For Those Who Still Refuse to Accept the Impending Demise of Humans

I’m frequently disparaged by relatively wealthy, Caucasian men who cannot think for themselves. It turns out to be a stunningly large proportion of the demographic. The line they trot out, time after time, is that I do not explain how a rapid rise in global-average temperature will cause human extinction.

Allow me, yet again, to explain with small words and short sentences. I doubt it’ll help, but I’m giving it one more try.

The genus Homo has occupied the planet for about 2.8 million years. We’ve never had humans at 1.7 C or higher above baseline in the past (baseline = beginning of the industrial revolution, commonly accepted as 1750).

Even when the genus Homo was present at relatively high global-average temperatures, the rise in temperature paled in comparison to the contemporary rate of change. Even the Wall Street Journal realizes it’s too late to mitigate. Well, of course it is: The rate of evolution trails the rate of climate change by a factor of 10,000, according to a paper in the August 2013 issue of Ecology Letters.

And that’s based on the relatively slow rate of change so far. It fails to take into account abrupt climate change, which has begun only within the last few years.

Plants cannot keep up with the rate of change. So they die. For those without the slightest clue about biology, this seems to be a technical problem to which we’ll simply design a technical solution. Not so fast, engineers. The living planet is not merely a complex set of cogs to which we can apply wrenches and screwdrivers. Evolutionary change requires random mutations and subsequent heritability. Alas, there is no time for multi-generational adaptation to a rapidly changing physical environment.

Without plants, there is no habitat for the genus Homo. Without plants, our species has no food. Never mind the lack of water for Earth’s current human occupants. Never mind the early deaths of millions of people due to ongoing climate change. After all, the techno-fantasies of the engineers include the ability to create potable water with “free energy.”

Starvation lurks.

Even if we could manage to move plants from one area to another, don’t expect the plants to thrive unless we move the soil, too. And the rich array of organisms within the soil. And the relatively stable weather system with which the plants evolved.

Whoops, too late. The weather is too weird. The soils are too interactively alive.

We’re human animals. As with every other animal on the planet, we need habitat to survive. Once the habitat is gone, we won’t last long. But, immersed in abject misery, every moment will seem to last forever.

Forever is a long time. Especially toward the end.

Comments 132

  • Notice: slavery existed in Africa before Europeans upped the ante; and it was greatly facilitated by Africans who became wealthy by selling fellow Africans. This clearly cannot be construed as absolving the Atlantic slave trade. It simply exposes the simple fact that race has nothing to do with human behavior.

  • Red Fox,

    Thanks for posting that about the Plains Indians. I was about to write something similar.

  • Tyler, thanks for dredging up that liar Scott Johnson again. I’m shocked — shocked, I say — to learn he continues to misrepresent me and my work. The best approach with him: Read carefully to what he writes, and conclude the opposite is true.

  • As to megafauna – it wasn’t just North America, it was quite literally everywhere on earth that they went extinct following human arrival, this is the best, most lucid account I have found –

    As far as Plains Indians deriving from a shattered people – the entire population from at least the Mississippi east (and of course the southwest, but that’s another story) was recuperating from overshoot and collapse that occurred before the arrival of Europeans.

    “…However we see the mysteries of Mound 72, Cahokia was neither a democracy nor an egalitarian paradise. William Woods describes the rank-and-file Cahokian’s diet: “What’s for breakfast? Gruel. What’s for lunch? Gruel. What’s for supper? Gruel and a little fish. You might eat venison sometime in your life.” In elite precincts, by contrast, garbage pits reveal big fish and choice cuts of venison.”

    “…Cahokia’s very success may have been its downfall, a downfall that was just starting to become evident when the first palisade went up. William Woods suspects that the Cahokians cut down too many trees upstream in the watershed of Cahokia Creek and on the river bluffs. No surprise there. Every house, temple, and sweat lodge in the area was made from wood and heated with wood, and the woodhenges and palisades were also made of wood. Deforestation meant that Cahokians had to go ever farther afield for fuel and building materials, but it also created a less obvious environmental double whammy. The more a watershed loses its trees, the faster it sheds both soil and water. So when it rains, the soil washes into the stream channel at the same time that the channel has to carry more water. Floods rise faster and higher, eventually inundating fields that were once safe throughout the growing season. Over time such floods from tributaries–unlike the benign Mississippi floods–could well have posed problems for Cahokia agriculture. “They were in a trap,” says Woods. “The agricultural basis for life at Cahokia was literally being smothered.” Around this time the climate gradually began to cool, which may have cut corn yields as well.”

    “Cahokians can be an inconvenient people to remember. They violate the old Indian stereotype by not being savages, and they violate the new Native American stereotype by not being saints. They weren’t environmentalists. They weren’t egalitarian. They weren’t democrats. They didn’t all agree. Their religious beliefs were profoundly dualistic, not monotheistic or New Age. Like Catholics during the Inquisition and Puritans in witch-obsessed 17th-century Massachusetts, they apparently didn’t shrink from killing when their religious beliefs called for it. Like contemporary Americans, they apparently didn’t shrink from capital punishment when they thought it was needed to maintain public order. The city they built failed to sustain itself. Its people lost faith in their leaders and scattered. It returned to the prairie from which it came, and very nearly vanished from human memory as well. Perhaps it would be easier to look away.”

  • Satish,

    Thank you so much!

  • Bud Nye: No, i don’t see a difference, you attribute the conquest of the Americas to “Europeans” as a group, when in fact it was a specific social/economic system responsible, and in fact the vast majority of the Europeans who relocated to the Western Hemisphere did so initially as virtual slaves (indentured servants) and later merely as economic refugees, like the indentured servants being people displaced off the land by the Enclosures as they widened to expand across the entirely of Britain and later all across the European continent. As usual, what you leave out of your rants says a lot more than what you put in.

    Satish: excellent posts again.

  • The person who wrote the following article is one of the most skillful writers I have ever encountered. A miracle man! He punctuates with photos too (click on the many, many words that have highlights). He is documenting Cities in America. This time he lowers the boom on the worst white city in America.

    Every sentence has a meaning that is worth pondering and if you don’t read every line you will miss something striking and TRUE.

    One could sarcastically call this memo, “Washington the Beautiful”, instead of: “A Postcard From The End Of America”.

    “Toot, too, too too.”

  • Hi, Jeff. I appreciate your contributions very, very much, along with those of Wester and Satish and others who have more understanding of tribal peoples. It is true that the “plains Indians” as we know them were people who had previously been pushed back from the Great Lakes region due to the ongoing genocide and expansion of the Europeans. The Kiowas had oral histories of the tribes living in the Black Hills.

    I’m not responding to that one, and I didn’t read the response. A couple of others on this site have been on ignore for years due to their views on this subject, they just don’t know it.

    I really want to thank everyone who is willing to look at culture differently, and it is those of us who appear to have far more intercultural experience, Satish, Sabine, Shep who understands the racism in the South, Wester who lives in a different culture, myself, who understand that one culture’s “advantage” (like weapons), may not exactly trump another culture’s “advantage,” like greater awareness of biology. Having the power to murder is an “advantage,” but look where we are now with such an illustrious advantage. We are watching the murder of everything. What an advantage.

  • Arctic sea ice area is now reduced to a level not normally seen until May.

    Whereas in previous years there has been significant ‘wandering’ of the graph around this time of year, this year the trend line is still more-or-less unbending, and is suggestive of the greatest meltdown in all of human history occurring this year.

  • Sorry to go off topic, but is anyone else having issue with tonight’s interview link? I press the “listen” live button on the website and nothing happens on either my windows or chrome browser.Thanks for any reply.

  • “Impending” (used in Guy’s title) is another word for the notion of “when.”

    The “spirits” are impending now it would seem (Oil-Qaeda: The Indictment – 5).

  • kevin moore Says:
    March 11th, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Arctic sea ice area …
    That us usually called “extent” but the word you used, “area,” is more to the point (How Fifth Graders Calculate Ice Volume).2

  • I wander over here only at wide intervals nowadays and always expect to see everyone still arguing the details. No disappointment this visit.

    The god’s-eye view of our condition that Guy offers is a Gestalt despite being informed by thousands of tiny pictures (or pixels, if you prefer). Arguing the logic behind whatever picture/pixel, whether one is in agreement or disagreement, doesn’t really alter the big picture, does it? The further problem that the big picture is positioned in the near future (still a decade or more perhaps, but little matter) and so hasn’t fully resolved also doesn’t change much. The even further problem of identity politics (citing conspicuously white, male, patriarchal denial or avoiding it) also doesn’t affect much except to provide fodder and distraction to those still consumed by individual pixels.

    This is one of several tragic byproducts of the scientific era: breaking things into bits to manipulate them more effectively but rendering the big picture largely invisible. It’s tragic because of the outcome, which everyone can now see manifesting all around if only one has the temerity to look.

    If there’s some life of excellence left to me, I’m not going to spend it arguing minutiae. Even if I win a point or an argument, so what? Those caught in such a mindset are welcome to sit and spin.

  • “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.

    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t- till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”

    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master-that’s all.”


    I hate those White Male mofos
    Like Condi Rice – that Honky blows!
    Not like that – but she sucks…
    Not that way – she’s got bucks
    Which makes her a White Male…I suppose.

  • Brutus,

    U are obliviously a Morris Berman wafer devotee or indeed Mo himself.

    Why even come back here, ever, even in wide intervals?

  • ed,

    Blacks can be bought and taught as easily as whites! But it doesn’t mean that whites didn’t start this mess.

    Sorry, didn’t get what the Alice story meant, unless she IS a White Male!

  • Arctic Sea ice area is now reduced to a level not normally seen until May.

    Whereas in previous years there has been significant ‘wandering’ of the graph around this time of year, this year the trend line is still more-or-less unbending, and is suggestive of the greatest meltdown in all of human history occurring this year (primarily the consequence of out-of-control CO2 emissions).

  • Bud –

    ogf’s argument was singularly about culture. nothing else. certainly not one speck about race. that has been the case with her all along. she is extremely consistent this way – the way she is careful to distinguish race and culture within the argument, and that one has nothing to do with the other. here are two uses of this by ogf, just in this thread:

    “and am willing to go places I never would have gone before in challenging some of the presuppositions and entitlement that comes from the mainstream culture as it is displayed here, like thinking we get to label people as “racist.” It takes a sense of entitlement to throw such judgments around so casually.”

    “I’ve lived in both cultures, and the one that gave me most of my “race” cannot compare to the wisdom and strength of my indigenous culture that sustained the earth purposely and with love for their children and the life of the world.”

    do you see, Bud, how she puts race in quotes there, in the second quote, to emphasize the distinction? the “white race” is most of ogf’s biological inheritance, yet she emphatically clarifies that it is the cultural inheritance of her Native American ancestors which contained the greater wisdom. not the racial inheritance of her Native background -the cultural one.

    in every instance that ogf has talked about this here (and I think I have read every one, carefully) is is always a point about culture. period.

    yet – Bud – you turn around and say this:

    “Like you, oldgrowthforest, most nineteenth-century Europeans had simple, racist and/or nationalist answers to such differences.”

    Bud – this is a rank and disgusting example of your passive aggressive bullshit. nothing ogf has ever said here, not even once, has even the slightest tone of racism or “nationalism” involved. she is always careful to make it crystal clear that way.

    she states that she is talking simply about cultural difference. never once has she made any kind of biological superiority or nationalist argument. ever.

    and yet you further compound your libelous bullshit with this, immediate after the above sentence of yours:

    “They concluded that they acquired their cultural head start through an alleged inherently greater intelligence, and that they therefore had a manifest destiny to conquer, displace, or kill “inferior” peoples. Because of this legacy of racist explanations, the whole subject of human differences in level of civilization still reeks of racism.”

    has ogf ever stated, anywhere, that her point has anything to do with “inherently greater intelligence” in any biological or racial sense? never. strictly in the sense of culture, she talks about the various real achievements of Native Americans (all American continents) – with plant genetics, astronomy, land use, politics, social organization, canal building, canoe engineering, and so on.

    and yet, Bud, you somehow, for some mysterious reason, need to say ogf is actually saying all of these things from a racial point of view. you flat out call her a racist (or as close to flat out as you can get with your passive aggressive nature).

    when I point out the fact that you completely missed (as you always do) the reality of these cultural arguments, you then strenuously deny it. well… the evidence is plain as day Bud, with your own damned words. you completely missed ogf’s cultural argument AGAIN. you are locked into genetic (and environmental) determinism, and have even denied the reality of free will, so of course culture (which comes from human choices and human creativity over time) cannot be any real determinant factor in your thinking.

    I think all the various “blame Whitey” arguments are all somewhat ridiculous. yes, White Euros were the nexus for the malignant culture that has currently taken over the world. given slightly different sets of factors through time and history, we might all be living the legacy of the Mongol empire now, instead of the Euro empire. this only points to the reality that it is always a complex combination of:

    – biogeography

    – culture

    – regional history

    – climate

    – individual personalities

    none of these things is ever dominant over the others, and they cannot be ranked. where would the Mongols have been without Genghis Khan – such an intense and unique personality, on so many important fronts? where would GK have been without a period of very specific climate that allowed for a rapid expansion of the Mongol horse herds? where would any of that been without the long regional history and culture that was already in place in that region?

    all of these factors are always in play. the one thing that is totally irrelevant, in any causative sense, is race!

  • I’ve posted anew. You can catch the latest information here.

  • I would clarify that obviously, climate, long term, is going to be totally dominant over all factors – but my point above is about human history and prehistory, not the future.

  • onwards…

  • ed,

    Thanks for bringing to mind one of my favorite war criminals.
    I recall seeing this ill-conceived lie on TV when it was current news.

    The only problem with the proposition is that almost every teenage boy in the USA (chronologically or emotionally) who had a non-Apple personal computer did exactly what she said she couldn’t imagine (while operating the Flight Simulator software that was the acid test [since about 1983-1984] of how IBM-compatible an ‘IBM clone’ computer was.

    Lagniappe…it was gonna be “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”…but I couldn’t decide between the original and Joan Jett’s version…then Gilligan’s Island appeared on the horizon.

  • Well said, mo flow… your argument is crystal clear and should convince anyone who is given to logic in the least bit.

    And what you say about the multiple factors at play that determine the course of history is spot on. Culture is shaped by individuals as much as individuals are shaped by culture. Culture shapes the habitat as much as habitat influences culture. Likewise, habitat and individuals are closely intertwined. And similar relationships exist among all other factors. No amount of supercomputer processing power can make sense of the myriad connections except in the dreams of the technocrat.

    Certain cultures have and continue to, today, sense these connections and listen to the nuances closely as they determine their next step. The dominant culture today has forgotten how to do this. That’s probably how it has ended up being dominant and dominating. To its own peril, in the end. Some “advantage”!

  • MO,

    ” the one thing that is totally irrelevant, in any causative sense, is race”

    No, mo, I do not agree with you. We can agree to disagree, eh?

    The khan thing is always brought up. GK was simply whitey in his part of the world.

  • shep –

    of course we can agree to disagree. but you would have to explain to me (at least) why my genetic whiteness, and anyone else’s, is *causative* for my behavior – and my white cultural behavior. unless you can come up with some genetic explanation (which I personally believe does not exist and will never exist) then you are simply mistaking culture for race, and that’s not doing any help right now!

    and the GK example is brought up a lot (and I brought it up in a big way a while ago here) because it is so damn good. it combines every possible factor on my list above in the most interesting and complex ways. saying GK was “whitey” just makes zero sense to me. he was most definitely non-white, non-Euro, GK – and was not just a conqueror but incredibly shrewd, intelligent, and a cultural innovator – in countless ways.

    it really strikes me that had just a few things “in the balance” gone slightly differently, we would, seriously, all be living the Mongol legacy of empire right now. in some ways, it could be that we indirectly are doing just that – European reaction to Mongol terror and conquest being a (possible) major causative subsequent factor for the development of European desire for conquest, terror, and empire.

    (apologies for the overpost!)

  • But MO,

    1. I did not say it was “YOU” that caused anything – it is caused by people who are white and powerful. U are not in a position to cause trouble. Now, if you wanted to, u could join the chorus and do as much damage as u wish. This is what black politicians do. They are as easily bought as white individuals. John Pilger points this out repeatedly.

    2. GK wasn’t white, of course. But he never made it this far, Europe for that matter. He was powerful tho. He was a mean-ass freak of nature. (I think I remember he had some tech advantages also.) Can u see Dickless Cheney riding a huge steed in battle, with his double barreled Parker shotgun, hollering ‘kill the bastard doves’?

    3. No I think what we are seeing are white barbarian strains. Just my opinion. U have to admit white culture sure has done a good job of screwing people? Maybe?

  • ooops by the way, mo.

    In our epoch, I believe, whites are the worst villains, and those that chose to join them: by far.

  • shep & mo (I’d include Curly, but, well, he’s got that “three on a match” phobia thing going and he’s always oh-so-busy untangling his double helices down at the lab to the tune of Twist and Shout & wouldn’t read this anyway)…

    I can’t cite chapter & verse and certainly am not familiar with anything he might have read as source material to come up with this concept, but William Burroughs had the idea that ‘white’ humans were a result of some sort of technological accident (Serengeti Fukushima ?) in long-ancient times in/near Africa/Middle East. As I recall, he uses this meme in his later trilogy comprised of Cities of the Red Night, The Place of Dead Roads, and The Western Lands.

    Speaking of Burroughs & technology. y’all might be interested in this little gem I bumped into (coincidence?) while searching Google for a quote from Burroughs about UFOs. Anyone who references Burroughs and Jacques Vallee in the same piece usually has a couple brain cells left and might be worth paying attention to. I’m only about halfway through the article, so if it takes a goofy turn in the 2nd half, well, the front end was worth the slog.

  • I can see localised shortages but I don’t buy complete human extinction at all. We are free to move to any part of the globe and bring crops. We will farm Siberia, Northern Canada, Greenland and Antarctica before we go extinct. Not to mention hydroponics. Thinking that world agricultural output will drop to exactly zero across the entire planet is a gross oversimplification.