Not even a spoonful of sugar could help


Image: Sammy Slabbinck via Flickr.

Television anchor Edward R. Murrow is credited with this expression: “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”

Murrow understood the power of television to misinform the masses. This strategy has worked brilliantly on every front, but none more pronounced than the all-important issue of global climate change. Seeking “balance” on the idiot box has meant presenting two sides to a one-sided issue until it’s become too late to address the crisis.

It’s now too late.

Feel the burn

By the end of June 2012, the U.S. had witnessed its hottest 12 months and hottest half year on record. And July 2012 was the hottest month in U.S. history, with records dating to 1895. Extreme events have arrived:

“The kind of blistering heat we used to experience once every 20 years, will now occur every two.”

Even as the sun cools, record high temperatures exceeded record low temperatures by a ratio of 2:1 in the last decade, relative to an expected ratio of 1:1. The ratio hit 9:1 in 2012.

As was pointed out in this space last year, I concluded a decade ago that we’d set into motion climate-change processes likely to cause our own extinction by 2030.

I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. And then, shortly thereafter, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time.

Like Pandora with her vessel, I retained hope.

No more.

Stick a fork in us. We’re done. Broiled beyond hope wishful thinking.

It seems we’ve experienced a lethal combination of too much cheap oil and too little wisdom. Yet again, I’ve begun mourning. It’s no easier the second time.

As always, I’m open to alternative views — in fact, I’m begging for them, considering the gravity of this particular situation.

But the supporting evidence will have to be extraordinary.

By the way, irrationally invoking Al Gore doesn’t count as evidence. Ditto for unsubstantiated rumors about global cooling. A small dose of critical thinking might be required rather than the ability to repeat lines touted by neo-conservatives and their puppet-masters in the fossil-fuel industries.

We know Earth’s temperature is nearly one degree Centigrade higher than it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. And 1 C is catastrophic, as indicated by a decades-old cover-up.

Already, we’ve triggered several positive feedbacks, none of which were expected to occur by mainstream scientists until we reached 2 C above baseline global average temperature.

We also know that the situation is far worse than indicated by recent data and models (which are reviewed in the following paragraphs).

We’ve known for more than a decade what happens when the planes stop flying: Because particulates were removed when airplanes were grounded, Earth’s diurnal temperature range increased by more than 1 C in the three days following 9/11.

If the change in range leans toward warming, in other words, Earth’s temperature is already nearly 2 C higher than the industrial-revolution baseline. And because of positive feedbacks, 2 C leads directly and rapidly to 6 C, acidification-induced death of the world’s oceans, and the near-term demise of Homo sapiens.

That would be people. Us. You and me. Your kid. And your little dog, too.

Suicide isn’t painless

We can’t live without life-filled oceans, home to the tiny organisms that generate half the planet’s oxygen while comprising the base of the global food chain (contrary to the common belief that Wal-Mart forms the base of the food chain).

So much for the wisdom of the self-proclaimed wise ape.

With completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as will be obvious when most of the world’s planes are grounded.

Without completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as described below.

Joseph Heller, anybody?

I’ve detailed the increasingly dire assessments. And I’ve explained how we’ve pulled the trigger on five positive-feedback events at lower global average temperature than expected, while also pointing out that any one of these five phenomena likely leads to near-term human extinction.

None of these positive-feedback events were expected by mainstream scientists until we exceed 2 C warming above the pre-industrial baseline.

My previous efforts were absurdly optimistic, as demonstrated by frequent updates (for example, here, and here, and here, in chronological order in this space). Yet my frequent writing, rooted in scientific analyses, can barely keep up with increasingly terrifying information about climate change.

Every day, we have more reliable knowledge about the abyss into which we’ve plunged. Consider, for example, the International Energy Agency’s forecast of business-as-usual leading to a 6 C warmer planet by 2035.

Malcolm Light, writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, considers one of the many positive feedbacks we’ve triggered in one planetary region and reaches this conclusion:

This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.

Please read that sentence again.

Light is a retired earth-systems scientist. As nearly as I can distinguish, he has no hidden agenda, though he believes geo-engineering will save us (an approach that would take several years to implement, and one that we’d almost certainly FUBAR).

Forecasts by the International Energy Agency and the Arctic Methane Emergency group match the recent trend of increasingly dire assessments based on collection and interpretation of more data and increasingly powerful models. If these forecasts are close to accurate, we’ve only a requiem to write for human beings on Earth.

Even mainstream scientists writing in Science have finally noticed that ocean acidification threatens all marine life with near-term extinction. In the very near future, coral reefs will disappear. Think of the deprivation we’ve brought to the world as we rape, pillage, and plunder Earth’s glorious bounty for a few extra dollars with which to purchase the food high fructose corn syrup that’s killing us and tons of toxic toys to titillate.

Deniers take note: “Recent warming of the top 2300 feet of the ocean alone corresponds to an energy content of more than one Hiroshima atomic bomb detonation every second over the past 40 years.”

This “remarkable warming can only be explained with man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to fancy sensors, those greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for a temperature increase of about 1 C in New England since the beginning of the industrial revolution (graphical depiction is here).

The plants paint a considerably more dire story, indicating average temperature in the region has increased 2.4 C during the same period. If you trust plants more than human sensors, as I do, this single statistic is sufficient to induce despair.

In cold blood

Climate chaos is only a small part of the big story, though it is among the phenomena poised to cause our extinction within a single human generation. In addition to triggering climate chaos, we’ve initiated the Sixth Great Extinction, and we revel in its acceleration as one more sign of progress.

Furthermore, we continue to ratchet up the madness of human-population overshoot on an overpopulated, overheated, increasingly depauperate planet.

Environmental degradation proceeds apace as we gleefully trade in living soil for smart phones, clean air for fast computers, potable water for high-definition televisions, healthy food for industrial poison, contentment for exhilaration, decent human communities for hierarchical death camps, and life for death.

All the while, we take truth-tellers to task while looking to corrupt governments for leadership. Truth is treason in an empire of lies, so we don’t protest governments that spy on their citizens and then kill them.

The people, largely convinced they are consumers instead of citizens, keep seeking guidance from the television and nourishment from GMO-tainted faux food, all while seeking happiness from exhilaration instead of introspection.

My heart aches to the breaking point. Industrialized humans are destroying every aspect of the living planet with all the joy one would expect from homicidal maniacs. We don’t think about what we’re doing. If we did, we wouldn’t. Or perhaps, driven by a culture of madness promoted by our contemporaries, we would.

I’m guilty, too, of course.

The thought of continuing to stare, alone, at the world of wounds, causes the terror to rise in me. Walking away from empire doesn’t mean I’ve done enough to terminate the omnicidal set of living arrangements known as industrial civilization. Haunted by the wonder and beauty of nature and fully recognizing my efforts as insufficient, bitterness nearly overshadows my overwhelming, debilitating sadness. How could I have been be so self-absorbed?

What irreparable damage have I wrought?

Revolting for real

I feel nature slipping out of my grasp as we rush to destroy every species on Earth. With no decent solutions, my mind wanders between sadness and madness, between reality and the despair induced therein.

What, then, shall we do?

As I contemplate the shackles we’ve created for ourselves, the words of Albert Camus come to mind:

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

In terms of action, I hardly know what that means for me, much less for you. But I encourage any and every act of liberty and rebellion, particularly as the world burns.

I’m often asked why people living in industrialized nations shouldn’t relent to hopelessness and party like hedonists as the world burns. My typical response is to ask how our lives would be different if we suddenly starting acting like hedonists?

With the words of Edward R. Murrow in mind, curse your television. Then shoot it. It’s not much, and it’s too little, too late. But it’s a therapeutic start to a much-needed revolution.

–Guy McPherson, Transition Voice

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  1. Wayne Pearce says

    A stunning bit of writing in many senses. I will allow myself to mourn and ponder over it before I make any decisions. All I am reminded of now is a line from Basho: “Nothing in the cry of the cicadas suggests they are about to die.”

  2. David Kennedy says

    Guy, I gave up a long time ago when I realised it all lay in the human brain. Edward Bernays knew how easy it was to exploit its weaknesses. Vulnerable to various kinds of addiction both physical and chemical, vulnerable to propaganda (a Bernays specialism), and vulnerable to all kinds of sensory illusions, our much vaunted brain – it separates us from the animals – has led us into this impasse and our addictions will not let us escape. Now, we are ruled by brain-crazed people, but our addicted brains doesn’t allow us to see this. We have largely lost the will to protest and, as you indicate, the ‘idiot box’, controlled by the brain-crazed, bears much of the blame for aiding our addictions. This is why we tolerate the evils all around us and view them with indifference. In the Kingdom of the Blind, sight is an affliction. So it is in an insane world, in a world of FALSE REALITY, sanity, rationality, awareness of the truth of nature, are heart-rending afflictions. Yes, we can keep writing about this, hoping that we are spreading a little light on addictive ignorance, but in our heart of hearts we know it is useless. There is NO cure for addiction. We might abstain, but we cannot cure.

  3. Auntiegrav says

    Wayne: Seek people who are accustomed to living without money.
    David and Guy: The human being is an ape-like creature that spends its youth developing a model of the universe, and upon physical maturity, moves into the model and avoids reality at all costs.
    The boundary between reality and the model is shaped and guided by culture, habit, and inheritance. Understanding that this is so will help understand why situations like this are the ONLY way that humanity changes in any significant way. While we can see the possible failures, and even the possible remedies to allow some to survive (there is no possible way to save everyone, especially those addicted to comfort), we cannot predict or imagine the random chain of events that will coalesce to be the future of life on this planet.
    I believe you are right about the EOLAWKI, but between now and then, there are beautiful and horrendous possibilities which humanity will attempt to apply.
    There is little anyone can do at this point except to be one possible member in the bell curve of humanity, watching and waiting and living and dying as the niche that set the mode for our existence was narrowed and shaped by the industry of humans until billions of us came into existence that would not otherwise exist. Those billions will all die, and then some. They are going to die, as nearly everyone does, sooner than expected. The process of Boom and Bust is about to be applied in the ‘free market’ of lassaize faire evolution. What we are ultimately testing, each and every one of us, is the validity of Intentionality and Imagination as useful attributes of a species. These tools have shown how much power they have to affect change in the natural world: but they haven’t shown themselves to be useful to anything OTHER than human beings. Most have said all along the way that the humanistic/anthropocentric point of view is all that matters, but all we’ve proven so far is that it only matters to humans. The rest of the world sees it as a plague of locusts. IF we survive, we might see it that way also (if we’re honest with ourselves and manage to get past the propaganda of religion, marketing, and opportunism), and retool our model-shaping mechanisms (religion, education, culture, communication, science) to guide ourselves to a humbler existence where we are generous rather than consumptive. Without a worldwide breakdown and rebuilding, there will only be more of the same bullies to take advantage of the peaceful and start the same crap all over again.
    “What if I don’t help you?”
    “You die, she dies, everybody dies.”
    In a movie, the hero will find a way to save the day. Understanding the difference between fiction and non-fiction (fiction has to make sense) is the first step to understanding how the universe works.
    It doesn’t HAVE to make sense. It just makes stuff. Our ‘challenge’ (in exchange for having awareness) was to make our awareness useful to the greater universe. Instead, we’ve spent the better part of the last 4000 years trying to put ourselves in the movies (inside and outside our heads) and avoid reality by watching them.

  4. Auntiegrav says

    Guy, One other minor point for you to contemplate before Hari Kari:
    If a tree falls in the woods, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make any noise?
    Yes, but there’s no one there to care.
    Ultimately, there doesn’t need to be. This is the penultimate truth of human existence and “meaning”: We care because we created caring and like all of our inventions, we treat them like they are our children, unable to let go of ideas that were successful at some point in the past. Nature has a way to deal with that: it’s called death. Most creations are weeded out randomly, and before humans industrialized the concept of saving everything, they “let go, let God” a lot. They prayed and moved on, but if the 20th century represents anything, it is the accumulation of CWDN (crap we don’t need), including the profits from imposed caring: another emotional trigger used by the propagandists to expand our use of resources (and their profits).
    Say it with me: “I don’t have to care.”
    As George Carlin pointed out, “THEY don’t give a F,,k about YOU.”
    The humans that represent “progress” (the industrialized world) are simply robots. From a distant perspective, if the human beings in these countries were all replaced with automatons that used electricity, hot water, and corn syrup to drive cars to jobs to buy cars to drive to jobs to buy cars to drive to the mall to buy new clothes to go to the mall, you wouldn’t know the difference except the robots would be faster at it and probably not so fascinated with porn.

    • Wayne Pearce says

      Auntiegrav: I enjoy you comments and train of thought very much. Have you written anything else I could read? I think you could be very nice company too – “drive cars to jobs to buy cars to drive to jobs to buy cars to drive to the mall to buy new clothes to go to the mall” – I have to get out of the “compete, work, consume, own” mantra that surrounds me. Where do you find people who live without money? I would like to go and live among them. For ever. The trouble is: how do I persuade my family with their long lists of expectations to do the same?

      • Auntiegrav says

        I grew up in a place like that. When you look around, you will find them. As things fall apart, the key will be that you are mentally prepared (and skilled) in order to be able to adapt. Your family will either come along with you are find their own way. You can only do what you can do to be ready to take advantage of openings in the Hole (the tunnel to the future which is sized only big enough for a human with hand tools to fit through).
        What I write is mostly just things I pick up along the way. The train of thought isn’t on very steady rails, though.

  5. says

    Powerful writing, Guy. Bravo! Given what you say, surely the only sane response now is to mobilise – and quickly – an effective resistance movement, if not exactly by the blueprints of Deep Green Resistance, then similar. After the grieving and at the end of hope, what is there? Surely, the awareness that in the face of the death of *everything*, it’s long since time to risk truly radical responses.

  6. Natasha says

    I am mourning; I’ve been mourning since I realised, only in the last year, that the reason most in the western world don’t connect isn’t because there was something I don’t understand – it’s because, somehow they seem to have managed to create a belief in a reality in which they are distinct separate beings. Some play around in spiritual games of telling themselves we’re all connected when in a transcendent state, but most are so trapped in fear that they cannot experience that connection somatically – the connection to everything/body which makes behaving destructively impossible. Instead, even those with the best of intentions are so trapped in right/wrong that they can’t accept what is from a calm and loving state and get on with making the most of that. I only wish I had realised what was going on earlier, but then maybe that would have left me in mourning for longer. Instead I have been doing that making the most unsupported yet supporting others for so long that I have nothing left to continue – much as is the case for our earth, unsurprisingly; experiencing myself as part of that infinite existence contributing and seeking ways to reveal the truth which enables peace has been the (only) natural thing to do and now… all I can do is go home to the land where I belong, and sink into it, dissolve into it, and one day become part of it again, but I so wish that others would join me in that connection, regardless of what pain may come.

  7. Renee says

    You have brilliantly and eloquently summed up the endless stream of thoughts that rack my brain on a daily basis. We’re all screwed. I’d also love to hear evidence to the contrary, but from everything I’ve read this year I hold out little hope. I, too am mourning. It is hard to mourn amongst a group of people that wont even accept there’s anything wrong. Perhaps this is as it was meant to be. I tell myself we all die anyway, maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s sooner or later. Maybe we need to be ok with this endpoint, because what other choice do we have?

  8. Natasha says

    Honestly – if there is a way to ‘mobilise’, then I want to know, and somehow I will muster whatever resources I can, if only those of other people I know, by talking to them – but otherwise, the only way I’ve found is loving the earth and the life within and upon it, while we are still here – it might help release the pain and enable more presence with others as they too become aware of what is happening so that we can at least breath our last as peacefully as possible (peace in this sense meaning everything which is part of it – health and human connection). It works for me – just being with the trees I grew up with and smelling the familiar smell of the air in the hills there takes me to that space of total release, and acceptance (NOT passivity) which enables me to come at life fresh again – more presence with what is while we have it.

    I feel the ground beneath me, which is dead compared to the life which it used to hold, and just love it all the same – wish it well in finding a way to a new more vital life, because despite involving myself in ventures associated with Regenerative Agriculture (there’s a worldwide movement for anyone interested and work being done on regenerating everything from the soils, to the animals and environmental diversity – putting carbon back into the soil, water management, etc. – Holistic Management International are involved in the US), it all seems to be too little too late, particularly without the necessary public or political interest, but if there is potential – I second that – please tell me…

    • says

      Two things I am doing. Second, I’ll be living on the land, outside the money economy, growing enough food for all the friends and relatives who might need it. Of course I can’t do this alone – but it has to be done. Growing food is a small way to create carbon sinks and micro-climates. First, I’ll be walking through the continent (Keystone XL pipeline, actually) with meditation, ceremony, prayer – and dialogue and service. It will take a few months. Summer 2013. We need more walkers (and other help). Please come! (to both)

  9. Sergio says

    I didn’t know what to write first, this left me speechless. I hope economic collapse comes soon and hard enough to kill industrial civilization, we deserve it. I feel good for the ones who are more resilient to it and living simply, just hope there is a slim chance for them in the medium term, cause 20 years is not long term.

  10. Rick Krzyczkowski says

    I’ve been grieving since about 1970 when at the age of 12 I realized I was born into a prison-like society. I tried really hard to fit into it but it caused me too much anguish. I gave up TV in the mid 80’s because I found it repugnant (it could have been such an awesome tool for good). The commercialization of everything is sickening. I found a way of life that is on the margins of society that brings me just enough contentment to be acceptable; that’s the best I could do. I feel contempt for most of humanity for living in a way that is acceptable to this society; if you are living this way you ARE the problem. If you live in such a way that society finds it normal, I say again- you are the problem!

  11. says

    Extinction rocks! Guy has written elsewhere that certain heat loving organisms in the deep ocean will likely survive, and in a blink of geologic time their progeny will crawl up on the shore and begin the process again. Maybe the creatures of the next round will do better. Just think – if humans became extinct today, millions of non-murderous species might yet survive! We’ve already killed our own grandchildren with oblivious greed. Get over it!

    My hope is to live my remaining days in peace and love, not in anger.

  12. Sam Powrie says

    Guy, be careful not to be too focused on a US-centric viewpoint mate. Have you read up on Kjell Aleklett’s research from Stockholm? Some slight encouragement maybel

  13. says

    Sam Powrie, I am familiar with Aleklett’s research on peak oil. But I’ve seen nothing of significance from him about climate change, and certainly nothing to counter the evidence I’ve presented here. Do you have links?

  14. Len Conly says

    Evolution has no direction. I believe that Dawkins called it the “blind watchmaker.” We are just another species.

    There is no law of nature that will prevent us from going extinct just as have millions of other species in the past.

    • Auntiegrav says

      True, as far as that goes on failing, but to succeed, every species does one thing: it acts in ways that end up being net useful to its future. In other words, it doesn’t consume more than it produces for something else. Most species, in this sense, require OTHER species to keep them in check.
      Humans push aside the checks and balances.

  15. DLC says

    wow, most truthful and terrifying reports I have read, and I’ve read a lot….but we can’t give up….I’m a parent…..however, we could all make some sacrifices now before we are forced to do so…..its too bad how many only care about themselves and their comforts and not how their actions effect others and the world……

    greed, selfishness, laziness and distrust are killing the world….there is no other home/planet for life although I would love to think so…..

  16. Ivy Mike says

    The only hope for the survival of some life on earth is near term global thermonuclear war. And if you don’t like that idea, well, it’s “virtually inevitable” anyway.

    “Every ‘small’ war pulls the trigger in nuclear roulette. Each of these probabilities, by itself, is small. But taken together over a year’s time, they add up to a cumulative probability which is no longer small. Taken together over a century, they make nuclear war virtually INEVITABLE.”
    ~Dr. Martin E. Hellman, Stanford University

    Take shelter.

    Return to “Is World Nuclear War Inevitable?”

  17. says


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