The Twilight of Our Tale: Part Three

Originally posted at Prayforcalamity.com
By TD0S

“We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.”

– Alan Watts

Rains have come hard. Explosions of thunder pull me into a state of half dreaming amid the depths of night. Come dawn, the morning light is not blue, but a thin coffee brown as it fills our cabin. After making breakfast on the woodstove, the millions of rattling hooves racing across our steel roof begin to slow, and then peter out completely. I pull on my overalls and slip on my muck boots to head up to the front of our land where the chickens are no doubt waiting to be let loose into their yard. After gathering eggs, I walk to a back field to scatter our wood ash, and it is there that I pick the first oyster mushrooms of the year off of a wet tree stump.

Soon I am wandering about our land, drawn by the sprouting sea of trout lilies to venture into the pockets and corners where I rarely step. Water runs in the wet weather creeks. Toothwort flowers paint the ground with the faintest flecks of pink. A downed hickory branch has me taking high steps and bracing myself on a maple trunk. My hand feels the rough surface. I move to a shagbark hickory, and drag my fingers down his body. Shaped like tongues of fire, draped down the tree’s mass like plumage, for a moment I think of a rooster’s hackles. I wonder if bats are sleeping under the shagbark’s skin.

Mayapples have just barely begun to poke through the clay, and I look for the Sparassis mushroom which blooms in the same place every year, and looks like a cross between cauliflower and coral, but I am too early for her on this morning. Moisture hangs in the air, the slightest humidity, as I listen to the water in the creek and the songbirds and the wind. I find myself overwhelmed. Here in this moment I am surrounded by – no – interwoven in what I can only call truth. I feel sadness and euphoria and altogether present. All at once it becomes very clear to me that our salvation lies waiting for us in these fecund and wild places, and in the next moment, I think about just how many of them will be destroyed today. As the scent of moss centers me, in region after region the scent of diesel portends doom where bulldozers and feller-bunchers and generators are all rumbling into motion across the globe.

What does it mean to know a thing? So much of what we think we know boils down to a complex interaction between an onslaught of various symbols, each of those brought into being by human minds, and then let loose to transmute into an ever evolving web of concepts and ideas, each only as meaningful as would be allowed by the human mind receiving them.

There is a stark difference between what we perceive subjectively with our senses and what we can communicate with our words. My experience of walking through the forest this morning cannot be communicated no matter how much I try. Similee and metaphor offer attempts at emphasizing the color or form of that which I saw or touched, but without seeing or touching yourself there is no possible way for me to truly translate my experience to you. Words themselves are symbolic, and even though you may say “mountain” or “river” the picture that generates in my mind of a mountain or river will not be the picture you had in your head when you spoke. The picture in my head will almost certainly bear no resemblance to the mountain that you spent a month backpacking upon or the river that you went fishing in with your grandfather at age eleven.

Mountains and rivers are fairly fixed concepts too, so imagine the disparity in our minds’ interpretations of such notions as “republican,” “wealthy,” “patriotic,” “good,” “happy,” “sane,” or “environment.” It must be true that a great bulk of the time we are not even speaking of the same things when we are speaking of the same things.

The world is being killed. The living skin of the planet on which we reside is being killed. It is people doing the killing and they are doing it for reasons they often can’t really comprehend. They are told that they need to do what they are doing, and the words used to convince them are symbols and representations of concepts which are even murkier symbols and representations of…of what really? It doesn’t even matter. It is noise. Human noise. A cacophony of the howling mad all yelling in a disharmonic unison. It is a story that is just good enough to convince people to point guns at each other while they command those others to work.

It is a story that means nothing to forests, rivers, mountains, and oceans.

“Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money!
Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!
Moloch Whose ear is a smoking tomb!

“Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the mind!”

From Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Our delusion spins away from center caught in the centrifugal force of entropy. We are animals endowed with functions of body and brain to move through our environment successfully navigating the challenging and changing conditions before us. Somewhere along the way people began altering the environment instead of navigating it. Further along the way people began killing those who warned against the pitfalls of such behavior. Today we try to maintain sanity as we dance with a demon under carnival lights, pretending to be one thing then another then another with the different phases of the day, just hoping to placate the beast with every coin we drop into a parking meter, with every late fee we write a check to pay, with every punch of the time clock when we would rather be anywhere else.

Won’t someone please come and scatter the cinders of this hell? Our prayers are answered by an automated system. Press one to leave a message. Press two to hear these options again.

We know that the system is insane, that it doesn’t care for us, that it is killing the planet, and that it grinds our spirits into meal along the way. So why retreat further into the isolation and alienation that is laid out for us like a deathbed? Why spend so much time logging on to forums and chat boards and reading the assessments of strangers? Are you are seeking a friend, or maybe a sage? Are you looking for someone to finally tell you that we all in unison are going to stop playing the game on the count of three?

Here is the best I can do for you: Log off. Sign out. Shut down the tablet, the phone, the laptop. Sell your television, or hell, just destroy it so it doesn’t poison the next person. I know that existing within this paradigm is painful. I know the weight and misery that dealing with all of the requirements forced upon you by other people, faceless and nameless and uncaring, can generate. But retreating into the wrinkles of the Leviathan’s pale smile is not the cure. We cannot rescue and resuscitate our spirits when our blood courses with alcohol, Prozac, and corn syrup. We cannot slay the loneliness in doors, tribeless, illuminated by the dim glow of a screen.

Further, you need to stop looking for a plan. Stop trying to figure out how to make the workable work or the unsustainable sustain. Society is the demon. Civilization is the leviathan. The wise of Middle Earth knew that no good purpose could be achieved with the dark lord’s ring, it had to be destroyed in the fires where it came into being. Society is not redeemable. It cannot be made good.

So let up a big Bronx cheer to all of the politicians and bureaucrats and high-minded engineers and NGO white collars who continually try to sell you their version of the scheme by which the demon can be bridled and made to do the bidding of the righteous. One moment’s glance at a news feed will turn up hundreds of these schemes, littered with plans for progressive taxation, solar panels, deregulation, and geo-engineering. They are wasting what precious little time might remain, and worse, they are convincing you that you are powerless and that they are powerful. The truth is that they are the overseers of this plantation, and you alone hold the key to your liberation.

So I toast to the scofflaws, the turnstyle jumpers, the shoplifters and the squatters. I raise my glass to the tribal warriors who set RCMP vehicles on fire while defending their homes and to the ELF ninjas who by night drive spikes into trees and pour concrete into bulldozer exhaust pipes. I sing “solidarity” to the black clad youth who set ATM’s on fire and to the white haired granny who flips the police the bird from the bus window as she makes her way to knitting group. If society is irredeemable, we must be anti-social, and breathe the liberated breath that comes with finally giving ourselves the permission to feel such things. We can choose how we manifest such feelings into action, and in no way do I expect anyone to do anything they deem inappropriate for their set of circumstances. Your individual resistance can be poetry, it can be stealing a box of pens from work, it can be the time-honored tradition of carving your anger into a bathroom wall. All that matters is that we never let the demon in, not completely, and that the part of us that we keep for ourselves remains wild and untouchable

But may I humbly suggest, that we need to touch the Earth. We need to sit in circles with our tribes. We need to experience the world subjectively through our many senses, and to know that our subjective experience of the land around us contains more truth and validity than all of the photographs and recordings humming away on spinning hard drives in an office tower somewhere. We have to value the direct experience of our individual lives and try however we might to cross the divides of time to remember that which the demon and his acolytes have beaten, and raped, and killed to make us forget.

We are the earth made animate, and our brothers and sisters, the animals and forests and rivers and stars, are crying out to us to stop. To please just stop.

I started my series of essays last fall asking, “What are we to do when we simultaneously need a thing and yet are destroyed by it?” The house, civilization, our domestication, the story that we were told and that we re-tell every day, all were supposed to be tools to serve us. It is clear beyond doubt that this is no longer the case if it ever was. We have become the tools of our tools. It is time to bury them. It is time for a new tale to explain who we are, and we are each one of us free to write that tale, and to sing it to our children.

This is me signing off. I have said what I have to say, and it has been hard on my body and spirit to do so. As I type these words the sun now shines down on the red buds and magnolia flowers opening at the tips of the tree branches outside my home. My daughter is playing and I am clicking at keys. The asymmetry of my bent body ignoring the wonders of life in this moment is glaring. Look at your world. Enter into it. For the love of God, go outside, be in the place where you are, and connect with it. Better still, See where it needs defending and defend it. On the count of three.

One. Two. Three…

Catastrophic Sea Level Rise within Three Generations

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What makes exponential growth so deceptive is that, no matter the growth rate, things always starts out with a period of slow growth, but then quickly change over to a rapid buildup with a characteristic doubling time. Before you know it, you are overrun with rodents, overwhelmed by bacteria, and surrounded by urban sprawl. As Albert Bartlett exclaimed, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” And so it goes with the effects of anthropogenic climate change. Within a few generations we will find ourselves inundated by rising oceans at the same time that surging temperatures are making large swaths of the planet uninhabitable. Various positive feedbacks are amplifying the exponential rate of ice melt, rendering useless the IPCC’s linear-model forecasting of global sea level rise(SLR). Upwelling of warm ocean waters are melting both polar regions from the bottom up, and the resulting large freshwater pulses are already slowing down ocean currents. The oceans are losing oxygen. Reflective Arctic sea ice is fast disappearing and a blue ocean event is just around the corner. Melting polar and glacial ice and thermally expanding ocean water have accelerated SLR to the highest rate in at least 6000 years, and an estimated 69 feet SLR has already been set into motion.

From recent satellite data and scientific studies, SLR appears to be in the beginning phase of an exponential growth pattern that will decimate thousands of coastal cities by 2070. Last year we learned that the ice mass loss rate from both Greenland and Antarctica has more than doubled in the past 5 years. Ominously, the West Antarctic ice sheet has been found to be less stable than originally thought. Warming ocean waters are infiltrating beneath the ice shelves and irreversibly melting West Antarctica from below. And more recently we learned that the stability of East Antarctica is being undermined in the same insidious way. In fact, Antarctic ice shelves have been thinning up to 70% faster than average in some spots. These ice shelves extend out over the polar waters and are what hold back and support all the land-based glacial ice. Once the ice shelves are eroded, land ice will have an open path to slide down into the ocean and melt, greatly accelerating SLR. Congruent with these disturbing trends is the revelation that SLR has been increasing much faster than we thought in the last couple decades. The rate of change per year has been 3.2mm since 1990 versus 1 to 1.4mm for the previous nine decades. That is a 100% to 200% increase in just the last couple decades. Adding to SLR is the frenzied pumping of groundwater by drought-stricken farmers and municipalities. In a cruel twist, SLR will only worsen fresh water scarcity by causing inland salt water intrusion, raising the fresh water table, and altering freshwater streamflow. SLR will reshape geography, changing coastal estuaries, wetlands, and forests. Radically altering such natural topographical features will inevitably change rainfall patterns. Permanent and intermittent flooding will allow for the expansion of tropical diseases such as cholera and malaria, and more frequent and intense hurricanes and monsoons will increase the number of cases and duration of exposure to pathogens and diseases.

Dr. James Hansen has argued all along that 5 meters of sea level rise by the end of the century is possible, saying:

“…IPCC treats sea level change basically as a linear process. It is more realistic, I believe, that ice sheet disintegration will be non-linear, which is typical of a system that can collapse.”

Hansen had posited a doubling time of ten years for land ice melt rates, but satellite data has revealed a doubling time that is occurring twice as fast. This would put those measurements more in line with the projections of physicist/climatologist Paul Beckwith who calculates we may be on track for a 7 meter(23 feet) SLR by 2070 if the doubling period of ice cap melt from both Greenland and Antarctica hold up over this century. Paul tells me that the recent developments described above support his views. Interestingly, there was a study published in 2013 that stated an eventual 23 foot SLR would be locked-in by the end of the century under BAU emissions based on best estimates of global temperature sensitivity to pollution and the finding that every degree Fahrenheit of global warming results in a global average long-term SLR of 4.2 feet. That study, however, did not take into account the exponential rate of ice melt now occurring.

What will 23 feet SLR look like? For some fairly accurate visuals, take a look at Nickolay Lamm’s work. In the U.S. alone, 1500 communities would be underwater at high tide. With its porous limestone substrate, South Florida would be completely lost:

Sea Level Rise 6 meters

Most nuclear plants are located along waterways for easy access to water for coolant purposes, making them vulnerable to storm surge flooding in a world of expanding oceans. Since decommissioning a nuclear power station is a long, expensive, and dangerous process, I can’t imagine we will have the time, money, or forethought to safely get rid of all these time bombs before most of them are swallowed up by the ocean and go Fukushima on the world. In addition, melting ice sheets and SLR can set off the most destructive of earthquakes and volcanoes. The toxic wreckage left behind by capitalist industrial civilization will linger around for millennia to haunt anyone who does manage to survive in this hellish future.

The year is now 2015 and the human population is still shooting skyward as if there is some sort of bright techno-utopian future on the horizon, the high priests of capitalism are still praising endless growth, fossil fuels are still the predominant energy source on the planet, and the masses still can’t get enough of celebrity gossip. No need to worry about the future. I’m sure if there’s a buck to be made by holding back the rising tides, we can count on some capitalist lurking in the shadows to fix the problem. Sea walls will do the trick, right? Humans are looking more and more like ants on a floating turd: “When the log turns over we will all be dead…”

The Twilight of Our Tale: Part Two

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Author: td0s

Cross-posted at Pray for Calamity

Part 2

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

-Kurt Vonnegut

Daffodils have thrust their green blades through the warming soil, and despite the softly falling sleet tapping on the still barren branches in the forest all around me, spring is here to stay. With spring came the thaw, and last week my gravel driveway was subsumed by the clay Earth under the weight of my truck. Life lessons are everywhere if we listen. Watching hundreds of dollars worth of heavy limestone sink into mud tells me something about man and his works, about diminishing returns, entropy, and desire.  It also tells me that if we had no capacity for laughter, we would likely have all died long ago.

This is going to be a year of stone for me. A friend helped me acquire many tons of reclaimed, hand hewn brownstone which I will now have the pleasure of carrying and stacking one at a time around the perimeter of our home. It was not long ago that I finished filling the trench atop which our cabin is built with gravel, all carried into place by hand in five gallon buckets.

Such work gives one time to think.  And to re-think.  And then to think some more.

One of my favorite writers of the current era is John Michael Greer. He posts a weekly essay at his website thearchdruidreport, and he posts a monthly essay on his more esoteric blog thewellofgalabes. Aside from his amazing ability to step back from the time we are living in, and to try to view the world through a wider temporal lens, he also has been keen enough to brave the topic of our subjective perception of reality. As the edifice of civilization weakens, such ideas are of great importance.  From his piece “Explaining the World.

“Most people nowadays think of the world as a static reality, over which time flows like water over rocks on the bed of a mountain stream, and to this way of thinking the rocks and the water are both “out there” existing by themselves without reference to any human beings who may or may not be observing them.

The interesting thing about this sort of thinking is that scientists pointed out a long time ago that it’s wholly incorrect. The world you experience is not “out there;” what’s “out there,” as any physicist will tell you, is an assortment of subatomic particles and energy fields. Your senses interact with those particles and fields in idiosyncratic ways, triggering electrochemical flows in your nervous systems, and those flows produce in your mind – we’ll discuss what that last word means later on – a flurry of disconnected sensory stimuli, which you then assemble into an image or representation.”

What Greer then goes on to extrapolate is that, in essence, the world as you experience it is a story you tell yourself based on cultural, biological, and sensory factors. Philosopher Thomas Metzinger delves into the same territory with his book, “The Ego Tunnel,” in which he ultimately postulates that a self does not objectively exist. As a biological entity of significant complexity and mobility, traveling through an unpredictable environment, we require an internal sense of wholeness to navigate the events we are presented with. The combination of a sensory image of the world before us combined with the perception of a unified center that is ínside as opposed to outside, creates what Metzinger calls, the Ego Tunnel.

Metzinger’s work is involved and discusses our perception of time and where we reside within it, and ultimately describes the same phenomenon Greer wrote about from a neurological perspective.  The long and short of such theories is that, we are a story that we tell ourselves.  Most of this story is delusion.

The more in-depth explanation is that our perceptions of ourselves and of the world in which we live are representations. You are a story that you tell yourself. The world around you is a story that you tell yourself. When you become despondent with the state of things, wondering why people aren’t rising up and changing the world for the better in light of just how bad the facts of our situation are, remember that by and large, we are not motivated by facts so much as we are motivated by stories. Remember as well that stories, like all of the creations of human beings that are intended to serve us as tools, are subject to the laws of diminishing returns. This is to say, they have shelf lives of usefulness. When a story people tell themselves no longer serves them under the conditions in which they exist, and when more effort goes into preserving the story than people gain in benefits from believing it, the story becomes useless, and the people who are wholly bound to it, who benefit the most from it, can become dangerous.  This applies to individuals as well as to entire societies.

Writing of a demon that destroys souls and leaves vacuous skinwalkers wandering the landscape in search of fried cheese and alcohol is certain to anger some readers. In our culture, objectivity is king, and any suggestion of a non-quantifiable phenomenon is treasonous to the dogma established and maintained by the church of math and science that proclaims their order has brought us all of the good we see in the world – medicine, computers, Instagram – and that those who promulgate non-measurable ideas are the source of all that is evil – superstition, war, fear, etc.  They would say my talk of demons is nonsense that only obfuscates the truth of our circumstances.

I claim no objective truth. I make no promises that the right Geiger counter or infrared camera will detect the fell beast behind the persistence of the system. But I do humbly suggest that the story we have been told – and have ourselves been retelling – is a story that is doing more harm than good. As evidence for my claim I present the tragedies unfolding in the world right now that are colliding in an exponentially more dangerous synthesis with every passing day.

Let’s be clear, the people responsible for acidifying the oceans, clear cutting the rainforests, and completely inundating our very blood and tissues with industrial fire retardants and other carcinogens are people who all subscribe to a particular story about themselves. It isn’t the people who tell themselves a story in which they are children of a mother Earth, bound by responsibilities to their ancestors, descendants, and land bases who are causing these traumas. It isn’t the people who tell a story in which the animals and the plants and the rivers are alive and sentient who are operating slaughterhouses, mono-cropping Round-Up Ready soy, or leaching coal ash into waterways.

We know which people do these things. We know the story that they tell themselves, because we are barraged with it. It is a hot iron brand that scars our hearts from birth or maybe before. We are hopelessly traumatized by and unflinchingly committed to this tale.

It goes like this:

We are the wisest ape, having discovered our place in an objective and material universe we set out conquering nature and are on a trajectory to move off toward colonizing the cosmos. Having beat back the jungles of irrational superstition we have ascended to the summit of being, as civilized and democratic individuals we have conquered our Hobbsian state of nature which was always nasty, brutish, and short. Our very nature is one of yearning for constant technological progression that consistently nets benefits in health, freedom, intellect, and ability.

But this is a tale, a myth, a television screenplay. As individuals we have been cast as characters, and we have lived the story so entirely for so long that we have forgotten that we dance about a thespians stage.

Nature cannot be conquered. Nature is not a thing apart from ourselves. We are spun of the same swatch of fabric as every tree, spider, moss, and pebble. Technological progress has brought us a body burden of toxicity and a land base that is struggling to survive, not to mention a near total erosion of personal autonomy. Behind every smart phone is a dragline, a smokestack, a poisoned waterway, and a whole mess of miserable human workers, shackled to cubicle or an assembly line while overseers look on, weapons aimed.  Not to mention the entire host of police, spies, and spooks all collecting every bit of data you generate should ever a case need to be manufactured to demonstrate your guilt.

And then there is us. We see ourselves as job titles, confused by shiny badges and expensive suits. Roles are internalized and we believe that police, and judges, and presidents are as real and immutable as rocks and rivers and trees. We forget that a throne is just a chair, and never even question the true nature of chairs. So as the world falls into chaos, as armies of maniacs establish oil empires, currency unions, and caliphates, we must remember that these are all just stories that have out lived their usefulness in a time of diminishing net energy and growing ecological catastrophe. This will be the hallmark of our age; a cacophony of myths from all corners of the globe parading into a Colosseum at the end of history, waging war to see who can stand as grand master of the steaming heap of slag and bones together they have wrought, all before the grand consequences of several millennia of civilization come torrenting down upon us like a deluge.

What story will be left standing to define who and what we are?  Stream live with the Google app. Vote for your favorite cultural delusion at #TeamBabylon.

Previously I wrote that a driving reason so many people daily scroll through blogs and forums and news feeds all reporting in on the latest horror stories civilization had to tell is because, they are in effect, hoping to come upon a plan. Maybe today will be the day some individual or group will have posted an effective guide as to how we can all finally come together and act to destroy the current hierarchies of power, end the needless daily violence doled out by agents of state and capital, and maybe even to reverse the ecological destruction that is wiping out innumerable species and habitats.

I wish I had that plan to offer, but I don’t.  I’m not sure that anyone could. This is an unsettling thought for many because we are so used to conceiving of problems as necessarily having solutions, as if both are cast simultaneously in a factory somewhere and the existence of one thus proves the existence of the other. Of course, when most people consider the totality of the crises bearing down on us, when they seek solutions, what they are really seeking are solutions that fit into the narrative of their current existence without disturbing its boundaries. This is to say, the solution must not involve too much discomfort, heartache, or death. It certainly must not call into question who we believe we are and what we believe we have been spending our entire lives or even our collective history doing.

Our blood is just too precious to spill. Our story is just too important forget, or God forbid, to erase.

So you, dear reader, my digital comrade, my friend unmet and so far away, are going to have to figure out how to endure. To persevere.

These times are bigger than you or I, and indeed, all times likely are. Remember, we are hunter gatherers who have been endowed by nature with a plethora of tools for navigating and thriving in the environment in which we evolved, and whether by some stroke of cosmic irony or demonic cruelty, we now live removed from the environment in which those particular tools serve us best. You exist as you do to successfully participate as a tribe member in an organic environment of subjective experience.  Instead you stand in line, you sit in traffic, you fill out the paperwork in duplicate before retiring to your domicile dominated by right angles to sit with your eyes open while advertisers spoon-feed you your dreams.  Awash in symbols and slogans and a depressing amount of pornography, is it any wonder that the bulk of the population requires some sort of stimulant or depressant or anti-depressant or anti-psychotic just to keep from lashing out?

To quote a bit of pop culture, “The odds are never in our favor.”

So I apologize, I have no plan for solving the massive and converging crises of age, but I do have some thoughts on how to persevere.  Every one of us is laden with emotional and psychological baggage, and as we move through ever more difficult and tragic circumstances it will not be of service to anyone to cling to old narratives and myths that have outlived their usefulness.  The work of finding a truer tale, a better tale, a story that we can tell ourselves that is healing and has the ability to carry us for generations will be difficult and will likely take a long, long time.  But we have to stop telling the wrong story.  The story we need to be telling is one we will all write together over the coming generations, and the process of altering from what is to what will be is likely to be heart wrenching and backbreaking for a long time to come.  For a beginning to be made, and one must be made, we must remember to catch ourselves in the moment when we demand that others keep up their end of the current tale, when we out of habit demand that they continue playing the old roles.  We cannot be afraid that if we walk away first, we will walk alone. The desire to end the current story is palpable, it percolates just beneath the surface.

In this moment we may not have the collective power to slay the demon, but dammit we can stop doing the heavy lifting of immiserating one and other for him simply by being so very careful about what we pretend to be.

Bloodwatch

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When past predictions of future catastrophic events like ice sheet melt, spreading tropical diseases, and forest fragmentation start to become reality while no substantial means to prevent them from happening has ever been implemented, you begin to question the phrase so often bandied about that “it’s never too late.” It was never too late decades ago and we’re still holding out on that hope. Despite any techno-utopian fantasies you hear in the news, economic activity and growth are still linked to CO2 emissions. Until this fundamental truth is dealt with, we’ll all be spinning our wheels and wringing our hands over our continued descent into ecological and societal collapse. Perhaps this is part of the reason I have not blogged recently. As Leonard Nimoy expressed in his last twitter message, I think I’ll try to enjoy the here and now while I’m alive…

Snap 2015-03-27 at 03.44.20

The following is a guest post by commenter BP:

The majority of people visiting collapse and post-peak sites are Caucasian, disillusioned, with a slimmer majority subset being male; in other words, representatives though not participating members of the failing power elite. If these collapsitarians did wield real power, they wouldn’t be deeply dissatisfied with the present social arrangement and secretly hoping for an honest to goodness smokin’ homecookin’ cracklin’ good ole’ fashioned apocalypse to happen in their lifetime. You know, just to spice things up a little bit and provide some entertainment because industrial living can be such a boooooring, regimented drag, man. Tick tock. Time to get up, time to eat, go to work, come home, go to sleep, wake up, rinse and repeat. Even regularity in our shitting is considered desirable in this totalizing system. Watches are slave driving devices – a shackle – your very own drill sergeant and task master all rolled into one convenient portable sleek wrapped modern design. Little wonder you have so many suit and tie clean-cut preppie American Psycho types with their rictus eternally sun shining grins (everything’s alright, everything’s fine, everything’s okay) resorting to extremes: bungee jumping, sky diving, narcotics and gambling, binge eating, binge shopping, binge TV watching, auto-erotic asphyxiation, any and all manner of titillation and stimulation just to get a rise. We’ve been dulled and sanitized, tamed and neutralized. The demographic comprising most of the power elite also happens to be the one most likely to become serial killers preying on their own species. If you live in a foreign land you might argue there’s no difference between Ted Bundy and the president. Either way, it’s another fun-filled pet project to while away the hours with. But I don’t want to give anyone any ideas, and I won’t be held accountable for what you do when you turn off your addictive electronic stimulus delivery systems aka computers tonight, even though we excel at passing responsibility onto something else. The lengths people will go… And these are the lucky ones who still have jobs. YAY!! I don’t even want to imagine life on the other side – we’ll all get there soon enough. Why spoil the surprise?

So raise your hands if you’re waiting for a giant or gradual (does it really matter?) clusterfuck that results in a significant reduction in our species’ numbers, because whatever you think is likely, it’s a necessary precursor to what ever comes next. The table has already been set and our carcass is the main dish.

Now that you’ve had your fill, how about some desert? I have a thought experiment that shouldn’t take too much time. Suppose you’ve decided to kill yourself. You’ve set a date, (a week from tomorrow), a time (midnight), thoroughly planned the method (hanging), bought the needed supplies (rope – duh!), and are dead set on following through. How, if any, would your life change in the time remaining? I’ll indulge in some fantasy since there doesn’t seem to be enough of that going around and Star Wars isn’t out until December. For starters, you could max out your credit and buy that car you’ve always fancied – you know, the one that runs on limited gasoline? You could also screw a few whores and not worry about contracting a venereal disease or what you’d have to say to your wife. Gorge on that chocolate cake and go for seconds topped with ice cream this time, downed with cola and chased with both pizza and hamburgers for desert. Why not? Fuck blood pressure, you’re going to die anyway. Then after your attention deficit disorder kicks in, you could switch to watching porn, wasting time playing Modern Warfare while eating Doritos and not feel one ounce of guilt that you could be doing something more with your life. Consume shit you don’t need to your heart’s content without any second thoughts! After all, ecologically speaking, we’re consumers! Let’s take a moment to give Capitalism some credit. It found a way to manipulate our basic human nature for its own ends and boy has it ever worked. Nothing has mobilized humanity – not pharaohs, despots, kings nor gods – like the wage economy. The best part about the whole affair is you can live without consequences because, in case you forgot, you’ll be dead in a week. Sound familiar? It’s a rarity these days when ideas and reality coincide. Yep, you guessed it. That’s exactly what our species has been doing – living large like there’s no tomorrow – and it’s hastening our eventual collective suicide.

And is that such a bad thing? There’s way too much despair, self-pitying, and despondent anger on these websites. Outside of our narrow anthropocentric perspective, the human race’s demise might even be cause for celebration. If that’s too much, at least it needn’t be mournful. After all, our history on this planet has proven that, if nothing else, we’re two legged, genocide-wreaking, blood-thirsty assassins. The only species that kills for fun, whether it be bipeds, quadrupeds or any other number of peds, we’ve obliterated them all. I’m confused by all this concern about surviving in a post industrial world. Are our souls (if we even have them) really worth saving? Even if a band of hardy survivors manages to achieve some semblance of harmony with their environment, sooner or later some marauding horde is going to come along, fuck things up, steal their shit, and rape their women. Hey, we’ve had a good ride. Nothing lasts forever. Time for something else to take a turn so we can join the dinosaurs. We aren’t going to change or magically turn into peaceful, loving breathren. That’s simply more wishful thinking, a romanticization of a few mythological hunter and gatherer tribes of the past projected onto the future. The reality is we rape, love, murder, bully, give and take, enslave, create music, art, math, and take pleasure in sadism (see UFC, boxing, WWE, Clausewitzian Warfare aka NFL, the latest scandal, the natural disaster channel aka The Weather Network/CNN and your generic horror movie and cop drama), all of which is hard-wired into our DNA. The human race is folly and cleverness stuffed into a complex paradoxical package. There’s no shame in that. I don’t see the point in worrying over what’s out of our control and what can’t be changed. It’s better to laugh than cry and maybe that’s all we can do. Time to stop demonizing the species.

And isn’t it also time we accept ourselves as natural? Our criticism of all the havoc we’re wreaking on the planet implies we’re outside, removed from nature; ironic since this divide is also acknowledged as part of the problem. Nature – ‘The Environment’ – is something we act upon – not a part of. Bullshit. We’re terrestial, carbon-based omnivores. There’s not an ounce of artificiality about us. That includes the products of our actions like the much-maligned villainous scoundrel PLASTIC. Dah, dah, dah, daaahhh. So what if humans synthesized 22 out of 117 periodic elements? That manipulation, as the word implies, came at our own hands with existing elements crashing together in high-speed accelerators. A polar bear – that sacred symbol for the ineffectual environmental movement – and its particular combination of constituent elements didn’t occur naturally on Earth for most of the planet’s history either. It will soon return to that condition in short order. And what of the indignant protest that plastic doesn’t degrade? Be patient. If our species lasts long enough, which I doubt, it might get to witness that little miracle. After all, a lot can happen in the next few billion years. Making the case that plastic is natural is not to say it isn’t disruptive. Any new arrival on the scene disrupts the existing order. Some things more than others. But it still derives from the Earth, doesn’t it? And so do we. And eventually, that’s where we’ll end up – 6 feet under. Maybe it’s better if that happens sooner rather than later. But it’s going to happen one way or the other regardless the constant declarations of ‘we have to do this…,’ or ‘if we don’t do that…,’ I hear on forums, in the news, at home. We’re good at giving ultimatums that we’ll never see through. Every day there’s a new resolution and self-imposed limitation proclaimed with the most dire urgency. The truth is we don’t have to do anything. The Earth will correct a wayward entity and return to balance. The catch is the new stasis doesn’t have to include us. Even if we could do something, it’s too little, too late. So do yourself a favor, enjoy your life and stop worrying so much. Maybe even laugh once and awhile. If you want to plant a tree – do it. If you don’t – knock yourself out. There are no imperatives. We’ve been unduly harsh on ourselves. Trying to be judge, jury, and executioner is just too damn exhausting. Well, my watch tells me it’s time to go to bed. Just another day in the life of the species… Tick Tock, Tick Tock.

The Twilight of Our Tale: Part One

Originally posted at Prayforcalamity.com

by TD0S

Part 1

“Protect your spirit, for we are in the place where spirits get eaten.”

John Trudell

Spring is moving in quickly, more quickly than I might necessarily want. My arms are worn enough to keep me from complaining about the break from hauling and splitting firewood, and sleeping the night through instead of waking up at three a.m. to stoke the embers and add more fuel to the stove is a welcome respite. I am quite concerned however, that the season for collecting maple sap may be cut abruptly short. For the best syrup season, night time temperatures need to drop below freezing, and day time temperatures need to rise to just shy of forty degrees Fahrenheit. A week ago, nights were just above zero and days didn’t creep past twenty. This week, nighttime lows hover in the high thirties and the days are approaching sixty. Of course, this could be a fluke, and I don’t want to scream “climate change” with every strange localized weather event, but the songbirds seem to be dropping anchor for the season, and I am recording the details of this winter’s drastic waning in the ledger book of such things in my mind.

The arrival of spring brings for me a surge of energy as I feel life return to the above ground world from the root-balls and burrows where it slumbered during the frigid and dark portion of the year. Spring also brings with it a workload beyond what I ever have time for, so the energy I feel running through my limbs as the sun shines down on my jacketless body is quite a gift. I mention such things because as the days lengthen and grow warmer, I have commitments in the garden and about the homestead that keep me from writing, so this will likely be my last piece for a good while. Such a hiatus comes none to soon, as I feel I am running short on things to say for the present time.

Why do we seek such writing anyway? If you’re like me, you are reading this very piece as you drink your morning coffee or tea. You are mustering the wakefulness required to go about your daily activity, but before you do, you are washing your mind in a bit of confirmation bias concerning the state of the world. Everything is going to hell, and on a daily basis you check in with the news feeds and blogger community to peruse the latest data points that confirm what you already know: climate change is accelerating as superstorms and droughts increase in ferocity. The people in power are still maniacs insistent on walling themselves off from the public with cordons of brutish and overly armed police. People without power are still being brutalized when they stand up for their dignity or merely exist between a capitalist and a resource. Some species went extinct. Some rainforest was clear-cut. Some stretch of ocean was overfished, or used as a radioactive dump-site, or both.

Rise and shine, the world is right where you left it when you went to sleep last night. Now go to work.

A few days ago I asked a young man I know who works as a dishwasher in a deli, “Why do you get up and go to work every day?” He answered, “To pay the bills.” I then asked, “What would happen if you didn’t pay your bills?” “I would be evicted eventually,” he replied. It quickly became evident that I was engaging in an exercise more than I was asking sincere questions, and he quite happily humored me as we ran through the entire sequence of events that would follow his not paying his bills. There are the police who would serve his eviction and the consequences they would face if they refused to do so, the police chief who would fire them, the mayor that would fire him if he didn’t terminate non-compliant police, and on, and on down the line. It wasn’t a new line of thought for him, and after playing the game of hypotheticals, I asked him what was behind this whole machination of human dominoes that forces people to work doing things they hate, like washing dishes in a deli.

He said, “Money. Greed.”

I offered a different possibility. “There is a demon behind all of this, manipulating us. It is an invisible and nameless demon that is trying to eat our souls.”

He laughed. I told him I was serious.

Perhaps you don’t believe in demons. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that no matter how much we know, individually and collectively, no matter how much anger we harbor, no matter how much we hate what it is our bodies and minds are engaged in for hours at a stretch every single day, we still go and do it. Minute by minute, hour by hour, no one is standing there making us do anything. It is all internalized. We are obedient. We are docile. We are domesticated.

Here is where you jump in and interject that bosses and landlords and police and judges all are waiting in the wings to punish disobedience. Of course they are. I don’t disagree. But remember, there are more bosses and landlords and police and judges all waiting behind the first set to make sure they keep to the rules and continue the game of civilization uninterrupted. Though this is obvious I point it out for a reason: there is no one to kill. There is no one person who if eliminated would provide for us the opening we need to stop the insanity of industrial civilization and to build something new, something sane, something with the potential for longevity.

Thinking of such things reminds me of “The Grapes of Wrath.” In the story, Steinbeck writes a scene in which the agents of the landowners come to tell the tenant farming families that they have to leave.

“Sure, cried the tenant men, but it’s our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it’s no good, it’s still ours. That’s what makes it ours – being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.

We’re sorry. It’s not us. It’s the monster. The bank isn’t like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men.

No, you’re wrong there-quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.”

The tenant farmers are pushed to anger at the blamelessness and absurdity of their situation.

“We’ll get our guns, like Grampa when the Indians came. What then?

Well-first the sheriff, and then the troops. You’ll be stealing if you try to stay, you’ll be murderers if you kill to stay. The monster isn’t men, but it can make men do what it wants.”

Steinbeck does a masterful job outlining the maddening and perplexing nature of our conundrum; people comprise the system, people act out their roles within the system, but people are not the system. So what the hell is the system? It seems so innocuous. It is rules. It is expectations. It is a series of triggers by which one human action results in an automatic response by another human who is just doing their job, and if they weren’t doing it, someone else would be. Of course, I am not trying to absolve any single person of the responsibility they bear for the actions that they individually engage in. I am however, interested in exploring the construction of the invisible forces that keep all of us participating in a system that we know is toxic to us physically and spiritually, as well as to the living planet at large.

It is so easy to blame the system. It’s just a word, and it is a stand in for the pieces and the whole of everything we see that is wrong with the way human society is behaving. Poverty? Blame the system. War? The system. Racism? The system. But what is the system? If it is just rules, expectations, and essentially stories that we tell each other, then why is the system so hard to change? Why is it so seemingly immutable? Why are we so damn helpless and ineffective at altering something so fragile, so simple, so made up? Could all of us really be so captured by something invented, something spoken into being and jotted down on flimsy pieces of paper? It’s as though we all began playing a game, only to realize that the game was playing us, and once begun there was no way to stop playing, even as we watched our movements destroy the world.

Maybe there is a demon after all. Maybe ignoring the demon, pretending it is not there endangers us further. Maybe the demon is an eater of souls, and its strategy is to diminish our power and our will through mindless labor, through a dulled existence of symbols and static, flashing lights and loud noises, addiction and poisonous food. Maybe for millennia, this demon has been slowly at work, gaining strength and refining its strategy, inserting its desires and ploys into our lives as politics, as capitalism, as war, as revolution, as status, as sex, as culture, as normal, as human nature.

Is it so hard to believe? Look around. Walk through a gas station. Look at the racks full of five hour energy bottles, E Cigarettes, scratch and win lottery tickets, chili cheese flavored corn chips, male enhancement pills, and thirty two ounce aluminum cans full of Monster and malt liquor. Step outside and see the fifty-foot glowing signs advertising Arby’s, Taco Bell, and some nameless pornography and sex toy megastore. Each establishment is serving up a small slice of death, of slavery, of misery. Each storefront and corporate logo is masking a sweatshop, a slaughterhouse, a slave, an oil spill, as another species gone from the Earth forever.

But we don’t believe in demons. We are too rational for that, too objective, too advanced. At least, that is the story we tell ourselves. But then I look around at the tortured landscape and the careless people moving through it who don’t seem to notice that they are traversing a spiritual wasteland, and I have to wonder.

Maybe when we go to the internet in the morning and look for the daily headlines and editorials, we are really looking for a friend, someone of like mind to join us in our knowledge and our fear of the events taking shape all around us that individually we are just too damn small to do anything about. Like office workers who jumped from the upper floors of the burning World Trade Center, we want someone with whom we can hold hands as we take the plunge into a future that has no good outcomes.

Or maybe, we are looking for hope, logging on and scrolling past link, after, link, after link until we find what we have been waiting for; a set of instructions. No more data points, no more statistics and measurements confirming what we already know, but a plan. For God’s sake, the catastrophe is spelled out in neon lights and it howls from a megaphone all day, every day. I have more awareness than my mind can bear, but what the hell am I, are you, supposed to do about it? We are so small. We are just one person. We are already late for work.

Step one: Protect your spirit, for you are in a place where spirits get eaten.

Living in Bizzaro World

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bizarro

Bizzaro Code: Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!”

For the past few days I’ve been nursing a bacterial infection on the dorsal aspect of my left hand with topical cream and oral antibiotics, and my hand appears to be healing quickly. I’m relatively healthy and this is the first time I’ve ever had this sort of thing happen to me. Left untreated, such an infection could fester for months, perhaps developing into an abscess and becoming life threatening. In a world of post-antibiotics, a tiny break in your skin could spell death for you. Despite a recent discovery of a new class of antibiotics, we’re still headed for a post-antibiotic age and unless we reform our system of profit-incentivized healthcare, infectious diseases will have plenty of poverty-stricken hosts within which to flourish and spread throughout the world. The wealthy are not hermetically sealed off from such human disease vectors. Anthropogenic climate disruption is already increasing the expansion of such pathogens and as with everything else connected to this grand climate experiment we’re conducting on ourselves, preparing for the consequences is an afterthought:

“We have to admit we’re not winning the war against emerging diseases,” Brooks says. “We’re not anticipating them. We’re not paying attention to their basic biology, where they might come from and the potential for new pathogens to be introduced.” – Link

Leading UK climate scientist Kevin Anderson has a new lecture out in which he explains how the world can have a 50% chance of staying below a 2ºC world (40% emissions cuts by 2018 from the wealthy, 70% by 2024, and over 90% by 2030.) The global wealthy are those defined as earning $30,000 a year. I posted Kevin Anderson’s video on a thread at Peakoil.com , and vox_mundi replied:

I’ve been following Kevin Anderson since his presentation at the 4 Degrees and Beyond International Climate Conference in 2009 at Oxford.

His points are inarguable – and that was before the positive feedback which we are beginning to see. His analysis is covered in the paper, Beyond Dangerous, and other participants assessments are here.

Whether or not Sao Paulo survives this year is immaterial because climate change is not going to be kind to their part of the planet in the coming decades. Unfortunately, this applies to just about everywhere else.

Vox_mundi is the one helping to keep all of us updated on the water crisis in São Paulo with his postings. The evidence tells me we have breached the tipping point for the desertification of Brazil. One thing to always keep in mind about the 2ºC climate goal is that it’s an arbitrary and politically convenient number set by business-as-usual bureaucrats:

Why was the limit set at 2ºC?
It was pretty much arbitrary, but characterized by policy and political folks as the amount of warming that the scientific community had established would “prevent dangerous” climate impacts. Danger, of course, being a relative concept. Former NASA scientist James Hansen and other researchers have concluded that 2°C of human-made warming would trigger natural feedbacks that could end up doubling that amount of warming. Setting the limit was widely seen, however, as one of the few positive outcomes from the 2009 U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen…
– Link

By all evidence(both scientific and individual observation), climate sensitivity of the Earth is much higher than most know and even a 1ºC rise is too much. The idea that staying at or just below a 2ºC warming can save us from catastrophe is a myth. For those who don’t know, climate sensitivity is:

…defined as how much the average global surface temperature will increase if there is a doubling of greenhouse gases (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents) in the air, once the planet has had a chance to settle into a new equilibrium after the increase occurs. In other words, it’s a direct measure of how the Earth’s climate will respond to that doubling.

We currently have a CO2e of 484ppm, nearly double that of the pre-industrial levels. As we approach the doubling level of 560ppm, then we can expect an average global increase in temperature of somewhere between “1.5 to 4.5ºC”, according to the latest mainstream research. The argument can therefore be made that we have already triggered the collapse of industrial civilization just by considering only the one global tipping point of climate change out of a total of nine planetary boundaries currently being monitored, four of which we have already crossed.

With the following headlines recurring every year, who are we fooling that these emissions will be reined in within our lifetimes:

Snap 2015-02-22 at 15.19.15 Snap 2015-02-22 at 15.20.04

To deal with the uncomfortable realities of manmade climate change, the Right practice denial of manmade climate change, while the Left employ the psychological process of displacement. Thus, no real solutions will ever come to fruition due to a great degree by these self-defeating mental traps. It’s also easy to forget or overlook these harsh truths when, as Democracy Later tweeted, “It is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions.” 

Capitalist industrial civilization has created a real bizarro world for itself from all the geopolitical blowback of resource wars and dark politricks, the entrenched vested interests of the military industrial complex and fossil-fuel conglomerates, the financial chicanery of the wealthy elite, and all the hi-tech gadgetry and weapons in the hands of every virulent extremist. ISIS now appears to even have their own TV show interviewing prisoners in cages before they make another snuff film. The world just seems to be getting more screw-balled by the hour. What the fuck is this?:

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.59.31 PM

Nafeez Ahmed has an excellent article on the failed state of Yemen and its slow collapse into a post-oil, post-water Mad Max land. Their primary crop is now qat, a mild narcotic plant whose cultivation sucks up even more of their dwindling water aquifers. As someone on Reddit said:

I know its sexier to focus on the collapse of rich states, such as America and various nations in Europe and Asia, but it will most likely be Yemen and other nations that provide a prediction of a future to come. Largely the modern nation or multicultural state will start to break down, beset by escalating crises in disaster, capital, and factional management until civil war breaks out. From that death spiral, who knows how far it will go…

In addition to a perfect storm of ecological and social problems that include overpopulation, resource depletion and climate change, there is also the baggage of imperialist U.S. foreign policies –arming and aiding corrupt and brutal kings/dictators, funding and arming radical extremists like Osama bin Laden’s jihadists in Afghanistan during the 1980’s, etc. in an effort to control global oil supplies and trade routes. In Bizzaro world, don’t expect any leaders of American Empire to touch those root causes with a 10,000 mile remote-controlled drone.

There Will Be Blood

By TDoS
Cross posted from Prayforcalamity.com

“He said that men believe the blood of the slain to be of no consequence but that the wolf knows better. He said that the wolf is a being of great order and that it knows what men do not: that there is no order in this world save that which death has put there.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

In Theodore Kacynski’s manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future,” he lays out many premises concerning the existence of man in relation to technology and technological societies. One of these premises is that modern people in technological societies are afraid of death because they have never lived. They have not used their bodies, minds, and souls to their full potential, and thus even in old age, feel like they are yet to begin. Kacynski writes about the primitive man who in his sixties, having seen the successful life of his child and feeling the weariness in his muscles and bones, does not fear, but welcomes his turn to sleep. Where these intuitions were passed on, cultures of indigenous peoples were able to form warrior societies whose success rested on the fact that individual braves had no fear of death. They viewed themselves as one with their people and their land, both of which were timeless, granting them strength of conviction when the situation called for it.

When we hear of people dying in our culture, such news is often quickly followed with statements about the unfairness of one dying so young. Even a fifty-year-old heart attack victim will generally be granted laments and declarations that their passing was too early. While of course the loss of a loved one is saddening, there does appear to be a trend throughout this culture that seems to speak of death as if it is not the ultimate outcome of every life. Death, like the environment, is but another inconvenience to be conquered by our cleverness.

In this culture, there is language of “rights” concerning life. It is said that individuals have a “right” to life, meaning then that death is some violation against the individual. There are even those who would like to extend such rights to animals. No one, according to modern people enculturated by the dominant dogmas, is supposed to die. Ever.

Of course, every living being is only so for a limited time. Death and birth are two phases in the same biological process, and where there is the latter, inevitably we will come to the former. What I find so maddening, is that this culture, so lacking in its ability to confront death, let alone to create and support the psychological and emotional infrastructure to deal with death, is such an efficient bringer of death. How a people so vocally dedicated to peace and the preservation of life can then unflinchingly create nuclear and biological weapons, institute economic castes which immiserate the majority to establish the privilege of the minority, and daily exterminate upwards of two hundred species is possibly the grand irony of our time.

The mind reels.

When just last month, the study “Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet,” was released, it got a lot of traction across the internet. The study, prepared by eighteen scientists from various international universities, grabbed headlines by claiming that human civilization had crossed four of nine environmental boundaries.

Of course such studies digitally shared from hard drive, to hard drive, to hard drive have never served to accomplish much in the way of real world action towards deindustrialization, and likely this one was and will remain no different. The trend seems to be that alarming data confirming that human industrial civilization is driving the global ecology to ruin, likely even to the near term detriment of this very civilization, only ends up spurring on those who believe that human industrial civilization can be done in a less harmful way, perhaps with the addition of more solar panels or the subtraction of capitalist motives.

Those who dare argue that civilization, and industrial civilization in particular, is the root cause of the destructive habits which are bringing all living beings to a point of potential collapse or extinction, are routinely dismissed as extreme. Such critics, before dismissal, are reminded of the dominant culture’s primary directive; “We cannot go backwards.” Suggestions that we must, in order to maintain a survivable habitat, drastically reduce reliance on industrial methods, products, and infrastructure are waved off as impossible, insane, or even genocidal. Defenders of the dominant culture and systems of industrial civilization claim that such reductions in technological application will axiomatically mean reductions in human population, and thus are off the table. These claimants are either oblivious to the fact that “going forward” with the methods and practices of the dominant culture would be at least equally genocidal, if not more so, or they harbor a quasi religious belief that human invention will save us from every single problem caused by previous scores of human invention. Always ignored is the clear fact that so called “going forward” will mean an increase in human population before the ecosystems which support them collapse, meaning there will be more humans to die when drought, famine, sea level rise, resource scarcity, and every other calamity currently rising to crescendo ultimately manifest in a symphony of systemic failures that existing political, technological, and economic structures are incapable of mitigating.

And then there are the non-human genotypes that most defenders of the dominant culture refuse to ever enter into their calculations.

When someone refuses to acknowledge a solution to a problem because it will indirectly involve death – even when the solution in question is attempting to select fewer deaths sooner as opposed to a great many more deaths later – this person is inserting hidden premises into the discussion, the most obvious of which is that people alive now have the right to exhaust the health of the land which people not yet born will need to rely on in the future. If upon the suggestion that we must globally act to deindustrialize in order to prevent overwhelming climate catastrophe, a person floats the counter argument that such deindustrialization will result in a reduction of currently available medical technologies, and is therefore an unacceptable proposition, this person is inserting into the discussion a premise that the lives of those who would no longer have access to the medical technologies they require are more valuable – this is to say, they have more of a right to survival – than the lives that will be lost – human and non – when industrial civilization fails and brings down with it the functioning ecology of the planet.

Such premises, to me, seem insane. A patent refusal to acknowledge the bare reality that all life, including human life, requires as a foundation a healthy and viable habitat is either obstinacy or a shameful level of ignorance. Claiming that one group of humans has more of a right to survival than others, or that humans have more of a right to survival than the rest of the web of life, is doubly insane.

At the end of it all, defenders of the status quo are not defending life, they are defending lifestyle. Proponents of the dominant culture and its myths of progress are really arguing for their own comfort, of both body and mind. Changing nothing presents no difficult ethical questions or messy physical conflicts. Going forward is the easy choice. This fact alone should ring alarm bells.

Why is death so unacceptable? If we cannot come to grips with death, then we will find ourselves collectively at an impasse where no necessary action will be taken, and industrial civilization will continue unimpeded on its course devouring forests, wiping out species after species, washing away topsoil, and rendering the oceans a lifeless acidic soup of plastics in various stages of photo decay. Somewhere buried in all of this is yet another premise; that to elect the death of even one is unacceptable, but to remain passive while existing systems dole out death to many is forgivable. Human agency seems to be the determining factor. The people who own and operate chemical plants that cause regional cancer clusters in children are forgiven. The death of one million pinpricks is too diffuse to assign blame. On the other hand, to intentionally kill the CEO of such a chemical company would be an outrage. It would be a tragedy. People on TV would say he died too young.

The dominant culture not only protects those high on its hierarchy, blurring lines of responsibility for the actions they take in the name of progress, but it also blinds every day people from the realities of just how it is they come to have the things that they do. Major systems of production and distribution that segregate individuals from the sources of their food, their clothing, the materials that built their homes, the fuels that power their cars and gadgets, create an illusory sense of existence. If a person perceives that food comes from a grocery store, gasoline from a pump, shoes from an online retailer, it is reasonable to believe then that this person’s perceptions have been skewed into believing that nothing must ever die for us to consume whatever we want in whatever quantities we desire. As long as the blood is on someone else’s hands in some other land far from sight, then there is no blood at all. It is this willful blindness to the day to day functioning of industrial civilization on the part of the world’s wealthier populations that allows a people draped in slave made textiles who are kept fed by the mechanistic rape of stolen land powered by stolen oil to stare up with their doe eyes and without a hint of irony ask, “But why do they hate us?”

So it is that so often we hear the claims of “green” capitalists who declare we can have our planet and kill it too. We are to shut our eyes and believe that solar panels, electric cars, fair trade mocha lattes, soy burgers, iPads, internet service, and all of the pills and processes in a modern hospital all just manifest from the ether. The rainforests clear cut, the oceanic dead zones caused by agricultural run off, the open pit mines, the oil spills, the nitro-tri-fluoride and other greenhouse gasses, and all of the whips and prods physical and not that herd about the masses of humans who do all the lifting, stitching, assembling, dismembering, and dying to bring such wonders to our shopping carts just don’t add up to dry shit.

That is how the dominant culture deals with death. It hides it. And when it can’t hide it any longer, it calls it “business.”

Various indigenous tribes have been able to maintain steady populations. In fact, for millennia, a handful of commonplace practices aided in keeping a tribe or band’s numbers in check. Breastfeeding infants until they were four years old helped prevent mother’s menstrual cycles from resurging, thereby keeping birth numbers down. The use of abortifactant herbs also helped women in the event of untimely pregnancies. When a group’s population was at a point where another child would bring great hardship, some tribal people would turn to infanticide. Picture the heartbreaking scene, as a mother lays a newborn infant on a cold hillside to freeze as the sun sets on a winter day. On the other end, tribes would at times decide not to work to heal ailing elderly members, and instead would begin ceremonial death rites when an older person fell ill.

This is the cultural imperative I am interested in. The ability of a people to confront the hard reality of their lives, and to make the soul wrenching choices that they must make in order to survive is not present in the civilized paradigm, not when it comes to allowing death. This is a delicate topic, to be sure, but one of necessary import as the world now hosts almost eight billion people, while conversely non-renewable resources are consumed at increasing rates, and the ecology is pushed beyond the breaking point.

Cultures that accept the inevitability of death create ceremonies and social forms for processing death. This is not to suggest that these people do not feel the pain of loss when a loved one passes, but rather to highlight that they develop a maturity surrounding death. They can talk about it. They can incorporate it into their survival strategies. They do not treat it as a cosmic betrayal of the individual’s right to exist for seventy-five years before a midnight expiration in a beach condo in Florida. Most importantly, cultures that make room for death do not become locked into a suicidal social paradigm, refusing to veer in their direction because doing so would result in the death of some, even when going forward would result in the death of all.

In my last essay I spoke of needing a new cultural ethos in order to prevent the wanton annihilation of the Earth’s life giving systems. This psychological and spiritual evolution must include maturity in the matters of death. Culturally, we must not shun death from our view, for when we do, we push his presence beyond sight, but not beyond efficiency. Beyond the hedge where death lurks ignored by modern man, he does his work still, and he plots against those who believe they have banished him with their cleverness. He plans a great party indeed.

My daughter is nearly a year old. She is my connection to the future, as my parents and ancestors are my connection to the past. I love her to my core, each cell in my body resonating with an urge to guard her, protect her, and to see to her survival. I think about the emptiness that would devour me if she were to die, so I do have a sense of the gravity concerning that which I have written. I look at my little girl, and the truth of life comes to me plain as the new day: we cannot banish sorrow. Heartache is the handmaiden of joy. The history of our species is the history of finding the strength to endure when it seems that all is lost, and when we see no reason to go on, feeling that the ground holds us still.

The complex problems we face require sober, adult analysis, but here and now we lack the methods and ceremonies necessary to act as a mature culture. Our unwillingness at all levels to confront uncomfortable realities has made dangerous adolescents of us, as our orgy of consumption and self aggrandizement has pushed the planet to the brink. There are tasks which demand our collective attention, and undertaking them, while necessary, will not be without consequence. There are few good options on the table before us. Meeting such difficult questions head on, with humility and grace, is the mark of greatness.

It is time to ask, “who are we?” and “who do we want to be?” As we stand right now, we are a belligerent cult of ego, drunk on the self, screaming our greatness as we charge forth trampling everything underfoot. We have a lot of work to do, and not nearly enough time to do it. Death rides whether we call for him or not.

Praying to the Gods for Rain

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Brazilian graffiti artist Paulo Ito​ in São Paulo

While capitalist carbon man clings to his position atop the billions of energy slaves constructed over shifting sands of geologic time, the stable weather regime of the Holocene is being pulled right out from under our feet. Governments pray to the gods for rain as the Earth’s glaciers melt away and climate chaos unfolds around us:

…In 2015, the party in power, the Workers’ Party (PT), still thinks the divine will provide for everything, making it rain so that hydroelectric plants can generate power for the people. This is not surprising for a government whose minister of science, technology and innovation believes that global warming is a tool used by imperialism to control the poor countries. For the current Government, any intervention by man in nature seems mysterious and unpredictable in its consequences…

What impresses most in government pronouncements is their view of nature as indomitable and wholly unpredictable. Any measure involving future projections is absolutely absurd and unfeasible for the government, which works in cycles of four years (up to the next election). If hydroelectric plants run out of water, we can only pray for rain to restore the dams to their usual levels. If potable water runs out, only nature can replenish the reservoirs. Like tribesmen for whom any human interference in climate is anathema, every solution proposed by the government is an appeal to fortune and divine grace.

…Brazilian politicians should be wary, however. Divine grace periodically answers the call for rain. And with the gift of rain, periodically Brazilian cities are flooded, hundreds die, and thousands are displaced. Even though that happens anually, without fail, the government floods are absolutely unpredictable, too. Well, what can we do? Let’s pray for rain. But not a lot.

Three primary elements have converged to make the present drought in Brazil the worst in its recorded history, threatening to bring the megacity down:

  • anthropogenic global warming(AGW)
  • rampant deforestation of the Amazon rainforest
  • gross mismanagement of water resources and government corruption

The first factor is planet-wide and beyond the ability of any one state, no matter how powerful, to solve alone. The accelerated warming that is happening twice as fast in the Arctic as any other region is known as Arctic amplification. This runaway warming of the Arctic is a result of the radiative forcing of GHGs, water vapor, and dark aerosol particles combined with increased solar absorption from loss in Arctic albedo. Consequently, the equator-to-pole temperature gradient is being weakened, meridional heat transport is decreasing, and sea levels are rising. These changes are altering the polar jet stream and affecting such things as ocean salinity, currents and oxygen levels. A recent study revealed that within a matter of 100 years, the Earth’s oceans have undergone extensive and abrupt changes in oxygen levels when the ice caps melted in the past. The early phases of a mass extinction level event are taking place right before our eyes, but humans view the world through anthropocentric rose-colored glasses, oblivious to such dangers happening on a time scale of more than a few decades.

Ten years before Jennifer Francis’ work on the effects of climate change to jet stream patterns, scientists had predicted that the loss of Arctic sea ice would warm the oceans and give rise to heated air columns which would act as powerful blocking patterns, altering jet streams and preventing rains from reaching California. The findings of their models are eerily similar to the recent weather phenomenon called the “ridiculously resilient ridge” which has continued to block any significant amount of moisture from reaching California for the past two years. Weather reports from Brazil describe similarly persistent formations of warm air columns:

Similar to last year, a giant dome is now forming over the heartland of Brazil that is blocking moisture out in eerily the same manner as it did a year ago. The reason for this may have little to do with natural occurring weather patterns, but climate change from deforestation from the Amazon, where experts have warned this could be the outcome and that drought could occur with increased frequency. Rather than regular rainfall, the areas directly impacted are getting both extremes with intense drought followed by above average rains and then turning dry again. – Jan 2015

Droughts are persisting in both Brazil and California, as well as many other parts of the world. It has been known for a long time that global warming would result in drought and crop failures, an enormously destabilizing factor to any government. To compound the problem, humans are pumping water from aquifers much faster than natural processes can replenish them. Both El Niño and La Niña weather phenomenon are projected to double in frequency:

…The paradox is that global warming could also increase the intensity of not just hotter-than-usual seasons but also cool or cold episodes that would trigger unusual or extreme weather responses far from the ocean’s cool centre.

So some parts of the world are likely to experience blazing drought, followed by catastrophic floods, while across the ocean, other nations will have torrential rain and then unseasonal drought, every 13 years or so.

Brazil drought as of Dec 2014:

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The second factor of deforestation is also planet-wide and its effects are not confined to the area in which it takes place. A recent study indicates that a denuded Amazon will have international ramifications:

The researchers report in the Journal of Climate that an Amazon stripped bare could mean 20 percent less rain for the coastal Northwest and a 50 percent reduction in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a crucial source of water for cities and farms in California. Previous research has shown that deforestation will likely produce dry air over the Amazon. Using high-resolution climate simulations, the researchers are the first to find that the atmosphere’s normal weather-moving mechanics would create a ripple effect that would move that dry air directly over the western United States from December to February…

…”The big point is that Amazon deforestation will not only affect the Amazon — it will not be contained. It will hit the atmosphere and the atmosphere will carry those responses,” Medvigy said.

“It just so happens that one of the locations feeling that response will be one we care about most agriculturally,” he said. “If you change the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, where most of the irrigation for California’s Central Valley comes from, then by this study deforestation of the Amazon could have serious consequences for the food supply of the United States.”…

40% of the Amazon has already been clear-cut or degraded to some degree, putting Brazil’s rainmaker well within the tipping point for irreversible die-off as discussed in the prior blog post. Deforestation of Amazonia will lead to desertification of the major agricultural regions in the south-east of Brazil. Speaking of Brazil’s drought counterpart to the north, alarming news was recently reported that California has lost half of its big trees since 1930. The following GIF image spanning the years 2001 through 2013 illustrates deforestation in Latin America(Brazil/Amazon). It was compiled by me from data at Global Forest Watch. The spreading pink color represents tree cover loss:

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And a closer look at Amazon deforestation with NASA landsat imaging:

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Brazil’s leading climate scientist, Dr Antonio Donato Nobre, is calling for a wartime effort to restore the Amazon and reverse the drought effects caused by its deforestation which equates to 184 million football fields worth of rainforest. While I’m not optimistic, small miracles have happened in Brazil such as the replanting of Tijuca Forest by hand. Nonetheless, the devastation wrought by man swamps all his restoration efforts. Virtually all of the Atlantic forests that once extended along the entire Brazilian coastline have been cut down since colonists arrived in the 1500s. Humans are wrecking the Earth in myriad ways, and sea level rise will become the ultimate destroyer:

The third factor of gross mismanagement of water resources and government corruption is truly what exacerbated the drought problem for the city of São Paulo. Since the 1970s, there were professors of ecology and hydrology at São Paulo University and in the government who warned of a future water crisis if steps were not taken to conserve and recycle water as well as plan new infrastructure for adequate water supply, as this article reveals. Some suspect that the problem with São Paulo’s water supply really began when Sabesp, the company that manages the city’s water, was partially privatized in the 1990s (i.e. profits over long-term planning). Sabesp is owned 50.3% by the state and the rest by private investors who have made excellent returns over the years. Investments in infrastructure appear to have been sacrificed for shareholder payouts. With the Cantareira system starting to fail in 2012/13, billions of dollars in dividends were still being paid out to shareholders, yet nothing was done to stop the unfolding collapse of São Paulo’s water system. In fact, government and Sabesp officials continued to deny the seriousness of the problem until just recently when they were planning to scrape the bottom of the Cantareira System for the last drop of brown sludge. Is it any surprise that disaster capitalism had a role in this crisis? An article entitled ‘Cantareira: a new word for when politics is put ahead of public interest‘ sheds light on much of the corruption, mismanagement, and privatization of water:

…São Paulo produces 60% of Brasil’s Ethanol, and Agencia Publica attempted to use a freedom of information request to force SabeSP to reveal details of their contracts of supply with the biggest industrial & agricultural companies in the state. SabeSP have so far refused…

…A United Nations report placed the responsibility for the crisis squarely on Sao Paulo state government & SabeSP’s shoulders, a report which Geraldo Alckmin attempted to make them alter, exonerating his administration, a request they refused...

…Geologists have also been studying plans to open up the enormous Guarani Aquifer to exploitation in order to alleviate the crisis. The World Bank already funded research in the late 1990s on the underground system, during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Their contract with Brazil to support this research stipulated that any future use as a water resource had to be privatised, but once that contract expired a decade later, Brazil refused to renew on the same terms…

With no time left to properly prepare for a megacity of 20 million people without water, São Paulo’s plan is to divert a river from another area hit by drought and that will take nearly 2 years to complete. The training for riot control that São Paulo’s military police received from the FBI last year may come in handy for more than just the World Cup.

Forests Precede Us, Deserts Follow

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As Goes the Amazon, So Goes the World

Thought to be up to 100 million years old and home to more species than any other ecosystem on Earth, the Amazon rainforest is a magical place, but your average soft-bellied city dweller of industrial civilization would last no more than a week there, likely succumbing to yellow fever, malaria, flesh-eating parasites, venomous snakes, and an endless array of creepy-crawlies. Nearly one-third of the planet’s biodiversity is found in the Amazon, including ancient indigenous tribes, hundreds of animal species, 16,000 tree species, 2.5 million species of insects, and new discoveries happening all the time. With a treasure trove of medicinal plants, many of which have yet to be discovered, the Amazon is known to many as the world’s largest pharmacy. 70% of all drugs introduced in the U.S. in the last few decades were derived from nature, and 70% of plants identified as containing anti-cancer characteristics are found only in tropical rainforests.

The Amazon discharges one-quarter of the Earth’s freshwater and plays a critical role in the Earth’s carbon cycle and climate, absorbing 1.5 billion tons of carbon every year through photosynthesis. Additionally, the Amazon’s 400 billion trees are responsible for producing 20% of the Earth’s oxygen and generating the region’s heavy rains needed to irrigate crops, fill reservoirs, and generate hydropower. A single large rainforest tree is the equivalent of a standing lake releasing up to 317 quarts (300 liters) of water each day through evapotranspiration (evaporation and plant transpiration). The importance of the Amazon rainforest in regulating not only South America’s climate but also that of the entire world cannot be overestimated. Like the Earth’s cryosphere, the Amazon and other rainforests are essential geographic features of the planet that help regulate the climate and provide habitat for unique wildlife. As with the melting polar regions, the loss of the Amazon to capitalist “resource development” will prove to be a self-destructive act for all of mankind.

imageedit_37_9661706827 The Biotic Pump Theory

In 2006, two Russian scientists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, used basic physics to theorize that condensation from forests, not temperature gradients, is what creates the low atmospheric pressure over land masses necessary for pulling moist air currents from the coasts to the continental interiors. Forests drive the water cycle on land. After two years and major pushback from the established meteorological community, their paper was finally published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and to this day has withstood refutation.

Gorshkov and Makarieva argue that meteorologists have long-missed an important driver of winds: condensation, and most importantly condensation caused by the major evaporation that occurs over forests. While scientists have long noted that deforestation also brings a drop in precipitation, no one could adequately explain the mechanism behind this. But Gorshkov and Makarieva argue that forests drive winds through “persistent condensation,” bringing in rain from the oceans. Put simply: no forests, no rain…

“During condensation water vapor disappears from the gas phase. Air pressure depends on the number of air molecules and is reduced by condensation. Areas with persistent condensation become zones of low pressure that suck in the air from the surrounding regions. Forests ensure both a store and a flux of moisture on land and thus create such persistent low pressure zones on land. This causes moist winds to blow from the ocean to land,” they explain.

Put another way, regions with lots of rainfall “set up a positive feedback in which they bring in moisture from elsewhere,” according to Sheil, who adds that, “Forests maintain the highest evaporation of moisture of any land cover.”…

…if the biotic pump turns out to be true, it would not change the fact that the climate is changing and herculean efforts are needed to mitigate both the causes and the impacts, whether that focuses on greenhouses gas emissions, forests, or, as it happens, both, since forests ability to store carbon is just one of the many services they provide. – Link

A more in-depth explanation of the biotic pump theory can be found in these two videos here and here.

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The biotic pump hypothesis explains what is behind the so-called “flying clouds of the Amazon” which carry moisture inland from the Atlantic ocean until they hit the Andes mountains and turn southward, dumping rain onto central and southern Brazil. Antonion Nobre, Brazil’s top climate scientist, is a proponent of the theory that forests function as biotic pumps for atmospheric moisture.

…As long ago as 2009, Antonio Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists, warned that, without the ‘flying rivers’, the area that produces 70% of South America’s GNP would be desert.

In an interview with the journal Valor Economica, he said: “Destroying the Amazon to advance the agricultural frontier is like shooting yourself in the foot. The Amazon is a gigantic hydrological pump that brings the humidity of the Atlantic Ocean into the continent and guarantees the irrigation of the region.”

“Of course, we need agriculture”, he said. “But without trees there would be no water, and without water there is no food.

“A tonne of soy takes several tonnes of water to produce. When we export soy we are exporting fresh water to countries that don’t have this rain and can’t produce. It is the same with cotton, with ethanol. Water is the main agricultural input. If it weren’t, the Sahara would be green, because it has extremely fertile soil.”

Like other climate scientists, Nobre thinks the role of the Amazon rainforest in producing rain has been underestimated. In a single day, the Amazon region evaporates 20 billion tonnes of vapour – more than the 17 million tonnes of water that the Amazon river discharges each day into the Atlantic.Link

In 1980, just 3% of the Amazon rainforest had been cut down, but today the total loss has grown to about 25%, and in the last five months of 2014 the assault on the Amazon has intensified with October registering a staggering increase of 467% in deforestation. Although agriculture and illegal logging constitute the majority of cleared land, a growing percentage over the last 13 years has been for gold mining, a process that is particularly damaging to the environment due to the toxic brew of chemicals left behind. The double whammy of deforestation and anthropogenic global warming continues to weaken the Amazon. Remember that the Amazon suffered two 100-year droughts within 5 years in 2005 and 2010 and failed to recover since then. Other studies have confirmed that the Amazon appears to becoming more unstable in response to the large-scale environmental impact of rising CO2 and the cumulative effects of land degradation by humans. A study that came out just last month indicates a tipping point of 30-50% deforestation of rainforests in the Amazon and Central Africa which could lead to global effects.

…“What this study shows is that there are additional, independent effects of deforestation on climate.”

Lawrence’s report is a peer-reviewed summary of existing research, and she found that deforestation, even at small, localized levels, can change the climate. “Farmers in one place are connected to farmers in another. Countries are connected to each other,” Lawrence said. “We don’t want to wait until the climate system has shifted so we can measure it on the ground.”

She said there is a possible “tipping point” of 30 to 50 percent deforestation for the Amazon and Central Africa. Deforestation beyond that could invite disaster.

“Tropical deforestation on many scales influences local, regional and even global climate. Deforestation-driven changes to water availability and climate variability could have strong implications for agricultural production systems and food security in some regions,” the report says… – Link

If we add up the harmful effects of climate change and deforestation to the Amazon, then the tipping point may have already been breached. According to the Global Risks 2015 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), water has for the first time displaced all other concerns to become the number one threat:

“Droughts, floods, glacial melt, unpredictable precipitation, runoff, groundwater supplies and water quality will all reflect an increasing instability as long-standing rainfall patterns change and weather extremes increase,” said Ganter.

The interconnecting risks regarding water, food, energy and climate change will be one of the overarching megatrends to shape the world in 2030, according to Ganter. – Link

São Paulo, Brazil: Repeating the Mistakes of the Mayans

2625A wall mural in São Paulo painted by Brazilian artists Mundano and Fel depicting a boat on a cracked riverbed

São Paulo, a megacity of 20 million people in southeastern Brazil, is suffering its worst drought in 84 years since the summer rains failed to materialize a year ago. Only recently did water officials finally admit how serious the crisis was and that they had covertly rationed water by manipulating flow pressure in various parts of the city under the guise of “maintenance work”. Cantareira, the city’s largest water reservoir, is currently down to just 5.4% of its capacity and officials have implemented plans for pumping a third dead volume that represents the “rock bottom” of the reservoir. And this crisis isn’t just confined to São Paulo. Ninety-three other Brazilian cities affecting 3.9 million people are rationing water due to the lack of rain.

As of 1-22-2015:

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Without water to run their hydroelectric power plants which provide 80-90% of the country’s electricity, Brazil has been forced to turn to more expensive and dirtier thermal plants burning natural gas, coal, diesel fuel and biomass. In turn, electricity rates have jumped 60% and Brazil’s CO2 emissions will undoubtedly increase. The rains may come again sporadically but I think the Brazilians have permanently broken the region’s biotic pump. What’s next for the wealthiest city in Latin America? Water wars will likely erupt for the last drop of moisture from a once-magnificent rainforest mowed down for hamburger-cattle, soybeans, and short-term profits.

Keeping the lights on and maintaining this current way of life is becoming increasingly tenuous as capitalist carbon man eats away at the last vestiges of a dying biosphere. Modern-day Brazil and the entire industrialized world are repeating the same mistake made by past civilizations such as the Mayans who cleared their forests for agriculture and development:

In the first study, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Arizona State University analyzed archaeological data from across the Yucatan to reach a better understanding of the environmental conditions when the area was abandoned. Around this time, they found, severe reductions in rainfall were coupled with a rapid rate of deforestation, as the Mayans burned and chopped down more and more forest to clear land for agriculture. Interestingly, they also required massive amounts of wood to fuel the fires that cooked the lime plaster for their elaborate constructions—experts estimate it would have taken 20 trees to produce a single square meter of cityscape…

…Because cleared land absorbs less solar radiation, less water evaporates from its surface, making clouds and rainfall more scarce. As a result, the rapid deforestation exacerbated an already severe drought—in the simulation, deforestation reduced precipitation by five to 15 percent and was responsible for 60 percent of the total drying that occurred over the course of a century as the Mayan civilization collapsed. The lack of forest cover also contributed to erosion and soil depletion…

…The collapse is especially intriguing because it seemingly occurred at “a time in which developed a sophisticated understanding of their environment, built and sustained intensive production and water systems and withstood at least two long-term episodes of aridity,” says B.L. Turner, the lead author of the ASU study. In other words, the Maya were no fools. They knew their environment and how to survive within it—and still they continued deforesting at a rapid pace, until the local environment was unable to sustain their society.

One of the lessons of these complementary studies, says climate modeler Robert Oglesby of the University of Nebraska, who worked on the second paper, is that our reshaping of the environment can often have unintended consequences—and we may not have any idea of what they are until it’s too late… – Link

One could safely say all human endeavor is at the mercy of the natural world and the vagaries of the weather. The ebb and flow of the mighty Roman Empire, along with its downfall, aligned with shifts in the climate, according to tree ring research:

…When [lead researcher] Büntgen showed the data to historians and archaeologists, they pointed out remarkable consistencies with what we know of past societies. At times of social stability and prosperity, like the rise of the Roman Empire between 300 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., Europe experienced warm, wet summers ideal for agriculture. Similar conditions accompanied the peak years of medieval Europe between 1000 C.E. and 1200 C.E.

The study also showed that climate and catastrophe often line up. In the 3rd century C.E., for example, extended droughts matched the timing of barbarian invasions and political turmoil. Around 1300 C.E., on the other hand, a cold snap combined with wetter summers coincides with widespread famines and plague that wiped out nearly half of Europe’s population by 1347… – Link

Believing that somehow things are different this time around and that our technological prowess will save us, few today pay much attention to the history of man’s folly and the overreach of past civilizations. The brutal reality is that nothing has changed since then except for the epic degree of capitalist carbon man’s hubris and the scale of his overshoot which has now reached global proportions, guaranteeing that no one will be spared, neither rich nor poor, wretched nor innocent. Meanwhile, our fearless leaders took a page out of The Onion the other day and got together to agree that “climate change is real and not a hoax” while inserting the caveat that humans are still not the cause. Did that really just happen?…Don’t let this surreal world get you down. We’re simply spectators observing the tragicomedy of the human race.

On the Supersonic Track to Extinction

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Where is the “Misanthropocene” right now in relation to past extinction events? The chart below tells the tale. Notice that our current rise in GHG’s is essentially instantaneous in relation to past warmings which took place over thousands of years. As far as scientists can tell, the current warming from industrial civilization is the most rapid in geologic time. Ice core and marine sediment data in the paleoclimatology archive have revealed brief periods of rapid warming and there is no reason to believe modern man is immune to such catastrophic and abrupt climate events. In fact, we know that the Arctic is already warming twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet. Earth sensitivity to climate change is now thought to be possibly double that of previous estimates. An entirely different planet can result from just a slight change in temperature:

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We’re about halfway towards the same CO2 levels as the Paleocene Thermal Extinction, but our speed of trajectory surpasses even that of the Permian Extinction:

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In 2005, Lee R. Kump and fellow scientists published a paper describing what would become known as the Kump hypothesis, implicating hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as the primary culprit in past mass extinctions. According to OSHA, “a level of H2S gas at or above 100 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health.” Prior to Kump’s study, the working theory had been that some sort of singular, cataclysmic event such as an asteroid strike was to blame for all mass die-offs, but Kump and colleagues proposed that a global warming-induced asphyxiation via hydrogen sulfide gas(H2S) was to blame for snuffing out life under the sea, on the land, and in the air. In past mass extinctions, volcanic eruptions and thawing methane hydrates created greenhouse-gas warmings that culminated in the release of poisonous gas from oxygen-depleted oceans. Humans with their fossil fuel-eating machines are unwittingly producing the same conditions today. The Kump hypothesis (elevated CO2 with lowering O2 levels) is now regarded as the most plausible explanation for the majority of mass extinctions in earth’s history:

Excerpt from Lights Out: How It All EndsSnap 2015-01-14 at 19.58.23

In the short term as both poles completely melt away and the Equator-to-Pole temperature gradient declines, the hydrologic cycle and storms will intensify, jet streams will be altered, global air circulation and ocean currents will be rearranged (especially in northern latitudes), and sea levels will rise. While some local winds will slow down, other areas may actually increase due to local temperature gradients becoming more influential than global ones. New research has indicated early warning signs of a collapse in ocean circulation. When that happens, the oceans ultimately turn into stagnant, anoxic pools belching deadly hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere.

As others have noted, our energy, transport and building infrastructure was not constructed to withstand a mutated planet blindly molded by over seven billion humans. For example, think of all those massive wind farms rendered useless by alterations in local wind patterns, hydro-power shut down due to devastating droughts, solar farms destroyed by large hail storms, etc.

Many are under the delusion that we’ll be able to turn this process around with “green energy” while ignoring that such technologies are derivatives of fossil fuel or that increased efficiencies will lower our carbon footprint while ignoring Jevons paradox. Countless other self-reinforcing feedbacks loops driving our socioeconomic system come into play as well such as rampant overpopulation (Overpopulation key driver of climate change, mass extinction), chemical pollution (“Every year, up to 400 million tonnes are produced and a thousand new substances concocted“), and capitalism’s inherent growth dynamics:

The monstrous capitalism we see today is the result of capitalism’s inherent growth dynamics. To give one modern-day example, the solar energy industry/movement began with the conception of local, i.e. decentralized, and roof-top solar electricity generation for local consumption. Today we see projects like Desertec (huge solar power plants in the Sahara that would supply 15% of Europe’s total electricity needs) and competition between European and Chinese solar panel producers for larger chunks of the world market.Link

The destructive trend has been inexorably cumulative:

…the central trend is verifiable: mass die-offs are on the rise, increasing by one event per year for the last 70 years.

“While this might not seem like much, one additional mass mortality event per year over 70 years translates into a considerable increase in the number of these events being reported each year,” explained co-author Adam Siepielski, a biologist at the University of San Diego. “Going from one event to 70 each year is a substantial increase, especially given the increased magnitudes of mass mortality events for some of these organisms.” Link

If we shed our anthropocentric blinders, the harsh reality is that nothing of substance is being done to prevent our own extinction, and after looking back at humanity’s track record for slowing down this beast of globalized industrial civilization even one iota, any sane and rational person would have to conclude that there are forces at work well beyond the control of any one group of people, any state, or even any one country. Humans have the dubious honor of being the earth’s first sentient beings to have thoroughly documented their own demise while arguing with each other over whose fault it is. And the longer the Keeling Curve stretches skyward, the greater the odds that we will pull the trigger on a geoengineering scheme to slow down the inevitable:

Do these experts—the top scholars and scientists researching the subject in the world—think we will see geoengineering in our lifetime?

“Let’s see it for ten years,” the emcee said. A few scientists cautiously raised their hands. Twenty and 30 years saw some more converts. When he called out “fifty years,” more than half the room had their hands up.

That, according to the experts, is a 50-50  shot that someone is going to try, this century, to engineer the Earth’s climate. To hack the planet. Link

Techno-capitalist carbon man’s fetish with high-tech gadgetry has already gotten the best of him. Just look at us glued to our iphones, tv’s, internet, and sundry other social media tools. We’re addicted to and dependent on our technology, and the idea of pulling the power plug on this way of life is unthinkable, not to mention fatal, for those raised within its confines.

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“In Earth’s history we see climate changes over time, and we know that some of these climate changes were associated with enormous biological destruction. How could we believe that the same sort of experience moving into the modern-day wouldn’t do the same thing?” ~ Dr. Peter D. Ward