ARCHIVED: Panel Discussion at University of Rhode Island: Near-Term Human Extinction

I was part of a panel discussion on Sunday, 22 February 2015 at the University of Rhode Island. It is described below and has been archived, also below, in two parts.

22 February 2015, 4:00 p.m., Lippitt Auditorium, Room 402, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island, “Panel Discussion, Near-Term Human Extinction”


Cross Of The Moment ch II, “We Are the Asteroid,” Rough Cut 8-28-14 from Jacob Freydont-Attie on Vimeo.

Comments 40

  • @ paul marcotte: Uh huh, you “tried” writing one, and wrote an epic of five verses! VERY nice!

    It Is Coming

    Extinction creeps closer each day—
    The decay’s out on open display;
    Though the worst’s held at bay,
    It’s not so far away
    That I’m feeling completely OK.

  • Thanks all for the feedback. Please keep it coming. Only with such feedback can I adjust my behaviors when I wish to work at doing that. I will do my best in the future to write in ways that elicit fewer strong, negative emotional responses regarding some inherently emotionally charged issues, which only rarely have I intended to do. I will also do my best to emphasize even more strongly my thinking and opinions as compared with that of the authors I refer to.

    Regarding human expansion on Earth, I have copied below six paragraphs from the introduction to Part IV, titled “World conquerors” of Jared Diamond’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, How Our Animal Heritage Affects The Way We Live:

    “That expansion, though, consisted of more than our conquering areas previously unoccupied by the human species. It also involved the expansion of particular human populations that conquered, expelled, or killed other populations. We became conquerors of each other, as well as of the world. Thus, our expansion has been marked by yet another human hallmark that has animal precursors and that we have taken far beyond its animal limits – namely, our propensity to kill other members of our species en masse. Along with our environmental destructiveness, it now poses one of the two potential causes for our fall.”
    “The outcome of conflicts between expanding human groups has been heavily influenced by group differences in our cultural hallmarks. Especially decisive have been differences in military and maritime technology, in political organization, and in agriculture. Groups with more advanced agriculture thereby acquired the military advantage of larger population numbers, ability to support a permanent military caste, and resistance to infectious diseases against which sparser populations had evolved no defense.”
    “Competition among members of the same species is not unique to humans. Among all animal species as well, the closest competitors are inevitably members of the same species, because they share the closest ecological similarity. What varies greatly among species is the form that competitive strife takes. In the most inconspicuous form, rival animals compete merely by consuming food potentially available to each other and exhibit no overt aggression. Mild escalation involves ritualized displays, or chasing. As a last resort, now documented in many species, rival animals kill each other.”

    “The competing units also vary greatly among animal species. In most songbirds, such as American or European robins, individual males or else male/female pairs face off. Among lions and common chimpanzees, small groups of males who may be brothers fight, sometimes to the death. Packs of wolves or hyenas do battle, while ant colonies engage in large-scale wars with other colonies. Although for some species these contests may end in deaths, there is no animal species whose survival as a species is even remotely threatened by such deaths.”

    “Humans compete with each other for territory as do members of most animal species. Because we live in groups, much of our competition has taken the form of wars between adjacent groups, on the model of the wars between ant colonies rather than the small-scale contests between robins. As with adjacent groups of wolves and common chimps, relations of adjacent human tribes were traditionally marked by xenophobic hostility, intermittently relaxed to permit exchanges of mates (and, in our species, of goods as well). Xenophobia comes especially naturally to our species, because so much of our behaviour is culturally rather than genetically specified, and because cultural differences among human populations are so marked. Those features make it easy for us, unlike wolves and chimps, to recognize members of other groups at a glance by their clothes or hair style.”

    “What makes human xenophobia much more lethal than chimp xenophobia is of course our recent development of weapons for mass killing at a distance. While Jane Goodall described males of one group of common chimps gradually killing off individuals of the neighbouring group and usurping their territory, those chimps had no means to kill chimps of a more remote group, nor to exterminate all chimps (including themselves). Thus, xenophobic murder has innumerable animal precursors, but only we have developed it to the point of threatening to bring about our fall as a species. Threatening our own existence has now joined art and language as a human hallmark. Hence Chapter Sixteen will survey the history of human genocide, to make clear the ugly tradition from which Dachau’s ovens and modern nuclear warfare spring.”

    Regarding his points about xenophobia, note the blatant anti-intellectualism and in-group/out-group, “good guy”/”bad guy” arguments that so often occur here at NBL. These seem to me examples of the xenophobia that Diamond refers to.

    In chapter 14, “Accidental Conquerors”, Diamond explores the fascinating and important question as to why Europeans expanded to other continents and not vice versa. This did not happen because Europeans carried a mean, avaricious gene in comparison with allegedly noble, peaceful, ecologically sophisticated people in the Americas. These paragraphs begin to describe the role BIOGEOGRAPHY played in various early human population’s abilities to develop and project military power over great distances. The availability of important animals that the early Europeans could domesticate, in comparison with the lack of them in the Americas, played a critical role in the story of who conquered whom. Three paragraphs:

    “…Europeans’ conquest of America and Australia was due not to their better genes but to their worse germs (especially smallpox), more advanced technology (including weapons and ships), information storage through writing, and political organization — ALL STEMMING ULTIMATELY FROM CONTINENTAL DIFFERENCES IN GEOGRAPHY.” [Emphasis mine.]


    “As a result, domestic mammals made no contribution to the protein needs of native Australians and Americans except in the Andes, where their contribution was still much slighter than in the Old World. No native American or Australian mammal ever pulled a plough, cart, or war chariot, gave milk, or bore a rider. The civilizations of the New World limped forward on human muscle power alone, while those of the Old World ran on the power of animal muscle, wind, and water.”

    “Scientists still debate whether the prehistoric extinctions of most large American and Australian mammals were due to climatic factors or were caused by the first human settlers themselves (Chapters Seventeen to Nineteen). Whichever was the case, the extinctions may have virtually ensured that the descendants of those first settlers would be conquered over 10,000 years later by people from Eurasia and Africa, the continents that retained most of their large mammal species.”

    The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, How Our Animal Heritage Affects The Way We Live, by Jared Diamond, 1991. IN MY PERSOINAL OPINION, much like Steven LeBlanc’s Constant Battles this serves as another fascinating, hard to put down, highly educational book regarding our early human history.

  • Guy, fantastic job in the livestream! Bravo!

  • I agree with btd and mo; the presentation is excellent, Guy. I really, really appreciate your work these days, and I’ve been saying it for weeks but you just keep getting better and better. You stand out everywhere. I see you as a unique voice and perspective, and you have a courage that I admire. That admiration extends to your willingness to accept the limitations of some ways of seeing and being open to other things, like learning about and discussing grief. To me, that is why I read your work and not someone else’s, because of your willingness to be real with others.

    Thank you.

  • Guy,

    I appreciate the way you and the people around you do everything. U, as the point person, are smoove as silk and a great teacher for all of humanity. Some is sinking in. Hope so. I agree that love is all we got young man.

    It is exciting to see you going all over Mr. White Man’s world (No sarcasm intended here) spreading the word. Wish you could manage to get to the fallow Southeastern Confederate States at some point.

    You are much better than all the prophets of old. Thank you.

  • What oldgrowthforest said.

    I detected less certainty or courage to make dramatic true statements by the other two at various times.

    Is that because they are still in the system which punishes those who get too truthful?

    We had to get to where we are somehow, and it takes experts to destroy the life sustaining ability of a planet.

    Can anyone else detect the “system vibrations” in those Guy was empanelled with?

    Maybe they should get out and build an environmentally sound home like Guy has.

    It could add some clarity to their emotions.

  • I think you’re right on, Dredd. That kind of integrity doesn’t always reveal its benefits early on, but it pays most excellently in the long run.

  • Tech Note:

    I’m somewhat hesitant to mention this yet, as I had thought things had improved once before. but after deleting a certain WordPress plugin yesterday, things seem to suddenly be working perfectly – as far as I can tell – with posting all comments.

    I haven’t had to manually un-spam a single comment in more than a full day, and I don’t think Guy has, either. let’s see what happens.

    if anyone is still seeing weirdness of any kind with posting, please report it here in a Tech Note.

    Robin – thanks for your additional clarification with the mobile/desktop issue a couple of threads ago. I got all that, and am taking it on board for next steps.


  • Good discussion. Loved the various perspectives that seemed to converge on a common understanding.

  • This was a great way to get my day started here downunder. Thanks Pauline and Guy for giving all of us the opportunity to watch and listen.

    I was quite amazed that the physics prof went to such lengths to explain the “substantial” amount of energy that is required to melt ice, but couldn’t grasp the concept that once the ice is gone, that all of this energy could be (will be) the mechanism that helps to release the methane, ie: the 50 gigaton burp suggested by Shakova. Perhaps this September will provide the answer.

    And I agree with what Dredd stated above:
    “I detected less certainty or courage to make dramatic true statements by the other two at various times.”

    “Is that because they are still in the system which punishes those who get too truthful?”

    BtD- Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. You’re a good teacher.:-)

  • As one of the speakers says, scientists generally tend to be conservative. There’s a huge amount of difference between a published paper that has been independently replicated and an opinion/blog post. So if you feel that some of the scientists in academia are holding back from speaking the “truth”, this is what I think it is, rather than some fear of punishment, etc. since all that fear (if there is any) goes away once you get tenure from my anecdotal observations. Academic freedom is always under attack but I don’t think talking about NTHE is exactly that radical. Limits to Growth came out in 1972 and I was born that year and since the time I’ve become aware of it, there’s been a small but steadily increasing following of that thesis.

    Of course, scientists are human too and are as capable of fooling themselves as anyone else, so you’re bound to see some of that. Plus few people like to say “let’s give up” or give up hope easily. There’re other reasons too scientists may minimise the problems at hand. Finally, I don’t think people like to give up their shiny toys and conveniences of modern life, especially when they don’t see others doing it. So there’s a lot of other reasons for lack of acceptance of NTHE than fear of punishment by “the system.”

    I didn’t find the speakers there to be that different (I listened only to the first several minutes). As I noted, one of the scientists says that institutions like IPCC are conservative. One scientist talks about bending over and kissing your arse goodbye. Of course, Guy is Guy. The others may have been a tad bit conservative in terms of their timing of when things may happen, but I think it’s justifiable both logically and emotionally (see above). I myself don’t think humans will become extinct (meaning population zero) in the next 20 years (or even 50 years). I’m even willing to bet we’ll be here at least until 2100 or so, even if the majority of humans are gone by then. Again. I think the approach taken by Limits to Growth is the most sound, and addresses it as a complex system problem. The bottom line is that the state of the planet when we collapse and the momentum of growth up to that point will determine what life will be like for the rest of the humans. I don’t think any real change will occur until the Arctic ice goes to zero during summer but that’s just my intuitive prediction—I don’t have most of the evidence I’d need to make this claim.

    Sabine remarked about my exchange with Ulvfugl before which I second in the context of Bud’s meta discussion: once I put him on the ignore list, I didn’t see any of his posts since there was no point to it. The thing about him, as others observed, is that he would draw you in first engaging with you and then starting a flame war. I’ve seen this too many times on the Internet to buy into the whole Zen-master explanation Sabine gave, but that was my cue to exit gracefully I felt. One of the few people I didn’t see him do this to was Sabine. I do have to say that I felt that people like amybtravelling responded with more grace and patience than I did (continuing to engage him positively but with strength).

    Sometimes people don’t just get along. I don’t think there’s ever a need for insults, and as Diarmuid and others have pointed out, judgement is the root of all problems humans face. It starts by judging oneself, and thereby losing one’s self. Thus knowing your self, and not judging yourself and others (contrapositive of the golden rule) will help a great deal with understanding how the Matrix society is perpetuated. It’s difficult to criticise the judgemental actions of others without becoming and sounding judgemental yourself. I tend to take the silent approach but it’s not necessarily the optimal one.

    mo flow, these are among your best track selections yet. I really liked Zensual.

  • Why have newspapers become so bad? There is a reason: another case of the “Seneca effect”

    Or, as the engineer Dmitry Orlov has pointed out, studying a bridge may reveal a defect that can be reliably estimaed to cause catastrophic failure within a certain period of time.

    If it does not fail in that period, the danger has not passed, but increased.

  • Ram Samudrala Says:
    February 23rd, 2015 at 12:48 am

    As one of the speakers says, scientists generally tend to be conservative. There’s a huge amount of difference between a published paper that has been independently replicated and an opinion/blog post. So if you feel that some of the scientists in academia are holding back from speaking the “truth”, this is what I think it is, rather than some fear of punishment, etc. since all that fear (if there is any) goes away once you get tenure from my anecdotal observations. Academic freedom is always under attack but I don’t think talking about NTHE is exactly that radical. Limits to Growth came out in 1972 and I was born that year and since the time I’ve become aware of it, there’s been a small but steadily increasing following of that thesis.

    Of course, scientists are human too and are as capable of fooling themselves as anyone else, so you’re bound to see some of that.
    Good points.

    Well said.

    I came across a paper that made inroads into this subject, as it applies to Arnold J. Toynbee, at one time the most quoted historian.

    Until he began to upset the academic apple cart with writings such as these:

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

    (Choose Your Trances Carefully – 3). He eventually fell from academic grace, as did Sigmund Freud, because they would not flatter society.

  • There are different Havens of Mercy for each of us. Mine are silence and beautiful music.


  • Ram, I can assure you that administrative harassment does not disappear after tenure. In my case, the attempts to force my departure began long after I achieved tenure. There are many ways to exact punishment beyond not granting tenure.

  • follow the money common refrain

    climate is finished some exclaim

    climate is fine others pine

    which way to turn

    as Rome burns…

  • scientists are test tube pilots living in information silos, some silos are brighter than others:

    Late Breaking Weather
    The Kevin Anderson video in the “new lecture” link below gets to the good part at, 28:10, where he’s says the wealthy have to reduce emissions 40% by 2018 for a 50/50 chance of 2°C. Wealthy is anyone who makes over $30,000.00 per year. Then at, 32:00, he pours it on about 4°C. This is politically unacceptable. This why we lie.


    Stephen Hawking Warns That Aggression Could ‘Destroy Us All’


    Forget doomsday asteroids, global plagues and super volcanoes. British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking says we’re facing a much more immediate threat — and it’s our own behavior.

    “The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression,” Hawking told contest winner Adaeze Uyanwah, according to the Independent. “It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or a partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all.”


    We need to replace aggression with empathy, which “brings us together in a peaceful loving state,” he said.

  • Guy, I will write more on this panel discussion, maybe. I only want to comment; if sitting with these folks and listening to them is as difficult to do as it is for me to watch and listen to, you have my deepest sympathies.

    The worthy gentleman who seeks an explanation for the “mechanism” for methane release, rather than the release that is occurring and is being observed, before he will accept that methane release is critical, that person; if it were me sitting there where you are, Guy, I would not be able hide my pain.

    I’m very excited that you are going to Paris. I’m very excited that more people are listening to you, Guy, and that you are receiving recognition for your excellent work. In my absolutely worthless opinion, yours is the message of all time. Wow! What a job you got in the scheme of things. I support you with all my heart, and I know anyone in your position takes a beating from the free-flowing opinions of your humble colleagues, and the charming public, who as we know, are endlessly creative, opinionated, and seemingly insane.

    Hang there, and thank you, everyone who helps.

  • I cannot seem to focus when individuals like the second fellow from the left speak.

    I just hope this whole thing picks up noticeable steam. The sooner the better. There is no technological fix for any of this.

    Guy. I’m like others here that really see you as the point of the spear in letting earth know what is GOING to happen to all species. That is obvious.

    Maybe we need to work on painless death and who should survive. Might be a good idea to move to Colorado or Oregon where there are apparently plenty of supplies. Anyone interested like me?


    Great one by Dredd. But why not consider how contradictory trances are intermingled.

    RC’s link to Kevin Anderson is surprising for how parochial and small-bore was the discussion on energy grids. A bigger picture please, Britain. Look at the mess of the planet as a whole and see how you can rise to the challenge and show what you’re made of!

  • thanks, Ram. Karunesh is a musician I have just come across. I am absolutely floored with everything I have heard from him. highly recommended, if you haven’t looked into him more already.

  • almost everything besides guy’s presentation (except the awsome graphic with the ball jumping down from red to green to red) was pretty agonizing. including the questions. oh well, we will SEE all the trees die soon enough and then, everything will go down exponentially from there.

    “we” (sorry robin d., I can’t come up with anything better) who have been spending hours every day for years studying all aspects of collapse can understand how unfathomable, complex, irreversible and dire the situation is. most human beings will never know what hit them.

    “milendia” comes from the district in which I live which is called Mile End, because it was the end of a one mile railway from the river at the beginning of the century. this is where I live, at the end of the track. thank you all for being here, as long as we have electricity. in the last couple of years, you have become one of my very few contacts with the “world”.

  • should have said “at the beginning of the last century”
    time sure flies by.

  • @Guy

    Spot on about “sustainable development” and “spodisols” (LOL) in Alberta.

    Jefferson Airplane – Crown Of Creation

    Another day in the hologram. Love my little friends – the birds (they groom the trees). It’s not quid pro quo after all.

    Y’all have a nice day. 8-)

  • “I debate with my equals. All others I teach.”
    – John Henrik Clarke

  • Christine McVie Friend.

  • Life Aquatic. Very nice.

  • I have now watched the entire panel discussion. Sigh. A couple of them just had to get that little “pessimist” jab in, and my favorite panelist even went so far as to make a god-like declaration as to How Things Are and Will Be.

    They don’t like your message, I don’t think, those learned men. That’s so unusual. I also liked that part where one smart white guy says that we “used science to repair nature.”

    Is that how it went? Hmmmm. I bet not, but that is a sentence. I don’t think we “repair nature.” Nature repairs itself. And the other stuff about saving our species and civilization, oh, my goodness. That’s certainly my present goal.

    I guess being the prophet of doom at the end times is an amazing job description, but it can be as mundane and boring as anything. Jesus said to his disciples once in disgust, “How long must I suffer you?”

    Pauline, thank you for your hard work! You and others who help Guy make all this happen are a gift, and I really appreciate you.

  • What¿ It’s after 12:00pm UTC -5 hours [EST}

    Guy has them all Thunderstruck.

  • Possible methane and/or hydrogen sulfide explosions?

    Fireball & sonic boom witnessed from Florida to South Carolina

  • I have started getting 404 Page Not Found Errors again. This is a test message related to that to see if it will post.

  • hey Bud – got your email on this. try posting the one that wouldn’t go in two shorter posts, and see if that works.

    thanks for the report! always helpful.


  • RE: Fireballs. Noting again Mark Lynas’ book: “6 Degrees” (highly recommended). At full 6 degrees temp rise, hyper-sonic methane fireballs will be rocketting out of the sky randomly and tearing across the landscape, incinerating every living thing in their path. Kind of hard to build livable human habitat against a rain of hypersonic fireballs, no?

    I remember reading about the excessive methane releases off the coast of the Carolinas ON YAHOO NEWS.

    So this is how the world will end. You will read a notice all about it on Yahoo News, and no further mention or comment will be forthcoming, until you feel the temp increase on the back of your neck as a hypersonic methane fireball lands on your one and only head.

    Cheers and Good Day

  • I’ve posted anew. Catch the latest here.

  • Here are a few more holes to crawl into..

    Huge New Holes In Siberia Have Scientists Calling For Urgent Investigation Of The Mysterious Craters