Presenting in Rhode Island

I was the first of three panelists discussing abrupt climate change on the University of Rhode Island campus in late February 2015. The video recently became available and is embedded below. It was shot and edited by Pauline Schneider. My ten-minute presentation kicks off the event.

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I was interviewed by Reverend Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping last Thursday morning. The interview will air Wednesday, 3 June 2015 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on WBAI radio in New York City. Catch it on the Internet by clicking here.

Comments 112

  • As for Israel, Bernie (Sanders)has been a hawkish advocate that would never halt the $3 billion the U.S. government sends to the country every year. He even backed Israel’s latest murderous bombing of Gaza. He’s even had some nasty words about Palestine’s right to resist. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that several former members of Bernie’s staff have also been employed by AIPAC, including Israel apologists David Sirota and Joel Barkin. His is a disgusting record. Want to change in the U.S.’s meddling in the Middle East? Bernie isn’t your guy.

  • Robin – “Tradition has it that the realised person, having neither a sense of “I” nor a sense of “not-I”, has no sense of “I am the doer” or “I am the enjoyer” or “I am the sufferer” like a person in a lucid dream. In the absence of any expectations, the person is also totally hopeless.”

    What if tradition is incomplete, limited, misleading, and in some things just plain wrong? And there are many traditions, and many disagreements among them. And there are the traditions of the future yet to be created without which we may indeed perish due to the deficiences of the older traditions, among other causes. And do traditions stand alone as unquestionable truths as they are literally stated, or do they not need really extensive interpretation to yield what truth there may be in them. Is relying on them without this deep thoughtfulness most likely to only add to one’s ignorance? In the matter of traditions: caveat emptor.

    Given the state of profound ignorance we inhabit, can a traditional bit of knowledge be any more than just a hint, a hypothesis? Without extended experience and practice of these hints, and objective evaluation of their potential falsifiability, what is their value to those unwilling or unable to engage in that demanding process?

    In spite of what I have said, I am profoundly grateful for our many forms of traditional wisdom to sort through and enrich our journeys with.

    Wester – Coincidentally(?) I am rereading Freud’s Civilization and it’s Discontents. Freud had some deep insights, in spite of all the subsequent attacks on his work. Fascism is basically a death cult; unfortunately a cult western culture is sliding into. To understand this reality is necessary for those who would seek to resist it.

    Lidia – Everything matters. Love everything without exception. This is the healing Work, the essential alchemy.

    Mo flo – Your words tell me you are on the right path, the red road, the Way. Bless you for that. Journey on. When you have come this far, you cannot fail….

    To whomever – It is painful to realize that the great artists and mystics of the world have so far not converted our cultures to their high ideals, but they have tried and I salute them with all my heart for that. Let’s not fail to appreciate their precious gifts to us lost children of Earth. They might with our help someday tip the scales in better directions before we destroy ourselves from lack of listening to their wise guidance….

  • Some concise observations from a blogger at Robert Scribbler;

    dtlange
    June 3, 2015

    -A Fossil Fuel Induced Atmospheric ‘Oven’ at the Top of The World.

    SUMMARY:
    We have a fossil fuel induced atmospheric ‘oven’ at the top of the world.

    Sea ice, glaciers, ice fields, and mountain snowpack are quickly melting, or are absent.

    The Eastern Pacific is rapidly acidifying.

    The Pacific Northwest, and its rainforests, is fast becoming a giant Desert Northwest.

    Methane, an extremely powerful climate killing Green House Gas is exiting its traditional subterranean home through warming and thawing earth surfaces.

    Fossil fuels are being extracted and burned at a ravenous rate.

    It is only June.

    Another five months of the ‘summer’ of 2015remain.

  • @mo, ” I could short circuit all of this challenge, just choosing to live only in IT’s Light, away from the world, but I find the challenges and joys and failings of living in the world, far more worth it.”

    Now this is rich…!

    Like the God/Christ character you *could* live radiantly in heaven, but just choose to muck around here with us mortals and burn some fossil fuels while you’re at it.. just so you can keep your hand in at being a failure?

    L.

    O.

    L.

    Now I have heard everything..
    That’s *some* slumming, there, bro.

    And you think *I’m* putting people on…?

  • “What if tradition is incomplete, limited, misleading, and in some things just plain wrong?”

    Then one should keep on truckin’ ’till one find somethin’ else.

    “And do traditions stand alone as unquestionable truths as they are literally stated, or do they not need really extensive interpretation to yield what truth there may be in them.”

    Whatever floats one’s boat.

    “Is relying on them without this deep thoughtfulness most likely to only add to one’s ignorance?”

    If deep thoughtfulness is needed, one ain’t ready for it. The preparedness or qualification to receive a teaching can vary widely. There are many instances where a highly advanced one became realised in silence, by a single short statement, a sound or a gesture.

    “Given the state of profound ignorance we inhabit, can a traditional bit of knowledge be any more than just a hint, a hypothesis?”

    Those traditional bits ain’t meant fer the profoundly ignorant; rather they are for those on the threshold of realisation. To those who are ready, they are not hints or hypotheses, but reality that can be the step over the threshold.

  • Congratulations to Gail of Wit’s End notoriety for breaking into the #4 spot in Guy’s list of positive feedbacks by successfully defending her position that tropospheric ozone not is not only killing trees, but also adding to global warming as they die, with peer-reviewed research.

    Great job Gail.

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

  • Efo ata shomeha zeh?

  • I have a few things to say regarding those of us who now speak of softer matters like compassion, love and equanimity, instead of engaging the powerful with the harder truths of civilization and agitating for changes of behaviour during this time of accelerating collapse.

    My teachers have always told me that one speaks best from personal experience, so I propose to say these things by telling my own story.

    I’ve been speaking the harder truths to whoever will listen for over a decade now. At times it was a relentless effort, and my writings have been read by literally thousands of people. I’ve hit climate change, energy use, agriculture, sustainability, venal politics, the role of the deep state, the shadowy powers-that-be sitting spider-like at the center of the web of society gobbling all the goodies they can reach. I’ve written hundreds of articles on these topics, and given many public talks as well. In other words, I’ve done my time in the trenches.

    All the way along I’ve been driven by a burning desire to know why. Why is this happening? Why are we so deep into overshoot? Why can’t we seem to turn back? Why do the COP conferences on climate change keep failing? Why do species keep going extinct? Why can’t we seem to muster the political will or social capacity to protect any aspect of this planet and its precious biosphere from our endless rapacity?

    My investigations into these questions have followed a process called “inductive reasoning”, which involves using empirical observations to discern patterns, and from there to infer underlying principles. Here’s how the process unfolded.

    First I delved into what is known about collective and individual behaviour: group dynamics, game theory, the nature of psychopathy, social and neurological reward mechanisms, the nature of competition and cooperation, greed and altruism.

    That survey prompted me to examine human behaviour throughout history. I was looking for threads of universality that cut across time and cultural differences and reinforce the sorts of behaviours we are trying, unsuccessfully, to counter today. I found them.

    That study led me to evolutionary psychology, which pointed me in turn towards the operation of processes of natural selection.

    The deeper I dug the more ominous the answers became. Two years ago, after more than eight years of virtually full-time investigation culminated in a two-year orgy of research, I found myself staring at the hardest truth I could possibly have imagined.

    I had dug all the way down, as far as I could go in the macroscopic (i.e. non-quantum) world. I was all the way down at the fundamental building block of the physical universe:The Second Law of Thermodynamics, and how it operates in open systems.

    The chain of induction I had forged was unbroken from there all the way back up to such human conundrums as the laws encouraging loggers to deforest Malaysia for palm oil plantations; the bottom trawlers and drift-netters decimating the oceans; the farmers sucking the aquifers of the Great Plains and India dry for irrigation; to the rise of authoritarian security states and failed states; to the constantly rising levels of CO2 from cars and power stations – in short to the whole damned clusterfuck.

    These are the broad brush-strokes of my big picture:

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics described by Ludwig Boltzmann’s entropy equation (S = k log W) provides the physical context for the growth in size and complexity of open systems. The effects of this driver are discernable in every aspect of life, from unicellular bacteria to human beings; and in every aspect of behaviour from bacteria swimming up glucose gradients to the creation of human institutions that support energy and resource extraction activities.

    This operation of the Second Law has been dubbed the Maximum Entropy Production Principle, or MEPP. In summary form, MEPP implies that a system acts to degrade whatever energy gradients it uses as quickly as it can, consistent with maintaining the integrity of the system. The system extracts as much free energy as rapidly as it can from the raw gradients, and uses that energy for its own survival, self-repair, growth and reproduction as needed.

    Open systems need energy and other resources in order to function. When several open systems compete for common shared resources, they do so according to a principle developed by Alfred Lotka and H.T. Odum, called the Maximum Power Principle or MPP. This principle tells us that when such systems compete, the one that can mobilize the most power (i.e. degrade the most energy in the shortest amount of time) is more likely to prevail.

    MPP is the principle that drives the “natural selection” in evolution. The living systems that result from natural selection under the influence of MPP have a built-in bias towards growth, whether they are plants, multi-celled animals, human societies or institutions.

    Together, MEPP and MPP are the principles behind the growth of network complexity and hierarchy that we see in both natural and artificial systems:

    Increased network complexity permits systems to develop more specialized sub-systems, and thus become more adaptable. Hierarchies make systems more efficient by allowing the development of specialized control functions that permit more efficient operation of larger systems. Those controls are the feedback loops identified by the science of cybernetics. They help to explain such human phenomena as road and communications networks, and the layered structure of the modern corporation.

    All open systems depend for their existence on the material and energy resources of their environment. The nature of those resources – their quantity, quality and availability – shape the system’s structure and development. This dependence is obvious in plant and animal morphologies with their specialized feeding systems – for example roots and photosynthetic leaves, or grinding molars and cutting incisors.

    More significantly for me, this resource-dependent morphological development operates in human societies as well. Anthropologist Marvin Harris describes through his Principle of Infrastructural Determinism how cultures exhibit traits that allow them to take best advantage of their varied environments.

    As a result of all the factors I’ve just outlined, all human social institutions – from technology to politics, art and religion – act directly or indirectly to support and reinforce the operation of this chain of principles. Aside from any other functions it might perform, all human behaviour has as its core purpose the maximally efficient dissipation of energy gradients.

    In light of this, it should be obvious why degrowth movements have never gained any serious traction. Individuals may sometimes and in some ways “break out of the mould”, because they are single elements of a vast and overwhelmingly complex system. But the operation of human societies is as statistical in nature as a gas in a thermodynamic demonstration chamber. In that setting a particular molecule may have its own velocity, but overall the gas shows a uniform behaviour that is the aggregate of all its molecules.

    The analogy is that while you or I may choose to leave our job and live in a mud hut, this will cause only an infinitesimal change in the overall behaviour of our society. Most people will not follow our lead. The laws of statistical mechanics apply just as much to societies as they do to gases.

    In all of this you may have noticed that there is precious little evidence of any ability of human ingenuity, foresight, free will or consciousness to change the operation of the system. That is because human minds are conditioned by that chain of connections just as surely as our bodies. Thoughts of degrowth in a time of surplus are literally, perhaps even physically, unthinkable by the majority of human beings. Instead, the vast proportion of our collective creativity is pressed into the service of the growing open system of civilization – with the results we see around us today.

    Well!
    Well, well, well…

    It should now be fairly obvious why, when I reached this point in my inductive investigations, I promptly had a nervous breakdown.

    When an animal finds itself in an inescapable situation it will first tear itself apart trying to force an exit. If that does not succeed the animal will usually collapse and wait for death. I had torn myself apart and suffered the collapse, but being human I was disinclined to simply sink into passivity and wait to die – or just say “Screw it, nothing matters!” and party till Doomsday. Instead, I was determined to explore my newfound fatalism as deeply as I had explored our human condition, in the hopes that I would find at least some philosophical comfort while I lived out my remaining days.

    It took some time, but a suitable personal philosophy gradually took form – woven from Buddhism, Taoism, my understanding of Advaita and the “amor fati” of Epictetus and Nietzsche.

    From that fertile philosophical conjunction was born my current peace of mind, and my deep compassion for ALL creatures that are swept along by forces beyond their control. My anger, blame, guilt and shame withered and fell away. In their place blossomed a love I had not previously known. It is a love that is all-embracing, touching the saintly and the venal without distinction or favour. A love that does not bind, but rather frees with forgiveness all that it touches. In a way, my collapse had been transformed into a Dark Night of the Soul.

    This has been a most blessed and miraculous journey. One that I would not wish on anyone.

    Afterword:

    I accept that this explication of the origins and causes of the modern human predicament is going to cause great consternation for many. After all, one of the cornerstones of the Western Enlightenment is the concept of human agency, and my hypothesis leaves precious little room for its operation. And to most people the whole notion that the structure and operation of modern corporations and political parties find their basis in “18th Century steam engine science” is going to seem frankly preposterous.

    If you find yourself feeling that way, I would ask that you just let the matter rest. Whether I am right or wrong about any of it probably doesn’t make much difference to how the world will unfold. If anything, pay more attention to my penultimate paragraphs. If you can arrive at a place of compassion, equanimity and love without having to go through an existential collapse along the way, you will have – at least in my opinion – succeeded at one of the loftiest endeavours in life.

    Best wishes,
    Bodhi Paul Chefurka

  • In the meantime, you will enjoy the privileges of living in the imperial homeland and claim there is no need to feel guilty, it’s just luck.