And then what? How shall I live my life?

flowers on snow

Photo: It’sGreg/Flickr.

And then what?

As Garrett Hardin pointed out long before his death a decade ago, that’s the ecologically relevant question. Anybody interested in individual or societal action must be willing to answer this question.

With respect to ongoing depletion of fossil fuels, any response to Hardin’s question must include the matter of scale. Individuals are able to abandon fossil fuels before they abandon us. Doing so with grace is a bit challenging, but it’s hardly impossible, as evidenced by numerous examples in the Transition movement. Contemporary industrialized societies, on the other hand, are exhibiting little interest in adapting to a world without ready access to inexpensive fossil fuels. Apparently the people pulling the primary levers of industry would rather continue fighting than switch to a saner way of living.

With respect to ongoing, accelerating climate change, any response to Hardin’s question must include the matter of scale. Individuals are able to abandon a fossil-fuel-fueled lifestyle with minor costs, including the disparagement that comes from living outside the mainstream. But, as illustrated by Jevons’ paradox and the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, individual choices do not translate to societal choices. An individual change in consciousness rarely leads to societal enlightenment. Jumping off the cruise ship of empire will not prevent the ship from striking the iceberg, and it nonetheless results in near-term death of the individual.

How dire is the climate-change situation?

On a planet 4° C hotter than baseline, all we can prepare for is human extinction according to Oliver Tickell’s 2008 synthesis in the Guardian). Tack on an informed assessment published in the 30 January 2013 issue of the Vancouver Sun of BP’s Energy Outlook 2030 concluding that global average temperature of Earth will hit the 4° C mark in 2030, and it doesn’t look good for Homo sapiens beyond a few more years.

The question then arises: What shall I do? How shall I live my life? In other words, now that we have knowledge of the near-term demise of our species, then what?

There are more than seven billion responses to the latter questions. Recognizing that birth is lethal and that we have an opportunity to demonstrate our humanity on the way out the door, I’ve chosen an eyes-wide-open, decidedly counter-cultural approach. I’ve opted out of empire, and I practice and promote a gift economy.

Beyond my own actions, I suggest individuals take actions they never previously imagined. I promote resistance against the dominant paradigm, even though — especially though — it appears too late to save our species from near-term extinction. I propose assaulting ourselves and others with compassion. I recommend heavy doses of creativity and courage. I advise doing something well beyond the cultural current of the omnicidal main stream.

At this point, what have you got to lose? Indeed, what have we got to lose?

Michael Sosebee’s documentary film is available. Details and ordering instructions for Somewhere in New Mexico before the End of Time can be found here.

— Guy McPherson, Transition Voice

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  1. pen says

    Thank you for this sobering assessment. I am confused about the graph you have linked to though, the one that indicates 4 degrees warming by 2030. What I don’t get is where the author has got his temperature figures/scale from – if I put a red dot on the yr 2013 it must represent the 0.8 degrees of warming we’ve already had. If we keep adding CO2 then we go on the path to 4 degrees – but how has the author arrived at the conclusion that we actually hit it by then? Sorry for my ignorance, but I don’t get that from that graph. If someone would explain I’d appreciate it.

    • says

      I too am looking for that graph. The implication is a rise of ~3ºC over and above the ~1ºC we’ve seen in the last several decades — but within about a fifteen year timespan; so roughly a whole degree celcius increase in each of the next five years. If this should happen, it would sound a clear death knell — but I haven’t seen anyone actually pointing out that this is what we can expect. Which I find puzzling.

  2. marion says

    The links on this page are not working. (specifically, opted out of empire and resistance against the dominant paradigm. I didn’t try the others.

  3. Mike Sosebee says

    “An individual change in consciousness rarely leads to societal enlightenment. Jumping off the cruise ship of empire will not prevent the ship from striking the iceberg, and it nonetheless results in near-term death of the individual.” Guy McPherson

    I’ve heard more times than I can recount the refrain: “If my actions won’t make any difference then why should I bother?” People who make these claims never had an intention of changing their lifestyles. Using reusable grocery bags and recycling is about as far as most are willing to go. However the mere act of living consciously creates a change, a change of heart if you will, which is the most important change there is. Whether that makes a difference in the long-term survival of my species isn’t the point and never has been. It’s about a willingness to live in truth and reject the lies of my culture however painful that might be.

    • Sergio I. Solorzano says

      “It’s about a willingness to live in truth and reject the lies of my culture however painful that might be.”

      You nailed it

      • Auntiegrav says

        Agreed. Somewhat daunting when you think about all of the lies of our culture, but I submit the first one to understand is that the Invisible Hand is a pyramid scheme. Civilization (isolation of humans from natural risks) is a pyramid scheme.
        Nearly everything we are told about our modern advantage (technology, medicine, information, transportation) is a lie based on some few who benefit from the flow of resources away from where they are most useful to the locale.
        The opposite path to take would be to PUT THINGS BACK into the soil, our communities and our minds (thinking instead of consuming information).

  4. James R. Martin says

    The overwhelming majority of climate scientists in the world do not believe that it’s “already too late” to avert worst case scenarios like “near term extinction,” and advocate for serious and sustained efforts to avert such possible future scenarios.

    At a time when the world desperately needs to change course rather drastically and quickly, the last thing we need is to assume that there’s nothing that we can do to avert the worst.

  5. James R. Martin says

    Guy, I have observed on several occasions that you have cited articles, as evidence for your claims, which offered predictions of future outcomes based on the speculative premise that humankind will continue along (roughly) current trend lines in fossil fuel consumption (and corresponding trends in CO2 emissions). However probable (or improbable) such speculation may be, it remains speculation and is not admissible as evidence, per se, for how the future must unfold.

    There are mountains of what counts as evidence available, and then there are the myriad attempts to interpret the significance of this evidence. You are certainly among those who are qualified to examine and interpret the available data. But you are either a lone voice or nearly so in interpreting the data to indicate inescapable “near term extinction” of humankind (and, presumably, most Earth-life). I have spoken with some of the world’s top climatologists, and none of them think we’ve alreacy crossed what is often called “the point of no return,” or that moment in which all of our best efforts would not be able to prevent the sort of mass extinction event you uniquely predict for Earth-life. I’m not half as qualified as they to evaluate the mountain of evidence for its portent.

    For this reason, I subscribe to what I call the “Slim Hope Scenario,” a scenario of future possibilities in which it is possible, even if improbable, that humanity might pull out of its current nose dive toward worst case scenarios involving the loss of most Earth-life (including humankind).

    If I’m wrong in my analysis and interpretation of future possibilities, and you are correct, my error will have little significant impact on those future possibilities. But if you are wrong, and your interpretation of the data’s significance influences many, you might well affect future events negatively. Self-fulfilling prophesy, after all, is a well known factor in our social and political world.

    The question comes down to what must inevitably happen regardless of how humankind responds to the crisis — regardless of whatever sequestration and emissions reductions results might be had (and in what time frames). Almost nobody who is recognizably qualified to evaluate this question has publically concluded that our goose is already cooked. You are, apparenly, the lone exception. So the question is obviously an open one.


    • says

      You’ve heard from a few gainfully employed climatologists and, oddly, none of them agree we’ve gone over the cliff. I’m hardly surprised. As Upton Sinclair pointed out: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

      Few believed Giordano Bruno, and he was burned at the stake for his heresy. As a result, Galileo recanted. The main stream is a powerful, but not so powerful I’ve abandoned Bruno’s lead.

    • Jeff says

      Remind me, James, how many of those climatologists correctly predicted the loss of 80% of the arctic ice cap?




      Now remind me how many said there was a ‘possibility’ that we ‘might’ lose ‘most’ of the ice cap ‘around 2100’.

      *gets flattened under the IPCC and everyone else*

      The big problem here is a form of denialism – common among climate activists and in the published works of climate scientists – that I’ve dubbed ‘Linear Optimism’ – the idea that nature will respond to rising greenhouse gases in a linear, gradual and predictable way.


      The new knowledge that we have gained in the last year, both of the destruction of the ice cap and the huge disruption to the polar jetstream and the classical northern hemisphere seasons should be making most of those activists and scientists stop and revise their thinking. It certainly did for this formerly optimistic activist…

      Linear Optimism is compounded by our civilisation’s near total ignorance of how fragile our industrial food systems are. How we’ve managed to destroy more than 80% of our crop diversity in about 70 years and are now utterly dependant on around 30 prima-donna hybrid crops that have 2C ranges and need stable weather even more than short-sighted businessmen crave economic stability.

      So, you carry on gazing at those lovely straight line graphs – despite the fact that they have been shown to be utterly wrong.

      • James R. Martin says

        Jeff, I am in utter and complete agreement with all of the salient points in your post. And I simply do not rely on what you call “linear optimism” or “straight line graphs”. I’m fully aware that the global climatological science community has severely missed the mark when it comes to predicting future events, and that the situation is actually vastly worse and more dangerous than the IPCC reports suggtest. Indeed, I think only the phrase “global emergency” is adequate to describe our situation.

        You and I probably disagree only if you have concluded that there is no hope of preserving humankind and much of the biosphere on the basis of current CO2 levels, rather than predictions of future levels. I consider that prognosis a real possibility. But I doubt it. So I’m advocating for a global (and local) response to the crisis as the emergency it appears to be.

        • Jeff says

          Interesting response.

          Look at humanity’s response to the climate emergency so far.
          (Hint: Useless, pointless, divisive and irrelevant.)

          Then use those observations to predict well our species will respond to your advocacy. Or if you like you could pop over to Joe Romm’s Climate Progress site and count the number of times that that well-connected Beltway insider has called for a ‘WWII-scale response’.

          Now look at how governments around the world responded to your recent abstract housing bubble that caused the GFC. A sane measured and linear response would have let a few fatcats go bankrupt, ensured ordinary people weren’t left destitute and then moved on. Instead entire economies and whole populations across the globe were disrupted to chase the fantasy ideal of eternal economic ‘growth’.

          So it seems, all unconsciously, you are applying Linear Optimism to the human response.

          Its quite clear from observation that our species does not respond to threat rationally, but only when confronted with something that appears personally threatening. By the time that happens the summer Ice Cap will be gone (pre 2020) and the northern hemisphere seasons will be even further disrupted than they have been since the first Great Melt in 2007, resulting in food supply breakdown.

          If there’s one thing that’s unequivocally shown by the study of history its that hungry people revolt. It was the price of bread that sparked the Egyptian revolt and most of the Arab Spring.

          So, in less than a decade we will be faced with runaway methane emissions and near total arctic albedo flip (alone equivalent to 20 years of emissions per year), disrupted seasons and disrupted food supply leading to widespread global social unrest and the rise of populism…

          And at that point we will be ready to respond…? But we’ll have to calm the rebellions, feed the hungry – by means as yet unavailable ( while history tells us we’ll fight the rebellions and let billions starve), whilst drawing down atmospheric and oceanic carbon and refreezing the arctic through geo-engineering…

          I really don’t see that happening… Honestly James, do you?

          And of course we’ll continue to have to deal with humanity’s greatest irrationality, religion. In my jaded reading of the history of religious populism in times of crisis it has a common theme – ‘kill the unbeliever’. Any thoughts why this time might not repeat that history? Have your fundies become caring sweethearts who no longer blame earthquakes on homosexuals recently…? No, we will simply be in a race between your crackpot christian fundamentalists and the crackpot islamic ones to wipe out the unbelievers and sinners who are causing this ‘wrath of God/Allah/Choose your own Skyfairy’ with a couple of handy nukes…

          After a decade and a half as a professional conservation activist I am simply unprepared to lie to myself about the current physical reality of the cryosphere, biosphere and atmosphere or the fragility of our industrial farming and food supply systems. As a member of a sexual minority that is still persecuted by religion I am not about to indulge myself in happy fantasies about the essential ‘goodness’ of people or relyion any vestigial religious hangover that something will save us from ourselves.

          • says

            I concur. There is no such thing as sustainable living for humans. By our nature, we overshoot the population a given ecosystem can support, and then we either have a dieoff or more likely, fight with the nearest tribe. The stronger one wins. Now, there are no more ecosystems to exploit, they are all fully exploited. Even if climate change weren’t a disaster for most species ( which it so obviously is) humans are destroying the earth by overextraction and pollution. All this talk of “sustainability” is just humans thinking they can conquer nature and wishing frantically that we haven’t come to the end of the line.

            “There are moments when one feels free from one’s own
            identification with human limitations and inadequacies.
            At such moments one imagines that one stands on
            some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement
            at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal,
            the unfathomable; Life and death flow into one,
            and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only Being.”
            ~ Einstein

  6. James R. Martin says

    What needs to happen, Guy, is a public debate among yourself and the relevant, qualified scientists on this topic. So far as I can tell, this debate has never occurred. I think it should.

    I’m betting you’d be willing to debate the topic with a small (but not too small) collection of qualified scientists. But I’m not sure how such a debate might be initiated.

    In any case, your Upton Sinclair quote, suggestive though it may be, doesn’t amount to a whole lot. Yeah, sure, money does have an unfortunate gravitational pull on “reality” in unfortunate ways — e.g., the pathetic distortions of medical science vis-à-vis pharmaceutical industry influences. But the main way money distorts medical science is by deciding what kinds of research is/isn’t conducted and, ultimately, published. There does not seem to be a similar corrupting influence in climatology, which is probably why industry paid “climate skeptics” do their dirty work downstream the science rather than attempting to influence actual research.

    Perhaps Transition Voice magazine could initiate an invitation to the scientific community on this topic? A debate among qualified scientists would surely help us non-experts find our way in the dark.

    • says

      “the main way money distorts medical science is by deciding what kinds of research is/isn’t conducted and, ultimately, published. There does not seem to be a similar corrupting influence in climatology,”

      Actually, there is a bias. The bias is that there is far more money going into climate science particularly focussed on CO2 and comparatively very little on ecology. Climate is only one aspect of the planetary existential crisis. It is a symptom of overpopulation AND overconsumption. Habitat destruction, overextraction of resources, and pollution are enough to cause ecosystems to collapse. Humanity cannot live in a depauperate world, we rely on natural systems to sustain us. The obsession with CO2 enables scientists and activists to preserve the fantasy that industrial civilization can continue, perhaps by some combination of geoengineering and replacing fossil fuel with clean energy. This completely ignores the fact that more energy produced leads directly to more energy consumed. It ignores Dawinian evolution and replaces it with myths about peaceful, sustainable societies. More research is NOT needed. We know what the problems are, we just don’t want to reduce our numbers and our consumption, actually we want the opposite.

      • James R. Martin says

        Gail Zawacki said: “We know what the problems are, we just don’t want to reduce our numbers and our consumption, actually we want the opposite.”

        Perhaps this characterization of “we” is true about certain groupings of people, perhaps even a majority. But it is hardly true of everyone. And it is not inconceivable that that number could grow to majority status under certain conditions.

        I say so because I’m concerned with the question, How can we create such conditions?

        • says

          “We” is a characterization of our species. Individuals (I think of them – us – as mutants, since we are such a tiny minority – ever read Ionesco’s Rhinosceros?) might be willing to make sacrifices for future generations, but as collective tribes or now, nations, that isn’t how WE operate. It never has been, and it never will be.

          • James R. Martin says

            ” … and it never will be.”


            But what if it were not a sacrifice? Is it possible to imagine people living well, even very well, with a small “footprint”?

            I think it is. But, alas, I am among the “mutants”.

  7. Martin says

    I say, The American Way of Life doesn’t have a future if it plans on business as usual. Has anyone in the mid west see a drought or any large tornadoes lately? If you can’t mass produce food for a mass population the you are stuffed!
    Sorry to be so blunt but I can’t find a way to sugar coat that.

  8. logspirit says

    The 6th Great Mass Extinction is underway, and it is rapidly accelerating. Homo sapiens is the culprit. Homo sapiens is not immortal. Homo sapiens is not, by prayer or supernatural grace, wishful thinking, inherent superiority, cleverness, or any other device… immune nor invulnerable to basic biological extinction. If Catastrophic Climate Change doesn’t wipe us out, this Mass Extinction surely will… shortly. Yes, it is righteously frightful. Yet, if there is any hope at all, it is through clear fear — not the pathological optimism of delusional denial or getting devilishly lost in details. The big picture is right in front of us, like a mile high stop sign. Cowardly abandoning fear assures annihilation. Fear is our only hope. It takes great courage to be afraid. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    • James R. Martin says

      And then, once appropriate fear is felt — as the denial falls away — act on the basis of love, care, kindness, compassion, even joy if possible. Do not become caught in fear. Dont let fear be the motivational energy of action. Let love, compassion, kindness, care… serve that role. Fear is a step along the way. It is not the way itself.

      • logspirit says

        Fear is used constantly, every minute of every day, by the current powers that be to motivate and control the populace. They just don’t want such a powerful tool to be used by ‘unauthorized’ people who challenge their precepts of unlimited consumption and destruction. When in the ‘wrong’ hands, fear is characterized in the mainstream media as ‘negative’… and frightening.

        Those who wish to avoid extinction need a tool that is strong enough to break through the hypnotic fog of mainstream propaganda. A brain fog riddled with fear, anger, depression, isolation, powerlessness and a slew of other carefully deployed deep emotional triggers that are used to achieve the goals of the ruling classes. There is nothing inherently negative about fear – its value is determined by its application.

        Fear is positive when it enables survival. When triggered for the right reasons fear is natural and appropriate. Sometimes we need to learn how to recognize new existential threats, unprecedented fearsome threats. Threats don’t always look like snakes and tigers, some are a bit more abstract and harder to understand and recognize. Those who want to avoid extinction need to use the powerful survival tool of fear, of fearful recognition – and to use it fearlessly, without intimidation. Use fear to motivate the masses in a positive way, scare them out of their fatal slumber, to take notice and take action. We can’t fight the monster with one hand tied behind our backs like timid programed ‘civilized’ compliant capitulating frightened zombie victims.

        Our only hope is righteous fear, perhaps peppered with righteous anger. Only fear is powerful enough to break the spell of ‘normalcy’. If we manage to avoid extinction, we’ll have plenty of time to play with the ancient and perennial issues of love, compassion, and joy. Then we can lazily enjoy unharassed peaceful lives, if we also deal with dignity, privacy, agency, liberty, egalitarianism and justice – if we bypass the bullies and control freaks.

        These dangerous and dreadful times are appropriately met with fear. Don’t be bullied (frightened) out of using it. Scare ’em to life.

    • pauline says

      I’m learning to love my fear. It’s a breath of fresh air/truth. It teaches me grace, compassion, love for all those I see and greet. I look at them more deeply, give bigger tips, am more forgiving (to most), knowing our days are numbered. Sometimes it gets awkward, like when my eyes tear up… C’est la vie.
      Had we all been living our lives this way to begin with, we may not be in this predicament, facing the beckoning Abyss, one foot off the cliff…

      There are only three days of food for us. Thereafter, all bets are off…

  9. TR says

    G Mc.
    Enjoy your posts,comments & links.
    Well, I’ve talked to all my animal friends & they tell me they can’t wait til man is extinct. They say this was a great place before man got here & are optimistic that it could be great again. They’ve been having trouble understanding ego,war,greed & mans need to overpopulate & destroy anything at the slightest whim.
    I watch the following regularly to remember how important “I” am to the universe. LOL

  10. Henry says

    James — You have raised a valid question, though I think Jeff and logspirit have given better answers than I had in mind. You wrote:
    “But if you are wrong, and your interpretation of the data’s significance influences many, you might well affect future events negatively. Self-fulfilling prophesy, after all, is a well known factor in our social and political world.”

    I can only say, “Would that Guy were that influential!” If so, we would be well on our way to decommissioning Industrial “Civilization”.

    If Guy had a prominent platform in world affairs (and if resigned cabinet officer Steven Chu could not get a message across at that level of power, who would?) he would be more likely to “scare” a somnolescent humanity into activism, not resignation. (Though perhaps we need a “good cop/ bad cop” regimen of action?)

    If what you’re worried about is him scaring current climate activists into resignation, then it is you who are pessimistic about our character, aren’t you? But I believe that what Guy is about is “teaching the teachers”, or “training the trainers.” And I believe his denial-deflating expressions inspire us to “screw your courage to the sticking-place”, as Macbeth’s wife counseled so malevolently 😉

    And for him, accepting NTE is not a pose; for him, it’s a platform for resistance, which he repeatedly cites, without spelling out specifics. So that is not surrender; it is just being honest about current realities. Watch what he does, in continuing to speak, rather than imply meanings or motives to his words.

    Or, as a better writer than I once explained:
    “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

    Or, as Josey Wales put it: “Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.”

    I think these are a close fit to Guy’s spirit of resistance.

    I think what you are talking about can be expressed in my mathematical imaginings, that we are certainly headed for massive die-back by the billions, and, given the uncertainties about methane, a 95% chance of human extinction if we remain on present course, which we might “improve” to but a 70% chance if we take maximum corrective measures. How’s them odds for ya?

    So when you say “Slim Hope”, I think you envision numbers something like that, and it’s worth a shot, because it’s our only shot, n’est-ce pas? Guy just doesn’t play around with numbers like that; my habit, I guess. All those Trig and Calculus equations and curves in my head, trying to be remembered from long ago.

    Except, mathematically it’s still not probable, either the science coming through for us, or the needed human changes on top of it. These are overlapping problems that just won’t sequence properly. (Even if the people do “change” — in 10 years time — or massively die off, just not enough of the right ones, in time, it probably still won’t work.)

    So the people who just want to kick back and enjoy life are “right”, too. They can read science as well as you and I. And human perversity, well… But we’re human beings, and we like movies like impossible “Rocky” “little guy wins” stories, and happy ending scenarios, and sometimes real life does come through for us, too. This one’s really a corker, though.

    You make your own call about how you “engage” with this issue, and there are valid reasons on all sides. I’ve just always preferred going after inspiring and ORGANIZING people, since that’s what I saw early in my life, and was inspired by, though not so much lately.

    • James R. Martin says

      Henry said: “If Guy had a prominent platform in world affairs ( ….) he would be more likely to “scare” a somnolescent humanity into activism, not resignation.”

      Pehaps. But considering that Guy repeatedly says, essentially, that it’s too late to prevent the worst case scenario (extinction of humanity and – presumably – most of Earth-life), my sense is that Guy’s primary influence is to take the winds out of the sails of activism. Most activists are motivated by the hope of creating a better future than would otherwise occur, without their efforts. Guy’s prognosis for the future is the ultimate bleak picture. It amounts to the end of most of Earth-life (most species). Or so I would presume … because it seems unlikely to the utmost that humans would go extinct as a result of climate catastrophe without that same catastrophe taking out most species now inhabiting the biosphere.

      I concur that Guy’s influence is not vast. But I personally know people who are near-suicidally depressed as a result of believing Guy’s message. And I also know people who have indicated to me that they have quit the activist life as a result of reading Guy’s message. Many people can’t bear living without hope for something better down the road than an inevitable … well, hell. So I think it important to remind folks that Guy could well be very wrong in his prognosis.

      But I do think our only hope would be to deliberately quit capitalist-industrialism (as we know it). The parententical qualifier here is meant to point to the fact that no such quitting is likely to happen unless it be at just the right rate of speed and intelligence of implementation. E.g., bicycles and sheet glass (for solar therma gain) are worth saving as we abandon the car culture and energy intensive consumerist / overproductive / overconsumtive madness. Shovels and hoes, to the maximum extent possible, should replace the pathetic machines of destruction. Nothing like a little elbow grease to improve the world!

      • Henry says

        Well, yes, I guess the word I was searching for, for Guy, was “provocative”. He certainly has provoked me, as I was dallying on climate change awareness up until last year.

        I guess it’s principally a question of who you are, and how you respond to challenges. Me, I’m provoked to go out and check the science for myself, calculate some probabilities, sum up my own approaches to life, culture, technology, metaphysics and get on with finding my own place in it all.

        Depression? There’s a lot of it going around, and many “activists” have had it mildly in their background for decades. Finding ways to live with it, or not. There’s something about “hitting bottom” when you’re 7, learning that you’re drinking radiation into your growing bones via Strontium 90 in your milk. And how many times more can you hit bottom in one lifetime, knowng the survivors of massacres, killing fields, etc etc and hearing their stories?

        I personally know people who’ve given up on climate survival without a clue that Guy exists or that methane emission (and resulting NTE discussion) is surging. They seemed to me to be curiously lacking in — in curiosity, at least! Busy with other parts of life, I guess.

        “Now it seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the ones that you can’t get.” Eagles, Desperado.

        I do flinch some when a writer like Daniel Drumright discusses in an eloquent essay a topic like suicide. “Too soon, too soon; not while we’re healthy” is my reaction, but then I’ve had actual experience trying to talk close friends out of that response to depression, so it’s not merely academic to me. It is vexing!, when you love them and see them so vastly differently than they are experiencing themselves.

        So I guess my response in calling Guy “provocative” is that the truth is provocative, especially when long-avoided, and that he/it moves people forward, gets us to where we’re otherwise going, “gets to the bottom of things”, and it shakes out the people who might do something from those who weren’t going to do much anyway.

        Harsh? If it wasn’t Guy’s message “depressing” them, what would next year’s (this summer’s?) climate reports/realities do to them? Can those be hidden, too?

        Just seems like a minor version of “blaming the messenger”, at least the first one to look ahead and interpret the science in a direction we’d all prefer weren’t so.

        But that’s really what it’s about — to go back in and study the science (which is really to at last appreciate the Earth the live on), flesh out the uncertainties and learn how to suspend judgment on them while recognizing probabilities, and await the procession of oncoming events. We can at least be united in this.

  11. James R. Martin says

    Henry, … thanks.
    Today is quite hot and windy here in Santa Fe. As I cast my eyes in any direction of horizon there are nearby forests on fire. The newest blaze has exploded menacingly in this heat and wind and looks as if it will burn until no fuel remains.

    I love these mountain forests. I wonder if they will survive this summer. Any of them.

    They want to call what we have here “drought”. But a drought lasts a year or three or ten. And then it ends.

    Words fail.

  12. Auntiegrav says

    Thanks Guy, another great read and discussion.
    I think that we have to consider the real mechanism of evolution in the discussion of hope and change and whether or not there will be anything “done” or not about the climate. Any species develops according to a niche that happens to be available in the environment. That species has a spectrum of mutations that form a bell-shaped curve centered on the environmental niche. If the environment changes, the centering follows the environment because the mean dies off and the fringe becomes the mean. In the case of civilization (especially petro-civilization), the bell-shape is more of a spike centered on an artificial environment which can only be supported by CHEAP petroleum. We are already seeing that the environment we evolved in naturally is changing, and the amount of energy to compensate (rebuilding after storms, more air conditioning, etc) is going up even as the available petroleum is getting more expensive, demanding more activities to pay for it.
    The psychological aspect of this is that the mean Mean are getting meaner, trying to force everyone to avoid the types of behavior that takes them out of the exploitation pool (living off-grid is inherently anti-consumer), authority is getting bolder (as per the recent Snowden affair), and civilization is losing its security, making barbarism more and more attractive to more and more people. We may not have to worry about the carbon footprints because the cities will not have people, and the machines will stop because nobody will have what is now called “jobs”. They will be forced to find useful work instead of paying work.

  13. Brian says


    In the article you call for living with compassion for your fellow man. Then you respond to what reads to me as a legitimate and respectful comment from a reader with “I provide plenty of evidence to support my claims. What about you, James?”. I don’t know or pretend to understand the science as well as you. I agree that we face a dire future, but I disagree with the tone of your response. I don’t think it will have the persuasive impact I imagine you’re hoping for. What we do now (today) is important regardless of how many more tomorrows we get.



  14. karen says

    The thing I most enjoyed about this article was that it finally got away from attempting a census of angels dancing on pinheads. Will the world as we know it come to an abrupt conclusion in 2030? I’d venture not, but I’m 50, and there’s a decent chance *I* may come to abrupt conclusion before then. Mr. McPherson’s musing question really highlighted an idea of mine, that so many of our passionate arguments for how to return our planetary balance are predicated on the unspoken fantasy that we personally will enjoy the benefit of that homeostatic recovery. I adore the idea that someone finally set down that wishful thinking in favor of a more realistic question: since “it” is ending as far as “we” are concerned, regardless of climate change, resource depletion, financial collapse, pollution or anything else, how shall we live?

    How shall I live? Suffer the illogic, I favor the approach of James Baldwin:

    “that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea it goes without saying that injustice is commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength.”

  15. says

    You’re all a bunch of tinfoil hat club members debating amongst yourselves how to go about saving the planet and what are the problems and obstacles we face in doing so. Hey lunatics, humanity has as much control over itself and the planet as it does a river upon which it floats. You can steer your boat, you can dam the river but you can’t stop the current. It’s not a matter of attitude, it’s a matter of this is the way it is, cope with it. If you’re looking for salvation, go find some religion, because that’s what you’re looking for. The rest of us just want to go to work and pay our rents and put food on the table and find as much joy in life as possible before we die or become infirmed and that means going with the flow. And the Erth will change and humanity will change and everything will change – as it has since the beginning of time. You can’t stop the climate from changing, you can’t stop humans from burning oil and you can’t stop the madness that is your own form of insanity. You can’t make the world a paradise, you can’t keep it the way it is and it never was a paradise to begin with. You have paradise syndrome, all of you. Seek philosophical therapy.

    • pauline says

      Hi Dave,
      you said: “It’s not a matter of attitude, it’s a matter of this is the way it is, cope with it.”
      Just FYI, coping is a form of “attitude”. Are you recommending we adjust our attitudes toward coping?
      Which is, surprise surprise, what Guy McPherson is advising we do; i.e. live with grace, compassion, forgiveness, love, embrace the moment. Carpe diem! (or carpe noctum!)
      Whether or NOT we are facing extinction, what could be better advice than that?

      What exactly is your goal in calling people “tinfoil hat club members”? Is that your own of coping mechanism?
      Perhaps it’s clearer if I put the question this way: If you knew you had terminal cancer, what would you do? Would you want to know? How would you adjust your “attitude” to “cope”? Would you change your life? Or would you go on being a passive servant to the Oligarchy that controls every part of our short, pathetic lives? i.e. “going with the flow”?
      These are the questions we all must ask of ourselves and that, thankfully, at least Dr Guy McPherson has given us the chance to look at.

      Everyone else seems to still be full of lies and hopium.

    • James R. Martin says

      Dave said: “The rest of us just want to go to work and pay our rents and put food on the table and find as much joy in life as possible before we die or become infirmed and that means going with the flow.”

      Joy you say. We “lunatics” have reflected on our common human situation and concluded, too, that a little joy would be very good. But we don’t think we can have much joy if our way of life is destructive of ecosystems, the biosphere, and the well being of others (present or future). Our joy is less a “go with the flow” thing than a creative response to our situation rooted in a deep recognition of our relatedness to others and the larger world. We find our joy in caring for one another over the long haul. That’s the direction we’re flowing in. So I suppose we’re also going with a flow, but our boats are heading in another direction than yours, it appears. There appear to be differing flows.

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