Yes, we need to talk about climate change again, and it’s probably necessary to start with a point I’ve made on this blog several times already: anthropogenic climate change is real and serious, and it’s being exploited by political and corporate interests to push a dubious agenda on the public. Many people these days don’t seem to be able to keep both these ideas in their heads at the same time. If you find it hard to do that, dear reader, I’m going to encourage you to make the effort, because a great deal of rhetoric is being deployed these days to make you forget that real problems can have fake solutions.
Imagine, to use the inevitable metaphor, that you’re on the proverbial ocean liner, which has just hit the proverbial iceberg. As you stand there on deck, someone grabs a bullhorn and announces that the real problem is that all the money in your pockets is weighing you down. He insists that if you’ll only hand all your money and other valuables to him, and let him row away from the doomed ship in one of the lifeboats, the people left on board just have to flap their arms vigorously and they’ll be able to fly away to safety in Newfoundland.
The problem you face is unquestionably real; go belowdecks and you can see the water rising. Does that mean that the solution being offered by the fellow with the bullhorn is the best option you have, or indeed that it will work at all? Of course not. The fellow with the bullhorn is betting that you’ll be sufficiently panicked at the thought of imminent drowning that you’ll accept a claim that, under other circumstances, you’d recognize as utter nonsense. It’s a common theme of history that people can be convinced to accept claims almost as silly as the one in my metaphor if they’ve been whipped up into a sufficient state of panic. Yes, I’m suggesting that that’s one of the things shaping the contemporary debate on climate change.
That doesn’t mean that anthropogenic climate change is unreal. One of the things we’ve learned over the last century or so of research into paleoclimatology is that the atmosphere is delicately balanced, and modest shifts in the mix of gases that compose it can cause significant temperature changes. The dust and gases from a single big volcanic eruption can jolt the global climate hard. That’s what happened in 1816, when the eruption of Mount Tambora caused a sharp decline in global temperature that led to crop failures all over the world’s temperate zones. (New England farmers for years afterwards called that year “Eighteen hundred and froze to death.”)
The same thing can happen on a larger scale when ecological shifts add or subtract large quantities of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. That’s what happened when European diseases swept across the New World after the first transatlantic voyages, causing 95% fatality rates among North America’s native peoples and letting millions of acres formerly cultivated as farmland return to forest. The drawdown of carbon dioxide required by all that tree growth drove a three-century cold snap called the Little Ice Age, plunging most of the northern temperate zone into sharply colder conditions, with drastic impacts on politics and culture worldwide.
The Earth’s climate is delicately balanced, and plenty of factors can make it swing one way or the other. Scientists have known for years that the “solar constant”—the measure of light and heat we receive from the Sun—isn’t constant at all, but varies slightly according to intricate cycles; other cycles, many of them still poorly understood, push global temperatures one way or another. And into this delicately balanced system, since the industrial economy went into overdrive in the 19th century, we’ve dumped trillions of tons of carbon dioxide, and the rate at which we’ve been dumping it has soared steadily since the end of the Second World War.
A smart move? Er, no. Compared to the total volume of the atmosphere, trillions of tons may not seem like much, but it’s much bigger than the plume of dust and gases that made 1816 “the year without a summer,” and comparable to the changes that caused the Little Ice Age—just the other direction. Furthermore, we’re already getting blowback from it. Low-lying areas such as Miami Beach, well above tide level fifty years ago, now have seawater sloshing through the streets whenever an onshore wind boosts a high tide. Those of my US readers who garden know that the USDA planting zones have shifted significantly northward just in the last two decades. More worrisome, the annual cost of weather-related disasters has been climbing steadily for years; many factors feed into that growing burden on the global economy, but an increase in the severity of storms and weather phenomena generally does seem to be a significant part of it.
So the problem is real; the people who are worried about anthropogenic climate change have that much right. It’s the next steps that get complex. Those steps involve what’s coming, and what can and should be done about it—and in both these cases, we very quickly get into territory that’s rather reminiscent of the fellow with the bullhorn in my metaphor.
Listen to climate change activists talk about what will happen if something isn’t done right away and you’ll get to hear apocalyptic claims that rival anything Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins put into their schlocky Left Behind series—if you’re not familiar with this, it’s more or less the Fifty Shades of Grey of Protestant apocalypse porn. Mark Lynas’ lavishly marketed 2008 climate-change opus Six Degrees, though a bit dated at this point, is typical of the genre in its gaudy portrayal of a world tucked under the broiler, as well as its proselytizing tone—again, the parallels with Left Behind are hard to miss. There’s plenty more of this sort of thing being splashed around by the corporate mass media these days.
The difficulty, in turn, is the same one encountered again and again by apocalypse-mongers: the universe keeps on failing to live up to their predictions. Do you, dear reader, remember the loud pronouncements not much more than a decade ago that the Arctic Ocean would be ice-free by 2013? I certainly do. That’s far from the only prediction of imminent climate doom over the last quarter century that’s fallen flat on its nose. People on the denialist end of the debate have taken to circulating long lists of loudly ballyhooed climate predictions from the past that turned out to be dead wrong, as a way of pointing out that the supposedly authoritative pronouncements of respected climate scientists are tolerably often no more accurate than a flipped coin.
The difficulty, here as so often, lies in the complex relationship between scientific knowledge and the collective discourse of our time. In those disciplines that haven’t been wholly corrupted by money and fame, scientists tend to be highly cautious when talking to other scientists; they hedge every statement with caveats, because they know perfectly well that the people who are reading those statements have the necessary background to pick them apart, find the flaws, and send a letter to this or that scientific journal exposing your mistakes for all your colleagues to see. That’s a key part of the scientific method, and when it stops happening—when criticism within a discipline is no longer permitted and a rigidly defined consensus governs what you can and cannot disagree with—you know the discipline has sold out.
On the other hand, if you approach a discussion outside of the scientific community with all those caveats, and the subject is anything even remotely controversial, you can expect to have the caveats shoved down your throat by your opponents, who are used to a different mode of discourse. Scientists who find their feet in the public sphere thus quickly stop offering the caveats, and start using the same rhetorical tricks as their opponents. Unfortunately one of the most common of those tricks involves taking your argument further than the evidence will go, and making whatever claims you think you can get away with.
The late Carl Sagan was a notable example of this latter habit. Those of my readers who recall his career will remember that he coauthored the paper that introduced the concept of “nuclear winter” to public discussion. (For those who don’t recall this, it’s the theory that nuclear war would cause sudden global cooling along the same lines, and for the same reasons, as the Tambora eruption in 1816.) That original paper—the TTAPS paper, as it was called after the initials of its authors—was a solid scientific study that showed that there was a serious risk of global cooling lasting for many weeks, and gave facts and figures to support that argument.
Sagan wrote two more pieces on nuclear winter, though, which were not intended for his fellow scientists. He contributed to a 1984 volume, The Cold and the Dark, which was aimed at an audience of scientifically literate laypeople. He also wrote a 1983 article for Parade Magazine—a weekly that at the time was inserted into Sunday newspapers around the country—which was thus aimed at the scientifically illiterate public. Compare those with the original study and a curious trend emerges. Where the TTAPS study predicted a period of cooling lasting for weeks, his piece in The Cold and the Dark replaced that with months, and the Parade article stretched it out to years. Sagan was involved in antinuclear activism, and apparently couldn’t resist the temptation to play fast and loose with facts to prop up the case he was trying to make.
The difficulty, of course, is that politicians can get away with that but scientists can’t. Politicians get their authority because either they hold public office, or there’s a real chance they will hold public office sometime soon. We don’t listen to them because they’re right, since they so rarely are; we listen to them because they’re powerful. Scientists, on the other hand, get their authority because they’re supposed to know more about the way things work than the rest of us. When they start acting like politicians, people notice, and stop paying attention to what they say.
If you want to see just how far climate scientists have gotten into what we might as well call the Sagan syndrome, by the way, ask them about the global cooling scare of the 1970s. Odds are the immediate response you’ll get is an insistence that it never happened. If you present them with the titles and authors of books written during that period that treated global cooling as a reality—those aren’t hard to find—they’ll typically backpedal and insist that well, maybe so, but scientists didn’t support the global cooling scare. If you demonstrate that respected scientists did in fact do so—and again, this isn’t hard to do—they’ll either get angry and start shouting or insist that, well, maybe so, but it wasn’t the consensus among climate experts.
Don’t tell them about the 1972 climate conference at Brown University here in Rhode Island, which brought together 42 of the world’s top climate scientists, and ended up sending a letter to President Nixon and putting papers in Science and Quaternary Studies warning of imminent global cooling and a possible new ice age. If you do that, I promise that they’ll get angry and start shouting, because you’ve caught them behaving like politicians rather than scientists, and they’ll know it. You can get the same effect by asking dieticians why we should believe what they say about cholesterol now, when we all know perfectly well that in another ten years they’ll have changed their minds again. Laypeople aren’t supposed to question scientists like that—at least that’s what scientists like to tell themselves.
In point of fact, we don’t know what’s going to happen if we keep on dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Linear models—the sort that predicted an ice-free Arctic Ocean by 2013—clearly don’t work, and anyone familiar with complex dynamic systems knew in advance that they wouldn’t work: in a system of any complexity, linear change in one variable doesn’t produce linear change in other variables, it sets off unpredictable feedback loops and turbulence that makes slow background shifts difficult to track. That’s what we’re seeing with the climate: increased unpredictability and turbulence over a background of slow change. The Arctic Ocean will almost certainly end up ice-free one of these days, but it may be a while, and Florida’s going to be underwater eventually but it may take a couple of centuries for that to happen. That’s how climate change happens in the real world.
So the shrill insistence that we’re facing a climate emergency and we have to take drastic action right now is a political claim, not a scientific one. The drastic action—well, that’s another matter. The open secret of climate change activism is that the solutions being offered by activists have uncomfortable similarities to the claims of the fellow with the bullhorn in my metaphor. Decades of heavily subsidized growth in solar and wind power haven’t dented the steady increase in carbon dioxide emissions, for example—not least because solar and wind power technologies depend on vast fossil fuel inputs for their manufacture, installation, maintenance, and disposal—so it’s disingenuous to claim that putting even more money into solar and wind power will do the job. As for vegan diets, bans on plastic straws, and the like, those are virtue signaling covering up an unwillingness to accept meaningful change.
For two decades now, in fact, the people who are loudest in their insistence that something has to be done about climate change have been the same people whose lifestyles disproportionately cause climate change. If you commute all alone in an SUV, fly to Mazatlan or Spain every year for a vacation, and keep up the other habits of absurd extravagance that go with an upper middle class lifestyle in the industrial world these days, even if you eat a vegan diet and never touch a plastic straw, your carbon footprint exceeds that of ten deplorables in West Virginia or a hundred ordinary people in Indonesia or Uruguay. If you’re one of the rich and famous at the forefront of climate change activism, your carbon footprint exceeds that of a Third World town.
So there’s an obvious way for the people who are most concerned about climate change to take drastic action concerning it: they can change their own lifestyles. One ingenious blogger has launched a campaign to encourage exactly that under the hashtag #BanPrivateJets. It’s a great plan and it would do a lot of good; private jets owned by the rich and famous dump millions of pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, and all of that could be done away with easily by banning private jets; what’s more, the people who would be inconvenienced by the ban are the wealthiest among us, and thus have ample resources to adapt. So can we expect celebrity activists to voluntarily ground their jets anytime soon? I don’t recommend holding your breath.
Au contraire, the behavior of climate change activists, and of the corporate media and multinational business interests that fund and promote them so lavishly, makes sense only if you assume that they want everyone else to stop using fossil fuels so that they don’t have to. The shrill claims of impending doom, the insistence that we’re in a climate emergency and everyone has to accept drastic restrictions that climate change activists show no trace of willingness to embrace in their own lives, make perfect sense if the game plan is to buffalo most of the people in the world’s industrial countries into accepting a sharply lower standard of living “for the planet,” so that the upper twenty per cent or so can maintain their current lifestyles unchanged.
If that’s what’s going on, though, it’s a losing game. The project of splitting industrial societies into an affluent minority and an impoverished majority by offshoring jobs and flooding the labor market with immigrants has already generated a furious populist backlash so forceful that in the US and Great Britain alike, globalist parties are desperately scrambling to avoid giving voters the chance to choose between their policies and those of the populist insurgency. From science through politics to the corporate media, the spokescritters of the status quo have been caught shoveling smoke so often that the prestige they once had is a thing of the past—and no, it won’t work to do as some privileged pundits are doing these days and insist, plaintively or angrily as the case may be, that the rabble ought to stop asking unwelcome questions and believe blindly in whatever their supposed betters tell them. Those days are over.
Does this mean that we’re simply going to have to deal with whatever anthropogenic climate change throws our way? To some extent that can’t be avoided at this point, as a lot of change has already been baked into the cake; what’s more, since climate change activists clearly aren’t willing to change their own lifestyles for the sake of the planet, nobody else is going to agree to do so either. (“Do as I say, not as I do” has a very poor track record as a political strategy.) That said, there are things that can be done, if people are willing to think about anthropogenic climate change as an ecological problem, not as an excuse for pseudoreligious apocalyptic fantasies, political grandstanding, or attempts to shore up the crumbling power of a waning managerial elite. As an ecological problem, it has solutions, and the most cost-effective and readily deployable of those come from the field of appropriate technology.
I’m thinking here among many other things about a recent discovery at an Australian university. Did you know that cows like to eat seaweed? Ranchers who raise cows near the sea routinely find their herds on the beach or even belly deep in the surf, munching seaweed. It so happens that one variety of seaweed has the effect of nearly eliminating the production of methane in cows’ digestive tracts. Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and has been coming out of the bellies of ruminants in vast quantities since long before humans arrived—think of the herds of buffalo that used to roam the North American plains, or the herds of aurochs (the wild ancestors of cattle) that once thronged the steppes of western Eurasia.
Could we fine-tune emissions by giving cows seaweed to eat, so that excess carbon dioxide (which benefits plant growth, by the way) is balanced out by decreased methane? It’s worth trying—and the Australian scientists are working on methods to raise the seaweed in question so it can become a common additive to cattle feed. That would have to be phased in gradually so the results didn’t swing the climate the other way, but that could easily be managed, given a less hysterical approach to climate change than the one being pushed by activists these days.
That’s only one example of the kind of appropriate technology that we could use to cushion our species’ impact on the biosphere. Replacing wood with hemp as a feedstock for paper and other uses could be another—the faster a plant grows, the more carbon dioxide it sucks out of the air, and hemp grows much faster than commercial softwoods. For that matter, large-scale tree planting is a viable strategy, deliberately copying the events that led to the Little Ice Age to cool things off a bit, especially if the trees are left to mature rather than being cut down early in their life cycle—again, we’ve got hemp as a replacement. Combine these and other bits of appropriate tech with the phasing out of a few absurd extravagances like private jets, and we can bring climate change to a halt, or at least slow it down to a pace that we and other species can handle.
This requires, of course, a sharply different attitude toward relations between humanity and nature than the one that’s guided environmentalism for the last forty years or so. We’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.
In other news, fans of my epic fantasy series with tentacles The Weird of Hali will want to know that the final volume in the series—The Weird of Hali: Arkham—is now available for purchase in print and ebook editions. The conflict between the old gods of Earth and a cult of mad rationalists who want to turn the rhetoric about Man’s Conquest of Nature into a bloodstained reality has reached its culmination, and Owen Merrill and Jenny Chaudronnier are once again in the middle of it all, seeking the lost incantations that alone can free Great Cthulhu from imprisonment and save life on Earth. Interested? You can order a copy here.
Perhaps the many climate activists should be at home milking their goats and mending their clothes instead of travelling far and wide to lecture us all. Personally I just love being lectured.
I do think we’ll see substantial sea level rise fairly quickly. But given the estuary restoration and fish passage needs here on the West Coast, perhaps the ocean rising will flood new estuaries and allow the salmon the swim over the roads that they can’t swim under.
Climate disruption is certainly hitting the accelerator, but the froth about it is taking all the oxygen. We’ve got major problems in the realms of water and air pollution, toxic chemicals of all sorts used willy-nilly and with total disregard for good sense, and a culture of aggression and domination toward the less trampled spaces of the world.
In the Pacific Northwest, the legacy of colonialism includes, among other things, basins and watersheds with streams that are too warm for fish. While climate change adds to that danger, the magnitude of water temperature increases likely from global warming pales in comparison to the stream cooling we can get by putting trees back in riparian zones and ending clearcutting of forests in favor of ecological forestry.
While hypocritical climate change “activists” may be overplaying their hand, the citizen movements about water and toxic air pollution seem to be gaining steam. As a student of history and an ecologist, I’m curious to see where this goes. As a human being, I hope we can change our culture from dominion-focused to collaboration with nature. I tend to put my political action in that direction.
JillN, and of course milking goats and mending clothes are exactly the sort of activities most global warming activists would rather be found dead in a ditch than be seen doing. Those are things that poor people do, after all — and the one thing that people of the comfortable classes more than anything else, the thing that haunts their nightmares and makes them turn pale and trembling at the merest thought, is that anybody should think that they have less money than they do.
Bunny, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fair amount of sea level rise, especially from the melting of the Greenland ice cap — the current round of temperature shifting seems to be concentrated over the arctic regions. You’re right, and crucially so, that climate change is far from the only issue that needs to be addressed, and that a less domineering attitude toward nature is essential; that’s one of the reasons why it’s important to see through the way that climate change is being manipulated by pressure groups for unsavory political ends.
The fantasy that renewable energy will allow us to extend our current lifestyle while drastically curtailing fossil fuel use was dramatically pointed out to me by a good on the ground example this last weekend. My wife and I have been apartment dwellers for the last ten years but we have recently started looking for modest simple home to spend the rest of our years in and minimize our energy use. We went to visit a nice little craftsman style home that had been built by its architect owner 20 years ago for maxium natural light and low energy use but had a heat pump because it was a bit off the beaten track. It recently had a solar photovoltaic system installed ( which is what first attracted me). But on arrival I found it was one of those grid-tied setups that was installed by Solarworld ( now Tesla I think) and not owned by the property owner and not capable of being used in the actual home as it had no storage and was not connected that way. It could only be fed back in to the grid to generate credits. The real estate agent proudly announced how wonderful it was as no homeowner maintenance was needed and it offset the normal $250 per month electric bill by $25 to $50 dollars per month. This pretty much sums it up, we can power our future on Solar Photovoltaics but only if we first reduce our energy needs to 15% to 20% of what they are now. A simple solar water heater would have been a much better value, but some fat cats ( greta’s backer maybe) would not have been able to feast on the subsidies I am sure they harvested by installing and owning this system.
In both my first (longer) and more recent (much briefer) sojourns on PoliticalWire, one of my “regulars” often spoke of what he kept terming “the need for cooperation” in response to this climate emergency. I had been continuing to propose my strategy of let’s-all-build-self-reliant-economies-and-live-within-our-means, but he was having none of that: “not practical,” he’d say. “Will never work.” When I would press him for examples of what exactly he meant by cooperation, it was very much a song and dance routine, largely because–I strongly suspect–he was actually advocating something much more compulsory and centralizing (the fact that he took exception to my repeated mentioning of national sovereignty was one clue among several that I picked up on). I suppose this sort of thing is not uncommon.
Interestingly, I read one review of the most recent Democratic debate that noted that there was little if any mention of climate change as an issue. Curious as to what significance you might put on this fact, if it is indeed accurate. (I tend to read up on political debates afterward, rather than watch them–much better for my health, I find.)
Also, I’d be curious if this week’s post produces more or less or perhaps a different variety of the usual trollery you receive. How do they respond to your observation that an actual crisis can be used for illicit purposes, for example? By simply ignoring your point?
Beyond banning private jets, what other kinds of policy initiatives would you like to see in place?
Is it within the scope of possibility for our species, as the lone actor, to drastically reduce climate change then?
Of course I’m aware humans can have an impact, even a large one, but somewhere along the way I seem to have picked up the impression that we’re too small a piece of the large and complex overall pie to function effectively as the sole agent of change. Perhaps it only appears that way because I’m looking at it from an anthropogenic, and thus much too brief, time frame?
thx for laying your position out so clearly. Where I’m struggling is the bit at the end which seems to suggest that a few tweaks can address climate change, or at least as much as isnt already baked in. But where does that leave fossil fuels? Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t (or can’t, or don’t need to) significantly reduce? Im finding it hard to reconcile this with the way you describe it in The Long Descent, or the way you discuss limits to growth elsewhere.
Given that we’re going down the slope, doesn’t the end of this article provide a sense of tweaking BAU that isn’t really feasible?
Interesting point you made about scientists and the general public having different modes of discourse. One of the things I value about the net is the ability to find nuanced sources of info – nuance being mostly absent from the MSM. I have to admit I sometimes get frustrated by all the caveats in leanred papers, but they are important. Perhaps climate change would be taken more seriously if apocalyptic predictions were fewer, and further between.
A good post as usual. This idea that “real problems can have fake solutions” goes a long way toward explaining the pitiable state of political discourse in this country – i.e. if you disagree with a program, you must hate the people the program supposedly benefits. Which is why when you’re defending something like the Affordable Care Act, it’s a lot easier to just say that Republicans want to take away your health care than to confront the question of which corporate interests really benefit from a law that forces people to buy health insurance or pay a fine.
Returning to the subject of environment/climate change, I must confess that, prior to finding your blog earlier this year, I didn’t take environmentalism at all seriously. I was aware that there was this group of people with a long history of demanding centralized political power and lifestyle changes made by someone else, and backing it all up with apocalyptic predictions that didn’t come true. And so I knew to pretty much ignore whatever they had to say.
Your perspective – that climate change and environmental degradation is a real problem which the elites of our declining civilization have approached with their usual hypocrisy and penchant for cynical power grabs – does a much better job of explaining the observed situation in the real world.
I’m not sure why anyone would stick their neck out to make a prediction about when a future climate event (like the total melting of the Greenland glaciers) might occur. As you say, the weather is a complex dynamic system, which makes long-term predictions almost impossible. However, the other thing about complex dynamic systems is that they can stay stable for very long periods even as their subsystems are going through drastic change, until suddenly they collapse, like a Jenga tower.
The one thing most climate watchers agree upon is that many things — like the melting of glaciers and Antarctic ice and sea level rise — are happening faster than was originally predicted. And there are feedback loops lying in wait, which, once triggered, will speed things up a great deal. One is the methane stored in now frozen tundra, which will become volatile as the land thaws (which is happening). Another is the fact that as the ground warms up it releases greater quantities of carbon to the atmosphere. I’m sure there are other surprises we don’t even know about. At any rate, even though some things have not happened as quickly as predicted, things could get bad very quickly once we reach a tipping point. But that may not be for a while.
Actual recent conversation with Faceplant friend on a thread about Greta Thunberg:
Me: She’s got so much negativity aimed at her, she must be crushed and exhausted in ways we cannot imagine. Even if she thinks she’s fit to carry the cross she thinks she’s chosen to bear, it’s not cool to let her traipse into the role ofJoan of Arc. We all know what happened to Joan. The public eats this sort of person alive even before they officially martyr themselves.
I’m fine with any and all of this once she is physically and mentally an adult, but right now, her delayed puberty (if it happens at all in her eating-disordered body) is being used so she can act as a human shield.
Also, sorry to disappoint anyone still reading… the world isn’t going to become uninhabitable within the next 10 or 20 years. Anyone who wants to make a bet with me is welcome: let’s set a date of reckoning for October 14, 2029. A hundred dollars says civilization will NOT end a decade from now, in fact, I suspect that we’ll all pretty much be generally the same as we are now, just ten years older. I’d actually bet a whole lot more than that except anyone who bets against me would lose their shorts. Take the example of Guy McPherson, who walked away from a cushy, tenured professorship at an Arizona university to live in a doomstead on the fringes of society. The guy keeps on predicting the fall of world civilizations because of geological feedback loops and he keeps on getting owned because he’s pretty much always wrong. Could there be a war in the West? Yes, but that’s most likely going to happen in Europe when it happens and civilizations survive wars all the time. If you believe in an apocalypse, ask yourself WHY. There are reasons to want an apocalypse that most often have to do with the simple gratification of watching the evil get their comeuppance and/or feeling ill-equipped to adapt to your own circumstances here and now. Meaning, if you believe wholeheartedly in an apocalypse, chances are you believe in it for the same set of psychological reasons a Christian fanatic invests in the Rapture. Again, ask yourself WHY.
Friend: I’d love to think we had ten more years of, what? “normality”? But look around you. Fires, arctic melt, the f***ing jet stream altering? And you’ve got that s***head making everything environmental a whole lot worse. And we’ve got a d***head I can barely distinguish from the drumph. Shortages of medicine, yours from your greedy government’s system, ours from the Brexit debacle. Soon supply chains will break, and if you think empty supermarkets are not something to worry about, well… I’m having as good a time as I can manage, in my small way, before tshtf. But man, imo, ten years would be gravy!
Me: We’ll see. I’ll put a hundred on it. With inflation, that should be the equivalent of about $20 in ten years, ha ha. In the meantime, the best strategy to fight the stupidity is to rise above it. Personally, I need to learn soapmaking (I keep procrastinating on this), diversify my ways of making a living a little bit, become a better gardener, figure out a way to drive a car much less often, and generally keep on keepin’ on. The hard part is figuring out how you will cope if the world isn’t coming to an end — I think it’s much tougher to do that than to dream about being the plucky survivor of an apocalypse.
I believe someone like Musk is an enabler, as they say in the addiction community. His achievements are impressive, but he is promoting the idea that it’s okay to use 4600 lbs of Tesla to shift 200 lbs of American. This type of extravagant energy use is at the heart of the problem. Not to mention most electric cars are charged overnight when the sun doesn’t shine, so claims of them running on renewable energy are debatable.
As succinctly stated by Chicago machine politician and Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”
Are you sure politicians aren’t powerful because we listen to them, or rather, some large subset of the professional-managerial class has decided to amplify them to a level louder than we can hear ourselves think?
A very good article. Especially considering that we don’t understand the host of feedback loops that can occur in complex systems. Methane bubbles up in Russia, but the thermal-saline conveyor belt is getting weaker. Do you bet on the dark horse you like, or the one that’s gonna win?
I’m concerned that Global Warming has become THE ISSUE when there are other important environmental declines in plain view. Farmers are tearing out the wind breaks and plowing road to road. Pesticide use is up and the populations of insects and birds show it. Biological diversity is lost year after year. Global Warming becomes that big issue you can cry over, but not fix, and so the doable fixes are ignored or minimized.
Your solution is correct. Embrace of a smaller, low-tech ethic as the only option: like it or not. Sadly enough, we won’t do this voluntarily, but some economic downturns and energy crunches will drive us to it. I hate to wish poverty upon us, but we have misused wealth. The sunny possibility is the discovery of a happier, more meaningful life.
I genuinely wish we had taken the hint in the 1970’s. We had a good chance then. –JD
As a child, I used to say that “renewable resources are renewable only if you renew them,” and “ultimately, all resources are renewable if given enough time.” I think that encapsulates a lot of my ideas in regard to collaborating with nature, even to this day.
I think a key part going forward is accepting that people are always going to do what humans have always done, and set up incentives to reward behavior that helps the situation, punish people who aren’t helping the situation through taxation, and to ban certain ridiculous behaviors like private jets and like letting Homeowner’s Associations ban hanging your clothes out to dry.
I would also like to see laws to heavily tax vehicles based on size. Coming from the auto industry, there’s been an arms race to make vehicles heavier and heavier, and, as a result, it’s not nearly as safe to drive a small vehicle in the United States as it should be.
What I cannot for the life of me figure out is working class people who aren’t making voluntary changes in their lives. I know for a fact that a not insignificant portion of the climate change activist crowd belong to the lower end of the salary class and even the wage class. I’ve hear the same talking points from them that I hear from the middle and upper end of the salary class.
Any thoughts on this phenomenon?
Clay, that’s a fine real-world example of what we’re dealing with. We can realistically get maybe 15% of our current energy supply from renewable sources, and since that’s what we’ll have when the fossil fuels are gone, that’s the goal toward which we need to be aiming in the middle to long run collectively, and sooner than that individually.
David BTL, that’s the same sort of thing I’ve encountered over and over again — forceful insistences that “something has to be done” combined with handwaving and already-disproved notions about what should be done. Thus my sense that what’s going on is an attempt to use climate change as an excuse to impose the same divide between the privileged and the rest that the global economy was all about.
As for trolls, I’m still waiting for them. They often wait until Thursday to put in an appearance; I suspect they’re waiting for ShareBlue et al. to decide what the party line is going to be.
Pygmycory, I’d like to see conservation retrofitting on the grand scale, with low- and no-cost loans made available from a rotating fund for homeowners, landlords, and businesses to increase the energy efficiency of the nation’s building stock — there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit there. I’d like to see a similar arrangement to get solar water heaters on every roof in the country — that right there would knock 10% out of home energy use, and a comparable percentage from many businesses. I’d like to see rail travel brought back to what it used to be in this country, with safe, cheap train routes serving every town of any size in the nation; it we subsidized our trains half as much as we subsidize highways and airports we’d have the best train system in the world. I’d like to see old-fashioned electric streetcars make a comeback in a big way as urban transport. I’d like to see major tax incentives for planting trees on the grand scale; I’d like to see hemp replace wood as a feedstock for our entire paper supply, plus as many other uses as ingenious inventors can come up with. I could go on. Have you really forgotten all the things we talked about in past blog posts about appropriate technology?
Disciple, that depends very much on what you mean. Our species could, in theory, change its own behavior to stop contributing to climate change. Will we? Probably not — but the point I want to make is that there are options other than the one Extinction Rebellion is calling for, which is suspending democratic process and encouraging governments to take on dictatorial powers in response to yet another canned “emergency.” (Where have we heard this song and dance before?)
Oh, blessings on you John Michael!! From an ancient and rabid organic/permie/regenerative etc. tree-hugger, thank you for the seaweed info (cows leading the way to the answer!) and info on forests = Little Ice Age. The word is getting out…. lots of great books and ‘pioneers’, including scientists, doing the necessary research. Couple of recent books I’ve read: Grain by Grain, B. Quinn; Dirt to Soil by G. Brown, 2% Solution by Courtney, and so many more that are slipping my mind. This is the stuff that truly floats my boat. (Plus a favorite, ‘A Paradise Built in Hell’ by Solnit… supports my faith in human nature.)
I think this says a lot about the current well-funded, professionally designed, multi-pronged, campaign promoting a ‘plant-based’ vegan diet vs a real meat diet. More and more blind, randomized clinical trials show that our prehistoric carnivorous diet, including involuntary ‘fasting’, is the answer (for many, not all!) the major diseases of modernity… and it seems to be making some very, very big ‘players’ nervous… and that only happens when their profits are threatened. I hope medical entities aren’t that venal, but after the Sackler-opioid tragedy, who knows!
First, I base my vision of the future on your books and blog entries, so my criticism below is from basically the same position as you.
I am disappointed with the quality of this post.
Here are a couple of notes after the first reading.
“Ice free arctic by 2013” – I know some models that predicted that. It is cherry picking not to mention other models (like IPCC) that predicted 2100. Let’s say the Arctic will be ice free in a decade (best estimate currently). What model was closest to reality, the one that is off by a decade or the one off by almost a century?
Also by bringing in public opinion you muddy the waters. Should the scientists stop creating models because they might be wrong? Limits to Growth was a very simple set of models and yet we are tracking their standard model almost exactly.
As for the public hate for scientists, I know from reading you that is a standard feature of collapsing empires.
It’s not the science that has changed (it was always corrupted) but the benefits for the public are not there anymore. I don’t think your appeal to the masses has any merit here.
Finally the hopium ending to this blog entry is very weird. Sounds like one of those preaching books you rightfully criticize. With > 7 billion people on Earth, even living like Africans, the ecosystem collapse will continue unabated.
Given the way evolution works I fully agree that people will not consume less just so the rich can continue their extravagant lifestyles. So how will these steps that you suggest are going to work? Poor people stop eating so the rich can plant trees in their fields?
What about the price of beef fed on this special diet? And the destruction of thebocean to grow more seawewd? It all sounds like vaporware to me.
I think our hope rests where you put it on previous writings: individual and community actions. But that will not change the climactic shift underway or stop the civilization’s collapse.
Remember the mantra “they’ll think of something”? I believe I have found the something, aaand, guess what, it isn’t a scientific discovery, it is a real estate deal!
This from one Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabonco”, “independent writer based in Mexico”, in voice of the overlords Geopolitical Monitor:
is merely a matter of time before the Antarctic Treaty is rendered obsolete by the geopolitical race to controls its resources. Actually, it is believed Antarctica’s promising potential could offer vast deposits of metals like gold, silver, copper, iron, titanium, nickel, manganese, cobalt, zinc and uranium, along with hydrocarbons. Hence, the prospect of mining operations there is likely to be conceivable in the near future. Accordingly, the active presence of great powers in Antarctic territory will be a fact on the ground sooner or later.
See, we can have (seize, or buy if we have to) all the rare metals for all the cute gadgets you might want. Hermano Jose is a bit more explicit than most mouthpieces for the overlords, but I expect he will learn. He was previously writing in the same venue about how wonderful it is that Trump wants to own Greenland, for similar reasons. I am going to guess that “based in Mexico” means has a nice apartment in SF which he can’t admit to because American deplorables are getting a bit surly about foreign journalists, that is, publicists, who live here.
The article is “Rethinking New Zealand’s Grand Strategy”, all about how NZ needs to be more integrated into the world economy, that is, into the Anglosphere. Never mind what business someone “based in Mexico” has opining about NZ strategy. .
Varun (if I may),
I can think of two possibilities:
On the one hand, particularly among the lower end of the salary class, the desire to signal membership with one’s “betters” is a powerful motivation. Thus, parroting the party line while avoiding anything that would make one look poor. This pressure can be especially acute for folks who know, deep down, just how tenuous their grip on middle-class status is.
On the other hand, especially for those in the wage class (but also the lower end of the salary class), there can simply be a lack of time and vital energy. When I consider the unending hours many people work, at jobs which sap their physical, mental, and emotional energy, there might just not be anything left at the end of a 70-hour week than to come home and collapse. Yes, making changes now might ease those burdens in the future… but there still needs to be the time and energy, here in the present, sufficient to learn about and implement those changes.
Another thing gives me hope… if I recall correctly, gas jumped to approx $100/barrel around the 2008 ‘recession’ (why is another mystery) and within a month or two, gasoline consumption dropped significantly. Seemed to me that a lot of people can make a major change rather quickly, when incentivized. It impressed me, or maybe I’m misremembering and someone can straighten me out.
Thank you Mr. Greer for another well thought out post. My question is along similar but still somewhat tangential lines. I was looking at your work on catabolic collapse where you talk about some of the environmental factors such as waste/pollution that contribute to a collapsing society. I was wondering if you knew whether this idea had gained any traction within the scientific community, or whether it is largely being ignored the way so many useful responses to climate change and social decline are. I really think if your theory became more mainstream people would be better able to hold more constructive thoughts on climate change in their mind while also understanding the nefarious way politics has misused the subject.
No, I’ve not forgotten what you said in the appropriate technology posts.However, those were primarily focused on individual action, rather than collective. That’s why I asked this question, to get a better idea of your thoughts on what should be done at the collective level, since in the past few posts on the climate movement you’ve said plenty about what you are against at the collective level.
Apologies for not being clear.
What I was wondering was even if we do, as a species, reduce our contributing behavior as much as possible, would it have enough of an impact to drastically slow the process? Or are the increasing rapidity and severity of climate change related weather events part of a cycle which we humans just don’t play a major causal role in.
I meant it as a theoretical ecological question, not a political one.
Hopefully I worded it better this time.
Matt, I’m not suggesting that a few tweaks will take care of it. I’m suggesting that there are constructive options, using appropriate technology, that can cushion the impacts of anthropogenic climate change and slow it down dramatically. I’m also suggesting that talking about such changes makes a lot more sense than doing as the current protests are doing and demanding that somebody else do something else about problems the lifestyles of the protesters are causing. Yes, I think there’s still a real chance that constructive changes can be done even this late in the game.
Christopher, I’m quite sure it would be. Most people have seen through the apocalypse schtick at this point, and when activists wave it around for the godzillionteenth time, the audience these days simply rolls its eyes and walks away.
Wesley, thank you. I wish I could disagree with your description of the current state of the environmental movement, but I can’t. In a future post I’ll be talking about an older idea — conservation — which has a very different focus, and has tended to produce much better results in practice; I’ll be interested to see what you and other readers think of that.
Ruth, one of the things that I’ve noticed with some puzzlement is that so many people talk about feedback loops as though they’re always positive feedback loops, i.e., those that tend to amplify changes already in process. In the natural world, by contrast, most feedback loops are negative feedback loops, i.e., those that tend to contain and reverse changes already in process. This notion that instability always means a sudden move to the extreme, and that there can’t ever be sudden jolts back to equilibrium, flies in the face of everything we know about complex dynamic systems, in and out of ecology — and it’s one of the sources of the fixation on worst case scenarios that causes so much bad planning and so many failed predictions.
Kimberly, excellent. Did your correspondent take the bet?
Martin, very much so. I’d love to see a good thorough analysis of the ecological costs of manufacturing a Tesla, including all the rare earth metals, solvents, plastics, etc., etc. — if it’s comparable to equivalent analyses I’ve seen, it produces more carbon in its manufacture than an ordinary car burns in its lifetime, and as you point out, that doesn’t include the carbon from the electrical grid!
Jonathan, every human society has a political class that gets listened to because it’s powerful; chieftains of tribal societies and headmen of hunter-gatherer bands fill that role just as effectively as Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. Of course there are variations in how each of them get and hold power, but it seems to be a constant in human societies, so not just the product of one particular situation.
John, and of course that’s also a crucial point — carbon dioxide is not the only pollutant that matters, and pollution is not the only environmental issue that matters.
Throughout geological history there have of course been warmer and colder periods and we are currently in a colder period punctuated right now by a warmer interglacial. Although the warming of the world is undoubtedly going to have some vast negative effects on a variety of species including us, in the long term could it potentially kick us out of the glacial period and into a warm and wet period? In effect this could make the world more tropical, like previous warm and wet times when there were palms at the poles. Tropical rainforests are the most biodiverse places on the planet, so perhaps we go through a lot of extinctions but come out the other side with an explosive radiation. Obviously it’s not that simple as ocean currents and the positions of the continents have a big say too, plus all the other non linear possibilities, but I’m looking for a silver lining.
Politically I’m an anarchist at heart, and believe that in almost any circumstance involving government, less is more. So I certainly wouldn’t support any suspension of democratic process. However, if I’m honest with myself I don’t see a great deal of evidence that we’ve learned anything from history and seem destined to repeat it. E.G. the growing support for the democratic socialist ideology.
These are all great ideas. I am also heartened by people in the agroforestry/silvopasture/permaculture scene converting annual staple crops to perennial, woody staple crops. Did you know chestnuts are about the same caloric value as corn but can live to be a thousand years old? Think of all that carbon sequestered if cornfields in the eastern US were returned to chestnut dominated forests (which they were before the chestnut blight.) Mark Shepard has been doing some great work on making this realistic in terms of large scale farming, using machines, able run on hazelnut oil that his co-op produces from the understory of these systems.
That was very lucid, but the last paragraph surprised me. On the one hand, “vaporware” 😉 technology like messing around with cows’ farts can’t be depended on to reduce CO2 to preindustrial levels, and prohibiting private jets won’t be nearly enough either, though it is a very good step to take. On the other hand, if one thinks sea levels might (!) rise substantially in our lifetime (or even in that of our children), a very large effort to reduce CO2 would be warranted.
You have yourself written often enough about the necessity to strongly reduce car use by restructuring cities, and many other even more drastic steps. I get the impression that your last paragraph is somewhat polemical in puncturing the apocalyptical bubble. First-time readers might oversee your caveat about the climate change that is already baked in, and not know that you consider fossil fuel use will be curbed by falling EROEI before climate change truly bites.
Another great property of hemp, for those who aren’t already aware, is that it can be used for remediation of contaminated soil – I believe the correct term is phytoremediation – it will suck up any number of toxic chemicals and substances. Another win for appropriate technology!
Very well said Mr. Greer, thank you.
As far as I can tell, private jets will be the very last thing to be given up. Apparently those who own them really, really like them, as evidenced by your picture of Davos or Bernie Sander´s continuing insistence on them. Perhaps we better just concede it and start producing synthetic or algae based jet fuel.
I have been wondering about something else sort of related. It seems we have a new glacial maximum (ice covering much of the planet) every 10 to 20 thousand years or so. Since our last one ended about 12 thousand years ago, we are due for another pretty soon, by geological time. Could our carbon dioxide production reduce or prevent the next one? Global warming seems much better than glaciers, especially if we are successful in limiting it, no? Might this all turn out to be a blessing after all, in the long, long run?
of all the foolish ideas that have emerged from the climate change debate is anything worse than a “green new deal”? corporations that made trillions damaging our habitat will now agree, for a few trillion more, to repair some of the damage they’ve done. the idea of ponying up trillions of dollars to pay general electric for wind turbines or bechtel for dams and power plant refits makes me ill. even exxon is on board with plans for capture and sequestration of some of the megatons of carbon they have inserted into the atmosphere.
Another quick note: there’s a new documentary (Michael Moore was one of the producers) which gets to some unwelcome truths (ones that JMG has been writing about for years) about how “alternative energies” are not going to solve the climate crisis or allow the privileged classes of planet Earth to maintain the lifestyles to which they’ve become accustomed – it’s called “Planet of the Humans” and, not surprisingly, is having difficulty getting itself distributed. I’ve had my eye out for it but so far it’s not available for viewing except at select screenings. Here’s a link to an article about the film: https://www.weareiowa.com/news/national-news/new-michael-moore-backed-doc-tackles-alternative-energy/
Greenpeace is out to get rid of cows because of methane. I just wonder how much farting humans will do when switching to beans as suggested. “Why should we feed cows with soy from brazil when we can eat locally produced beans instead”.
I would prefer a nice warm north. Grape vines above the artic circle? Bacchus would approve as well as Pan.
As ever, a great thought-provoking essay!
A few years ago I started to notice that the land maintenance policy of a small local government area was undergoing a shift away from rigid adherence to close-cropped grass strips adjacent to public roads and the gradual introduction of more and larger areas sown with wildflowers. Not only the insects benefit from the increased diversity of habitat thus allowed to exist and flourish but it gladdens the eye of most people also. And the example of that modest change in a small area has been copied by larger authorities with much greater landholdings.
I make mention of this because we’re apt to forget that many seemingly insignificant initiatives can produce wildly successful outcomes. And zoning regulation changes seem like the ideal arena for community activism.
If any climate change activists were truly interested in conserving creation, and not only in giving their lifestyle a new legitimization they’d stop instantly calling for the “Energiewende”, to use the German buzzword. There are federal states in Germany which are close to 50% electric (!) energy generation by solar and wind power. You should see, how dramatic the landscape has changed and experience how it feels to live close to bunch of powerful windmills turning at full speed. To reach 100% renewable generation of energy, we’d have to increase even those 50% regions by a factor of 7 minimum. That will make the land almost uninhabitable, unless you don’t mind never going outdoors again. Currently discussion is about whether windmills should be allowed (again) to be built closer than 1000 m to settled areas. We want the them to be not too close to our homes – but any other creature, their peace and their well-being, we don’t mind. Just put them right into the forests, as it is frequently done. Cutting down energy consumption, I mean doing it, not just talking about it? How dare you! The same arrogant, destructive attitude towards creation as always, now in (more or less) fresh green clothes.
These images are no fake, and if you can see the whole panorama and all across the land, it is much, much worse.
But who cares, when you can have smart home, smart industry and netflix…
Perplexed and frustrated greetings from Germany,
Phil, I’ve read somewhere that the obliquity and the orbital elements of the Earth will be such that the next ice age will come rather in 50000 years. I don’t know what climate change will do to the way the Milankovitch cycles express themselves.
To JMG: Yes, she enthusiastically took the bet. I have ten years to choose the charity to which I’m going to donate my winnings. *eyeroll*
Dennis, exactly. An enormous amount can be done through changes in the tax code, shifts in public investment, and other factors that leave democratic processes intact.
Varun, how many of them aspire to the salary class?
Nancy, you’re most welcome. Exactly; there are a lot of ways we can adjust our own lives to decrease our impact on the planet, and those being pushed by the corporate media are not necessarily the best options.
NomadicBeer, by all means feel disappointed if you like. It’s not cherrypicking to note that there have been a lot of loudly promoted claims about anthropogenic climate change that have failed embarrassingly, and the references to public opinion are hardly irrelevant if we’re talking about whether a given set of policies are going to be embraced by the public, you know. As for “hopium,” obviously we disagree; as I’ve been saying for a very long time now, there are things that can be done to mitigate the mess we’re in, and appropriate technology includes many of the best of them. (If you’d read the article about seaweed instead of just flying off the handle, btw, you’d have discovered that your two objections have already been dealt with.) That is to say, before you start talking about “hopium,” maybe you should lay off the despairoin…
Nastarana, oh, I think it’s inevitable that Antarctica and Greenland will be mined sooner or later, or at least the attempt will be made. The sky-high costs of mining in a glacial wasteland will do some interesting things to the economics of the resulting product.
Nancy, no, you’re quite correct. The technical economic term for that is “demand destruction,” and there was a lot of it in 2008 and 2009.
Stephen, as far as I know, my work on catabolic collapse has been completely ignored in the academic scene.
Pygmycory, fair enough! I discussed some of these same concepts in the discussions around Retrotopia, though, and at a couple of other points as well; a few changes in the tax code, a few changes in public investment, a decrease in subsidies for cars and planes, and more than anything else, an attitude that sees our current predicament as a situation calling for creativity and entrepreneurship rather than centralized bureaucracy, would open a very wide range of possibilities for constructive action.
Disciple, nobody knows. The physical processes at work in the atmosphere are insanely complex, which is one of the reasons why climate models have done so poorly. Since complex systems tend to return to equilibrium when sources of disturbance are removed, though, it’s a good bet that if we could ramp down our greenhouse gas emissions, the global climate would tend to settle back down to something like its preindustrial moving balance.
Russell, that’s another of those “nobody knows” things. It’s possible that steady increases in CO2 over the long term might have that effect, but it might have a completely different effect, or set in motion equilibrating processes that mean that it has no long term effect at all. We simply don’t know enough to be sure.
Disciple, I predicted most of a decade ago that socialism was going to become popular again in the US. I wish I’d been wrong, but here we go again.
Isaac, that’s a great example of the sort of thing that could be part of the solution. Thank you!
Matthias, it’s the usual problem I get by writing essays rather than books! Certainly cattle vaporware (ahem) isn’t going to reduce CO2, nor did I say it would; it could reduce methane very sharply, and since methane is a more efficient greenhouse gas than CO2, cutting methane could do a lot to balance the upswing in CO2. Of course EROEI is also an issue, but there are also things we can do to balance the climate and mitigate our impact on it — that’s the core point I wanted to make.
Wendy, glad to hear it; quite a few plants can do that, and so can mushrooms. The art of phytoremediation is going to be well worth cultivating (pun not intended) in the decades and centuries ahead.
Phil, I don’t expect the rich to give up their private jets, nor does the person who coined the #BanPrivateJets hashtag. The point is to turn their demands back on them, and show everyone else just how averse they are to walking their talk.
Jaymo, yep. It’s yet another expression of our kleptocratic system of government, in which funneling public funds into private pockets is the principal activity of the state.
Wendy, thanks for this! I’m glad to see this sort of thing getting some air time — not least because the documentary tackles the hard questions about the way that corporate money and fossil fuels prop up the supposedly green alternative-energy scene.
Sturge, I’m all in favor of feeding cows on locally grown grass instead of soybeans from Brazil — pasture-raised beef is tastier, and also better for you — and give ’em some aquacultured seaweed along with the salt block to lick, and the methane problem is sharply decreased. As for wine grapes above the arctic circle, well, that has to be weighed against a couple of hundred feet of sea level rise, you know; I’d rather keep the climate more or less stable if we can.
Cortes, that’s excellent news — a simple change that benefits everyone.
Nachtgurke, exactly — strip-mining the wind can be nearly as destructive as strip-mining the land. Greater efficiency, which enables us to get necessary things done on much less energy, is far and away the better strategy.
Kimberly, glad to hear it. As those ten years go by, it might be interesting to keep the conversation going…
In addition to banning private jets, and in the interest of pulling back from an eroding coastline and limiting pollution in the rising water, I propose some equally un-passable measures: 1) a moratorium on construction of dwellings and hotels in any place that is both within a quarter mile of the coastline, and less than six feet above sea level, 2) that any pre-existing structures in those places be rendered ineligible for any kind of government-administered financial assistance (FEMA funds, etc.), and 3) any time such a structure is condemned for any reason– fire, structural problems, storm damage, abandonment– it should be demolished and not replaced.
For all of you who have access to old issues of Science and prefer the world to end in ice by surprising feedback loops, there’s always our best model of N. American glaciation done by Ewing and Donn in the 1950’s, which requires an open Arctic Ocean to work.
The brief version is “lake effect snow, but fed by the Arctic Ocean”.
That’s my nightmare scenario. The better refinement the folks working on it get the faster the glaciation appears to happen.
And in other news, there’s this: https://scienceblog.com/511385/team-finds-glitch-that-could-affect-more-than-100-scientific-studies/ You may trust those scientists, but do you even know who wrote the program they used to analyze their data, let alone trust them? (Has, so far as I can see, not really anything to do with climate, but a lot to do with trust or lack thereof in science. These researchers did well, but how many other bugs are out there?)
Thanks, I think it’s pretty clear. I’m wondering if you are familiar with Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”? I’ve not really liked much of her other work, but this book was fantastic in explaining that phenomenon you describe in your metaphor. Taking advantage to bamboozle someone when they are in a panic or chaos. It’s called ‘Shock and Awe’ and has been used many times politically, economically and in foreign affairs.
Also – If I may respond to your reply to pygmycory? My sister is an accountant for the housing division of the state govt. in NV. They do actually provide massive financial incentives for weatherization of existing homes. No solar water heaters, (or water collection systems) yet, but that would be an awesome and place-appropriate addition there.
1) I completely agree with your sentiments on Greta.
2)Very interesting question and observation. I’m not a dooms-dayer per se (since leaving Wyoming), but I started watching The Walking Dead with my kids when they were tweens and got hooked. I kept thinking WHY? Why is this world so appealing? Is the simpler more direct time and human interaction? (after season 1 the zombies become nothing more than a nuisance, it’s the other human survivors our little band have to either befriend or worry about). The loss of the buzz and noise of contemporary life? The human & nature interaction? I don’t really know, but I agree there is some desire there with the apocalyptic fantasies and of course we all view it imagining ourselves as the strong ones the ones who survive, LOL.
3) Beware of soap-making. It is way too much fun: A highly addictive creative activity. 😉
The DNC held a town hall specifically on climate change a month or so ago with the Dem 2020 candidates. That may be why they did not include it in this debate.
True enouhgh, you did talk about some of this with respect to Retrotopia. A couple of those policies are on offer in the current election platforms of some of the parties up here, namely the Green and NDP. More money for transit, building retrofitting, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies. I’m less familiar the the Liberal and Conservative platforms since the Liberals have a history of not doing what they say they’ll do,and the Conservatives’ tendency to march resolutely in the wrong direction means I have been ignoring them.
I do like a lot of your policy ideas on this topic, and would be delighted to see more of them incorporated into party platforms. But the election is next week, so I think what we’ve got is what we’ve got.
With regard to transit electrifiation, were you thinking of overhead transmission cables? Vancouver uses those, and they don’t handle ice well. They spark and shed ice and sometimes come detached from the power cables, and then your bus is stuck until the busdriver gets out of the bus and sorts it out.. It was workable in Vancouver in 2007 when I lived there, but it was definitely annoying. I’m not sure how well it would work somewhere that has a truly cold winter.
Some of the feedback loops that could act to retard (or limit) climate change are not necessarily climatological, but instead technical or societal. For example as sea level rises coastal cities like Miami, or New Orleans will flood, and cease their co2 generating activities and due to the relentless march of catabolic collapse they will not be replaced with anything nearly as energy intensive. High Rise buildings and automobile traffic replaced by refugee tent camps. Or as the lower rungs of the wage class lose access to personal automobiles because of climate induced economic effects they could become very angry with the salary class folks driving Teslas and fancy SUV’s and take action to disable such rolling signifiers of economic privilege.
“a sharply different attitude toward relations between humanity and nature than the one that’s guided environmentalism for the last forty years or so.”
Here in Australia many of the environmentalists have an attitude of what I call Museum Environmentalism: the idea that The Environment is this strange alien thing which really belongs behind glass where only suitably-qualified experts can work with it, rather than being something we all live in.
When I was a kid I lived in a town where the lumber guys just clearfelled forest and didn’t plant anything. For a Museum Environmentalist this is horrific, so they put a stop to it – and of course, this is also when we got free trade, so that our wood couldn’t compete with the clearfelling in Malaysia, we had exported our environmental damage.
But here the bush needs a certain amount of burning off to survive (some plants will only seed after a fire, and many of them are very flammable), so basically we can have frequent small fires or infrequent huge fires. But if you view the forest as a museum exhibit you’re reluctant to set fire to it even for its own good, so there’s a lengthy period of study and permits and all that – and by that time there’s a huge fire.
Between “just clearfell it” and “put it behind glass and don’t touch it” there is perhaps a middle ground, where we live in the environment and manage it, as much as it can be managed, anyway.
But returning to your point, if you view the environment as something behind glass, it’s more understandable that you’ll go tooling around in your private jet to your airconditioned hotel room or office and wag a stern finger at some logger in Malaysia living below the poverty line. If you care about something you should not make it abstract.
I wonder if the Founding Fathers realized that the experiment would likely result in kleptocracy.
JMG, I also wonder how your Helen Vaughan story’s coming?
A couple commentators have asked about the next ice age–
As I understand it, the debate amongst climate scientists who concern themselves with deep time (a distinct minority!) isn’t whether we’ll skip the next Ice Age or not — that seems pretty well baked into the cake — but if we’re going to skip the whole set and dive back into an ice-less Earth. That depends entirely on the system itself. That is: we know there are two stable modes (Ice Age oscillation, and ice-less.) We know that the iceless mode dominates for much of prehistory. They seem pretty stable. We don’t know with certainty what it takes to switch betwixt the two modes.
That uncertainty is being used, of course, to push the Climate Emergency idea.
We know, however, that we don’t see 400ppm in any ice cores. We think that means the climate doesn’t do stable ice caps when there’s that much CO2.
Got a couple articles for all and sundry that I hope you might appreciate, JMG:
I don’t quite have the background to critique this (it sounds good, but I don’t know if these folks are talking the piss or what)– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC123620/
but it is an attempt to uncover the atmospheric composition of the Earth from the Geologic record. Specifically, of course, CO2 levels.
It doesn’t match the paleoclimate data very well at all. Looks like, long term, CO2 isn’t the main driver.
(I’ve seen other recreations that do, but those are all more recent. Perhaps we can say “For the current continental orientation, CO2 dominates.”?)
Whatever was going on in eons past, that does NOT mean CO2 isn’t driving change now. It just means that– surprise!– the global climate system still has more going on than we are modeling.
I’d bet on the sun for long term changes, but the overall trend in radiance is supposed to be up over the past billion years, so maybe not. Mysteries abound!
(of course, without ice cores– and the iceless ages mean we don’t have ’em for eons– it’s really hard to reconstruct the atmosphere’s composition. So these guys might just be wrong.)
Another fun article,
suggesting o’le Sol might have cooked off the Late Pleistocene extinction. Add that to pile of fun apocalypses to watch out for!
I’m half tempted to Chicken Little this one and see if I can ride it into fame and fortune… but alas, I haven’t got the coyote blood in me. Anyone else who wants to try is welcome to it.
Does anyone know what actual hemp farming entails? I have 30 acres that I rent out to my neighboring dairyman. However diary farms in this area are all on the ropes. So that relationship might not last. Maybe I should start hemp farming. What would I need? Anybody know?
Of course, Kimberly’s correspondent may not like the shape of civilization in 2029 and try to wiggle out of paying up. You know. “I lost my McMansion when the stock market went down 800 points and I’ll never get it back, and I just HATE the current president, my children won’t obey me, and there’s no music worth listening to… you call this civilization? I don’t! Sorry! You lose!”
Pat, who has listened to too many rounds of “Ain’t It Awful” and has read some elders’ complaints along those lines from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, certainly Classical Rome….and from the old men gathered around the coffee pot.
Another corporate decision, blessed by government, is to lessen the carbon emissions of the operations in the tar sands of Alberta. Of course, the real purpose is the continuing extraction, blending, shipping, refining, and burning of fossil fuels. “Reduce” is not a reality here.
On the other hand, the city of Edmonton in the middle of the province already has recycled phosphorus for use in agriculture from the sewage system, and soon will be composting more organic waste from a new program of recycling, including apartment dwellers (later than expected since the building that was to accomplish this has been deemed unsafe for workers to be in it or near it!). I do not know how much energy goes into these schemes, and it might be too much for the payout. Some communities within the city are planting fruit-bearing bushes in public spaces, and we need more of that too. On the other hand, the same city is expanding the freeways through and around the city to accommodate more and faster traffic!
What’s your sense of the proportion of climate change activists who are actively making changes in their own lives? I certainly know many, and like to think of myself as one of them. Though I’m not much of an “activist” these days. So I suppose it depends on how you define an “activist.” It’s been years since I went to any kind of pubic protest. My impression is that there are many people who are in it for the long haul – people who have been doing the hard, slow, inconsistent work of gradually making personal change over years and decades (in the face of systemic factors that make such personal change very challenging!) – but that you are probably right that such people are a minority in the large scale protest movements most prominent at this moment. It seems many former activists who wanted to make personal and communal change alongside political activism have largely withdrawn from the more overt activism.
JMG – Enjoyed your essay – thank you!
It’s a good thing I wasn’t partaking of liquid refreshments when I read this: “Listen to climate change activists talk about what will happen if something isn’t done right away and you’ll get to hear apocalyptic claims that rival anything Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins put into their schlocky Left Behind series—if you’re not familiar with this, it’s more or less the Fifty Shades of Grey of Protestant apocalypse porn.” Too funny!
Re: scientific caveats with data. I remember back in the day, working an agency that provided health statistics (much of the data expressed in everyday terms). It was not unusual to hear requests that the data be more definitive (translation: make the numbers say what we want it to say!). The best response was to repeat, calmly and ‘innocently’ what the actually said, what the limitations were, etc; each repetition of the facts become more technichly verbose until they finally gave up.
Fake solutions to real problems sounds like the old con-artist ‘bait & switch’ tactic.
It is very ironic that Australia is leading the way in pioneering methods of hosing down Bulldust . The climate here is deteriorating very rapidly indeed, with many regional cities in the interior about to run out of water in the grip of the worst drought since the start of the twentieth century.
As well as being hammered by wildfires
I guess the global situation explains why big corporate interests are piling into water assets, as the planetary hydrology shifts. Apparently increased CO2 comes at the expense of H20
And in the spirit of the false solutions you point out, Corey Mornngstar over at winteroak.org and wrongkindofgreen.org are doing amazing work mapping the powerful interests behind the XR Thunberg media phenomenon
Hope you dont mind me sharing these links l
This may be a little off track, but related: does anyone know good information on abiotic oil, or the lack thereof? I found an article by Heinberg, after listening to Engdahl. I am immensely skeptical, as it seems just another excuse for business as usual. So it doesn’t pass smell test so far.
JMG: My son roared with laughter when I read him your cruise ship analogy (we were discussing Thunberg). She’s a big thing at the school he is going to, and was amazed I knew who she was.
I have always been unconvinced about the answers given for why our climate is changing, but ten years ago in England, I was convinced that our modern way of life was responsible for killing the living systems on which we depend for survival and also discovered ‘peak oil.’ and the idea of ‘collapse now’ from John Greer (thank you Powerswitch!) I guess I would be called a ‘climate change denier’, but I was the one living as a vegetarian without a fridge and without a car and with my whole house with energy friendly lightbulbs.. whilst the middle class local climate change group was hosting public screenings of Al Gore’s film and the chair woman was flying to Australia once a year.. I saw a lot of talk but not much action. Anyway things have changed over the years and I got married to an American, but I am still buying most of my clothes at charity shops and composting (although we do have a fridge!) and I now am keeping goats and chickens and (eating them on occasion) and trying to garden in the awful Arkansas heat in America, and I haven’t flown back to England since I came to the US approximately 8 years ago. I guess this is turning into a rant, but I would just say some of us heretical climate change Trump supporting Christians also care about the planet. I rather recently discovered this blog and many of these conversations are bringing back such a lot of memories of those earlier days. I also enjoy the standard of the writing immensely, even if I don’t always agree. Can anybody recommend a link or a company for solar water heaters, preferably from those who have used them or bought a product?
So here I am getting a fair bit of traffic over to my blog today to the #BanPrivateJets post (one of the more popular ones of late), all coming from here. So I read the article and as I’m perusing the comments and I’m thinking “wow, the level of discourse here is way above the norm. Whoever’s blog this is even has people like John Michael Greer posting in the comments”
Then the “duh” moment kicks in. This is JMG’s blog. Ok, now it makes sense. I have a few of your books (Twilight’s Last Gleaming, which was excellent, Dark Age America which I am about halfway through, and Decline and Fall, which I forgot I had on audiobook and really should finish listening to…)
Anyway, thanks for citing #BanPrivateJets – I found out later I didn’t coin that tag, there exists a BanPrivateJets.org website, only they’re serious about it. In my case, @JMG was correct when he said “the point is to turn their demands back on them”.
Lovely analogy with the hucksters on the ship going down. I think most people currently insisting that climate change is a hoax have an emotional stake in their argument, while their opponents go into punitive mode as the evidence stacks up. It is rare to see anyone take up an intermediate stance giving credit to both sides, but very welcome at this time. I’ll bet the comments today go well beyond the issue of climate change, with the impeachment charade and the left just baying for blood, while the right warns of consequences.
I think Trump may work on the venerable principle “To be left alone on the street, act crazy.” Crazy people are dangerous and so one way to fend off muggers and such orcish types is to jitter, jive, talk to yourself, anything that makes the bad guy wonder if you might be deranged enough to prove to be a handful. (A long time ago I read about a lady with the presence of mind to yank out her tampon and start chewing on it; the would-be rapist couldn’t run away fast enough.)
I’d still have a weapon as a backup, but of course we all know what happens when innocent people get dragged into the legal system. It’s much better to make the enemy think you’re too much trouble so that you never get entangled, with him or with the legal system.
Were I advising the Orange Oligarch, though, I’d tell him flipping out the Democrats daily is probably sufficient. Weird letters to the president (PM?) of Turkey 🇹🇷 seem to me to be overdoing it a bit.
Methylethyl, fair enough. That’s quietly happening in an informal way; while owners of properties damaged in natural disasters are theoretically eligible to get FEMA emergency funds, the money isn’t there, and the checks never come. An end to federal disaster insurance, and an overt redirection of all disaster-related funding to saving lives and then evacuating people, is probably on its way.
BoysMom, now there’s a (cold) blast from the past! One of the volumes in the Life Nature Library — still worth having, btw — discusses the Ewing-Donn hypothesis, and I brooded over that from an early age.
Caryn, thanks for the recommendation. I’ve avoided Klein, as the articles of hers I’ve read were facile and frankly meretricious, but I’ll consider that book. Delighed to hear about Nevada — and that’s a state where solar water heaters make an insane amount of sense, of course.
Pygmycory, oh, granted. It’ll take hundreds of people picking up ideas like this one and putting them into circulation before there’s any chance of seeing them in party platforms.
Clay, yes, that’s also a factor. For that matter, as the global economy comes apart and more goods and services are produced locally, that’s going to cut into greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.
Kiashu, exactly. I’ll be talking about exactly that point in an upcoming post.
Your Kittenship, good question — I haven’t read a lot of their writings, so can’t be sure. As for Helen Vaughan, I’ve got about 10k words written; I’m reading a stack of books on manners, morals, and sexual paranoias circa 1881 to get the setting right.
Dusk Shine, thanks for this! The Earth has a slow oscillation from glacial to nonglacial climates — there were ice ages in the Permian, Ordovician, Cambrian, Cryogenian, and Huronian periods — so something drives that very long seasonal cycle, but I don’t think anyone yet has a good explanation for what. The thing I keep in mind is that Earth has spent most of its long history as a steamy jungle planet, and live thrives in such conditions.
Will, have you considered contacting the Hemp Industries Association (https://thehia.org/) or the National Hemp Association (https://nationalhempassociation.org/)? Those would be my go-to stops for info on the subject.
Bruce, hey, at least they’re making a few good choices…
Curtis, that’s a good question for which I have no solid answers. I think you’re right that the people who are making all the noise are not the ones who are actually changing their lives — but I don’t happen to know how the proportions work out between them.
PatriciaT, you’re welcome. 😉
Hovsangerska, no, I don’t mind it at all — in fact, thank you!
Arkansas, given that nobody’s yet found a shut-in well that’s recharged, I think it’s a moot point; still, if anyone has a detailed discussion, I’d welcome it too.
Naomi, I’ve known a fair number of people in your category, and as far as I can tell, every single one of you is doing more for the planet than a shipping container full of Greta Thunberg clones.
Mark, welcome to the blog! I had a reader forward me a link to your blog post, and I thought it was a great idea. Now to watch the faces of the privileged fauxtivists once that gets some air time…
Patricia O, well, we’ll see!
I am glad Helen is still in the pipeline. I always did think she got a bum rap. Aside from scaring the little boy when she was a child, which she didn’t necessarily do on purpose, her other sins, fresh in my mind since I just reread the story, seem to be 1) having a crush on another girl as a teenager 2) inviting a lot of suicidal guys to her party. 3). Possibly lying about the age of the wine. (Since we never see the bottle I think the verdict on that must, at worst, be Not Proven.)
This, of course, was what I managed to extract from Arthur Machen’s obfuscatory prose. For all I know, Helen spent most of her time egging windows and kicking puppies—but Machen will never come out and tell us so!
Ever-informative Archdruid, your latest essay clarified a couple of things for me. First, the odd insistence of groups like Extinction Rebellion (XR) that they are “not political” had been puzzling me for a while. Now I see that statement for what it is: I believe they’re trying to get people to confuse “partisan” with”political” so as to distance themselves from politics and wrap themselves in the mantle of ‘Unite behind the Science’ because otherwise we will, as you state “…stop paying attention to what they say.” Well, I’m paying attention to them all right, but not in a way they would hope!
Another thing clarified for me by your essay is the dissonance between what groups like XR and the Greta Thunberg Phenomenon (GTP) say about the global elites (basically, they say that the elites have sold us out with empty promises and must be overthrown) and yet how incredibly chummy they are with said elites. GTP, for instance, sailed across the Atlantic in a yacht festooned with the name of Prince Albert II of Monaco, had a cordial and pleasant visit with Barack Obama, and now is touring North America in a Tesla provided by her pal Arnold Schwarzenegger. When GTP said at her UN speech: “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions” she was certainly NOT addressing Donald Trump, but rather all the folks like Barack and Arnold and Prince Albert. Such dissonance now makes much more sense when I view GTP and XR as playing the political power game, trying to become not the foe of said elites, but rather their replacement!
Thanks as always for your essays and this forum!
JMG–did you coin that? It’s a good one.
Off topic, but worth noting.
“When I consider the unending hours many people work, at jobs which sap their physical, mental, and emotional energy, there might just not be anything left at the end of a 70-hour week than to come home and collapse.”
I am seeing what seems to be a major increase in incidents of people driving to work with their child in the car and forgetting he/she is there, with tragic results. I’m inclined to think the frenetic pace of modern working life is the primary cause.
this might be interesting:
Probably the best holistic and sensible description of our current climate change situation I have read yet.
JMG wrote: “Combine these and other bits of appropriate tech with the phasing out of a few absurd extravagances like private jets, and we can bring climate change to a halt, or at least slow it down to a pace that we and other species can handle.”
Given the current amount of CO2 emissions and the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere, it seems to me that climate change momentum gathered over the past 200 years is like a heavy freight train speeding on a downward slope. We might lessen a bit climate change by a string of measures, but stopping it or even slowing it down to a manageable pace sound very optimistic indeed. I am not a catastrophist but we have truly entered an age of consequences of our own making.
Fossil fuel depletion, climate change and planetary environmental degradation are all contributing to push human civilisations on an arc of decline and possibly way past any point of no return on all 3 fronts.
The long decline cannot be avoided only partly mitigated….hopefully.
You and other readers might find this of interest – https://news.sky.com/story/lewis-hamilton-says-vegan-diet-only-way-to-save-our-planet-11836393
tl;dr: a formula one driver says that going vegan is the “only” way to save the planet.
Initially I had to laugh as it seemed like such a perfect example of hypocrisy but on reading closer it seems this guy is having a genuine existential crisis. He sold his private jet recently and has talked about “giving up” as it “all seems hopeless”. The fact that he turned to veganism is therefore quite telling. Pretty sure Kierkegaard would diagnose much of the modern environmental movement as a distraction from having to deal with the existential difficulties of life.
The fact that a celebrity such as Hamilton is having such a public meltdown got me thinking about something I’ve often daydreamed about: what results could be achieved by getting famous people to take actual, tangible measures towards a more sustainable lifestyle. For example, let’s say you pay Kim Kardashian to wear hemp clothes on her instagram account, or have some photos of her out tending to the compost heap or weeding in the garden (looking great of course). Could sustainability be made sexy? After all, faux sustainability certainly is. Whatever you want to say about Teslas, they are a sexy car. Even the Tesla powerwalls look cool.
It seems like this shouldn’t be too hard for our marketing industry. After all, these people managed to make smoking cigarettes sexy. Surely it wouldn’t be hard to make sustainability sexy. If only we could get Bill Gates to fund that kind of thing. I’m not sure it would work, but it sure would be fun to watch.
I think the Extinction Rebellion, apart from the overt demands for power, suffers from the same problems that plagued Occupy. It’s broad based, which can be a strength, but because its objectives are so fuzzy, it’ll be quite easy to co-opt or control. Now everyone gets to think it’s after what they want, be it electric cars or mandatory veganism. Had they focused on concrete policy proposals, say taxing jet fuel or ending subsidies for airports, they could likely have achieved quite a bit. Now politicians declare the emergency, march in the protests, appoint a commission and then play the waiting game. Likely they will win.
A good way of thinking about this is realizing that a lot of people are already living with radically lower energy budgets. For example, people in Georgia (think Caucasus, not the south) get by on 1/7 of the energy that people in the US use*. Now, I’m sure life there isn’t perfect, but it isn’t a Mad Max world either. For a more relatable example, people in the UK use about 40% of the energy compared to their cousins across the pond. Different countries will have their respective challenges of course (climate, geography, population density etc) but there are a lot of strategies to learn from, that are being tested in the real world right now.
I’ve seen some interest in calculating ones personal footprint in people around me, there are a lot of them online now. They of course have their limitations and built in assumptions, and will never give you a comprehensive answer. But as the climate goes, they make it pretty obvious that your recycling, renewable electricity bill or even dietary choice is dwarfed by the SUV commute and family trip to Thailand in the winter. I hope they become more widespread, because I really feel we need more numbers when talking about these issues, especially as lifestyle choices become very much a part of class identity. A lot of greens here are vegetarian and carless, which is commendable, but a couple of flights to Peru and South Africa will undo that quite quickly, and these people are very likely to take such trips. And it makes you cringe when they lecture the deplorables over their big cars and beef, people who spend their holidays in the cabin by the lake or on a domestic trip with the caravan. We really need to get a grip on the magnitude the impact different choices have.
I have to disagree about bringing back old-style trams and streetcars. I’ve ridden the Manchester Metrolink from Victoria to Eccles, mostly at streel level, fighting traffic all the way. A problem that won’t go away when traffic is pedal-powered and draught animals. I’ve also gone to Radcliffe. It’s further away, but because it’s on converted heavy rail lines, it can go at 50mph and is a joy in comparison. When it comes to public transport, all I can say is: grade separation now, grade separation tomorrow, grade separation forever. 🙂
Hi John Michael,
A fine essay, and I agree with you. I tend to feel that other forms of pollution have been lost in the rush to embrace ‘carbon’ (not even carbon dioxide, or other molecules) as the baddest bad dude in and out of town. The others seem pretty nasty to me, and have we forgotten about dioxins – or are they a bit too convenient? I once got a large corporate to change to using recycled paper for printing and copying by using sheer force of personality. And the whingeing that went on was an abomination, and I won and then eventually lost that round.
There has been a bit of talk in the media over the past week of the insect-apocalypse and the suggestion was to embrace organic agriculture. You know, I walk around the big smoke of Melbourne and I rarely spot any insects, so maybe folks in the big smoke could stop using neonicotinoides first? Hashtag just sayin… But, oh those awful bugs!!!! The place here crawls with insects, it’s not hard, people just have to give up their perquisites.
We’ve discussed this before, but I sure love my old pulp fiction covers, and Poul Anderson’s one was a proper right goodie. I noted that the crew was fairly well prepared for extreme cold weather with the exception of the rather scantily clad knife wielding young lady at the front. But then she has a wicked looking knife and appears to know how to use it, so I’ll keep my opinions to myself. Oops, broke that rule! 🙂
Thanks for writing this essay. Talk of emergencies without action sounds like a bunch of hot air to me. I’m adapting in place and just facing each change is it occurs. As I read long ago, I don’t see to many folks around abouts with dirt under their fingernails.
Also, what if the rate of recharge is being included (already) in the rate of consumption? That is, even given (Heinberg’s speculation) that some oil is abiotic in origin, if it (also) requires vast amounts of time, even aeons, to accumulate, like biotic oil, to the point it is a bonanza? This doesn’t even address the climate issues, but my guess is that it totally shares in the limits of finitude, along with everything else under the sun. Engdahl is horribly over optimistic. Some wells recharge very slowly, but they will require a thousand year sabbatical. Or something that puts it well out of reach.
Will, I don’t know where you live, but you may also want to look at your state Extension office. Here in Pennsylvania, the state is doing a ton of work promoting hemp to farmers. I can forward emails along if you let me know where to send them – I think some at least are webinars and other long-distance opportunities.
Kimberly, I think your friend has taken a sucker’s bet in more ways than one! Much like the old submariner betting the new kid that they survive the depth charges…never take a bet where you have to die to “win!” Or one where the dollar’s lost all its value, either. 🙂
That’s a theory of the little ice age that I hadn’t heard before. If it is so, then it should mean that the preindustrial levels of CO2 that people seem to want are actually too low.
Obviously President Obama at least believes that sea level rise will be minimal in the short term or he would not have bought an expensive house on the beach.
I tend to think that people who live in the stratosphere have access to a lot different information than we do…
I recommend Dimitry Orlov’s recent blog on this issue – “Greta and the Deep Green State”. Both interesting and very entertaining although it is behind the Patreon wall.
Regarding next glaciation- Curt Stager “Deep Future” (2011) predicts that our activities have already cancelled the next full glaciation which was due in about 50,000 years and has now been put off until 100,000 years or more. I guess we will find out in in 50,000 years.
Booklover. That´s interesting. I wonder, have we gone 50,000 years between glacial periods in the past? And could enough CO2 prevent a new glacial period completely?
Well at least the author added some due balance to the topic. I’ve read so many blog posts from Guy McPherson who says we are going Venus syndrome and we have less than 15 years left on this planet. Dahr Jamail who flies to different parts of the world to record climate change or as he coins it “climate disruption” has a habit of changing the sea level rise numbers. I’ve read numbers anywhere from 1 meter to 100+ meters of sea level rise. At a certain point you just tune it all out because then you begin to realize one of life’s nuggets. And that is, that eventually everyone and everything dies and Planet Earth will be here long after we are gone, rebalancing itself over time.
What gets me about the Climate Change activists is not climate change itself but other things we can do that would have a far greater impact now in a positive way. Such as:
1) Quit dumping plastics, toxic chemicals and other pollutants into our oceans. Ocean dead zones continue to grow.
2) Stop using pesticides and fertilizers that continue to use the chemicals found in Round Up. A link to insect and bird die offs have been made with the use of neonicotinoids.
3) Do we need more nuclear power plants? As long as they work it’s all good with the exception of the spent fuel rods which need to be maintained. When things go awry such as Fukushima then you have a problem. And that problem is that the situation is still not totally under control 7-8 yrs later. Now TEPCO is considering what to do with the growing amounts of radioactive waste water at the site. Their solution is to dump it in the Pacific Ocean because they are running out of room.
Duskshine, thank you. That answers some of my questions. It is very interesting that ice cores never held more than 400 ppm of CO2. Of course, we want to be sure we aren´t confusing correlation with causation, but that is worth looking at.
A physics professor explained to me in 1986 that the ice cores taken in Greenland in 1958 produced confirmation of the Milankovitch Cycles which until that point had been hotly contested. He explained that at the current phase in the cycle we should be seeing a cooling trend, he further explained that a search for the expected slow downtick in temps found an unexpected slow uptick.
He wasn’t a climate scientist but was a science nerd and kept on top of things; he never mentioned CO2, AGW, etc. but he did mention the reasons for the warming were being debated. As of then (1986) satellites that track global ice cover had only been up since 1979 so there wasn’t really enough data to reliably see a trend yet.
It wasn’t quite a quick and arbitrary flip from a global cooling paradigm to a global warming paradigm, it was a long slow one that took decades. Kind of like the shift from Continental Drift to Plate Tectonics.
Most of us who love nature would argue that the Earth is already perfect. The sea could be made no deeper nor sky any broader. How wonderful this Earth must have been 100 years ago, with passenger pigeons and blue butterflies to compliment the monarch’s crown in New England. I think the scariest thing about climate change is that humanity doesn’t know what it’s doing. That we don’t know is what makes the apocalypse crows so vocal. Even if doomsday isn’t in the immediate future, we should not be using every resource we can to keep an unsustainable system going. If people had to live sustainably we would have to acknowledge how we’ve turned the perfect rainment of life, worn by planet Earth into a wrangled mess. We’ve pulled buttons off life’s great habiliment, unknit its wool socks. Industrial civilization isn’t about turning imperfect things into the perfect, it’s about laying waste anything that can truly bring contentment if only society left it alone.
My sense of the privileged classes at this point is that they escape notice, more so at this point in history, than they would have at any other time because of social media. Everyone photoshops their lives to be picture perfect when, in fact, they are not; this includes poor people and upper middle class. Smart phones have various filters on them that make things look colorful, when they’re not. Or smooth and sleek when they’re not. It takes away the red-eye, the freckles, the zits, and the scars real people have. Mended clothes are not perfect. That is why people don’t want to be seen in them.
It is this quest for perfection that led us to get rid of the typewriter. White out is messy. On the typewriter we can’t flawlessly delete our mistakes. Sometimes the mechanism freezes up. Have you ever talked to someone online and had the internet die on you? Then go back to talking with them and they’re mad at you because how dare your sketchy fly over country modem conk out? Yes – I think the fear of mended clothes is a fear of imperfection and aging.
Have you noticed how celebrities do everything they can to avoid looking their age? We have 80 year old women trying to look like 30 year olds. And movie star men in their 70s who try to emulate the youth of today rather than showcase what was common knowledge until woke culture took over. We have lost our relationship with aging. As people today don’t know how to age, our civilization does not know it’s own age. The life cycle of history and cultures must run its course. Ancient cultures knew they to, like their populace would die. That their survival depended on the real world to sustain them. Some, some of these cultures are still with us because they had this realization. Sure they have changed somewhat to fit the time. But if a modern citizen of say China was sent back in time to China 1000 years ago, the common shared cultural heritage would be there. How many of us would recognize even the English Language as spoken in 1066?
Here’s a recent data point:
“… British inventor Sir James Dyson, said … engineers had developed a “fantastic electric car” but that it would not hit the roads because it was not “commercially viable”.
Great article. Just a couple of points:
1) Your comment that a Vegan diet is just virtue signalling is followed several paragraphs later by recognizing the large impact of livestock produced methane…
2) What about China?
Lady of Lolcat,
“I wonder if the Founding Fathers realized that the experiment would likely result in kleptocracy.”
I think they did. That’s why they wrote quite a bit about people having the power and awareness to know when to rebel.
@JMG: re: redirection of FEMA funds: I’d be glad to see it! Our experience after The Hurricane has been that funds ran very short, all the money available was needed just to keep our municipalities solvent in the face of doing 36 years’ worth of yard-waste/debris hauling in 6 months, getting enough schools up and running to have an actual school year, and repairing/replacing essential infrastructure.
There was “need-based” individual assistance given for housing repair. Reports from local people working in the FEMA office indicated that at least two thirds of applications were disaster-miners: people who had driven in from out of town, and even out of state, after the storm, and spent a couple of weeks repeatedly and relentlessly applying for disaster aid as “locals”. And those were just the ones they were able to catch and weed out of the application process. I recall they prosecuted a whole group of people in Maryland(!) for actually scamming a big chunk of money from the disaster relief. It does seem like the money could be better spent if it focused solely on evacuation, search-and-rescue, and perhaps infrastructure and cleanup.
“What would I need? Anybody know?”
Lots of money and permission.
You don’t say what your state is, but that is the first thing to check. Here in my state they are just implementing medical, and they are only going to allow 10 growers, and it takes about 50,000K to start.
with all the publicity of ´´Fridays For Future´´, ´´Extinction Rebellion´´ and other movements polititicians here in Germany seem to feel obliged to put on a big show. So the government wants to pass a bundle of laws that are supposed to slow down climate change, called the ´´Klimapaket´´ (literal translation: climate parcel). Of course those laws won´t do anything like that; they are a thinly veiled subsidy package that´s going to take from the poor and give to the wealthy, much like you´ve described in your recent post ´´The Dream of a Managed Society´´. They are going to introduce a carbon tax, and instead of spreading the revenue from it equally amongst the population it´s going to be used for things like subsidizing electric cars, lowering electricity prices and enabling commuters (travelling to work by car) to reclaim some of their expense via the tax system: if you don´t earn much, you won´t get much back because you do not pay that much taxes in the first place, and needless to say, people who take the bicycle or public transport to get to work will not get anything. The only measure that does seem make some sense is lowering train fares.
Meanwhile, next to no one´s talking about making do with less, like not buying new stuff all the time (I ve heard a statistic that the average German is buying many dozens of items of clothing per year, socks and underwear not included), working fewer hours (there even is a law here that is enabling one to do just that without your employer firing you; I´ve done so, and people look at you in a pitying way if you mention it to them), just heating the one room that´s used most to a comfortable temperature … I could go on with this list, but I think you get the point. I agree with you that there is a lot that could be done, but my impression is that hardly anyone is prepared to do it.
I live in Niedersachsen and I´m lucky to have none of those abominable windparks in sight, but I don´t have to go far to see them; like you said, they´re almost everywhere.
If you hear numbers like ´´close to 50% electric energy generation´´ though, you have to bear in mind that electricity is less than 25% of the overall energy consumption: just imagine how many windmills, solar panels, biogas plants and the like would be needed to satisfy all the current energy demand in this country with them, as some people seem to be seriously suggesting.
About the Milankovitch cycles – the changes in the Earth’s orbital eccentricity, axial tilt and orbital inclination, they can be projected forward by simulations of the solar system’s gravitational interactions. I’ve dug out a comment I made on the old blog below:
According to this website from NOAA (archived – after 2017 this URL becomes a redirect) and work by Hollan, and Berger and Loutre we should not expect the Earth’s orbital parameters (the Milankovitch cycles) to lead to a new glacial period like the last glacial maximum within the next 50kyr – 100kyr, or maybe as long as 0.5Myr. This is based on the 65N summer insolation, linked to the establishment of permament ice since it is primarily summer, rather than winter temperatures that determine whether ice persists from one year to the next.
The climate alone is extremely complicated to forecast. Nobody can say with confidence we’re doomed, or that we’re safe. There are a lot of negative and positive feedback loops that can stabilize the warming or take it into dangerous territory.
Some people talk about boiling oceans. A runaway warming effect that boils the oceans is extremely unlikely because there was a time when all this C02 was in the atmosphere (before plants and algae trapped it underground), and the Earth had liquid water on its surface. More water vapor produces more clouds, which increase the Earth’s albedo and so on. The solar constant hasn’t changed much since then either, and it won’t change much until the Sun leaves the main sequence (billions of years from now).
On top of the climate, we need to forecast human activity which is even more complicated to forecast. Maybe the world economy tanks, shale companies go bankrupt, conflict disrupts energy supplies, suburbs are abandoned and forests grow in their place. Maybe we figure out a way to extract even more oil than we had expected to extract.
Can you give some references for the explanation of the cause of the Little Ice Age. I had not heard your analysis before, although it seems logical.
When you have a system that includes both positive and negative nested loops, it is true that the negative loops can prevail and keep the system in equilibrium. It becomes less true when you have larger amounts of energy entering the system from the outside compared to the “normal” rate of energy infusion which the system has previously taken in. An analogy is the stock market, which tends to get into positive feedback loops (which people often refer to as “the market heating up”) as incrementally more and more cash (energy) gets injected into it.
Another example is the human body, which maintains homeostasis via both positive and negative loops, but which shuts down quickly once heat (energy) invades the system without respite.
The increased energy entering and remaining in the atmosphere right now has created a situation in which you have not just more energy being injected, but because of several feedback loops — both current and projected — it is increasing and will continue to increase in a non-linear fashion.
One potential negative feedback loop that could mitigate this energy surge would be the re-routing or even total dissipation of the Gulf Stream, which would plunge Europe into longer, colder winters with more snow, higher albedo, and thus less absorbed solar radiation. So yes, that or something like it is possible.
But my understanding is that there is a window of opportunity during which any mitigating negative loops can re-establish equilibrium. Once the system reaches a critical point of instability, the mitigating loops lose power to re-establish the norm, especially when the system is still experiencing huge energy influxes. There are many people studying this issue who are much more knowledgeable than I am — both climatologists and complexity scientists — who believe we are skating dangerously close to the edge.
Yes some negative feedback loop(s) could bring the planet back into equilibrium, but probably not within a human-scaled time frame. And especially not when the planet is suffering other harms like deforestation, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, species collapse, etc.
In the case of climate change, as well as in life in general, we should of course hope for the best but prepare for the worst, which has a very good chance of coming sooner than expected according to people who have devoted their lives to studying the issue.
Your Kittenship, I figured the thing to do was to take Machen at his word and make Helen, in fact, the daughter of a god, following something not all that far from the same career made famous by a more widely known offspring of a deity, complete with sacrificial death and resurrection. The story I’m writing is set not long thereafter, in the interval between the resurrection and, shall we say, the descension. Oh, and she did mislead people about the wine — it was much, much older than she claimed.
“Yellow wine of Chios and golden wine of Gaul,
But the blood-red Falernian,
The fire-red Falernian,
The ruby-red Falernian
Is the emperor of them all!”
Bryan, exactly. Someone who claims to be raging against the elites probably shouldn’t be so enthusiastic about taking gifts (and grifts) from them.
Kevin, I did indeed. I was tired of the chatter about “hopium” from those who were clearly mainlining a drug from the other extreme, and the coinage followed promptly.
DropBear, er, not really; it seems to me that the author evaded all the issues that matter in order to reframe things in terms of the official narrative.
PhysicsDoc, thank you.
Karim, in my more serious moments I won’t argue — but even mitigation is a goal worth pursuing at this point. If we can make the Long Descent less brutal, that’s a gain.
Simon, I think you’re right — and in fact, during the Seventies, sustainable living was cool, in some circles, for a while. That could happen again, if the cultural elites weren’t clinging so frantically to the lifestyles that are dragging them down.
Fellah, exactly! One of my first serious goals in dealing with my own ecological footprint was to get it down to the level of an average British person; that was fairly easy as I don’t own or drive a car. The next step was to get it down to the European average, which took a little more work but had a positive impact on my quality of life — so many energy-wasting habits are as dull as they are unhealthy. I’m not down to a Georgian level yet, but I’m working on it — and the more people do that, and discover for themselves that you can live a happy, comfortable, fulfilling life on a small fraction of the energy that most Americans think they can’t live without, the sooner we’ll be able to handle the inevitable contractions.
I wonder if the Founding Fathers realized that the experiment would likely result in kleptocracy.
They absolutely did, but that kleptocracy cannot exist without a powerful central government protecting them, which is why they outlawed such a thing. We, being far, far smarter than them, have ignored every law and edict they wrote, and are mostly to erasing that little federal law called the “Constitution”, so when that’s gone the kleptocrats can REALLY prosper. Don’t worry, they will say the solution to government protecting billionaires is more subsidies, more billionaires, more government: Hamilton would not approve.
Arkansas, here’s a thing on abiotics: Deepwater Horizon blew the lid off a ton of oil below 30,000 feet. How many dead dinosaurs do you think are buried at that level? Gut check: does that make sense? That deep, you have to suspect oil is a by-product of magma. Look into the Russian discussion on this, they have the impression of deep proto-oil.
That said: does it matter? If the world is filled with oil, but can only be extracted by Star Trek technology at $500/bbl, does that really change our practical situation? (yes, probably, but in very interesting ways)
In a practical sense, since oil is going to be cut in either volume or by high price, then the CO2 problem is instantly self-solving. Therefore, their alarm can only a scam force economic austerity on you, get subsidies, and as admitted in the GND, to push off-the-shelf, pre-existing authoritarian politics. Their hyper carbon-producing green subsidy goals are 100% pure nonsense as proven in Germany, and you may as well make those low-energy changes now while you can afford them and get used to them. It’s the right thing anyway. Live your good life, not your neighbors’.
So gone ‘round the world, you find you can cut “CO2 or no CO2” out of the equation. Same future for you either way. Same challenges. Same constraints.
For food, they are asking people to kill all animals on earth because they care about animals – just as long as the nature they make extinct is a “cow”, and for humans to be less connected to the earth than now, while eating food from a chemistry mill 6,000 miles away only one billionaire owns. Sounds environmental to me! Much more than dispersing, growing food locally with their children and letting animal and plant diversity increase in food forests! Trust Musk on this absolutely, when has his high-tech ever failed? Give him your power and autonomy and I’m sure the billionaires would never misuse it on you. I’ll take the cows and chicks that reach back 5,000 years of history to Vikings and Paleolithic bronze ages. Killing the village to save the village is a pretty good sign something’s gone off the rails.
I live near SFO airport. The planes go over my house in a pattern: Emirates, United, United, Air France, ANA Cargo. The last example is striking. What’s going on is that jet fuel is cheap enough to fly sushi cuts en masse, on a daily schedule, from Japan to California and still be profitable for all the middlemen involved. Amazing.
Until that dynamic changes, #flygskam will have only a marginal impact. What will? A sharp rise in oil prices would. Banning private jets might help but that still leaves all the mass commercial air travel, the trips to Europe, Hawaii and all the collective “snowbird” flights between Indianapolis and Fort Lauderdale, etc. I’m certainly guilty myself of the occasional overseas trip. That fact is we’ve built our lives and economy not only around cars and trucks but around cheap air travel. How do people think next day Amazon delivery works? Broomsticks?
So sorry to say I don’t have much confidence in the “penance” approach to change. I think it’ll be driven by regional natural disasters and long term economic disruption that will play out over a century or more. All that being said, there is much room for “carrot” approaches to change. Reviving local pride, food networks, staycations, etc. After all, local seaweed’s not just for the cows!
John Michael, a very nice unmasking of the faulty premises and inequitable solutions being peddled by activist cliques and their masters. Powerful magic is at work when a child’s tantrum can cause so many adults to discard their own interests in order to deliver every item on the elite’s wish list. Wow, the money in our pockets surely must be the heavy burden keeping us from flying! And these selfless messengers are so altruistic that they will unburden us of all that wealth, so we can spread our wings and soar… to the bottom of the sea. All hail gore! All hail Thunberg! All ha… blub, blub, blub.
Based on your past writing, I assume that when you wrote, “we can bring climate change to a halt, or at least slow it down to a pace that we and other species can handle” you did not intend it to be interpreted broadly as a call to a magical future as seen through a hopium haze. Plenty of not-yet-extinct species have already been stressed enough by climate disruption that they will not survive the changes that have occurred in their ecological niches (a natural and continuous process that we have misguidedly nudged into overdrive.)
Bringing a centering sense of hope back to the climate debate is much needed in the wake of Thunberg’s scripted gloom and disturbing imbalance. The healthy hope that we can still make sane choices that will restore balance to our world has been besmirched and needs to be reclaimed. Through highlighting rational steps we could take to help rebalance the climate we depend on, your use of “yes, we can” restores some of the inspiring power that incantation lost from its misuse as a jaded campaign slogan. Thaumaturgy/cacomagic pervade our declining civilization, getting trotted out to exploit any anxiety or despair perceived within us. Any spoils won by this dark magic are so spoiled by it as to be a loss – karma packs a punch. Alas, I can’t even remember the name of the healthy form of magic that balances/corrects the dark kind.
Would you consider writing another post about the healthy form of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will? (Of course, I fully realize that all of your posts are an unfolding of that very idea.) The subtle magic of your article this week responding hopefully to previous commenters’ attempts to convert you over to some thaumaturgy they have been trapped inside is quite complex, yet you somehow make it look easy and natural. If you are able to share some map of this nearly forgotten sphere, pointing out dead ends and fertile valleys, or to give us a glimpse under the hood, pointing out which levers affect which gears, that would be quite a gift. With the holidays about to bring families together to exhume time-worn resentments and ideological battles, audacious, fragile hope will be up against the united forces of learned despair and brittle positivism. Any help in engaging constructively with the ingrained myths dwelling inside ourselves and in each other would be much appreciated in these interesting times.
Timely article, JMG! Up here in Canada, all our federal party leaders are flying across the country almost non-stop to talk about how they will heroically battle climate change (of course, they are only being “practical”). If only one of the parties would advocate appropriate tech they would get my attention (and maybe even my vote), but the closest they seem to come to that is promising to plant a few billion trees or a tax credit for energy-saving renos. Not much talk in the MSM about Hurricane Greta’s visit to Alberta to brow-beat the tar-sands industry (during the final heat of a national election – maybe nobody told her about that). Meanwhile I have managed to get a four-season garden started in my local community garden and it’s generated quite a lot of excitement and voluntary labour.
You’ve got at least one member of the commentariat who remembers the fear of an impending ice age back in the ‘70s. I clearly remember it because the first novella that I ever wrote (thankfully unpublished) was on adapting to a new ice age (return of the dog-sleds!) during my underwhelming 9th grade math class in ’78. Two years later nobody was talking ‘ice age’ any more…
Witness the endless blather about “net zero”. Those Tesla cars charged overnight by owners of big solar panels who feel righteous. In reality, that “net zero” is just a financial arrangement, as the grid is not a battery. That solar power is used by those who over-use air conditioning. If people invested instead in appropriate tech for keeping cool, that excess solar power will not have any place to go. Of course those people insist that any day now Holy Elon will come up with batteries that everybody can afford in huge sizes (and the manufacture thereof won’t have any environmental impact).
@JMG – Yes. But you’ll hardly find anybody who has even the slightest clue of this very simple fact. And if you take a deeper look into our schooling system…… I very much doubt anything will change in a productive way anytime soon. Sometimes, it’s hard to bear…
@Frank – Exactly. As I said, even if you cover 50% of electricity by renewables, you still need to scale up by a factor of 7 minimum to cover the whole energy consumption. I presume it’s even more, since to get 100% we’re going to need storage – and storage reduces efficiency. And the green party – so far the greatest disappointment in my “career” as a voter – is of course “ahead” of them all again. If they have their will, it’s going to be a total desaster. Though, if the other major players have theirs, it going to be either.
I recently read Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, which for those who haven’t read it is a series of case studies of past and modern societies that were faced with resource depletion and environmental degradation. In many of the societies he looked at that collapsed the common theme he noticed, which is eerily but not so surprisingly familiar, was that the elite were benefiting from the resource-depleting status quo, so refused to change their behaviors even in the face of certain destruction. He pointed out that the elite ultimately only gained the privilege of being the last ones to starve…
Not every society he looked at did collapse in the face of those pressures though – he theorized that the ones that were able to save themselves had a couple of traits in common. First was the willingness to engage in long-term thinking and planning when it came to making decisions about their economic activities, as opposed to prioritizing short-term political or financial gain. Second was the willingness to reconsider their values, and most importantly, recognize when it was time to jettison values that no longer worked under the changed circumstances of their environment. They then implemented either a bottom-up approach to change, where the people take matters into their own hands to make changes, or a top-down approach, where the leaders put policies in place which serve to protect the environment, or a combination of both of those approaches.
This fits well with what esoteric philosophy says about how change comes about – to change conditions on the material plane one must first change the conditions on the inner or higher planes – one’s values, thoughts, and spiritual beliefs. That would seem to be as true for a society as it is for an individual.
What is it about the hemp plant that attracts such a cult following? Yes it has some uses, of course. But why do so many people so easily accept extraordinary claims, such that it (1) grows faster than anything else (compare with corn or willow?), (2) absorbs all toxins from the soil more than anything else (and keeps them sequestered forever?), (3) its fibers are so durable we’ll never need to replace any clothes made from it (like the old hemp ropes, uh?), (4) the CBD oil made from it is worth $100 an ounce (for any product claimed to be it) because it cures EVERYTHING that ails you, and (5) the THC made from it also cures everything (albeit there will be nothing left to cure after CBD).
Must be the negative psychology of having it banned in the last 80 years or so (in the USA at least).
Another practical, but rather dull, energy saving idea that you probably won’t see in the news any time soon (but which you can do right now to reduce your own energy use):
As the URL implies, that’s a website full of useful “appropriate” tech if anyone is interested in practical ways you can reduce your own impact.
It could be my 70s childhood in the suburbs, but the word “appropriate” has never sat well with me. I’d prefer to call it “smart tech” but that means something entirely different (and not at all smart) these days. So appropriate it is.
This site has a listing of all states and their rules for growing hemp:
and here’s an article about starting a hemp farm from ‘Modern Farmer’:
Making a call to your state or county extension office might get you a lot of valuable information too.
Re abiotic oil:
” I am immensely skeptical, as it seems just another excuse for business as usual. ”
This is like the case where JMG says people cannot hold the idea that while climate change is real it is also being used. I read The Deep Hot Biosphere, but never got from it that there was an inexhaustible spring of oil. Even if abiotic oil is real, we are certainly draining it in massive amounts, and who knows when it might replenish. But probably not in a humanly relevant timescale.
Sorry to post twice in one day, but as Penn State Extension has again sent me an email about hemp, I decided to actually read it and check their links. Here’s somewhere else to start, Will: https://extension.psu.edu/hemp. There are crop budgets on their where you can fill in your own numbers – but it looks like they’re estimating around $200/acre in returns.
It was on your recommendation in `Green Wizardry` that I got the book `Filters Against Folly`. The first chapter alone does a great job of demonstrating how we have to seperate the reality from the emotions being displayed in terms of environmentalists. When I see Greta Thunburg/Extinction Rebellion etc, it is all emotion and no action.
Also, I do like the example you gave of Sagan, I was not aware of that. I did like that Sagan as a science communicator was at least willing to entertain the more darker potential of humanity (Neil Tyson doesn’t do this at all) but it is a shame to see that he would fall into these traps of absurdity. He and others in similar positions in the media just could not help but amp up the rhetoric simply to get a reaction out folks.
Also when it comes to negative feed backs, the Artic ice thing is fascinating. Depending on the year Antarctic ice has been extending. It doesn’t offset all the melting in the Artic but it does at least demonstrate that global ice levels are declining slower than being presented by some. Folks are trying to contol the parameters of the discussion, P hacking in the scientific community. 😉 It rarely gets mentioned because it goes against the narrative being presented.
It doesn’t surprise me how they are acting, I have read a lot of environmentalist literature over the years and it all essentially boils down too “you (the reader) and now more woke and enlightened about these issues than the folks around you. Pat on the back!”. `This changes everything` by Naomi Klein is an excellent example, hundereds of pages of examples of how government and corporations are doing nasty things (granted) but with absolutely no solutions.
This is were JMGs ideas are very different.
Re the collapse of our culture, I couldn’t help but notice last week I went into a Barnes & Noble, and on a particular table I saw, I kid you not, 4-6 books with the F word in the title, 2 that had both F and S in the title, and one with just the S word. Titles like the fine art of not giving a shale, or unfrack yourself.
Seems right. Could you more clearly explain whether you are proposing “collapse and beat the rush” or adoption of policies that advance wide adoption of appropriately simple and sustainable technologies to maintain a good standard of living for 7 billion people and a healthy ecosystem on our planet (including how to muddle through balancing these against each other). These are very different proposals. The problem with “collapse and beat the rush” is that it is simply giving up on solving the problem because the rest of the world will keep on emitting greenhouse gasses. This problem requires collective action. You rightly point out that people of influence in our society usually have wealth and a large carbon footprint. But there are plenty of examples of strong advocates for sustainable living with small carbon footprints. But personal piety doesn’t easily become collective action. Sure there will always be hucksters jumping on every bandwagon and trying to personally benefit. Call them out. And in our age of techno-optimism, far too many whiz bang miracle cures have been touted which confuses people. Keep pointing out the problems. But many climate change activists are pushing in the right direction. Solutions to these problems lie in the direction of (a) universal education about the science (including how to think about uncertainties and feedback loops) and (b) collective action to create constraints on greenhouses gasses and (c) refocusing a lot of human effort away from perpetual growth toward lower energy ways of living, building renewable energy systems, and building new infrastructure with lower environmental costs. What we really need are clearer plans about how to get the wealthy and powerful on board to implement these in a way that avoids hypocrisy by cutting back on their emissions first. I think we are entering a time of possibilities here as the foolishness of the ignoring truth telling is become clear and there is a new window for science education.
To Caryn: thanks so much for your agreement and validation of my opinion on Greta. I’ve also said that she’s a homicidal misanthrope as well and that she’s not excuse from her bad intentions just because she is autistic. The posts in question came from a private group I run for childfree vegans to vent. In it, I pointed out why I think any form of worship of Greta Thunberg is deeply misguided. It’s not a popular opinion in those circles but it’s my group and I say whatever I like in there. As for soap making, I have all the ingredients and I keep putting it off. I’m thinking I should start with solid soaps first as they seem easier than liquid soaps… what do you think?
To Nachtgurke: Ugh, those wind farms are UGLY! Here I was thinking a landscape of half-abandoned office parks and sprawling mini-malls among superhighways in Illinois flatland was bad. Yuck!
To Patricia: She’s a childfree-by-choice low income person, so I don’t see any McMansions in her present or future!
To Dave OTN: I know, right? If she “wins”, she’ll be too busy fighting off zombies/making campfires out of old Vogue magazines/trying not to starve to death etc. to accept my hundred bucks. Except she’s not going to win.
To JMG: I’ll do my best to keep them engaged with me over the next decade, with the caveat of fully expecting they’ll block me for not frothing at the mouth over Donald Trump. Many have done so at this point and the trend continues unabated.
“It is very interesting that ice cores never held more than 400 ppm of CO2. ”
Keep in mind that these ice cores are only available from the last glaciation. There are previous ice ages which may or may not have the same cause as our current one. Keep in mind that by previous ice ages, I do not mean the glaciations of this current ice age of some 2 million years or thereabouts, but the ones from prior epochs. I don’t see a rhythm in them and they did not all have low CO2. Only the one prior to this one had low CO2.
Yorkshire, I’ve ridden streetcars in several towns, including Seattle, where one started as a pure tourist attraction and turned into a very popular route from Pioneer Square through the waterfront to south Lake Union. It’s right there on the streets, and it still works well. I’d also point out that streetcars were extremely widespread in the industrial world a century ago, when trains with their own grades were also very common. Thus I’m in favor of streetcars on the basis of repeated personal experience — and I’m also in favor of subways, monorails, and rail lines with their own grades!
Chris, yes, it’s a gorgeous cover, and it has the traditional bimbo on it. The book club edition is even worse:
Arkansas, again, there’s zero evidence that any oil well anywhere has ever recharged at a rate fast enough to matter. Now of course in a hundred million years or so, there will be plenty of petroleum again, but the distant descendants of chipmunks will get to burn that — not us.
Onething, one of the problems with recent climate change research is that they’ve somehow erased the Medieval Warm Period — which was quite well documented until somebody noticed that it contradicted the currently accepted narrative. If it turns out that what we’re doing will end up returning to MWP levels, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As for Obama’s mansion, well, there’s that!
Yossi, if it’s behind the wall, I’ll pass.
W.H., to my mind it’s way too early to be making hard and fast claims about what’s going to happen 50,000 years from now.
Rod, that seems very senslble to me. It’s also worth noting that McPherson in particular has made a lot of predictions in the past that have bombed; a certain skepticism thus might be worth applying to his latest claims…
Rabtter, I know. I watched it happen, remember!
Austin, the Earth may be perfect, but that perfection is in a state of constant change. If you suddenly found yourself in Australia 50,000 years ago you wouldn’t recognize most of the animals you’d encounter, you know: here’s a herd of diprotodons, there’s a carnivorous kangaroo, and you probably better climb a tree very fast before the Stirton’s dromornis over there — a ten foot tall, 100kg carnivorous flightless bird — notices you and decides you look tasty! The current wave of ecological change is not that different from past waves documented in the fossil record; we’re in the phase of species loss right now, which sucks, but the phase of rapid speciation will follow promptly.
Blue Sun, thanks for this.
Rob, that’s exactly the sort of single-issue fixation that leads to so many ecological mistakes on the left these days. Methane is not the only issue here! Studies have shown that vegan and vegetarian diets are no better for the environment than omnivore diets; what you save in methane you lose in other sources of environmental degradation. Among other things, you can raise livestock on pasturage without destroying the local grassland ecosystems — Joel Salatin has proved this repeatedly, and a growing number of ranchers are adopting his methods — and that means you retain the grassland’s capacity for carbon sequestration. To raise plant foods, though, you have to exterminate the plants already growing on the acreage, and kill the animals that live on those plants — even if you don’t spray them with poisons (and “green” pesticides such as BT are still ways of killing), they’re going to die because you deprived them of food and habitat. Here as always, you have to take the whole system into account.
As for China, you have no control over China. You do have control over your own lifestyle.
Methylethyl, I heard a lot of similar stories from people affected by Hurricane Sandy. I think it’s past time to make the change.
Frank, that’s about what I expected. The only difference on this side of the ocean is that over here, the government isn’t even pretending.
Mijas, exactly. The claims of certainty being made by too many activists make it clear that they’re engaged in political rhetoric, not scientific discourse.
Jerry, sure thing. This article is a good overview of the evidence.
Ruth, the stock market is actually a very good metaphor here. Notice what happens with those positive feedback loops: the market heats up, stocks rise unrealistically in price…and then the negative feedback cuts in and we have a crash. The window of opportunity you mention relates solely to the stage at which ordinary equilibrating processes can keep conditions within a fairly narrow “normal” range; once that’s exceeded, you don’t get positive feedback running unchecked — you get a burst of positive feedback, and then another range of negative feedback cuts in and down you go. We’ve already passed well beyond the window of opportunity with climate change — the cooling in the middle years of the 20th century was probably caused by those ordinary equilibrating processes, and the warming since then shows positive feedback. Now we get to see whether the second round of negative feedback produces a sigmoid curve…or a spike and crash.
@ disciple of the Dao: as a single human-type individual, I’ve had a huge positive impact on my area and you can too.
Turn portions of your yard into wildlife refuges, particularly along the edges. Plant a few native trees, quit raking the leaves, choose beneficial understory plants, weed out the mile-a-minute and Canadian Thistle, and viola: habitat for insects, arthropods, reptiles, birds, and small mammals up to the size of opossums*. Adding a single tree that supports a LOT of insects makes an enormous benefit. Native cherries along with native oaks are tops.
You don’t need much space either. One tenth of an acre of grass OR LESS can provide habitat. A five foot by five foot space can support a small redbud tree with mulch and Allegheny pachysandra underneath.
By providing habitat for critters other than ourselves, we give them a chance to live, to thrive, and to adapt to a changing world. Evolution is charging along in my yard even as I write this.
So yes, you can make a change far bigger than you know.
* Larger animals like raccoons need more space. However, if you want to learn if you have raccoons in your area, dig and stock a small koi pond, plant a square of corn, and a patch with watermelons. You’ll go out in the morning when everything is ripe and discover your expensive fish eaten, your corn ravaged, and your melons smashed, all as a result of the raccoons hosting a kegger. The other, easier way is to leave Buffalo chicken wing bones in your loosely covered trash can. The raccoons will visit for sure, wearing masks to conceal their identity.
Teresa from Hershey
I’m no expert soap maker, but I do make basic soaps all the time (body soap, laundry soap, solid shampoo, etc.) so I bought a book a couple of years ago about making liquid soaps and realized they were not only somewhat more complicated, but have even less room for goofs than regular old bar soap. They also require a different kind of lye. If you want to turn your cured bar soap into liquid and don’t care that it’s not clear like the commercial kind, just grate it up finely, dissolve it in water, and thin it until it comes out the nozzle of your container easily. It’s not going to win any beauty contests, but it’ll clean your hands just fine.
As for soap making: wear rubber gloves, protect your eyes, follow the directions exactly and weigh everything including liquids (you want avoirdupois ounces, not fluid ounces) on an accurate scale and you’ll make nice soap from your first try. It’s science, but not rocket science.
Brian, if you think I’m talking about penance, you’ve quite literally misunderstood every word I’ve said. As for those planes flying sushi across the Pacific, sure — look into the extent to which air travel is propped up by government subsidies sometime.
Christophe, I’ll certainly consider it. Yes, my comments toward the end were meant to be taken in the context of the broader vision of this blog and my writing generally; the biosphere is in a state of constant change, extinction is a constant reality — as is the rise of new species — and the Long Descent is still the shape of our future. The point I want to make is that the Long Descent is as different from the apocalyptic fantasies of the doom lobby as it is from the utopian fantasies of the progress worshipers.
Ron, the first short story I ever wrote was also about the coming ice age — and I wrote it in 1978 too. (It featured a woebegone cowboy herding genetically re-engineered woolly mammoths.) More generally, the spectacle of people talking earnestly about global warming and then climbing back aboard their carbon-spitting private planes is very nearly a perfect summary of why the current round of yelling will have zero result.
Moshe, yes, exactly! Meanwhile St. Elon is pleading poverty in an attempt to get out from under the libel suit from the guy he accused of pedophilia…
Nachtgurke, oh, I know. You do what you can.
Stefania, spot on. Wasn’t it Einstein who said that you can’t solve a problem with the thinking that created the problem?
Moshe, no doubt. Nonetheless hemp is an excellent source of fiber for paper and textile uses, it grows faster (and thus absorbs more carbon per unit time) than trees, and so it has a definite place in a sane response to our climate situation.
Sng, the thing I like about the label “appropriate tech” is that it makes it so easy to see just how wildly inappropriate so much of our current tech is! Low Tech Magazine is a fine resource, btw.
MichaelV, delighted to hear it; Garrett Hardin is seriously worth reading. As for the shifting ice balance, yes, exactly — the situation is much more complex than it’s been made out to be by politics.
Onething, at this point they’re just desperate to get anyone to notice their bland corporate product.
Ganv, “collapse now and avoid the rush” is a strategy anyone can put into practice, and it doesn’t prevent the people who do it from taking action in other ways — quite the contrary, downshifting your lifestyle to something you can afford more easily frees up resources you can use for many other purposes. As for a good standard of living for 7 billion people together with a healthy planetary ecosystem, that’s not within the range of possibility — you might as well promise everyone on Earth their own pet unicorn. The Earth’s population is going to decline — my estimate is that population will peak and begin to slump between 10 and 20 years from now — and it will drop steadily over the next few centuries as the Long Descent picks up speed. What we can do now is mitigate the crises of our own time and do our best to hand useful tools on to the people who will come after us.
Kimberly, it’ll be interesting to see how that unfolds over the next few years!
unfortunately this article brings to mind: “can’t see the forest for the trees”.
You diligently list all the failed climate warnings but expect us to still trust the overall premise that climate is undergoing a drastic change due to human activity. Past countless failed forecasts, failed timing “one day, some day the Arctic for sure will be ice free” don’t matter since this is grounded in the long established belief.
I remember about 30 years ago the immediate doom of disappearing Pacific islands by rising see levels, anybody remember that too? The UN sessions how to relocate these peoples and save their heritage? The disappearing ice sheets in the Antarctic? Well it’s actually increasing this year but this won’t be news material. Ancient sailing maps show Arctic without ice, plus it’s a pretty thin ice layer anyway. Antarctic ice core drilling shows double the amount of CO2 in some time periods well before humans. The cyclical nature of hurricanes is well studied. The sun activity is also cyclical and directly correlates to economic activity and development of higher civilizations.
The climate warming that became climate change and now climate weirding since the heat didn’t come, the change didn’t come and weird is opaque enough to accommodate anything.
People’s caring about the environmental degradation is being manipulated into a religious climate hysteria.
Did anything change between Club of Rome and Greta? Club of Rome wanted us to give the control over lives and economies to a group of holly bureaucrats; since we didn’t there is Greta, a disabled child -the ultimate shutup and do as we say because you’ve “taken her future”.
The new climate taxes all over Europe are spend on climate measures, we’re assured. This has nothing to do with aging populations and lack of young people to pay into retirement funds? This has nothing to do with millions of migrants that get full room and board? This has nothing to do with gigantic EU bureaucracy that needs to be fed? This has nothing to do with NGOs backed by delusional billionaires, who seem to live forever themselves but see us, the masses, as some sort crickets, which numbers need to be suppressed and possibly eradicated?
Germany had a formidable solar panel industry for decades now and is plastered with wind turbines but not enough, so car industry executives are being arrested (in Germany not just US) for supposedly not complying with the world’s most restrictive exhaust laws. Energy prices are very high, people are not supposed to fly, people are not supposed to eat meat, best they don’t own a car, people shouldn’t have children ( well, in Europe they don’t bc nobody can afford it)..etc.
Is this social engineering and reversing of the industrial lifestyle? You’re saying we should embrace it as it saves the planet for our children!
Well, we shouldn’t have children according to AOC, who preaches bus for everyone but prefers Uber herself. She’s 29 and haven’t had a serious job besides barista but wants to remake the economy and everyone’s lives.
Looks to me like the old communist agenda, when everyone is equally poor but the government bureaucrats, who are eating meat in their villas as they’re “working for the future of all of us”.
I hope you’ll post my dissent and thank you for the otherwise spot on political commentary.
Hi John many thanks for the post
About climate change a lot of people here in Europe and also I suppose in USA think we are still in 1970 when the energy consumption and CO2 emissions were made mainly by us, but today 64% of all CO2 emissions are released by non-OECD countries, Europe emitted in 2018 only the 10,7%, USA 15%, and China 28,1% of the total, but in Europe XR think they can “stop” the CO2 emissions to “save the planet” disrupting the normal life in european cities, but India increased the emissions in 2018 in 7%, Vietnam 14,8%, Bangladesh 9,3%, Kazakhstan 12,9%, Irak 13,3%, China 2,2%, Algeria 6%; many emerging and third world countries are increasing their CO2 emissions like hell, and they NEVER will stop voluntarily, because their elites know if growth stop or slows, then they will see “colour revolutions”, “arab springs”, “indignados”, “indigenous revolts” (like in Ecuador), etc…The daily priorities, the “struggle to survive” of these approx 6.200 millions poor people are very different to those of ecologists in rich countries, the grinding today overcome any future threat.
The Hurricane of Progress (Walter Benjamin) cannot be stoped
The people of these poor countries will perceive that rhetoric of the very intelligent and rich white environmentalists, as missionaries of a new creed, “the same rich white people they perfectly know from past centuries” always giving lessons on how everyone should live and what “indigenous” should do to save themselves and the planet. Of course, they will not listen to them, they have bigger problems.
I recommend to XR activist to go to Ecuador and try to avoid indigenous people using their pick-ups and cars to work & live, or ask for the removal of state subsidies to the fossil fuels; or to Dhaka or Mumbai or Ho Chi Min, etc…
You can see how the Hurricane of Progress blows in the photos of this article:
Always-insightful Archdruid, another of your predictions, made (I believe) in a comment a few months ago, has come to pass: Extinction Rebellion (XR) has jumped the shark. In the Capitol city of its origin, London, some XR protesters decided to jump up on top of (electric!) trains in the London Metro with XR banners, were subsequently pursued and grabbed by what appear to be working-class blokes, and roughly persuaded down and into the crowd where they were dealt with in an unfriendly fashion. No evidence that the XRers were thrown underneath the train, but if XR keeps this up I’m sure that’s bound to happen too. One-minute video here: https://youtu.be/9P1UXYS6Bmg
A warning to watchers: though the obscene taunts of the crowd have been expunged from the soundtrack, you will see working-class guys in sweatshirts communicating their ire to protesters who resemble, by their attire, Chartered Accountants (!) or bank employees. Oh the horror! How could those rough hoodie-clad guys be so uncaring towards such nicely-dressed folks? 😉
For extra credit, one of the founders of XR (Gail B.) climbed up above the door of the Transport Industry office in London and proceeded to ineffectually belabor their windowed facade with hammer and screwdriver. She was nattily attired in a business pantsuit with a frilly white blouse. One-minute video here: https://youtu.be/z7lJBBerZmM
Gail is now cooling her heals in jail, where the other XR co-founder Roger H. is also detained after conspiring to fly drones in Heathrow airspace and then ignoring a court order to stay away from Heathrow.
Felicitations to all!
I tried to post this earlier but I think it either got eaten or I forgot to hit send (I don’t -think- I said anything to break the rules). This post brings things back around full circle to the days of the Ecotechnic Future, and then as now brings me back to one of the better ideas Daniel Quinn had (he had a huge formative impact on me in my late teens/early 20s, and I still have a complicated relationship with him, he makes me cringe sometimes but he was still a huge part of my development.) In one of his later books, he talks about the idea that what’s needed is not so much a political revolution as an outpouring of ideas and innovation akin to the industrial revolution:
“Your greatest task in the decades ahead is to be inventive – not for machines but for yourselves. […] The Industrial Revolution What is the product of a million small beginnings a million great little ideas, a million modest innovations and Improvements over previous inventions. […] I’m not recommending it’s goals or it’s shameful features, […] I’m recommending only it’s mode of operation, which released one of the greatest and most democratic outpourings of human creativity in human history. Far from thinking about “giving up things,” you’ve got to be thinking about releasing just such another outpouring Of human creativity, one that is not directed towards turning out product well but rather turning out the kind of wealth you threw away in order to make yourself the rulers of the world and now so desperately crave.”
Whether it’s salvaging forgotten technologies and ideas, taking older modes of doing things and pushing them in new directions, or finding unexplored margins for innovation the key here is creativity, trying to bring something to the table that actually offering options that aren’t just better for the environment or for society in an abstract sense, but better for people. Calls for political action usually involve the outsourcing of sacrifices to the people who can least afford them, while just walking away still leaves the problem (as you pointed out in your critique of the Ones who Walk Away from Omelas). So in addition to “collapsing now” there’s also a call for creativity and invention, for trying things out and inviting others to expand on what you’re doing and take it in their own directions.
We need a robust global carbon credit system so we can have a modern version of Death Race 2000, where the racers have to run over pedestrians (the younger the better; no easy hundred points for seniors any more!) to earn the carbon offset credits to refuel for the next leg.
(That silly concept seems close enough to a meaningful metaphor to make me uncomfortable thinking about it.)
Anne, of course I’ll post your dissent; you’ve made it in a polite and reasoned fashion without stooping to troll’s tricks. From my perspective, you’ve fallen into the trap of assuming that because corrupt political interests are trying to use climate change to get their way, climate change isn’t real — which is the exact mirror image of the delusion of the left, which is that since climate change is real, corrupt politicalo interests can’t possibly be using it to get their way. It’s the same issue as with the Club of Rome — as I noted in a post a couple of months ago, they were trying to foist their political agenda on the basis of a real problem, too. The mere fact that the speed and severity of climate change has been wildly exaggerated — along the lines of Carl Sagan’s inflation of the nuclear winter issue — doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem; it just means that some people are trying to use it to scare the rest of us into buying into their agenda. But I know it’s easy to simply assume that they’re lying, pure and simple.
DFC, I know. I’ll be discussing the relevance of nationalism to the next environmental movement in an upcoming post — and part of it has to do with the terminal phase of the industrial revolution, its spread to the rest of the world.
Bryan, it had to happen. I don’t think it escaped anyone’s attention that the Tube station the XR protesters chose for their antics wasn’t a nice green suburban station where they would be inconveniencing their own caste, but the station in dirt-poor Canning Town, where they were keeping working class people from getting to jobs they needed to feed their kids. A typical protest of the privileged…
Sorry, I just copyrighted despairoin©. You are only allowed a one time personal use and must include the ©.
I only paid $75 and when I sell it for $75,000 I will have a problem. Unless I play it right this will blow me right out of low income and Section 8 housing and then I will be paying Seattle full rent – until the money runs out in about 4 years. I only need Section 8 for a washer and dryer hook up, regular housing has very toxic shared laundry rooms. Section 8 is a lottery, I’m not kidding, so I will probably never get a whiff of it again.
Welfare sometimes asks if I have given away something of value. So if I give it away and it does have value… Oh dear, I think I blew it.
Anyone know how to do a bullet proof trust?*
*The entirety of this comment is fractive. Except this part.
On Abiotic oil,
I’m pretty sure I got into this last time it was mentioned, but here goes again — there is good evidence to reject the abiotic oil hypothesis– carbon isotope ratios.
Isotopes? OK, so, carbon atoms aren’t all the same. There’s 3 main types. Carbon-12, the most common, has a nucleus of 6 protons and 6 neutrons. Carbon-14, which you’ve probably heard of, is the radioactive type used for dating purposes; it has 6 protons and 8 neutrons (14 total). There is another stable isotope, though: carbon-13. Just a teeny bit heavier than carbon-12, with only 1 extra neutron. It’s fairly rare, making up 1.1% of the carbon atoms here on Earth.
Why do we care? Well, that extra neutron makes carbon-13 slightly heavier, which effects the rate it goes through certain chemical reactions — like photosynthesis! Plants preferentially uptake carbon-12. So you get a wee bit more carbon-12 in anything plant based. (10 to 25 parts per thousand vs natural abundance. Not huge but detectable.)
see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Δ13C, or for a deeper dive into isotope geochemistry,
(I encourage all and sundry who have the time to check out the second reference– it also gets into paleoclimatology in a nice way)
OK, so. There’s extra carbon-12 in carbon from living things. Good. And the carbon isotope ratios of crude oil?
Here’s an example: https://www.geoconvention.com/archives/2017/001_GC2017_Carbon_Isotope_Analysis_of_Oil_Samples_Utsira_High_Area_Norway.pdf
Matches living things!
So, now we need a source of carbon from the deep mantle (ok, there’s diamonds so fine — some is down there) AND a process to synthesize it into oil that just happens to match the isotope ratios of marine life. Good golly, that’s a convenient mixup. Impossible? No. Perhaps there’s deep underground biota munching on mantle carbon. But then our oil still isn’t abiotic. 😛
As for Deepwater Horizon, 30,000ft was the total depth. Below sea level AND below the seabed. If you ignore the water, the deposits were less than half that. That’s pretty normal– and actually only down into Miocene sands in the gulf (something like 5 to 11 million years old). Some places, sediment builds up fast, and things get buried DEEP.
That was most excellent!
It’s hard to take the vegans seriously when it is based upon serious disconnection from nature.
No I don’t think you’re suggesting penance in this article. To the contrary, that’s the guilt/shame tactic of many climate activists, along with selling “indulgences” (carbon offsets, taxes, etc) that only the wealthy can pay without feeling much pain while booking that annual trip to Bali.
My point was rather that, like cars, air travel is deeply embedded in our way of life, particularly on the vast continent of North America, and until it gets much more expensive (or trains much better) it will continue. Banning private jets seems like a symbolic eat the rich action that will do little to change our trajectory.
In my opinion, we’d do better to focus on offering a positive vision of life without such high energy consumption. After all, many Americans save up for years for that 2 week trip to Paris, which by virtue of its older urban form consumes far less per capita than say, Atlanta.
JMG, your comment to Ruth re: negative feedback loops just crystallised something for me.
Humans are of course part of this natural climate system, not separate to it. One of those negative feedback loops that most never talk about is the impact of climate change on our ability to release further greenhouse gases. Ie, the decline of industrial civilisation and attendant loss of human population.
Teresa from Hershey:
“The raccoons will visit for sure, wearing masks to conceal their identity.” Ha!
That reminds me of the strawberry patches at our last house: we’d wait and wait for the berries to be perfectly ripe, but before we could pick them the chipmunks would snag every single one and to advertise their superiority they would sit on the stone wall right outside the kitchen window so we could watch them eat. To further infuriate us, they’d take only one bite out of each. They’re lucky they’re cute.
At this house all our strawberries are in raised beds with hardware cloth coverings, which have proven to be critter proof so far. Our garden does include plantings intended for wild creatures to eat and we always leave some of the elderberries, sunflowers, and rose hips behind, along with all the flowers that go to seed, for our property’s other residents to feast on. The local bear family appreciates the apples that fall off the trees and sometimes we’ll catch a glimpse of them rolling on the ground eating apples that have probably fermented a little. If they leave the hives alone they can have all the apples they want.
Re: The Little Ice Age. Consider happenings in the Old World a couple centuries prior to first contact as an additional contributor. The Black Plague reduced the European population enough to switch considerable amounts of agricultural land from carbon sources to carbon sinks. Several sources have the start of The Little Ice Age at around 1300 while first New World contact was 1491.
” accepting a sharply lower standard of living “for the planet,” so that the upper twenty per cent or so can maintain their current lifestyles unchanged.”
We see a watered down but fiscal example of that happening right now in Marin County California, which just happens to be the richest county in the state. A billion dollar+ rail transit system has been recently built at great expense and now is coming hat in hand to ask taxpayers to extend a sale tax to further fund it decades into the future.
It takes something like only .05% of the cars off the road and 2/3 of its passengers used to ride the buses that it replaced. In addition, new massive developments are, per state law, being forced on trackside communities to help fight global warming, thus leading to further population growth which might raise the train ridership. Meanwhile, more desirable and flexible bus lines are not funded.
See comments at end of article for lots of numbers.
Kevin L Cooke says:
October 17, 2019 at 2:48 am
“JMG–did you coin that? It’s a good one.”
Kevin, have you heard
I made those up.
JMG, Onething, DaveONT, and Beekeeper
Thanks for the information and the links. The group on this blog is just such a great resource. I am in Minnesota so right now industrial hemp is not kosher but I expect it will allowed pretty soon.
Dave my email is waoberton at hotmail dot com
“Solutions to these problems lie in the direction of (a) universal education about the science (including how to think about uncertainties and feedback loops) ”
The problem here for me is that the above shows an absolute certainty that one is right, which means there is no question, and one can implement unrestricted “education” (or brainwashing as the case may be) with no opposing views. I say, go ahead and teach Darwinism, but since there are so many qualified people who do not accept it, then the other side should be presented. Why not? Are they afraid? Likewise, many people and many qualified scientists do not accept the anthropogenic or CO2-driven climate change theory, and some of those reasons ought to be presented. I understand the “but, but, but” our survival is at stake.
Well, I see that as religious. Religious people quite often feel that the absolutely correct and God-pleasing outcome would be that all the world should be Christian. I mean, it is the truth and it is really the only way to God. Unless they feel that every last person should be Muslim…or Mormon, or for that matter, Baptist or born-again or Roman Catholic. You know, the true religions…and I also understand and sympathize with those who feel that abortion is murder. But I don’t agree, at least for the first trimester. So I understand the fear and panic, but people have widely believed erroneous things before and killed and persecuted those who didn’t agree.
As to teaching how to think about feedback loops, I note that even here today among believers, there are different ways that people are thinking about feedbacks.
I apologize in advance for picking on you, because I really am not. Rather, I have several times made this point to posters that have written in such a way that it appears they have not entertained at all that their understanding of “the” science might be even partly wrong.
And when that happens the possibility of legitimate disagreement is impossible and therefore those who don’t agree must be understood as stupid, crazy or wicked.
And by the way, the recent post by Orlov, his open letter to Thunberg, was quite surprising. If I didn’t know better I would think he is entertaining some doubts. Probably he isn’t, but it was a very well rounded post.
Correction to my last post. I just finished going through all the links provided and it turns out hemp is fully legal in Minnesota!
Thank you, JMG for a review and reset of this topic. I don’t recall much about the predicted ice ages in the 70’s (I was much more interested in the Viking Mars landings) but I was a big fan of Carl Sagan (I share a birthday with him, along with Lou Ferrigno and Spiro Agnew) and remember well his descriptions of nuclear winter. I do remember it seeming to get more doomy with each telling!
Regarding personal air travel, here at Portland Jetport in Portland, Maine, most of the traffic seems to be private jets. Yes, we get a lot of seasonal airline traffic too, but the sky seems to be full of small jets zooming in and out. An acquaintance pumps gas for them 40 hours a week; Salma Hayek gave him a nice tip recently. Another friend flies for a company who provide private flights to such one percenters who can’t afford their own personal jet. The company even boasts that “only 50,000 people in the US can afford our services”. All in the name of convenience! I’d say that one of the real “inconvenient truths” is the fact that convenience is killing the planet and us along with it. But where does one draw the line between a luxury, a convenience, and a necessity? Indoor plumbing, modest electricity and pain free dentistry are awfully nice. But having drive through anything and nine different kinds of Cheerios (go to a supermarket and count ’em!) seems rather extravagant if not outright silly.
Finally, here’s a recent show from Maine public radio about hemp growing in the state. There’s even a “pick your own” farm here. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds (labor intensive, regulatory hurdles along with the usual problems about growing anything) but I think it could be a boon to our poor state:
“Onething, one of the problems with recent climate change research is that they’ve somehow erased the Medieval Warm Period — which was quite well documented until somebody noticed that it contradicted the currently accepted narrative.”
This sort of thing I have begun to notice. Before I tended to at least believe what “the other side” had so say about most of their data. But the rewriting of everything in light of the all powerful CO2 and a couple of other glitches (dishonesties), means that I now have an even harder time accepting the narrative.
A few other things, too, seem a bit over the top. For example, how is it that it is said that species are starting to die off from a one degree centigrade rise? Most animals and plants are incredibly resilient to different temperatures. Many plants in my wild edible plant book are found over many hundreds of miles north to south. Horses live in Arabia and Canada. The difference in average daily temperature 2-3 hundred miles south where I used to live is at least 5 degrees and often more. Yet the same species thrive in both places.
Your way, kids can leave grapes out for Santa! He’s probably pretty burned out on milk and cookies.
Perspiring writers, keep typing! And watch out for sneaky games. I had to type standing up today, not able to sit, so after a while I lay down on the sofa to rest my feet a few minutes, and play Cat Condo. An hour and 15 minutes later I started up. Word to the wise: set a timer for ANY computer game, even the idiotically simple ones. The only exception I can think of is Neko Atsume, since after placing the goodies, you have to leave the game for anything to happen.
Speaking of red meat and climate change, here’s a 3-panel comic on topic if you need a break from the serious:
Eric, you certainly didn’t break any of the house rules, so it must have been a technoglitch. That’s an excellent point. The end of the current era of absurd extravagance can be the beginning of an era of inspired tinkering, invention, reassessment, and imagination; once we get out from under the delusion that the more we waste, the happier we are, there’s a world of possibilities.
John, heh heh heh. I have prior use from several years back, and can document it. 😉
Brian, fair enough. The point of #BanPrivateJets isn’t necessarily to ban them, it’s to bring home to the activist rich that “do what we say, not what we do” isn’t going to cut it. But you’re right, of course, that the hangdog spirit of modern virtue signaling activism won’t cut it; David Fleming in Lean Logic points out that we need the spirit of carnival, not the spirit of Lent!
Graeme, excellent! You win tonight’s gold star for seeing the crucial point in this whole business. Current environmental thought lost its way when it forgot that human beings are part of nature, and our activities are also part of natural feedback loops…
Rabtter, that’s entirely possible — I don’t know what the death toll was like in sub-Saharan Africa, but all over Eurasia 25-30% was pretty standard — and yeah, that’s a lot of potential forest growth.
Jenkins, yeah, that’s classic. I’m in favor of trains, but not that kind of boondoggle.
Tad, that doesn’t surprise me at all. I’d like to see private jets have to pay fees for airport use commensurate with their share of sunk and ongoing costs!
Onething, for me it was the erasure of the global cooling scare that did it. I was fascinated by climate change in those days, and read plenty of nonfiction as well as science fiction that used the coming ice age as a theme — and watching supposedly knowledgeable people not only insisting that it never happened, but playing weasel games when they were presented evidence that it did in fact happen, convinced me that there was something very, very dishonest going on.
Blue Sun, hah! Thank you.
@JMG – the other day I heard a story on NPR (yes, I was driving a car, and yes, I bought it used, and it’s gets 36mpg) about a company looking to sell units of their giant carbon capture machine. It pulls carbon dioxide right out of the air! The reporter submitted a wrapt description of its size (a football field), and how slowly it pulls CO2 from the atmosphere due to the low concentrations. I waited and waited to hear the reporter end the broadcast with a snarky comparison of how much CO2 a growing tree can pull out of the atmosphere by comparison. Alas, I waited all the way home for it.
It’s too bad, because I remember NPR being one of the only new agencies/companies that did NOT beat the war drums as loud as they could in 2003. They were one of the few that reported on the suspicious nature of the ‘intelligence’ Bush Jr used to justify the invasion.
No! You’re all wrong! This time is different! We have I-phones and Teslas!
Seriously, Graeme hit the nail on the head. One of the key insights from William Catton’s essential book, Overshoot, is that, as much as we’ve erected hypercomplex systems bent on denying it, human beings are indeed subject to the same ecological processes as the rest of the biosphere. A key element is that a species cannot long prosper — indeed, exist — in an environment that consists of its own waste. Sooner or later, its population will crash, and another cycle will begin. So we’re at the mercy of feedback loops we can’t easily predict.
As for wind power, well, somewhere right now in eastern Colorado or western Kansas is an Aermotor windmill that has been operating since the 1920s, pumping water from a shallow well into a tank for livestock. A rancher may have greased the bearings ten or fifteen years ago, but that’s about it. That probably meets the definition of appropriate technology. The huge wind farms of northern Europe? I wonder.
Finally — and excuse me for being so random — those of you who are of an age to remember the Bell Labs films shown to grade school science students in the 1950s and 1960s, which starred Dr. Frank Baxter (who, I understand has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), might want to look up the 1958 film “The Unchained Goddess” (with a script co-written by Frank Capra!) on YouTube. Fast forward to about the 50 minute mark and you’ll hear a description of anthropogenic climate change that sounds rather contemporary.
We’ve wasted 60 years, at least. Our species is supposed to be different than, say, algae. Again, I wonder.
‘Nuther word. I misread “dishonesties” as “dishonistics”.
Seems maybe useful.
I’ve said this before but hadn’t asked for others experience.
Has anyone else had a radical personal experience of climate change? Or even not so radical but persistent and obvious?
To get out of high school where I was frustrated with my weak memory I joined the US Coast Guard which is military. This also got me out of going to Vietnam which I was clueless about.
I spent a year on a life boat station then a school and then to the USCGC Northwind, a mid size middle aged icebreaker. I didn’t last long in my specialty because of memory problems and contrasting attitudes and so became a seaman.
I suspect the summers I spent north of Alaska and Canada,1967 and 1968, were in a peak period for ice. It was an alien universe. Bleak and beautiful in it’s own way. Not as cold as one might expect but never really warm and never ever hot like it has been recently. Plenty of healthy polar bears and cubs.
The change I have seen there in pictures and reading arctic newsletters was initially quite upsetting. I had not cared to go back but I had not realized how special that environment was to me.
Back in the 1980s, the Svalbard Archipelago was categorized as ‘Arctic Desert’, due to the very little precipitation that fell there. The buildings at Ny Ålesund, Longyearbyen and Pyramiden did not have rain gutters, as “it does not rain in Svalbard”. And whatever snow fell, during cold winters, blew off the roofs.
Which is why Svalbard was chosen as the location for the Global Seed Vault.
A cold place. That would aid refrigeration of the seeds stored.
Stable cold climate.
Remote location – it would take some effort to get to, in case of a global catastrophe.
Things changed during the 1990s and early 2000s.
In the 1990s, Norway decided to fund the vault and in the early 2000s, ground was broken. The inauguration was hailed as a major event and the vault has received various prizes and nominations as a significant achievement.
However – the Svalbard Archipelago is no longer an Arctic Desert.
There is constant rain. Frequent flooding. Avalanches. Permafrost melt.
The Norwegian government is spending a fortune relocating 250+ houses and offices. Temporary housing has been put in place, as several residential areas have been closed off, due to the threat of avalanches. As the permafrost melts, the ground becomes unstable and hillsides begin obeying gravity.
The seed vault was damaged by flooding. Its foundations began cracking because of subsidence and a decision was made to erect an auxiliary structure with a power plant with diesel generators, to be used to provide extra cooling to the vault.
“We’re going to help the permafrost along,” said a representative of the company tasked with saving the vault.
The original design had underestimated the refrigeration needs, because one assumed that Svalbard would remain a cold place. Frequently, temperatures are now 10-14C above the 30-year normal, in mid-winter. That made the refrigeration plan inoperative.
So – the vault that was supposed to provide hope, in the case of a catastrophe, is in the wrong place, to the wrong spec’s, underperforming, and subject to risk from instability in the hillside the vault is located in.
They removed the old access tunnel, built. a new one, installed additional refrigeration capacity and are now hoping for the best.
However, the initial plan was that one would use low-energy means to keep the vault itself cold (at -18C), getting a good assist from the surrounding environment. There was no insulation betwen the vault itself and the surrounding hillside/rock, and the theory was that, with time, cold from the vault would suffuse into the hillside and reduce its temperature. When catastrophe struck, that cold would then move into the vault, keeping it colder longer than would otherwise have been the case.
But because Svalbard is now a much hotter place, up in the Arctic, you don’t get that effect.
Which is why there are now generators running to provide additional cooling. And those need a steady supply of fuel. And when that asteroid hits …
We’re completely unprepared for the effects of AGW, because we have completely underestimated the rapidity with which the forces we have unleashed are striking back at us.
And the global seed vault is an excellent example of that.
Here’s a link to a photograph showing what the repair effort looked like last year. Very different from the pretty images of the entrance under Aurora borealis in winter, no?
Going to repost this earlier question from September 2019 Open post as it seems to me a really important issue in pulling the discussion about climate change more to the center and less from apocalyptic narrative. I posted too late in that open post to get a response and hoping you will be able to chime in here.
Onething did give a response (thanks Onething) that was skeptical of the claims stating that the small amount of CO2, relatively speaking, compared to natural CO2 sources causing all the warming was suspect and I am hoping you will weigh in on that particular question as well.
Below is the original post:
Have you heard anything more definitive about the Michael Mann versus Tim Ball lawsuit that was dismissed with costs in Tim Ball’s favor? I did find one site reporting the judges ruling (See the ruling at this link https://www.steynonline.com/documents/9740.pdf) but the ruling does not make it clear as was asserted that it was the release of Mann’s raw data on which the court had been waiting…Just that the delays on Mann;s part / team were inexcusable in the judges opinion.
I have to admit until you raised it in an earlier post I was not even aware that a lawsuit was underway nor had I seen Tim Ball’s version of the time period covered by Mann’s original Hockey Stick graph with a very different interpretation of whether current temperatures have ever been seen in the last two thousand years.
I would love to hear your take on all of this as it’s quite difficult, at least for me, to make sense of both sides claims. Ball seems to be saying that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) from about 900 A.D. to 1300 A.D experienced temperatures in the range of those we have experienced over the last couple of decades. Of course if that were true it would at least raise the possibility that we would need to consider that factors other than the industrial revolution and commensurate CO2 emissions were the main driver for recent temperature increases.
Mann’s position seems to be the opposite and this all seems to hinge on whose reconstruction of previous temperatures from ice cores, three growth rings and the like, is most plausible.
Furthermore any investigation of this question also leads to articles on both sides pointing out that the CO2 emissions from natural sources in absolute terms dwarf those from human sourced activities. For example plant respiration and microbial respiration and decomposition and oceans emit 750 Gigatons of CO2 and humans activities about 30 Gigatons. There is quite a detailed discussion from NASA at https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/CarbonCycle which implies there are fast and slow carbon cycles and AGW is effecting the fast cycle. And an explanation at skeptical science https://skepticalscience.com/Human-CO2-Peddling-Myths-About-The-Carbon-Cycle.html
Folks advocating for limiting CO2 emissions take the position that although natural sources of CO2 are much larger than man made CO2 they are normally in equilibrium more or less so the extra we are putting into the system really matters. Those who are skeptical that the effects of human sourced CO2 could be the primary forcing function to temperature rise seem to imply that the relative size means it’s unlikely to be the cause, plus water vapor has a much larger effect and as CO2 concentrations rise the increase in greenhouse effect does not rise linearly but rather at a small percentage of the increase..
Thanks for any insights you can give on understanding the Michal Mann / Tim Ball case and the wider discussion of whether any of the criticisms of Mann’s paper and the science behind it have any validity in terms of temperature reconstructions and the relative effect on human sourced CO2.
When thinking about public transport I try to remain technology-agnostic. A lot of people have painted themselves into a corner by becoming too attached to a single solution.
But I do have a soft spot for the cable car – http://gondolaproject.com/. It has an appealing combination of features. Medium cost, medium capacity, minimal ground footprint, complete grade separation, no drivers so they have low labour costs. They can keep going in floods, though I’m not sure how much wind they can tolerate. They’re not particularly fast, but the most modern can go around 18-27mph. They tolerate gradient better than anything else. Cable cars have been successful in Andean cities, and I live in the Pennines – these hills aren’t kind to other forms of transport. There’s also the more intangible aspect of civic pride – you get a view of the city you couldn’t get any other way – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/south-america/bolivia/articles/la-paz-cable-cars/. Finally, cable cars can last a very long time in sub-optimal conditions – https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2430793/Stalins-cable-car-Death-defying-metal-coffins-miners-using–despite-riddled-rust.html.
Private planes are specifically a problem when used as a luxury for the rich – the same types of plane can be very useful in other circumstances. When a specific combination of people and equipment need to get somewhere, and the aircraft forms part of the workplace when they get there, the plane functions more like a builder’s van with wings. Australian Flying Doctors have some very nice Pilatus PC12s and PC24s – very sophisticated on the inside but rugged on the outside and rough-field capable. They’re essentially marketed as flying Range Rovers. I think nuclear emergency support teams use similar planes.
Ganv, I read your comment still bleary-eyed after getting up. I misread “avoids hypocrisy by cutting back on their emissions first” as “cutting back on their emotions first”. There may be an idea there… 🙂
Great post as usual John. I’ve got to the point where I don’t envisage anything being done about climate change until the global economic system collapses. And people return to local economies in response. I think in this respect your Weird of Hali books paint a realistic picture. I suspect agri industry food production will suffer, food prices will rocket, and as a result folks will be forced between paying the mortgage or eating. Inevitably house prices will fall and bank crisis will happen until no one can bail them out anymore. Mixed in with this will be the failure of antibiotics and populations will decline accordingly until equilibrium is reached once again with resources. A depressing picture really, but lower populations mean less land required and natural regrowth of wilderness as a result. We will come full circle, eventually.
Nice to see appropriate technology making a comeback on the blog! That kind of practical tinkering, combined with collapsing ahead of the rush, is definitely the kind of thing I feel drawn to. For a while it almost seemed like you thought those had lost some of their power in the age of Trump, to be honest. 🙂
For what it’s worth though, most vegan climate activist types I’m aware of seem to prefer public transport and travel by train over SUVs and transoceanic flights. Many of them support causes like bans on private cars and fully subsidised public transport in cities and increased taxes on aviation fuel (currently tax exempt in most cases).
Then again, maybe that’s a Europe vs America thing, since I don’t really grok some of the harsh comments about “socialism” or Sanders / a Green New Deal in the comments here either? As far as I can see “democratic socialism” seems more akin to what many would call “social democracy”, than any purported dictatorship of the proletariat.
Sure, I’m not a huge fan of our centralised bureaucratic, ossified and hypocritical “welfare” state either — if I may dream I’d much prefer something close to the libertarian municipalism of Bookchin and others. But the current American alternative of lobbyist rule, extreme wealth disparity, debt slavery, mass surveillance and incarceration, imperial wars abroad and police brutality at home, a completely noxious media landscape, etc etc, seems much worse. And I have a hard time picturing effective responses to our environmental and resource crises without at least partially addressing these issues. If only because taking some of that pressure off would free up more of people’s resources for making changes in their own lives and communities.
I just wanted to add this to the conversation, perhaps you haven’t seen it, but XR have been protesting in London this week and yesterday things went a bit ‘pear shaped’ when they tried to disrupt the 6am train commute in a working class area. MSM have downgraded this pretty much everywhere!
Yeap: ” You shall not use this environmentally friendly form of transport today” command from the upper middleclass messengers…It didn’t go down well, and because people had already seen that police hadn’t done anything useful previous days, well…
After reading some of the comments on the second twttr video from sid, I am impressed with how clued up people really are about what’s really going on. You don’t need an account to look at it on the Web, btw and I promise you will laugh for a while!. Some twitpearls of wisdom:
1. “Unbelievable. Truly horrible… Someone shouted “Get *him* down!” without first checking his Pronouns. I’m surprised the Police weren’t immediately on the scene.”
2 ” I shouldn’t laugh but this is a working class part of London , with people just wanting to get to and from work…… if you want to protest, go block a petrol station or a hedge fund place . Leave mr and mrs Joe bloggs alone”
3. “Lmao apparently they didn’t know the difference between Canary Wharf and the surrounding area? That’s the East End ”
4. “Canning Town is anything but middle class”
5. ” That’s why Extinct Rebel attack it. Since pre Victorian times the middle class have always had deluded campaigns designed to signal their educational and moral superiority and blame and punish what they consider the lower classes ”
6. ” This is NOT the vegan section of Waitrose Dorothy” (Waitress is an upmarket supermarket in the UK”
I’ve noticed that websites about reducing your carbon footprint are typically set up to show you the areas of greatest impact in ways that make comparison difficult. For one they are heavily skewed towards having “one less child” which makes anything else seem totally irrelevant. Choosing to take public transportation rather than drive will give you a barely perceptible blip. I guess because they just give each child a maximum footprint? But since most wealthy people don’t want to have more than one child, maybe two at most anyway – if they even want kids at all – this seems to similarly point towards doing nothing.
Also plane travel is done in the same “one less flight” style, which makes the impact seem very small, or at least not something you can easily make sense of. It seems like it would be better to just list different lengths of flights and the impact of each. There’s no mention of the impact from the kind of constant flying required of/enjoyed by celebrities, and no mention of private jets at all.
I would also say that the article on vegetarian diets you linked above seems to skip staple foods as part of the diet which will give very weird results. Comparing beef to broccoli per calorie (their example I think) is likely not even physically possible for the hypothetical eater. It is still good food for thought though.
Hi John Michael,
Ooo! That’s a great cover and the Virago is even less prepared for cold weather than the lady on the original cover! Interestingly, the size of the knife has been reduced in direct proportion to the clothing. And dare I say it, but clearly the young lady is a proponent of a protein heavy diet, and it is thus hardly a wonder at my earlier comment as to her waspish temperament. 🙂 Anyway, I hope she doesn’t come and get me. Hehe!
You’ve raised the challenge and I intend to spend some time tomorrow looking through my book collection and see whether anything can match that cover. Some challenges are worth the time!
Apologies but I’m so far off topic today. But yeah, there are lots of little things we can do. Dung beetles were released into this part of the continent not too far in the past, and I find them here and help them on their way at their important business. Of course, that also means I can’t be going around spraying insecticides, but it is a small price to pay. Anyway, I like a good poo story and here is a good one involving the benefits of these little critters and agriculture: Poo-eating beetles and charcoal used by WA farmer to combat climate change.
PS: Thanks for considering the entropy side of the story. It was that you mentioned they weren’t immortal and that got my mind wondering about what their life cycle looked like from a nature perspective. Dunno, but it is interesting, and maybe near to the end they play their hand more openly?
@ Nachtgurke, October 17, 2019 at 2:30 pm:
The Green ´´voting experience´´, oh dear…my biggest political disappointment,too. I don´t vote for them anymore since the beginning of the millenium, and for quite some time I didn´t know who to vote for. Recently, though, I´ve given my vote to the ÖDP (they´re the ones who organized the bee referendum in Bavaria) because they are the only party I could find that doesn´t want growth at any price (quote from their program: Wirtschaftsform ohne Zwang zu ständigem Wachstum
Lebensqualität können wir nur erreichen, wenn wir in einer Weise
wirtschaften, die unsere natürlichen Lebensgrundlagen schont und den Menschen langfristig eine solide wirtschaftliche und soziale Basis bietet. Ständiges
Wirtschaftswachstum führt auf lange Sicht nicht zu mehr Lebensqualität, sondern zu fortschreitender Umweltzerstörung, mehr Leistungsdruck und Stress
und zur Belastung menschlicher Beziehungen.).
I encourage every ecologically interested German to have a look at their program, which you can find here:
I´m seriously thinking about contacting them to form a local chapter, because they probably need any help they can get…
It is a common conception that teaching the science means assuming you are right and indoctrinating. That might be true when science is taught badly. But good science teaching starts with helping students learn to use the hugely successful scientific ideas and tools that are not at all controversial. Once students understand how to think like scientists and learn what current theories in physics say about how things move and the way chemistry says elements bond, and the way biology says organisms and biochemical mechanisms work, and the way astronomy says the universe works, then they are ready to work on some harder problems like geology and planetary science and evolution and climate change.
What the science says is not that we know we are completely right. But that the risks of huge disruption of the planet are very high. Someone who realizes this naturally goes on to the next step of proposing policies that have a chance of mitigating these risks. The IPCC has usually been pretty good about making this distinction. But as JMG points out, talking science and talking politics are different languages and people often get very frustrated by the language barrier. Many exasperated scientists have said foolish things…I guess we all do that when we get angry.
Seems you are still working on the evolution controversy. I grew up being taught young earth creationism in the 1980s. I would encourage you to check with the people who were taught these ideas and have gone on to be professional scientists. Most of them have either abandoned Christianity or moved to ideas like Francis Collins and Biologos. There was very little professional pressure on me to abandon young earth creationism. I just learned enough about radiometric dating, lake varves, ice cores, geology, paleontology, and genomics that I realized that ideology had abandoned searching for the truth and was searching for rhetoric to back up their position.
One other thought that I’ve been mulling over thinking about this week’s essay. One of the obstacles that I often see popping up with promising technologies, methods, ideas, etc. is the tendency for promising ideas, resources, and technologies that can easily be broadcast cheaply to the masses and could have massive positive effects on easing our predicament to become playthings for the elites due purely to cultural forces. One area I’ve been a big supporter of for years is the entoculture and entomophagy Movement. It’s another way to significantly reduce the ecological footprint of food, and unlike a lot of other forms of agriculture is actually scalable for poor urban living. When I first got into the movement, the biggest obstacle was the Western palate, and so a lot of effort was put into getting people past the “ick” factor. That battle has been pretty thoroughly won over the last few years, but in an unfortunate way. Now, if you go to a fancy farm-to-table restaurant you’ll pretty reliably see dried crickets, grasshoppers, or mealworms sprinkled on salads and desserts, black ants adorning fish, and expensive smoothie shops will have cricket powder as a nutritional mix-in, and you can buy ento bars at “whole-paycheck.” In other words, it went from being a became a fringe movement with a lot of promise once it could get pulled out of the novelty circuit and taken seriously, to a superfood fad for hipsters and health conscious soccer moms, and therefore completely out of reach even to the people who once made up the core of the movement, not because raising insects is more expensive or difficult than other forms of agriculture, but because it’s become a status symbol…
You’ve talked about Hemp a few times, and that’s a material that already has a connotation to it… And there’s already a very specific American market for Hemp clothing, paper, and utensils… No matter how cheap and productive an American Hemp Industry was, Hemp paper taking off except as a luxury item would have to contend with the behemoth of Hemp as a status and cultural symbol. And it wouldn’t take extra production costs to tempt marketers to sell the seaweed raised beef as the next superfood, or just add a price boosting virtue signaling slogan to the package that turns it into a social identifier rather than a solution.
How do you disentangle the practical applications of an appropriate tech solution from its status as a cultural symbol? Especially if that solution has gotten er… gentrified?
Thanks for the response. You nicely point out the difference between people planning for a collapse to a much smaller human population on the planet and people planning for ways to support the population we have. It would be nice if these two sides could communicate more clearly. The big problem is establishment voices that treat collapse as an idea so repugnant that it can’t be mentioned. But I think you too easily dismiss the voices that point out ways that physical limits can be managed to allow populations as large as our current one to thrive on the planet. The real problem is political. We can’t plan ahead to manage well. And we like to fight, so we might run into collapse. While substantial degradation of the planet is already baked into the cake, there are still attainable ways to avoid collapse. I think you should not lump those voices pointing out that we could avoid collapse (like Greta Thunberg) in with the techno-utopians. And those predicting collapse need to be more clear about whether this is wishful thing (to protect the earth) or a well reasoned conclusion about sociology and geology. Since you are one of the more articulate advocates of the later, I love reading your blog.
I have a prediction: Without widespread warfare, human population will stay above 5 billion for the next 200 years. If it can be shown that the warfare is caused by starvation and lack of technology to sustain the population, I lose a close call. But if the warfare is caused by nationalism, strong men, and geopolitics, I win a close call. If human population collapses because the economy collapses in the next 200 years without widespread warfare, I lose badly. Of course, the most likely scenario is a cascade of bad responses to resource limits leading to war leading to worse resource limits.
But I predict the first crossing of the point of no return into collapse will be only when we are fighting about resource limits rather than making mitigation plans. (Population declines due to fertility choices on a degraded planet are a possibility, hence the 5 billion number.) But collapse is much less likely than you think, even over the next few centuries. There are many ways to maintain complex human society in a degraded ecosystem. It would have been much better if we had started planning ahead 50 or 100 years ago. But humans will muddle through. It is warfare and ignorance that are our major problems (or are our major blessing from the viewpoint of those wanting to get rid of the humans). Resource constraints are simply one of the triggers that could create warfare if we don’t get much more serious about planning.
Some climate-related energy news that came in this morning. Not unexpected, but still of note:
Disapproval Resolution on Affordable Clean Energy Rule Not Approved
Today, by a vote of 41-53, the Senate voted down S.J. Res 53, a joint resolution of congressional disapproval of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). While the vote was mostly along partisan lines, Senators Doug Jones (D-AL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voted against the resolution.
Introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the resolution sought to nullify the ACE rule that was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency this summer and prevent the agency from issuing a substantially similar rule in the future. Disapproval resolutions provide Congress with a means to overturn major federal regulations with a simple majority vote (they also cannot be filibustered).
Not energy-related, but more cheerleading, certainly. No argument for simplification here–it’s all IIOT, blockchain, bovine facial recognition (yes, that’s actually mentioned in the article), and other examples of hyped-up progress-on-steroids. I’m sure making our unsustainably complex systems even more complex is precisely the direction we need to be going 🙁
Some stuff for policy nerds like myself.
So, WEPCo (WI Electric Power Co), whose parent company (WE Energy) owns the two largest investor-owned utilities (IOUs, in industry jargon) in the state, is currently before the state public utility commission for a rate increase.
The docket itself can be found here:
Non-confidential exhibits and testimony can be found under the “documents” tab. All of this is public record.
In this case, the Sierra Club has intervened in an effort to force WEPCo to close certain older coal generation facilities, arguing that they are neither efficient nor economically viable. (The fact that one doesn’t just replace gigawatts of generation capacity overnight is irrelevant, of course.) Moreover, the rate increase is for the portfolio as a whole, and not any one particular facility…something else that gets lost in the rhetoric.
Apparently, someone has sent out talking points, because there’s been a swath of public comment re climate change, coal plants, and the like, all echoing nearly-identical arguments:
Just some data from one of the many fronts of this particular issue.
Fellah and JMG
My curiosity was tweaked by your exchange. Do either of you know if the carbon foot print of the Georgians (or for that matter anyone else in the world) includes their share of the infrastructure around them or is it just their personal foot print? Also to achieve so low a footprint, do the Georgians use firewood to heat and homeade candles to provide light? I am not trying to disparage the Georgians, but to understand what a low carbon footprint looks like.
Going without a car is a no brainer, ditto AC or dietary choices or growing food, but when a person is embedded in an energy intensive infrastructure what steps do they take to reach the admirably low figure of a Georgian?
PS I tried using firewood from scrape wood to heat with for a couple of years when my gas furnace went out and realized I was just making the air around me very hard to breath during winter inversions. Now it would be illegal for me to do it.
PPS I do have a solar hot water heater, but due to the pitch of my roof, the angle is not great for the winter and sometimes it is covered in snow. I hope to fix that in the not too distant future.
I look forward to hearing what you have say about the “older idea” of conservation.
When one starts ignoring the partisan gobbledygook of present-day American politics, I think it becomes rather odd NOT to combine the respect for the American founders with which I was raised with a deep sense of worry about the rate that Americans are blowing through their resources these days. I don’t think that Washington and Jefferson would have much cared for the kind of short term thinking that you’ve got to follow in order to build a civilization that’s dependent on fossil fuels.
But in the conservative circles in which I was raised, you don’t talk about that, because that issue belongs to the Democrats. Which is why after I walked away from the whole Left/Right divide, I came to see the whole thing as sort of like the old tale about the Blind Men and the Elephant.
The Elephant in question is the decline of western civilization in general and America in particular, but everyone who’s feeling the Elephant proclaims a different cause for the decline. So in the alternative education movement, America is falling apart because of the decrepit quality of its schools. For the libertarians, it’s because of too much centralized power and a corrupt monetary system. For the Religious Right, it’s moral decay and a collapse of family values.
And so they argue among each other – and they argue even more loudly against people who say that the way we treat the Earth is going to do us in – without realizing that they are all partly in the right, because all of these things are just different manifestations of the short-term-thinking and amoral will-to-power which has become the dominant ethos in America these days.
I agree with those who think the energy decline will continue slowly, but the political decline seems to be speeding up.
JMG, disciple of the Dao and all:
Of course I´m just a layperson, but from what I´ve read about feedbacks and tipping points concerning the climate one can make a comparison with a marble situated in a landscape of several ´´valleys´´, each of which on different levels of height (i.e. temperature) getting ´´higher levelled´´ towards the right (I wish I could draw a picture here; it´s sometimes so much easier than explaining) and ´´lower levelled´´to the left. If you nudge the marble slightly to the right, it will swing to and fro, but it will settle again in the valley it originally sat in. The nudging to the right is representing positive climate forcing (i.e. more greenhouse gases) and it being pulled back into the valley by gravity is representing the mitigating negative feedback loops. The summit to the right, higher level valley represents a climatic tipping point: if you nudge the marble harder, it may roll over that summit, then gravity (i.e. negative feedback) pulls it down again into the next valley where it eventually settles, but on a higher level (temperature) than before. If the marble is nudged to the left, this represents negative climate forcing (i.e. less greenhouse gases or global dimming like it is caused by a big volcano eruption), and if it is nudged hard enough it can result in the marble going over the leftward summit, where it eventually settles on a lower level (i.e. an ice age).
We know that the earth was a lot warmer than it is now during much of it´s history, and at the moment we seem to have a good chance to nudge that marble over to the next valley to the right, but no one really knows when that tipping point will occur; but the valleys to either side of the one which we are in now are probably much less favourable for any human civilisation project, so the stakes are rather high.
I’m thinking that the continuing depletion of oil, the increasing cost associated with oil drilling and the way the atmospheric system works may just make whatever happens with these two items sort themselves, regardless of what we do. If we have a couple more centuries of oil at ever increasing costs, coupled with declining populations everywhere save Africa (which is undeveloped relative to the rest of the world) – well, then the AGW should mitigate due to the inputs dropping?
Coal is not going to work, as most of the anthracite is gone. Fischer-Tropes isn’t going to be an answer either, nor will nuclear or anything else built on the back of petroleum. It’s so great you and many readers understand that low cost petroleum is the basis for EVERYTHING.
As oil costs continue to spike/plateau/drop less/spike/plateau higher/drop etc., the time window this occurs in is invisible day to day. But thinking back to the original Oil Embargo of the 70s – we were having trouble handling a doubling of oil price from $0.25 to $0.50. Incrementally over the last 50 years costs rose – we are now between $2.50 and $4.50.
At some point the rising cost of oil will not be offset by increasing efficiency or by increasing total debt loads (shale oil and exploration in general). I think the efficiency has been built into the system as much as is feasible within the oil industry. The debt loads have yet to reach maximum, but you can see it approaching, and the decline is starting within the oil patch. The lack of commercially viable new production has been staring us in the face for a decade.
These things smack of another hop in oil price in a relatively short time period. I would submit that with efficiency at maximum, debt load in similar straights – the “easy way out” door is mostly shut. But then again, this process must repeat until the TRUE cost of oil is realized across the commons.
This should revive 55mph speed limit and other things, once the recession sets in hard. The world economy will, by virtue of oil price, slow considerably. It is powered by oil, whose real price has been papered over by debt floated by the central banks and most any other financial service. One can see the precipice at this point.
I think the future we all have envisioned as post-oil is going to birth itself whether those in power wish it or no. And that birth should ease the climate effects as petroleums real value asserts itself.
Both oil and AGW climate issues are multi-generational. They are twins – one does not exist without the other. If one declines, does not the other? Are we or are we not all living in the “petroleum bubble” in terms of the energy ages of history? My musings about this make me think that oil price and debt load will take care of the AGW issue. But not for a few more generations.
“Many of them support causes like bans on private cars and fully subsidised public transport in cities”
And this is why they’re going to get serious pushback from rural areas. There simply isn’t public transport of any significance outside of cities and suburbs, making a private vehicle essential. The proponents of these schemes, like the Green New Deal, mean well (or not), but they tend to be people who have only ever lived in populated areas where public transport makes sense. Telling farm people when/where/how often or if they may drive their vehicles is just begging for a reaction like the one in London, or worse.
None of this means that rural folk ought to jump into the car or the farm truck just to drive out miles for a coffee. We consolidate our trips so about once a month the husband and I head out in his pickup truck to go to the grocery store, the hardware store, the farm and feed store and the post office for stamps, by which time we’re more than halfway to the ‘big’ city where there’s an array of big box stores for the stuff we just can’t get anywhere else. It takes about five hours and that’s pretty much it for the month – and we’ll even schedule the trip to coincide with a dentist or doctor appointment too. Emergency vet trips are the exception and I can’t imagine any bus in the US that would permit farm animals on board, even if I tried to convince them that it was really an emotional support goat. 😉
Dear Tad, What attraction is bringing so many big rich to Maine? Is there a famous and expensive resort? If I were a Maine citizen, I would be wondering how much of my state do these big richies own. The small jetport looks a good pace to raise revenue for the state, maybe to be used for expanded bus and train routes for the non wealthy.
About Engdahl and the abiotic oil: I heard him speak about the subject on a you tube video. Apparently Stalin demanded that his scientists find some oil, and they did. Given the size of the former USSR, there was bound to be some somewhere. But, they also told Great Leader what GL wanted to hear, what Endahl evidently also believed, and what I think is probably a fairy tale, about the decadent Western scientists had it all wrong etc. etc. Engdahl is valuable, IMHO, on some things, he seems to have a perfumer’s Nose for sniffing out elite plotting and planning, but he can’t be trusted on matters scientific.
Abiotic Oil, Arkansas, etc.
We are currently in the process of destroying source rocks (young shale is source rock) for the shallow accumulations we used to drill for. When we frack shale, we are ripping apart the natural generators of shallow crude oil. There are deeper deposits (below 20,000 feet) but they are expensive. Much deeper than 16,000 feet and fracking is nigh on impossible due to the required pressures and associated pressure losses due to depth.
Abiotic oil exists – not in commercially viable amounts or accumulations. It is kind of weird that people believe magma could generate oil, when you look at what oil does when heated – it breaks down into shorter hydrocarbon chains, same as we do when we ‘refine’ crude. Magma does generate methane, which IS a hydrocarbon, but much else would be reduced to component elements due to magma temperatures. The amount of methane is enough to make volcanoes blow up, but the mechanism for trapping abiotic deposits would be impermeable rock like shale – which is deposited slowly and long after any eruption. Magma and igneous deposits are notorious for cracking, making them a not-so-good sealing mechanism for any gas.
Oil requires a geological trap mechanism to hold any non-solid hydrocarbon. While there are many sources in the Gulf of Mexico off western Florida, there are no trapping sediments like clay or shale. Hence the deposits in that area, under a huge carbonate shelf that cannot seal the hydrocarbons away, are minuscule. Only in the area around Miami have we found oil, due to some fractures trapping it.
Abiotic oil has been found in areas mostly AWAY from traditional deposit mechanisms. It has never been found in commercially viable accumulations – just notoriously small ones.
As to the deposits in the Deepwater areas worldwide, the oil there is based on accumulations of marine detritus (plankton and small organisms) simply dying and falling to the sea bed.. There are many more of them in terms of biomass than dinosaurs, since our planet is 70% oceanic. Once deposited, regardless of the ocean above rising or falling, regardless of mountain ranges being built and eroded away, they become some type of hydrocarbon.
I find it interesting that we have yet to throw the Atlantic seaboard into the oil mix. The tech is there, but the value of oil is artificially low still. They did open ANWAR, but fracking sort of killed off conventional exploration here in the USA and among the major USA multinationals. It will come back, eventually. Also interesting is that fracking seems to work in the Ukraine…hmmm…
Ben, I’ve encountered comparable sales pitches; it’s one of the things that’s made it clear that the fixation on carbon is, among other things, an attempt to get lots of tax money for corporate boondoggles. Maybe I should try to market a comparable boondoggle that uses a radically innovative solar powered freestanding carbon bioaccumulator technology — I should probably figure out some way to wedge the word “quantum” in there somewhere, too — and hope that no one notices that I’m talking about planting trees…
Frictionshift, that Aeromotor is about as appropriate as technology can get — inexpensive, easily reparable, durable, effective, and localized. Those are the kinds of wind turbines that will still be used a thousand years from now, when the concrete stumps of the big towers are overgrown with what used to be invasive vines and are now just part of the local flora.
John, I’ll also be interested in hearing if others have such experiences.
SteinxlnL, as it turned out, Svalbard was a bad place to put such a vault, as climate conditions in the arctic seem to be changing much more quickly than elsewhere — the opening of the Northwest and Northeast Passages to shipping is another example of the same thing. I wonder whether anyone thought, with all that talk about climate change, if maybe trusting the climate not to change was a bad idea…
Otp, I’m still waiting to see something definite from the Mann/Ball libel suit; the latest I recall seeing is that Mann’s attorneys have been bombarding the court with various legal maneuvers in an attempt to delay things — but that’s one side’s opinion of the situation, of course. As for the issue of the relative effect of anthropogenic CO2, I addressed that in my post; the dramatic climate shifts caused by volcanic eruptions such as the 1816 Tambora blast — which are many orders of magnitude smaller than anthropogenic pollution — show that the atmosphere is in fact delicately balanced, so that emissions on the scale our species is putting into the atmosphere can in fact have a significant impact on climate.
Anne tapped into a wide-catching trap.
When the temperature gradient between the temperate zones and the poles embiggens, circumpolar winds get stronger, which lowers the temperature at the poles even further. Cold enough means glacial accumulation and retention. The Northern Jets have a breaking point where the deflection of mountain ranges intensivies thermal exchange in the long run, also bringing more snow to higher latitudes. Which can bring in THICKER glaciers and MORE melting, aka shortened glaciers in Greenland – with a net negative water/ice deposit. Natural processes are never only this or only that.
This was known since the 70ies. What I don’t understand how this was not accounted for in wider sciences, the media and public perception. It is obvious that glaciers in the Alps are not at all the same as Greenland or the Antarctic!
Years ago, someone made the observation that if people get desperate enough, and you tell them the solution to their problem is they need to jump off a bridge, they’ll ask, “How high?”
Laughing aside, in my experience, that is pretty much on. Desperate enough people will try *anything* someone suggests.
The other not funny observation this post brings to mind is that until things get desperate enough, most people (most animals, in fact) will do everything they can to avoid changing anything at all. I cannot think of any time in history when a people willingly made changes to their lifestyles until they were forced upon them.
The other thing this calls to mind is your explanation of how to herd cats, with the can of tuna.
That’s why I’m fairly certain that climate-change activism will not get people to stop flying or driving big SUVs around. People were enticed into buying these monsters by appealing to their fears for their safety, coupled with their desire for more luxury. Air travel became affordable so everyone could join the Jet Set and feel rich vacationing in exotic locations. Asking them to give these up ‘to save the planet’ is, IMHO, pretty pointless. Even politicians are now arguing that their ‘shift’ to their version of a ‘new green’ economy is better than the other’s because it won’t involve anyone giving up their lifestyles, create lots of good jobs, help eliminate poverty, restore your hair, and cure all your ills. (And if you’re not ill, it’ll clean your electric car.)
No, what’s going to affect our emissions is peak oil (v.2.0). As even the expensive stuff gets harder to extract and there is less about, then the problems of pollution caused by massive consumption of fossil fuels will begin to take care of themselves, no matter what admonishments vocal, moralizing teenagers like Severn Suzuki have to say about it.
Oh, BTW, that insulation I finally got a chance to do in August?
The temperature at night has been down below 7C every night for the past week, but I have not needed to turn the furnace on and my basement isn’t cold so far.
Here in Vermont they legalized the growing of “industrial hemp” on the claims that it will provide fibers and fuel. In reality it is now all about CBD oil. A wild west of startups.
“Many expect the hemp market will eventually become more mature, with potential uses as a material in the construction, garment and plastic industries. But for now, growers must rely on a limited pool of buyers, particularly those in the CBD market, …”
Frank and Nachtgurke, my feelings towards the Greens is similar. Since the conflict in the 80s between the Realos (light-greens) and the Fundis (fundamentalists), when the Realos won, the Greens have become ever more superficial, bourgeois and and a party elected by the more wealthy parts of the German bourgeoisie. That explains, among other things, why the CDU (Christian Democrats) and the Greens are more apt to enter into a coalition government nowadays, when that was unthinkable in the 80s.
I don’t live near big wind farms, but on some railway routes in the environmant of my home town, there are to be seen some big fields of photovoltaic panels; a sign of misguided cantralist thinking regarding production of renewable energies, and a sign that huge amounts of photovoltaic panels would be needed to produce at least modest amounts of energy.
Meanwhile, in the Western world the social environment gets more and more full of propaganda and virtue signaling. One can see this at universities (not as prononced as in the United States, but still quite noticeable). Another example is, that in a railway bookstore, there was a biography of Greta Thunberg and a book with collection of her speeches. Times are really getting quite weird.
Beekeeper: That should’ve been “bans on private cars, and fully subsidised public transport, in cities”. I haven’t heard anyone claim that people in rural areas should just take the bus, though that’s a common caricature for sure.
I suspect you’re in the minority if you seriously drive into the city no more than once a month though. I’d guesstimate my father-in-law does that trip (about an hour one-way) at least a couple times a week, though that’s partially due to his medical needs. Fifteen-minute trips to the village every few days.
I think it’s inevitable that if you move out into the boonies you’ll save on housing costs and some other things but will end up doing a lot more driving.
What disappoints me most about the environmentalist movement is that at its very heart is a push toward regulatory control of one form or another – whether by tax incentives, corporate subsidies, special government projects, penalties for violation, etc. etc. – in order to manipulate the masses into (or out of) particular behaviours. This was the thinking behind Prohibition, the 55-mph speed limit, the War on Drugs, and countless other failed efforts to create Terrestrial Utopia In Our Lifetime. Applying any similar strategy to protect our resources and/or the environment will enjoy an equal lack of success.
A far better strategy would be to simply stand back from the commotion, predict the consequences of the current course of events, and make appropriate changes in your own life so that the said consequences will not harm you. Here’s an (oversimplified and exaggerated) practical example: we know that the coming climate change will increase temperatures worldwide and significantly raise sea levels, so the thing to do is sell the Miami beach house (for pots of money, most likely) and buy a place at a high-altitude location in Alaska (probably dirt cheap); then when the disaster happens you’ll have a place on a warm sunny beach again. Isn’t that cheaper and easier than shouting and arguing?
I think human consumption of insects is a terrible idea. We need insects for pollination and to feed birds, small mammals and reptiles.
Society: “Hey, Materia. Do you have any hope for the future?”
Me: “Yes, but it might not be what you have in mind.”
Society: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Well, you know all those YouTube videos of people driving through Detroit, where whole neighborhoods have been abandoned to the ravages of time and the elements, and are reverting back to prairie, complete with coyotes and deer?”
Society: “Um …”
Me: “That sort of thing gives me hope.”
Society: “I’m going now.”
Yorkshire, for suitable uses, cable cars are a useful part of the transport mix. For suitable uses, so are small to midsized passenger jets — but taking the absurdly rich wherever they want to go is not a suitable use!
Averagejoe, that is to say, our civilization will have the same old age as other civilizations — in a phrase, the Long Descent. It’s not accidental that I wove that into my fantasy series!
Peter, the reasons I talked about some other things for a while were, first, I’d said most of what I had to say about appropriate tech at that point; second, with petroleum prices low, few people were interested; and third, the total surrender of the mainstream environmental movement to the interests of a corrupt corporate managerial class made it more than a little relevant to talk about class issues! Appropriate tech is still central to my own interests, and as we move through the peak of the struggle between insurgent populism and corporate elitism here in the US, there’ll be plenty to talk about on the far side — though it may require some shifts in approach.
JMac, yes, I heard of that! I’m intrigued to note that so many of the commenters caught onto the class dimension of the protest. I’m still wondering whether the XR protesters were just unusually clueless in their choice of a venue, or if they deliberately chose to stage their virtue signaling in one of the most impoverished parts of London, where the people they were preventing from getting to work could lose jobs they desperately need if they didn’t get to work on time. Yes, I also noticed that the BBC has gone out of its way not to mention what happened…
Johnny, of course. Those websites are clickbait, and so they’re set up to encourage the comfortable classes in their fashionable lifestyles. It would be interesting to see someone do a straightforward table of carbon costs.
Here’s an example of what the author has eluded to that the planet, if left alone will find always find a way to rebalance itself over time.
But, but…how am I supposed to keep living the lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to if everybody else starts living this way too??
Personally, I think that history’s largest generation took notice of how their elders got colder-natured as they aged and collectively stomped down on the fossil-fuel accelerator in a bid to turn the thermostat up by the time it was their turn!
Apologies for dumping more Youtube on you, but I thought this was interesting:
Nigel Farage in conversation with Exinction Rebellion’s Sarah Lunnon. The first ten minutes of grilling about the disruption to London proceed as you might expect. Then starting at 11:20 he puts to her why don’t all the younger XR folks instead get involved in a national campaign of reforestation.
Her response is fairly odd: once you get into providing solutions you start arguing about solutions. But the situation is so bad that what needs to happen first is the upgrading of democracy via Citizens Assemblies. Once that is done she imagines they will advocate tree planting, because sequestration through trees and plants is absolutely something that needs to be done…
Peter S. said:
“…think it’s inevitable that if you move out into the boonies you’ll save on housing costs and some other things but will end up doing a lot more driving.”
That’s some useful advice! After 7 years of living further out in the boonies than even our address demanded, we up and bought a house right downtown out of frustration for the miles we were driving every week. Now the trick seems to be reacquiring the resource-conservative lifestyle we lived at our former homestead in town.
I meant to mention that to someone last week who was talking about moving out to the sticks to become “self-sufficient.” My advice is don’t…
Maine is number one in the US for second home owners, Vermont is number two. I believe VPR recently reported that 17% of the houses in Vermont are second (or third) homes, about one in six!
I’d think that the big draw is the beauty of northern New England and how reasonable living costs are here in comparison to the big eastern metropolitan areas these people are coming from, although when compared nationally, living northern New England is more expensive than most other parts of the country. Unfortunately, the rich vacation home buyers put upward pressure on housing prices thereby pushing home ownership out of the reach of the ordinary people who live and work on the local economy and simply cannot afford the inflated prices.
About the only real benefits I can think of are that the city people will buy beautiful, but neglected, old houses and can afford to restore them properly, an expensive proposition, thus preserving architectural history, plus as non-residents they generally pay full fare when it comes to property taxes. Other than that a lot of these so-called ‘flatlanders’ are mostly just annoying.
Well, after some comments I read from ‘leaders’ of the group it was all about disrupting b.a.u, so no matter what, they just wanted people to pay attention now because we will all die in 10 – 12 years or whatever it is. I think after spending a few days out in Trafalgar Square, with street theater, lattes and teas and other amenities they just thought everyone would just suck it up. I don’t know for sure as I’m nowhere near London, nor do I watch the msm news, but the impression I got was that they were just being treated with very soft gloves by the police. I just think they feel entitled and righteous to choose and do whatever, wherever they feel like it.
Btw, the BBC & TheGuardian have lost a lot of respect; even in some of the twitpearls of wisdom you can read someone having a go at a bbc reporter asking for permission to use the video.
Also, I just read an article in Offguardian about a book called ‘The Manufacturing of Greta…’ , and it sounds like it shares many of your ideas in this same subject you’ve discussed here and in previous posts.
The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg
Finally, just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoyed the last episode of the WoH! Can’t believe it’s over! Thank you !
Okay, I agree with much of this…BUT I know a lot of climate change activists scattered along the west coast ranging from Ruckus Society activists and 90’s dirt-bag ‘eco-warriors’ types through to folks doing local blogs and organizing in NW coastal cities. I’ve actually chipped in a little here and there myself.
These folks are not taking private jets nor exotic vacations. They >are< mending clothes and bicycling almost everywhere and are often, in fact, poor. Your over-generalized jeremiad against 'climate change activist' is in my opinion an example of, ahem, political speech.
Unrelated, I was delighted to read this week in a reliable source that Sun Ra actually was from the planet he claimed to be from! He waits for us…beyond the stars
That ‘big’ city we drive to is Claremont, NH, which has around 13,000 residents so some readers may quibble with calling it a city, but it has most of what we need; it’s about two hours round trip if we don’t stop anywhere along the way, which we always do. The dentist is there, most doctors are somewhere along the same route. The village of Chester, VT, is only a few miles from us and it has the basics in a pinch, but it’s actually not terribly often that I even need to make a separate trip to Chester for anything.
The most important key to making this work is also embarrassingly easy: keep good lists. We have a running list in a kitchen notebook, a separate page for each of the stores we usually visit so it’s rare that something is forgotten. Anything that runs out or looks like it’s running low goes on the list, any project on the horizon has its own materials list, and any upcoming birthdays or holidays go on a list; one of us grabs the notebook on our way out. We save a lot of unnecessary trips this way.
I came across this very interesting article earlier today and thought I’d include a link for comment, “Managing Our Darkest Hatreds and Fears: Witchcraft from the Middle Ages to Brett Kavanaugh”.
Perhaps better addressed on Magic Monday?
Regarding classes, it’s not often mentioned how much of the working class (in the US, at least) is captive to the car for daily life.
Here’s an article that talks about how US law incentivizes car travel over public transportation: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/car-crashes-arent-always-unavoidable/592447/
Recently I attended a conference where I heard a transportation official from Washington DC (who lives in a posh train-accessible neighborhood) say that it used to be a luxury to own a car, and now ‘it’s a luxury to not own a car’. At least that’s a recognition that not all of us have the privilege of ditching a car altogether.
It’s an irony of our times, I guess. Those with the means to locate themselves in a place where they don’t need a car can pat themselves on the back. Many other folks don’t have a choice about using a vehicle if they want to keep their jobs.
So basically the goals of pop-environmentalism are like trying to smooth out the bedsheets without removing the bowling ball underneath: capitalist infinite growth. The public is being hoodwinked into greenwashed attempts to save the socioeconomic status quo. We are going to squander our available resources in the process.
Like JMG says, politics trumps economics. 2008 got “solved” with QE. 2020-22(?) will get “solved” with helicopter money. 2027-30(?) will get “solved” with war, which is simply “politics by other means”. And then once our prior existing international order is in shambles, we’ll get up and have to remake the world in a sustainable manner. But by then what resources will we be left with?
I’m still hoping we solve fusion and/or battery storage in way that allows us to maintain a high EROEI energy source, before the end of the next decade. I know it’s hopium but, still… I have a son with special needs who stands to lose big time if the infrastructure of modern society goes down the toilet. No aircon? Heat triggers his condition. Limited availability of meds? His condition will be uncontrolled. Limited availability of specialists necessary to treat his condition? When his condition morphs yet again and he needs a treatment change because the current treatment stopped working, that’s months to years without help. That’s gonna be a problem.
Latest from Fantasyland:
Hillary also accused perennial 3rd-party candidate Jill Stein of being a Russian stooge. 😳
I think I’ll go back to the real world and type for a while.
For Phil way back there, ‘The Long Thaw’ by David Archer is a good read about long term climate cycles and the possible effects of higher CO2 on them. It was in the local library even in a ‘red’ county, so it can’t be too subversive.
The last time CO2 was at 400 ppm was 2.5 million years ago during the Pliocene Climatic Optimum (their words, not mine). Temperatures were 4 degrees higher than now and life thrived. But sea level was 25 meters higher. For that matter, sea level was 6 meters higher during the previous interglacial 110,000 years ago, which was also warmer than this one.
And they just lowered sea level during the recent glacial maximum another 10 meters because the island they thought was geologically stable actually rose a bit in the last 20,000 years. So the ocean level was 130 meters lower, not 120. Think of what that change would do to global shipping.
Tim Watkins explores similar ideas in his most recent blog post from the British perspective: What Extinction Rebellion is Getting Wrong.
@ Chris @ Ferndale, “Those covers ….were designed more for the eyes of 13-year-old boys than anything a woman could actually fight in.” (Steve Stirling,via one of his Emberverse characters.)
@ ganv re: young earth creationism, from Augustine of Hippo at the dawn of the Dark Ages: “Scripture is a guide to faith and morals. If you want science, go to school. Meanwhile, stop giving Christianity a bad name with your ignorant confusing of the two,”
@ Eric Singletary: you want to eat bugs, be my guest. Pinto beans and Spanish rice (or home-fried potatoes) are cheaper and more palatable. When Alien Nation was a hit TV show, I always thought their dietary habits reflected a population on the verge of starvation. Except for getting drunk on sour milk – a slave population whose masters had been steppe nomads. There’s an ecology that actually made sense!
@ganv again – check out fertility statistics. As one of Michael Flyn’s characters (Country of the Blind) pointed out, “people do not breed with one eye on statistics. They do, with one eye on their pocketbooks.” All it takes is for natural deaths to occur as always, but hard-pressed younger generations postponing marriage and childbirth.” Which deomistrably is happening now.
@ Kay Robinson – when you’re embedded in a system, some things that make very good sense are very hard to do, while things that make no sense are the easiest to do. For what it’s worth. (From Pat, whose life here is like being a prisoner in the Marriott Hotel.)
@Beekeeper – Amen to that! There are a lot of memoirs and novels about living on rural New Mexico back in the day – and compare it to how the same people must live now. Frex (from Native America Calling) a pueblo that used to be self-sufficient is now a food desert for which the only cure they could see is to bring in grocery trucks form Albuquerque.
@ Moshe Braner – from a comment in the Gainesville Sun – the problem with hemp is that cops can’t tell industrial hemp from pot, and neither can their K-9 partners. Which confuses matters no end.
Finally – As Our Host has said in the past, “industrial civilization (or capitalism – same difference) is a mechanism for turning resources to waste at the highest possible speed.” Has anyone ever run the numbers on Huxley’s Brave New World? They’d have been up against the resource crunch within 80 years of their founding, believe you me.
Though we’re doing reasonably well for an omnivorous ape with hands, fire, clothing, and the same big eyes as a nest of ants in a sugar factory. (You want angels? Sorry. Wrong species.) P.S. Can’t wait to see what the far-future Cat People fro Weird of Hali do with their civilization. OMG – picturing one of them unearthing a copy of The Virtue of Selfishness…. being cats….the mind boggles.
When folks mention Tesla/other Electric cars, just remember that they have manage to achieve something amazing in terms of energy systems. We have figured out how to power a car using the output of Coal. We used that have steam trains to do that but now we can do it with steam turbines many miles away!
Until we can clean up the power grid, those cars simply support the system as it stands today.
I agree young earth creationism is pretty silly. If someone wants to get up to speed on intelligent design, probably Darwin’s Doubt would be useful.
I’m not sure quite what the attraction “richies” have for Maine apart from our state’s appeal as a destination (the motto on our license plate isn’t “VACATIONLAND” for nothing!). It could be the relative anonymity celebrities experience when they get here, since your average Mainer won’t make a fuss over a sighting. Bar Harbor, historically, was the destination of the super rich (Rockefellers and such), but now the wealthy have their “cottages” about anywhere here. Most of the state is owned privately, typically lumber companies and such.
There used to be a fairly extensive trolley and train system in the state but now the way around is overwhelming by car. That’s fine in the rural areas, but the southern third would do well with a decent (ie, more convenient) bus and train system. I can’t but help thinking of my time in Scotland a couple decades ago, where you could get to some fairly remote places by bus or train, with the former free to the elderly. It will be interesting to see what develops.
@aus Deutschland: peter zeihan with tube videos from 2019 is worth watching. food and energy security while ignoring unfunded liabilities.
Also DW with a documentary on solar power in morocco. The joy of a desert family getting a solar panel, charge controller, battery and One (1) light source at night was incredible.
@kitten le cute: the santa from old north was a mean goat. Just the type for the flagellum environmentalists. spanking friday night then back to the office and business as usual.
@JmG: Regarding sea levels it could be the thing that is needed. Perhaps Sahara will blossom again, as Mongolia and Siberia. Central US under water – no more corn fields but Canada picks up the slack. Aquaifers that you are depleting could be filled again.
Human migration will result in wars. Powers that be are already sacrificing the pawn tribes to secure the bishop tribes and the kings gambit.
Kali yuga could end with a large sacrifice in the form of fast changing habitats. By blood or merit? Perhaps by chance when malnutrition increases the probability for diseases.
Or by design – The book Watson & Crick comes to mind.
It is another chapter in the Neverending story (Limahl fade out)
“…the dramatic climate shifts caused by volcanic eruptions such as the 1816 Tambora blast — which are many orders of magnitude smaller than anthropogenic pollution — show that the atmosphere is in fact delicately balanced, ”
But isn’t it mostly particulate matter that blocks the sun and causes the temporary cooling?
Archdruid and Barefoot,
I’ve thought about this for some time, and I agree that both aspiration and fatigue are contributing factors, but I think we’re still missing a major piece.
All the working and lower salary class folks I’ve met genuinely care about the environment, they may be misinformed but that isn’t the same thing as the empty virtue signaling that the upper management engages in.
Why are the lower classes so bloody supportive of these large scale mass movements, but unable or willing to make small scale adoptions?
Leaving aside the management class mentality, which has been thoroughly explored on this blog, what’s causing the lower classes to support these policies?
It seems like a fair portion of the masses want to be mobilized for something. As a member of the working class, even I feel this constant pull for public service, the call of working for something above and beyond myself. The small steps I’m taking toward living an environmentally conservative lifestyle are wonderful, but it just isn’t the same thing.
Is it possible that a number of people simply can’t act without being part of a grander social movement?
please add “large scale restoration of acidic sphagnum bogs” to your list of Things that Would Make a Difference (TM)” to the question of global warming along with large scale reforestation and using hemp. These bogs _used_ to be major carbon sinks until people started draining them and digging them us to use the peat as a *cough* *cough* carbon neutral fuel supply *cough* *cough*. The fact that they can also supply future generations with a renewable source of metal (bog iron) is another plus. What might surprise many people is that they also appear to be a climax ecosystem. Once formed, they are stable over many ages as long as they are left undisturbed (apart from the periodic collection of the bog iron).
Dark particulates will block sunlight but settle out of the air fairly quickly. If they land on something like snow or ice they promote melting by absorbing heat (changed albedo).
Sulfur is the problem.
“In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil, described then as a “dry fog”, was observed in the northeastern United States. It was not dispersed by wind or rainfall, and it reddened and dimmed sunlight to an extent that sunspots were visible to the naked eye.”
Chris, dung beetles! Nature’s own six-legged compost makers. I’m glad to hear your continent has them. I’ll look forward to your pulp cover art. 😉
Eric, simple. You wait until the yuppies get bored with it — that usually takes just a few years. Then, when it’s no longer fashionable, you rename it and run with it. Don’t call them “ento bars.” Call them “bug bars,” and market them by implying that you aren’t manly unless you can grin and gobble up a bar made of crickets. Sell ’em to weightlifters and athletes as a better-than-whey protein supplement, and pretty soon lots of young men from the poor and working classes will be munching on them; then you proceed from there, making sure to keep the price low and the publicity such as will offend the tender sensibilities of the comfortable. Look how easy it was for Trump to convince the Democrats that they love endless wars in the Middle East!
Ganv, obviously I disagree. The estimates of the Earth’s long-term human carrying capacity I find most plausible are those that put it around 2 billion, and when a species has gone into overshoot as we have, carrying capacity decreases — check out collapsing fish stocks and soil erosion if you want snapshots of that in action — leading to a drop well below carrying capacity. If we follow the usual curve for societies that get into a serious subsistence crisis due to maltreatment of their ecosystem, we’ll bottom out at around 5% of current population levels (say, 350-400 million worldwide) in 1-3 centuries, and then stabilize and climb back up slowly from there to 1.5 billion or so. War is far less significant in population terms than broad demographic shifts — declining public health leading to increased infant mortality, rising subsistence costs leading to later childbearing, and so on; these and many other trends like them are what I expect to cause most of the decline. As for mitigation, I have my hopes, but I have yet to see any action along those lines beyond the level of individuals, families, and small community groups; if that changes, we can talk.
David BTL, many thanks for all of these! More grist for the mill…
Kay, good question. I don’t happen to know much about the usual lifestyles in Tbilisi, much less the countryside around it, other than that the old song about the night when the lights went out in Georgia probably wasn’t about energy saving measures. 😉
Wesley, you’ll get no argument from me. It’s not pleasant to remember that as recently as the 1970s the environment was a conservative issue — every major environmental bill from the creation of the National Parks to the Clean Air Act was signed by a Republical president, for heaven’s sake! The whole “their issue-our issue” business is both corrupt and self-defeating…but more on this as we proceed.
Frank, of course the stakes are high, but — as I pointed out in my post — that in itself doesn’t prove that the measures being proposed to deal with the crisis are worth doing. There can be fake solutions to real problems, remember. Nor is it especially reassuring to watch the people who claim to be really worried about all this living as though they aren’t worried at all…
Oilman2, in the long run, sure — there aren’t enough commercially accessible fossil fuels to make the worst-case estimates for climate change happen. People living in low-lying areas, or dependent on narrowly defined climate belts, may be in for a rough road first, though.
Michael, current trends suggest that the temperature gradient between the temperate zones and the North Pole, at least, is decreasing, not “embiggening.” That’s what I’d expect, too, because increasing the amount of insulation on a heat engine increases the efficiency with which it uses energy, and the main use of energy in the “heat engine” of climate is pumping heat from the equator to the poles. In past warm periods, the shores of the Arctic Ocean had a Mediterranean climate while the equator wasn’t all that much warmer than it is today; when the Arctic Ocean is blue water in the summer, and thus soaks up 24 hours of sunlight a day all summer long, that’s a logical result. Thus I’m far from sure your theory works…
Renaissance, oh, granted, that’s the more likely option. I’d like to see if it’s possible to jumpstart the process a bit by getting some sensible ideas and practices into as many hands as possible before the next oil crunch arrives, though. Congrats on the success of the insulation, btw — that’s one of the ideas and practices I have in mind!
Moshe, it’s early days yet, and a lot of infrastructure still has to be built. We’ll see how it goes from here.
Steve, and that’s the logic behind my slogan “Collapse now and avoid the rusn,” of course. You’re also quite correct about the craving for power behind the more common approach.
Materia, you know what? It gives me hope too.
Rodster, yep. Nature is not passive, and tends to find its way back to equilibrium over time. We’ll talk more about that as this discussion proceeds.
Tripp. funny. Maybe so.
Morfran, that’s funny, too, in a bleak sort of way. “No, no, we can’t actually take action to solve the problem we’re talking about, first of all we have to impose a radical political change and then we can get around to doing what we claim we’re actually trying to do.” What are you willing to bet those Citizens Assemblies all use some gimmicked form of consensus to allow a small cadre of activists to exercise unchecked power — the usual arrangement in left-wing politics for a few decades now?
JMac, you’re welcome and thank you! As for XR, I read a fascinating article the other day which has given me some insights into the bizarre cargo-cult atmosphere that surrounds protests these days; I’ll be discussing it in an upcoming post.
Alantabor, I’m delighted to hear it. I’ve met very, very few climate change activists who walk their talk, but I’m quite prepared to be proved wrong; in fact, if more people in that category would get out there in public and challenge the spirit of entitlement that seems to guide the more mediagenic sort of activists, I’d be happy to acknowledge my mistake just as publicly. As for Sun Ra, delighted that somebody caught that. I had a lot of fun weaving in little things like that into the series!
Beekeeper, yes, or in next week’s open post.
Blue Sun, I worked in working class jobs (and lived well below the poverty line) for a decade before I finally got into print, never owned a car, and between public transit and my feet, never had a problem with getting to work. I freely admit that there are plenty of places in the US where you can’t do that, but there are also plenty of places where you can; I could do it here in Rhode Island, for example. So it’s not as black and white as all that.
DT, there are other ways to provide a special-needs child with care than burning fantastic amounts of energy — fortunately. Pushing for less insanely overpriced and predatory medical and pharmaceutical industries might be a useful strategy, and it’s one I think a lot of people could get on board very readily.
Your Kittenship, yes, I saw that. Gabbard’s doing a very capable job of positioning herself to be the unavoidable candidate in 2024, as the Democratic party struggles to deal with the catastrophic defeat it’s preparing for itself by stunts like Clinton’s.
John, thanks for this!
Patricia M., I imagine one of Phauz’s children picking it up, laboriously translating it out of the ancient human language in which it was written, and then lifting one ear to an angle indicating disdain and thinking, “Those creatures didn’t know the first thing about being really selfish. Half-sentient apelings!”
Sturge, nah, if you melt all the ice caps the Gulf of Mexico only extends as far north as Tennessee. The main corn belt is north of there. As for the aquifers, no, you need an ice age to do that — western North America turns into bone-dry desert in warmer conditions, and gets heavy rains and pluvial lakes in ice ages.
Onething, partly particulate matter, partly gases with a lot of sulfur. The point is that it doesn’t take that much stuff to tip the atmosphere one way or the other.
Varun, an interesting question to which I have no answer as yet. Hmm…
Moggy, duly noted! Bogs and wetlands generally could definitely use preservation and expansion…
It is all a bit delicate here and there.
Reindeer herders are having a very hard time with warmer winters. I have read articles or seen videos that describe this in both Mongolia and Northern Russia.
The snow that the animals can brush aside will warm and freeze. A few freeze thaw cycles leaves a layer of ice the animals can’t get through and they starve.
This is part of the population increase in Ulan Bator / Ulaanbaatar. People have lost their herds and need jobs. Imagine yurt suburbs. The winter air quality gets really really bad with smoke.
Some areas in Canada are having caribou die offs (same animal but wild) but the Inuit don’t seem to know why.
A sign on a farm I read about years ago:
“Dung Beetles Have Right Of Way”
I sort of agree with you, but I think the higher you fly, the farther you fall. If that is even sorta accurate, the “developed” world is in deep dudu.
I was in Belize years back when they couldn’t afford oil to run the generators to feed their grid. We had fuel and a genset on the boat, so we robbed that. It was HOT and muggy and we sweated constantly. The AC wasn’t as good as just running a few big fans and staying in front of them – it couldn’t begin to keep up with the heat.
Only about 3 families stayed – the other 20 or so around our little bungalows bailed for home. After the 3rd day, we adapted and it wasn’t nearly as burdensome. Siesta was a great invention, whoever made that happen.
I think when it gets to that point again, where smaller countries simply cannot afford to run power plants, changes will be forced. In this country, those changes will only apply to the ‘commoners’, and that is unlikely to last long.
I think the long descent is going to have a variable slope!
Reading Dt’s comment, JMG’s response to another comment about carrying capacity, I feel it appropriate to wonder how many of us today would not be alive without modern medicine? I know I wouldn’t be here because the circumstances of my birth had a few complications. Before modern medicine, I know it would either have been me or my mother. Save one not both. That could be attributed to my parents waiting until they were older to have kids. JMG my astrology sign, Scorpio, fits me somewhat well however I’ve always felt the circumstance of my birth must be taken into account when figuring my own astrology charts out. It’s a little like Macduff from Macbeth.
Growing up, there was one more time I was knocking on Death’s door. My entire family caught pneumonia, except my father. When I look at the circumstances under which that occurred, who got sick and who didn’t, I have come to feel illness when it comes to our door whether, debilitating, ugly, or deathly, is more often than not we’re living our lives in an unnatural way. What I mean by that is, we are not doing/using something we should be or doing/using something we should not. Fossil fuels are the perfect exemplification of an unnatural state of affairs. This is why I appreciate JMG’s blog. Like,yes, there is a physical infrastructure/shape our culture needs to assume to be sustainable. But there is also a spiritual/psychological aspect of it.
I do not want to seem ageist, but without modern medicine, the human body is designed to die at 40. Like when you look at knees, elbows and the human body in general that’s the age at which your physical abilities start to pale when compared to that of youth. In a traditional village, where trades and chores must be done, retirement would simply be relegating you to the less labor intensive parts of those tasks. The narrative young people are told, the course their life must take, is counter productive to the natural timetable most people have to live within.
Alantabor, thank you. Good to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t recognize the image of the average activist taking their private jet to Davos or whatever. Or even caring much about the hypocritical Davos / celebrity environmentalist crowd at all.
Though I acknowledge I may live in a bubble, I’m seeing a lot of people who are both taking steps to reduce their impact in their own lives AND calling for systemic change. Sure, they probably don’t get much mainstream media exposure.
I certainly agree that it´s not reassuring to watch the people who claim to be really worried about all this living as though they aren’t worried at all. I think that they are doing more damage than outright deniers: so thank you for your efforts to expose them for what they are: no one can stand a hypocrite. Let´s hope enough people get that it´s serious despite those hypocrites before we reach the tipping point; it would be sad to lose most of civilisation´s achievements.
Hi John Michael,
This is my last attempt (promise!)
I really looked hard through my bookshelves today, but alas, nothing in my bookshelves could match your fine examples of cover art for pulp fiction books. And yes, dung beetles are some of the great unsung agricultural hard workers of our time. But back to the important business at hand (you sent me on a quest!) And I had this feeling at the back of my mind that somewhere over the past year or two I’d read an article which discussed the relationship between the authors of the sci-fi / fantasy and the artists that actually illustrated the covers of pulp fiction magazines, but way back in their heyday of the 1930’s (a bit before my time!) Ah yes, all is now explained, and of course the fine author Robert E Howard had his works included in pulp fiction magazines with plenty of err, interest on the covers of said periodicals. It was all quite racy, way back in those days – and imagine how professionally offended people would be if they came across teenagers reading such magazines nowadays? Anyway, I thoroughly recommend any and all of Robert E Howard’s fine texts – and compendiums are available these days, and a sensitive reader can discern the development of the author’s skills (which are considerable).
Apologies, I ramble. Here is a scan of one of the magazine covers from 1935 taken from the article:
[JMG edit — none of the scans came through, so I guessed which Weird Tales cover you had in mind.]
Your fine essay has inspired me to write about apples this week!
@Varun: People are trained into group mind. Out of genetical propensity, but particularly cultural shaping. Mass movements makes it easier for the senses to distinguish change. Change after all is why people are obsessed with drugs, gambling and the sort. It brings on quick changes and tangible results. If you are part of a mass movement, you are not outside. Outside is where gypsies and other elements usually reside. That is dangerous.
Today this has been turned upside down because of abundant energy. The populations have enough wealth to spend it on others and extend the family (rainbow revolution). But when/if the tide goes out – watch out. If JMG predictions and elite wishes 500 million capita turns out to be correct, there are 8 billion that will be outside some way or the other.
With 1995-2020 as a historical sample, the managers and brains will divest themselves of the deplorables (Clinton TM) / little people (Svanberg TM) but either keep a few as pets or just cull them with the machine takeover. After all – they care for themselves more than others when push comes to…
Bank managers give friends lower interest rates and larger loans than the rest, so it is a self fulfilling prophecy. Every percentage point advantage seen over a life time will add up (LTCM had zero hair cut*). After all you give lower interest rates to your buddies in management because they can fire others and therefore are of lower risk. They also give you a convincing sales pitch and went to the right schools, so there is that. Just ask the Enron rolling black out traders** or the Goldman garbage sellers***. It is in their DNA and ingrained in the culture. Laughing while creating havoc to others. Real Jokers. For Profits!
If you get a critical mass of assets under your command and enough like minded people, you can make real changes, real quick. Quick after all is what con games are about. Slow massage of the minds of the victims and then boom make the actions and shift the assets and cash flows. Again and again. Therefore mass movements are not only ingrained, they are necessary.
Better open your door to the Jehova witnesses if you want to be on the highest part of the mountain when the flood comes.
I want to thank the commenter who alerted me to Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality, which I have been perusing slowly since.
Here is a passage which links the theme of abstraction (often covered in this blog) with the manner in which it creates pitfalls.
“The setting of abstract impossible goals turns the means by which these are to be achieved into ends.”
“Climate emergency”, climate action” and “net-zero” strike me as prime examples of abstractions that are about to turn useless or harmful means into ends that no one intends or wants.
I’m listening to a podcast by the theoretical physicist Sean Carroll. One of his guests is Ramez Naam talking about renewable energy. https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2019/09/16/64-ramez-naam-on-renewable-energy-and-an-optimistic-future
I expect JMG would find him too optimistic about renewable energy, there is a bit of a caveat given:
0:14:20 SC: Yeah. And so how far can we extrapolate that? I always… I do have part of me that shivers whenever people mention exponentials ’cause as a scientist I know nothing’s really exponential other than the expansion of the universe.
I am not really sure about Extinction Rebellion. I wonder how many people are taking their demands at face value, i.e. carbon neutral by 2025, which is unrealistic about how quickly infrastructure can be replaced, and even planting trees takes time before they ramp up their sequestration of carbon. I have a couple of oak trees in pots that are a year old and they are about 6 inches tall.
The more knowledgeable people probably just go along with it as a negotiating tactic if they make extreme demands at first they can negotiate back to something reasonable, but if they start with something reasonable they’d end up converging on something more favourable to the fossil fuel industry.
I find it uncomfortable when they talk about “we have 11 years left” – is this the recycling of the 2030 deadline for collapse in some parts of the peak oil doomer scene? Do they believe in near-term human extinction?
XR explicitly states it is strictly non-violent. However are the people who really believe in the apocalyptic message going to stay that way?
JMG wrote, “It would be interesting to see someone do a straightforward table of carbon costs.”
I attempted this with a spreadsheet more than a decade ago, presenting the expenses and income as a currency called Carbons with that sadly no longer necessary old symbol: ¢.
Whether it is straightforward enough I leave others to judge. It was designed for use at the scale of a household, and for people to keep track of all their purchases and use of things and their carbon cost. One aspect I recall JMG commenting on at the time was that it included restorative effects – since a well-used compost system and garden and tree-planting would absorb carbon.
We could imagine a UBI of however many ¢, the amount offered declining over decades to encourage a lifestyle of net lower emissions, though of course any such attempt would likely mainly be aimed at enriching those already rich. But in a well-designed scheme, people could still do even that most wasteful and polluting of activities and take plane trips.
It’s useful to remember that the first Sydney-London regular service in 1947 cost the equivalent of about 18 months’ wages, but even at this price point it was a viable business. So even if ¢ were limited, or there were a $ price reflecting both the scarcity and impact of fossil fuels, people would still take overseas flights – just a lot, lot fewer than do today. People would save up, an overseas trip would be once or twice in a lifetime rather than once or twice a year as it is for many.
Anyone can download the sheet, and if they think the numbers are incorrect, change them (eg electronics have a higher carbons cost than I thought ten years ago). It’s comprehensive but not exhaustive, if I were to redo it today I’d simplify it, though I’d be bombarded with messages complaining I hadn’t considered this or that person’s special circumstances… It has many explanatory notes which may perhaps give some food for thought.
I’m watching the Brexit debate. When they had the referendum I voted Remain, but was remarkably unenthusiastic about it. I then studiously ignored the whole thing for the next three years. I’ve only recently scrambled to learn about it. All the Leave opinions I’ve read suggest the best alternative to No Deal is a Canada-style free trade agreement. That sounds about as far as you can get from populist protectionism, so what’s going on there?
@JMG – Rush out and buy your very own Quantum Carbon Harvester today! So simple, even a child can use it! Just stick it in the ground, fuel it up with water, and watch it go/grow! Brought to you by Sequestration Solutions Inc!
Run that add, and watch the subsidies roll in.
@JMG and holding low-paying jobs without a car…. when I was job-hunting, or even working through temp agencies, they always asked if you had reliable transportation. And as one expensive (lost an hour’s pay) experience with relying on a feeder-line bus proved, those are not reliable transportation. No, they did not want to hire carless people.
And of course as hard times wore on, if you had a car, and were both smart and lucky about finding overnight parking, you at least had a roof over your head. Or why one of my friends on the very margins of survival bought a clunky old van and accepted the extra 6″ foam mat (from my old futon) as a gift.
Of course this was in the widely sprawling Southwestern city of Albuquerque. I’m sure some people living in the less expensive corners of downtown had no such problems.
BTW, she was on the gig economy and had to get from gig to gig. Again, no other way to get there outside of the tightly knit area downtown.
A running theme in this post and previous posts is how nature, despite whatever humans do, will auto-correct in the long term. This provoked the following chain of uncomfortable thoughts.
Up here in eastern Canada, I have in the past spoken with a few work colleagues about climate change and several of them guardedly suggested to me that Canada actually stands to benefit from climate change. These people on a surface level are careful about going against the popular opinion about climate change but privately seem not to be much worried about it.
This led me to wondering: why should we do anything about climate change, or any other environmental issue, in the first place? Why intrinsically do these issues matter? If the planet will recover from anything we do in the long term anyway, then the ‘save the planet’ rhetoric does not hold. If the changes are slow century-long changes, then even the argument that by damaging the planet’s ecosystems we also damage the human capacity to live on it in such numbers also does not hold, because again the planetary ecosystem will eventually self-correct. Note: I am doing this as a thought experiment, even if the changes are slow, the mass migrations and societal tensions we will likely get are a source of misery best avoided, to put it mildly. And having a forest fire, caused by drying conditions, destroy one’s home will make shale get real pretty fast.
But I wanted to develop the thought further: Our society has a deep-rooted belief that it is all-powerful and ‘above’ nature, and if that belief is wrong (as I think it is), then logically it does not matter that society thinks otherwise, because no matter what humans do to pursue that belief (genetic modification, nuclear power) in the long term nature will balance out. Therefore, why not live as we currently do?
I can’t argue that other creatures of nature do not engage in similar behavior (e.g. swarms of beetles that overwhelm forests, the spread of diseases). I can’t argue that nature does not waste; the amount of seeds from a plant that do not grow are enormous. Yes, nature recycles the rest, but with our waste, nature seems to be already evolving to take care of that (plastic-eating bacteria). Maybe human societies need to go through succession, like a forest, to reach a climax state, before crumbling away. And individual humans need to do the same on an individual level.
If the only argument for doing something about climate change is a human-centric reason, that’s ‘selfish’ in the sense that it still does not consider the rest of nature and the planet. Maybe it’s blindingly obvious to the rest of you, but can someone present a clear ethical and/or spiritual argument (the ecosophical argument?) for living within one’s environmental means?
I ask because it seems other people I know* probably deep down think this way, and I’m curious how you and others would respond to it. Although I am still working on articulating it clearly, I have the beginnings of an answer (involving virtue and conscious choice), but I think I need help strengthening it.
* No, I’m not ‘asking for a friend’, I genuinely know people who I suspect think this way.
It looks like I’m going to have to do a little searching for those memoirs about New Mexico; sounds really interesting. There’s still an aura here in Vermont left over from the Back to the Land movement of a few decades ago and for self-sufficiency to one degree or another I’m sure one of our advantages is plentiful water, something perhaps less available in the desert Southwest. On the other hand, the long winter up here will take some of the wind out of your sails; it also reduces food-growing weather to a few months a year. I’ve heard more than one old-timer describe Vermont as ‘nine months of winter and three months of darn poor sledding.’ That’s about right.
I also wonder about the evolution of self-sufficiency as an idea: the hardscrabble, genuine self-sufficiency of our distant and not-so-distant ancestors is not really a life that many modern First World people would freely choose or enjoy. Our material expectations have increased such that actual self-sufficiency might not even be possible any more. Even the most careful and parsimonious among us has gotten used to a certain level of industrially manufactured or produced commodities that would be impossible to reproduce on a homestead.
Wherever one chooses to live will come with built in issues, there’s no free lunch. My husband and I probably end up driving more than someone who lives in a more densely populated place and can walk everywhere, but we’re able to grow and raise a lot of what we eat and so lessen our industrial food footprint. In a good year we can provide extra for our immediate neighbors. Every place is a trade-off. The key is what you said: how can you implement the best of your low consumption rural living here in your new city location? With your resourcefulness and a little time you’ll be able to find ways of doing just that. We need to work on reducing our dependence on unnecessary car trips, something we’re working on.
I don’t think I’d automatically tell anyone wanting to move to a rural area and strive for a more or less self-sufficient life not to do it, but it depends. The clear-eyed, sensible folks who have some actual skills, they’ll be O.K. in the end. It’s the city/suburban people who’ve dreamed of living off the land but whose experience in agriculture is mostly house plants and summer tomatoes and aren’t terribly handy with tools who are going to be disabused of their fantasy pretty quickly.
Here I go with another set of thoughts… One major barrier to living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle is, of course, the job or career one works in. One can go some way to picking the low-hanging fruit of environmentally friendly lifestyle changes, but the larger changes are often out of bounds for those who spend most of their time in salary or working class jobs. It’s often not a matter of having not enough time, it’s often a matter of not having enough energy.
For most of my career I was lucky enough to have lower expenses and thus could work part-time, so I had the time and energy to do such things like learning the basics of organic farming, for example. Now I am working full-time in a salary-class job,* and as I get older, due to stress at the job after work I find I have no energy. And I get that my position is pretty luxurious compared to others; many don’t have a choice, many don’t have weekends to recover energy, and certainly many don’t have stability or health care (as I do).
Because so much time is spent at work, and actually the activity of many jobs is in itself damaging to the environment, anything done in one’s free time is simply an offset (which is not to say that one shouldn’t bother as it still helps). So how does one escape such a situation? I know lowering expenses goes a long way, but it still doesn’t allow one to completely quit, an income has to come from somewhere.
In a way, many climate change activists and environmental activists have in a sense missed the point: they are railing against the effects of the majority of people’s (in wealthy countries) choices, rather than dealing with the choices themselves: the expectation that salary class people spend more of their time at jobs in order to gather wealth signifiers, and that working class people work crazy hours trying to get by (and where possible, to catch up to the middle class). And that often the jobs themselves, in both classes, are by their nature harmful to the environment.
* It’s of course partly a choice: am I working this salary-class job in order to prop up a certain lifestyle I am comfortable with?
I’m a long-time ADR reader who’s been gardening and raising veggies since I was six. But I’ve been stepping up my game lately, trying to collapse AND do things to help the environment, at least in my own neighborhood. Here’s a list:
I pick up litter around my South Minneapolis neighborhood so it doesn’t get washed into Lake Hiawatha, where it otherwise goes if left in the street.
I planted 4 shade trees in the front yard, and 2 fruit trees in the back, and added another raised bed this year for herbs and garlic.
I finally ponied up for that All American Sun Oven, and have even been using it (and making notes).
I’m sectioning off part of my back yard to join a neighborhood effort to create pollinator/wildlife refuges. This is something many families here in South Minneapolis are doing, and it’s having an effect. We’re finally starting to see monarch butterflies again, after not seeing them for so many years. And did you know possums practically eat their weight in woodticks?
We do have a car, which my partner needs to get to her job. But I use the light rail for most of my own commuting and shopping trips. And we get along fine without AC. But that’s mostly because we’re cheapskates rather than environmentalists.
BTW, being a cheapskate can often be green as well.
“The end of the current era of absurd extravagance can be the beginning of an era of inspired tinkering, invention, reassessment, and imagination; once we get out from under the delusion that the more we waste, the happier we are, there’s a world of possibilities.”
This strikes me as very much in line with some of the symbolism in the upcoming Grand Mutation conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius. Other commenters (Ganv, Eric S) have also articulated ideas which suggest this. Many fine seeds can be sown in the 2020s…may we all do our part to be in the vanguard of LESS!
To get an idea of what the decline might be like, consider the Dutch. One of the most prosperous, civilized, law-abiding, peaceable people. Yet during the shortages under Nazi occupation Anne Frank confided to her diary on Wednesday 29 March 1944:
“Seriously, though, ten years after the war people would find it very amusing to read how we lived, what we at and what we talked about as Jews in hiding. Although I tell you a great deal about our lives, you still know very little about us. How frightened the women are during air raids; last Sunday, for instance, when 350 British planes dropped 550 tons of bombs on Ijmuiden, so that the houses trembled like blades of grass in the wind. Or how many epidemics are raging here.
“You know nothing of these matters, and it would take me all day to describe everything down to the last detail. People have to queue for vegetables and all kinds of goods; doctors can’t visit their patients, since their cars and bikes are stolen the moment they turn their backs; burglaries and thefts are so common that you ask yourself what’s suddenly got into the Dutch to make them so light-fingered. Little children, eight- and eleven-year-olds, smash the windows of people’s homes and steal whatever they can lay their hands on. People don’t dare leave the house for even five minutes, since they’re liable to come back and find all their belongings gone. Every day the newspapers are filled with reward notices for the return of stolen typewriters, Persian rugs, electric clocks, fabrics, etc. The electric clocks on street corners are dismantled, public phones are stripped down to the last wire. Morale among the Dutch can’t be good. Everyone’s hungry, except for the ersatz coffee, a week’s food ration doesn’t last two days. The invasion’s long in coming, the men are being shipped off to Germany, the children are ill or undernourished, everyone’s wearing worn-out clothes and run-down shoes. A new sole costs 7.50 guilders on the black market. Besides, few shoemakers will do repairs, or if they do, you have to wait four months for your shoes, which might very well have disappeared in the mean time.
“One good thing has come out of this: as the food gets worse and the decrees more severe, the acts of sabotage against the authorities are increasing. The food office, the police, the officials — they’re all either helping their fellow citizens or denouncing them and sending them off to prison. Fortunately, only a small percentage of Dutch people are on the wrong side.
Yours, Anne ”
I doubt there will be bombing, but any substantial change in the climate will result in food shortages and the authorities will be forced by public opinion to introduce rationing, not to mention there will be large-scale unemployment, poverty, sickness, and population movements (think Dust Bowl). Don’t expect people to behave like saints. It will be every man (and child) for himself.
Oilman2, of course decline has a variable slope. That’s why “collapse now and avoid the rush” is so important; if you’ve already reset to a lower level of resource use before that gets imposed by circumstances, you land on your feet — and your chances of helping other people do so go way up.
Austin, of course there will be a lot of illness, and death rates will go up. That said, the claim that without modern medicine, people just up and die at age 40 simply isn’t true. That factoid got into circulation because statisticians didn’t factor our death in childbirth for women and death in battle for men — both of those most common in the 16-to-20 age range — and just lumped everyone who made it past the age of 5 into a single statistical category. Here’s a link to one of many books that sets the record straight.
Peter (if I may), I’m glad to hear you don’t recognize yourself in that portrayal; that’s promising. Please note, though, that I painted that portrait not just on the basis of people in the media, but after meeting a lot of climate change activists in the peak oil circuit, and watching an embarrassingly large number of them drive away from events in big SUVs, all by themselves…
Frank, it’s a real mess. With all the hypocrisy and all the exaggerations, a very large number of people have become convinced, like Anne further up the comments thread, that anthropogenic climate change ranks with the high-paying service jobs they were supposed to get in the global economy — remember those claims! — or Obama’s promises that Obamacare would make health insurance costs go down and you’d be able to keep your doctor and your plan: another line of patter meant to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Getting past that well-earned skepticism is going to take a lot of hard work.
Chris, to put an image into these comments you can’t upload it; you have to use raw HTML, with a URL from the internet for the image. The code given in this tutorial is what I use. If that wasn’t the cover you had in mind, btw, let me know which one and I can post it. Margaret Brundage was quite the cover artist in her day!
Scotlyn, that sounds dead on target to me.
MawKernewek, yes, the claim that we have only 11 years left is another rehashing of the 2030 apocalypse claim — doomers gotta doom, and once 2030 passes by without incident they’ll choose another date between ten and tweny-five years in the future and pin all their hopes for mass dieoff on that instead — the same way they did when 2000 and 2012 failed to live up to their dreams. The insistence that we have to go carbon neutral by 2025 is one of the things that shows me that the people in XR either haven’t taken five minutes to think through what they’re saying, or are deliberately shoveling smoke. Do they have even the slightest notion how that would affect their own lives?
Kiashu, many thanks for this!
Yorkshire, you’ll have to ask the people who are in favor of a Canada-style deal. The Brexiteers I’ve talked with are hoping for no deal.
Ben, heh heh heh. I may do that one of these days.
Patricia, it may depend on where you live. In Seattle, when I was asked about transportation in job interviews, I explained which bus routes I’d use and how often they ran, and the interviewers nodded and went on to the next question. Of course Seattle had a decent bus system in those days — I have no idea what it’s like now — roughly on a par with the one Rhode Island has today.
Jbucks, good. The rhetoric about “saving the Earth” is indeed nonsense; the Earth is a tough old broad who’s shrugged off ice ages, comet impacts, and volcanic episodes so big they covered areas the size of half of Europe in lava, and there’s nothing our pipsqueak species can do to her that she can’t handle. (A big hurricane releases as much energy as the entire US nuclear arsenal would if it al went off at once.) We’re the ones who risk getting stomped by our own stupidity. The delusion of human omnipotence and the delusion of nature’s supposed passivity make a very toxic brew!
And yes, lifestyle choices are self-reinforcing, and the decision to do something about the climate requires a complete rethinking of how you live your life. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important for those who are concerned about the environment to do that rethinking, and change their lives — to provide role models and successful examples for those who otherwise wouldn’t know where to start.
Materia, that is, you’re also doing more for the environment than a shipping container full of Greta Thunberg clones. Thank you.
Jim, that’s my hope!
Martin, that’s one set of possibilities, relevant to one culture. You might read up on how other societies — say, Britain or Japan — weathered the same period. (Spoiler: they didn’t behave the same way.) Human beings are complex, and cultural factors are even more complex.
Dear VArun, I live in a working class neighborhood and I see almost no conspicuous consumption, and very little waste, although that latter could be improved I suppose. It is considered highly rude and incorrect to say as much, but, where I do see both unnecessary (IMO) consumption and waste is in underclass or what our host would call welfare class neighborhoods. For that, there may be reasons. If your best chance of getting ahead is recommending yourself to a member of the upper salary class as a protégé or gofer, a certain level of personal expense–nice clothes, cosmetics for women, etc.–will be needed.
This might heat up the political climate considerably…
Should we sign up, JMG? I mean, I´m cool about collapsing now and so forth, but perhaps some extra cash could be great? Also, we get to stop London trains and fight with the local proles! Lot´s of fun there!
TL;DR. Members of Extinction Rebellion literally get paid to participate in the group´s protests, something made possible by the XR´s rich donors, including a rock band and a billionaire…
I wonder how many places are like Columbus, Ohio, where I lived for many years. Their bus system was bizarre. On the main drags the darn thing would stop every ten feet—elsewhere there could be miles between stops. When we first got there, help-wanted ads in the paper would specify that applicants had to have their own transportation.
I have noticed that prospective employers no longer ask about transportation, it’s just assumed you’ll have a vehicle, even if the job is delivery. God forbid the business should have its own vehicles and cover its own business expenses.
Time to learn to knit! High time, I should say:
👏 👍 👏
JMG I found this on celebs who admit they are hypocrites (hooray) but say that we need to focus on “systemic change” and not their private jets of course.
Also I work near where XR were camping (yes they blocked off many roads in central London with their tents and street theatre). There was a huge police presence (they drove in from all around the UK to help) but the Police were just standing around indulging the nonsense. This went on for nearly a week before they were finally cleared.
I actually think the XR muppets thought the would be cheered not jeered in Canning Town considering the way they have been indulged before. Except ordinary people were not told to stand back like the Police were.
I talked to one of them who told me the earth only had 3 years left and that XR was all about friendships. They are genuinely deluded but I laughed my head off when I saw the Tube incident. Btw they are very influencial and popular with the political class and the BBC. Theresa May’s final act of treason was to give a trillion £s to be “carbon neutral” by 2030.
After they were cleared they did a candle vigil with petroleum candles (of course) to protest about being “silenced”.
Regarding that solar powered freestanding carbon bioaccumulator technology, it’s looking very likely that it does indeed operate on quantum principles. Here’s a phys.org report about a 2018 paper to that effect. (One inevitable caveat: the researchers also claim that a previous report of a different but similar quantum effect turns out to be wrong.)
What appears to be happening (as best I can interpret) is that a photon of light energy in the chromatophore simultaneously excites two different photosensitive molecules in a quantum superposed state (i.e. the situation that inevitably gets likened to Schroedinger’s Cat in pop science articles involving quantum mechanics) in which both molecules have all the energy at the same time, even though only one of them ends up with it. That might amount to an efficient way to “find” a molecule for which conditions are right for it to activate. Passing the energy from one molecule to another one at a time instead would lose energy as heat. Here’s abstract of the Nature paper itself. “Quantum vibronic coupling” has a nice ring to it.
@Austin of Oz – if I may, in rebuttal of your assertion that the human body is designed to die at 40, I’d like to submit – menopause.
Menopause, a set physical transition which affects all human females who survive past around 50, is a structured shut down of the reproductive system, decoupled from the shutdown of the whole body sustaining system, which provides for a second, nonreproductive life phase.
This kind of shutdown is not found in many other animals. Sheep, for example, which I am familiar with through farming, will give birth every year until they drop dead. They do not have a “grandmothers/wise ones” life phase in which they are free enough of the care of their own young to act as advisor to younger mother’s, and others who might benefit from such a repository of experience.
I do not say that *every* human is destined to live past 50, but it seems unreasonable to me to assume that *some* humans were not capable of living past 50, because in such a case, the (rather amazing and unusual) capacity for life after menopause could never have evolved.
Group think gets a little closer to it, but the issue here is that despite many of us in the lower classes already embracing these life-style changes there still doesn’t seem to be enough to trigger a mass movement. Maybe we haven’t hit the critical mass, but I think there is something else going on here.
As an example, to use tree planting as an example. Why is it so difficult for a group of a dozen or people to gather together, save up money for five years or so, then organize a tree planting unit with full pay?
Mass movements have to be instigated by someone, right? A Butlerian carnival has to be planned, organized, and financed.
And it looks like the displeasure of London tube commuters was just the beginning:
I really hope this sort of thing doesn’t get out of hand.
JillN is right: these people should be home milking their goats.
@JMG – Ah, Seattle, yes. San Francisco the same way back when I lived there, Streetcar heaven with bus line feeders. Worked way downtown, came home on public transit, short walk to my house. Likewise the community college I attended, known only as City College of San Francisco. Alas, “flyover country” doesn’t have such things except in certain highly specific locations.
Certainly this is an impossible-to-lose bet, for you at least– If you are right, and we are all living in a world 10 years from now that is mostly the same, you get $100.00. If you are wrong and your betting partner manages the harrowing journey across the Apocalypse-Blasted Underwater-yet-also-Sand-Furnace-Desert to collect on her bet, you will hand her a $100.00 bill that will mostly be useful as a fire-starter.
Shades of St Al Gore’s Carbon Credits, you are clever! I’m willing to bet that you planned it that way all along….;-)
JMG, I agree with Nassim N Taleb that difficult new concepts (like swindlers making money off a false solution to a real problem) are best put into the public consciousness in the form of a story. You doubtless have a number of new stories in the works. Why not insert such a swindler into one of them? Its likely you will get around to writing it before I will.
In _my_ story along these lines, US Senator from Louisiana Malachi Blood is simultaneously making money off Carbon Credits and taking kickbacks from the Oil Industry. He finds out that there is an Overmind of the Plants (a ‘Plant-etary Genius, if you will…), which has carefully shepherded all of us from pesky monkeys into humans, so that we would dig up and burn all the carbon that was tragically sequestered during the last comet strike. After all, you can’t find animals stupid enough to play with fire just anywhere…. The Plants want all that carbon returned to the Carbon Cycle, and since plants can photosynthesize with radioactivity even better than sunlight, the happy chance of a nuclear war is just an added bonus for them! When the humans get 80% of the oil pumped and burned, The Plants plan to use certain humans who are under their control to trigger a nuclear war, melting the rest of the icecaps and ushering in a new Age of Plants–And getting rid of the excess humans in the bargain.
With his rackets threatened, Mal Blood becomes an environmental activist. But will he be able to stop The Plants in time to keep the milk flowing from his many rackets? The Plants have other ideas–And they have been playing the game for a billion years longer than humans….
Ben, JMG – this reminds me of a comment from some years ago (if I recall correctly, it was by the late Bill Pulliam over on the old ADR): something about “installing carbon sequestration units”.
What would be the updated term for a forest?
Hi John Michael,
That was exactly the cover that I was attempting to link to. It is a striking work of art, (even better in colour) and the article I referred to in particular covered the work of the excellent fine artist Margaret Brundage and her relationship to her work. In some ways I tend to have the belief that during a recession or a depression, you have to put aside your qualms and do the work that you can do. During the recession of the early 90’s I spent four years doing debt collection work. It ain’t a pretty business, but it puts food on the table and keeps a roof over one’s head. But the context is lost and only those who were there and dealt a harsh hand recall the necessities that can lead you in unexpected directions. I tend to feel that was why my grandfather spent time in his vegetable garden – despite economically not needing to do so. I note that a certain sort of fussiness has crept into the culture (not a burden weighed down with), but I’m also well aware how easily it can be brushed aside.
The burden is hung on to beyond its use by date, because to do otherwise would be tantamount to admitting that this experiment known as ‘civilisation’ had let a person down. Far easier to cling to despair.
And thank you for the tutorial link!
Chris, and others who commented on the cover art of Winter of the World: This was one of my favorite stories back in the day. Donna of Owlhaunt is perfectly comfortable in near-freezing temperatures dressed like that. She won’t come for you, though; she has three husbands already! The plot gimmick is that she’s not human. A post-Collapse mutation created a new hominin species.
Climate activism is 90% about virtue signaling and pushing the status of working and middle class people down as part of upper class status competition.
If it wasn’t they’s be home doing just what jillN suggested and planting trees.
Tidlosa, now if I could only find a rock band and a billionaire who were willing to pay people to consume less and do more things for themselves…
Your Kittenship, okay, fair enough; I can only speak from my own experience, of course. As for learning to knit, yes, I saw the video earlier today — I was wondering when the pushback against the protests would begin, and apparently that’s now.
Bridge, people always say “systemic change” when they mean “I want someone else to change, just not me.” As for the BBC and the political class liking XR, well, of course — it’s all the same social class, after all.
Walt, “freestanding solar-powered quantum carbon bioaccumulators” it is! Where are my million-dollar grant and my fawning cadre of vulture capitalists?
Beekeeper, I’m not happy about the shift toward violence either, but if the XR folks take the logicalnext step and start bringing in Antifa-style thugs, away we go.
Patricia, so noted!
Emmanuel, hmm. I’ll see if anything comes to mind. In the meantime, keep writing!
PatriciaT, if I wanted to pitch it to investors, I’d call it a quantum carbon bioaccumulator facility. On the other hand, it would be fun to come up with an acronym for the individual unit that spells out T.R.E.E. and one for the facility that spells out F.O.R.E.S.T. — hmm. Facility for Operation and Replenishment of Earth Saving Technology? There must be something better.
Chris, you’re welcome. I don’t know a great deal about Brundage, but I know that her covers were so popular that authors routinely stuck lesbian BDSM scenes into their stories in the hope that their tale would be picked for one of her cover paintings. .
@Martin Back: thanks for that excerpt from Anne Frank. That’s the way I would expect people to behave in the UK.
@JMG You might read up on how other societies — say, Britain or Japan — weathered the same period. (Spoiler: they didn’t behave the same way.)
True, but then both societies had a common cause to unite them in active, common, endeavour – an external enemy – which they knew would be worse than their current privations. I would also suggest that, in both societies, ordinary people had faith that their governments were doing their best to look after them, given the constraints of a war economy. The Dutch, as a conquered people, had none of this. They were forced to be passive; no common action was permitted. They were under the rule of an authority which had no care for them, and which allowed them to have only the bare minimum with which to sustain themselves.
Which is more likely under conditions of catabolic collapse? You’re quite right that it will vary from culture to culture. In most Anglophone countries, it seems to me that our period of cheap energy has fostered selfishness and individualism, and weakened communal bonds. In the UK, we’re seeing the state retreat from the lives of ordinary people, in the sense of fewer police; health services and education underfunded; waste collection getting poorer; social security getting less and both more difficult and more humiliating to obtain; and so on. The internal security services, tax offices, et, will continue to be funded, and will become more predatory. All while we see the rich and powerful running the country for their own benefit. The outcome seems more likely to be the Dutch WW2 experience than the British or Japanese.
Of course, that may change if common purpose can be discovered. This seems to be what XR are at least trying to do, though it doesn’t appear to be working. Perhaps it needs to be done at a local level. (And, perhaps, this is what will drive the religious revival you’ve predicted).
Hi Beekeeper and JMG,
Yes, it does look as if the Saxon is beginning to hate. Also the Angles, the Picts, the Celts, the Goths, the Vandals, the Dalits, the Navajo, the Cherokee, the Comanche, the Zulu, the Masai, the Pygmies, the Bushmen, the Minions, the Halflings, the Elves, the Dwarves, the Wookies, and any- and everyone else trying to get from point A to point B without the road becoming impassable because of jerks. Stock up on yarn 🧶 now & avoid the shortage.
You asked for links or recommendations for solar water heater components, and I haven’t seen any responses (though I haven’t read all of the comments yet).
I have had good luck with this controller company:
The circulator pump is from Taco:
The panels we have were salvaged from the 1980s. They’re durable as all get out (the hailstorm that totaled the roof didn’t leave a mark on them). The heat exchanger was also reused.
We have a 3-panel drainback system, and it’s given us 7 years of hot water so far, still running like a champ with minimal maintenance (I check the water level every month and add a little if needed, which is rare).
The one thing I didn’t see coming was the complications when our roof needed replacing from hail damage. We installed the system on a new roof 7 years ago, and the cost to remove and reinstall the panels added $4k to replacing the damaged roof. The insurance company luckily covered it, but it added lots of paperwork and delays to getting the roof redone. Something to keep in mind if hail’s an issue for your area or if your roof is older.
Yes CO2 causes plants to grow faster, also rendering them less nutritious. Doesn’t do much for the melting icecaps, floods or fires though.
An article describing nutrition and increased CO2: Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition
Myers, Samuel S; Zanobetti, Antonella; Kloog, Itai; Huybers, Peter; Leakey, Andrew D B; et al.Nature; London Vol. 510, Iss. 7503, (Jun 5, 2014): 139-42. DOI:10.1038/nature13179
Interesting article in the Guardian today about Michael Stipe of REM flying into London, staying in a large hotel suite and waxing poetic about the XR event in Trafalgar Square.
Same sentiment from Keith Richards of all people a month or so ago: “I stand in support of the global #climatestrike today. We need to do everything we can to protect our planet and humanity”.
Now, neither of them could be accused of lacking critical thinking skills, or lacking skepticism and a challenging attitude to authority. Surely they know that touring the world playing electric music for decades to millions might not have been the best thing for the planet. But then, I love their music, saw them a few times, definitely didn’t walk to the concerts, and bought a bunch of electronics to listen to records, tapes, CDs on.
So, he who is without climate sin cast the first carbon credit or something…beams and motes too. Getting quite biblical here, must be the Sunday morning. But seriously, it is easy to see everyone else’s hypocrisy, certainly easier than tending your own garden. So with that I think the compost pile needs a turn.
“Freestanding solar-powered quantum carbon bioaccumulators” reminds me of the wartime laboratory that was granted funds for a “digital tone generator” with which they bought a piano.
John, et al.—
My humble offerings:
Temperature Rectification by Electromagnetic Entrapment
Formation of Organic Resequestration and Environmental Stabilization Technologies
Right about a hundred years ago Milankovitch synthesized some of the various theories on ice age cycles into a model involving the earth’s axis and orbit. The math required to prove his theory is ridiculously complicated. He reckoned if he worked ten hours a day, six days a week, it would take him sixty years to finish. With the help of grad students he finished early and published his paper. Some liked it, others not, but nobody was willing to put in the time to check the math. So the idea sat on the shelf for decades until about 1970 when the computers became powerful enough. The math checked out and according to the model the world should be getting colder, hence the “coming ice age” headlines. Problem was in the 70’s we also figured out how to extract historical climate data from tree rings and they showed a warming earth going back two or three thousand years. Solution to this head scratch was the ice cores from Antarctica. They go back over 500k years and prove once again the model was correct.
So why isn’t it getting colder? As JMG says, when the trees grew back in N. America the climate got colder. The inverse is also true, when you cut down trees and replace them with crops, the climate gets warmer. We have been doing this all over the world for ten thousand years. This shows up in the ice cores starting eight thousand years ago. A Professor Emeritus by the name of William Ruddiman did the math on this. Using a baseline of 8k yrs ago instead of 200 yrs ago he reckons 80% of the excess CO2 in the air is from agriculture and only 20% is from burning fossil fuels. Also, burning fossil fuels releases enough soot to produce a dimming effect so the industrial age is almost a wash.
So what’s the solution? Best explanation for this is the work of Allan Savory. The idea is that because mature grasslands can have as much as 20 feet of topsoil they are as much of a carbon sink as a forest. But grasslands won’t grow without animals on top of them. So the idea is if we replaced crops with animals on grass we could have enough to eat and restore the earth’s carbon sinks.
The odds of reversing ten thousand years of eating habits in time to make a difference are slim to none, so we’re going to have to live with the consequences. My own prediction is that it will keep getting warmer until enough ice melts to dilute and slow or shut down the thermohaline currents and the last time that happened was the Younger Dryas thousand year long mini ice age. Only this time it will last longer, because colder is where the earth wants to be at this point in the cycle.
Agreeing with most. When it comes to methane, the problem formulation – and the solutions – may need to be rephrased a bit. It is true that methane is a potent green house gas but it is equally true that it is “short-lived” (if one can talk about life for a molecule). The formula mostly used for expressing its global warming potential, GWP-100, is a crude metric which can’t capture the real nature of methane and its role in global warming. I recommend this brief: https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/publications/net-zero-for-agriculture/ Which in turn has links to the real research behind it.
Essentially it means that a rapid increase in methane rates has a bigger impact on global warming than the GWP metric tells us, and decrease in the emissions rates actually leads to immediate cooling (as opposed to decrease in CO2 emissions wich just means slower warming). Constant methane emissions cause marginal global warming. By and large the effects of ruminant methane emissions have been grossly exaggerated.
The good news is, of course, that if we stop extracting fossil fuels we get huge methane reductions – and therefore cooling – as a bonus as methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and use are now already bigger than ruminant emissions.
Do you really think they’d bring in Antifa? That would be a totally tone-deaf response . . . maybe I’ve just answered my own question. Also, not every police department is as willing to accommodate Antifa as Portland’s is, so depending on the city this could get really, really ugly.
The only thing I’ve mastered in the knitting department is sock making. Lucky that I’m not a fast knitter, one only needs so many socks.
Michael Stipe and Keith Richards can probably come up with perfectly good excuses for their behavior. Important, self-indulgent people usually can.
@ Martin, Bogatyr & JMG: My mother was a pediatrician in Rotterdam during the Second World War. I once attended a talk she gave of her memories of the war. Because of her profession, she was allotted gasoline to visit the farms to take care of the children. Since she could visit farms, she had access to eggs and fresh vegetables, which she was able to pass onto families whose children needed the extra nutrition. She never mentioned vandalism to her car, robbery, or any other of the things brought up by Anne Frank. In the horrid winter of ‘44-’45, they were able to get tulip bulbs as a luxury vegetable. My overall impression is very different from what Anne Frank wrote: shortages of food and limits to life, but people working together to get through the war.
I’m not sure if what Anne Frank wrote was relevant to Amsterdam only, or only what the family heard reported to them, but my mother’s experience was much different.
@ David, BTL: excellent!
In re: Cover Art
For some fantastic cover art check out the work of Gervasio Gallardo. He did most of the artwork for Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy Series in the 1970-75 timeframe. If you want to check it out, google Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series.
thanks for providing a link to your spreadsheet. It seems it’s functioning as a shared document in that any one input gets “shared” all around to whomever is looking at it, but it doesn’t appear to be downloadable. Or am I not doing something correctly?
“People would save up, an overseas trip would be once or twice in a lifetime rather than once or twice a year as it is for many.”
I am ready for rationing. The above scenario would mean that the rich could go as much as they want and middle class people would not be able to go. Once of twice in a lifetime, yes. I’m feeling a little defensive here.
I rarely fly, hate to fly, and only go if I have to. I happen to have a quite low carbon footprint, although some of these things aren’t the fault of the person but circumstances. Those in cold climates probably cannot get their carbon footprint as lower as those in warmer climates because of heating. My carbon footprint got lower because I retired. Even though I am rural, I don’t go out that much. I aim to shop about every two weeks. I’m always trying to carpool with my AGW-believing friends.
But my grandaughter lives in Europe, and I want to see her twice a year. I wish they would move back here, but the longer my daughter is away, the less appealing she finds the idea. Having pressure to put in long hours, vacations scoffed at, and financial anxiety due to our awful medical system are the reasons.
As regards Brexit, someone told me that they fear England would become much poorer because as an EU member and the banking establishment in London, they would no longer be a shoe-in for a lot of that business.
On the ability of forests to “solve” the problems of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, there is a lot of controversy in this regard, because in the temperate latitude the benefits of CO2 sequestration are canceled by the decrease in the albedo effect of trees , and also due to the release of a good part of the CO2 stored after the death of the tree, the increase in the forest area is not a clear improvement for the capture of CO2 in those places.
This is not the case in tropical latitudes where the forest is a key element of the gas balance of the atmosphere, but it is in places where we are losing forest faster
The other great player is the ocean, and that is, in fact, a great mystery what the role was in the past, and depends largely on the solubility of CO2, which is a function of salt concentrations, which depends on great measure of life, and then we return to the situation of the destruction of ecosystems, which I think is the main cause of the lack of some negative feedback circuits
The Sun a billion years ago sent 30% less radiation to Earth, but the average temperature has changed little (in a biological sense) than we have today and mainly in the opposite direction (higher temperature before) and the only explanation of this The “fine adjustment” of the weather (ok, not perfect) is life itself.
We are destroying ecosystems, so Gaia defends herself with a “fever” that will ultimately control the level of “germs” in her body.
Re – salary class jet-setting. I just realized, taking to my daughter, that ability to hop a jet and go wherever your profession requires is as much a job necessity as being able to hop in your car and drive to wherever the job requires is to wage-class workers. This weekend she’s going to D.C. for a quarterly seminar on getting grants (which is how her work is financed.) Next weekend, to Los Angeles, for the World Conference on Psychiatric Genetics. She now has the standing in her field to make that a sensible thing to do. (S/f fans, think a Big Name Author showing up at Worldcon.)
Wasteful of fuel? Yes. Bad for the climate? Certainly. Refusal or inability to do what your profession – the one that keeps you and your family fed, housed, and above all, secure – requires? Unthinkable. Especially if you have children you are desperate to keep in the salary class, or as they say, “have a future.” Short-sighted? OMG, yes. But I understand it in my guts now. In their minds, it’s the airport line or the breadline.
BTW – full disclosure when it comes to climate change – I myself am not doing one fracking thing about it. It’s not within my power to do so. Living as simply and sustainably as possible, that I am doing to the best of my ability.
John, it’s a favorite novel of mine, too — not least because it broke with the generic future of so much classic science fiction to present a really interesting and vivid far-future story. I don’t recall Donya going around so scantily clad when outdoors, though — well, in Arvanneth, granted, but that’s a far-future New Orleans and it’s still kinda sultry there (in more senses than one).
Simon, that’s certainly my take on it at this point.
Bogatyr, judging by what happened during the last two energy crises, here in the US we’ll find a foreign enemy — or invent one, if necessary — to serve as a dumping ground for our frustrations; we’re good at that. It’s not a particularly good habit, but it certainly promotes certain kinds of national solidarity during crisis periods. I’m less sure about Britain, but all over the English-speaking diaspora, from where I stand, it looks as though the cult of selfishness and individualism primarily took root among the comfortable classes, where it gave them excuses for the working classes under the bus. Outside of that minority, not so much — and in a time of collective crisis, when the comfortable classes may be more than usually eager to avoid being identified as the common enemy, I suspect a lot of the habits and rhetoric that were part of that cult will be chucked in a hurry.
Your Kittenship, ravel now, and avoid the rush?
Spinky, you obviously didn’t read the article I linked to; it talked about tree growth, which — as pointed out in the post — does do something about those issues, by absorbing lots of carbon. Please do try harder next time.
Mark, it really impresses me — though not in a good way — that so many people go out of the way to avoid talking about the point I’ve made in this and other essays, regarding the unwillingness of climate activists to live the way they expect everyone else to live. It’s not about who’s to blame. It’s about whether the people who have made “do as I say, not as I do” their response to climate change are successfully convincing other people to do as they suggest. The answer, of course, is that they’re not. Al Gore failed to make his case to anyone who didn’t already agree with him. Michael Stipe is failing in exactly the same way. If you actually want to do something about anthropogenic climate change, why are you defending a failed strategy?
Martin, funny! I like that.
David BTL, also funny! Okay, those are good possibilities.
Rrodina, thanks for this.
Gunnar, sure, and if pigs had wings we’d all catch our breakfast bacon with butterfly nets. If climate change activists themselves aren’t willing to stop using a disproportionately large share of fossil fuels, how can they expect anyone else to agree to a ban on extracting fossil fuels?
Beekeeper, oh, I doubt it would be Antifa as such. Instead, I expect to see increasingly shrill calls for lawbreaking and “direct action” in response to the failure of the XR protests, and activists beginning to show up with face masks and hand-to-hand weapons a la Antifa. Tone-deaf? You bet.
Peter, that sounds much more like what I’ve heard from other sources. Do you happen to know if there are other wartime diaries from the Netherlands?
Antoinetta, fortunately I don’t have to Google it — I still have something like half the volumes in that series. You’re right that Gallardo’s work was great.
Onething, interesting. What I’ve heard is that post-Brexit, Britain can go back to its former role as the capital of global money laundering, which is why a lot of people from the shadier end of the financial sector are hardcore Brexiteers.
DFC, the article I posted about the origins of the Little Ice Age doesn’t support the claim that temperate forests are poor carbon sinks — though no question tropical forests are better. If there’s a temperature gradient, massive reforestation programs in the South might be a good option here in the US.
By the way, once again I’ve had to delete several good comments because of profanity. Please read the text above the comments post, folks, and remember that the reason we can have these conversations here is that those boundaries are enforced!
@ Naomi RE solar water heating
Our major propane expense at our farm was hot water. To offset this, we installed a “pre-heater” loop on the roof of a nearby ATV shed. It is a simple oval coil of 1″ black plastic pipe. We built a box that surrounds it, caulked the seams where the wood of the box meets the corrugated tin roof, and then we used two scrapped sliding glass doors as a cover. The roof and everything in the box is painted flat black. Our propane bill dropped by 50% with this simple addition. The water is easily close to 50C in summer and 30C in dead of winter (if the sun is shining). The feeder line for the water heater runs through the preheater and then on to the water heater closet behind the main building.
When it is cloudy, it no work so good 🙁
We will be using an old water heater tank set up in a box and painted black with black backdrop to heat water for our outdoor kitchen going up this spring.
We try and recycle everything so our cost is low. The black plastic pipe came from a defunct flower nursery; the tin from a 5000 sq ft barn that was hail damaged and the owner let us haul off the used tin for free. A bit of caulk fixes the nail holes. And so on with re-purposing of most everything (our ceiling is made from pallet lumber).
By doing the solar heating as a “preheater”, a lot of the controls required otherwise are just not needed – the water heater controls final temp, and only heats until the pre-set temp is reached; it doesn’t care what the incoming water temp is.
Hope that helps….
I am a scientist and one of the very best, but in terms of making an argument that is a logical fallacy, as it is an appeal to a criterion of authority, that is something is true because I as a scientist say so, that not science, nor philosophy which I define here as a method of analysis as to the validity of arguments. My friend, if I may, I come in peace, and to be fair I will within 24 hours give your post the proper reply it deserves. I am concerned at many things that you have said and some of the ways you tried to make your points. It is good to be skeptical and I believe you to very sincere and quite intelligent. Indulge me on this, I promise, it will be worth your will. I am the co founder of the Santa Fe Institute and believe a systems perspective is required to present the problem of the use and limits to fossil fuel use.
I’m not exactly sure if this is on topic, but I cannot help but show this to you.
Apparently there was a society that collected rubbish for recycling that existed around ww1 called the ancient order of druids.
Smithers, they’re swearing again; release the hounds. AND the fooftawoos.
Did anybody notice Greta suddenly dropped off the news? Did the truant officer finally catch up to her parents, or were too many peasants starting to ask awkward questions about all those flights?
I suspect she’d be better off in school. The autistic need routine and structure. Mine has been in the bathroom all night from What’s Going Around so I told him not to worry about the trash, I’ll take it out. Nope. To him, the least painful alternative is dragging out to the curb rather than changing his trash routine. (The trash has been duly dragged and I sent him back to bed.).
You asked your question so hesitatingly, it shows how difficult it can be to speak against prevailing opinion. That some parts of the world could greatly benefit from a warmer climate is obvious – Siberia, Mongolia, northern Canada come to mind. In fact I’ve thought about this as it relates to various conditions which reduce livable land in some areas but open it up in others. For example, when sea levels were so much lower than today, large parts of the north were under glaciation but people lived well with greatly expanded coastal areas and much larger islands.
It does seem silly to say that we can damage the environment but nature will eventually fix it. The path to that end might be quite unpleasant. Why do it? And I also think it unfair to damage the environment for animals. But then, I think CAFO’s are unethical in the extreme. I don’t personally believe climate change will be much of anything, nor hurt animals much, but your question is rather generic.
If you look at it as I do, going ‘against nature’ is always going to fail. It’s like saying, Can I go against the laws of nature? No, you can’t.
Hi again JMG
Yes, your article and the two I linked show different conclusions, so the controversy. Anyhow I am with you in the sense that healthy forests (not merely wood plantations) in any place, with beavers and wolves, is the way to restore a more stable climate, for reasons I do not know, but seems the way Gaia works.
Wolf change rivers:
Whales and climate:
Maybe the question isn’t whether XR invites Antifa in, but whether or not Antifa decides to crash the party.
Dear John Michael Greer,
As ever you provide a most thought-provoking read, thank you.
“Real problems can have fake solutions”– !!!
I see in the comments that you ask if there is something else from WWII Netherlands. One relatively recently published memoir is this one:
Regarding Michael Stipe and other celebrities who don’t seem to get their own hypocrisy – I wasn’t exactly meaning to defend them. Frankly I started my comment in a spirit of – “see, here are some prime examples of the kind of thing JMG has been railing against!”. But as I contemplated it a little I realized I am being hypocritical too. I’ve changed my life substantially in the last 10 years, my foot print is less than half of what it was (although I seem to have hit a plateau of late). But I still listen to a lot of electronic music, still travel to see concerts occasionally and over the course of my life have helped fund the whole rock and roll circus to a pretty good degree. So, I felt a little smug about pointing the finger at people I’ve helped along and tried to add a note of humility. Anyway, that was my thinking, such as it was.
I probably should have kept quiet, a policy I will now return to 🙂
Thanks – another informative and thought provoking essay, with great comments. I am balancing data and anecdotes. My growing season has shortened 4 weeks over the last 6 years (zone 5 becoming zone 4).
Update on eco-fascism: Rebel Bass has put out a podcast on Youtube describing JMG as an eco-reactionary whose ideas provide cover for eco-fascism. I’m not going to link to it, but from the first few minutes it sounds like a nasty piece of guilt by association.
temporaryreality, I’ve checked and the file should be downloadable.
“I am ready for rationing. The above scenario would mean that the rich could go as much as they want and middle class people would not be able to go. Once of twice in a lifetime, yes. I’m feeling a little defensive here.”
Feeling defensive is a common reaction to coming up against physical limits. I work as a trainer (a job which won’t exist in a world of more constrained resources), and there’s a certain difficult kind of person I work with. This is the middle-aged male who used to be very athletic but became sedentary. Peter Pan used to be 22 and healthy, now he’s 52 and has four injuries – two of the injuries came while he was athletic and young, and two of them have come in the last couple of years as he tried to be 22 again.
Injuries are sustained when the stress applied to the tissues can’t be sustained or repaired. At 22yo, he could sustain the stresses, at 52 he can’t. I have seen guys who had a pulmonary embolism and two weeks later were asking when they can go back to high intensity interval training. The answer “never” is not well-taken.
The moment when he is confronted with the fact that his desires exceed his physiological resources is a very difficult and emotionally challenging moment for a guy. Many never come to grips with it, really.
Of course, if I don’t accept my limits due to lack of physiological resources and hurt myself, now I’m even more limited.
What happens with the body is in many ways similar to what happens with the Earth and its resources, both inorganic and organic, and the way people treat it and react to its limits is the same. If limits are accepted, then we can make the most of our resources; if limits are ignored, then we hurt ourselves – climate change, price shocks and recessions, brownouts, water shortages and so on.
“But my grandaughter lives in Europe, and I want to see her twice a year.”
The interesting thing about our cheap energy is that it has enabled people to travel long distances, and so it also makes travelling long distances necessary. Without cheap energy your grand-daughter wouldn’t be living in Europe, or she would have gone on a two month journey there in a boat one day and you would have expected never to see her again, or perhaps just once in your lifetime – like a migrant leaving Europe for the New World on a sailing ship in 1719, or a steamship in 1819, or really even up to 1919.
Speaking of 1919, that old joke about joining the military to see the world – hey, in the days before jetliners, that was a real thing. Absent cheap energy, travel takes a lot of time, or money – and the military always has plenty of both. Taking the King’s shilling and putting on a uniform really was a way a poor guy could see the world (even if not always the most glamorous parts). He’d come back to the village and never have to buy his own drinks at the tavern again, getting drinks off the stories he told.
That we CAN travel easily means that we NEED to travel easily. A century or two ago your grand-daughter wouldn’t be across the seas, she’d be living in your house along with her husband and your children. People lived 50% of their lives within 2 miles of home, and 90% within 20 miles of home. That long journey was just once a month to the local town. But cheap energy has turned luxuries into necessities.
In Islam, the devout Moslem should, if they can, travel to Mecca once in their lifetime. Why only once? Well, when the Koran was written they had to walk there! If Mohammed had been born in 1950 he’d have told them to do it each year.
In the future we won’t have this choice. Probably if your grand-daughter has a grand-daughter who moves to another continent, she won’t expect to ever see her again unless she’s quite wealthy.
Some places will not be viable places to live without cheap energy. Some friends or relatives will travel and never be seen again, there’ll just be letters over the years. A trip overseas will, for most, be a once in a lifetime event. At the moment it’s our choice. Later it won’t be.
The defensiveness is natural. But those who don’t admit their limits end up hurting themselves and limiting themselves even more.
Oh, and continuing on the personal trainer theme… when I get a 45yo sedentary overweight guy with a bad back, he’s sometimes not happy about the changes he needs to make to become a healthy bodyweight, fitter and stronger. He was last active at 15 years old when PE was no longer compulsory.
Usually at some point we have an awkward conversation, in which I say something like, “Because you have spent 30 years being comfortable, as a result you now have to spend some time being UNcomfortable.”
It’s much the same with our Earth’s resources and climate.
Re: Greta in the news: she’s been visiting northern Alberta, although what she actually hopes to accomplish here is unclear.
“My growing season has shortened 4 weeks over the last 6 years (zone 5 becoming zone 4).”
This is the sort of story I seek regarding climate changes.
How long have you been there?
What are your neighbors comments?
How has the change progressed?
@JMG: what do you say about a new picture as a greybeard? Gandalf and deGreer.
@Kitten: I would bet on used mechanical knitting machines. At Scrap value, still functioning they can provide for the local community. Do not forget the steps in between though – from wool to yarn.
@Varun: Planting trees as such only works on land not for food production. The need for calories will be so great per capita if/when the oil doped economy disappears. Now we need 3000 kcal max for office workers. An old wood cutter needed 10000 kcal with lots of fat to be able to keep production up. Think of how many kcal of diesel a tractor of 350 kW uses per hour of say 80% max rpm. That is a lot of slaves at 15 dollars per hour. Not slaves as such but slaves under energy equations.
There are stories of african farmers being displaced as western companies take land to grow trees. That sounds like a holistic solution does it not. Just like the Aral lake to solve the cotton problem in Soviet.
My overall assessment is that it will continue until sealevels +10m. Beachfront property around the world is therefore already today worthless. The millions of people that are projected to be climate refugees will not be fed. Either politicians sacrifice their own populations or the refugees or the global tyranny just let them fight it out while they hide behind the troops. Thugs of low IQ will be pitted against each other as letter agency handlers points. Not the first time in history it happened.
Or I am overly pessimistic. With history as a teacher I have my doubts.
Hey JMG, awesome piece. Careful not to become a mouthpiece for this nasty chunk of propaganda: that lowering your consumption makes your life miserable. In a hundred different ways my family has consciously changed our lives for the better, and found each time that the third or fifth most important positive effect of each change is reduced pollution and less emissions. It is a LIE that the choice is to live comfortably or live gently. We emit less than half as much as our county average and live at least twice as well. All of you can have these riches too, if you apply a little thought and research and imagination to your habits. It’s much more entertaining than watching TV. Excuse me, I have goats to milk and clothes to mend.
My rule of thumb for activists: if my actions cause less of whatever it is you’re fighting than yours, I won’t listen. If my actions cause more of it than yours, I’ll listen. Simple enough, and it works most of the time to identify who’s worth listening to.
It’s also fascinating watching climate activists: plenty of them are unwilling to take actions for the climate I take for other reasons, and on more than one occasion I’ve had meltdowns when I explained certain elements of how I live.
I saw the Rebel Bass podcast. I listened to the full thing and found it breathtakingly dishonest, such as the claim that JMG supports children in cages.
Something I can’t understand about Brexit. How can a referendum be held in a democracy, come up with a result and then have said result not implemented by Parliament in a pretty short time frame? Surely this is illegal?
JMG – I appreciate your consistent suppression of vulgar speech. I recently read an article from a previously respectable magazine (The New Yorker, maybe) which was about how to cook kale (of all things) and it could find no better way to express enthusiasm than a phrase something like “I just fracking love kale.” Krista Tippet had to bleep a very short exclamation on her program this morning, too.
It’s ironic that what was once referred to as “explicit language” is now an adjective with not much meaning at all.
What will we do when even our “saltiest” language has lost its bite? Maybe that’s when people start throwing punches.
To my mind, first solve all your own low-medium difficulty environmental issues and start working on the hard stuff in your own life. If you still have left over time/money/other resources, then, it’s maybe time to start expanding your efforts to help facilitate the efforts of others in your community. As you say, some things are just impossible to change at a household level if you’re embedded in a high-energy use environment. However, the corresponding implication of such an environment, is that there are rich waste streams to be tapped, especially if you can organise even a few households at a community level.
Even better for people stuck in the salary class income trap described by jbucks, if there is a way to make significant household savings/income supplement/micro business out of your efforts – this facilitates the ability to work part time in the salary job (if that is an option) or maybe one person in a household works the salary job and the other person the micro business (which might fit in better with caring responsibilities as well).
The specific areas to work on would depend upon where the significant waste is in your area and what arbitrage opportunities between rich/poor neighbourhoods are available. Things I’ve seen work in different areas of my city: poor public transport in general or to a particular place (such as the local bulk food co-op) offers carpooling potential while you’re campaigning for public transport improvements. Live in a poor area or have a few environmentally conscious friends and a spare room – look into starting your own bulk dry-food co-op. If school drop-offs are a scrum -> organise an informal ‘walking bus’. High cost of living/expensive utilities implies various shared housing opportunities including boarding house businesses. Lots of old rich people unable to look after their gardens -> a gardening business with the option to plant stealth food plants and collect neglected fruit. People throw a lot of stuff out or sell it cheap -> repurposing/upcycling business for furniture and decor items. Lots of poorly built housing stock – in richer neighbourhoods there is a business in ‘thermal comfort’ retrofits and in poorer neighbourhoods one can offer free assessments and practical advice/help as a way to help your neighbours reduce their bills.
Because nothing wins over hearts and minds like invading a burger joint and sticking a bullhorn in an employee’s face:
I don’t see this as a winning strategy, but at least nobody got hurt this time.
Snark aside, I just don’t understand why climate warriors are engaging in petty stunts; they convince no one, they make themselves look silly and by extension trivialize their cause.
For all the money that is supposedly backing XR, there doesn’t seem to be a smart person in charge.
For sure, but I wasn’t referring to conspicuous consumption.
Tree planting was an example of mass organization, not an actual suggestion. Not sure how we got from tree planting to having thugs fight each other?
I’m going to need to think on what I’m trying to say here. Clearly my words are causing more confusion than solutions.
Frank, I’m perfectly willing to see your response; as it happens, I’m quite familiar with systems theory, having studied it pretty extensively during my first pass through university and kept up with it thereafter.
J.L.Mc12, the AOD is still around, last I checked, though as far as I know they’re only active in Britain these days. I don’t think they’re still in the metal-collection business, though!
Your Kittenship, no doubt, but media stories have it that Thunberg blackmailed her parents into letting her skip school by threatening not to eat, and of course they caved. They seem to have done that a lot.
DFC, exactly — that’s why I stressed that the trees once planted should be left to go through their life cycle. If they last for a couple of centuries, that should keep a chunk of carbon out of circulation for long enough to make a difference!
Millicently, thanks for this.
Mark, thanks for clarifying — as I have Aspergers syndrome I miss subtleties pretty often. I’d point out, though, that unless you’re out there trying to push other people to use less carbon, you’re not subject to the criticism I’m trying to make….
Robert, fascinating. Where are you?
Kfish, excellent That tells me that my critique is starting to sting the people at whom it’s aimed.
Sturge, when I was younger I hoped to end up with a Galdalf-style beard down to my belt buckle. Alas, it’s gotten shorter with age, and it’s only about half as long as it was at its zenith. Ah, the dreams of youth… 😉
Kara, an excellent point! I use about a third as much energy as the average American, and my life is much more entertaining, lively, and creative than it would be if I had my lips stuck on the fossil fuel teat.
Will, it’s a good rule. As for the podcast, that’s excellent news! If they’re feeling so threatened they have to make up obvious lies, then I’m clearly getting my message across.
JillN, of course it’s illegal. The basic attitude of the Remainers amounts to “We don’t care how people voted, we want our cheap nannies and our visa-free vacation travel to Spain!”
Lathechuck, you’re welcome and thank you. If this website were in Russian, or some other language where profanity is an art form, I might reconsider, but American profanity is arguably the most boring in any modern language, and people who use it just lurch through their drab little routines as though repeating a dozen or so words that no longer shock anyone somehow matters, looking like nothing so much as a bunch of mingy, dimwitted, biithering nincompoops!
Beekeeper, just recently I’ve read a couple of essays that have helped me make sense of it all. Stay tuned for a post on the subject.
TamHob, you always have interesting, practical ideas. Thank you
Kiashu – oh, I was using a nonstandard browser earlier. I’ll go back and look at it on Chrome. Thanks for the confirmation.
“An article describing nutrition and increased CO2: Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition”
I really doubt this.
Another surprise to me is the claim that the next glaciation was 50,000 years off. That would be a significant break in the pattern of this ice age.
Many good points and I agree that the real problem here is that yes, in an earlier age my daughter would never have gone to Europe for graduation and met a guy there. She would not have moved if she knew she’d never see her family again.
But yes, I do feel defensive and I don’t apologize. Because we are all caught in this net, we all make compromises, and I don’t necessarily agree with making jet travel the big sin. For me, it is the most necessary, yet I make many other sacrifices willingly. Most of my friends have waaay more money than I do and none of them can refrain from flying for vacations. They also have dish washers, air conditioners, and constantly drive. While being so upset that they can barely speak that I don’t believe in global warming.
I do believe in peak oil, and it is sickening that we have wasted it so profligately when we should have used it sparingly as the precious resource that it is.
Oh, and I was also annoyed that you seem content to let it be the preserve of the rich.
“I saw the Rebel Bass podcast. I listened to the full thing and found it breathtakingly dishonest, such as the claim that JMG supports children in cages.” I glanced at it. He fortunately lacks skill. Maybe jealous?
The problems with propaganda.
If you are unreal many will still go along with you if you can make it unsafe to do otherwise. Quite a few of them will wonder why you lie.
If you are unreal and have little power weak people might go along with you until they find another source a little more appealing. More people are likely to look around, see you are bogus, go elsewhere, especially to check out what you dismissed.
The trick is to seem to be real. If this is done often enough never going too far it can work. It requires skill, restraint and persistence not to mention intelligence. Well done advertising is an example.
Making it fun is even better. In the ’60s I loved German TV ads even though I could barely understand. The old VW beetles sold well in the USA because they had a bit of this. When the Germans say “viel Spass” (have fun) they really mean it. Or it least did then. Some Americans seem repelled by fun and need serious, emotional messages. Watch the news reader switch emotions with the story. If you can find it in print read the same story out loud with different emotions and see how silly it is.
I can only listen to most NPR (National Public Radio) news for a few minutes because the propaganda is so cheap, stupid and off subject. That Putin guy must be omnipotent because he is responsible for everything everywhere. Obviously some are locked in to this and gain some comfort from it. KPLU (Tacoma) was sold to KUOW (Seattle) without public notice or discussion. KUOW mostly wanted the remote transmitters and didn’t intend to transmit same old same jazz. KPLU fans were angry, got together and fought off KUOW, paid millions for their precious KPLU and in the end still had NPR.
“If this website were in Russian, or some other language where profanity is an art form, I might reconsider,”
Hah! I have had many Russians brag to me about the richness of what they call “The Mother Tongue” (aspersions on one’s mother being common) and they consider us quite tepid in our talents.
Sadly, I’ve spent 40 years trying to learn regular Russian, and have not delved into the swearing.
Long time reader, not much of a commenter, but this article is timely with real world events in Seattle, as an example check out the two columns by Cliff Mass a University of Washington professor who has run into trouble with his own department over his scientific views on GCC. https://cliffmass.blogspot.com 1: The University of Washington Should Not Censor Social Media (link in righthand column) 2: The Real Climate Debate (current posting)
JMG, speaking of the little ice age and carbon sequestration in forests, I thought this article was interesting. Archeologists are using lidar to determine the extent of ancient farmlands under tropical Central American forests. The article focuses on Mayan settlements around Belize. One of the farming areas was five times as large as previously thought and another was discovered for the first time. The area was apparently cultivated heavily up to around 900 years ago, so I’m not sure if that is too long before the little ice age to have an effect. The article notes that the cultivation would have been a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, and it seems logical that reverting back to forest would have the opposite effect. It’ll be interesting if more of these studies are conducted to determine the extent of agriculture in other parts of the tropics prior to the population collapse that occurred after the arrival of Europeans.
“Where are you?” Front Range CO (part of Denver Metro). I have gardened this (sorta small) spot for 20 years. I plant by soil temperature and lunar signs. The issues have been Brassica (35 -45 degrees and tomatoes/corn 65+ degrees at 2″ deep. Records on germination rates and (some) yields. As of the last three years, I must ripen green tomatoes indoors with minimal garden ripening (from sturdy transplants). Corn planting (with indoor soaking) has shifted from late May (20th or so) to June (10th or later). From above, neighbors don’t garden.
Slightly off topic but here is a decent little write up “US Federal Reserve starts “quantitative easing forever””.
It is funny to see those in power trying to paper over the real decline in any fashion possible.
We have just moved into the hyper inflation period of the Roman empire – https://notesonliberty.com/2019/09/16/hyperinflation-and-trust-in-ancient-rome/
Now very off-topic – Of interest, it was only a few weeks ago that I found out you can purchase legitimate Roman coins from coin dealers. Thinks that I would expect to see in museums can be your to own. Check it out even if you are not intent on purchasing them.
There are currently a lot of protests around the world now due to stresses imposed by oil depletion.
I suspect as in the arab spring when food prices exploded due to sky high oil prices in 2008 that some kind of political convulsions will be taking place.
Up to civil war or an escalation of existing undeclared civil war as in Latin America between drug gangs/government/civilians.
The wild things come out to play.
@Sturge – trees and food production in the sane tracts of land are extremely compatible. What does not work so well is planting trees where food is to be produced using vehicular machines. But even there, large flat fields surrounded by thick hedges still work very well.
JMG Please do not blindly post this comment as it is a response to your comment on profanity – In this comment I am trying to cross the bridge between dead profanity and real profanity. If I slip and fall on the bar stool I’m balancing on, as I have done here in the past, just laugh.
@lathchuck and JMG – I feel like a decline in useful profanity is a symptom of a societies collective thinking meat freezing up.
I think American profanity has gone up something because sex acts have permeated so much of the media’s psyche that degenerate and self-destructive fetishes, fetishes that would not be possible without modern medicines, intervention and industrial civilization at large, have come to flourish. Meanwhile, the real intimate and meaningful parts of life fail to shock; all the meaning in them is been leached dry by an economic sandblaster that has its blasting hose so far up everyone’s schwing-schwang that when people actually go to rub their naughty bits they can’t derive any real pleasure from their own hearts. Thus they shout:
Rhymes with duck
A number synonyms for feces
What a screw driver does
These words are cliche. To actually spout profanity you have to have a grasp on poetry. You have to step beyond a cliche.
Have I slipped off my bar stool into the punch bowl?
“Varun, an interesting question to which I have no answer as yet. Hmm…”
It is indeed an interesting question and I hope you’ll keep it on a front burner. I think a great deal of it has to do with addiction and distraction: alcohol, drugs, smart phones, tv, internet/social media…the masses are adrift in the widening gyre, uneasily numb and stimulated simultaneously.
Re JMG as an eco-fascist
It has been my experience that for many on the leftward side, any disagreement with the party line makes one suspect, regardless of what is actually being advocated. More to the point, any whiff of nationalism is an automatic fascist labeling. In my first foray as an active commenter on PoliticalWire, I was routinely called a fascist because I spoke in favor of a certain economic nationalism and generally supported the right of a nation-state to control the flow of goods and people over its borders. Nationalism=fascism is well-ingrained in many people’s minds. When I pointed out to one of my conversation partners that Gandhi was a nationalist (you know, advocating Indian independence from British rule and all that), the divide-by-zero error that ensued was rather entertaining.
Many of these people are overt or covert globalists who believe in some grand unification of humanity (under proper headship, of course) and seek to maintain the lifestyles to which they’ve become accustomed. Opposing views must be crushed and derided, as such represent an existential threat to these folks’ way of life.
@John Kincaid: I’ve been growing a mango tree for the last four years in zone 8a, without a greenhouse. It sprouted in my compost, I made friends with it, and it became a game to see how long I could keep it alive. Even on the shore of an inland lake, where (theoretically) you might get a microclimate bonus, this should not be possible. Our experience with the lake thing, is that you get mellowed temps when the air is still, but that the prevailing winds come across the water like a freight engine, with nothing to deflect, so that when the air is moving, everything on the shore is naked and exposed. It never *feels* warmer.
The first two winters I dressed it in Christmas lights and added a sleeping bag whenever there was a freeze. This past winter I was too preoccupied, but the weather was milder and the tree came through just fine. It now stands a little over six feet high. No fruit yet. I expect it to die every winter, and so far it hasn’t happened. We’ll see…
This recent article on Medium comes quite near to a lot of the points JMG has made so many times, though I disagree with one suggestion about car use. Main quotes:
“It’s not whether or not we take personal actions to limit our emissions that matters. It’s how we identify, talk about, and leverage those actions for their widest possible potential impact.”
“most of us are doing something, and none of us are doing enough. And that’s perfectly OK.”
“Understanding the broader societal influence of what we do can also help us to overcome the feelings of powerlessness that are so common among the environmentally aware.
When we ride our bikes, our power lies not in cutting our personal travel footprint — an impact that seems trivial when surrounded by gigantic, diesel-chugging trucks. Instead, it’s in creating a space where politicians and planners feel confident investing in bike-friendly infrastructure and policies.”
In fact, Michael Mann, who has come under a lot of fire here, also seems to understand this, as cited in the article:
“My followers know (1) I don’t eat meat out of choice, (2) I don’t believe in dictating to others what they should eat & that, furthermore (3) doing so would almost certainly backfire & be counterproductive to efforts to engage the public more broadly on climate action. “
More climate & energy policy stuff.
We all know that democracy is horribly inefficient, in part because everything has to get talked to death before anything can get done and even then it’s often a cobbled compromise solution that no one finds satisfactory and only partly works (if it works at all). Our venerable legislators have certainly been working hard on the public hearing portion of these issues, even if it is only political theater and not practical problem-solving.
In the House:
The House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing yesterday entitled, “The Case for Climate Optimism: Realistic Pathways to Achieving Net-Zero Emissions.” Copies of the witness testimony and an archived video of the hearing can be found here.
Witnesses at the hearing were:
• Hector De La Torre, Board Member, California Air Resources Board;
• Giana Amador, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Carbon180;
• Anne Kelly, Vice President of Government Relations, Ceres; and
• Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum (AAF).
Mr. De La Torre said California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has spent over fifty years improving air quality and reducing emissions from stationary and mobile sources in California. He said environmental and economic progress has come even as per capita sales have remained flat. “The electricity sector is a critical partner in this transformation as we look to increased electrification, cleaner fuels, and other near-zero strategies to ‘green’ our emission sources and overall energy demand,” he said. He said the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has authorized $1 billion in spending for transportation electrification infrastructure through 2023 with an additional $800 million pending CPUC review.
Ms. Amador focused on using public lands for carbon sequestration.
Ms. Kelly said climate change is the single-most significant threat to the U.S. economy. By way of example, she pointed to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which collectively cost the U.S. economy at least $265 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She said the U.S. should remain in the Paris Climate Agreement and that Congress should impose a binding net-zero emissions target that puts a technology-neutral price on carbon so all energy sources are on a level playing field. Additionally, Congress and the Administration should supplement a cross-sectoral price on carbon with a portfolio approach of federal standards, research and development investments, targeted regulation, and incentives targeting the emissions of the power, transportation, buildings, industry, and land use sectors.
Dr. Holtz-Eakin said reaching net-zero emissions in 10 years is not realistic. He said installing the required renewable capacity – in the form of solar, wind, hydroelectric, and storage – would cost $5.7 trillion under optimistic conditions. He also cited analysis estimating that a decarbonized, 100 percent renewable electricity system would result in an average electricity cost of $150–$300 per megawatt hour (2017’s average electricity cost is $104.84 per megawatt hour). He said the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program is a successful example of a public-private partnership. Dr. Holtz-Eakin said the U.S. provides $110 billion per year in energy subsides that should be reformed to be technology-neutral.
Chairman Lowenthal asked about the costs needed to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. Mr. De La Torre said California has increased their economy and has been the most aggressive state on climate change. He said costs of solar, batteries, and LEDs have declined between 40 and 90 percent since 2008. Dr. Holtz-Eakin said the U.S. should focus on low-cost, highly innovative solutions that can be used globally.
The link for the recordings:
Meanwhile in the Senate:
Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held a hearing entitled, “Reducing Emissions While Driving Economic Growth: Industry-led Initiatives.” A recording of the hearing, as well as witnesses’ written statements, can be found here.
Witnesses at the hearing included:
• Todd Wilkinson – Policy Division Vice Chairman, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
• Martin Durbin – President, Global Energy Institute at U.S. Chamber of Commerce;
• Frank Macchiarola – Vice President of Downstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute;
• Dr. Andrea Dutton – Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
• John Wilson- Vice President and Director of Corporate Engagement, Calvert Research and Management
The purpose of the hearing was to receive testimony from various industries about their efforts to reduce emissions that are causing climate change. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was there to represent many other businesses efforts through their Global Energy Institute. The Chamber’s written testimony discussed their “EnergyInnovates” initiative and featured examples of battery storage by San Diego Gas and Electric, small modular nuclear reactors by NuScale, a zero emission power plant development by NetPower, and the energy efficient “small neighborhood” development by Alabama Power. Also present on the panel was a professor of climate research and an investment management firm that studies the economic impacts of climate change.
The hearing was dominated by criticisms of the Chamber and API’s past positions and statements on climate change. Led by Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), they were portrayed as disingenuous front men covering for their membership. Whitehouse stated bluntly, “What I’m trying to get at is the extent to which Exxon, BP and Shell are just basically green washing themselves with public statements while leaving you to do the dirty work of opposing things they claim to support.”
Subcommittee Chairman Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) concluded the hearing by stating that this will be the first of many conversations the subcommittee will have on climate change.
And the link:
Late to the party this week but some good comments to read.
It occurs to me that a bad habit that I try to avoid, but probably don’t, is feeling the need to choose between the different propaganda on offer.
My first 10 years was living with ‘rationing’ as the norm in the London area. We had modest but secure family income for those days and it all seemed fine to me, especially once the bombing stopped. (OK it gave mum worries the whole time.) I remember that people who used to queue-jump, as we used to say, were seriously unpopular. And at dangerous times many people put themselves in harms way helping others. I think the key was as has been said, that government was seen as common sense and ‘on our side’. Which led among other things to our National Health Service when the troops came home.
Sure, governments and class issues erase trust down the line, but the idea of war as a terrible thing has never quite gone away in Britain, even if ‘war interests’ have been and are heavily propagandized.
Climate change? No serious arguments from me. And many thanks @Oilman 2 for the strategy of pre-heating for hot water. Wish we had the winter sunshine though!
A question I’d like to see some answers to, is “where does the energy we generate go”? That is to say, how much is used/lost in the nationwide electrical grid, in heating/cooling, in transport, in cellular service, in manufacturing, in farming, in entertainment, in outdoor advertising, in running the internet, in military operations and so forth? Has anyone published a study on this:? Some pie charts, please.
John and others,
I am currently living in the UK, but do not yet have a British citizenship. But I can reasonably expect to acquire it within the next two years, just in time for the next parliamentary election. The current round of Brexit-related shenanigans has finally made me decide who I may vote for when that time comes: whichever party I generally agree with that does not sit in the current parliament. The whole lot proved equally unable to resolve the problem to anyone’s satisfaction; so, plague on all their houses.
And then, a thought crept into my mind. Could the same approach work if the problem in question is tackling environmental issues? It’s not like the current ruling elites can resolve that one either.
Thank you for your suggestions. I have tried a lot of them already to little effect in the larger community. The bulk foods/produce coop I ran never stood on its own and eventually, I couldn’t afford to run it anymore. Not to mention dealing with some of the very entitled members who couldn’t seem to organize themselves to order on time and I had to extend the rules for them at my expense in time of course. I do still organize bulk buying for pasture raised meat with friends I know who really want the product, but it is only once a year.
I also helped run a farmers/crafters market in an poor neighborhood and while there were just two such markets in our city we had good turnout of customers and vendors, but as such markets proliferated, we lost customers and then vendors when it proved that working class and poor people were unwilling to pay $5 a pound for heirloom tomatoes even with the food stamp match we offered. This market was a solution to a problem that the people living in this neighborhood didn’t have.
I do run a craft business and sell clothing items I make at craft fairs. This requires a car since I don’t really want to do the thing online. I enjoy meeting people face to face when I peddle my wares. Much more pleasant then trying to maintain a website or a Faceplant page, which I have also done also to little effect if my cash box is any example.
When I was employed in the corporate sector, I did ride my bike to work and back, but here where it snows, that isn’t always an option, I tried it once. It is already hard enough as it is to dodge cars even with bike lanes in dry weather, but slick snow, no way. I also tried public transportation and in only one case it didn’t add two or more hours to my working day. There have been better efforts then I could organize to improve this system that have had little effect. Further, most of the high energy infrastructure that buses and bikes require are the same ones that cars require. So unless the roads all turn back in to dirt tracks and all the bikes can handle that or we all walk, I don’t see how you get your carbon footprint down to Georgian levels. Naturally living with less would make using dirt roads much less of a problem and little by little I whittle things away so that if I need to live with dirt roads, I can. Unfortunately my car may be the last thing to go. I try to make up for that by grow and processing as much of my own food as possible and trying to learn less energy intensive ways to do it.
Some of your other suggestions are beyond my skill set or interests. Are they ones that you have undertaken? At the moment I am working on a Retro Suburbia project (something like the ones that are in David Holmgren’s book of the same name) that might help with providing workable examples to others or spark a neighborhood effort, but I won’t hold my breath and I definitely subscribe to the idea that you can only lead by example and you need to be very humble about it as well. The neighbors won’t take it well if I am prideful about my efforts or try to motivate them to emulate them. It is a working class neighborhood and everyone is doing the best they can with what they know at this moment.
The garden share suggestions you made and the harvest of underused fruit trees are all done here by worthy organizations, but most people who use them have to use a car or truck. Both utilities here also offer thermal upgrades and assessments at affordable prices, I have used them myself when I applied my PV panels and hot water collector.
Unfortunately my city is a city with all the high energy infrastructure that comes with them all and trying to live like a Georgian in this environment would only draw unpleasant attention from civic authorities. However, it never hurts to examine the lifestyle of those who are doing better them me in the carbon footprint area to find a new technique I can apply.
Have to hold my hand up to being at times something of an alarmist about environmental matters generally and climate change specifically. I have though been tempered by my own failed predictions. It is hard though – when one sees so many trees dying (ash dieback taking its toll around me) and things such as the decline in insect populations it can at times seem that things are reaching an abrupt ‘end’.
Just on the methane emitting ruminants point, I read this article a while back which throws the inevitable context onto the questions about livestock farming:
Remember that all the carbon in cow fart methane is part of an ongoing cycle : the carbon cycle. It has come from the biosphere, into the cow through it’s food, but is in this respect unlike, say, the methane which is released through fossil fuel extraction, which is new carbon being introduced into the carbon cycle from fossil remains.
It is important also to note the different long term effects of CO2 and CH4, as this can make the statement that ‘methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide’ questionable at best.
Finally, I am really worried about these kids. I mean I am worried for them as they are subject to such intense social engineering and fearmongering, but also increasingly I am worried by them. I think of the cultural revolution era in communist China when the kids ‘took control’. Terrifying.
rronina – see “Buffalo Commons”, the Native Americans had it right, only 200 years ago!
Dear Varun, if you are referring to political opinions, perhaps you might consider that most of us wage earning–I am now retired, but I never earned a salary–folks have been subjected on a personal level to numerous incidents of disdain, contempt, insult and so on. Our kids have been ignored at school, unless they caused trouble. Special arrangements for reduced rent, discounts on auto purchases and utility bills, which are routinely available to members of the salary class were never offered to us; we paid full fare on less income. Add to that the ever increasing costs of essential things, like housing and utility expenses while the media blabbed about low inflation.
There are things that could be done right now, starting today, which would improve working people’s lives and neither party nor any other faction (I am looking at you, libertarians) is willing. Improved and expanded mass transit, even if limited to expanding existing buss lines would help a lot. Rent controls; the left is beginning to Talk About high housing expenses but the obvious solution can’t be discussed. Spend the money we are now spending on useless overseas adventures on rebuilding roads, bridges, retrofitting existing housing stock and so on; our host has written about this. No national leader, I use the term advisedly, of any persuasion, is willing to tell the used car dealers and real estate sellers who dominate local govts. throughout the country, enough, already. If you did not already make a fortune, you are not going to do so now.
@Varun: My bad, the thug-thang was another paragraph loosely connected to mass movements, the optimal tree planting strategy in the context of foodfields and the like. I should have put @everyone for clarity.
@Everyone: Saw Scienceman Krauss on London Real and that was just as expected. All physics explained around climate change. Horror stories about rising sea levels, but certainly his personal life would not change. He left that to the children of the world. How nice of him and just proof nothing is going to happen, because because and that is that.
So brace yourselves for +10 m of sea levels if you believe the stories.
Regarding saving the climate on a personal level. Use clothes longer, buy quality. +10 years of usage. Leather shoes from those delicious cows. Insulate your house. Drive less. Fly less, if at all. Every kWh of energy from fossile fuels adds to the problem. Every container vessel from China, every truck load.
Buy smaller vehicles. One person in a 12000 kg SUV or a small 1200 kg babewagon. Stop commuting and create work closer to home. Commute closer to home and take the bike. Why pay for a gym membership if you can pull on that spandex and go!***
All this will change consumer patterns and we will see if suppliers can move to keep up. Lower demand initially will create oversupply before the slack is reined in. Environmental life as our grand grandparents lived were frugal like few of us understand.
Not sure where Robert lives but….
Here in northern New Hampshire I have seen the climate grow perceptibly milder. Maybe not as dramatic as in Alaska but noticeable. Though technically we are in Zone 4b, with temperature potentially falling in the winter to lows of -20 to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, the shift has been noticeable to me. When I was in my teens and early twenties (I am 65 now) cold snaps lasting about four to seven days with those types of lows would occur about three or four times in a winter. There was one particularly brutal spell in the mid-seventies when the temp plunged to -30 Fahrenheit each night and only warmed up to ten below during the day for just over a week before it finally let up. To be sure that was exceptional but it did happen from time to time and it was accepted as normal. You just put on extra layers.
Now while the cold snaps still happen, they only last a few days at most. We did have a cold snap of -20 below for about a week last year and it was interesting to hear exclamations of disbelief from younger people about how cold it had gotten. I find myself now in the position of my parents – “Why you think THIS is cold? Why when I was your age it got so cold that …(insert hair curling tale here)….”
First frosts of the season in my immediate area come about two weeks later than they used to. Again, the warming has been very gradual, taking place over a number of decades but to someone who has lived here all her life, I can see the change. Interestingly summers seem to be about the same, just lasting a bit longer than they used to.
There probably is considerable variation from region to region but change is definitely happening.
TREE: Thermal Reversal Energy Entrapulator
FOREST: Field Of Renewable Energy Storage Timber
Before every river was dammed, in times of flood trees used to wash downstream to the ocean and end up among the deep sea sediments, thus acting as permanent carbon storage. https://phys.org/news/2019-10-catastrophic-events-forests-trees-thousands.html
Nowadays they end up in the nearest dam and slowly rot, adding to the methane load.
Regarding conditions in WWII Holland, the following two extracts from a thesis show that conditions differed greatly, depending on whether you were in the city or in the country.
“On the whole, the experiences of the people interviewed for this project differed from those who lived in the cities in several ways. Food was easily available in rural areas since communities were smaller and were often populated with farmers. Having enough food to eat also contributed to a healthier community. While disease ravaged western cities, it was much less common in smaller, rural areas. Farming had other advantages as German army officials relied on local Dutch farmers to get food for their troops; armies did need to eat after all. For this reason, farming families were generally left alone, only being called upon to house German soldiers or Dutch men the Germans had brought from the cities to rural areas to work. Furthermore, Germans were less likely to forcibly remove young men from rural Dutch families to work in German factories, as they did with urban and larger town dwellers. This perhaps affected how the rural Dutch felt about Germans; those interviewed for this project did not express much disdain or hatred towards them. Finally, the black market did not seem to be as prevalent in the rural areas of the Netherlands as it was in the urban space, partially because the need for contraband was not as great.”
“One of the most well-known popular accounts of the war is Henri Van Der Zee’s The Hunger Winter: Occupied Holland 1944-1945. Van Der Zee recounts his experiences as a young boy of ten, and adds to his personal story a well researched look at those greatly affected by the famine. Although he never states where he lived during the Hunger Winter, it is clear his stories are based in Amsterdam. Van Der Zee’s book paints an excellent image of life in the big city during World War Two. He recalled, “The lack of transportation, gas and electricity had created an atmosphere of deadly apathy which covered the whole of western Holland like a thick, grey blanket.” Van Der Zee recalls people saying that the “good Lord” had become pro-Nazi, to inflict such a terrible trial on the people of the Netherlands. Van Der Zee provides numerous examples of poor living conditions in Amsterdam during the Hunger Winter which had a devastating effect on thousands of Dutch families.
“The lack of food and fuel in the major cities of the Netherlands, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht, led to desperation among the people. Van Der Zee remembers one incident when “The contents of an accidentally spilled bin for the central kitchen were scraped off the streets with spoons, and nobody bothered about hygiene.” He later recalls how citizens would rip the wood off the tramlines in order to heat their homes since fuel became impossible to find near the end of the war. Bathing was a low priority as well, although it was most likely caused by the lack of soap. The small, one room living quarters in which most Dutch families in the urban areas lived were hotbeds for contagious bacteria. Dutch housewives were given rationed soap supplements, but most found the supplement so useless that they gave up on cleaning altogether. This meant that dishes were used over and over again, beds were slept in again and again, and children were rarely cleaned.
“Van Der Zee suggests that farmers did not experience the same hardships as those in the cities. Indeed, he claimed farmers helped his family in a time of need, as detailed in his chapter title, “Out to the Farms.” He remembers city people would get some relief by making visits to the countryside, where decent meals and places to sleep were often willingly offered.”
You mentioned (in responses to JMac and Beekeeper above) that you’ve read some recent articles that helped you make sense of the absurd, cargo-cultish strategies of recent protest movements. I know you’ve promised a post of your own, but in the meantime, would you mind linking to those sources?
This has been on my mind for some time, and I’d gratefully welcome some food for my own thoughts, while also looking forward to your reflections on the issue.
You have covered this topic previously, but what is the current state of eco-religions to your knowledge? Is neo-druidry still the game in town or has something new begun to emerge as well?
As you have pointed out, political eras alternate with religious ones, which would suggest that when the current climate change movement turns into a disappointment, there might be a resurgence of eco-spirituality, which would act as a refuge for well, climate change movement refugees.
Beyond that, what do you think are some of the key features of an eco-religion of the future? As you have said, predicting its exact contours is pretty much impossible, but do you think there are any features that are relatively guaranteed to be a part of it?
Agreed all around. What it boils down to for us is working with the knowledge of the real possibility that “happy motoring” may not be an option for the entirety of our remaining lives. With any luck I’ve got another 4 decades plus to live, and think that I may very well see the end of spontaneous commuting, even from a distance of 7 or 8 miles. I also don’t enjoy driving as much as I used to, and plan to be on foot full-time within the next couple decades, regardless of the automobile’s status. So we always intended to move to town eventually, it just happened sooner than we expected!
But the fact remains, we lived a very manual, very frugal, and self-reliant life for the last 7 years, and even with near-daily trips to town, and occasional mini-mental-vacations as a result of poverty fatigue, it was extremely challenging. Even without shooting for “self-sufficiency.” I recommend people consider what it would be like to get stuck in the boonies full-time, with no outs, before making the jump. Because that could very well be the case!
It’s all ok. In another 15 years, we’ll have net-positive energy from fusion. Endless energy for all, limits for none.
John, I’m actually very pleased to see myself being denounced. Over and over again in my career, I’ve had the odd experience of being helped by my enemies. My career as an occult writer would never have taken off as quickly as it did if not for the efforts of a once-famous online troll who spent years posting long denunciations of me in his blog, and thus convinced all the people who hated him (and there were tens of thousands of those) that they ought to check me out. My career as a peak oil writer was helped immensely by the efforts of a loud Neoprimitivist online who took offense at what I was saying and actually set up a website to denounce me — I literally couldn’t have bought better publicity. Those are just the high points. If I’m starting to get people denouncing me as an eco-fascist fellow traveler, I can look forward to an upswing in book sales and website traffic; if I can just get them to denounce my mundane astrology project, that’ll really take off!
And no, I’m not joking. It’s been both funny and highly profitable for me to watch…
Onething, I learned just a little profanity from kids of Russian emigre families in my high school Russian classes, and was duly impressed. English profanity really is dull by comparison.
Jim, many thanks for this! I’ve read several other things by Cliff Mass and find him very much worth reading.
Ryan, thanks for this also. There have been similar studies in the Amazon basin, which have shown that — in contrast to earlier beliefs — the Amazon was largely deforested and thickly settled in pre-contact times. The current jungle is a postcollapse phenomenon, and sucked a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.
Robert, many thanks for this; that’s a useful data point. Anyone else in the Rocky Mountain states care to comment?
How about a $5/month course in Russian profanity? 😋
Was your unwitting helper Vox Day? He and Science-fiction writer John Scalzi had what appeared to be a publicity feud going, and at least one of them began taking it seriously, and both of them saw quite a jump in traffic.
re: personal experience with climate change
I grew up in the Yukon Territory of Canada. When I was a child in the nineties, it basically did not rain there in the summer. It was classified as semi-arid. Now it has a regular showers through the season. Deer used to be unheard of, but now they’re common.
Now I live in rural Alberta and the farmers have no idea what’s going on any more. Last summer was bone-dry until harvest, this one was the opposite. Three of the last five years my county has been declared an agricultural disaster.
I live in northeast Wyoming. Our growing zone has also changed for the worse – from zone 4 to zone 3. I think the change here is mostly from global weirding. Overall, I think the climate is warmer here because we are seeing influxes of insects, birds, and reptiles that weren’t able to survive here in the past. We have cold snaps that occur later in the spring and earlier in the fall, however. It’s no longer unusual to have a killing frost in the second or third week of June and also in the second or third week in August. We also have cold snaps in the winter that are extremely cold although the winters are overall warmer than in the past. The last three winters we have have had week-long periods where the overnight lows averaged more than -30 F with days where the lows were more than -40 F. That didn’t happen very often in the past. I can remember only one day in the 40 years previous to the last three when the temperature was below -40 F. Our winter temperatures in the past were more consistently cold although not as cold for short periods. For example, in 1978 we went for over 30 days without daytime temperatures getting above 0 F. That’s why I think that the changes in the growing zones are due to more and greater fluctuations in temperatures rather than a colder climate.
“Sarge! Hey, Sarge! You out there?”
In 30 years this won’t even be news, but to a 60-year-old Army brat, it’s pretty darn funny!
On the other hand…
AP 29 June 2060–Today. United States President Jenna Barron Chelsea Bush Clinton signed final surrender documents, ending the Five-Day War between the United States and New Zealand. President Bush Clinton attributed her nation’s catastrophic defeat to a chronic shortage of training funds, saying “For the last ten years, we couldn’t afford to teach our people which end the round comes out of.”
JMG, you and I weren’t the only ones wondering about those fertility statues in the Vatican:
I think it was unfair to the local pagans to throw the statues in the river. After all, the Lord High Christian invited them to place the statues in the Vatican, so they might reasonably assume it’s all right to do so. I’d have suggested placing the statues on the curb for pick-up and throwing the Pope in the river. Maybe by the time he swam out he’d have remembered which god he’s supposed to be working for.
Just a data point: Climate change is well understood by everyone in North Florida because its major symptom is very noticeable: “nasty critters moving north.” I was hearing about it in great detail from the woman cutting my hair this morning and could only agree, having seen it in New Mexico. She also spoke of plants and crops that were failing because it was too hot to grown them, and was worried about tomatoes. You can’t grow tomatoes in South Florida, she told me, it’s too hot.
Nobody on that level is talking about electric cars and high tech solutions, but as she said, “when you’re country, you have to be tough.” A sentiment I’ve heard from others.
To JMG in re Amazon:
I’ve heard of this, but have always had my doubts.
First, the sources I’ve seen, at least, seem to be from the SJW sorts of folks, wallowing in guilt. It wasn’t bad enough that Columbus and his European followers caused the deaths (mostly via disease) of tens of millions of indiginous people, but hundreds of millions.
Second, in spite of all the forest clearing for economic reasons to date, I haven’t heard any reports of the ruins of anything in the way of cities, roads, temples, infrastructure etc. being found. I haven’t heard of any archeologists raising expeditions to explore any pre-Amazon jungle civilizations.
Third, how long would would a deforested Amazon take, subsequent to the collapse of any civilization there, to re-forest itself. The Amazon is a vast and dense jungle, and this was noted by 19th century explorers who sailed up the river. I find it hard to believe that a jungle as large and thick could grow from a deforested land to what it is now in less than 400 years.
I don’t know if this has been mentioned as I haven’t read all the replies yet but for an idea of life in rural Georgia watch the Netflix documentary The Trader. Life there looks rather bleak.
The address for the Cliff Mass climate discussion.
” The Real Climate Debate
The real climate debate is not between “believers” and “deniers”.”
Please note that if you link to the main page on a blog the subject will quickly change and those reading it later will have to do the work you should have done.
Click on the heading for the subject and it will be on its own page, use that address.
Evil Beaker – Re: emphatic speech. I was hosting a couple of friends, one a military officer, in my workshop as I fabricated a tool for him. A number of tools hang on a pegboard above the workbench (which is a re-purposed solid-wood door). As I reached to hang a tool in its proper place, I missed, and we all heard the tool rattle and bounce behind the heavy toolchest, between the wall and the bench, and into the remote darkness behind the clutter under the bench. I reflexively exclaimed “I wish I hadn’t done that! I’ll go find it later.” Then went on with my work.
My friends found my explicit language hilarious; so much so, that I overheard them recounting the story to others a few days later.
So, let’s hear it for saying exactly what you feel in the heat of the moment, regardless of the expectations of your audience.
For a long while I was quite alarmed about “climate change”. Recently though I’ve been re-examining these ideas and thankfully came across the work of Tony Heller of Real Climate Science.He’s doing a great job compiling historical information & data, as well as exposing the data tampering used by the climate alarmism movement to prove their point. It’s been really educational to read through it all, plus his videos are well done also. (Plus, recently Greta Thunberg’s creepy emotional speech and the strange religiosity and hypocrisy I see coming from the movement has me saying, “wait a minute…”. There’s a hysterical comedy shtick by Will Franken where he impersonates a youth climate marcher apathetically chanting, “Climate, climate, climate, please don’t change!”.)
Are you familiar with Tony Heller’s work? It’s some of the most reasonable I’ve seen. He simply pulls up old newspaper articles showing extreme weather, compares data sets, and even developed some software to show how data from the likes of modern climate scientists, studies and even NASA is being manipulated to show trends that don’t exist in the whole, raw data… Honestly, I wasn’t surprised to find that out. After seeing the recent push for the climate alarmism narrative from the likes of National Geographic, I just got a sense there was something fishy going on.
As an aside: I had a conversation with a friend about this–both of us are working in the realm of regenerative agriculture and resilient living, and he pointed out to me how important it is to take action based on creating a quality of life and not working from fear of some unknown future. Living with less and healing the land, when done well, produces an incredible quality of life in my experience. The challenges, compromises, wins, losses, and the beautiful results of improved ecosystem function really is worth fighting for in the end. As for stopping climate change and all of that, how can I measure my efforts? Seems impossible and probably a poor target. Rather, how nutritious is my food, how well can I live with little, how many bird species are on my land? Those seem like the points many are missing.
I think that, as a way to thank our host for Magic Monday and all his other efforts on our behalf, the least we can do is denounce him. Consider yourself denounced, sir!
The Reverend Fastleft, who is, as usual, willing to pitch in and help out for a good cause, says he will be happy to denounce you from the pulpit for as long as you need denounced. Also, the Shoggoth Appreciation Society says they usually have to charge for denunciations, but given that you’ve been a friend to shoggothery, they’re waiving the fee.
Phutatorius – As for “how is energy used?”, you can get started with this document:
It doesn’t break down into much detail, but it gives us some ideas about how much consumption of various forms of energy is affected by seasonal issues. For example, it will show how much residential natural gas spikes during winter months. When you get down to the “transportation sector”, you’ll see that it’s almost all petroleum.
You can also look here: https://www.eia.gov/consumption/
Steve and Oilman2 Thank you so much for the information about solar water heaters. I appreciate it.
Robert and JMG,
I’m a little south of Robert. I’m not really a serious gardener, so I can only estimate, but 4 weeks shorter sounds about right. Ripening tomatoes indoors has become a necessity and there are some slower growing plants I used to be able to get away with most years that I don’t even try anymore. Hail has also become a much bigger issue than it was a decade ago.
Also, Robert, we’re not too far away. If you’re interested in starting a Green Wizard’s B&P chapter or an Ecosophic coffee hour, email me. You can add an “at gmail” to the end of my username.
>> I’m actually very pleased to see myself being denounced.
>> if I can just get them to denounce my mundane astrology project, that’ll really take off!
And here I’ve been going around, telling people to read your books. I guess if I really want to help I should be talking about how awful you are.
Joking, but in all seriousness, I have been turned on to something more than once because it was being loudly denounced by the right people.
A follow up to my previous post about “The trader”. It follows a guy who loads up his van with used clothes and cheap goods and travels around rural areas trading them for potatoes. Much of the bleakness is due to the climate and landscape so it’s hard to gauge how much the people enjoy their lives however they obviously don’t have much of material value.
Regarding climate shifts in the Rocky Mountain states, I don’t have any hard data. But here on the Colorado Plateau it does seem like the fall color season is starting two or three weeks later than it did when I was a kid.
HI Mark Angelini,
Your points are very well taken.
Those of us who are so old we remember being told in the ‘70’s that we’d all freeze to death in 10 years remain skeptical of Chicken Little-type experts. 🙂
MichaelV, yep. Growth has given way to contraction, but the entire structure of the economy depends on nominal growth, so they’re “growing” the supply of fictive wealth. It’s normal and natural, and will help speed the process by which money gives way to nonmonetary means of exchange in the tribal and protofeudal societies of dark age America.
Info, yep. Things are heating up very quickly in some areas. Hang onto your hat!
Evil Beaker, excellent. That’s exactly the sort of thing I hope to see — creative use of language instead of the same dreary monosyllables, repeated long after they’ve lost every trace of meaning.
Jim W, I think I’ve got a sense of what’s going on at this point. Stay tuned…
Matthias, excellent! If climate activists are starting to think in those terms, we may not be entirely fracked.
David BTL, many thanks for this. Good to hear that somebody in that big domed building in DC is doing something useful.
Phil, many thanks for this! The experience of the Second World War in Britain and America is a good source of examples and ideas — very useful to those who like to insist that nothing of the sort is an option.
Phutatorius, that would be very good to see. The only ones I recall are decades out of date. Anyone?
MigrantWorker, works for me. If nothing else, it might just scare the existing parties into better behavior.
Mog, think of it this way: if cows begin releasing more of their carbon intake in solid rather than gaseous form, they can become a carbon sink — a way of taking excess carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into the soil by way of composting — and thus help balance out the excess carbon sources. As for methane vs. CO2, what’s being measured is simply how much infrared a given volume of each gas will entrap — methane doesn’t stay around as long (another reason why decreasing the amount in the atmosphere is a good way to cool things down — the existing supply breaks down chemically in a decade or so) but while it’s there, it has a much stronger effect.
Sturge, exactly. There’s a lot that we can do in our own lives, and doing it in our own lives makes it harder for the Scienceman Krausses of the world to pretend that their own lifestyles aren’t the problem.
Jeanne, that corresponds to what I’ve heard also. I wonder how much of the warming is centered on the north Atlantic basin.
Martin hah! Good. I like “entrapulator.” Thank you for the data on the Netherlands!
Barefootwisdom, for reasons of not telegraphing my punches, I’m going to have to say no. Stay tuned.
Grissom, “neo-Druidry” — by which I assume you mean the Druid Revival traditions — has never been the main game in town; it’s probably larger now than it’s ever been, but that amounts to maybe 2-3 million worldwide at most. The Neopagan scene, meaning pop-culture Wicca et al., was much larger but is now in rapid decline. As for the rest, hmm. I’m far from sure I know.
David BTL, only fifteen years out! Cool. By the time our species finally goes extinct ten million years from now, I bet it’s only a few hours away. 😉
JMG, do you think it’ll take 10,000,000 years? I think it may happen quicker than that. I doubt there’ll ever be a nuclear war, as there’s too great a mutual interest in not having one, but I can see a nuclear accident being the Big One.
Your Kittenship, no, I’ve never tangled with Vox Day. I’m sure he and I would find plenty to disagree about, and I’m tolerably sure he’d detest my fiction if he ever encountered it, but we haven’t crossed paths yet.
Korellyn, most interesting. Thank you for the data points!
Honyocker, fascinating! That makes a great deal of sense; thank you.
Your Kittenship, well, the elite force of the army of the Greek city-state of Thebes, the Sacred Band, consisted entirely of pairs of gay male lovers — the theory was that they would fight to the death to protect each other in battle, and apparently the theory worked. The Sacred Band was at the forefront in war after war, and when the Macedonians finally crushed the Theban army at the battle of Chaeronea, the Sacred Band stood its ground and died, quite literally, to the last man. So I’m far from convinced that conventional masculinity is essential in a military setting…
As for the statues, of course they should have been treated with more respect, but you can’t expect a bunch of outraged Christians to understand that. As for throwing the pope in the river, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it came to that!
Patricia, many thanks for the data point.
Antoinetta, it’s been quite solidly proven at this point. Here’s a source, here’s another, and here’s another. You’ll find the details of the cities, roads, and other sites in these articles, and in a growing number of books on the subject.
KJL, I’ll pass — I don’t do visual media. If you have a book to suggest, I’d be happy to consider it.
John, thanks for this.
Mark, thanks for this. I haven’t followed the details of the debate recently, so I appreciate the links. As for Thunberg, no argument there — the thought that came instantly to mind as she was doing her thing was that she’d managed to bridge the gap between Verruca Salt and the kid in The Exorcist.
Your Kittenship, why, thank you!
Yglauca, many thanks for the data point. I’d be interested in your comments on Honyocker’s suggestion up the comment stack a little.
Rohan, funny! I also benefit from people recommending me, of course, so thank you. I tend to think that it’s because the people who like my books and blogs are obviously nice people, while the people who shriek denunciations at me are such jerks. 😉
Your Kittenship, I read somewhere that that’s the average lifespan for a large mammal genus, and figured we’re far more ordinary than we like to think!
RE the Sacred Band and so forth—oh, I quite agree, but if you’re a 60-year-old American army brat you’ll still laugh at things like the new Kiwi policy. You can’t help yourself. 😄. And NZ soldiers are probably laughing at us too.
A bit of Climate news from Michigan/Indiana (not quite Rocky Mountains, but a different area):
In the’70s and ’80s, a single day of 90 degree temperatures was news, now it has to go up to 100 degrees to make the news. However, temperatures didn’t necessarily spike as cold as often either, and as for snow, not even in the 70s did I see snow accumulations well into April (like I did this past year). Flurries on May 1st, yes, but rarely any actual snow accumulation.
The phenomenon of global weirding could be explained by the slowing of the jet stream, creating a resonance effect in the atmosphere which allows weather systems to remain stationary for long periods of time.
Sorry to plug Sean Carroll’s podcast again but this was what Michael Mann
has to say on it:
0:47:18 MM: Normally, these weather systems sort of move along from west to east with the jet stream, but as the jet stream slows and as you change temperature patterns in the atmosphere, you can actually create a resonance effect where these systems become stationary and they grow greatly in amplitude. So you get these really deep highs, and they sit over the same place like California for weeks on end and that’s when you get record heat and drought and wildfire, and because of the waviness of the jet stream, if you’ve got one of those deep ridges, high pressures parked over the West Coast, there’s a good chance you’ve got the flip side of that sinusoidal wave, the low pressure parked over, say, the Eastern US, which is exactly what we saw last summer, and we had unprecedented rainfall and flooding.
A few thoughts 1) Everything being equal, a growing world population will increase the frequency of human disasters if a growing world population scatters itself into more and more previously empty corners of the world. 2) Aside from climate change, energy shortages and pollution will harm vulnerable populations. 3) Even minor swings in climate, which would probably occur in even the absence of industrial CO2, can affect vulnerable populations. 4) The modern world is fragile, period, and the odds that at least one disaster will knock us for a loop is significant, even if the individual odds of the several dozen ways to destroy civilization are very low.
To expand on (4): If you have only one disaster to worry about, and the odds of it happening is 1%, then the odds of it not happening is 99%. But if you have, say, 12 disasters to worry about, each with a probability of 1%, then the probability of at least one disaster taking place is 1 – (0.99)^10 = 1- 0.886 = 11.4%; with 24 disasters, 21.5%. This assumes that all of the disasters are independent; the number of truly independent disasters is probably less than 24. But on the other hand, the odds of some of these are greater than 0.01. To illustrate, suppose that there are only 5 truly independent disasters, but with probabilities of 10%. The the chance of at least one of those disasters occurring is
1 – 0.9^5 = 41%. The more complex the society, the greater the number of potential disasters.
One possible solution to CO2 removal. Use deep underground (“Reiss”) water to support switchgrass in the Sahara. Caveat: would an increase the water vapor above the Sahara have a greater heating effect than the cooling effect of the grass removing CO2.
Hello Mr Greer
Reflecting on a comment by alantabor, as an outside observer of America. He is correct in that many climate activists are walking the talk (I am partially one such, I do the walk, but avoid the talk), but to live as such is in American middle class eyes to be poor, and talking of such is the equivalent of inviting a Vampire to a garlic farm, they will do anything to avoid such, that is, looking poor. Why because poor people in America frequently get treated very badly. This is the elephant in the Americas living room, its class war, until this is resolved the wasteful middle class virtue signalling lifestyle will continue in full flood.
PS, XR in London is an upper middle class staged media event, I have heard of no XR disruption outside of London, so why only London, because that’s where nearly all the UK’s print, TV, Radio, and social media is based. It’s not about persuading ordinary people to change their lives, but about putting pressure on the government to force change on ordinary people lives. The tool is bad media coverage for the government from the disruption caused to ordinary people lives, and the use of force to clear them from the streets, very unliberal don’t you know! This is a classic case of exerting power through manipulating abstractions, that is someone else’s image in the media.
Regards Philip Hardy
LOL! But the Shoggoth Appreciation Society’s denounces are truly operatic, remember. Five of them singing at once in intertwined songlines, all ending on a single note of pure “But heeeee’s nooooot….ONE OF US!!!!!” Any music mavens want to score that aria?
I just have to admit that it is always amusing to see things that are absolutely normal for *most* people here in the poor side of the world (in my case, latin america – brazil) seen as big difficult choices for people in developed countries.
Like using a bicycle or public transportation. That’s just the way it is for most people, since cars and fuel are expensive. Or trying to reduce the energy used to heat houses… Even on places on the south (here in Brazil and in Chile and Argentina), where it gets pretty cold, “heating the house” doesn’t make much sense. We just keep ourselves warm with clothes and blankets. I mean: heating the whole house is completely out of question and it usually takes us a long time to learn that anyone does that. Or recycling and reusing and making your own stuff. When you don’t have the choice to buy new stuff all the time, you’re just careful with the things you have and, when needed, reuse or create something out of trash.
In Brazil we do have some rich people who live the life I see described here (like traveling by plane). But most of us never stepped on a plane, use public transportation or a bicycle and mend their clothes when needed. It’s not as a big statement, it’s just life.
We don’t choose a different way of traveling (like a sailboat instead of a plane), we just don’t travel that much. We don’t choose a different way of consuming, we just don’t consume that much.
I know nothing I’ve said is new. I’d just like to express my amusement. 🙂 It’s just so interesting to see the regular life that me and my friends/family live as a “difficult choice”.
It’s later than I’d generally comment, but since you asked: Everything Honyocker said seems spot on, although I haven’t kept up with the exact temperatures and I haven’t live long enough to compare 40 years ago.
Even compared to 10 or 15 years ago, though, winters are generally warmer and less consistent, and sudden freezes during the “spring” and first half of “summer” are the most noticeable troubles for growing things, along with the hail.
I wanna yell at broccoli!!!!
Those Extinction Rebellion folks have all the fun…
@Philip Hardy This is late in the comment cycle but
XR in London is an upper middle class staged media event, I have heard of no XR disruption outside of London, so why only London, because that’s where nearly all the UK’s print, TV, Radio, and social media is based.
Just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Friends of mine (definitely NOT upper middle class, btw), have been involved in events in Cardiff, as an example. I imagine there have been similar events elsewhere. Why haven’t we been hearing about them? Now that’s a question worth pondering.
Onething writes, “Oh, and I was also annoyed that you seem content to let [flying] be the preserve of the rich.”
I was not saying what I’d be happy with, I was saying what I expected to happen either sooner or later; sooner if there’s a carbon tax, and later if there isn’t and we let scarcity determine the price of oil and thus air travel. As the price rises, fewer people will use it, and less often. I’m not saying what I want to see, I’m saying what I expect to see.
I presume you do not number yourself among the “rich”. Typically in discussions like this, whether of climate change or universal healthcare or whatever, people are convinced that “the rich” should pay for things, and they define “the rich” as anyone with a wealth level they themselves do not expect to achieve in their lifetime. But speaking generally, if someone on (say) $30,000 is not willing to sacrifice air travel, certainly anyone on $300,000 is not going to do it, let alone anyone on $3 million or $3 billion. Most will in fact not change or sacrifice anything, but will insist that “the rich” pay for change, and “the government must do something!”
Note that on a global scale, if you earn $32,400 or above, you’re in the top 1% of income earners.
Because we have been comfortable for so long, we must be uncomfortable for a while, too. As others have pointed out, this discomfort is mostly due to change rather than what we’d be changing to.
A train with a sleeper carriage and a restaurant is actually a lot more comfortable than air travel with all the security and customs and all that.
Walking a few miles in the open air, unless the weather is truly awful, and as a result being in good health and having the chance to chat to people along the way, is more comfortable than being overweight and stuck in traffic raging at other drivers.
Eating fresh food grown locally is more comfortable than eating processed junk, in the end. Living in an area with lots of trees is more comfortable than living in an area with lots of concrete. Wood is more comfortable than plastic. And so on.
So it’s not so much what we’d be changing to that’s uncomfortable, it’s just the fact of having to change.
Some simple guidelines I wrote years ago are linked below. I still mostly agree with them, probably the only thing I’d change is to order them by impact. Honestly, in terms of individual contributions, air travel’s the biggest. It’s 250kg carbon dioxide equivalent an hour of travel. Do a 10hr flight there and back, that’s 5 tonnes. You can do that in a weekend. That’s like 500kg of beef grown in the most emitting way possible, or 2,000kWh from a brown coal-fired plant, or filling up a small car’s tank (40lt) 50 times. If I took a metric tonne of coal and piled it up in my backyard and burned it in the open air, I’d still be short of the emissions of that trip. Air travel is just nuts in terms of its impact, it just dwarfs anything else you as an individual do.
Change is uncomfortable. But change we’re forced to do is more uncomfortable still. Thus: collapse now and avoid the rush.
“Extinction Rebellion is calling for, which is suspending democratic process and encouraging governments to take on dictatorial powers in response to yet another canned “emergency.” (Where have we heard this song and dance before?)”
You do realise they’re literally asking for a form of direct democracy? Democracy as it is is completely broken, this has been proven in that the average person has essentially no effect on what the government does – Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens – Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
hi, i know i am a little late to the party on this post, but i thought i would put in a word.
marvin harris saw a culture as a set of groups (structure) that use methods/tools (infrastructure) and concepts/stories to organize their behavior to produce goods or services (value) they could exchange with other groups, all within the context of a given natural environment.
harris also saw cultural change in evolutionary terms, i.e.cultures are subject to selection pressure that directs change. members adopt cultural options in order to satisfy their biological, social and psychological needs at the least effort.
so the adoption of appropriate technology is subject to a number of constraints. for example, a group must adopt it to produce something of value for exchange and that technology must be equal or lower in cost/effort than competing methods/tools. even when adopted, the adopting group must be ‘off the radar’ of any other group affected by the adoption. the ‘story’ that supports the method/tool must be equally or more effective at regulating group behavior than alternative stories.
all this suggests why cultures resist changes to the status quo. but it also implies a way to design cultural change in the face of status quo resistance.
have fun, biz
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