminated all the other human species before having a go at the megafauna, and then at each other and the other species because of the stories they made/make up about their differences, needs and aspirations and how much they matter.
    In that sense, everything is just a story, even the parable of the tribes.
    I haven’t read it but it sounds interesting so I might.

  • Was it since around 1986 that EVERY month the global temperature has been above average? How often now are months and quarters regularly breaking the record for global temperatures for that month/quarter, year after year? How many years are seeing year-after-year record CO2 levels and emissions? Is the spreading methane burkha over the northern hemisphere to be attributed directly to human activity? Are the 100 kilometre areas of methane effervescence / ebullition in the Arctic seas an old phenomenon that had not been noticed until now?

    What happens when the four-decade time lag from GHG emission to most of its global warming effects brings on the effects of the last three decades of GHG emissions?

    Even if human were competent enough to reduce GHG emissions to zero today, the several degrees that is on the way has to be deemed “okay”. Otherwise we’re SOL.

  • The four outcomes aren’t the only ones possible. I’ve done simulations of complex adaptive systems of many different kinds, including those representing populations with the traits you’re talking about (including viruses). After running millions of trajectories I observe that in some of them, the individuals populations don’t resort to negative reinforcement but rather use positive reinforcement, i.e., resort to cooperativity and achieve a stable dynamic equilibrium that appears to go forever (if a limit isn’t set, the trajectory would keep running). For example, simulations of host pathogen interactions leads to evolution of symbiosis once in a while that ends up being beneficial to both host and pathogen (synergy), rather than destruction of the host and/or the pathogen (the vast majority of the time) and the dynamics of mutational changes are then tightly linked to supporting the symbiosis. The cooperative/symbiotic state is the preferred one in such complex adaptive systems (i.e., accessible global minimum) provided the state can be reached from a particular starting point. These trajectories are chaotic.

    We don’t appear to be in a trajectory of symbiosis with this planet.

  • Maybe Neanderthals were the real humans, and those others were the first corporation. Heh.

  • Guy McPherson says: “Nature Bats Last on the radio was “postponed” 70 minutes before it was scheduled to air. No reason was provided by the studio, and no alternative dates have been proposed.”

    Pro Re Nata

    p.r.n. stands for “as needed,”
    Yet warnings continue unheeded;
    So fuck all them folk
    If they can’t take a joke:
    Doom still proceeds unimpeded.

  • “With the coming of civilization—which occurred through biological systems maximizing power—we suffer from a severe mismatch between the environments we evolved in and our new environments, which consist largely of cities.”

    What are the impediments to cities becoming (evolving into something) more like our old natural environments?

  • artleads, the problem is money, or really the desire to maximise it by many people. Capitalism is founded on the idea that people being greedy individually is good for society overall. To an extent this has proved true but this is a short term view – in the long term capitalism is a monopoly game. So that’s what’s happening: all the wealth is being concentrated more and more. Are you on the up take or is your life being siphoned off of you?

    Time to go cross country… WA -> NY!!!! (in an hour, first stop, yellowstone – can’t do it without polluting and we’re taking the SUV instead of the prius…)

  • Sorry, forgot to mention the joke was about PRN radio dammit.

  • @ Sabine and Grant:

    Sabine, you wrote “But now our species is causing the death of our biosphere, and as Grant says: ‘We are up to our necks in shit. Which view of humanity on how we got here is beside the point.’ It’s the shit, ancient and current, people here discuss among other things. And art, and science, and philosophy and humor etc. People just like to talk about it on this beach of doom (as it was known once). Why would they not show anger? I call it passion, and we should be able to display it here. If not here, where else?”

    First, yes, for sure “We are up to our necks in shit”–and I disagree with you and Grant that, presumably, “how we got here is beside the point.” For me, and I think for most people, the stories we tell ourselves about how we got here matters in a number of important ways: (1) Perhaps most importantly in a personal way, the stories I tell myself largely determine my emotional responses in general to any situation, specifically our self-annihilation trap. Do I get myself down and depressed? Do I get myself angry? Do I feel a sense of peace? Do I experience more or less connection with others? Do I feel relaxed or nervous and tense? Contrary to your claim, in my experience the stories I tell myself about how we got here have powerful effects on my emotional and physiological responses. (2) The stories I tell myself largely determine how I respond in practical ways in the world to the situation, how I resist or do not resist what I see happening. In my experience, contrary to your claim, what I write and say to others, the tone I use, and the nature of my resistance all vary greatly depending on the story I tell myself and others about what happened or how we got here. Or do you argue that all humans who kill another should receive the same punishment or lack thereof because “The reason it happened is beside the point. In all cases a person is dead”? I expect not. I hope not. (But perhaps you do, after all.)

    Second, I think that anger, aggression, and passion all differ significantly. The most effectively aggressive killers, both socially produced soldiers and criminals, do so coolly and without anger. Far more often than not, the most passionate lovers express their passion without anger. I think that we greatly weaken the usefulness of our language and confuse each other to consider them all the same. Do you seriously think that anger generally causes you to behave more effectively in the world in getting what you want? If so, I invite you to try an experiment and see where it gets you. Spend a day or two ranting and raving like a two-year-old every time you don’t get what you want, every time that the world does not work as you demand that it supposedly “should” or “must”. For example, rant and rave at a police officer who stops you for a traffic violation, then rant and rave at the judge who puts you in jail. Rant and rave with great anger at the guards and at the other prisoners in jail, and at anyone who comes to help you, including your attorney. Then, when you go to trail, rant and rave with such anger and “passion” at the judge and jury that you get tied down and gagged in court.

    Express passion here at NBL? Surely! Express anger or verbal hostility? Rarely, if ever–because this usually accomplishes little or nothing other than the angry person feeling good for a few seconds or minutes while also tending powerfully to damage relationships. (Meanwhile, unlike our childishly narcissistic culture, some cultures, such as the Arctic Inuit, strongly look down on and train their members not to have or express anger–because it greatly reduces the chances of survival of the group.)

    I sense that your encouraging people to express anger (and to use ad hominem attacks?) here at NBL comes from the extremely popular “pressure” model of emotions, the idea that unexpressed emotions build up like steam under pressure. We might also call this the A-C model of emotions: the idea that A, activating events, directly produce C, our emotional consequences. Really? Does divorce cause depression? If so, how do you account for some people feeling very happy to get divorced? Does your calling me stupid “make” me angry? How do you account for many people not feeling angry when others call them stupid, including me?

    I think the A-B-C model of emotion makes MUCH better sense than the responsibility-disowning, powerless, victim position “pressure” and A-C models. With the ABC model activating events trigger our BELIEFS, our THOUGHTS, our STORIES, our VISUAL IMAGES, our INTERPRETATIONS ABOUT events, and THESE BELIEFS produce and/or maintain our emotional responses. With this ABC model, I get out of the powerless, responsibility-disowning victim position in which life bats me around emotionally like a Ping Pong ball. With the ABC model, I can forcefully and persistently FIND the beliefs, images, stories, and interpretations that produce my painful, self-defeating emotions and actions, CHALLENGE those beliefs and stories, and CHANGE them so that I perform much more effectively both emotionally and behaviorally BY keeping myself motivated but not in EMOTIONAL OVERDRIVE.

    So, again, I think that the view we have of humanity, our stories about humanity and how we got here, and how and why we behave as we do, MATTERS. It matters to us a great deal both as individuals and in groups. At least it matters greatly to ME.

  • @ BtD

    well PRN isn’t really radio, it’s just low quality obsolete CODEC (mp3) bitcasts

    I went to HE-AAC V2 (parametric stereo) years ago, and now Opus for bitcasting, both of which can be sent on actual over the air radio broadcasts (though my implementation of HE-AAC V2 uses a very obscure digital modulation called J-QAM to get around licensing issues)

    That’s the trouble with these bitcast gatekeepers – they can shitcan your efforts at anytime, plus all the listeners must have internet service to ‘receive’ them.

    By placing the streams on-air both problems are eliminated. Hybrid operation allows regular analog FM listening as well..

    When the grid goes down, low power/micro-power solar/wind transmitters and solar/hand crank radios will be all that’s left.

  • When I first encountered the parable of the tribes I found it intriguing. However, since then I have learned a lot more about anthropology I recognise that theoretical arguments based on cultural beliefs do not explain why humans are the way they are.

    Sabine has alluded to it, and I have pointed it out many times on NBL: the moment distant ancestors (3-4 million years ago?) began fashioning stone tools to kill other large mammals, and especially from the time they worked out how to fix stones to sticks, the ravaging of the Earth, overpopulation, and technological ‘solutions’ to the problem of acquiring food became ‘our’ downfall.

    I still maintain that Dawkins was essentially right in saying that evolutionary ‘advancements’, such as the development of upright posture, opposable thumb, large brain etc. provided individuals with greater biological success, and the genes were therefore passed down the line.

    As most of us here recognise, we h=now have a set of living arrangements in ‘developed’ nations which do not match our evolutionary adaptations, and which are rapidly destroying the health of most individuals living in ‘advanced’ nations.

    Having managed to get fluoride removed from the water supply, the antifluoride sector is being subjected to an orchestrated campaign to get fluoride put back into the water supply, with all sorts of alarm stories about a surge in rotting teeth. There is never a mention about removing sugary drinks from supermarket shelves or prohibiting the manufacture and sale of sugary drinks, of course. The corporate-controlled slave camp continues to do what a corporate-controlled slave camp does…… wreck the environment and poison the people, both physically and mentally.

    It is the control of governments by corporation that particularly characterises current living arrangements (though obviously cheating, lying scoundrels and opportunists play their part in the on-going catastrophe), and that is the main reason there is no hope for humanity or the majority of species on this planet.

  • Kaboom, I’m always a little taken aback when someone begins a response with “tldr” and then presumes to weigh in on the OP.

  • @ Robin Datta

    You’re close, Robin. Global temperatures have been consistently above normal since February, 1985. That was the last month that was “below” the global average. It’s all been up, up, and up from then on….

    I just listened to Alex Smith’s latest podcast. Yeah, I’m pretty disappointed. It was pretty much a “throw Guy under the bus” episode. At least it would’ve been fair to have Guy included on the discussion so that he could defend himself.

  • “I’m not a scientist, but…but I’ll play one on your ‘radio’ show”” (“So, I’ll just go ahead with my anecdotal and ad hominem pronouncements.”) I could have stopped right there, especially if I wanted to go all ad-hom on them. Bo-ring.

    Three NON-scientists, sitting around with an agenda to grind on.

    But I mostly wanted to see how Extinction Deniers deal with the science, both their admissions (IPCC 4 degree) and their omissions (tundra melt).

    They must expect the casual listener to believe they’ve “dealt” with something by mere mention, rather than incorporating it into a coherent Climate Extinction Model.

    Touching base on the methane issue just long enough to brush it off, and get on to the 2/3 of Scott Johnson and 3/3 of KMO: Ad hominem pop-psyching of Guy’s positions on NTHE. Not science.

    Talk about starting with a conclusion (“We CAN’T have THAT kind of talk around HERE. You’ll demoralize the TROOPS!” Meaning the non-existent climate warriors who are going to empty the freeways of Los Angeles, etc etc) and then pasting together “facts” to support it.

    Shoddy journalism, Al. But keep going after that methane science. It “bubbles up” into your daily awareness, and it does take something of a life backbone to handle it. You’ll grow into it, when you’re ready.

    So, I pose the question again: DISPROVE the Extinction Hypothesis: Give us a dozen human habitats that will survive (i.e., able to feed themselves, and how) past 2050? (which was Malcolm Light’s true center curve termination on an admittedly ballpark graph) and please correct your misrepresentations of this on the next show.

    At this point, it is Human Survival that is the speculative issue.

    But, grasping at straws of Hopium, m’man; I understand the feeling…it just helps more to be honest about things.



  • Thank you, Kevin (and Sabine). I like to trace our downfall to the ability to the use of fire. Did attaching stones to sticks come before or after that? Either way, if you bother to read archaeology – War Before Civilization, and Constant Battles are fascinating compilations – you will find that hunter-gatherer tribes have been killing, enslaving, mutilating, scalping, raiding, stealing and eating each other, from as far back as you care to go…long before agriculture created surplus food and hierarchical society. This is just a verifiable fact, enshrined in ancient fossils, that enrages those who are infatuated with the woowoo notion that humans are capable of living in sustainable groups in perpetuity – in some sort of divine, spiritual, equitable and peaceful harmony with nature – if only a few sociopathic individuals hadn’t invented capitalism. This is a belief based on faith and hope, not reality.

  • Hahahaha, hello Gail, welcome back !

    So we are full circle and back to THAT again :-)

    I still maintain that Dawkins was essentially right…

    Yes, well he is/was heavily promoted by the social Darwinist 1% and those who favour the fascist neocon/neoliberal agenda, so everybody has heard of him and his atheism and selfish gene theory, whilst nobody hears about Lynn Margulis, a far better scientist and greater thinker, whose ideas get suppressed because they do not fit the capitalist model.

    So, have you read Margulis, kevin ? Kropotkin ?

  • sorry for the 3’rd post but this is exceptionally asinine

    I like to trace our downfall to the ability to breathe.

    nevermind the digging up then drilling of fossil fuels to run the factories owned by my friends, nevermind the occupy tactic focusing on my friends on wallstreet, nevermind the countless cultures and thousands of generations who lived in balance with nature, who didn’t create global warming, didn’t breed out of control, didn’t turn greed & consumerism into a virtue

    Insted let the false equivalence of any imperfection in such cultures, anglo-saxon-centric history re-writers could come up with, wash all those inconvenient facts away, to distract from my friend’s, the masters of the universe, doing god’s work, committing environmental crimes, looting & polluting for profit, funding the billion dollar a year PR machine that keeps the goyim right where we want them, clueless & powerless.

    thank you cattle and sockpuppets for helping me & my friends

  • I love this blog—–what a bunch of fascinating humans!

    Does anyone know what happened to Badlands? Her contributions were brilliant.

    In the meantime . . . Pat, you can get off the runaway train, Paul C. —-we’re not done and everyone else; don’t worry because——

    Naomi Klein (all in white, see below) is saving the day. Klein says she is “definitely not going to subscribe to the idea that climate change ranks above all other causes. I think there has been this really bad habit of environmentalists being insufferably smug, where they are sort of saying: ‘This is the issue that beats all other issues’ or, ‘Your issue doesn’t matter because nothing matters if the earth is fried.’”

    So there!

    She’s on a whirlwind tour acting as if she is saying something new and gracing the pages of Vogue (surprising coming from the No Logo author).


    The media loves her. Katharine Viner, U.S. Editor in Chief of The Guardian says; “Naomi has this clairvoyant skill of nailing a subject before anyone gets there, and then within months, it’s mainstream thinking,”

    WTF? What Viner says is so offensive I don’t know where to begin. It completely ignores all the brave souls that have been speaking out against capitalism and sounding the alarm regarding AGW for decades (too many names to mention, Guy being one of them) It completely dismisses them. And, by the way, there are still a huge amount of logos everywhere even with the the No Logo book becoming part of “mainstream thinking”. Or maybe it didn’t?

    Anybody understand the Klein phenomenon? People feel free to beat up on McKibben (maybe because he’s not pretty?) but Klein (on the board of 350.org) is practically deified.

    Guy—-I tell you this about once a year (not enough); Thank you!

  • Ok, I’m pissed! Just listened to the Alex radio show and I hear you guys are going to, or have, created a cult-like club. Once again, I have NOT been invited.

  • Wow, Caroline – my thoughts exactly! I just commented on an Alternet article that I wonder whether Naomi Klein, who has to have read virtually all there is as to the state of our earth today, actually believes we have a chance of avoiding near term human extinction or whether she figures she will just go on writing and selling books the way the musicians on the Titanic continued to play while the ship went down? I daresay she is a potentially useful shill to TPTB, although I never thought I would look at her that way. She has brought me to tears at times (her Ted talk on the insane risk taking corporate leadership engages in with respect to our collective home) with her eloquence in sounding the alarm. I don’t get it at all! Unless because it took her so many years to complete it, she just put it out there even though it’s already very dated material!

  • ulvfugl.

    ‘So we are full circle and back to THAT again :-)’

    Yes. And we will always come back to THAT because THAT provides the answer. And the concept of higher rates of replication of successful genes has nothing to do with the 1% or Richard Dawkins as such. Dawkins merely wrote a book about it and is no more responsible for the way things are than Newton is responsible for things falling to the ground when unsupported because he wrote about gravity.

    I have no idea why you get so upset Dawkins name is mentioned, but it is obviously something very deep and sensitive.

    When this matter arose before you were focused on Robert Sapolsky. I was already familiar with his work but did investigate further and found nothing he says is inconsistent with the concept of biological success causing genes that carry biological success to dominate. How could it be otherwise?

    We an do the logic exercise without mentioning Dawkins if you like, but that makes no difference to the analysis. Or the final outcome, it seems.

    I too found the Alex Smith interview appalling: keep the sheep in the pen and persuade them that the wolves outside the pen are not likely to break in.

  • Cargo cults, denial, minimizing and many other forms of child like magical thinking were predicted to increase as we approach our doom. Why be surprised or angry anymore? Just watch your back, lest some of the more enthusiastic cult members get a hold of you and sacrifice you to appease the Methane Gods. I could see them building an alter/throwing platform above one of the big methane sphincters on the Siberian tundra. ” We offer to you, CH4 lord of the Tundra, the body and spirit of Apneaman in sacrifice and thanks for your sparing of our scared children”….. repetitive chanting&bowing

  • Bud: Seriously, when you start tossing out “A-B-C models of emotion” and making wild guesses over what you think people mean, it sounds like you’ve trapped yourself into an academia jargon-loving mindset of bullshit and it is impossible not to roll one’s eyes.

    People are capable of believing opposing things, which is why so many who claim a deep personal relationship with Jesus are also bloodthirsty greedheads. But hypocrisy isn’t causing methane release. Nor is muddled thinking nor internet insults.

    This again gets to the baby boomer excuse machine of assessing blame elsewhere — the vikings, August Caesar, Adolph Hitler, Ralph Nader — as long as none of that blame ever comes close to your own shadow.

    Me? I’m fucking guilty as charged. I knowingly use computers made by Chinese slave labor, powered by electricity from non-renewable sources while grousing as a malcontent in the belly of the empire that benefits me like you can’t believe. I’m a white American male. My life is instantly better than billions of other people. I know this well and I’m going to get what’s coming to me good and hard. What of it? None of that is important. None of it.

    What’s important is that we’re down to something like sixteen years, tops, of having any kind of life at all. What’s important is that our best efforts have either failed completely or have never been tried. And it doesn’t matter if we agree 100% or 35& or not at all because once the time is up we’re all going to die in rapid order. While I can’t say this consumes me, it does piss me off from time to time. And it does provoke a response that is not always polite because I’m not an Inuit and my anger and verbal abuse does not effect the tribe’s well being one way or another so please stop using utterly meaningless comparisons.

    As it turns out, we are not isolate tribesmen on a frozen island. We’re (mostly) a bunch of middle aged cranks poking around in the dark trying to access what global extinction means to us personally. In the grand scheme of things (and there’s no grand scheme) my life is meaningless. If I could exchange my remaining years for the life of a single sparrow, I would. But the universe does not work that way. There isn’t an A-B-C formula to follow for biosphere destruction, knowing that my family escaped war in Germany in 1848 and migrated to the US doesn’t help me one bit as the clock continues to count down and we continue to scratch our heads and wonder what twist of fate landed us here on this planet at this time.

    I’d rather go on living, screaming madly into the darkness, laughing at all manner of various situations, including my own death, and getting by as best as possible. Being ignored being praised being ridiculed doesn’t interest me on bit. Especially not online. Sheesh. Why would it?

  • @ kevin

    Good Lord !

    Yes. And we will always come back to THAT because THAT provides the answer.

    To what question ?? The fact is that the world of reality, ecological reality, does not operate like some maths on a blackboard, the way that Dawkins simplistic ‘replication of successful genes’ as you put it likes to pretend that it does.

    You didn’t answer, re Margulis, Kropotkin. And you never obviously never understood Sapolsky, who said re Dawkin’s crap ‘Forget about it, we share almost all of our genes with fruit flies, and NONE of our behaviour. What matters is our behaviour.’ Our behaviour is cultural, not genetic. As he proved with his baboons, when it completely changed in ONE generation, when all the old males died off from disease.

  • Hi Guy: Look into Radio 4 All instead of Progressive radio network. They might be a better fit for you. I listen to there shows all the time

  • ulvfugl.

    The answer to the question of why the wold is overrun with ‘greedy apes’.

    ‘The fact is that the world of reality, ecological reality, does not operate like some maths on a blackboard’.

    But it does. I am not suggesting humans have knowledge of every aspects of every bit of the maths, but the fact is the wold is a gigantic chemical-physical machine which operates by the laws of mathematics.

    I did not respond to the Margulis, Kropotkin references because I have not had time to explore them. Now will I make time until an evening when I am not otherwise occupied, and certainly not during the daytime when I am fully occupied completing garden projects relating to albeit short-term) food production and energy de-intensification.

  • Lyn Margulis and Richard Dawkins are both great scientists.There is not much point in my explaining Margulis’s discoveries here,as no doubt anyone interested can track down that information.
    ‘The Selfish gene’ would be one of worst book titles ever,as it has led to a widespread misunderstanding of what Dawkins was explaining.When his publisher read the manuscript,he suggested that ‘The immortal gene’ would be a better title,but Dawkins decided against that.
    He has since stated that he regretted that decision and that his publisher was correct.
    Dawkins was not claiming that our genes cause us to become selfish individuals.He was explaining that genes,rather than the organism as a whole,are the units which natural selection acts upon.
    For example,if there was a gene for altruism,and if that allele led to greater fitness,which is defined as having greater reproductive success(leaving more offspring than an alternative allele,)then that gene would become more frequent in the population.
    Our behaviour is a mixture of genetic and cultural influences.Babies suckling is purely instinctual,(genetic)with many other examples(walking upright,hunger,sexual desire,etc.)
    I realize that some here are not atheists.I am,and I regard Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris’s books on the subject to be excellent,but if others have a different opinion there is nothing I can do about that.
    This comment is very sketchy,and probably everyone here knew the contents anyway.Never mind.

  • .
    @ Caroline
    If I get off, I will die in the lake of fire that we are traversing… and, I’m not quite sure why I don’t.
    How does Greg Campbell get to post a comment on the “Contemplating Suicide” post?
    Greg Campbell Says:
    September 17th, 2014 at 8:24 am
    I am in total favor of Desmond Tutu’s decision, to end one’s life with dignity.
    Divest Now.
    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.

  • Folks still thinking genes run the show and would be well served by researching epigenetics starting with Bruce Lipton.

  • .
    Check out paragraph 3:

    1) In fact, only 2.6 percent of graduates in India were recruited in functional roles like accounting, 15.9 percent in sales-related roles and 21.3 percent in the business process outsourcing sector. “Nearly 47 percent of Indian graduates are unemployable in any sector, irrespective of their academic degrees,” noted Varun Aggarwal, co-founder and COO of Aspiring Minds. The statistics run counter to the perception that India’s relatively youthful population could help reap demographic dividends for the country down the line.

    2) In 2020, the average Indian will be only 29 years old, compared to 37 in China and the U.S., 45 in West Europe and 48 in Japan, according to India’s Ministry of Labor and Employment. By 2030, India’s 1.5 billion population will have 68 percent men and women in the working age of 15-68, compared with 65 percent today.

    3) Theoretically, a nation with young demographic has lower dependency ratio, which leads to increased consumption that can be channeled into higher investment and therefore growth.

    4) For India however, the reality on the ground couldn’t be more different. “It is not unusual to see graduates employed as security guards, driver or waiters in restaurants, given the poor standards of education. So what demographic dividend are we talking of? The generation coming of age in the 2020s faces the greatest underemployment ever in history,” said Anil Sachdev, a human resources specialist and career coach.

  • @ kevin, david higham, Anthony, Bud, Ram, Gail, others who are interested..

    ..but the fact is the wold is a gigantic chemical-physical machine which operates by the laws of mathematics.

    I have great respect for you and your knowledge, kevin, so I’m not going to treat your comments with my typical abuse and derision.

    I maintain that there is a most profound fundamental fallacy there. It goes right back to Plato. It’s been taught and spread from Oxbridge, so it carries great authority. It’s WRONG and been proven to be WRONG, and yet people are still spreading this MISTAKEN view on and on.

    Please note, immediately, this has nothing to do with introducing God, or gods, or anything mystical or magical or ‘super-natural’ into the discussion.

    The world is NOT ‘a machine operating by the laws of mathematics’.
    Nobody has the slightest clue WHAT ‘the world is’. Or was, before we changed it out of all recognition.

    The laws of mathematics assist us in describing and understanding aspects of the world and of the Universe, in some cases.

    ‘A machine’ is a wretched measly human mental conception, the 19th C steam engine, and the Cartesian Paradigm. ‘The world’, ‘Reality’, is not a mental conception, the territory is not the map.

    This is a very large subject which I cannot possibly cover in a comment, but how we think of ‘the world’ and what it is, has tremendous follow on consequences, on how we treat it. This insane conception that it is ‘a machine’ is one of the reasons why we are in this mess and get NTE.

    Re Lynn Margulis. Imo, a far greater and more important thinker and scientist than either Lovelock or her husband, Sagan. Everybody has heard of them, nobody of her. Why’s that ? First because she was a woman, and science and fame is for MEN.

    Second, her theory does not fit the agenda of the 1%, they favour Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinism, ‘Survival of the fittest’, where THEY are the fittest, because they are the richest. They own the media, publishing houses, universities, so they decide who gets heard, and who doesn’t.

    Third, Margulis was onto epigenetics and a whole lot of other stuff long before others, and so were the Russians, but it was all too much like the heretical Lysenko ‘inheritance of acquired characteristics’ and seeing as ‘American science is best’ anything that Russian biology came up with just had to be wrong because it was Russian.

    It’s worth noting, Edward Wilson’s take on Dawkins. ‘He’s not a scientist, he’s an author of popular books’.

    But my main point is this one, and I’ve forgotten who made it. When explaining the theories, with formulae, on the blackboard, with chalk and numbers, a student said (I think it was to Dawkins mentor, not himself) ‘But in nature, animal populations are nothing like that’

    And the reply he got was ‘That doesn’t matter. If the numbers are right, it has to be right’.

    You see, those people are completely mad. They live in a world of numbers. It’s a hypothetical alternative reality that is more important, more REAL, than the REAL REALITY that they are supposed to be studying and learning from.

    The exact parallel case has occurred in economics, where neoclassical, neoliberal economists have made models of ‘the world’ and how it should work, which the bankers and financiers impose upon countries with catastrophic results.

    When you dig, you find that the problem is, that their models assume things about human beings and soceities that are obviously totally wrong.

    And the fascinating thing is then, the connections between Dawkins and the neoliberal ideology, which is basically fascism, which are MANY, but I will not bother to get into that now.

  • radio-4-all isn’t a turnkey newbie podcast solution, merely an archive, which is running short of funds for BW and HD space, so many there are now turning to the internet archive.

    but the principal is good – simply fully produce your shows and only worry about the arrangements to make them available for D/L.

    I wouldn’t even bother to do live feeds – too much trouble, too much goes wrong especially over a wi-fi connection. it’s understandable if the guests dropout over the VoIP streams they’re connected to (you can continue talking without them or change to another person if that happens) but the host should be directly locally recording crystal clear.

    I recommend the whole show be produced as a local recording, then cleaned up & edited, before made available for D/L, so that the host is optimal, the guests are as good as can be and the only dropouts would be from the people D/L’ing trying to listen as it D/L’s. Anyone D/L’ing in full to listen to later should get perfect quality at least as far as the host is concerned.

    All of this can be done with the flaky wi-fi connection by only U/L’ing the so prepared show to an archive server, radio-4-all or archive.org

    Live feeds with live guests are for people with expensive high speed reliable internet. This is not the case going over wi-fi so it should not even be attempted. Lowering the feed bitrate down to phone quality to avoid dropouts makes the entire show only bottom of the barrel AM quality and still doesn’t eliminate dropouts completely.

    By pre-producing the show as a local recording then U/L’ing it, the quality can be very high with NO dropouts. Almost all the archived shows (excepting those with high speed reliable internet connections) are done this way, which is why (if you look) you’ll see nearly all of them are called ‘CD’ and/or ‘broadcast’ quality, with lower quality only as an option for those who don’t care.

    After all – the whole point of the radio-4-all archive is to provide programming for real over-the-air broadcast stations, almost all of which are community FM

    Archive.org goes even further and recommends you U/L lossless FLAC which the archive server automaticly transcodes to lossy Vorbis & MP3 and offers as well.

    They specifically say to U/L lossless whenever possible, the BW and storage space be damned..

    Democracy Now until recently was available on archive.org as FLAC too, which (when the occasion arose when I wanted to air a small portion or segment of a show) I always D/L’ed the entire show FLAC.

    It would be fantastic if the NBL radio show were available as FLAC on archive.org just like Democracy Now used to be.

    @ ulvfugl

    that’s basicly correct, but the reality today is even worse. now this type of thinking has been weaponized the neo-liberal paradigm has been adopted by the military strategists and their cyber-warfare minions to deploy total domination, turning the entire world into battlespace and everyone of us into targets.

    ..for influence Ops via information dominance if nothing else

    as in nineteen eightyfour they intend to deny us the language to even express dissent by ‘un-wording’ such language.

    there’s 2 parts to this, first they attempt to stigmatise concepts and it’s accompanying language. They’re busily actively doing this with class warfare as we speak. Every since the occupy encampments, they’ve gone into high gear to distance, distract and protect the banksters from public ire, though all channels of media including social media. Which brings up the second part if the info-OP, total information domination, that is already in place. This started after Vietnam and accelerated under Reagan with the elimination of the fairness doctrine, at which point it went into high gear. Cable news with it’s 24/7 news cycle of repeating the same sound bites every hour, effectively drowns out all other news sources, the so-called ‘noise machine’.

    People pretend the internet was a turning point that could have made a difference (it didn’t) but forget we had dialup BBS’s for years before that, which also failed to make a difference.

    On the scale of the mass culture of industrial civilisation, the only thing that can make a difference is seizing control of the mass media that serves it. Mass media is the only cognitive aid that is scaled to match industrial civilisation – all other efforts are just pissing in the wind.

    This is why 6 corporations control 98 % of what the public sees, hears and reads. And this same web of control pervades the internet. People like us are such a tiny minority we can be safely ignored. The only worthwhile effort is to take back the media and this primarily means take back the airwaves, since the people that matter the most (the working poor, homeless, indigenous people) – the ones with the numbers and the power to employ nationwide general strikes, to shut it all down, the numbers to flood wallstreet beyond the police state capacity to quell, are mostly confined to the airwaves, being that they can’t afford the luxury of internet access or cable TV.

  • Bud,

    Thanks for you long reply to my comment but I was talking about passion not anger. To me, there is a difference. If I do get angry in the way that you use the word anger here, which of course I do, passionate people do, I come down very quickly. I’ve learned over decades how to regain personal equilibrium. I would call that a survival strategy, at least in my case it is. My blood pressure is perfect for my age.

    What I was trying to say is no matter how much we analyse the huge hole we’ve dug, when we started the digging, who might be responsible, which laws, if any, might apply, in the end it makes no difference. It’s too late for us. To me that’s what NTE means. We talk, analyse, report our experiences, argue, get passionate, sometimes abusive, sarcastic, ironic etc because that’s what humans do. Why not, we’re all adults here. But for me it’s also about learning and listening (to you too). Here, I feel I don’t have to tread as carefully as I do in my daily life, where it makes me want to weep when I see a pregnant young woman, all glowing with anticipation. My imagination goes into overdrive when I think that all the aspiration she has for her unborn will be shattered. Even though I never wanted children myself, I can feel that very strongly. I feel even more passionate when I look around at all life, soon not to be there. Why would a “normal” person, not on the autistic scale, not get emotional? I could go on.

    But, as I said, anger is not my default state. I’m almost 66 and have observed, learned and experienced a lot in my very lucky life, but I never think that I’m the centre of the universe. I can’t remember ever being very centred on the human world. Perspective was always easy for me.
    You’re a scientist, and I’ve just studied languages which gave me an interest for history, cultural and otherwise as well as being a passionate reader, (ever since I could). My love for plants has given me a little amateur understanding about biology. My love of reading makes me want to understand everything else too, though I’m wise enough to know that’s impossible. Because there’s so much to know, I always like to go back as far as possible, hence my opinion on our ancient ancestors. But scientists in the fields of all things human also know, I think, that they’re often just guessing, filling in the gaps between the evidence with their own imagination or the limits thereof.

    That’s where the stories come in. That’s what we, the only human species left, do.

    This is my very unscientific opinion.

  • kevin moore:
    “the fact is the wold is a gigantic chemical-physical machine”

    The workings of that machine were not known and not understood at all until recent times. And even then only a minuscule part of it is understood. However, the fact that material existence abides by laws and ways that apply to it has been recognised and acknowledged since ancient times, as is the need to approach it on its own terms.

    “Under My command, material nature produces the universe with all its moving and non-moving beings. O son of Kuntî, because of this the universe continually manifests.”
    – Bhagavad Gita 9:10

    As the diameter of a sphere increases, the volume (=known) increases by the cube, while the surface area (=known unknowns) increases by the square. It would seem that ignorance is decreasing relative knowledge. But what lies beyond the surface is the unknown unknowns, ignorance of ignorance.

  • Thank you Bud. I think this piece speaks to many points within a conflict I was just engaged in on the forum here and did step away from for now as it can become too consuming. As you point out, certain aspects of ourselves run deep, not just within us personally, but throughout our socialization processes, norms and mores. I suspect the work in terms of where we are, as a species, evolutionarily, and where we might yet be is work to be done on “the other side”. It’s understandable to want to “go there” now in the wake of all we are observing, but it’s too deep. I enjoy just letting my own consciousness roll out and show me things more and more and interacting with others less and less as all of this culminates, possibly because it is obviously that much closer to death we come every day and death is the “dance we do alone”, but also, specifically because of the inevitable, it seems, introduction of power and the flawed mindset that you skillfully discuss in your writing. It’s so much bigger than any individual skirmish and yet so reminiscent and repetitive in terms of others from past experience, it is easy to become incoherent or to be beyond what can readily be conveyed, but it is fairly impossible not to have any feeling as to what might be lost forever to our inability to rise to some greater level or surmount some challenge of “self” in a collective sense, is all. I may contact you for that information on starting a support group, too.

  • Finally, someone is doing something.

    CONAKRY, Guinea Guinea’s government says eight people who were abducted by angry residents while on an Ebola awareness campaign have been found dead.

    In a government statement released Friday, authorities said that eight bodies had been found following the violent kidnappings in Womey in rural southern Guinea.

    Among the dead are several local journalists and several high-ranking local officials.

    Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/09/19/5184968/guinea-8-people-killed-on-ebola.html#.VBwetSi5zb8#storylink=cpy

  • Christ! Back to Dawkins again? Epigenetics is right.

  • Water molecules lose energy and begin to cluster together. They are attracted to a particle of soot, and when 10 to the power of 20 have clustered together, a raindrop falls to the earth.

    The root hairs of a plant transport the water molecules in the soil into the root cells, using osmotic ‘pressure’ (differential diffusion, governed by solute concentration factors); water molecules in the stoma acquire energy and vaporise ‘puling a column of water up the plant and into cells in the leaves; chlorophyll temporarily captures photons emitted by the Sun and uses the stored energy to split water molecules as a first step in photosynthesis. In the absence of sufficient light plant cells organise themselves to grow in the direction light comes from. They cannot prevent themselves from doing so.

    If I plant a bean seed, it absorbs water from the soil, and the chemical sequences that have been placed on hold are activated. The cells have no option but to organise themselves into a root radicle, and them into primary leaves of the dicotolydonous form. The bean cells cannot form themselves into a carrot. They are a ‘bean machine’ geared to just one purpose: to collect as much energy and nutrients as possible and produce as many beans as possible.

    Carbohydrates manufactured in plant cells act as energy carriers throughout the living planet, and enable cells in my body to convert ADP back into ATP, which my body can use to perform chemical tasks necessary for me to continue to live. Many of the instructions telling cells what to build are carried as chemical codes on complex twin helical molecules which can be ‘unzipped’ and copied. When I left my adolescent years I did not need to be told to look for a mate to carry out genetic replication: the instructions were already in my cells, having been delivered at the gamete stage from the previous generation.

    Every bit of my body is a complex physical-chemical machine, which obeys the laws of physics and chemistry. My desires to eat or drink were pre-programmed, and follow a pattern set at least 300 million years ago (when amphibians were the dominant fauna on land). Failure to eat of drink appropriately leads to death and reproductive failure.

    When we examine inorganic systems we see that every part of the workings of the Earth is a physical-chemical system, with heat generated from decay of radioactive materials deep in the Earth providing the driving force for much change, and energy from the Sun providing the remainder, with a contribution being made by gravitational energy to move the waters of the oceans and generate tides.

    All of it is explainable, though we do not necessarily have the best or ultimate explanation for everything at this stage. And judging by the speed at which humans are disrupting the geo-chemical stability necessary for complex life forms to thrive or even survive at all, we probably never will.

    When I describe the world as a machine I am not making an analogy to a steam engine, though the interaction of ‘gears’ in nature does bear some resemblance to a mechanical clock, with each component turning in pace with others.

    My garden is frequently pestered by blackbirds. I have now come to realise they have no control over many of their actions: they see (smell?) a likely place to find food and begin excavating. hey cannot help themselves. They are ‘excavating machines’, programmed to dig. And when fruits begin to ripen, they are ‘attack machines’, programed to dig into fruits. When startled, they take off in a hurry, c=-sounding an alarm call. They cannot do otherwise.

    Sparrow collect bits of plants and weave them into nests. They cannot help themselves. They’re programmed to act that way.

    I always know when a cat is around if mynahs are in the garden because they screech and crow until the cat has gone. They cannot do otherwise. They are ‘cat-alarm machines’.

    What makes the people I see around the city so different from the animals I see in the garden is that most of the people have been carefully trained from an early not to be normal human beings, but to be non-thinkers, consumeristic slaves of corporations. The human instincts are always there, waiting to be released, and sometimes erupting unexpectedly.

    It is as though their brains have been colonised by corporations, and they arte no longer human.

    It w=ill be very interesting to see what happens when the corporate system fails, which will almost certainly before 2018, and very likely before the end of 2016 if the net energy projections we have seen are accurate.

  • David Goza Says:
    September 18th, 2014 at 12:33 pm
    Kaboom, I’m always a little taken aback when someone begins a response with “tldr” and then presumes to weigh in on the OP.

    David, I know exactly what you mean, and I salute you for getting your point across so succinctly. Yes, against my better judgement I scanned the entire screed prior to posting. “tldr” sums it up precisely.
    Bud Nye (and his acolytes in comments) have simply spoken to the issue of “power” from the white male perspective, and as I said, he needs to check his privilege.

    Thank you for your support – it is sometimes lonely from my POV!

  • this mechanistic view of the world excludes volition, autonomy and spirituality revealing the limitations of the observer and reducing the observed to objects to be exploited till exhaustion and death

    we are the dead

    The US is having so many troubles, you’d almost think it was built on thousands of indian burial grounds or something.

    … oh, wait…

  • We have lived our entire lives under the venal grip of madmen.

    Mass death of billions has been on the calendar for decades.

    The actual practice of human intelligence (see link below) has been the tiny exception, not the rule.

    Why should the special subcase of extinction be so difficult of consideration?

    Noam Chomsky:


    Tierra del Fuego, baby!

  • @ kevin

    Your list is reductionist. It’s a list of descriptions of the parts of a machine.

    You have taken the machine to pieces, laid out the bits on a bench, drawn, measured, named and labelled each, and then you mistake this effort and procedure for being ‘the world’.

    It is nothing of the kind.

    All meaning is constructed by metaphor. We say that something is ‘like’ something else. Because we know what the first thing is, then that helps us to understand what the second thing is (like).

    A goose is like a large duck, for someone who has never seen a goose.

    So, ‘the world’ is ‘like a machine’. In some respects, that is true, and to some extent it is useful. But it is also highly misleading and totally wrong and has proved to be a complete disaster.

    It’s an analogy that came from engineers, the steam engine, and clock makers, Newton, was taken up by physicists, and has become part of standard materialist culture and belief. It’a all 19thC physics and 19thC biology and obsolete.

    You can use a different metaphor, and you get a completely different understanding of ‘the world’. If you think of an orchestra, instead of a machine, then all the organisms are playing their parts that contribute to the overall performance. If you remove some of them, that’s going to change the sound. To get the proper performance, everything has to play its part, the right notes at the right time. Everything has to listen to everything else.

    Under your machine paradigm, the birds, and everything else, are just stupid things that cannot help themselves, whether they exist or not makes no difference.

    This is absolutely not true. Everything is talking to everything else, at all levels, all the time. The only ones who are not listening and paying attention, are the humans. That’s why we get NTE.
    All the small bird species in the wood cooperate for the common good. Socialism ! :-) They all know the alarm signals. This holds true throughout nature. And they are NOT hardwired automata. That’s complete rubbish. They are very smart and LEARN. Ffs, baby parrots each have their own individual names !

    What makes life possible on this little ball of rock, is that all forms cooperate with all other forms. They have coevolved to do so, and MADE this planet what it is. That ‘thing’, composed of all living things, created everything on the surface of this planet.

    It is all one thing. Looking at it as separated dead parts misses this truth entirely. Every part had its vital function, like the migration of the caribou and salmon, redistributing nutrients. The whole system was precisely tuned and harmonised, listening to the rhythms of the Sun, and the other cyclical rhythms, so that life, as a whole, could continue, regardless of perturbations.

  • “What makes life possible on this little ball of rock, is that all forms cooperate with all other forms. They have coevolved to do so, and MADE this planet what it is. That ‘thing’, composed of all living things, created everything on the surface of this planet.”


  • There are some that seem to know everything about everything and the rest are:


    Fucking bullshit artist.

    in your astounding arrogance and conceit

    it is such stupidity and hubris

    grovelling and ingratiating yourself

    you are clueless,

    More vacuous bullshit

    Your own personal shallow cynical

    that shrivelled and embittered take on life

    You do not understand even the simplest basics of spirituality

    about which you are completely ignorant.

    Your OWN smug dismissal

    You can, of course, make up any old shit, to please your self. You’ve done it before

    You explain nothing, you clarify nothing, you add nothing, you demonstrate your abject ignorance.

    This garbled misspelled nonsense is presented as your personal wisdom

    Go AWAY ! Leave me ALONE ! I do not WANT your ‘love and empathy’, let me have some fucking peace, so I can slowly wither and die.”

  • damn another 3’rd post

    Yes Shep, some are more ‘abrasive’ than others and conflate emotions and ego with wisdom on occasion, however notice that on many subjects and issues there is general agreement.

    Also keep in mind people are always learning, acquiring new skills, knowledge, methods and coming to new conclusions, reaching higher levels of understanding & respect.

    – this is what makes this venue rather unique, on top of it’s ‘charter’ of enumerating the details of NTE..

    ..for all the unpleasant verbiage at least it’s less likely we’re merely amusing ourselves over the antics of A.I. post bots

  • Bud,

    I enjoyed your writing, the style and the content. As to the subject of anger and shouting. It was reassuring to see your take on it. I get angry and shout sometimes. I know when it “works” and when it doesn’t. But since I see our predicament as being akin to untangling a stubborn knot, I find patience and perseverance more appealing than anger.

  • One may be right
    One may be wrong
    One may be right and wrong

    as of yet
    we are not sure which is which
    at least I’m not

  • Bud, this is not a criticism or even a comment on your article; it’s simply something I would do I were to develop the themes of your article further. I would expand on it by: 1) describing the ever increasing reach of technology, and especially in energy use, by developing ideas in a book entitled Too Smart for Our Own Good, by Craig Dilworth; and 2) with respect to how the abuse of power becomes embodied in humans, I would refer to the works of Alice Miller (e.g. For Your Own Good). (Forgive me if you are familiar with both authors.)

    Dilworth refers to theories that describe the inception of agriculture as driven by necessity, as driven by populations that exceeded their resource base. Agriculture was not a serendipitous invention enabling humans to climb the heights of civilization. It led to a very significant decrease in the quality of life from that of hunter/gathers.

    This Dilworth describes as one phase in a vicious cycle in which human discoveries (or inventions) expand human capability with respect to energy use, initially beyond what is required of the current population. Simplistically described, this excess energy and newly acquired access to other resources enables population expansion to the point that it eventually exhausts the current sources of energy, at which point people turn to sources of energy and technology that were known for years, possibly centuries, and yet rejected as too onerous or otherwise undesirable. The knowledge and tools used in early agriculture were around for a long time before people were forced to employ them in agriculture. People simply did not want to undertake the onerous tasks entailed in agriculture, as it has been until the use of oil and natural gas in it (who would?).

    Another phase of the vicious cycle was initiated when people in Europe exhausted the forests, necessitating the employment of coal, something more difficult to extract and use than trees. (As you are no doubt aware, the steam engine was first developed to drive water pumps so that coal could be extracted from deeper mines; it was not initially developed as a means of transport or to drive industrial machinery.)

    This was out of necessity, not preference. It did not improve the lives of vast majority of people who were employed in its extraction and use (e.g. the satanic mills, the coal mines, cotton slaves, people made homeless by enclosures).

    All of this, Dilworth describes, is driven by the well-known observation that all animals, including humans, generally produce, or at least are capable of producing, more off-spring than can survive in most environments.

    So, as I see it, it’s not simply that humans are inventive. There’s a deeper logic, a necessity, to that inventiveness, and a logical end to it, as there is a limit to energy sources on earth; and it is the same end commonly described on this blog. This is certainly in keeping with the theme of your article.

    With respect to my second avenue, you describe the capability of humans for aggression very abstractly: “The social change process toward ever increasing aggression and domination required only that: (1) we have creativity enough to develop culture to a certain (temporary) point of freedom from natural limits, and that (2) we have the capability of aggressive behavior—not necessarily an inclination toward it. Almost any animal can behave aggressively under the right conditions.”

    This description vastly diminishes the role of cruelty and domination in human affairs. Yes, non-human animals can become aggressive in threatening or dire situations. But they do not knowingly torture; gratuitously slaughter; indifferently demolish their environments; enslave fellow members of their species; systematically and methodically obliterate entire populations (genocide), and so and so on. This is not simply aggression; there is a deeper logic to this as well.

    Creating people who have no problem threatening millions with thermonuclear holocaust, or are capable of designing and operating industrial enterprises that murders millions of people (such as in the Nazi death camps) is not adequately described by saying that humans are capable of aggression. This is not simply the scaling up of normal animal-to-animal aggression. This is something entirely different, and is very inadequately described as a natural aggression of which all animals are capable.

    Although I believe that applying and even expanding on the works of Alice Miller, and others like her, is extremely important in understanding how we humans got into our current predicament, understanding her works is exceptionally difficult

    This is not because they are intellectually difficult to understand but because understanding them requires that we understand how the world of the child, from birth onward, and even before birth, creates within us the world we inhabit as adults. And the only way to understand this is to understand our own childhoods, something that very, very few people are willing to undertake. Understanding our childhood worlds is in fact taboo in our culture.

    You wrote, “So it appears that all humans have a strong predisposition for insanity: for thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that remain out of touch with physical, biological reality. Meanwhile, a continuum may exist across cultures such that some cultures express that insanity predisposition much more often and more intensely than others.”

    Is this pre-disposition displayed at one month, two months, one year, two years, eight years? Does this pre-disposition appear suddenly in our teen years, or does it develop slowly through our pre-teen, teen, and young adult years? Does the ‘genetics’ of it manifest itself differently in different people and across different cultures?

    The appearance to you of a pre-disposition to insanity seems simply to be a consequence of the fact that humans generally display the insanity you describe in our current world, and are obviously capable of it. But if it is in the nature of our social worlds now to neglect, emotionally deprive, abandon, do violence to, exploit, manipulate in a million ways, stifle, regiment, and otherwise abuse children in our society, which is certainly the case, then how could our world not be the embodiment of this childhood world? Why would it be otherwise?

  • “this mechanistic view of the world excludes volition, autonomy and spirituality revealing the limitations of the observer and reducing the observed to objects to be exploited till exhaustion and death”

    With Realisation, the “I” is recognised to be a mirage, an apparition, a phantasm. The sense of “self” (“I am an individual”) ceases. So too does volition/sense of agency (“I am the doer”). Spirituality is found in bottles. The triad of separate observer, observation and observed disappears.

    With Realisation there is neither self nor non-self, neither doer nor experiencer (of joy & suffering), nor the triad of observer, observing & observed.

    “One may be right
    One may be wrong
    One may be right and wrong”

    – Only so long as the “one” is itself perceived to “be”.

  • This image was taken about ten minutes ago around 2:25 pm UTC -5 hours [DST]. The subjects were asked to briefly take a break from browsing and to pose. The one on the left actually looks like it’s smiling. So interesting. The web of life.

  • Even if the New York climate march is scrapped and replaced by a climate marathon, it ain’t quite gonna cut the mustard…

    Earth Has its Warmest Summer and August on Record
    By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:33 PM GMT on September 18, 2014

  • Even if the New York climate march is scrapped and replaced by a climate marathon, it ain’t quite gonna cut the mustard…

    Earth Has its Warmest Summer and August on Record
    By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:33 PM GMT on September 18, 2014

  • @ kevin moore re: your September 18th, 2014 at 12:10 pm comment:

    It seems to me that everything you wrote in this comment directly supports the idea of the parable of the tribes as a social expression of nonequilibrium thermodynamics and Howard Odum’s maximum power principle.

    @ Others regarding the genetics vs. environment controversy

    This strikes me as a false and misleading dichotomy. It seems clear to me that BOTH genetics AND environment play critically important roles in complex, reciprocally interacting ways.

    @ ulvfugl regarding your September 19th, 2014 at 2:16 am comment:

    I agree with you almost completely, here. I had planned to write something similar, but you beat me to it. I would add that I think saying something to the effect of “the world operates according to the laws of mathematics” makes the common error of confusing symbols with reality, confusing the map with the territory. Our human-constructed mathematics only sometimes “represent” reality–sometimes, certainly not always!–as any physics modeler has surely experienced many times. Our human-constructed mathematics do not “drive” reality, a human-supremacist idea indeed; it ATTEMPTS to describe it, but it does so only crudely because symbols do not have an identity with the things symbolized. Or so it seems to me. (I had this and similar discussions many times at Fractal Planet before Scott banned me from commenting there.)

    @ Sabine:

    Thanks for your wonderful clarifications. I love this kind of thought-full, thought provoking, respectful discourse. By the way, I am not a “scientist”, not in any formal way, though I suppose the term may fit in an informal way. I have had a life-long interest in natural science, especially physics, and taught high school chemistry and physics for eight years. My undergraduate degree, almost 50 years ago, was in ecology and I spent 15 years as an R.N., mostly psychiatric nursing.

    @ Many Others:

    Thanks so much for the many kind remarks here in the NBL comments and through email.

  • Alex is king of his world, Naomi is queen of her world. Both are apocalyptoptimists because of the kids. This deniability is what stopped us from going insane when humans became able to contemplate their own demise. This is why religion is a worldwide phenom. Many old people think the world will end with them. In Guy’s case, I imagine he’s mostly right, although I suspect some small elite will survive the cascading collapse for some time. It is this high functional insanity that allows me to compile the following info – over and over again. I never tire of it and each time is like the first time. I have no idea why Guy puts up with it.

    Our “green” energy hi-tech future requires:
    ► conflict minerals,
    ► rare earth elements,
    ► heavy metals,
    ► nano metals and graphite.
    Search for “rare earth mining in China” on YouTube and see what special hell your solar panels and wind turbines produce in Mongolia. China can do this because they have undercut all the world’s production of rare earth elements with low wages, low currency and no environmental enforcement. They can do this because they ignore the radioactive thorium that comes with mining high-value, heavy rare earth elements. Rare Earth elements are approaching the limit on their energy return on energy invested. Rare earth elements can’t profitably be mined outside of China without burning radioactive thorium, the mining by-product commonly found in rocks everywhere.

    Graphite is used in all of our so-called “green” powered batteries and is mined in China emitting deadly fine air particles resulting in a lethal smog that washes down from the skies in an ash laden rain that covers crops and water. China recently shut down several graphite mines because of the pervasive smog. Graphene, a nano-material produced for batteries, is water soluble and can cut through human/animal cells. Both graphite dust and graphene are deadly to humans because of their small size. You don’t want to breathe this stuff.

    Solar cell manufacturing produces 3 green house gases that are over 10,000 times worse than C02. They require all kinds of deadly liquid acids to manufacture. Solar panels lose efficiency at the rate of 1% per year lasting 20-25 years. The expensive inverters they require have to be replaced every 5 to 10 years up to 4 times or more over the life of the panel. The new thin cell panels use nano materials and are even more toxic with shorter lifespans. It doesn’t matter how “clean” the latest experimental solar panels are because existing manufacturing plants will stay open to recoup major investments. Manufacturing just five wind turbines produces 1 ton of radioactive residue and 75 tons of toxic, acidic water used to leach out the required neodymium. Wind turbines only work at 25% of their rated capacity 90% of the time. Over 2 million children died in the Congo for the conflict minerals green energy needs. Thousands of people die in Chinese mines every year for the minerals green energy needs. Prof. Jian Shuisheng of the Jiatong-University estimates the production of just 6 solar panels requires one ton of coal. Since green power is intermittent, it would take at least 10 times the rated amount of “green” energy to displace just one equivalent unit of 24/7 fossil energy because your so-called 100 Watt solar panel delivers zero Watts at night and batteries are heavy toxic $energy hogs. One company in the U.S. cut down 5 acres of trees to build a solar farm to power a plant for the production of plastic bags. Green power will not be enough. Part-time energy and batteries adds up to death to all life on earth just from destructive ecological inertia.
    Ozzie Zehner explains about “green energy”.

    Tim Garrett explains why one dollar equals 10 milliwatts.
    I will tell you the plain simple truth.
    ► 10,000 years ago humans and our livestock occupied just 0.01% of all the land-air vertebrate biomass on earth.
    ► Now humans and our livestock occupy 97% of all land-air vertebrate biomass.
    ► Humans and our livestock now consume over 40% of earth’s annual green land biomass production.
    ► 1 million people born every 4½ days. People live longer.
    What does this mean?
    ► 50% of All Vertebrate Species will be gone by 2040.
    What have we done?
    ► 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950.
    ► 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985.
    ► 50% of Fresh Water Fish gone since 1987.
    ► 30% of Marine Birds gone since 1995.
    ► 28% of Land Animals gone since 1970.
    ► 28% of All Marine Animals gone since 1970.
    ► 50% of Human Sperm Counts gone since 1950.
    ► 90% of Lions gone since 1993.
    ► 90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since 1995.
    ► 93 Elephants killed every single day.
    ► 2-3 Rhinos killed every single day.
    ► Bees die from malnutrition lacking bio-diverse pollen sources.
    ► Extinctions are 1000 times faster than normal.
    What’s going to happen to us?
    ► Ocean acidification doubles by 2050.
    ► Ocean acidification triples by 2100.
    ► We are on track in just 13 years to lock in a near term 6°C earth temp rise.
    ► Mass Extinction will become unstoppable and irreversible in 40 years.
    ► Permian mass extinction of 95% of life took 60,000 years 250 million years ago.
    ► Dinosaurs mass extinction took 33,000 years after asteroid impact.
    ► Anthropogenic mass extinction will take 300 years max.
    ► This mass extinction is 100x faster than anything before us.
    ► Antarctic meltdown now irreversible and unstoppable.
    ► Arctic methane burst is irreversible and unstoppable within current system.
    ► World Bank says we have 5-10 years before we all fight for food and water.
    What are we doing right now?
    ► It takes 10 times as much rated “green” energy to displace 1 unit of fossil energy.
    ► Efficiency and conservation only causes more growth within our current system.
    ► We combine bacteria DNA with plant DNA and eat it.
    ► We are eating stuff that never, ever existed on earth before.
    ► We put man-made, computer designed, synthetic DNA into our food.
    ► We put nano metals and nano particles into our food.
    ► We put poisonous pesticides and herbicides directly into our foods.
    ► There are thousands of different chemicals in our foods.
    ► We are turning into genetic mutants because of our food.
    ► We are wiping out all life on earth because of our food.
    ► After mass extinction, genetically modified trees may be all we leave behind.
    Did you know that the new $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave desert is a death ray that ignites birds in mid flight? When their bodies fall to the ground, they leave smoky trails in the sky called streamers. These birds are attracted to the bugs who are attracted to the shiny, pretty lights, just like us. It is estimated as many as 30,000 birds per year will die this way during huge migrations at just this one green power plant. Bigger solar plants of the same type are in the works including one near Joshua Tree, next to a wildlife sanctuary. During Ivanpah’s construction, up to 3,000 endangered desert tortoises suffered a temporary loss of legal protection and were allowed to be killed by heavy diesel equipment and materials. Thousands of slave workers die in China’s mines every single year to help produce the exotic minerals used in its construction. This is referred to as the “Green Economy”. If we changed the whole planet to green power, we would kill the earth we call home.

    Civilization is slowly collapsing while the earth is quickly dying. My credentials? I cut grass in a trailer park in Canada. Just call me Dr. Rob.

  • ulvfugl.

    I stopped typing around 1am, not because I had finished pointing out the machine-like nature of the world but because I was too tired to continue. (Despite a substantial meal to replenish depleted reserves of chemical energy, my brain was drifting towards the shut-down mode it normally adopts at night.)

    You made a completely unfounded assumption that my thinking is completely reductionist and does not allow for cooperation and connectedness. One of the main themes of my awareness ‘work’ has been to point out the interconnectedness of everything, and in my most recent book an early chapter is called ‘Connections’, whilst a later chapter is called ‘The Spiritual Connection’.

    The problem I have with blackbirds is due to the fact that I am trying to impose order on a piece of land (planting and caring for fruit tress and strawberry plants etc.), and the blackbirds are just doing what they do naturally -looking for invertebrates in damp places and eating fruit as it becomes available. (Of course, blackbirds are not a native species and were introduced to NZ by uninformed settlers who wanted to create ‘another England’ on the other side of the planet and introduced a multitude of species that ‘should not be here’.)

    An aspect I often think about is the role that large predators had in the past in keeping the number of ‘greedy apes’ under control. Human numbers only began to rise significantly once the ability to drive off or kill large predators had been acquired/developed, i.e. the ability to attach sharpened stones to sticks I referred to previously, and the control of fire Gail referred to. Both go back a lot further than most people realise (and as I pointed out fairly recently, we have become ‘natural born killers’, the most dangerous species on the planet).

    About 15 years ago I began thinking about the use of helicopters to fight forest fires adding to the carbon dioxide ‘problem’ which causes to Earth to overheat, causes the climate to become more unstable, and increases the likelihood of forest fires. Everything is connected, though obviously some connections are more significant than others.

    As you, and many others, have said, the biological world ‘attempts to become’ diverse and interconnected. In practice that is simply organisms finding and filling a niche or competing for a niche via inaccurate copying of genetic information, which generally results in a maladapted individual but occasionally results in biological advantage.

    Clearly around 100,000 years ago there were several Homo species competing to become top predator on the planet. And the species with the best adaptations for running and throwing and making weapons (not necessarily the one with the largest brain cases) out-competed the others, undoubtedly cooperation between individuals of groups being a very significant factor in the ‘success’.

    We now have a subset of humans, the politicians, who have worked out that by lying continuously they can acquire short term benefits for themselves. Falling into the trap of previous genetic success being associated with political power (or more likely, being so uneducated or psychotic they don’t even recognise anything they are doing), they now sacrifice their own children’s futures to maintaining short-term benefits for themselves.

    As most people recognise, I am way over any notion that politicians have any regard for the welfare of the masses. Indeed, in 2012 the fascistic government of NZ removed all references to the welfare of the community from the Local Government Act, and replaced the relevant sections with ‘construct infrastructure’.

    The fact that National have a near-complete disregard for the people and for the environment, and are a party dedicated to looting and polluting and transfer of wealth to the few at the top (and spying on the masses) will not deter people from voting for them.

    John Key and the other sociopaths and professional liars (including ones supposedly representing the working class -the phony Labour Party) are likely to be returned to office at today’s election. The party that described tourism as a sustainable component of the NZ economy, asked for an enquiry into manufacturing job losses and suggested quantitative easing as a mean of stimulating the economy -the ‘Greens’) will probably increase their level of representation, even though there is nothing ‘green’ about them.

    Never mind: a hundred mature trees in the vicinity have been cut down and turned into pulp (using a large quantity of diesel in the process) to make way for yet more road widening. And the new art gallery is nearing completion. I also notice yesterday that mobile coffee stations have popped up in previously coffee-free zones. Apparently that is what the majority of people want….wider roads, more pollution, art and coffee.

    I had an interesting discussion with a friend at the club last night about the fact we are headed straight off the cliff, with politicians making everything worse at an ever faster pace. He suggested that could not tell the truth because the people would revolt if they didn’t get their ‘soma’. I suggested that if the masses were told the truth every day for a month they might start to get it: as it is they are lied to every day, of course.

    How dismal can it get?

  • Want to Save the Planet? Flood Wall Street


    “The profit economy is a root cause—make that the root cause—of climate change.

    Wall Street is, in a very real sense, the epicenter of our environmental crisis. To ignore that fact is to risk dooming our other climate efforts to failure, or to use them merely as palliatives for troubled consciences. There’s no other way to say this: Capitalism, as practiced on Wall Street today, is an existential threat to humanity.

    Mainstream journalists have idealized the behavior of the ruthless men and women who now lead the private sector.

    Today’s blatantly amoral capitalism is an anomaly in modern history, a throwback to the days of the Industrial Revolution. But it is an anomaly we can no longer afford. The skies of 19th-century Manchester, England darkened with soot and smoke.”

    “sharpen sticks” – to put bankster heads on

  • @ kevin

    Okay. Well, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with reductionism, it’s a completely valid logical approach toward trying to understand something. What’s wrong is when it’s taught and assumed to be the only approach, and people forget that they are doing it. Which, in much of science, is usually the case.

    Back at the time of Linnaeus, it was brilliant, to describe and list all the species in a rigorous methodical manner. The trouble is, since then, that system hit snags. If you list by differences, you get one number, if you list by similarities, you get a completely different number. And what is ‘a species’ when a gull can be one species on one side of the planet, and the fade in gradations, into a different one on the other side, and keep on going round, you come back to the first one.

    There really is no completely satisfactory definition of what ‘a species’ is.

    Obviously, there was a fundamental problem with the basic assumed paradigm. But nobody ever goes back to fix this stuff.

    What we do, is impose our own, very human, mental conceptual maps, onto whatever it is that is out there. The maps are easy to understand, because we made them. Whatever it is that is out there, remains completely mysterious, for the most part.

    But we try, that’s all we can do.

    Imo, the best approach is perspectivism, which acknowledges that there are many, many valid ways to map or model anything. You celect the one that best suits your purpose. You can map a city, for the sewerage system, the pretty parks, the crime distribution, the cell phone network, whatever. It’s all the same city. Different perspectives.

    So, with ‘the world’. But from the biological, earth systems, point of view, what we want to know, is ‘What is the overall totality ?’ the equivalent bird’s-eye, God’s-eye, view of the city. None of the detail, in a reductionist sense, but the whole thing.

    And this is an impossible problem, because we only have one. There are other planets, but they do not have life. So we cannot compare. You cannot construct ‘meaning’ for a unique case. You can’t say ‘A goose is like a large duck’ when there is no duck.

    Nobody really addresses this problem. We have a tiny handful of scientists and thinkers who have given it some attention, but really we don’t have a clue.

    Nevermind, books can be, could be, written on the subject, and I too am tired and do not want to go over all the old ground that has been argued before, only to say, that we are being fed a very propagandised version of biology and the past, which is being promoted by establishment shills, I’d name Pinker, Dawkins, Diamond as typical, because it fits the neocon/neoliberal capitalist imperialist agenda.

    Imo, there are other versions that are more plausible and convincing.

    As you, and many others, have said, the biological world ‘attempts to become’ diverse and interconnected. In practice that is simply organisms finding and filling a niche or competing for a niche via inaccurate copying of genetic information, which generally results in a maladapted individual but occasionally results in biological advantage.

    I don’t think that I have said that. I don’t agree with that.

    You might like to check out the work of this guy


  • Dr. Rob,

    Wow, what a list… thanks.
    All the bird deaths from solar power plants, so incredibly sad.

    There was ‘one’ thing on your list that was positive – the fact that human sperm counts are down! :) Just not down far enough. :(

  • “Just call me Dr. fossil fool sound biter”

    thanks Dr. fossil fool sound biter for pasting those fossil fool stink tank talking points YET AGAIN, while conveniently ignoring low tech wind mills, wood, passive solar heat, non-battery storage, recycling, flexible non-toxic (quantum dot) printed solar cells and all the other points I’ve raised TWICE

    “inverters they require have to be replaced every 5 to 10 years”


    inverters aren’t required at all, plus they’re solid state and can be built very simply with only 2 active parts (just 2 power transistors) and with conservatively rated parts (I usually use parts 5 times stronger than needed) they can last a lifetime or more – it completely depends on how well they’re made. I should know – I design, build, modify and repair them – with junkbox (recycled) parts.

    Most often I scrap car audio power amps and use the parts to build inverters..

    – care to guess how many birds fossil fuels and plastics kill?


    How many chickens we kill each year in fossil fueled factory farms?

  • Why hierarchy creates a destructive force within the human psyche (by dr. Robert Sapolsky)

  • What is interesting about that particular troop of baboons is that they are probably a short term aberration in the scheme of things, possibly a product of a general environment messed up by humans (artificial boundaries to game parks, lack of normal numbers of predators etc.)

    One can easily imagine the situation arising where the passive group competes for a resource with a group with the normal quota of aggressive makes, and gets wiped out or assimilated.

  • Lidia,
    An important addendum to your species definition.There must be the ability to produce fertile offspring under natural conditions.There are numerous examples of species which can produce viable fertile seed or fertile offspring under conditions of confined mating or cross pollination,but which do not do so in the wild due to various reasons,geographical isolation or behavioral differences for example.

  • Here’s an interesting one put up by Roamer on the Diner.

    Guy, I am interested to hear your take on this analysis.



    HadCRUT4 strikes out

    By Roger Andrews

    HadCRUT4, a joint production of the UK Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, is the world’s “official” global surface temperature time series. It’s the time series that tells us how much the Earth has warmed. It’s the time series the IPCC uses to “verify” its climate models and to support its claim that the warming was dominantly anthropogenic. It’s the time series that underpins the world’s efforts to cut carbon emissions and transition to a “sustainable” energy future. It’s difficult to overstate its importance.

    Figure 1: HadCRUT4 “global surface temperature” time series

    One hopes and trusts it’s reliable.

    Unfortunately, however, it isn’t.


    HadCRUT4 exists because it’s believed that we need a single global surface temperature time series to properly evaluate global warming. We don’t have a consistent set of temperature measurements covering all of the earth’s surface, but we do have surface air temperature measurements in land areas and sea surface temperature measurements in ocean areas, and so we construct what is believed to be a representative global surface temperature time series by combining the two.

    We therefore construct HadCRUT4 by taking an area-weighted average of the CRUTEM4 land surface air temperatures, which contribute ~30% of the final HadCRUT4 value, and the HadSST3 ocean sea surface temperatures, which contribute the remaining ~70%. The three series are plotted in Figure 2:

    Figure 2:  CRUTEM4 land, HadSST3 ocean and HadCRUT4 land+ocean time series

    And immediately we see that CRUTEM4 shows roughly twice as much warming as HadSST3 since 1890 (and also since 1970), raising the question of whether HadCRUT4 isn’t averaging apples and oranges. The response is to present comparisons like Figure 3, which shows a good match between HadSST3 and HadMAT surface air temperatures (measured on board ship) over the oceans. It’s claimed that such comparisons confirm that the differences between CRUTEM4 and HadSST3 occur simply because the land warms faster than the ocean and not because of any fundamental difference between SSTs and surface air temperatures:

    Figure 3:  HadMAT marine air temperature series vs. HadSST3

    These results indeed look fairly convincing if we take the Figure 3 data at face value. The problem, however, is that they have been “corrected”. Figure 4 shows what the comparison looked like before the “corrections” were applied.

    Figure 4: Figure 3 data before “correction” (mean both data sets = 0)

    If corrections this large are needed to support the claim that there are no fundamental differences between surface air temperatures and SSTs then clearly the claim clearly isn’t a very robust one. The fact that the specific goal of the corrections was to match the SSTs to the air temperatures also doesn’t help. As a result we can’t dismiss the possibility that HadCRUT4 really is averaging apples and oranges, in which case it won’t be representative of anything, except possibly a lemon.

    Strike one.

    The IPCC also uses a “HadCRUT4 equivalent” variable rather than direct climate model output to project 21st century surface warming. The AR5 projections come from the CMIP5 suite of climate models, which directly output only one global temperature variable – surface air temperature (tas). They can also output tas over land (equivalent to CRUTEM4) and tos over the oceans (equivalent to HadSST3), but these data sets aren’t global. Figure 5 plots the CMIP5 model means through 2100 (RCP85 scenario) for these three variables. They give quite different warming projections:

    Figure 5: CMIP5 multi-model means, RCP85 case 

    Which one should be the “official” global surface temperature projection? Global surface air temperature is at least global, but it ignores the oceans, which show considerably less surface warming and which contain over 99% of the heat in the atmosphere and the oceans. Alternatively we could use the HadSST3 projection, but this ignores the atmosphere, which is where we live. Obviously we can’t define” global surface warming” with a single number. But the IPCC insists on doing it this way, so it makes up a “HadCRUT4 equivalent” model variable by averaging tas over land and tos over the oceans in the same way as it averages CRUTEM4 and HadSST3, and then it adopts this number as its official “global surface temperature” projection:

    Figure 6: CMIP5 multi-model means plus “HadCRUT4 equivalent”, RCP85 case

    But what does this number mean? Nothing. It doesn’t refer to the air, it doesn’t refer to the ocean. It refers to a medium consisting of 70% sea water and 30% air, which doesn’t exist as a physically-definable entity. It’s pure apples and oranges, and the result in this case is unquestionably a lemon. (A good way of looking at it is to assume that the HadCRUT4 projection is accurate and that the warming is evenly spread across the globe. Where on the Earth’s surface will you experience a temperature rise of 4.2C relative to 1860 in 2100? There isn’t anywhere.)

    Strike two.

    And now it gets worse.

    CRUTEM4 and HadSST3 have been “corrected”.

    It’s not possible to say exactly what corrections have been applied to CRUTEM4 because no one publishes a land surface air temperature time series that uses only raw records. However, a few years ago I put together a surface air temperature time series from scratch using ~1,000 selected and unadjusted Global Historic Climate Network (GHCN v2) records, and Figure 7 compares it with CRUTEM4:

    Figure 7: CRUTEM4 vs. author’s global surface air temperature series

    The short-term fluctuations match closely, but CRUTEM4 shows about 0.3C more overall warming since 1890. It’s likely that this warming is manufactured by “corrections”, in which case CRUTEM3 will show about 0.3C more surface air temperature warming over land areas during the 20th century than has actually occurred, but I can’t be sure about this so I can’t call strike three here.

    The “corrections” applied to HadSST3, however, can be quantified simply by plotting the difference between HadSST3 and the ICOADS SST series, the raw data set from which HadSST3 is derived:

    Figure 8: HadSST3 vs. unadjusted ICOADS SST series

    I reviewed these corrections in detail a few years ago (a pdf documenting the results of the work is here) and found that they were based almost entirely on ad-hoc assumptions and backed up by effectively no hard data (as was the case with the Figure 4 data, the goal of the corrections was again to match the SSTs to surface air temperatures). They are certainly wrong to some degree and quite possibly seriously wrong. At the very least a case can be made that a data set that needs corrections this large to make it “correct” was too heavily distorted to have been used in the first place.

    Yet HadSST3 contributes ~70% of the final value of HadCRUT4.

    And HadCRUT4 is the data set that underpins the world’s efforts to cut carbon emissions and convert to a “sustainable” energy future.

    Strike three, and you’re out.

    Data sources:

    CRUTEM4, HadSST3, HadCRUT4 from CRU

    ICOADS SST & marine air temperatures, HadMAT from KNMI Climate Explorer

     The author’s surface air temperature time series data are available on request.

  • I typed the 2am comment above in a rush,and now realize I should have been more precise.
    After ‘ fertile offspring ‘ in the third line should be ‘when bred with a related species’
    As just one example, the golden pheasant produces fertile offspring when crossed with the
    Lady Amherst pheasant in captivity,but they do not interbreed in the wild.

  • @ reverse engineer

    use NASA/NOAA data

    the inverter that runs this (and other) computers is 20 years old and has not required any repair whatsoever

    I’ve overloaded it a few times and had to shut it down to reset it, and have since make an external ‘watchdog’ relay that senses that, and switches to main AC power to keep the computers running, but there’s nothing actually wrong with it – it still works exactly the same as the week it was made, datecodes on the chips show 9513

  • http://www.dailyimpact.net/2014/09/18/more-warnings-from-wall-street-the-partys-over/

    More Warnings from Wall Street: The Party’s Over

    The warnings are coming thick and fast now, from inside the redoubts of the Masters of the Universe, that their world is spinning out of control. I am especially interested in the warnings from the MOTUS themselves, not because they have demonstrated any special ability to forecast, but because they are making noises in a large herd of bulls, knowing that if they set off the stampede they will get hurt.

    There is no bigger bull than UBS — it’s the largest asset manager in the world, with nearly two trillion dollars in assets. It told its clients in a newsletter last month that it no longer likes stocks, and it no longer likes bonds. Where you gonna put two billion dollars? Baseball cards? [Thanks to Wolf Richter on WolfStreet.com for bringing this to light.]

    “We are worried,” said the firm that depends on the giddy optimism of investors. “Concerned about valuations,” UBS called the stock market “stretched…the market has continued its rally with little fundamental improvement to support it. This divergence is becoming uncomfortably large.”

    How about the bond market, then, the traditional refuge when the stock market goes off its meds and goes all catatonic? “We don’t like credit,” says UBS flatly. Too much money has flowed to too many shaky, highly leveraged companies, and UBS expects defaults to begin in six to 12 months.

    And it’s not just the companies that have been on a borrowing binge; financiers have been borrowing money with which to buy — and incidentally run up the price of — stocks. These gamblers are subject to calls when they get under water, when their stocks’ value falls below their debt. Unlike mortgage lenders, these creditors do not tolerate submarine assets, they call the loan, as in right now.

    Hence UBS’s third worry: “We have severe doubts about the ability of market makers to provide liquidity in a volatile scenario. This would pave the way for an over-reaction.” “Volatile scenario?” “Over-reaction?” They mean crash.

    UBS says in its newsletter that it is trimming risk — that is, selling stocks and bonds — as fast as it can without triggering the very crash it fears, which it could easily do. Talk about risky business.

    The fear of imminent disaster has spread to the pre-stock market — the world of venture capitalism, where the Next Big Thing is spun up and prepared for its IPO (Initial Public Offering of stock). These are the geniuses that precipitated the dot-com collapse of 1999. Remember? Enormous investments in enterprises that had only a vague idea of doing something with dot-com at the end of it, who hired a large staff, rented posh offices, and blew all the money on sushi parties? Remember them? They’re back.

    Bill Gurley is a general partner at the venture capital firm Benchmark. His hair is on fire. He told the Wall Street Journal (paywall) recently that venture capitalists are throwing a tsunami of money at tech startup companies that don’t know how to do anything but spend money. They talk about the Next Big App, but what they do is lease posh offices (for ten years at a time), hire expensive people, splurge on sushi lunches and schmooze for their next injection of investment cash.

    Take Snapchat, the photo messaging app whose wrinkle is, the message disappears after a few seconds. It’s very popular with people who don’t want their thoughts to stay around long. In the high-altitude world of venture capital, this firm is “valued” (in this context, “value” means the amount of money they could get from investors if they asked) at 10 billion dollars. The company has no revenues.

    Crazy investing and crazy spending; what could go wrong? The last time the music stopped, in 1999, about half the tech firms in Silicon Valley simply evaporated, and 700,000 jobs were lost. They’re doing the same thing again, to see if the results are different.

    The Wall Street Journal, unaccustomed as it is to downer stories like this, checked with some other venture capital MOTUs and found ten of them — ten! – who agree with Gurley that the jig is just about up.

    With that many people tiptoeing to the exits, should we keep dancing in this crowded theater?


    U.S., Canadian jets intercept 6 Russian aircraft near Alaska

    September 2014 – ALASKA — Two F-22 fighter jets intercepted six Russian military airplanes that neared the western coast of Alaska, military officials said Friday. Lt. Col. Michael Jazdyk, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said the U.S. jets intercepted the planes about 55 nautical miles from the Alaskan coast at about 7 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday. The Russian planes were identified as two IL-78 refueling tankers, two Mig-31 fighter jets and two Bear long-range bombers. They looped south and returned to their base in Russia after the U.S. jets were scrambled.

    At about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted two of the long-range bombers about 40 nautical miles off the Canadian coastline in the Beaufort Sea. In both cases, the Russian planes entered the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends about 200 miles from the coastline. They did not enter sovereign airspace of the United States or Canada. Jazdyk said the fighter jets were scrambled “basically to let those aircraft know that we see them, and in case of a threat, to let them know we are there to protect our sovereign airspace.” In the past five years, jets under NORAD’s command have intercepted more than 50 Russian bombers approaching North American airspace. NORAD is a binational American and Canadian command responsible for air defense in North America. –Yahoo News

  • The latest post includes NTHE questions and more. Catch it here.

  • Reducing nature to math makes it manageable but leaves out what is important.

  • It is worth considering that a garden does not exhibit order, but neatness. A forest or grassland, for example, exhibit order. These are systems with emergent properties that will likely never be fully understood.

  • Apneaman,

    Your baboon video was remarkable. Thanks!

  • .
    How does anyone post a comment to the “contemplating suicide” post?