Sadly, extinction is no laughing matter

The wise fool.

The wise fool.

Quoting Carl Sagan, I begin some presentations with this line:

It is far  better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

Many people disagree with Sagan, choosing delusion over reality, believing we can have infinite growth on a finite planet with no consequences for people or other creatures, other life forms, other organisms. The people in this latter group seek hope, and many of them disparage me and my actions for inducing despair.

Finally, though, I’ve concluded that hope is hopeless. As Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, “Hope is the most evil of evils, because it prolongs man’s torment.”

To put Ed Abbey’s spin on it, “Action is the antidote to despair.” So, even though I no longer think my actions matter for humans, I’ll take action.

A worthy pity party

Near-term human extinction is a difficult pill to swallow, as is economic collapse. But ignoring ugly truths does not make them any less true. Despair is an expected and appropriate response to this information. Recognizing, accepting, and moving beyond despair are important subsequent steps.

But first, let’s despair.

If you don’t despair what we’ve done, and what we continue to do, to the living planet and people outside the industrialized world, I have little sympathy for you.

Despair is a typical and expected reaction to my presentations, and I would have it no other way. If the truth causes despair, then bring on the truth. I’ve been despairing for years. It hurts. But avoiding our emotions makes us less human, and it degrades our humanity. I want no part of that. I want to feel, even when it hurts. Until I can’t.

In addition to inducing despair, I’ve been told I disempower people. Paradoxically, this disempowerment results from my encouraging people to take responsibility for facts, and for themselves. As individuals, we’ve never had significant power, our privilege aside. For most of us, the limited power we possess has been used primarily to accrue more personal power at the expense of the living planet and people outside the industrialized world.

How difficult it is for civilized humans to comprehend that this civilization, like all others, has disadvantages? How difficult it is for civilized humans to comprehend that this civilization, like all others, must end? How difficult it is for civilized humans to comprehend that humans, like other organisms, are headed for extinction?

Had the collapse of the industrial economy reached completion several years ago, our species might have persisted a few more generations. Now, however, it’s time to let go.

The last dance

As individuals, we don’t possess the power to alter the outcome. However, we have the power to control our reaction to events. Thus, the new role I’ve assigned myself: court jester.

I have no experience at court jester beyond playing class clown. But I think Nero had the right idea, creating art as Rome burned. So I’ll create humor while taking advantage of opportunities to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Perhaps if I provide enough humor, I’ll be spared the usual end-of-life experience proposed for those messengers who bring bad news.

I’ll present dire information with empathy while promoting resistance. I’ll continue to criticize society while empathizing with individuals. And I’ll ask people to empathize, and to feel. Even if though it hurts.

Why? Because, hopium aside, Carl Sagan was correct: painful reality trumps satisfying, reassuring delusion.

–Guy McPherson, Transition Voice Magazine

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Comments

  1. says

    I don’t think despair is the right answer, regardless of the reality. If you believe that human beings are amazing creatures of great potential, then you must still allow for the possibility of an “emergence through emergency” as Buckminster Fuller predicted would happen. There is clearly a shift underway, in which a majority of humanity is recognizing the real and actual potential for our total demise, which is motivating a new kind of thinking. The shift away from weaponry and toward “livingry” for example, in which we apply all our great technological understanding toward better quality of life for all humanity, is happening. We simply need to scale up these advances at the same time as we marginalize those forces working against us. Please don’t give up. As Bucky said, we are each “trim tabs” and whichever way we lean is what we will make happen. Lean into the gentle arc that is carrying us upward. And to all those who think living off the grid will save us, that’s all well and good as long as you continue to wield our generation’s mightiest sword, your keyboard. Write, demand, think the truth. Speak truth to power.

    • carol says

      check out Nasa-funded study: industrial civilization headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

      Guy McPh. is not despairing, and he teaches people who are interested about his survival techniques and processes. I feel surprisingly clear and energized after listening to him. I find nothing so liberating as truth – truth gives us energy to do something good, with unencumbered focus.
      Thanks.

  2. James R. Martin says

    Guy McPherson’s persistent claim that near-term human extinction is inevitable, regardless as to how we respond to the climate crisis, does not seem to align with the facts. Worse, it encourages inaction.

    Perhaps Mr. McPherson doubts that his campaign to convince the world of the inevitability of near term human extinction is encouraging inaction. But I cannot see it as having any other effect. But let me be clear about the *kind* of inaction it discourages. It discourages among its believers (apparently very few actual climatologists) any actions designed to avert such worst case scenarios through collective action and movement building, etc.

    Some will say, “Well, the human animal is a noxious blight upon the Earth, so good riddance,” but perhaps these same people don’t realize that a human extinction event caused by climate catastrophe would almost certainly cause the extinction of the overwhleming majority of species now inhabiting Earth. (Note that I did not say “our Earth” or “our planet”. It does not belong to us.)

    Is the climate situation very dire? Yes, it is. Are we at risk of possible extinction? Probably–if we stay on the course we’re on as a civilization. …. But let us look at the most salient question. Can humanity possibly avert the worst case scenario of mass planetary extinction (an implosion of biodiversity creating very nearly a global desert). My answer is: Yes. But only if we enact a swift and dramatic response to this crisis — a response that amounts to the deliberate undoing of industrial civilization as we know it. (I’d keep bicycles and sheet glass, shovels and hoes and other hand tools while putting an immediate end to almost all coal burning, oil drilling and pumping and piping. In sum, I’d shrink industrialism to the size at which it could be drowned in a bath tub. But I would not drown that child. I’d pull a “Honey, I shrunk the kid” (a slightly modified movie title). And I doubt anything less would do. For example, I disagree with those who think we can replace all of the energy we’re now using with renewables. It just ain’t gonna happen, and certainly not in the time frame required. The technological and material capacity to do so just doesn’t exist, and only foolish cornucopians think otherwise.

    Instead of prophesying inevitable near term human extinction, Guy McPherson should offer his ample talent, knowledge and skill to the radical retooling of culture which is so desperately needed. The show isn’t over until the fat lady sings.

    • says

      Guy McPherson’s persistent claim that near-term human extinction is inevitable, regardless as to how we respond to the climate crisis, does not seem to align with the facts.
      I think you must be looking at a different set of ‘facts’ than me.

      • James R. Martin says

        Colin,

        Is it your strong belief that no combination of factors of effort combined with good luck could possibly lead to a somewhat intact climate / biosphere? If so, I can’t quite fathom the significance of recent posts on your blog.

    • says

      @James R. Martin

      Is there a difference between prophecy and prediction?

      Dr. McPherson doesn’t prescribe inaction. Read his article again. While you’re at it, go back and read his earlier articles and watch his earlier videos. He documents the process he went through when going from actively “radically retooling culture” using reason and best effort to the grievous task of following the truth and making it clear that intervention is too little, too late.

      If you’re going to reject his assertions, please do the serious followers of this topic a favor and use facts to present an opposing view. Your speed-bump of a reply is simply annoying.
      Thanks.

      • James R. Martin says

        “Dr. McPherson doesn’t prescribe inaction.”

        No. But he might as well do so in my opinion. Here’s why: It would require the biggest and quickest economic / social / political transformation in all human history to avert worst case scenarios regards our climate emergency. That’s a lot of necessary effort. But no one believing the cause to be already lost would invest their time, money, energy, effort at an already lost cause. The result of McPherson’s influence adds up to inaction, whether he means it to or not.

        “If you’re going to reject his assertions, please do the serious followers of this topic a favor and use facts to present an opposing view.”

        This discussion has been live in various comments threads here at Transition Voice magazine, where I have offered up some very relevant facts. Among those facts I have offered up is that Mr. McPherson is pretty much a lone voice among relevent scientists in claiming that near-term human extinction is no longer avoidable due to climate catastrophe. Many thousands of relevant scientists are encouraging that humanity change course in order to avert such worst case scenarios.

        In a personal correspondence with Dr. James Hansen, of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, I asked if Mr. McPherson’s claim was accurate. He insisted that we can avert such outcomes … if we take certain steps. I contacted Hansen because of the conversation here with McPherson, hoping he’d join in. But Hansen, like Bill McKibben (whom I’ve also been in correspondence) aren’t able to invest much time and energy in responding to a sort of lone wolf voice as McPherson. McKibben said that his work involves a lot of “triage”. And that is obviouly true. They are not avoiding engagement with McPherson for any reason other than the necessity of spending their time on the most necessary and urgent matters. And debating this stuff with a lone wolf voice like McPherson would consume time better spent elseshere. Perhaps if Mr. McPherson’s message were to become quite inflencial he’d find himself debating the relevant scientists in public forums? This is something I would like to see, myself, because — as I have said in these fora — I worry that McPherson’s influence, however small, draws wind from the sails of the climate response movement.

        • says

          @James R. Martin

          That’s the question here. Do we blame Dr. McPherson for the presupposed effect of his message? Not very scientific argument, whether from you or Dr.Hansen, or Bill McKibbon.
          I am NOT an academic or scientist. I can’t decipher the data myself and come to a reasoned conclusion, but, I can follow a step by step review of these conclusions if it is well documented. I don’t want Near Term Extinction to be true.
          I’d like to see the heavyweights engage! I’m not smart enough to dismiss Guy’s message. I am (just barely) smart enough to follow a point-by-point dismissal of his message if it is documented. Please ask your contacts if they are willing to do this and we can all go back to fighting for change, rather than preparing for “doom”.
          Thanks,
          Brad Phillips

          • James R. Martin says

            “Please ask your contacts if they are willing to do this and we can all go back to fighting for change, rather than preparing for “doom”.

            I’ll do what I can.

            It seems to me that the time has arrived for a public conversation, accessible to a “lay” (non-specialist) audience, on these intettwined issues and themes. A set of public conversations and debates would be most welcome. These topics and issues need to be aired.

            Very specifically, we need a public conversation on the level of urgency and the possibility of averting worst case scenarios. Views will likely be quite diverse, and no voice or view should be kept from the table.

            Ideally, a respected journalistic forum would serve.

            But don’t wait on me to help make it happen. I’ve got a large pile of tasks I’m working on. I can only do so much. Perhaps if a bunch of us worked together in making it happen.

  3. Bill says

    The solution to this problem is getting 7 billion people pulling in the same direction for 25 years minimum. The probability of this occurring for an instant, let alone 25 years, is 1/ln(7,000,000,000), ie. an ensemble of 7 billion forming one unique state. Statistical thermodynamics tells you the end game. Get over it.

    • James R. Martin says

      Get over it?

      McPherson is right about one thing. The situation is very dire. We’re in a global emergency. I would add: There is no time to waste. And it is just such extreme urgency that has me thinking that you’re wrong about our odds. The odds get better and better as more and more millions of people realize the level of risk and danger. We can do great things with enough motivation.

      We should NOT “get over it”.

      • Naima says

        YES! The odds of motivating others to act DOES increase with the direness of the situation. I have maintained that for some time and am patiently waiting and building systems to have in place when needed. We CAN do great things!

      • cmmj says

        Re: Get over it. Right, I’ll agree with your reply to @Bill, ‘get over it’ is a exasperated response and I can understand where such frustration can originate and can drive one to inaction.

        In the end, I think our own animal, biological programming is not going to resign humans to ‘going down without a fight’ (inaction). All insects fight like hell when caught in a spiders web. And so too, will humans fight like hell to avoid NT extinction. So, I don’t fear that anyone of sound mind will resign themselves to inaction (except perhaps the few deluded, religious, end-timers, who of course are ‘just waiting’ for the end and activitely WANT it to happen).

        I understand at this point that Guy appears within a small group of lone Cassandras (isn’t Cassandra always lonely?) talking NTE, but as others have noted, what type of language CAN pull the human collective away from our delusion and get our attention? I agree with another poster – no one in my immediate and fairly large circle of family and friends can even talk about the climate in other than snarky ‘not really a concern’ tones. Kids should be coming home from school and demanding from their parents ‘what are you going to do about it?’. There’s no pressure from anyone, anywhere to care or address, systemically this issue. If there was leadership, we’d all be working overtime on it and the unemployment rate would be effectively %0. Yes, there’s actually THAT much work to do. Yes, so much work…why no jobs?

  4. Karla Lindquist says

    To James R. Martin, above, I would say you perhaps missed the part where Guy says we must despair, we should despair but to do nothing is not the answer. That ACTION is the cure despite knowing the futility of the excersize because to not act is to shrivel and die before the end has come.

    The worst to be seen is not here yet. Yes, industrial civilization is creaking and groaning under it’s own weight but when it comes down no longer matters because we’re only dealing with GHG’s from decades ago right now. The stuff we’re cranking out from a decade ago or longer back, up to today hasn’t even hit the ecosystem fully.

    We cannot ‘undo’ shit. We can’t stop it, declare an effective war on it, transition to any combination of renewables… there IS NO HOPE in this context.

    I understand the enormous difficulty of accepting this reality. And until we’re all directly faced with it, perhaps none of us will truly ‘get’ what’s coming down the pike. Knowing someone you love is about to die is different than that moment when their death occurs.

    The truth is, many of us alive when the system unravels aren’t going to survive in any sense of what we today call ‘normal’. And the last of EVERYTHING, in any substantive quantity, that gives life and has value will be wrested from us by the Military. You can bet on that.

    Right now the billionaires are dumping their US stocks. The Sequestration will force automatic cutbacks in Gov’t and further seize our credit based monetary system.

    I have no idea how to prepare for what could be a ‘hunker down’ or ‘now I’m a nomad’ lifestyle. But giving these things thought and having plans for as many scenarios as I can to enable myself access to food/water and shelter are all I seem able to focus upon anymore. I do this because although I understand there is no hope, I refuse to remain passive about what’s to come.

    • Auntiegrav says

      Thanks, Karla. Part of the problem is how we look at the scale of the problem. I would quote Wendell Berry if I could remember the words, but to paraphrase it, “No individual is going to solve global problems.” The real conundrum is not technology, or carbon or even consumerism. What we are reaching is the crux of intentionality vs. Nature. Humans believe their intentions will always trump their actions, but it is their actions which are destroying Nature. We don’t have to convince 7 billion people to change. It’s only about 1/1000th of that who control the flow of resources out of the ground and into the atmosphere, as well as controlling the direction of technology toward landfills and wars. The other 6.999 billion people do not live with much control or thought about the Big Picture or even their own fates. They simply do the things their part of the System of systems allows them to do. The hope that they will change is misplaced. How many will survive the economic fallout of climate change? Most of them, possibly. There is a long way to go from the luxury based economies down to susbsistence economics. The biggest task ahead is not ‘fixing’ climate. The biggest task is keeping people from killing each other while they are forced to learn to be physically active and live with less. Most of what we have now is unnecessary. Most of the activities burning carbon are unnecessary. It is the cognitive dissonance between needs and artificially created ‘wants’ that is going to cause the most trouble. Humans can deal with almost any real physical hardship, but being forced to leave their internal hologram and rebuild their world view is when they start seeking charismatic ‘leaders’ to do their thinking for them, and that’s why it’s important to drop the Hope. Hope is what gets people to believe stupid shit like genetic supremacy, political righteousness, and supernatural puppetmasters.
      Reality is the hardest thing to realize.

      • cmmj says

        Re: ” The biggest task ahead is not ‘fixing’ climate. The biggest task is keeping people from killing each other while they are forced to learn to be physically active and live with less. Most of what we have now is unnecessary. Most of the activities burning carbon are unnecessary. It is the cognitive dissonance between needs and artificially created ‘wants’ that is going to cause the most trouble.”

        @Auntigrav – that’s nicely constructed, well said. I agree as well, there’s no ‘fixing’ this. This outlook is pretty much where I’ve arrived and where my head is now. I now think more about how we’re going to retain (or not?) our humanity through this change.

        I agree, this is not a ‘hope’ situation. Only, simple and intelligent pragmatism needed. Funny, I grew up in Southeastern PA – I know the Old Order Amish wince at (or cry for?) us. I’m sure they’re secretly pissed us non-Amish have f— the biosystem – it effects their farming as well. But they’re eminently pragmatic and ingenious folk. My bet is, after the worst, the Amish will be the last people standing.

        • Auntiegrav says

          Thanks CMMJ,
          My bet is that things are going to be a lot worse than that. The Amish are sequestered in countries where too many people have more guns than sense. I think the last people standing in any numbers will be in Africa: by force of sheer diversity of human genetics and tribal behaviors. They may have counterparts in South America, but I suspect much of South America is going to end up burning in the droughts. When all is killed and done, any resemblance to what we call “humans” will be spending all of their time barely surviving, possibly rebuilding populations, but at the mercy of the wildlife and diseases.

  5. James R. Martin says

    Karla,

    You say: “we should despair but to do nothing is not the answer. That ACTION is the cure despite knowing the futility of the excersize because to not act is to shrivel and die before the end has come.”

    No reasonable / sane / rational person is going to devote themselves utterly, at great expense and/or effort, to a task they’re utterly convinced to be impossible. Let me provide an example. I’m not going to attempt to lift and move Mount Shasta — the whole mountain — up off the ground … with my bare hands. I’d not attempt that even if I thought it might be somehow spiritually uplifting to do so. I know it cannot be done. Period. End of story. So why try?

    I have some research to do. I want to know how much carbon sequestration Earth’s systems can manage, in what time frames, if we humans were to suddenly and dramatically reduce our cabon emissions, plant trees in all the right places, induce (carefully!) phytoplankton blooming in the oceans, widely implement biochar [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar ], etc. In other words, if we managed to throw everything we got at it. I wonder how long it would be before the CO2 starts decreasing, and how fast it might decrease at maximum under the best possible circumstances. And I wonder if and when we should implement programs of the sort that certain “geoengineering” proponents advocate, and how that might help us slip past the brink.

    But some of you here worry me very much, because you’re saying there’s not a damn thing we can do — and people READ here (and they read in the varoius places where McPherson is preaching It’s-Too-Late-Forget-It (a paraphrase). I think you people who consider our goose already cooked to be dangerous, because there’s some chance that the goose might survive. But it will take a gigantic human effort on the part of millions…, billions to prevent goose dinner. And I worry you’re stealing the wind from our sails.

    Do I know enough of the science to assess the question? No. I don’t. And I doubt that very many do. And most who probably do are saying Let’s Get Busy Changing The Way We Do Things! They are asking us to roll up our sleaves and work hard to prevent goose dinner. It will take all of us doing it. That’s what they say.

    • cmmj says

      “I have some research to do. I want to know how much carbon sequestration Earth’s systems can manage, in what time frames, if we humans were to suddenly and dramatically reduce our cabon emissions, plant trees in all the right places, induce (carefully!) phytoplankton blooming in the oceans, widely implement biochar [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar ], etc. In other words, if we managed to throw everything we got at it. I wonder how long it would be before the CO2 starts decreasing, and how fast it might decrease at maximum under the best possible circumstances. And I wonder if and when we should implement programs of the sort that certain “geoengineering” proponents advocate, and how that might help us slip past the brink.”

      That is a great inquiy I’ve also wondered about. Yes, what can we do and what is the confidence level (95% or better) that it has a chance to succeed. My guess is that the science is now ‘divided’ by those trying to monitor and report on what is actually happening now (which we do need to know and keep abreast of) and those doing the work of your inquiry (that is, what does science, at this stage of humanity, allow us to consider, with decent probability of success as possible solutions to a quick reduction of CO2, and would that have an effect?). That is all happening outside of the Engineering firms going full steam on solar and wind at the moment, which is also a good thing.

      Still, we have leaders in congress who are still denying (!) that CC is anthropogenic, or that it’s even occuring at all (!). wtf. So while I too would love to see a matrix of possible geoscientific solutions and their probabilities of success, how can any rational person consider our current national or world-level (UN?) leadership to be able to act on any of these options until their office phones are ringing with calls that THEIR district/country is in economic/social collapse and people are dying (thinking of western farming districts here, or central Europe). Like the STOP sign at that bad intersection in your neighborhood – you know, the one where it took 10 or 20 fatal accidents and many, many resident petitions before some ‘powers that be’ figured it would be good to put one there. That’s the legacy we face – how we break from that, I cannot see at the moment.

  6. Bill says

    Most people that I know are living life the same way they have all their life. That goes for people retired, near retirement, in mid career, in their first ten or fifteen years out of school, in college, in high school, etc. etc. So few know any of what Guy writes or speaks. Yet so much needs to change and so little is actually changing. It’s very nice to talk the talk and walk the walk, but so few are listening or joining.

  7. Bill says

    Most people that I know are living life the same way they have all their life. That goes for people retired, near retirement, in mid career, in their first ten or fifteen years out of school, in college, in high school, etc. etc. So few know any of what Guy writes or speaks. Yet so much needs to change and so little is actually changing. It’s very nice to talk the talk and walk the walk, but so few are listening or joining. THIS IS NEW

    • James R. Martin says

      I’m in full agreement with you, Bill, that our societies are not yet responding to the climate situation as if it were an emergency of the most serious and urgent sort. And I think it is no coincidence that the various so-called “mainstream” media fall very, very far short of treating this matter as the global emergecy which it is. Same is true for governments on all levels. And pretty much all of the crucial institutions of culture.

      You say “This is new”. What’s especially new, it seems to me, is the mostly unanticipated sudden melting of ice everywhere — at astonishing rates! This is a serious wake up call! But our society is waking up ever so slowly. So slowly that the only feasible explanation must be a kind of social phychosis or delusion — some weird inability to acknowledge reality. The question is, is this delusion a treatable condition? I will not be too quick to answer in the negative, for fear of adding to the self-fulfilling prophesy dynamic.

  8. James R. Martin says

    I think the time has come to engage actual climatologists–and many other relevant scientists–in this conversation. What we need is a conversation of this sort which is accessible to a “lay” audience (regular, educated people). Yes, I do realize that Mr. McPherson is a real scientist, an ecologist. But he’s just one voice, and there are very few scientists saying what he is saying.

    If you are reading here, I invite you to join with me in sending out a call to scientists (especially climatologists) who are willing to discuss and debate the question, “Is it too late to avert the sort of climate catastrophe which would lead to near-term human extinction?”

    If such a discussion and/or debate were to occur, it could generate a lot of comments, so it may be necessary, eventually, to move the discussion to another appropriate forum. But this discussion and debate should occur. It is urgent that we accurately assess the question, as failure to do so may well result in a self-fulfilling prophesy of the very worst kind.

    • says

      I hate to dignify any of your comments with a response. But here I go.

      If you insist upon using a title, please use the correct one. Referring to James Hansen as Dr. Hansen and to me as Mr. McPherson is demeaning. And referring to me as simply an ecologist is short-sighted and incorrect.

      • James R. Martin says

        Dr. McPherson,

        You’re right about my blunder. I meant no harm by it. It was an honest mistake and I appologise.

  9. says

    From a presentation at the Tällberg Forum in 2008:

    “David Wasdell is possibly the foremost climate systems analyst on Earth: he tells it like it is, because he sees no reason to lie. When he talks, you listen, because failure to listen to his unique brand of unfiltered, unpoliticized, science-based analysis is failure to listen to the voice of reason.”

    “He says we have to go into a period of negative radiative forcing (global heating energy) merely to end up with a stable, non-catastrophic climate system, ‘thats the overall strategy. It is not, of course, the strategy being addressed by the IPCC … they are addressing a climate agenda that is way out of date from the reality of the system as we know it today.'”

    “Wasdell is an angry man. He has stared into the abyss, time and time again, and realised that we are acting like spoilt children in a party where there is nothing but cake and chocolate laced with cyanide: spoilt children who will kill themselves in search of a toxic dream.”

    Meanwhile, citizens keep believing and promoting the lies told by corporate governments of the world. Fortunately, science has some great attributes. For one, it generates reliable knowledge regardless what you believe. For another, it’s not a democracy. Almost nobody believed Galileo during his time.

    • James R. Martin says

      Dr. McPherson,
      I’m watching and listening to the video series you linked to above. Very powreful stuff! Thanks.

  10. James R. Martin says

    ““He says we have to go into a period of negative radiative forcing (global heating energy) merely to end up with a stable, non-catastrophic climate system, ‘thats the overall strategy.”

    Look, I fully understand that the truth lies somewhere between Slim Hope and No Hope. I’m in the Slim Hope Camp. But let us explore what this means in terms of available scientific knowledge. Let’s just say that we do need to somehow get to “negative radiative forcing”. I’m guessing that must mean something like … well, never mind my guessing. Let’s say humanity were somehow to stop burning fossil fuels and were to simultaneously plants a lot of trees (with seven billion potential workers) , use “biochar” to its maximum usefulness, maybe even implement whatever exotic “geoengineering” techniques might be laying around, from spewing arosols in the upper atmosphere (or wherever) and/or fertilizing the oceans for phytoplankton blooms. In other words, if we threw everything we got at it as if it were a planetary emergency–with billions or hundred of billions of dollars spent on R&D…, all of that would be too little too late? Nothing whatever can be done to averty “NTE”?

    My severe challenge is that I can’t research three hundred questions thoroughly all at once. I’m not a subject matter expert in climate science. My expertise is in creating very low carbon economies. This, I know how to do. And it’s surprisingly easy to do from a technical standpoint.

  11. says

    I live in a rural, coastal area of North Carolina. You could spend all day talking to dozens of people here without finding a single person who understands the dire situation the world is in. Talk about global warming, their eyes glaze over. Most here are fully busy with getting kids to school, working, looking for a job, worrying about boyfriends or football, addiction in family members, marriage problems, caring for elderly parents, paying tuition for kids, taking courses at the community college, and, of course, church. In fact, if you mention a coming catastrophe of economic and environmental collapse, most will simply say it had been predicted in the bible, so why worry?…..it is god’s will and he knows what is best!
    With a huge effort by the press to educate and warn these people of the crisis and the actions necessary to avert the worst of disaster, it would take decades to really bring a meaningful understanding of our situation to these people, and then we would have to get them all working together for a long time to accomplish anything. And, let’s face it, the press simply isn’t interested in trying.
    After over a hundred years of scientific consensus of evolution as the overarching explanation of life on earth, most here do not believe it. Thirty years of consensus of global warming, and most are more than skeptical.
    I say it is impossible to get our population, not to mention others all over the world, to work together, sacrifice, and even suffer personally in order to assure a better time decades away. I have no hope we will.
    And yet, like Guy, I want to be active trying. I guess I do it for my own sanity.

  12. says

    @James R. Martin
    I agree that this issue needs immediate and widespread public attention. The anti-climate change forces have artificially skewed the spectrum of the climate debate by making it all about “it’s all a hoax vs. it’s really happening”. Defining the topic within this range (as the mainstream media has been instructed to do) keeps the worst-case-scenario on the back burner for the general audience. Thus, allowing the level of alarm (and potentially required action) to remain relatively low in comparison to all the other touted issues of the day.

    If we could somehow generate another debate between the “it’s happening” experts and the “holy shit, we’re doomed and soon” experts a fire might be lit (no pun intended) under the feet of the grazing herd. Maybe? If enough people at least entertained the possibilities within a new spectrum of debate that includes an extended range into immediate and dire possibilities some mobilization would more likely succeed.

    We need other voices to chime in meaningfully, not just with soundbites, on the ten feedback loops Dr. McPherson describes in his presentation. We need a wider publication of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group message. We could really use David Wasdell’s voice in this conversation. Maybe even someone like D. Jensen. Who could possibly organize such a conference? That’s where we need to go next, in my opinion.

    • says

      I think you need to read what I wrote before. Nobody cares about this. I live in a small town area, and if you talk about this stuff, you are a freak, or boring. Why? Because the media suppresses the truth. Lots of ideas why, but when our leaders wanted to invade Iraq, the media made sure the average American was VERY concerned about Saddam. Odd that this far worse, better documented threat is largely ignored by the press.
      Really, until we get the average American really panicked about this, nothing will happen. NOTHING!

    • James R. Martin says

      “That’s where we need to go next, in my opinion.”

      A very insightful statement, there, Brad! I love what you’re saying. You’re spot on. Thanks!

      I’ll chime in with a fuller response at a later time. But I wanted to applaud those words.

  13. says

    @Paul
    I did read what you wrote before. I agree that some, maybe most audiences will continue to ignore this, no matter what. It’s too scary for them to face. And, of course, if we are doomed anyway, what’s the point in bothering them? In good conscience we should do our best to frame the issue in a way that makes sense to the most people. I don’t think that has been done. I think the issue has been hijacked by propaganda experts who have succeeded in making it a hazy, distant, unlikely, and maybe crazy possibility among many more desirable possibilities we’d all prefer. If this filter could be evaded, maybe the real conversation would begin. That was the point of my previous post.

  14. Auntiegrav says

    Thanks, Guy. Another great read and think.

    We are what we do, not what we believe. Right now, we are a species that lives in a hallucinatory matrix of petroleum/carbon fueled convenience. We do what is most convenient (the same thing we did yesterday or the day before), rather than even change our lifestyles to use less money (which would be more comfortable for most of us). Living with less, however, would require stepping off the paved road, as you have.
    Most of us that read and think about these issues at the End of Empire are trapped between the world we are used to and the world we know is coming, with a little glimpse or two of worlds we could be living in.
    In the meantime, the discussions are entertaining, but the human race will do what it has always done: live in a model of the universe until the real universe intrudes.

  15. James R. Martin says

    ” … but the human race will do what it has always done: live in a model of the universe until the real universe intrudes.”

    Melting glaciers and ice caps, sea level rise, massive forest fires, spreading deserts, dying coral reefs, permanent “drought” caused crop lossses associated with growing food insecurity, species extinctions, killing heat waves … seems that the old “model universe” has been quite intruded upon by pesky reality already.

    But turn on the tv, radio… open a newspaper…, listen to a politician… It’s as if none of these very loud signals are newsworthy. Still, people are impressed when a mere 35,000 people rally in DC on President’s Day? What we need is an international day of action in every town and city on Earth, sending the signal that urgent action is needed immediately. And we need to boycott the mainsnooze media. Publically, loudly — and I mean a campaign with teeth, something well tought out and powerful. We must get creative!

    • Auntiegrav says

      So, you have a fantasy of getting everyone to make noise. Then they can live in a new model (one where we’re all going to buy methanol to ‘fix’ the climate change problem, which is itself a symptom of something else).
      If you can’t sell your collective action on the 6:00 news (in other words, sell cars with it), then it won’t have any staying power in the hologram.
      From Joe Bageant (RIP): http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2007/08/the-great-ameri.html
      “In effect, the economic superstate generates a superhologram that offers only one channel, the shopping channel, and one sanctioned collective national experience in which every aspect is monetized and reduced to a consumer transaction. The economy becomes our life, our religion, and we are transfigured in its observance. In the absence of the sacred, buying becomes a spiritual act conducted in outer space via satellite bank transfers. All things are purchasable, and indeed, access to anything of value is through purchase. Even mood and consciousness, through psychopharmacology, to suppress our anxiety or enhance sexual performance, or cyberspace linkups to porn, palaver and purchasing opportunities. But most of all, the hologram generates and guides us to purchasing opportunities.”

  16. Auntiegrav says

    Guy,
    Raj Patel put up a great essay here: http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/misanthropocene/
    “What would be a better way to meet this disaster? It’s a question that Sasha Lilley and collaborators explore in a recent book of essays titled Catastrophism. The outlook isn’t rosy. In Western politics, catastrophe has been used by the left and right as an alibi for misanthropic, racist, and cold-blooded policy. Stalinists and survivalists unite behind the idea that, before things get better, society has to hit bottom. After that, the guardians of post-apocalyptic knowledge can come to save the day. Impending catastrophe has been an alibi for everything from Year Zero to cult suicides.
    Herein lies the danger. We’re surrounded by catastrophic narratives of almost every political persuasion, tales that allow us to sit and wait while humanity’s End Times work themselves out. The Anthropocene can very easily become the Misanthropocene.”
    I’ll admit, I am a catastrophist and a misanthrope. Perhaps they have to cancel each other out.

  17. photonX says

    If all the energy spent arguing over whether or not our goose is truly cooked was harnessed, we could light the city of Podunk for a week.

  18. Patrick says

    I don’t want to belittle the seriousness of the situation, but I do think we can still avoid extinction if we do the right things, however unlikely that may be.

    All the technologies required for a sustainable civilazation already exist. We can produce energy from wind, water, and the sun. We can manufacture all goods locally using 3d printing. We can produce all food locally using hydroponics. Rainwater collector and greywater recycling can provide water. We can recycle everything with close to 100% efficiency, reducing our need for virgin materials to sustainable levels. We can move people and goods at less than 1/10th of the current cost using mass transit.

    Long term, we can build a mass driver to launch things into space without the use of chemical propellant. What sort of things would we launch? Besides the usually exploration and discovery missions, we could launch orbital solar panels to provide us with essentially limitless solar energy. The energy would be converted to microwave and beamed to a collector dish on earth with no risk of catastrophe. We could also launch large orbital mirrors to reflect some of the sun’s light, which will be necessary to cool the planet down.

    The chance of this happening is slim, but it’s also not non-existent. No further technology breakthroughs are needed to accomplish any of the above. The biggest obstacles to overcome are social/cultural.

  19. Patrick says

    I think we can also take heart in the fact that the average Fox News viewer is in their late 60s. The conservative movement is literally dying. This is good news because the conservative movement has been the main source of opposition to addressing climate change.

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