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July 2017 Stormwatch: Climate Change

Many years ago, not long after I first got onto the internet, I created a website to try to encourage community groups to make preparations for the hard times to come. It was titled “The Stormwatch Project” — why, yes, I was a Jethro Tull fan back in the day; how did you guess? 😉 — and it never did get any noticeable traction, so I let it go the way of all websites in due time. Yet the name, not to mention the underlying image of eyes turned to the turbulent heavens, watching for signs of trouble to come, seemed worth keeping, so I’ll be repurposing it here.

I considered just doing a monthly link roundup, but there are already quite a few good sites that provide that service on a daily basis — two that I visit regularly are Naked Capitalism and the Collapse subreddit — so reinventing that particular wheel didn’t seem like a good idea. Instead, I’m going to try a monthly post with links from the internet and commentary from me, focusing on one theme at a time. This month we’re going to talk about the current pace of anthropogenic climate change.

That’s perhaps the most massive story of our time; it’s happening a good deal faster than I expected — though in all fairness, a great many climate scientists have been caught flatfooted by the pace of change as well. It’s a measure of how drastic the situation has become that so many people have fled into a flat denial that anything of the kind is taking place, or the equal and opposite insistence that we’re all going to die soon so it doesn’t matter. That’s understandable, as the alternative is coming to terms with the impending failure of the myth of progress and the really messy future we’re making for those who come after us.

On that note, fellow stormwatchers, don your waterproof boots; we’re going to visit a planetwide flood zone.

One of the dismal advantages of the way we’ve treated the atmosphere as a gaseous trash can is that scientists now get to learn much more than they want to learn about the complex interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the planet’s waning ice caps. Ars Technica has a useful summary of one of the feedback loops now under way: as arctic sea ice melts, the climate balance shifts in ways that drive more melting. Similarly, a paper released by shows that the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet is going into overdrive as a result of fewer clouds and more summer sunshine due to shifting climate belts. Meanwhile, down in Antarctica, the rate of melting is such that plants and insects are beginning to colonize the once-frozen landscape.

(A while ago, if I may interject something relevant, I fielded a diatribe from a climate denialist who insisted that there were trees growing on the shores of Antarctica when the Robert Scott expedition arrived there in 1911. That’s what is known in the business as a bald-faced lie. There are plenty of good photographs of Scott’s base camp; I’m looking at some of them right now in a book I own. It’s one of the volumes of the Life Nature Library, The Poles, which was published before anybody but a few physicists thought that anthropogenic climate change was an issue, and it shows that Scott’s camp on the shores of McMurdo Sound was set in a wasteland of snow and bare ground, without a tree or even a patch of moss in sight. Anyone who wants to argue that point had better be prepared to show something more than empty rhetoric.)

Okay, back to the changing climate. Remember those craters that started appearing in the Siberian tundra a few years back? They’re still appearing, and witnesses have watched the methane explosions that cause them as they happen. As far as I know, this is still purely a Siberian phenomenon — this is not surprising, as Siberia has heated up faster than any other land mass bordering the Arctic Ocean — but as permafrost continues to melt and methane to bubble up, expect more loud booms from the Alaska north slope and arctic Canada.

Speaking of loud booms, an iceberg the size of the state of Delaware is poised to drift off into the southern seas in the months immediately ahead. Longtime watchers of the climate change scene will remember the ballyhoo a few years ago when the first two parts of the Larsen Ice Shelf, unimaginatively labeled Larsen A and Larsen B, turned out to be unstable. They’re gone now — as in drifted free, broke up, and melted — and it’s now the turn of the much bigger Larsen C sheet. There’s more in line once that’s gone.

Rounding out the loud boom category, the west coast of Greenland was hit by a tsunami, which killed four people and washed away eleven houses. That in itself doesn’t signal anything out of the ordinary — tsunamis happen all the time — but if it turns out to be the first of many, the North Atlantic basin is in deep trouble. The weight of all that ice pushed the portion of the Earth’s crust we call Greenland more than a thousand feet down into the mantle; as the ice melts, what geologists call isostatic rebound will raise the crust back up, and any geological fault under strain has a sharply heightened change of pupping an earthquake as that happens. The result, to judge by what happened at the end of the last ice age, will be tsunamis hammering the coasts of eastern North America and western Europe at unpredictable intervals — another good reason, dear reader, to be sure you live on high ground if you’re anywhere near the ocean.

Here in the US, as a result of rising sea level, the number of high tide-related floods has nearly doubled — 520 last year, according to NOAA, as compared to the usual average of 275 a year. In response, real estate investors in the greater Miami area are quietly moving to higher ground, relocating away from beachfront property into formerly poor neighborhoods that are a few more feet above sea level. Fort Lauderdale, meanwhile, is having to raise fees for drainage in order to deal with the increased cost of flooding. Expect much more of this in the years ahead. Nobody’s yet willing to deal with the reality of the situation, which is that most of Florida will have to be abandoned to the sea in the decades ahead of us.

Elsewhere, the Earth’s zone of tropical climate is steadily expanding as climate belts shift, and heatwaves severe enough to kill people in large numbers have become steadily more common since 1980. Europe spent much of June baking beneath unaccustomed heat as a direct result. As the climate shifts, furthermore, diseases and parasites spread accordingly; five counties in Florida now have populations of the unappealingly named rat lungworm, which can eat your brain — no, I’m not making that up. It’s a nasty tropical parasite that afflicts humans as well as rats. Expect much more of this, too, as climate zones shift and living things follow them.

There’s much more along the same lines, but these are indicative. Meanwhile President Trump has insisted that he’s going to take the US out of the Paris climate accords. The mainstream media has duly lambasted him for that, wihtout ever quite mentioning that the Paris climate accords don’t actually commit anyone anywhere to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases being dumped into the atmosphere. Dr. James Hansen, arguably the dean of climate scientists researching the mess we’re in, has thus described the Paris accords as “a fraud.” As usual in today’s America, the choices offered us by the two parties consist of business as usual on the one hand, and business as usual with a few futile face-saving gestures on the other. If you want a different option, dear reader, you’re going to have to make it yourself.

What we’re heading toward, in the absence of meaningful leadership from either side of the political scene, is a future most people alive today can’t even imagine. Ironically, they could learn a lot about it by reading up on recent research into the end of the last ice age. Scottish and Norwegian researchers have tracked the way that the ice sheets of the last glaciation collapsed, flooding millions of square miles of once-dry land and kicking off a cascade of climatic and ecological changes. Another team of researchers has figured out how relatively modest shifts in atmospheric CO2 turn the north Atlantic currents on and off like a switch, as happened during previous bouts of global warming.

It’s a real mess. It’s probably necessary to point out, though, that it’s not the end of the world. It may be the end of your personal world, if you happening to be vacationing on Cape Cod when a forty-foot tsunami comes rolling in from the southern end of Greenland, or one of those rat lungworms decides that your brain is its next meal. It may be the end of your economic world, if your job depends on overseas trade at a time when rising sea levels are making the infrastructure of every seaport in the world an example of (literally) sunk costs, or you still have your net worth invested in Florida real estate when enough people realize that the ocean’s just going to keep rising. It may be the end of your social world, if your nation gets torn apart by the inevitable conflicts of a world in chaos, or the neighborhood where you’ve put down roots happens to be a little too low-lying and you have to flee to higher ground.

It’s certain to be the end of a world of mythic narratives, the one in which Man the Conqueror of Nature bestrides the planet on his way to his purported destiny out there among the stars, and we can ignore what we’re doing to the only planet we can live on because somebody will surely think of something to solve the problems we’re creating. For a great many people, that will be at least as traumatic as any of the other ends I’ve just mentioned; people very often find the loss of their lives, their wealth, and their social setting less difficult than the loss of the stories that give meaning to their existence. Coming to terms with a future in which human beings have to give up their supposed status as destiny’s darlings is going to be painful for many of us, but it’s not the end of the world.

A couple of centuries from now, when the American West from the Great Plains to the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada is uninhabitable desert, when jungle wraps a Gulf coast a couple of hundred miles further north than it is today, when apples grow in Greenland and magnolias bloom in Ohio, and when modern industrial civilization and the abundant resources and climatic stability that made it possible are fading memories, the descendants of that very small fraction of us whose genetics will survive the bottleneck ahead will be living in the world that we’ve made for them. I suspect that’s why climate denialism and its Siamese twin, climate apocalypticism, are so popular these days. It’s easier to pretend that nothing’s wrong or, conversely, that everybody’s going to die anyway so none of it matters, than to grapple with the future we ourselves are bringing about.

In not completely unrelated news, I’m delighted to announce that the complete set of collected Archdruid Report essays — all ten volumes — are now available for preorder, at a hefty discount for the set, from Founders House Publishing. (The first volume will be available in September of this year, with the rest to follow as soon as editing permits). Details? They’re available here.


  1. JMG,

    If a person/family had the privilege of moving to anywhere in North America in order to minimize the fallout from climate change, what would you recommend? Apologies if you have already covered this elsewhere.

  2. I like your optimism on the climate future front! But it’ll take a lot of cooperation and effort for us to get there. If we react like other stressed species with unduly huge populations, I’d hate to think about what would happen in such a scenario, but would jump to the conclusion that Guy McPherson is liable to be right! D^:

  3. It’s not surprising that denialists pull ‘facts’ out of their nether regions to support their claims. I am surprised that the denialist didn’t send you a photoshopped pic ‘proving’ his claim. Probably only a matter of time.

    In my neck of the woods (Northern New Hampshire) while the murderous heat waves haven’t struck, we have had several abnormally dry summers and winters back to back. This year is a different story. The drought is officially over and now it’s more a deluge. Flooding that came over the weekend washed out a number of roads and stranded campers up here for vacation. The most common remark from residents when interviewed on tv was “I’ve never seen it this bad before”. These are long time residents who presumable have seen it all.

    I have a rain gauge that recorded one and half inches of rain in less than two hours on Saturday and we escaped the worst of it here in town. Other places had more and midstate had several tornado watches in the space of one afternoon. (tornadoes being fairly rare here – maybe a handful in a year’s time, if that). While one can certainly argue this sort of thing happens from time to time, the problem is that it seems to be happening more and more. It’s no longer an occasional thing.

    I’m in my early sixties and long gone seem to be the frigid winters we used to get. It always startles me to hear someone (young) complain about it being 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) below and calling it brutal. At the risk of sounding like an old fogie I can remember night time temps 25 to 30 below for as much as a week in succession with temp only rising into minus single numbers during the day when I was young. The trend seems to be for these types of gyrations to only get worse. The only thing I can be thankful for is that I live on high ground so I don’t have to worry about drowning, only watching for the twister that may or may not send me off to Oz.

  4. The public discussion around climate change is almost darkly humorous. I had really believed that climate denialism would die down once incontrovertible evidence mounted that the climate is changing. I foresaw that some climate skeptics would convert to anthropogenic climate change skeptics, but I really had not expected as many people to double down as hard as they did. It seems as though the same people are now arguing that climate data is being faked on a massive scale while also claiming that climate change is real but not caused by humans.

    I genuinely don’t know how to engage in this discussion after seeing how the other side reacts to counter evidence. Part of me wants to forego the discussion entirely, while my more mischievous side wants to loudly agree with the skeptics and encourage them to show similar intellectual bravery in denouncing the round earth conspiracy. There likely is no middle ground there…

  5. Interestingly, in our particular chunk of the Western Desert, our annual precipitation has been nearly double the average the last few years. This still doesn’t make it a sustainable place to live, unless you’re particularly fond of high desert and willing to adapt to its vagaries, and we don’t have a good way to capture and use the excess water. I expect new dams will be wanted, with the attendant arguments for and against.

  6. Thank you for ably navigating the climate change issue by avoiding both the Scylla of denial or technological fix and the Charybdis of apocalypse and immanent destruction. As a lover of older books and deceased authors, you might be interested in some words about “anthropolatry” written shortly after the First World War. “On one of the smaller among the millions of heavenly bodies there have lived for a short space of time human beings. For how long will they continue so to live? Any lowering or raising of the temperature of the earth, any change in the inclination of the axis of their planet, a rise in the level of the ocean, or a change in the composition of the atmosphere, can put an end to their existence. …We are entirely ignorant of what significance we have for the earth. How much less then may we presume to try to attribute to the infinite universe a meaning which has us for its object, or which can be explained in terms of our existence!” Albert Schweitzer, “Philosophy of Civilization” (1923). I’ll save for later some Schweitzer quotes about material progress, which he views as tangential at best, detrimental at worst, for the development of genuine civilization based upon reverence for life.

  7. Thanks, JMG. I am a Tull fan, saw them a couple of times, but more importantly I remember BOC’s ending to “Godzilla” “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man……”


  8. JMG — “t’s certain to be the end of a world of mythic narratives, the one in which Man the Conqueror of Nature bestrides the planet on his way to his purported destiny out there among the stars” Ooooooh that narrative is going to be so hard to kill… right now people use global ecological decline as a reason to push that narrative even harder, so we can just abandon the planet we have laid waste to…

  9. Thankfully, my family managed to sell the last of our real estate in Ft. Lauderdale earlier this year (my father wanted to sell it off over a decade ago precisely because he expects sea level rise and he wants to sever his ties to Florida, but there were various complicated obstacles to selling the property, including the fact that one of the joint-owners was a cousin who is both a climate denialist and has a bad personal relationship with my father and her consent was required to sell the property). Our family still has a little real estate in rural Florida, but since it’s much higher above sea level that Ft. Lauderdale it has more time before it gets taken by the ocean and since it’s not worth much anyway (in terms of realistic sale price) it would not be much of an economic loss.

    As an individual, there’s not much I can do (yes, I have a much lower carbon footprint than most Americans, and yes, I still have a higher carbon footprint than the average human, and yes, my home more than a hundred feet above sea level), so I figure it will be mostly a matter of weathering the storms or not.

  10. Fascinating set of links. I’m particularly interested in the two about ice age termination events. And I’m warning my fellow Floridians to wash their lettuce carefully and skip the Coquilles St. Jacque.

  11. OK, important question: where can I find safe property? I live on Long Island, which I assume is top on the list for being underwater. Assuming I could convince my wife to move, what do I need to look for to find arable, unlikely to flood, no brain eating parasites land? What factors would we need to consider?

  12. What do you think humanities genetic bottleneck will look like? How will it influence human evolution, is there a possibility our propensity for short term thinking will be weeded out in the bottleneck? I remember on the Arch Druid report several years ago you put a max population level of something like 1 billion or so. What would your current estimate be? Somehow I doubt that our global industrial civilization will be the last Easter Island. History to me seems to be just the stepping stones of an archipelago of Easter Islands.

  13. I used to answer the question, “if you could have a superpower, what would it be?” with: the power to give anyone diarrhea at will. My rationale was that it’s very hard for bad actors to get up to no good when they’re stuck on the toilet. Lately however, I’ve changed my answer to: the power to convince people that the things they do in their personal lives matter. That doesn’t sound like a superpower but since I’m finding it nearly impossible, it must be one. The other day I came up with what I thought was a really appealing argument, viz. that our climate crisis is a fractal problem. The mess we’ve made of the planet as a whole is replicated (or originates with) the mess we make in our own homes. It’s all one equation: buy, consume, waste, repeat. And if you want to change the shape of the big mess, you have to change the shape of the little messes, thereby disrupting the bad equation and replacing it with a better one. Needless to say, people look at me like I have two heads. I’m bad at this. Help . . .

  14. John, I’m liking the new website. Out here in the plains, one of the great unspoken and looming disasters is the drying up of the Ogallala aquifer. I wonder what will happen when western Kansas stops looking like the army’s digital camouflage…something Ballardian, no doubt. I am constantly amazed that this is not a larger topic (note: I am not a native Kansan, but have found Kansas to be a wonder place, politics aside). What concrete legislative steps (state/national) would you recommend?

  15. Everybody is going to die. Does that mean none of it matters?
    The continuation or extinction of the human species doesn’t determine whether my life has meaning. I’m responsible for finding meaning. The experience of being alive matters. It is the foundation for everything else. Immortality would be great, or burdensome, but that’s not the hand we’re dealt.

    We can live vicariously, through our children, by consuming entertainment, or by studying predictions for the future. We can imagine what it would be like to reach the stars or suffer a decline in civilization. We can view the future as a thought experiment or convince ourselves that it will indeed play out a certain way. But it is only a substitute for the experience of being alive during those times. For me, vicarious living satisfies my curiosity. Does it matter? Not really. I’m of the belief (or attitude?) that what happens after I’m dead doesn’t matter.

    If I’m reincarnated as a rat lungworm, I’ll have a new perspective to explore between meals. Perhaps it is better to go back and learn the basics. If I’m reincarnated as another human being, retaining memories of the past would be very helpful! Alas, the best that my “future me” might expect is to read a shopworn copy of The Druidry Handbook and wonder why I’m having this sense of deja vu…

  16. There’s a bit of irony in the balancing act of avoiding the effects of anthropolatry in one’s world view, only to accept the anthropogenic basis as the sole cause for climate change. But of course life is full of ironies. Per the Youtube video on this site, with the exchange between Senators Franken and Perry, some scientists hold mankind 100% responsible for the recent changes in climate, which surely must put worshippers of Ra in a tizzy.

    As a climatologist in the Air Force back in the mid 1980s, I recall generating a study for McMurdo Station, using roughly 40 years of weather data, and back then the trend was clear – temperatures were warming. We cracked jokes in our office about how it wouldn’t be long before the personnel stationed there would require more sunscreen while lounging beneath palm trees. That view seems to have lost much of its humor over the last 30 years.

    What’s getting lost in all the political, monetary and emotional energy expended on the issue of climate change, is that there are relatively low cost, sensible steps which can be taken to address some of the issues of changing climate, regardless of what happens in the next couple of centuries. Reducing pollution as fossil fuels run low, planning for impacts on food production, and restricting new construction in low-lying areas and relocating instead to higher ground are obvious measures to take. Unfortunately, what we’ll do instead is party on and ignore the lessons Mother Nature provided, and repeat what happened after Katrina. We’ll rebuild much of what was destroyed, watching that capital sink beneath the waves when the next Cat 5 storm comes along….

  17. Now that you have somewhat merged the topical flows of The Archdruid Report and The Well of Galabes into Ecosophia, I’m probably going to find it a little more challenging to keep these separate sets of issues (the sociopolitical/ecological versus the esoteric) apart, but I should be getting it through my thick skull: that’s the point. These can’t be separate sets of issues.

    But what I’ve been noticing over the past few years since I started paying attention to not just occultism but other -I mean this respectfully- fringe back alleys and cul-de-sacs, is that so-called magical thinking permeates these out-of-the-way bodies of thought and opinion. Rather than conclude that as a technologically addicted species needing our second-by-second fix of oil and its byproducts, we’re overheating the atmosphere and hence land and sea, they’d rather chalk it up to HAARP up in Alaska, or Al Gore’s scheme to make big coin from accumulating carbon credits (I’m not saying Gore isn’t doing that, but that seems to be an issue other than whether or not the warming is happening), or some other conspiracy involving Reptilians like the British Royal Family.

    I consider myself a budding occultist, trying to pick my way through the vast and littered landscape of various esoterica, and as much as I’m willing to credit the possibilities of secret powerful technologies and dark conspiracies, there has to be point where even the most determined non-materialist has to slap himself in the forehead and wonder what it is about the laws of physics that we just refuse to get. Magic aside, appealing to spectres and what-they’re-not-telling-us-about-the-Large Hadron Collider to ease the feeling of the noose we’re sticking our collective neck through tells me that as much as we’d like to believe that pursuing the esoteric can restore our eyesight, it can certainly keep the blinders firmly on place for those uncomfortable with seeing.

  18. Haydar, that depends on exactly what you need, want, and are lookng for. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

    Darth, um, did you actually read my post? I said in so many words that nothing constructive is being done, and we’re in for a very messy future. I’m not at all sure how you missed that and thought I was being optimistic.

    Jeanne, I’ve heard similar stories from every corner of the country. The climate is changing, and becoming both warmer on average and more unstable in its vagaries. Here we go…

    Christopher, I know. The frantic attempt to insist that it’s not us, it can’t be us, nothing’s happening, or if something’s happening something other than us must be causing it, et cetera, ad nauseam, makes great fodder for gallows humor but it doesn’t contribute anything useful to the effort to deal with the predicament of our time.

    BoysMom, the question in my mind is what the average is going to work out to be. I know several parts of the west have gotten abnormal amounts of rain in the last two years, after a decade of severe drought; one possibility is that that’s the new normal — long periods of no rain at all, followed by a year or two of deluge.

    Newtonfinn, fascinating. I’ve added that book of his to the get-to list.

    Mac, yep. I was also a Blue Oyster Cult fan back in the day…

    Bill, of course they’re doubling down. That’s standard practice when a myth is on its deathbed. I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming post…

    Sara, congrats on the good timing! While you’re getting ready to weather the storm, remember that you can also help see to it that useful things get passed on to younger generations — that’s one piece of constructive work we all can do.

    Michael, glad to hear it. Thank you!

    Robert, many thanks. I’m looking over the smorgasbord of collapse-related news stories right now, trying to decide what next month’s Stormwatch post will cover.

    Lasagna, that’s the automatic response of most people — where can I move to be safe? You can’t. Make sure you’re at least fifty feet above sea level, and then do what you can to build sufficiently strong links with your local community that you’ll be more likely to get through whatever the world throws at you.

    Austin, no, it was about half a billion, and we’ll get there by the usual processes of demographic contraction, somewhat amplified by war, famine, and pestilence. Keep in mind, when speculating about human evolution, that the regular dieoffs of lemmings have never yet managed to produce a super-lemming free of the characteristics that render lemmings vulnerable to regular dieoff…

  19. Tantelili, I could use a little of that same superpower. That’s exactly it, of course — people whose lifestyles are contributing to the mess we’re in stare at you like sheep if you suggest that they change their lifestyles, even when they themselves will moan by the hour about how unfulfilling their lifestyles are!

    Steve, any legislative steps that could actually help the situation would be politically impossible, Consider what would happen in the Kansas legislature and media if someone were to propose that since the Ogalalla is running dry, all state subsidies and programs that encourage irrigated agriculture should be shut down, and the money redirected to programs to prepare Kansas for its future as a desert state…

    Bumblebee, okay; so? I’m not really seeing how this connects to the topic of this post.

    Drhooves, if in fact changes in solar activity are helping to drive the current warming trend — and I have yet to see any argument for that that doesn’t devolve into handwaving if you look at the raw data — then our current treatment of the atmosphere is even more stupid than it would be if the climate was stable. If you’re sitting next to a sleeping grizzly bear and it has its own reasons to wake up grumpy, does that justify poking it with a stick? One way or another, our actions are feeding a process that is creating a wretched future for our descendants, and there’s plenty of irony in the way that so many people are trying to obscure that fact.

    Casey, the thing I keep on pointing out is that the kind of thinking you’ve described isn’t actually something that mages do, by and large. I’ve attended all kinds of gatherings in which operative mages talk shop, and the vast majority of them are highly skeptical about claims involving HAARP, reptilians, etc. You’re right that this unmagical thinking is far from helpful; to my mind, it’s entertainment at best, and at worst a way of distracting ourselves from the work that has to be done. Blinders — yes, that’s a good metaphor.

  20. JMG said:

    “the thing I keep on pointing out is that the kind of thinking you’ve described isn’t actually something that mages do, by and large… and the vast majority of them are highly skeptical about claims involving HAARP, reptilians, etc.”

    This is good to know. I would expect Druids, certainly, to know where to place the blame. Part of the problem in not knowing, yet, which, if any, initiatory school to apply to, never mind actually belonging to one, is that as I try to get my feet under me in a stable and, hopefully, eventually, effective practice, as a solitary it’s a bit easy to find oneself wandering down some weird rabbit holes while questing for information!

    Fortunately, your blog provides an helpful contact with reality! Thank you.

    But yes. There’s some really entertaining stuff out there…

  21. Synchronicity, and an anecdote: I had just finished reading this entry and then rushed to an impromptu meeting on the 9th floor of the building where I work (in downtown Sacramento, CA). As I walked in, someone pointed and we all looked out the window. Everyone fell dead quiet. Dark storm clouds. It was raining. In Sacramento. In July. And still nearly 90 degrees. Tomorrow and the next day are forecast to be 100+, clear, and dry. (But then, so was today).

    Historically, yes, you’ll find *very* occasional rain in the summer here. But I’ve lived here most of my life, and this is not “normal.” Quick and unstable is how it feels.

  22. Hello JMG,

    Good to have you back! I’ve spent the last few years trying to build a simple, free, and meaningful life for myself. The most difficult obstacle to achieving that has proven to be learning to live in “right” relationship with pretty much every other living thing. The necessary paradigm shift is so drastic that I really had to question everything I “knew”, and found that most of it was unworkable. Prior to that I thought the way everyone else did, and looking back I have to ask, how did such a misguided psychological pathology become so universally ingrained in people?

  23. As I have mentioned before, I have become fascinated by paleoclimatology as well as very early human civilizations. The scope of climate and environmental change has been breathtaking; 400′ of sea level rise over 7,000 years (much of it fairly rapid), the draining of Lake Agassiz, the flooding of the black sea region and Persian Gulf, the change of the Sahara region from verdant to desert, along with the drying of the eastern Mediterranean region, and so much more.

    Humans lived through these things while civilizations rose and fell, and our history is full of the echos of these events. It shows just how unstable the climate can be. It also shows how foolish man was to tickle the dragon’s tail and burn that stored sunlight. I wonder though if it was not inevitable that this store of carbon would not ultimately be released? What men, or other species for that matter, could resist that energy windfall once the trick of using it was learned?

    Just like with peak oil and the cycles of civilizational collapse, this is the backstory of the lives that we get to live this time around. Is it worse than others, possibly us in previous lives, have had to deal with? It seems to me that the spiritual journey, whatever purpose our souls have in being here, goes on regardless.

  24. Why does the future of our species matter to you?

    You write “It’s easier to pretend that nothing’s wrong or, conversely, that everybody’s going to die anyway so none of it matters, than to grapple with the future we ourselves are bringing about.”

    Why would none of it matter? Is there less to do in a future where everybody dies, as in extinction?

    The demise of our species is not a personal issue for me, as it would be for the loss of a friend, or a loved one. Frankly, after reading and seeing the destruction our species has wrought upon the biosphere, I’m inclined towards a bit of schadenfreude rather than a sense of loss.

    I do not understand why people are emotionally invested in narratives of our glorious future or apocalyptic end. The most I could say about a negative outcome is that it would be “a waste” in terms of human potential. But that too might be a myth.

    I do not need to pretend that everything is fine.

    I am inclined towards collective effort rather than personal initiative. I’m more comfortable as a follower than as a leader.

  25. I find it fascinating how discussion of sea level rise in Canada tends to ignore two major places: the maritimes and Vancouver. Considering the Vancouver metropolitan area is the third largest in the country, I find it fascinating how next to no one seems to think of it.

    Its always somebody else’s problem. Now granted, having looked into it, even the worst case scenario wouldn’t flood the entire area, but its still interesting how people don’t seem to think of how global warming will affect people close to home.

    Its also like that in general: people will talk about the effects of global warming on other countries, but if its here, its just “weird weather”. I suppose this is just another way to avoid dealing with what global warming actually entails.

  26. In looking for a “safe” place to move to, I recommend JMG’s book “Star’s Reach” which takes place several hundred years in the future in whats left of the US. It is one of the few books I have read several times, and will read again. (right up there with Tolkien’s masterpiece).

    Unrelated detail, a typing error stuck me with the unlikely first name of Michae. Stick an “l” on and you get Michael. Oh well, apparently I am stuck with it until the next solar maximum starts us over.

  27. John-

    Ugo Bardi has been of the opinion in his recent posts that the well-to-do understand full well that the sea levels are rising, etc, and are quietly off-loading vulnerable properties to greater fools.

    Re the current myths, I had a conversation touching on decline with someone who said my arguments were nonsense because there are no resource constraints. Climate change is a moral issue, but not an economic one.

  28. Just wanted to remark that we may be a bit of an anomaly here in KY and surrounding area. Our climate is changing, but, so far, our summers seem much milder than I remember them growing up. When I was growing up, the norm was for temps to hit the 90s (F) and stay there pretty much all summer long. Now, we are seeing much milder summers w/heat waves broken up by cool spells. I’m wondering if this is caused by unstable arctic air masses moving south with more regularity. Things are MUCH wetter than I remember growing up, I feel like I live in a rainforest now. Winters are where the biggest climate change has taken place–it hardly ever gets cold anymore, and I can easily see the day when it won’t go below freezing in the winter. All in all, I’d say we’ve become Seattle…

  29. Imagine what an individual needs to do here. Accept that human activity is making the planet uninhabitable for humans and all other life. Know that you are contributing to nearly unimaginable suffering but if you stop, even completely, it will not make any difference. Understand that everyone has to stop but that you can only change yourself. Censor your words and public behavior to get along with everyone else, almost all of whom will think you are crazy, self-righteous and/or stupid for not simply taking as much as you can get of whatever is available. If you are lucky enough to have people who matter to you share your beliefs and your behavior, take some solace there but still be subject to the effect of the actions of the masses. After all, you live in their world. Spend a large proportion of your emotional energy beating back anger and frustration that the world you live in is insane and you can prove it but no one wants to hear it. Constantly question your own hypocrisy, knowing that you are not and cannot do enough. Wake up each day and repeat.

    I call this time we live in The Era of the Rock and the Hard Place.

  30. You’ve frequently mentioned the anti-denialists, the apocalyptic doom-sayers. I’ve never seen these people, though. I guess I just don’t hang out in the right (wrong?) places to be exposed to them. It seems like they must be much fewer in number than the ostrich crowd, which seems to make up 99.9% of society….

  31. Oh yeah, one more thing: I live in Japan, high on a hill but close to the coast in an urban region, although hat neatly describes most of the country.

    You’ve mentioned before that you have thought about what awaits Japan in the near future. I’d be extremely interested to hear anything you have to say about the matter.

  32. JMG,
    First, let me congratulate you on your two recent moves (the one in cyberspace, and the one in, um… meatspace). You seem to have settled quite nicely into your new virtual home, at least. I confess I was a bit worried about the change in direction of the blog – and I’m sure there will be more spiritually-focussed posts that will demand more of my time doing background reading – but you have always been an unusually clear writer, and I am sure you are easing many of us into deeper waters gradually (at least those of us whose primary exposure to non-mainstream spirituality came from weekly blog posts from an archdruid).
    Second, while I agree that the human capacity for denial of challenging circumstances (and one’s personal role in addressing them) is the primary driver of the two forms of avoidance you describe here (and did so thoroughly in the previous blog), it seems that another obstacle might be that of scale. I mean, it is one thing for my neighbors and I to be somewhat alarmed by the lack of real winter weather in Southeastern Pennsylvania for many years in a row, but… Delaware? I am not sure my mind can visualize an iceberg the size of Dover, or even Manhattan, let alone an entire state. I suspect that many denialists (and, er… apocalyptians?) are somewhat dumbstruck by the forces at work, and the effects already underway. Sadly, it will probably take something coming to THEIR TOWN (a flood, a tornado, and so forth) to shake them loose of their stupor. I feel I am still trying to fully wake up myself.

  33. One of my worries right now is that sometime in that geoengineering will be attempted, such as adding reflective aerosols to the upper atmosphere? This may mask some of the effects for a while but overall make things worse, as crop yields would be affected by the lower amount of sunlight and rain patterns would shift (monsoonal areas in particular would probably see less rain). Less sunlight could lower the average global temperature temporarily to compensate for global warming, but the climate patterns would still be changing and the warming would come back within a few years after the program ended. I could even see wars being started over geoengineering as countries affected by things such as failed monsoons get justifiably angry.

    I’ve gotten more pessimistic in the last year (mostly by the left’s reaction to Trump) about how entrenched anthropolatry and the myth of progress really are and am thinking that we may just be in the early stage of the doubling down phase, if we see a movement to make progress great again it could make the days of denialism and hollow rhetoric seem like the good old days.

  34. Recently Guy McPherson has softened his ‘near term extinction stance’, he still believes that we have less than 10 years left, but he has adopted a spiritual narrative of being the best you can be while we still can. In a recent video he was actually quoted you about ‘Problems have solutions, and predicaments have outcomes’. Surely this is a step forward:

  35. I hate to admit it, but the fact that it’s clear that nothing of any significance will be done about climate change is kind of a cold comfort for me. I used to get quite upset over the subject, both worrying that climate change would end human existence and worrying that I was wrong and the whole thing was a hoax. The existence of climate deniers really upset me.

    Now there’s almost a kind of serene detachment, not in the “We’re all going to die so just carry on,” sense so much as the sense of “We’re all going to have to adjust or die young; what can I do to be in the former group?” and “What can I do to make my life more meaningful now, so if I don’t make it, at least I tried to really live?”

    The last point seems to me key in dealing with the realities ahead: realizing that a meaningful life will always be available to us, even when there’s no hope for a comfortable one.

  36. Luis, my guess is that it would just turn into another political circus.

    Casey, oh, trust me, I get that. I wandered into some fairly odd places in the early years of my own work. The one litmus test I found that usually helped was to look at the people who were proclaiming this or that odd belief system, and ask: what kind of lives are they living? If they’re living well, dealing constructively with any problems they face, having good relationships with other people, and so on, that’s one thing; if their lives are a mess, that’s quite another.

    MarkT, fascinating. I hope everyone took that to heart; it wouldn’t take too much of a shift in the weather to leave Sacramento flooded in a big way…

    Disciple, every culture starts off with some more or less unique take on human existence, and then takes it to extremes and runs it into the ground; after the inevitable crash, some cultures pick themselves back up and learn from their failures. We haven’t done that yet, and I’m not at all sure we will.

    Matthias, saturation spraying with neonicotinoid pesticides will do that sort of thing. Sigh…

    Twilight, good. Yes, exactly; the spiritual journey remains, as it’s remained straight through the fall of every past civilization. Put things in the big picture and they make much more sense.

    Bumblebee, if nobody’s leading, being a follower isn’t particularly useful. You might consider leading by example, if nothing else.

    Will, yep. Nobody wants to think about what it’ll mean to them, personally.

    Michae(l), thank you! Star’s Reach was a delight to write; I’m glad you find it a pleasure to read.

    David, “there are no resource constraints” — was this person by any chance an economist, or a businessperson with an MBA? That kind of raving delusion is fairly common among members of those professions.

  37. Shane, well, there you are! Climate change in the real world won’t affect every place equally — and you may have more or less lucked out.

    Gene, as an individual who’s been living with a clear awareness of our predicament since my teen years — straight through the two decades after the Reagan counterrevolution, when you couldn’t talk about these subjects to anybody without being treated worse than dirt — I’d say you’re spinning it far too harshly. Learn to put our time into context in the great cycles of history and nature, and you realize that other people and other species have been through the like before. Decline and fall is a natural process, like getting old and dying; keep that in mind and it’s much easier to live with it.

    Zachary, they’re much more common in the US than elsewhere. You may simply be lucky not to have run into them.

    Robert, the fascinating thing is that people throw around gargantuan concepts of scale with perfect grace when it comes to glorifying Man the Conqueror of Nature. Solar farms the size of Nevada! Humanity bestriding the stars! It’s only when something we don’t want shows up on that kind of scale that all of a sudden you get the blank stares and the little puddles of drool in an assortment of laps.

    Kashtan, my working guess is that geoengineering will be tried, and will bog down very fast in a cascade of technical glitches, unintended side effects, and bare-knuckle political brawls on local, national, and international scales. Yes, it could get very ugly — but it could also get very absurd, very fast.

    Workdove, well, we’ll see…

    James, good! Yes, that’s a constructive response.

  38. lol a half billion – I guess my memory was being optimistic. At those odds one is better off buying a ticket on the Titanic. It was a good movie, “We are dressed in our best and prepared to go down as gentlemen but we would like a brandy.” I guess when fate shows up, unlike Matilda the hun, we can’t just offer him a cold beer. On the topics of lemmings – Would it just be enough for evolution to produce one that didn’t follow the others over the cliff?

  39. Please ignore the comment I sent last night… I have learned that several people have set up “mirrors” of the Archdruid Report website.

  40. A current fashionable argument around here in the German speaking world is: “the sea levels are NOT rising because the pole caps melt – it’s because sea water extends under higher temperatures”. As if that made it better.

  41. Wow, what a scary set of stories. It’s amazing how none of these important stories is being covered by anyone in the media, and if you watched the news recently, you’d think Donald Trump wrestling CNN to the ground was the only thing that happened on planet Earth for the past week.

    I would like to add something though: in addition to all the climate crises you mention here, I think there’s another factor in the mix that is going to spell starvation for a ton of people. According to Vice News, Monsanto has slowly been converting every field in the world to planting just one genetically modified genome of corn or soybean- both because the GMO is engineered to survive lethal doses of pesticide and herbicide chemicals- but also to kill the business competition by forcing one patent into every field, thus forcing farmers in the Third World to buy seeds every year from Monsanto. That may be good for their stock prices, but if the Irish Potato Famine rings a bell, it could literally mean mass starvation for a pretty large percentage of Mankind, especially here in North America. So it really is a perfect storm: droughts, rising temperatures, new parasites, new pests, tsunamis, coastal abandonment, and mass crop failure all mixed together will lead to an outcome I don’t even want to think about except that we all have to live with its consequences when it arrives.

  42. Maybe that’s the reason, why till today it is said by historians, that the story of Atlantis is just an unbelievable fairytale.

    Anyway, didn’t it said, they just said the same thing, when they were predicted to be swallowed by the see. See here:

    Or as Trump said: “Are you not been entertained?! We are living in interesting times, indeed.

  43. Re: insect declines… One aspect of habitat destruction is, in my neighborhood, the overwhelming number of white-tailed deer that run rampant through the suburb, eating all sorts of pollen and nectar-rich flowers (both wild and domestic). I can cover most of my deer-fodder with plastic nets, but the forested park has been nibbled to the point of being barren beneath the trees. The only deer predator around here is the automobile, because we’re too urban to allow hunting (inside the Washington DC Beltway). Habitat destruction doesn’t necessarily require a bulldozer, or fire, or even an invasive alien species.

  44. JMG, my dog acquired the dreaded rat lung worm when slugs infested her food bowl. It was a very unpleasant episode with severe headaches and paralysing seizures, but she made a full recovery within the week. So if you happen to feast on a slug or two there is hope of recovery…. or just cook them first!

  45. @Kashtan

    The thought that helps me deal with the spectre of geoengineering (and in line with your reply, John) is that by the time we get around to attempting it, we will have likely lost the capability of doing too much damage and the scheme scheme will just fall apart.


    Why yes, I believe that the person I was speaking to has an economic and business background.

  46. Most of the people I know who foresee near term human extinction are grateful for the awakening jolt; they found meaning in their existence and are quite busy with living more consciously, less materialistically. As a druid you are surely aware that focussing on inner work rather than physical activity does not equal passivity, certainly not indifference, and eventually results in more healthy relationships to the world. I don’t deny the existence of those who use the perceived predicament as a cheap cop-out; they may even form a hidden majority of apathetic cynicists among the general population. You’ll know best what you have seen of inverse denialism; but many of those outspoken about a probable extinction of h.sapiens form an activist movement that, despite our personal insignificance, believe that our lives matter. It’s what unites views as different as Eisenstein and McPherson.

  47. Oh, and can you please tell me why the German version of Star’s Reach has not been published? Unless I overlooked a mail of yours we never came around to discuss the matter.
    Warm regards, and thumbs up for your new blog.

  48. anthropological theories like cultural materialism can offer insight into adaptive failures in political economies. in that model, political economies do not lead, they follow. their purpose is to regulate the production, exchange and consumption of goods and services created by a culture’s infrastructure, i.e. the set of practices used to generate goods and services.

    until the infrastructure cannot supply a consistent stream of goods and services, the political economy maintains the status quo. the model suggests that, within a range of demand and supply, political change focuses on different ways to distribute production, not alternative infrastructures.

    so far, climate change is not hampering the petro infrastructure at all. in fact, arctic and antarctic melting just opens up new areas for extraction and transport of additional petroleum product. the elites that run the political economy are not troubled by shifts in sea levels or climate zones because they can easily relocate, nor do they feel any obligation to commoners affected by these shifts (a billion here or a billion there does not matter to them – as long as they stay in control).

    the model predicts that only when conditions change enough to disrupt consistent supply will alternative infrastructures take hold, elites change and a new status quo, just as blind as the old one, emerge 🙂
    for detail on cultural materialism:

  49. Hi JMG,

    As we have discussed before, my money is on the rats. It seems like a safe bet to me.

    Yes, the climate is going haywire, no doubts about it. I’m exposed to it year in and year out and all I can tell is that it is more unstable with each passing year. And I rather suspect that the climate bands have shifted south from the north (recall that I am in the southern hemisphere) as summer weather is getting stranger and unlike what I generally expect. The plants adapt though.

    Incidentally, I’ve often felt that the whole “where do I move to question” is a furphy intended to distract attention. And yeah, nowhere is safe. Mate, anyone concerned about safe should try living down here surrounded by tall eucalyptus forests on a 110’F day when the hot and dry winds are blowing in from the centre of this hot continent… Precarious may be a good way to describe that feeling. It keeps you sharp that is for sure.

    Oh, I read about another type of brain worm from Central America a few years ago when a well known local punk rocker had a brain worm surgically removed from his, err, brain. It was a pig tapeworm: Frenzal Rhomb frontman gets brain surgery to remove pig worm. The story is worthwhile reading if only because the afflicted punk rocker talks about what it feels like to have a brain worm removed.The amusing part about the story is that the punk rocker is a out and proud vegan.



  50. Workdove, the followers of Guy McPherson and John Michael Greer share a reverence for nature.

    JMG, I lead by circumstance. If I were to publicize it, people would say “How can you endure living in poverty?” I would need to show them a culture of like-minded individuals, who have chosen a similar lifestyle voluntarily. Most people (e.g. followers) need to see lots of people doing something. A lone eccentric will not suffice.

  51. Our grandchildren (oldest is 7) could see the abandonment of much of London – the tube, and much else – almost all the historical stuff. It is possible but not certain that relative sea level might rise by a metre by the end of the century. I guess Britain can defend against that average one metre rise but beyond that, the occasionally overwhelming sea surges will be irresistible.
    Britain is a fully urbanised nation –we have mostly lived in cities of a million or more for 150 years. Essentially we are one metropolitan area. We are currently 65 million in a combined UK–having doubled the population from about 1890. Like any large city / metropolitan area we import the majority of our food (calories) which was tricky in mid 19th C and wartime, but is still ‘doable’ just now and in the medium term.
    My understanding of rising sea on the Eastern seaboard of USA is that the recent acceleration is due in part to a quirk in North Atlantic currents over on our side, causing levels your side to ‘back-up’. Quirky changes are to be expected especially in the fickle N Atlantic (JMG explains the glacial/post-glacial record). So, sudden change is expected, possibly reversing previous change over decades.
    I liked this quote: “Suppose you’re a mayor in Miami and you hear that the projections for Greenland ice melt are wrong, and they’re going to be much greater in the next century. You have to worry much more than if you’re a mayor in Nova Scotia. But then if you’re talking about ocean currents, it’s flipped,” said Davis. “Wherever you live, you can’t just go by these [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports that say global sea level rise is one number.”
    The matter of continuing post-glacial isostatic rebound and coastal tilt is also discussed in the same link. This type of change operates over thousands of years.

    Phil H

  52. Shane W — summertime daytime warming in th southeastern US seems to be moderated by the natural aerosols produced by the forest. Nighttime and wintertime temps are warming, and humidity and precipitation are indeed increasing

  53. Reading this post brings to mind two recent major mistakes made by those who proselytize in the anthropogenic climate change movement:

    – the 1st gaffe was celebrities & spokespeople alike glibly & hypocritically burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels in their private jets to attend climate conferences, while admonishing the commoners to change their evil ways.

    – the 2nd error added insult to injury when it was uncovered that the so-called climate study scientists tweaked the some of the assumptions underlying their models & cherry-picked the data when some of the results didn’t fit the narrative, aka fraud.

    In 2004, Michael Crichton wrote about these fatal flaws in “State of Fear”. This piousness & chicanery did measurable harm to the cause, science & the planet, whether or not it is reparable, remains to seen.

  54. Welcome to New England, JMG! A little bird told me you were headed this way. I thought possibly Portland, ME, but Providence RI will do, lol. Happy to report our drought is well over, water tables restored, and unlike NH, rain has been ‘just right.’ Sad to report my squash magic went out with a bang of 3 different squashes last year. It has, however, been replaced with asparagus magic! A suspicious weed I noticed and left alone on the sw side of my house turned out to indeed be a spontaneous asparagus. It returned with a pair of twin babies this spring! I’ve managed to restore my pastures with heavy duty scything, the rhythm of which drives me to chop wood and carry water with some tranquility. It’s a huge relief to find some calm time before the next inevitable storm.

    I think people in these parts are well aware of climate change; perhaps we live too close to the land and sea not to notice. Two types; those who discuss that which will not be named in whispers, and those who will rip your face off before changing the subject. The latter may explain the former.

  55. We’ve had record breaking heat here in Tucson this year. I know, not the best place to be, but it is what I have to work with right now. I have installed a 1500 gallon water harvesting tank, windows upgraded to low-e double pane, trying to garden despite the heat, and I live close enough to work to walk when the weather permits.

  56. JMG, I’ve taken advantage of the pre-order offer, but am wondering if that aforementioned e-book is still in the works? Like many, I much prefer hard copy for leisure reading, but ‘searchability’ is a must for use as reference, and the ADR is a serious treasure trove for those purposes!

    On topic: ran across this recently, which aligns nicely with your projections for the US:

    I’ve long thought that political violence here in the US will likely make it a much rougher go here than elsewhere in the world as we continue to push our way ever deeper into this Age of Consequences – this is only one reason, but a significant one, why I’m interested in relocating outside the US. I’ve visited several Latin American countries, and will be headed out on a scouting trip to Uruguay early next year (note its benign color on that map – other projections I’ve seen are similar). If timing works out, I’ve a notion to head out in the 2019 time frame, spend a few 3 – 6 month chunks of time living in various local communities, then put a stake in the ground and do my best to assimilate into a new culture and a local community. I’ve found that community is in fact far more readily available in many Latin American countries than in the US, though the extent to which these are at least somewhat inclusive remains to be seen (same can be said in the US, though). Truth is, I’ve felt alienated from my own culture for a very long time, and I have lived outside the US before, so hoping the culture shock will be manageable. I’m an engineer, and hope to create an appropriate tech workshop and to be of service to my new community in that way, among others. After all, why should the benefits of green wizardry be confined to the US?

    I’m curious if the view of historical cycles supports the notion that political violence is by and large most intense and predictable at ‘ground zero’ in a situation like ours where imperial collapse and civilizational collapse are proceeding in seeming lock step. I guess I wonder why more people are not interested in seeking out communities elsewhere, and when I talk about this, I often get a blank look when I cite the probability of serious political violence here in the US. I suspect the notion of a genuine insurgency here in the US, let alone civil war, or even invasion by a foreign power, lies so far outside the cultural narrative that most folks find it inconceivable.

  57. @Oz

    “I suspect the notion of a genuine insurgency here in the US, let alone civil war, or even invasion by a foreign power, lies so far outside the cultural narrative that most folks find it inconceivable.”

    Likewise. The conversation I mentioned to JMG above got its start on the topic of centralization versus decentralization of governance, sparked by my (continuing) support for a constitutional convention as the best chance we have of rolling back federal power and deconstructing our empire in a peaceable manner. My counterpart was arguing for the further centralization (and if anything, the abolishing of state governments, as they are, in his view, obsolete and a waste of money); whereas I was saying that if we want to preserve the possibility of any semblance of our union and its cooperative benefits, we need to loosen, not tighten, federal control and make greater allowances for regional governance, and that the path of further centralization he was supporting would all but guarantee that a permanent (and likely violent) fracturing would occur. This was, of course, dismissed out of hand as an impossibility.

  58. Thanks for coming back to the basics. Yes, the climate change is a big thing and it will be the only game in town after the fossil fuels are done (at scale, there will be little so called production).
    I have tried really hard not to get bogged down in meaningless conversations about Trump, politics etc but that is the only thing people want to talk about in my super duper “liberal” corner of US. Mention anything about climate change, limits to growth or even the stupidity of Tesla cars and the subject magically changes. How about them tweets?
    I always appreciated your “coolness” or if you want the rationality of your discourse. In a face to face conversation I just get frustrated trying to convey the fact that yes, Trump is different than Obama but they are the same in regard to things that matter.

    Sorry for the rant. To go back to climate, Pacific Northwest seems like one of those few lucky places where the weather gets better – at least until arctic ice is gone and the ocean starts warming up. I tried to find any study or model about what happens after that, but there is no mention anywhere. This is weird, it should be straightforward to model the effect of a warmer Pacific. My guess is we will become more like south of France? Or Spain?

    One more thing. I also read /r/collapse and I notice a large influx of alt right people. They espouse a mix of denialism/skepticism and weird economic theories. I don’t know how to interpret this change. Could it be just trolling because collapse is getting close? Or more interesting, maybe alt right is getting ready to deal with the reality of our predicament?


  59. I’m finishing an MS degree in atmospheric sciences, finishing my thesis and graduating in December. I have a two-part post here for you.

    The first part is about climate change and difficulties in predicting exactly what will happen.

    The second part has some questions for you about how to exercise individual will in the context of the global problematique, even when you have a pretty good understanding of the problematique, when you’re starting from scratch with very little willpower. That’s the position most hypocritical climatologists find themselves in, and it’s what I was doing as a student until finally hitting the limits to debt growth long after I understood quite a bit about natural limits.

    Given your limited time I’d prefer if you prioritize your response to the questions in the second part, in the three paragraphs at the bottom, but please do add input on anything else that catches your eye. You’re one of the few sane people I know of, so I greatly value any advise you might have.


    First part: climate change and its details

    Climate change is what my ongoing masters’ degree is tangentially about – we’re dealing with one aspect of it, aerosols – which form the core of every cloud droplet in every cloud, and which can “activate” and “deactivate” whenever they reach areas of 100% relative humidity and then when they go on into drier areas and the moisture evaporates, leaving a changed and chemically mixed population behind.

    It’s all really, really difficult to make any forecasts about the future, besides the obvious one. Obviously it’s just a matter of a couple decades before the Arctic summer ice cover retreats to a small fringe on the north side of Greenland and Ellesmere Island, with most of the ocean seasonally ice-free. At some point, probably within centuries rather than the millennia that are assumed by oversimplified models, most of the West Antarctic ice sheet will break up, and the Greenland one will lose something like half its mass while retaining a core sheet in the center. Some damage will occur to East Antarctica as well, and mountain glaciers will continue their startlingly rapid retreat.

    The models I suggest people look at aren’t global climate models, which have a bunch of problems. Foremost among them is that even with today’s massive computing power, we are still dealing with resolutions that are at best about 80 km by 80 km. Clouds have important processes that occur on scales of 0.1 x 0.1 km and even smaller, and even under optimistic Moore’s law scenarios, it wouldn’t be possible to get a global resolution like that. Every time you double the horizontal resolution, you increase the number of grid boxes by a factor of 4 because you now have 4 times the number of cells, and then another factor of 2 in order to deal with shorter time steps. So it’s an N^3 problem, which grows to N^4 if you double the vertical resolution as well.

    It’s just not a thing we can do even if the model assumptions were right, and of course many are dubious. We’ve been dealing with so-called “sub-grid-scale” problems by using crude empirical mathematical models which don’t work much better than random number generators. And these sorts of things: cloud cover reactions, changes in convection, and aerosol-cloud interactions are understood extremely poorly and are where most of the uncertainty lies.

    Precipitation predictions are all over the map: ultimately nobody really can get a handle on it. There will be more water vapor in the air and a global increase in precip, but some areas will dry out and

    I agree with you that the best way to understand what lies ahead of us is to look at the past. The mid-Pliocene warm period (2-3 C above now globally averaged, 3-4 C above preindustrial) featured a ice-free West Antarctica and nearly ice-free Greenland, with sea levels about 20 m higher than today. Even the Eemian interglacial, where temps spiked to about 1-2 C above modern (2-3 preindustrial), featured a sea level rise of about 7 m. What we can expect is something similar to the mid-Pliocene period, with sea level rise taking off from the present 3-3.5 mm/yr to over 2 cm/yr (or m/century), with unpredictable jumps up whenever a major ice sheet calves a large portion into the ocean.


    Second part, with questions for you in the bottom three paragraphs. If you don’t have time to read the rest, I’d still love a response to my main questions there about willpower.

    There’s a strong disconnect between understanding something intellectually and actually doing something about it, and it’s especially pronounced for me. In my case, my thinking is sane, my behavior is absolutely bonkers. But this is true across the board too – I’m just a micro-level example.

    The worst are the actual climatologists, the ones with tenure-track positions. The meteorologists in my program generally dislike the climatologists, because they get added prestige (some of which has gone to their heads), while their models have shown some insight but have serious flaws. And of course none of them to my knowledge live anything but the standard upper-middle class lifestyle available to all tenure-track professors.

    Take my case. I’ve known a lot about the climate crisis and resource depletion, and have been following you since 2012, and have read a variety of heterodox economists and historians. And yet, I haven’t done much to reduce my personal carbon footprint – which as a heavily indebted grad student with low income isn’t anywhere near McMansion levels, but is still “normal American” within the constraints I have. I spent irresponsibly and picked up a bunch of student debt, I self-medicated through a combination of the near-useless pills that psychiatrists give, some barely-legal drugs you can order online, and at times too much booze, and I bought a bunch of junk I couldn’t really afford from Amazon and eBay. I knew (and know) my behavior was (and is) irrational but could not bring myself to change it. My case is entirely typical – perhaps a bit worse than many of my fellow students but only in degree, not kind.

    Now funding has been cut, and there’s no money to support me this coming year. Luckily I have a supportive father and stepmother, with a nice if bland new house, and they’ve let me move back in rent-free. I’m slowly selling/giving away/tossing much of the stuff I own but don’t need to own and trying to get my mental health in check, which is difficult in an insane world, and finding tutoring and adult education programs where I can draw in a small revenue stream.

    Here’s my real question: Do you have any basic ideas on how to increase will, in general, assuming you’re starting with very little of it under your conscious control? The early-21st century world is really chaotic and terrifying, and many Millennials are already scaling back and cutting down on the number of consumer goods they own. I’m doing this by now because the debt load has finally gotten to the point where I have to move back in with my parents as I finish my thesis.

    On the macro level, I think we’re just going to end up muddling toward frugality much as I’m currently doing on the micro level, with a bunch of unpredictable events lurching us in that direction over time along with an underlying trend, plus some bubbles that lead to temporary reversals into self-destructive behavior.

    But it certainly would help if you know any basic techniques or sets thereof that help people to convert their knowledge into actual practice. Giving several options for how to start increasing will from a low level would be very helpful for a lot of people, if you have the chance. Besides permanently turning off the TV – that’s the one addiction I luckily never developed, and which most scientists here do seem to have kicked with some exceptions (mostly meteorologists, given their presence on TV news).

  60. I get lumped in with the Deniers by the True Believers simply because I think that the main cause of warming is that we are leaving a glacial age (anthropolatry much?). I find that a fair number of other ‘Deniers’ don’t argue with global warming, they argue with how much of it is caused by humans. There are numerous things that can warm the earth, after all, and anything less than 100% Human Caused is likely to get one tossed into the Denier camp by the True Believers.

    Brother Greer, oh, granted, we have no idea what the long term weather patterns will look like. While California seems to’ve taken the brunt of the physical damage, this year, there was a lot, less spectacular, of infrastructure damage around here. Our main reasons for being here are 1) paid off family land, on a year-round creek that has never run dry in recorded oral or written history, on which we can do nearly whatever we like, without regards to a bank or a landlord’s desires, so long as we comply with the current government, and 2) the climate, even at its wettest (we’re talking 22″ precipitation rather than 11″ here), turns the family asthmatics from invalids into, as my husband puts it, Supermen. He nearly died several times as a child from asthma. He’s had none since moving here. We’re also in the middle between the coastal cousins from both families, who are all going to end up needing to relocate, probably in rather drastic situations, within the next thirty years. I highly do not recommend moving here unless you have very good reasons and local connections. When, and it is a when, given our climate, our house gets eaten by wildfire, I plan to rebuild with an Earthship-type structure. (We dodged a fire four years ago by the grace of the winds, and one just on Independence Day this year thanks to the fire bombers. We won’t have them forever.) Our walk-out basement is perfect for our climate: an Earthship would take advantage of all our current strong-points and eliminate the weaknesses of stick-built and above ground in our climate.

  61. An interesting and engaging read, thankyou. In the comments you mention leading by example. What behaviours make good examples in your eyes? One thinks of efforts to sidestep fossil fuel use (incredibly hard, not impossible), regenerative agricultural practices to provide food and fibre while attempting to sequester carbon, perhaps living without electric power altogether (surely even our generous Earth can’t provide everyone with solar panels), maybe even joining, creating or inspiring others to do likewise, ie actions stemming from a thoughtful standpoint. Ok, and having fun along the way. And yet still I keep wondering, am I missing something (and I don’t mean compost toilets -tick!)?

  62. Fear not! The TV ad for Colonial Generators, a regional retailer of home generators here in southeastern PA, promises a simple solution to problems of climate, energy, and, well, apparently, everything.

    “What if we woke up one day and we never had to worry about losing power ever again?” the voice-over narrator purrs, as clips of stormy weather alternate with close-ups of nervous-looking young children. “No more cold nights. No more power outages. No more bad… anything!” (Cute youg girl does a happy dance at this point.)

    Ostensibly this pitch intends to play off of local recollections of Superstorm Sandy and the brief but traumatic hiatus to happy dancing that it wrought a few years ago. But the casually explicit association of short-term household backup electricity with “No more bad anything!” seems to reflect, in reverse of course, a deeper unease.

  63. Another fantasy that many have is that if they are not directly affected by rising sea levels in florida and elsewhere, or extreme drought then they can continue their suburban style techno-industrial lifestyle uninhibited as climate change unfolds. But the knock-on effects of rising sea levels and wild weather are likely to be significant. Imagine what will happen when, one day, the financial system wakes up to the fact that all the real estate in Florida and much of the gulf coast will soon be abandoned and there will be no more mortgage payments, and the value of the assets there are now zero. What happens to happy motoring when the oil terminals and refineries are under water. If one has not already downsized to a lifestyle not dependent on the smooth working of the financial system and the flow of oil, things may be no better in Denver than in Tampa.

  64. Oh, yes I did.

    “[W]hen jungle wraps a Gulf coast a couple of hundred miles further north than it is today, when apples grow in Greenland and magnolias bloom in Ohio”, when climate change is going much faster than estimated so far, and when humanity behaves and will behave in much the same way as other stressed, very much overpopulated species, sounds wildly optimistic to me.

    Or do you think people will actually co-operate instead?

    We’ll probably see (IF humanity survives) a bunch o’ weeds instead.

  65. I’m never quite sure what to say to climate denialists, given that if they can’t see what’s happening I don’t know of anything I could say that would change their minds. And the low oil prices make peak oil a non-sell even to people who get climate change and the need to do things about it. So I mostly just get on with hanging the laundry to dry, walking or busing to where I need to go, or harvesting the raspberries.

    On the topic of causing climate change, it looks like Canada has been producing more methane than we thought or want to admit:

  66. Regarding climate denial, my pet theory is that the massive disruptions in the hydrological cycle caused by the use of fossil water in agriculture and clear cutting as well as the changes in rainfall caused by smog and carbon particulates from engines and power plants have consequences that are not widely discussed or considered as a cause of climate change. As any denier will tell you, water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Even the IPCC admits their modelling has a lot of trouble with water vapor. The problem is that water in the atmosphere, as a gas, acts like a greenhouse gas and traps heat. If it’s suspended drops of liquid water (clouds), it warms the planet at night and cools it by day. And – importantly – all these phenomena are interlinked and interact with the local geography above and below sea level and human activity like burning coal, operating diesel equipment, pumping fossil aquifers to the surface, etc cetera. So I’m mildly skeptical about CO2 as a warming agent, although its destructive effect on our oceans – even if there is no climate effect, which isn’t what I’m arguing anyway – is serious enough that nobody (including me!) should take my ideas (which are just speculation) as an excuse to go spewing as much CO2 into the air as they can afford to.

  67. Austin, evolution does produce lemmings who don’t go on the migrations that, from time to time, run masses of lemmings into water (or into Disney nature films, where they got bulldozed off cliffs to make the shot turn out right). That’s how lemmings repopulate, and gear up for the next population explosion.

    Elaine, so noted!

    Anioush, the funny thing is that both points are correct. Rising temperatures cause water to expand in volume, and they also cause ice sheets to melt. The phrase “double whammy” comes to mind.

    Rahul, fortunately there’s a considerable backlash against GMO organisms at this point in the US and elsewhere, and some very large agricultural nations — iirc Russia is one — won’t allow them to be planted. I expect that to accelerate as the problems mount up.

    Hubertus, yep. I’ve considered writing a novel about the drowning of Atlantis, with an eye toward our present experience.

    Lathechuck, a good point to remember!

    John, apparently people get rat lungworm without eating slugs. Yes, there are treatments, but given the way medical care is rationed by price in the US these days, we may see a lot of very sick people…

    David, that’s usually a safe bet!

    Jurgen, fair enough. I’ve simply seen too many people at peak oil events who attend drum circles to grieve over the inevitable death of the planet, and then climb back alone into their SUVs for the long drive back to their corporate jobs and upper middle class lifestyles. As for the German version of Star’s Reach, did you receive my email about finding a German language publisher for that? If not, please email me again and I’ll resend, and we can make that happen.

    Biz, yes, I read about cultural materialism when Marvin Harris was busy inventing it back in the 1970s. It’s an interesting hypothesis but, to my mind, doesn’t successfully model or predict human social phenomena well.

    Chri(s), I don’t know if the “where to move” thing is meant to distract, though it’s certainly a distraction; here in the US, at least, the notion of pulling up stakes and heading for the Territories has been hardwired into the national psyche for so long that it’s no wonder so many people treat it as their first option. (For that matter, I’ve relocated repeatedly, so have no excuse for pointing fingers!) The notion that there’s someplace you can go where everything will be fine, though, needs to be discarded sooner rather than later; there is no place that won’t be affected by the crisis of our age.

    Bumblebee, I disagree. I can’t point to an army of followers, and yet I hear all the time from people who’ve been inspired by my personal example to decrease the burden they place on the planet.

    Phil, yep. The US eastern seaboard is getting it especially bad because the Gulf Stream is slowing, so the water that would normally go rushing off to warm your island is piling up off our shores instead. There’s also thermal expansion as seawater warms, and the accelerating rate of melt from the great continental glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica. Could your grandchildren see London abandoned to the sea? You bet.

  68. RCW, you left out a third major mistake — the attempt on the part of climate activists to erase history concerning the “global cooling” scare of the 1970s, which I discussed on the old blog repeatedly. No argument there; as I also noted in the old blog, global warming activism is dead in the water at this point, due to a cascade of drastic mistakes on the part of the movement itself. That doesn’t change the fact, of course, that anthropogenic climate change is a reality.

    Mary, delighted to hear it! We’ve left a thriving asparagus patch for the next owners of our house in Cumberland, and when I start an allotment garden here in East Providence, you can bet that’s going to be one of the things I put in. Meanwhile I’ll just have to put up with what I can get from the local farmers market, which Sara and I shopped at this afternoon: blueberries, snap peas, green beans, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and locally sourced haddock and littleneck clams — yum…

    Julie, you do what you can with what you have, where you are. I hope it works out well for you.

    Oz, I believe an e-book version is in the works, but I’ll check with the publisher to be sure. As for the geography of political violence in the twilight of a civilization, that doesn’t follow any simple rules. When the Roman empire went down, some peripheral areas such as Britain suffered even more political violence than Italy did, while other areas slipped past with little trouble. As far as I can tell, it’s basically a crapshoot.

    Peakfuture, there is no such place. It really is that simple.

    Omnia, you might look into the data from paleoclimatology — see if you can find info on the climate of the Pacific Northwest during the Eemian interglacial period, which was warmer than the current interglacial. As for the alt-right, I suspect the latter is the case — to judge by the number of alt-right sites that quote my work, they seem to be beginning to grapple with the hard realities of our age.

    Grebulocities, many thanks for this! If you could point to some good sites on global and regional climate from the Eemian interglacial and the mid-Pliocene, that would be extremely helpful, not only to me but to others who want to have some idea where we’re headed.

    With regard to developing will, we’ll be talking about that at great length in posts to come, but the sequence I plan in devoting to that topic is some time away. The basic rules, though, are simple. First, start with things in which you have no emotional investment at all. Set yourself some kind of simple task — say, staring at the second hand on an old-fashioned clock for one minute — and do it every day. If you miss a day, do it twice the next day. Your goal is to develop the habit of willing, and that’s best done with things that are small and absurd. Once that’s easy, change to something else. Spiritual practices such as daily meditation are great for this purpose, among others!

    Don’t try to change any behavior in which you have an emotional investment until you’ve gotten very good at choosing to do things and doing them, and then choose one change at a time and stick to it until it’s habitual, before going on to something else. Avoid the entire subject of weight loss — that’s a toxic swamp of culturally fostered psychoses and deceptive advertising that benefits the multibillion-dollar diet-and-drug industry at your expense. The best way to make lifestyle changes is to build the habit of will in areas where you have no emotional stake, and let the habit of will quietly ramify through the rest of your life. More on this as we proceed.

  69. JMG, what alt-right sites quote your work or even acknowledge peak oil, etc? I haven’t paid much attention to the alt-right since 2016 or so, and one reason was the tendency of alt-right types to believe that “The only reason we don’t have space fascism on Mars is because of welfare payments to black people” or some variant of that idea. Guillaume Durocher is the only alt-right writer who seriously acknowledges climate change and peak oil that I am aware of.

  70. My Christian conservative step-nephew says that we can just let God take care of global warming. I doubt that he is so complacent about the typical conservative hot-button issues. I guess this all has to do with how our prejudices filter our perceptions.

  71. Sure, there’s both reasons… From a psychological point of view, saying “it’s NOT this but that” looks like trying to stay on top of things, like in “if I have the right explanation, I’m still in control”. Maybe it’s also a parallel to “okay, climate change happens now but is not caused by us”. Funny how we tend to say “I’m smarter than you, so I’m not concerned”. The reports here say that our mountain regions will be “more in trouble/changing more than other regions”, without specifying much more. We’re more than a 1000 feet above sea level where I am now and not lacking water yet, but forests suffer from warmer temperatures and new parasites already, and wine and fruit farmers get hit by drought. Other than that, don’t have much information.

  72. Sister BoysMom, the problem with the glacial-age theory is that temperatures in the current interglacial peaked millennia ago, and declined from there on until the beginning of the current warming. For a thorough discussion of this that’s not colored by anybody’s global-warming agenda, you might want to read EC Pielou’s After the Ice Age — Pielou was one of the many scientists in the 1970s and 1980s who believed that we were on our way to a new ice age, and covers the temperature data very thoroughly. As for the current warming, remember that we’re dumping millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every single day — there’s no way that’s not going to have a massive effect.

    Simon, don’t look to me for suggestions — find something that matters to you, and do it.

    Walt, “no more bad…anything!’ Oh my. That’s way up there on the list of absurdities; thank you.

    Clay, ding! We have a winner. You get this evening’s gold star, for zeroing in on the biggest mammoth in the living room: the economic cost of anthropogenic climate change.

    Darth, perhaps you’ll explain to me how it’s “wildly optimistic” to point out that climate belts are going to shift drastically and sea levels will rise hundreds of feet. That’s all the passage of mine you quoted is saying.

    Corydalidae, that is to say, you’re continuing to lead by example, Excellent.

    Justin, nah, you’re confusing importance in terms of overall heat trapping with importance in terms of the current change in temperature. Of course water vapor is most of the reason the Earth’s surface isn’t the same temperature as deep space. The question is what’s causing the increase in temperatures, and the fact of the matter is that we’re dumping millions of tons of an effective greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every single day. There’s no way that’s not going to have an effect on a system with an equilibrium as complex and unstable as the Earth’s atmosphere.

  73. Justin, I’d have to do an ego surf and find my way back to some of them; I don’t read them regularly and so don’t have them bookmarked.

    Phutatorius, I wonder how he’d respond if you suggested that global warming is God’s severe judgment on our pride, arrogance, and abuse of His creation…

    Anioush, yes, I see the same thing on this side of the pond.

  74. Over here in the Philippines, I’ve seen very few people who are outright climate change deniers. There are quite a few folks who are skeptical of the anthropogenic part, and most of them are in the “it’s coming anyway, it’s gonna be painful so we have to deal with it” camp. And to be honest, it’s a position that I could sympathize with. Culturally, we’re notorious for fatalism, and I’m sure being beaten up by nature dozens of times a year contributes to that attitude.

    Our geographic location provides us with the grand jackpot of disasters that nature could possibly come up with: volcanoes, earthquakes, huge storms. It wouldn’t be a huge boast to say we’re used to it; the affluent build sturdy homes that are fortified against nature, while the poor folk just get used to rebuilding every couple of years or so. It’s now a cliche to say that Filipinos are resilient, and there’s a very good reason for that.

    Still, the weather has gotten very weird. In 2008, Typhoon Ketsana dumped an entire month’s worth of rain on Manila and surrounding regions in just six hours. We were very poorly prepared for that, and hundreds drowned. We did get similar rains over the next few years, since then, fatality and property damage figures have dropped, so perhaps we’ve learned that lesson quickly. But the changes come quicker – in 2013, Typhoon Haiyan came, and that put us on the map in a very bad way! There have been bigger storms, but nothing as big as this hitting land. About 7,000 people were killed (6,300 confirmed and around 1,000 were unaccounted for and presumed dead), mostly in Leyte Island, and mostly due to the huge storm surges that nobody saw coming. The government meteorological agency did issue urgent storm surge warnings, but nobody has seen anything like it so people did did not take it with the seriousness that was necessary.

    When I visited my dad’s hometown a couple of years ago, we went on a side trip that went through a coastal road. As we drove past the beach – I spent many childhood summers playing there – I was surprised to see the water being less than ten meters or so away from the road. Granted, it was high tide, and the road has been paved and widened since the late 90’s, but I clearly remember there to be a lot more beach during high tide. In a few years that beach will be gone, and then the road, too. Though I’m sure they’ll try to build a seawall there.

    It’s no wonder that there are few outright deniers in this part of the world. Not that I’m very fond of the climate change activists, who are mostly funded by Western NGO’s and thus adopt the exact same strategies that don’t work. If you want to know how to deal with the climate, look for a farmer or a fisherman around here; they’re the most doomsday-prepped folks that I’ve seen, even though they don’t know it.

  75. John Michael and others,

    Oak Ridge National Laboratories has a pretty good site about climate change from the beginning of the Eemian interglacial, as well as an article with a quick summary on environmental conditions during the Pliocene and lots of other good stuff. The article on the Pliocene notes that attempting to reconstruct climate conditions during that era is difficult because of fragmentary and sometimes contradictory information from sediment cores.

    John Baez, who is a professor of mathematics at UC Riverside, has a web page with some great info on climate change over a wide range of time scales.

    Both web pages haven’t been updated in a while, but are still good starting points. Another perennial favorite of mine is Paleos: Life Through Deep Time

    That being said, I too am hoping Grebulocities or others have websites on the subject they can share with the rest of us. Natural history is a subject I have been interested in since I was a little boy.

  76. Hello, JMG,
    I was watching for your answer to Gebulocities re willpower- something I wished for more of while trying to crank out a book. I found some useful advice and information in two sources:

    The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal
    The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore

    Willpower Instinct surveys research on the subject and derives some practical advice. Now Habit is more personal, presenting a program for conquering procrastination. I now keep an “unschedule”, somewhat in Fiore’s style. Both authors are PhDs. Both books are available in e-format.

    Working at software development in the defense industry, I was good at getting things done, but always had assigned tasks. In retirement, I find it harder to assign myself a task and carry it out. I’m still working on it, so will be watching for your comments on developing willpower.

    One thought on another subject: I think terms like “rapid” or “abrupt” can be misleading in descriptions of past climate change. When an ice sheet diminshes rapidly over 3000 years, or loses 2/3 or its area in only 750 years, or hemispheric temperatures rise by 3 deg C in only 500 years, these are geologically rapid trends, but rather slow in human perception.

  77. I have a question on training the will. My problem is that this summer I’ve been undergoing bouts of minor but very offputting illnesses – mostly feeling queasy and dysfunctional – due to heat, air pollution and a few other contributing factors. I’m really of two minds about trying to do even small devotions and meditation when I’m sick. Any advice on that? Many of my friends are in poor health, too, and everybody’s answer and experience is different.

    Thanks, Pat.

  78. Rahul–when I visited Illinois four years ago I noted a fair number of fields of corn and soybeans with signs proclaiming that they were “Non-GMO” Since these signs are unlikely to be seen by the ultimate consumer, I assume they were a message of support/encouragement/defiance to other farmers.

  79. Thanks for your in-depth reply, JMG! That’s a great idea. I’ve never heard of getting in the habit of just doing something fairly meaningless every day and starting from there. I’ve tried to get myself to meditate consistently and always find myself drifting from the course within a few days. I’ll start with the clock hand thing and then try to meditate after that. Now to find a clock with a hand. If none pops up I’m sure something used can be found on Amazon/eBay for at most $5.

    Do you recommend any particular time to do the practice, especially to meditate? This is my pattern: I tend to be extremely sluggish after waking up, then I take my psych drugs (which have effects but nothing that actually helps with depression) along with caffeine, perk up and have a reasonably focused for four or five hours, then slow down and have a period of in the afternoon of extreme sluggishness, then there’s a bit of unfocused energy in late evening to night. And then of course I take more psych and/or OTC drugs to put myself to sleep, because this is the early 21st century and we all have to drug ourselves to deal with our crippling glowing-rectangle addictions.

    I’ve got to work on a paper whose manuscript is due on the 15th, but nonetheless I have the sort of brain that can’t be contained and wants to know as much as possible about a bunch of things, despite the fact we’re in a specialized age that has little use for broad thinking. So, the next time I find myself on an uncontrollable Wikipedia voyage or something, I’ll switch over to Google Scholar and try to find some good review articles on the Eemian and mid-Pliocene, as well as the Holocene optimum while I’m at it. With university access I can get around paywalls but I’ll try to find as many open-source ones as possible. Expect it within a couple of days!

  80. Prospects for future climate changes look bleak indeed! It is easy to feel helpless, and difficult to know what to do. I don’t think the problem of climate change has solutions, or at least not any that we can implement in time to prevent changes that are already happening. I don’t think there are any ‘one size fits all’ answers so we should look to our own situation and plan accordingly.

    I think once I accepted what peak oil meant, and what future climate change was likely to look like, I found hope for the future when we actually start to change our lifestyle, and then at some point the change just become lifestyle. Not everything we do has to be framed by the narrative of “saving humanity”! Does it really matter if we learn to connect with the natural world because of a spiritual practice or simply because our garden is beautiful and working in it makes me feel peaceful and content? I have found that gardens and food bring people together; people of different faith, politics, ages, and gender.

    @ JMG
    You wrote that it’s certain to be the end of a world of mythic narratives, and that this might be more difficult a loss than our wealth or social setting. I found that idea to be very intriguing. I’ve been thinking a lot about narratives, the stories I hold dear because they shape the meaning of life, the stories I tell my children. Unfortunately our society seems to be stuck on the arguing about fossil fuels, climate change, and the necessity of clinging to our western lifestyle. I think it might be more productive to create a new narrative. Instead of energy, let’s focus on food. Nutritious, high quality food is going to be vital to our long term survival, vital to our happiness. Growing food in our gardens, cooking food in our kitchens, and sharing food will others will make families and communities stronger, healthier, and more resilient. When we spend time making slow food, I think we appreciate and harmonize with the environment where the food was grown. So, local food brings local harmony. What narratives do you think are important going forward?


  81. I totally agree with Grebulocities: any attempt to predict the future is a waste of time, even with supercomputers. All models are wrong, but some models are useful (George Box).

    I wanted to share how I talk to my family and friends about our changing climate. It involves a focus on statistical stationarity, which has different “moments” and therefore “meanings”, but the gist is this: since records began to be kept, Virginia got, say, on average, about 3 inches of rain per month. For decades, farmers could believe rightly that a lack of rain would be followed by abundant rain such that the mean would hover around three inches, averaged over the year, sometimes higher, sometimes lower, sometimes less “over there” and more “over here” but over time any cycle would return to around three inches per month on average over time. Predictable, in an annual sense.

    Global Weirding has changed this. We cannot know anymore that rainfall in Virginia will average 3 inches per month over a year. The trend may be towards an increase, or a decrease, or both, who knows.. the cycles that were more or less “stationary” in the mean are no longer so. It’s all becoming guesswork, and this has huge implications for economics and living things. For one thing, a large part of the built environment (storm water drains, etc.) was designed for “local” precipitation averages that don’t change much …

    We can’t even say we will adapt to more or less rainfall (as one example) because the trend may simply reverse and we may find that we adapted to wet and now it’s getting drier. I know that some climate scientists, back in the day, simplified all this into dry will be drier and wet will be wetter, but it ain’t necessarily so.

    I guess you could say the only thing we can expect is the unexpected. Change itself becomes the norm, the “low probability black swans” will make an appearance, if that makes sense. Weirding.

    JMG, I’m a long time reader (2008? I think), very rare commenter, but am looking forward to learning about magic. I’ve experienced it in my own life, by accident, I think. Not sure, but agree with everyone here about the need and desire to pursue a spiritual life and spiritual understanding.

    Did have a question for today’s subject: no mention of ocean acidification? If you did, many apologies, it’s late and I’m tired.

  82. If being unemployed is an inspiration for those who wish to reduce their carbon footprint, then I can serve as an example. If we include everyone on a fixed income, or on zero income, that might constitute an army of sorts.

    The frugal living movement is not specifically about protecting the biosphere, but it is an alternative to the dominant consumer culture.

  83. Hi JMG,
    Thanks for the new venue, the veiw is fantastic.

    First up, you say you used to be a Jethro Tull fan. I’m not sure anyone is an ex-Jethro Tull fan. If you like that arrhythmic music, nothing can get it out of your head. Ever…
    Stormwatch, BTW, is probably my favourite of the 35 or so albums in my collection.

    Out here in the country (300 km north of Sydney, Australia) the warming of the climate seems to be accepted by most of the inhabitants, especially the ones who’ve live all their lives here. Lots of people remember snow on the plateau 20km north of my farm, but there hasn’t been any of that for 20 or so years. The main argument is more around whether or not the warming is caused by “little old me” or not.

    Interestingly, many of the old-timers really distrust the Landcare movement, one of the few groups in the valley actually trying to help farmers get some traction in using less fragile farming methods. Which is amazing, give that they’ll pay for whatever the local agronomist says they need to spray on their land to make it “perform” and go into serious hock to do it, but when the Landcare people postulate a free way to improve soil health, but it will take a little time to achieve, they just turn off.

    I’ve just been voted in as the president of our local Landcare group and I’m now contemplating how to introduce the idea of looking at adapting to the warming climate to the group. I’m certain it’s not going to be a popular topic, but we’ll give it a crack. We are more fortunate than most, however. Joel Salatin stayed at our place a few years ago and commented that we lived in paradise because we can grow apples, pears, stone fruit, mangoes, bananas and olives, all with a reasonable degree of success. So we have a solid base on which to adapt, though the changes are happening in unexpected ways which will still challenge us. Especially as planting season (spring-early summer) is the one that’s really turning nasty, with little or no rain and scorching temperatures mixed with cool to cold. I don’t really expect it to rain much again this year until the cyclone season gets under way in February…


  84. JMG, as you are looking for future Stormwatch posts you might like to take a look at the information posted here. . There is a table of events (with a pdf version) that summarizes the severe weather events in the US from 1980 until 2016 and gives costs adjusted for inflation. The thing that really popped out was how much longer is the list of events each year since 2011 compared to previous decades. We’ve had significantly more billion dollar disasters each year during the last seven years than we did in previous decades. This supports the conclusion that climate change is accelerating and weather related disasters are increasing. I also find it easier to talk to climate change deniers about the things we can do to prepare for weather related disasters, as opposed to trying to get them to admit climate change is real. And if people are preparing for climate disasters then communities are more resilient in the face of climate change. I think eventually it will become so obvious there will be few people arguing, or maybe because those who are deeply in denial will probably have died off.

  85. @JMG
    What will make me sad is that the abuse of the environment may lead to the Easter Island scenario. Where we may permanently impoverish ourselves of natural beauty and natural wealth that a healthy ecosystem provides. Given how Easter Island looks after its forests have been felled by its inhabitants leaving only uniform grassland I hope that nature can regenerate and bring forth new bounties of natural beauty and natural wealth.

    Because that would be very saddening.

  86. @JMG
    Just offtopic. I think that your population implosion post in your previous blog is dead on. Although I think you may have missed the suicide and drug overdose epidemics alongside the biological epidemics that would cut the population down quite a lot. In fact they estimate that in 10 years 500000 Americans will perish of the opioid epidemic which seems that have begun in the poor working classes:

    There hasn’t been drug plagues in the past as far as I know but its certainly going to be quite the reaper alongside old fashioned infection. And of course euthanasia which appears to be picking up in the western countries.

  87. Archdruid,

    I’m setting here having a Gin and Tonic on my day off, thinking about a thing Catton said. Hey, look at that, we’re back to Catton again! However, I feel that he’s going to be painfully relevant as your new blog progresses. Anyway, on with the commentary.

    Catton said that civilizations often spend a whole lot of energy trying to arrest the Seral stage at the point where they were the most prosperous. Reading the dust of history we can see that this is true, each civilization expanded huge amounts of energy to try to maintain the status quo, or revert the status quo to the point at which they…had the most surplus energy? Either way, the disasters unfolding on the coasts and in the desert west is verbatim what catton was talking about. Psychologically so is the whole nostalgia craze that continues to sweep our country. Our whole civilization is expanding massive amounts of energy to magically transport ourselves back to the era where things weren’t going totally off the rails.

    Here’s an example from the Northerner Midwest. We’ve been getting a massive amount of rain, not much higher than the record, but still fairly significant. Around us, and I’m going to go totally unscientific here, it really seems like the whole of great lakes estuary is trying to revert back to the wet-land/prairie/forest that it once was. Like the very earth is trying to push the regional ecosystem back into it’s most symbiotic. If we Midwesterners were smart, we would be aiding that transition because it would serve as a biological barrier against the various changes taking place in the bio-sphere. Are we doing that? By the bowls of the nether realms, no! We’re pouring money into high end development, lakeside condos, high-tech research facilities, and global amenities to make our fair state attractive to the imperial parasites that suck dry every ecosystem they land in.

    Bugger them, I want my swamps and forests. Any plans to mitigate the damage from the coming storms has to come from the local level. There is no more international, not even any more federal, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s any state level.

    I’m posting this up the day after drinking so I had time to edit out the swear words. There were three, in case you’re wondering…



  88. clay dennis
    July 6, 2017 at 8:46 pm
    ´Imagine what will happen when, one day, the financial system wakes up to the fact that all the real estate in Florida and much of the gulf coast will soon be abandoned ´
    Apparently they are in the process of waking up to that fact, albeit slowly, as Tom Lewis acerbicly examines in these two blogs:
    I live in an old farmhouse in the northern lowlands of Germany, which at some point in the future will surely be flooded by sea level rise. Being about 80 feet above current sea level and roughly 50 miles away from the sea should keep me safe from that though, even if a tsunami hit the german North Sea coast. But I´m aware that if, for example, the city of Hamburg would be destroyed (even partially) by such an event, the repurcussion would be felt all over Germany, maybe even further than that given Germany´s interconnectedness with the EU.
    Frank from Germany

  89. anioush
    July 6, 2017 at 11:31 pm
    I´ve heard that tree nurseries here have even given up to replant certain species such as horse chestnuts because the new diseases and parasites spreading are so devastating.
    Frank from Germany

  90. Growing up in Oklahoma, on the edge of the great plains, the weather was particularly unstable,fickle and at times intense. As a kid, you get good at reading the doppler radar images seen on the news casts that break into the regularly scheduled programming. It seems this will be the future for a greater portion of the country.

    I now live in New York City with its own host of issues. Having a couple of young kids, perhaps the most disturbing is the increasing number of days in summer where we get notifications of bad air quality to the effect that children and aged adults should stay inside. This is another aspect of “the weather” I think would be good to discuss as the EPA will apparently be neutered for the foreseeable future.

    On another noted, I did see a ray of sunshine recently.

    A few months ago I attended a workshop on resilient building design for coastal communities sponsored by the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center ( The course was excellent and focused not only on building construction methods but deeper industry responses including community awareness, federal funding and insurance issues.

    I thought it would primarily be attended by other architects but to my surprise, it was mostly local community leaders, some lawyers, and people from the insurance industry. Let us say that the group was deeply politically mixed yet strangely not divided. The issue of climate change was not directly addressed. The course teachers did an excellent job of avoiding that booby trap and somehow were able to get folks of the deepest of red camp to simply address the direct issues of mitigation/ adaptation. The memory of Sandy is still palpable here and apparently overrides whatever other psychological self definition of tribe that the participants brought into the room with them.

    I admit, the premise was a bit like Titanic brass polishing, but witnessing a collective action of a very diverse (and otherwise likely antagonistic) group gave me hope. Hope that in the face of the predicament of the future, we can organize in small ways to adapt.

    This leaves me wondering if there is a similar “end run” way of addressing climate and the decline of industrial civilization that cuts through our adopted and artificial tribal definitions?

    I am also left wondering if this may be an issue of scale. Did the emergent collective action that I witness simply emerge from the fact that there were only about 25 people in a room with a palpable memory of a hurricane?

    Curious to know anyone’s thoughts.


    Black Birch

  91. Carlos, that doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s the privileged, who don’t have to confront the risks of climate-related disasters personally most of the time, who get caught flatfooted when one actually does hit them. (And by “privileged” I mean, among others, nearly the entire population of the United States…)

    Eric, many thanks for these!

    Robert, interesting. My sources are mostly late 19th and early 20th century manuals on will training, on the one hand, and traditional occultism on the other. As for the abrupt nature of climate change, the thing to keep in mind is that while the overall process of change unfolds over centuries and millennia, it’s not a smooth curve. Paleoclimatic data show that sudden shifts — global meltwater pulses, drastic temperature swings, the shutdown and restarting of oceanic deepwater circulation, and more — can take place over less than a decade. Then there are tsunamis, which can take a lot less than that…

    Pat, meditation and simple devotions are perfectly safe to do when you’re not feeling well, and quite often make you feel better — I have a friend, for example, whose sinus headaches stop when he meditates, and take a while to start again afterwards. It’s when you’re moving vital energy to a serious degree, using ritual, breathwork, or the like, that you shouldn’t practice while ill.

    Grebulocities, glad it was helpful! Just as you build strength by lifting weights or doing calisthenics rather than by just doing strenuous work, you build will by practicing the equivalent of will-calisthenics. As for timing, in my experience, everybody’s sluggish right after waking up. Try washing your face and hands, or better still your whole body, with a washcloth and cold water, then proceeding straight to your practices, You’ll find after a little while that it wakes you up smoothly and you feel much better for some time to come. As for psych drugs, of course that’s between you and your licensed health care provider, but if they’re not doing you any good, I wonder if you might consider finding a new MD who isn’t quite as pill-happy as average, who will help you wean yourself off the pills or at least dispense with the ones that don’t work…

    Soilmaker, the narratives that matter most are the ones that tell us who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going. Perhaps the most crucial task of our time is getting past the toxic narrative of Man the Conqueror of Nature, striding boldly on his predestined route from the caves to the stars, and finding narratives about people (not “Man”) as part of nature, participants in the dance of Earth’s biosphere, and — ahem — just one set of participants among many.

  92. Dolores, thanks for a cogent description of what’s happening where you are! As for ocean acidification, I didn’t address that this time around, no, because this month’s Stormwatch was specifically on climate issues. We’ll be covering links on other aspects of our predicament as the months proceed. and the state of the biosphere will get its share of discussion.

    Bumblebee, then you’ve got the people you wanted, to whom you can point when you’re challenged. Why not take advantage of that!

    James, good heavens. Thank you for finding this! I’m going to put a copy of the whole site up on the Blogs and Essays page here — who knows, it might be useful for somebody one of these days.

    Les, oh, granted. I don’t listen to JT albums anything like as often as I used to, is all. With regard to the attitude of local farmers to the Landcare group, have you tried sitting down over a beer or two with some of the locals and finding out what’s behind that attitude? In my experience, fairly often, there’s some actual reason behind the distrust — and if you find out what it is and figure out how to work around it, you might have much better results reaching out to them.

    Soilmaker, thanks for this. Yes, weather-related disasters are going to get some discussion, and more generally the rising economic burden imposed by the mindless pursuit of progress.

    Infowarrior1, Easter Island was a special case, being very small and isolated. If you look at other examples, you’ll find that nature is generally much better at bouncing back after human dieoff; the extreme example is probably the Yucatan rain forest, which was mostly gone due to overcutting for farming when the classic lowland Maya crashed and burned around 1000 CE, and within a few centuries had turned back into thriving jungle.

    With regard to drug abuse, I’ve actually talked about that in previous posts on the old blog. The role of drug and alcohol abuse in the demographic decline of post-Soviet Russia is pretty well documented, and I suspect we’ll see at least as much of that here, if not much more.

    Varun, you’ll get your swamps and forest! The frantic attempt to stay out of the current of historical change is a commonplace when civilizations fall; it always fails; and there are always people who have the common sense to sit back, enjoy the local equivalent of a gin and tonic, and wait for the swamps and the forest to return. 😉

    Birch, that strikes me as a very good angle to explore. One thing to keep in mind is that the climate change activism movement has tried only a very narrow range of tactics, and has demonstrated pretty clearly that they won’t work. That means (a) that we don’t yet know what will work, just that it’s not what’s already been tried, and (b) that if you see something that seems to hold forth a promise of better results, run with it and see how far you get!

  93. And a general comment: I’ve had to delete a number of attempted comments here in the last few days. A reminder of the rules that govern this blog’s comments pages is apparently in order.

    First, no profanity. Yes, that means NO PROFANITY. I’m not going to give warnings or, in most cases, edit your post for you; I’m just going to hit the delete button.

    Second, skip the disinformation, please. If you try to post a list of sites insisting that global climate change isn’t happening, or that the Moon landings didn’t happen, or that Druids roast and eat Christian babies, or what have you, your comment is going to be deleted without comment. If you keep on trying to post such things, or if you respond to the deletion with schoolyard insults, you may end up being banned.

    Third, don’t play troll-games — for example, redefining what I’ve said to try to score points, or engaging in flamebaiting. That’s the easiest way to get chucked out the door here.

    Fourth, this isn’t a place for you to market your own preferred ideology, or plan to save the world, or what have you. If you try to hijack the comments page of a post as a discussion forum for topics of your own choosing, you’re going to find yourself sitting on the sidewalk wondering what happened.

    It’s because of these, and the other simple rules posted above the comments screen, that we can have a pleasant place for conversation, uninterrupted by trolls, ranting zealots, self-proclaimed prophets, and the rest of the fauna that make so much of the internet so dull. Thank you, and we now return you to your regularly scheduled Stormwatch post.

  94. JMG,

    When reading you I often struggle with time and magnitude. On what time frame are you seeing things happen and what magnitude are you seeing things happen. This is a great example. There are some projections that say the first ice free Arctic may happen as soon as 2020. Now that might only be for a week. But that might start a feed back mechanism that might make that ice free period expand each year very rapidly. If that kicks off a Methane Clathrate release we might see a very rapid warming of a few degrees. Which might be enough to collapse our industrial society which would reduce global dimming.

    One can see where this is going (no place good). Does this mean the end of the world? Of course not. Human extinction? Nope. A really, really bad time that will look Mad Max (without the vehicles).


    The question is, “how soon do you see the next large tipping point in global warming occurring, and how big of an impact will it have on humans”?


  95. I think that melting Antarctic Ocean ice does not change sea level but ice melting from land masses does.This may be what the Germans are talking about. A glass of water with ice cubes maintains the same level of water after the ice melts.

  96. My wife, who works for a sewage treatment utility, was at a convention and ended up sitting next to the fellow who manages the storm water drainage for the City of Miami. As many here might know, when there is a storm surge in the Atlantic near South Florida the storm drains back up and flood parts of the city. So she asked him how much longer the drainage system would continue to be useful. He remarked that it would not be very long now before flooding happened a significant portion of the time. She then asked him what they were going to do about it, and he replied with a pained expression,”they don’t really like us to talk about it. “

  97. JMG writes: Bumblebee, then you’ve got the people you wanted, to whom you can point when you’re challenged. Why not take advantage of that!

    The truth is, I socialize as little as possible in real life. I call myself a hermit, and have been diagnosed with a personality disorder that coincides with it. If I were challenged, I would answer people’s questions. But the most common question is “What do you do for a living?” According to their value system, my answer is an indication of whether I am a contributing member of society or a burden.

    As such, are we expected to reduce our demands on the environment? No, we’re expected to find a job! If we have to drive an hour to commute to that job, then that is considered a perfectly rational and responsible action.

    In my day-to-day interactions, I’m not criticized or praised for being mindful of my impact on the Earth.
    I in turn, do not criticize others for their lack of concern for the Earth. It’s an indifference feedback loop.

    Finally, the people I speak of are marginalized by society. Their awareness and values are not necessarily similar to mine, yet I imagine there is potential for solidarity between us. If we did succeed in creating a new culture, it would be more than measuring our environmental footprints. There’s a whole set of assumptions and societal expectations to tear down.

  98. Years ago I was at our local library and the town’s official ‘nut’ ,long beard and hair. ill fitting 3 piece suit, often seen pushing a wheelbarrow up and down the main state thoroughfare, always empty, came in screaming… ‘”Head for the green hills! Head for the green hills! You know what, he was right, just 30 years early, a premonition. He got run over by a bus, wheelbarrow and all, true story. He saw what the rest of us couldn’t see. They called the cops on him and dragged him out of the library. He felt it, the disintegration, and tried to warn us. We thought he was nuts. We were nuts, for not listening.

  99. Reading the comments and reflecting people’s observations regarding beliefs (or denial) of climate change and how actual people react, I think there are some lessons to be learned.

    1. People respond much more readily to more local concerns that affect them personal and community level. This is why even climate deniers are shown to be willing to make lifestyle changes as long as it’s framed in local terms. Global warming? Crickets. Local weather getting crazy and unpredictable rains affecting the water supply? Let’s talk. Well, it’s not a guarantee that the response will be actually effective, but it’s much more likely to actually get any sort of action. This isn’t a personal fault among most people, per se, but simple human nature. We’ve evolved to think in individual and local scales. Global concerns, meanwhile, simply don’t register. We need to create abstractions so that we can scale our thinking globally, which has the unfortunate effect of lowering resolution and obliterating particulars (see what’s happening with the EU to see how much this can be a problem).

    2. The way to get people to prepare for impending disasters is to have them actually experience disasters on a regular basis. This sounds harsh, but it really isn’t, repeated practice is just how humans learn things. The difficulty with this is twofold: first, people will generally work to avoid disasters for themselves as much as possible (see how the affluent react), second, the regularity and scale of disasters are increasing to the point that many of us just won’t be able to keep up. Part of my job in tech involves systems administration, which includes stuff like “disaster recovery” (DR); most organizations with DR plans take a long time to recover from outages or hacking incidents just because it doesn’t happen and the procedures are never put through their paces. The most mature organizations actually have computer programs dedicated to randomly taking down major parts of their system as part of their disaster preparedness exercises (e.g. Netflix’s Chaos Monkey) and cope much better as a result.

    3. Just don’t talk about “climate change”. Small and particular concepts such as disaster preparedness, frugal living, organic gardening have the dual advantages of both being relatively small and therefore easy to live by example, and being untainted by ideology. Since the environmental movement got hijacked by leftist ideologues, talking about “global warming” or “climate change” will shut otherwise open ears among most people who aren’t with that crowd. This is unfortunate and doesn’t eliminate the problem, but the environmentalist movement itself has a lot to blame for in painting themselves (and the issue) into a corner. The success of same-sex marriage (mind you, I’m a Christian of a traditional bent who’s actually against this) shows that you can work on small particular goals towards a much larger one, without having to “convert” many to your religion and/or ideology, and yet be very effective in getting people to cooperate with your goals.

    Tl;dr, it’s much easier to get people to *act* than to make them *believe*, and much more important and effective. “Lord, when did we see you…”, Jesus says in the Gospels to those being judged, unaware that it was their acts and not what they professed that saved or damned them.

  100. Archdruid,

    Heh, that does make me feel better. I actually wonder if it wouldn’t be beneficial to help those swamps and forests make a come back with a little bit of strategic guerrilla gardening…



  101. I just wanted to quickly add that another problem with environmentalism being hijacked by leftist ideologues is that the leftist ideologues also tend to be members of the Cult of Progress; they even call themselves Progressives. This simply isn’t going to work because the beliefs are impossible. An analogy in the right wing would be professing Christians also being admirers of Ayn Rand…

  102. There is a good number of raw drives, which when activated preclude thoughtful conversation. Rage, exuberance, lust, disgust, and topical to this post tribalism. When ideas get closely associated with certain real or perceived groups of people, and we feel associated or antagonistic with that group, then clear thinking about that idea becomes extremely difficult. Similar to trying to have a conversation with a person engaging in behavior with make you feel disgust, or any sufficiently deep impulse.

    Today I was working at an organic farm, and the topic of climate change came up. At first the diversions came in two forms, first the view that natural cycles were cooling the Earth, and second the view that ‘They’ are using chem trails and such to make money and do evilly evil McEvilson type things. I didn’t bite on those lines of thought, and refocused on one of the empirical points which I could challenge them to confront personally if need be. The science of CO2. I have good historical records, written in the 1950’s attesting to the Earth having 1/8th of a percent CO2; and commonly available tools in our own era can record ppm for comparison. Indicating a change of .2% atmospheric concentration, but that sounds like very little, so I put it in terms that are more tangible. About 3.8 pounds per square foot; equal to a 33 foot thick layer of pure CO2 at one atm. Once I made it tangible like that, and pointed out that such a large change is certainly suspect, especially when we have reason to believe that the Earth’s climate is not inherently stable over long time periods the start of a real conversation happened. Then we needed to move tomato boxes, and it was over. But it was a real spark and a start. A rhetorical tactic worth mentioning is to say some things which exclude you from all of the camps you might be assigned to. Blaspheme in all the tongues of partisan thinking, and escape the categories.

  103. In addition to the cost of weather related disasters, there are many other issues that are affected by changing weather patterns. For example the Arab Spring was caused in part because of rising food prices. Today I saw some news that made me think about this again, and I wanted to share some of the dots I’ve connected.

    So here are the dots…as our planet heats up we are seeing more intense heat waves that are causing a relatively new phenomena called a “flash drought”. I first read about these in the spring of 2012 when high temperature and severe depletion of soil moisture occurred suddenly over the agricultural heartland of the U.S. Midwest, and withered recently planned crops in a matter of days. The term “flash drought” was first described in 2008 by Senay et al. and Hunt et al. but it had not been widely used, and for which there was no accepted definition.

    Normally droughts were looked at as a result of too little rainfall and they tended to develop over many years. But over the last ten years we have begun to see droughts that develop very rapidly (within a month or even a week) as a result of intense heat waves. They often occur over highly vegetated areas because of the evapotranspiration. Plants cool themselves by transpiring water so when the temperatures get hot, plants move a lot of water out of the ground and into the air. If rainfall has been down for even a relatively short period (a few weeks or a month) when a heat wave hits, the soil dries out rapidly resulting in a flash drought. Once a drought starts it appears to rapidly worsen. Flash droughts are now causing devastating impacts on crop yields and water supply around the world.

    I saw in the news today that a “Persistent Heat Wave Will Intensify Nation’s Worst Current Drought in Dakotas, Montana”– “A heat wave from the northern Plains to parts of the northern Rockies and Great Basin that’s likely to exacerbate the nation’s most rapidly worsening drought in parts of the Dakotas and Montana.” So what might be the wider implications of this flash drought?

    The drought that hit in 2012 drove up wheat prices so I did a quick search and found that yes, already wheat prices are going up. “Drought in a major drought in the Dakotas has caused spring wheat crop conditions to decline sharply in the past four weeks. That has lowered expectations for the spring wheat, a high protein grain used in artisan wheat foods like hearth breads, rolls and even pizza crust.” So we can expect a shortage of wheat and higher prices, and we should watch those countries that import wheat for possible instability.

    Another issue we should watch for relates to water shortages in the Dakotas. Fracking and the competition for water in the Dakotas is a serious issue. This story was published by Reuters in May 2013 “Insight: The fight for North Dakota’s fracking-water market—In towns across North Dakota, the wellhead of the North American energy boom, the locals have taken to quoting the adage: “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.” So if the current flash drought worsens in the Dakotas we can probably expect it will intensify the fight over water. The drought will also hit cattle ranchers in the Dakotas and Montana and negatively affect their herds.

    Another possible event to watch for will be wildfires across the prairie and a possible threat to the oil pipeline across the Dakotas. During droughts vegetation dies back producing fuel for wildfires started by lightning storms. During droughts dry storms become more common, where lightning strikes increase but rain decreases or is very spotty.

    Flash droughts are also becoming an issue in China. This paper was published a year ago in Nature describing “Increasing flash droughts over China during the recent global warming hiatus”

    In order to relieve water shortages China is reportedly considering plans to build a 1,000km (620 mile) pipeline to pump water all the way from Siberia to its drought-stricken northwest. Aside from the enormous cost and engineering involved in such projects, when two countries share economic ties it creates political ties.

    We are seeing more and more evidence that China and Russia, historic enemies, are cooperating on economic and political fronts. For example there have been recent news stories about China and Russia discussing the issue of North Korea. It is clear that neither of them want the US deploying the THAD missile defense in South Korea. It’s clear that China and Russia would very much like to decrease US influence in Asia and increase their own influence, which isn’t very conducive to democracy and human rights. What this will mean for Europe remains to be seen. But I think the US military and NATO is paying attention to these connections!

  104. I know this sounds weird, but when I was a kid I had lots of nightmares about running from disaster It is usually forest fires, occasionally house fires, or volcanos. Rarely nuclear explosions, dictatorships or one zombie apocalypse. I keep trying to warn others, and getting ignored most of the time, and having to run away from them alone. Sometimes others would actually see what I was on about and start heading away from danger too, but I very rarely saw whether they made it or not. Sometimes I’d make it to safety, but a lot of the time I would wake up before I found out, and rarely I’d get trapped.

    I still get the dreams sometimes, but they’re a lot rarer, and I’m a bit more likely to be trying to lead a small group rather than alone the whole time the way I was as a kid. Always lose people, though, always, and often they are people I care about, like my parents.

  105. @Varun

    Gardening in the cracks of empire 😉

    @ all

    With my successful run for city council, I am presently working on issues of front yard gardening (as in making it legal) and expanded homestead rights (in terms of allowable livestock) for large lots within the city (nominally, 2 acres+). Given the impact of climate change on global food production and logistics, the ability to grow one’s own food is of paramount importance.

  106. Just thought I’d check in … commented occasionally on the Archdruid Report.

    Of course, it is difficult to carry on a discussion of the effect of human activity on climate, as climate science has turned into climate politics, which is in the process of turning into climate religion…

    The denialist camp denies, to the point of telling bald-faced lies, as you have pointed out.

    But then there is the climate-change bandwagon, with all its baggage of global politics and attempts to predict the weather, with varying accuracy. The bandwagon plays a seductive tune, if in a minor key.

    It isn’t merely the weather that is affected by our burning of carbon (and destruction of forests). It is the …
    (taking time to re-read the essay … haha, “magnolias bloom in Ohio” — they already do, if I’m not mistaken, or at least they do in southern Indiana where I grew up and we had one as a landscape tree, in the ’50s)

    Umm, it’s a predicament.
    1 ) we aren’t going to do anything about it,
    2 ) it will take centuries to get the CO2 level down,
    3 ) weather predictions are tricky.

    If we had an infinite quantity of fossil fuel to burn, we would probably keep going until the CO2 level got to about ten times what it is now, and it started causing respiratory problems.

    What a world I live in, where I welcome peak oil and resource depletion to save us from the carbon apocalypse!

    Cheers, and fair breezes at your back for the new blog!
    (By the way, I piddled around with Linux 20 years ago, and returned to it in the last few years — it too, is encumbered with the necessity of progress. It has gotten much much more complicated over the years.)

  107. Fascinating hearing everyone’s personal experiences with climate change! Here in northwest Ohio, I’ve noticed something very odd with the daily weather report — high pollen count — EVERY SINGLE DAY, and we’re already into July! Never seen anything like that before…..and everyone is complaining that their allergies are worse than ever….

    I’ve also noticed something odd about the rainstorms we’ve been getting lately — usually they move from west to easy in a straight line — heavy downpour for 10 minutes or so with a gradual tapering off over the next hour or two. Now the storms are coming up from the south in a cyclical pattern, like remnants of a tropical storm. Rain storms now last all day….it’s all a little strange and unsettling.

  108. Just to add to that previous remark about Linux: there are some distributions which have been constructed with a goal of usability, and although the internals are more complex they are easy to install and easy to maintain and give you a nice desktop with all the familiar tools.

    Easier than any of the big corporate commercial operating systems.

  109. Dear JMG,

    In addition to what you listed El Nino may get stuck on or off, triggering megadroughts or superhurricanes. The Amazon rainforest may be close to disappearing in a rage of drought and fire that would impact weather systems around the world. The oceans may turn into a giant lifeless acid bath. Smog may cripple the hydroxyl cleaning service or shut down the Asian monsoon. And even in the absence of superhurricanes high sea surface temperatures make for more intense storms.

    It may actually came close to end of the world in the worse cases. The Syrian Civil War was quite possible the first climate war, driven in large part by a disastrous drought, and it won’t be the last. A place to look for next spark is Himalayas.

    It is not certain to be the end of a world of mythic narratives, due to what could be termed as “Enlightment Romanticism”, even in Star Trek society builds itself after calamities.

    Best regards,

    PS: I use Berke rather than Ahmet

  110. @Grebulocities

    I’d say pursuing graduate studies as far as you have so far has required a quantum of will.

  111. clay dennis. I was at a climate resilience seminar recently on Australia’s Gold Coast which featured with a representative from Miami Beach, Florida. From what i understand, that city’s strategy re stormwater and tidal flooding is to raise the roads a couple of feet, so they don’t get flooded, and put in pumped stormwater systems. They believe that will get them to 2050. At that point the city council will have to work out what to do next.

  112. We had a really bad winter about seven years ago here in West Virginia. It seemed like the sky constantly dumped snow on us! The previous snow wouldn’t have finished melting yet when we’d get another foot of it. My grandmother said that’s what the typical winter was like during her childhood in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

    I’ve noticed too that we don’t get as much snow as we did when I was a kid (except the year of the never-ending snowstorm, that is). We get a lot more rain in the winter though than we used to, because the precipitation isn’t freezing into snow. It seems to me that our winters aren’t as cold as they used to be.

    We also get more rain in the spring and early summer. I’ve started calling it “our spring monsoon season”. I think that might make early summer cooler than it used to be. July and August are still just as hot as ever.

  113. JMG& Soilmaker
    The USA is a big place and water (the hydrological cycle) of fundamental and increasingly critical (‘at the edge’) importance over very large areas especially affecting human habitation and crop production. (The latter as Soilmaker makes clear has global food implications.)
    Back in 2008 I was asked to provide a two-part contribution for The Oil Drum by one of the then editors Gail Tverberg. I found a heartening US example in Tucson Arizona to end my analysis. The account that I referred to is still available. More importantly Brad Lancaster is still going. Who knows when Arizona will become uninhabitable except for a few specialised desert dwellers, but I was able to say for the meanwhile: “It is beautiful.”

    Phil H

  114. @ corydalidae

    “BC has always had wildfire issues in the interior, but it is worse these days than it was when I was a kid in the 1990s.”

    The article you provided a link to indicated “Hot and dry weather across most of the province in recent weeks set the stage for wildfires to ignite…there hasn’t been rain in the region for weeks, and none is expected anytime soon. Instead, lightning and high winds are expected to continue in the area.”

    These are the conditions of a flash drought and the potential consequences. The northern forests face the added wildfire risk because of dead trees. Climate change during the last decade or so has caused warmer winters, which caused severe beetle infestations killing pine and spruce trees decimating northern forests. You are right that the fires are getting worse. The dry tinder from dead trees makes these fires much hotter and bigger.

    I found it interesting that the smoke from the BC fires had reached all the way to Indiana, where I live. Here is the NOAA website showing hazards from fire and smoke.

  115. @JMG
    I agree with you that we need to be ‘finding narratives about people (not “Man”) as part of nature, participants in the dance of Earth’s biosphere, and — ahem — just one set of participants among many.”

    One such narrative I’ve become aware of is the Human Microbiome Project It was established in 2008 as a result of work done sequencing the human genome. Scientists finished the human genome, looked around and wondered what to do next. Someone suggested sequencing the microbes that live in our body, the idea being they could compare the microbes on sick and healthy individuals and see if they were different. What they found astounded them, and it has blossomed into a whole new understanding of how microbes and humans coexist. It’s somewhat unfortunate that most of the funded research is focused on creating products for the healthcare industry to sell us, rather than proclaiming the simple truth that people will be healthier if they spend more time digging around in the dirt and eating food fresh from their garden! Oh, and fermenting stuff!

    As someone who is an avid gardener and composter I’ve been fascinated watching this story unfold over the last 9 years. It has given me much hope that science and medicine are finally seeing how interdependent we are on microbes. We need good news in the face of all the terrible stories we hear about the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.


  116. Dear David by the Lake, Congratulations on your win and best wishes going forward.

    Dear Bumblebee, I also am a hermit, having suffered most of my life from what I believe is severe depression, undiagnosed because I have never been able to afford more than rudimentary health care. I usually tell people I was fortunately able to take early retirement, which seems to be a socially acceptable answer, and one which stops further inquiry.

    Dear Lasagna, you might want to consider upstate NY, where there is affordable housing, rental or for purchase, a thriving local food scene, also a thriving local music scene. It is not Frisco in 1967, but there are very competent local practitioners in a variety of styles, from classical to big band to bluegrass and rock. If you like to party down, there are many craft breweries turning out excellent products, and sponsoring festivals and other events to promote said products. Our host said once that there are whole swaths of the country which our elites have simply forgotten about and I think the swath from outside Albany to Lake Erie might be one of them.

  117. Michae(l), the interesting thing, at least to me, is that the US military has been doing quite a decent job of tracking climate change for a while now. It’s their job to keep tabs on emerging threats to the US, and they do it tolerably well — it’s just that they have to pass on their findings to politicians, who, ahem, don’t have the same motivations.

    Anthony, everybody in this game struggles with questions of time and place. The only worthwhile answer to your question is “nobody knows” — and in all probability we won’t know until something big happens. We’re in the awkward position of knowing, as well as anybody can know anything, that industrial civilization is going down and that anthropogenic climate change is likely to play a big role in taking it down…but where, when, and exactly how? That can’t be known in advance.

  118. Wolfbay, perhaps so, but the Antarctic ice shelves aren’t the only ice that’s melting. Right now, rivers of meltwater are running across the Greenland ice cap, which is on land rather than on the ocean, and during the melting season just past, scientists in Antarctica watched a meltwater waterfall pour off the ice cap there for the first time since records have been kept. Thus the people who say that are right where it doesn’t matter and dead wrong where it does.

    Pat, you’re most welcome. Let me know how it goes!

    Clay, yep. And if they don’t talk about it, of course it’ll go away… 😉

  119. Bumblebee, the people who are currently marginalized by society are, to judge by examples from history, the people who will go on to found the next society, because they’re not invested emotionally in the status quo. By ignoring what the defenders of the status quo want you to do, and doing what works for you, you’re setting an example that at least some people — quite possibly the marginalized — can follow. That’s all I’m talking about. It’s not about attracting praise — it’s about doing what works, so that those who are paying attention (always the minority) have something to learn from.

    Dennis, I knew people like that back in the early 1980s — and of course I got labeled a nut, too, when I didn’t drink the koolaid at the beginning of the Reagan years. Most of those who didn’t fall into lockstep when the Boomers sold out their ideals got that sort of treatment…

  120. Carlos, good, That’s excellent advice.

    Varun, I’d be in favor of that!

    Carlos, ding! We have a winner. Exactly — and in fact a century ago, environmental conservation used to be a conservative issue, and liberals were all in favor of bulldozing the world into the shape they thought it should have. (Compare the number of pieces of environmental legislation passed by Republican administrations in the US before 1980 with those passed by Democratic administrations during the same period; it’s quite an eye-opener.) The shotgun marriage between the religion of progress and the environmental movement is headed for inevitable divorce; the only question is who ends up with custody of the planet… 😉

  121. Ray, excellent. That last comment is particularly good advice; most of the reason that I’ve been able to get any traction at all with my blogging, I’m convinced, is that I lambaste all parties equally.

    Soilmaker, thanks for the heads up. The “flash drought” is a classic example of an emergent property — something that unfolds from the interaction of many variables in a complex system, that couldn’t be predicted in advance, and that makes a mess of attempts to predict the future by way of linear extrapolation. I’m sure there will be more of them as things continue to unfold.

    Ojete, I remember it well!

  122. Corydalidae, pay attention to those dreams. Repeating dreams like that, though they aren’t often literally true, always have a message to communicate.

    David, excellent! Sounds like you’re putting your victory to good use.

    Jim, oh, granted. If the old playground rhyme had any validity, both the denialists and the climate change activists would have their pants on fire most of the time. It’s one of the complexities of the current situation that even the people who have (more or less) the right ideas can be counted on to mix those ideas with various toxic ideologies and the preservation of their own state of privilege…

    Steve, fascinating. Thanks for the data points!

  123. Berke — thanks for the correction, btw — oh, granted. The fact that we’re not facing the end of the world doesn’t mean that a future of climate change is going to be easy or pleasant. As I keep on pointing out, over the next one to three centuries, in all probability, the Earth’s human population is going to drop by better than 90%; that’s what happens when civilizations fall, ours is falling, and we can expect the usual rough ride down.

    Housewife, many thanks for the data points!

    Phil, and when Tucson stops being habitable by human beings, those methods may still be useful in the deserts of Kansas and Nebraska..

  124. Soilmaker, as long as that set of narratives remains in the hands of the scientific and medical community, it’s going to be put to work propping up the antithetical narrative that sees human beings as separate from, and constantly threatened by, the natural world. If people outside those industries seize control of the microbiome narrative, it’ll be dropped by scientists and physicians like a hot rock, as a threat to their privilege and financial interest, An interesting quandary!

  125. JMG,
    Re-reading my own comment, in which I said ‘predictions are tricky’, it sounded like I’m joining the denialists; I deny that I am.

    Here’s what I mean:

    In order for a storm to happen, the warm humid air containing future snow or rain must encounter a parcel of cold air. Air from a different altitude or latitude, or simply an atmospheric wave of some sort that allows the two air masses to mingle. Global warming may well make it more difficult for this to happen, by reducing the prevalence of cold air. So instead of more storms, we have fewer.

    Well then, a drought! Six years ago, Texas was in the grip of a memorable drought. I don’t know if it set any records, as this area has had some horrific droughts back in the early to mid 20th century. But we had a drought. And now we know that it was caused by a large patch of cooler than average water on the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a pattern of circulation that parked a zone of high pressure over the state. It was hot here, but it was not necessarily part of a global phenomenon.

    So when I say ‘predictions are tricky’ I mean that neither the denial nor the affirmative sides of the “debate” are served by pointing to a tornado or a patch of snow. Weather is quite a complex phenomenon.

    The most reliable prediction from atmospheric science is that in areas of low humidity (where the heat-retention of CO2 is not masked by the heat retention of H2O), less heat will escape into the cosmos. And further, this effect will be most pronounced at the poles, where low humidity and extreme cold are accentuated by extended periods of darkness every year. We might expect to see some dramatic changes at the poles. And sure enough, that is where we are already seeing dramatic changes.

    It wouldn’t hurt to be living at some altitude above sea level. By now, it’s mostly a question of whether it will be 5 meters higher, 20 meters, or more.

  126. I’m a long time reader and infrequent commentator. Glad to see your new sites!! I long ago reconciled myself to our eco destruction. We are not a species geared to yield our ego centric view of the world easily- and then only in the face of immediate, dire consequences- not slowly accumulated, less localized disasters. So- we have condemned this unique , magnificent complex biosphere to an unwarranted and earlier demise than would likely happen “naturally” .

    What do I do? is now more than just an existential exercise. It becomes the Coda of This Life . And once I settle that existential question [wrapped up as it is in the simple choice to live] then I must Act . Yes I still am politically energetic- I have too many kin and friends who require overt protection in a culture that threatens to target rather than to own responsibility . More importantly- I choose to live intentionally. Reject the urge to be a “consumer” , reduce my greenhouse gas footprint [i’m 85% solar heated and powered] reduce my meat consumption and plant trees [at last count , over 60], rebuild and repair tools, vehicles, appliances etc., and foster my relationships with others who place a premium on intentionality., on creativity and grounded spirituality.

  127. I look at my life now as an exercise in not only awareness but also nobility. We rarely celebrate those men and women who simply give up. We do seem to coalesce around the Frodo’s of song and literature…. hence my regular reading of Mr JMG.

    Brief nit to pick. The Larsen Ice shelf break up has, to my most recent reading, NOT been directly linked to climate change- seems to be a ‘normal’ phenomena . Don’t get me wrong- I long ago came to the conclusion that almost all climatic change models are too conservative and as the models become more refined I have yet to be dissuaded from that view. It’s just that I want to be careful in that whole causation/correlation thingy….

  128. Small Cory Enthusiast,

    I have recurring dreams/visions too. In one I walk out of a house into a corn or wheatfield, as an old man, look up at the milky way and then die. Considering our predicament, making it to old age would be pretty good so I’m not particularly bothered by this one. The other one – more a waking vision than a dream, has me raising my right arm and cutting my wrist to bleed onto a symbol – but I can never remember or see what that symbol is. It has nothing to do with self harm or suicide.

  129. JMG, here’s a slightly off topic question: If one does a magical ritual without knowing it’s a magical ritual, does it work?

  130. Modern politics is a funny thing. It wasn’t so long ago that concern for the environment used to be a conservative issue; incidentally, 50 or so years ago, the anti-abortion movement used to be quite liberal as well (and progressives themselves were much more openly religious). As Dennis and others observed, your politics could have remained the same in 30 years, some people would have called you nuts back then and a different set of people will call you nuts now. Anyhow, back to the topic…

    Conservation, conservative. conservatism, hmmm, sounds like they might be similar and related words, dontcha think? “Environmental conservation” is phrase I don’t hear much anymore compared to when I was a kid in the 90’s, watching the cheesy Captain Planet cartoons who, at the end of each episode utters his cheesy catchphrase “The Power is Yours!!!”.

    Having been thoroughly hijacked by the Progressive movement, I don’t hear much about conservation anymore and any planet-saving idea now needs to involve complicated technocratic solutions imposed top-down by some big government structure. The comments in that US Navy Facebook video that Michae(l) shared is telling: “it’s easy, take money away from oil and give it to renewable energy, the jobs can be easily redirected and what do we have to lose?”

    I wonder what the powers of the Progress superhero would be:

    “Gooooooo… PROGRESS!”
    “By your powers combined, I am Captain Progress!”
    …at the end of the battle…
    “The lifestyle is YOURS!!!!”

    Last week, I started re-reading Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. Paragraph 55 (controversial, funnily enough, for its mention of air-conditioning) is particularly relevant: the more efficient technology gets and the more “eco-conscious” people become, consumption actually increases instead of the opposite. This is the natural outcome of progressive ideology. I’m glad I’m reading it again, just going through the opening paragraphs gave me the chills!

  131. As JMG has mentioned on the old blog, economic output/prosperity is tied to energy consumption. Now, there is some leeway in this, as noted by the much higher standard of living in Western Europe compared to the US, in spite of the US consuming more energy per capita. Still, there’s a marked difference between the West and the third world, for good reason. The one thing nobody is willing to face is that the collapse of the West, particularly the US, and the global, dollar based economy, is going to coincide with a marked carbon footprint reduction as the US, and, to a lesser degree, the rest of the West, no longer consumes as much and its carbon footprint collapses in lockstep w/its economy. All the more reason for the US to fall on its own sword and to hasten the end of the existing order and the beginning of the next. The rising scarcity industrialism powers all have one thing in common, they use much less energy and consume much less per capita than the West, particularly the US.

  132. Umm, regarding everyone’s takes on changes in their local climate, a bit of advice (and I include myself, as well)–as volatile as the climate is, and is likely to be, don’t count on current trends continuing, they’re just as likely to abruptly change course as continue on the same path. We’re still in the period of “climate wierding/volatility”, and it’ll still be a few centuries before things stabilize out into a “new normal”

  133. Mea maxima culpa, the figures I posted here on CO2 per square foot were off by more than a factor of 10! The actual change in CO2 from pre industrial times to now is a change from 280 ppm to 400+ ppm. A difference of 120 ppm, which is .012 percent of the weight of the atmosphere. That means that we have “only” increased the amount of infrared insulation on the Earth’s surface by an average of about a quarter pound per square foot. That is still a lot, but vastly less than my earlier statement of over 3 pounds per square foot, which would be incomparably worse.

    Sorry about that, I had a digit off in my thinking earlier and didn’t notice it until I looked back at ‘Tours Through The World of Science’ by W. T. Skilling 1934 for old figures on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, where it is described as “The percentage of the air which is CO2 is only three one hundredths of one percent.”

  134. @ Clay Dennis, Matthew Griffiths and JMG

    I retired at the end of last year but before that one of my jobs was to collect weekly air samples. I went to the southern tip of Key Biscayne and set up the sampler on a low sea wall. Inland from the sea wall was about 25 yards of beach ending in a line of trees. In the last couple of years there were occasions when I couldn’t set up the sampler on the sea wall because the seas were too high or there was flooding. In one instance, I had to set it up right in front of the trees because the whole beach was flooded.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that we get more and more smoky days in the past few years. The smoke comes from fires in the Everglades and in the 40 years I’ve lived here I don’t remember such frequent fires until the last 10-15 years or so.

    Finally, when I drive through downtown Miami I see dozens of cranes building new high-rises. To anyone who is paying attention, it’s clear that sea level is rising and the flooding will just get worse with time, but they keep building just the same. When I see all those cranes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  135. Okay! I’ve been doing the first thing in the morning, with the cold water wash (hands and face only so far; a cold total cat bath has to be worked up to, even in a heat wave) devotion and meditation, and a bedtime earth-centered LBR in a form that came to me during a nap. It worked well the first day. The second day I had to see to the needs of the Furry One before starting, but otherwise no problem.

    Details on the earth-centered LBR on request. It’s extremely simple. Public posting or private message as you prefer.


  136. Soilmaker and JMG- For a wonderful (as in full of wonders, for me at least) description of the science emerging around microbiota, you might want to look at Ed Yong’s “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and A Grander View of Life”. The author does a fantastic job of broadening the scope of the book beyond “What makes us humans sick? What can we eat to live to be 1000? What can we harness to manufacture more stuff?”- in short, most reader’s initial anthropocentric viewpoint of microbes- and looks across many species and ecological communities to describe fascinating interconnections and evolutionary processes across many diverse lifeforms. Although Yong sticks to the science, without any spiritual or philosophical commentary, I found the book to be very supportive of the ecological systems thinking described in “Mystery Teachings of the Living Earth” (to anticipate next week’s discussion), and the scientific insight I gained reading it helped me shape some really powerful spiritual narratives for myself, of the type you are describing. Plus, it was just so interesting and well-written that I kept reading passages from it to my husband and kids and recounting it to my neighbors and friends. Read it and y
    you’ll be a hit at parties, guaranteed. 😉

  137. Everyone I know who’s up to date on microbiome research has gotten firmly into kombucha, kimchee, sauerkraut etc. Take that anecdote as you will.

    As for climate change, the local signs in the last 8 years or so in particular have been impossible to ignore, to the point that it’s costing lives. (eg. Longer and more severe bushfire seasons.) As such wilful denial seems to be prevailing sentiment.

  138. Storms here have been of the literal kind — no one I’ve talked to can remember a spring and summer to match. Luckily we’ve got a lot of drainage on the Canadian Shield, and the extra water has been coming in over time, not all at once… so little flooding, here. Downstream? Well, you’ve probably heard about that.

    We have had drought in past years, but I am hoping that our climate change will skew wetter as it has this year. With forest all around, dry years are dangerous — there’s not a village or township in this area without a plaque describing the time or two it burned to the ground, back a century ago. Flooding? I don’t have to live next to the river. We can flee to higher ground. If the whole township burns down, though… not much to be done, then. I can understand it causing nightmares!

    Good luck! Remember that an all-consuming wildfire is not something you prep-in-place for. Be ready to evacuate, with or without the official order.

  139. JMG,
    That’s a good point. As the earth heats up we will not be able to predict the emergent properties of the climate system.

    Regarding the microbiome narrative and the potential quandary…I think the new narrative will be an improvement over “the antithetical narrative that sees human beings as separate from, and constantly threatened by, the natural world.” I’ve extracted some of the new narrative from a recent article about skin care products based on the microbiome. Yes, the obvious focus is on commercialization but I think the underlying narrative is still there. It’s saying we are part of a larger system of life and we don’t need to fear it.
    “Studies carried out as part of the Human Microbiome Project suggest that a person isn’t so much an individual as a complex organism composed of both human and microbial cells… But the challenge is to translate that general knowledge into health and disease conditions and then to specific treatments. Even with the work undertaken to date, “we don’t fully understand the baseline of what a healthy skin microbiome is because it varies from person to person and even differs depending on a person’s age and environment,”

    Skin research consultant Dayan says she expects that scientists and cosmetic ingredient formulators will over time look more deeply into the “cross talk between the microbiome and human cells.” Understanding the complex community of microbes resident on the skin—and comprehending how those microbes can vary from individual to individual—can lead to the next steps in skin product development, she suggests.

    It’s uncharted territory for the personal care business. For years people have been taught to fear bacteria and knew of only the infections and illnesses they could cause. Time will tell whether the public is now ready to accept skin care products full of bacteria and turn microbiome-inspired cosmetics into the next big thing.”

    However, I take your point about narratives that pose “a threat to their privilege and financial interest”. I’m sure the skin care industry will push back hard when people stop using their products, preferring instead to dry brush skin and wash with water. But it’s the scientists that are already telling people it is the overuse of skin care products and excessive hygiene that is harming the skin’s microbiome.


  140. This a good read – many of the author’s observations could have been lifted from past Archdruid Reports. It is one of the first MSM reports I have read that confronts all of us- including the uberwealthy who believe New Zealand prepper bunkers will immunize them- with the stark reality of what lies immediately ahead.

  141. Dusk Shine, I should be all right. I’m on Vancouver Island, in the inner suburbs of the provincial capital, which is 300,000+ people. Most of the fires are in the BC interior. Here’s an update on the situation:
    There’s about 10,000 people evacuated and 220 fires burning. None of the fires so far are on Vancouver Island, though the air smells smoky and there are clouds.
    I think it was soilmaker who pointed out that the situation looks like a flash drought. I’d say he’s right. 20 temperature records were tied or broken on thursday, the day before this happened. The hottest spot was 39.7C! We aren’t expecting rain any time soon, either. This is early in the dry season.

  142. @ Heather in CA
    Thanks, I looked up the book, read some of the preview, liked what I was reading and placed an order for the book.

    I’m totally in agreement with you, this subject is very fascinating! The ability of microbes to communicate is really global, and the idea of ‘cross talk’ taking place between the cells of our body and the microbes that live in, on, and around us is breathtaking. If we extend this idea outwards across the whole earth, we begin to see a network of microbes gathering and sharing information across the entire globe. It makes me think about James Lovelock’s idea of Gaia, and I picture microbes and mycelia as the cells of a global nervous system adapting, adjusting, and responding to perturbations in the environment. I’m still not sure if there is such a thing as a global brain, but then maybe the idea that brains are important is a human idea!


  143. I guess the topic’s been on more minds than yours… unsurprising, as it’s getting pretty hard to ignore:

    Incidentally, I just completed Star’s Reach. Rocked my world! What a great book. It sucked me in as no piece of future fiction has done in years. I’d highly recommend it to all your readers who haven’t already read it, and I’ll recommend it to my irl friends too!!

  144. Food for thought.

    Maybe it’s just the time of the night but when I read the words “Standard of living” in a comment it caught my attention and set me to thinking. It’s an interesting term, ‘standard of living’ implying that there are rules or standards involved. We hear the term often but I really wonder what we mean when we say it. What does it mean to have a ‘standard’ of living? What is our personal standard of living? Was it a result of our efforts? What standard of living would we chose if we had a choice? What standard of living would be best for everyone? What standard of living would ensure that others may live at the same standard as ours? Does our standard of living equate to happiness, satisfaction or health?

    It seems obvious that every human on the planet cannot have the average American standard of living, although the range in standards of living is pretty wide. Does everyone deserve to have the same standard of living, which equates to the same access to resources? People use resources differently, so what would happen if we gave everyone access to the same amount? Somehow I doubt the experiment would be good. Do our actions make a difference in the outcome of our life? IIf we believe they do, then ‘doing the right thing’ implies there should be a reward for our effort. But what if we do the ‘right’ thing and still suffer a bad outcome? What if a person doesn’t make any effort and yet they win the prize? What if people make bad choices, don’t try to control bad impulses, or don’t want to work hard, do they deserve to reap the same reward as someone who does? Is the outcome simply luck, destiny, or written in the stars? Americans often talk about ‘rights’, but we tolerate a great deal of inequality in rights.

    What does work and reward mean, or progress for that matter? If each moment brings change, and life unfolds until we die, why do we believe we control outcome? Is this simply Anthropolatry?

    Sorry, it must be the time of night!

    cheers all,

  145. Here’s a relevant article:

    An excerpt, epitomizing the current worship of Man the conquerer of nature: “We have not developed much of a religion of meaning around climate change that might comfort us, or give us purpose, in the face of possible annihilation. But climate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.”

  146. @JMG

    Thanks, John. We will have to see what I can get through city council. Implementing some of these ideas may be an uphill battle.

  147. Dear Nastarana, I’ve had to come to terms with a growing sense of apathy. It began after graduating high school with my inability to choose a career. I worked other jobs that I had no interest in, biding my time until I discovered what it was I loved to do. This discovery never happened. I returned to school several times hoping to learn a trade or profession, only to self-sabotage my studies due to my lack of interest. In retrospect this was a bitter pill to swallow, because I expected that part of my identity would be job-related. When my financial resources ran out last summer, I contemplated suicide. It was an outcome that I’d foreseen decades earlier. I sought help because other than finances, I was not bored with my life nor did I feel depressed. Until my diagnosis I had no idea that I had a personality disorder, or that it was linked to my preference for solitude.

    I live in Canada, and thanks to our health care system, I was able to stay at a hospital for a psychological evaluation. For casual inquiries, I simply state that I’m on disability. With regard to mental health issues, there is greater awareness amongst the public and I don’t feel a stigma by acknowledging it. Whether it is wise to admit to a disorder when seeking work is an open question. But I’m not seeking work.

    I don’t know which country you live in. If it is a wealthy country like the US, then it is an injustice that you are denied health care services due to an inability to pay.

  148. Shane and others…. hot summers, severe storms, floods, those are weather not climate. The hottest summer on record is not an extreme climate event, it is an extreme weather event. Weather is the lines that zoom wildly all up and down the graph. Climate is the long term trend over time scales of decades and longer. Even “sudden catastrophic climate change” would take many years to play out. There is just too much inertia and momentum in the global climate system, especially the oceans, to change it drastically in a few years no matter what you hit it with. Breakdown of the thermos line circulation? Decades to manifest completely. Boiling of methane clathrates? Not going to happen all over the world all at once. And so on.

  149. Hi John, great website. Really happy with this format vs. blogspot.

    Another commenter (Curtis) shared a link – – and not sure if you caught it. All the same stuff we’ve already heard before, but this was quite something to read these “juicy bits” in a “mainstream, elite” magazine (not in order as it was written):

    “Several of the scientists I spoke with proposed global warming as the solution to Fermi’s famous paradox, which asks, If the universe is so big, then why haven’t we encountered any other intelligent life in it? The answer, they suggested, is that the natural life span of a civilization may be only several thousand years, and the life span of an industrial civilization perhaps only several hundred. In a universe that is many billions of years old, with star systems separated as much by time as by space, civilizations might emerge and develop and burn themselves up simply too fast to ever find one another. Peter Ward, a charismatic paleontologist among those responsible for discovering that the planet’s mass extinctions were caused by greenhouse gas, calls this the “Great Filter”: “Civilizations rise, but there’s an environmental filter that causes them to die off again and disappear fairly quickly,” he told me. “If you look at planet Earth, the filtering we’ve had in the past has been in these mass extinctions.” The mass extinction we are now living through has only just begun; so much more dying is coming.”

    “the many sober-minded scientists I interviewed over the past several months — the most credentialed and tenured in the field, few of them inclined to alarmism and many advisers to the IPCC who nevertheless criticize its conservatism — have quietly reached an apocalyptic conclusion, too: No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.”

    “as nearly every climate scientist I spoke to pointed out, the U.S. military is obsessed with climate change: The drowning of all American Navy bases by sea-level rise is trouble enough, but being the world’s policeman is quite a bit harder when the crime rate doubles. Of course, it’s not just Syria where climate has contributed to conflict. Some speculate that the elevated level of strife across the Middle East over the past generation reflects the pressures of global warming — a hypothesis all the more cruel considering that warming began accelerating when the industrialized world extracted and then burned the region’s oil.

    What accounts for the relationship between climate and conflict? Some of it comes down to agriculture and economics; a lot has to do with forced migration, already at a record high, with at least 65 million displaced people wandering the planet right now. But there is also the simple fact of individual irritability. Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation. And the arrival of air-conditioning in the developed world, in the middle of the past century, did little to solve the problem of the summer crime wave.”

    “Early naturalists talked often about “deep time” — the perception they had, contemplating the grandeur of this valley or that rock basin, of the profound slowness of nature. What lies in store for us is more like what the Victorian anthropologists identified as “dreamtime,” or “everywhen”: the semi-mythical experience, described by Aboriginal Australians, of encountering, in the present moment, an out-of-time past, when ancestors, heroes, and demigods crowded an epic stage. You can find it already watching footage of an iceberg collapsing into the sea — a feeling of history happening all at once.

    It is. Many people perceive climate change as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries — a helpful perspective, in a way, since it is the carbon-burning processes that began in 18th-century England that lit the fuse of everything that followed. But more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades; since the end of World War II, the figure is 85 percent. Which means that, in the length of a single generation, global warming has brought us to the brink of planetary catastrophe, and that the story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is also the story of a single lifetime…my mother’s: born in 1945, to German Jews fleeing the smokestacks through which their relatives were incinerated, now enjoying her 72nd year in an American commodity paradise, a paradise supported by the supply chains of an industrialized developing world. She has been smoking for 57 of those years, unfiltered.”

  150. “Phutatorius, I wonder how he’d respond if you suggested that global warming is God’s severe judgment on our pride, arrogance, and abuse of His creation…”
    Here! Here! JMG, Americans were once very fond of a vengeful, punishing God(s), and, IIRC, Ma’am Gaia is fierce, vengeful Goddess. We need vengeful, punishing god(s) to punish us for our wickedness…

  151. Oh, BTW, the weather report validated my intuition: they said that the average 90+ degree days for summer here is in the 30-40 range, while we’ve only had 3-4 so far…

  152. I know it’s late in the cycle, JMG, but wouldn’t the upcoming population bottleneck have an evolutionary effect on human population, in that many will die and not pass on their genes, while those who are best adapted to collapse and the future will procreate and pass on their genes? Wouldn’t that create an evolutionary pressure, and will self select for resilience and adaptability, among other things?

  153. What’s the worst that could happen? The Piri Reis map will be useful again; there will be some beautiful beachfront property at a slightly higher elevation on the Hudson Bay; and a genetic bottleneck will clean up some of the trash liberals have demanded that we allow to proliferate without a practical throttle of any kind. Sounds like a great way to get rich and/or die unlucky.

  154. I dunno, John, I’m a little bit agnostic on the climate change thing. The only climate seminar I have attended here in Philly a number of years ago produced a general consensus that climate follows a random walk. We may have good data that the past one hundred years has produced a data set that indicates global temps are rising, but that does not necessarily indicate that that is a trend that will definitely continue. Climate change is only measurable for certain in hindsight.

    From my own perch (research paleontology) we know that the climate of planet Earth is variable; sometimes over short periods of time (centuries). And I think it is also a given that the 900 lb. gorilla in the room that governs climate is the sun, followed very closely by the oceans. Man may or may not play a significant role in this process, but the degree to which that is the case is still uncertain.

    The degree to which real estate professionals are “relocating” their Florida properties may be motivated by popular perceptions (and misconceptions) as much (or more) as by hard data. For my part, personally, I’m pretty familiar with Florida. I was out on Pelican Bay in Charlotte Harbor last month. My host boated us out to a little sand spit there at the mouth of the harbor and we had lunch. The sand spit was no more than 6 or 7 inches above sea level. Later, I asked a friend of mine to show me exactly where I had been. He pulled out an old navigation chart and showed me the tiny sand spit where I had had lunch. The chart was frayed around the edges so I asked him how old it was. He said, “At least 25 years old.”

    I realize this is anecdotal, but that tiny spit of sand at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor, 6 inches above sea level, has gone exactly nowhere in over a quarter of a century.

    Now none of this is an argument that there is no such thing as global warming. My point is that the urgency some people place on this, and its relative position on the priority list needs to be carefully evaluated. In my personal opinion, we will be confronted with far more immediate crises in the years ahead than sea level rise and warming global temperatures.

  155. Soilmaker et al
    I didn’t see any mention of US Drought Monitor, updated weekly: It’s a useful overview of trends in that regard.
    I don’t generally check it that often in the course of my study and reporting on astro-meteorology, but I did in early June when we in the Twin Cities MN area had a flash drought after a very wet May that was also cool (breaking the two-year run of monthly above-average temperature). As a gardener who captures rainwater, I was frankly astounded by how quickly and how dry the top layers of the soil became.
    (By the way, I correctly anticipated that dry spell. I recommend to my few readers that they embark on similar studies of their areas’ weathers, from the perspective of the inevitably transitory nature of the current satellite- and computer-based weather forecasting system.)
    At that point in time, the extreme-drought area appeared centered on Standing Rock, ND — hmmm . . . right where water protectors were facing off with business-as-usual last year. Since then, that particular area has been growing, the drought intensifying. And the portion of the Plains region in drought is sobering. (American Spring to come?)

  156. private communication

    Here’s a possibility for next month’s Stormwatch, one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded has just broken away from Antarctica this week. It might be good time to talk about sea level change, storm surge due to sea level change, and migration away from coasts. There is also the sea level change caused by the expansion of warming ocean water.

  157. @ Fred,
    In my undergraduate geology studies we grouped geologists into soft rock, hard rock, and bone people (we actually called them bone heads but I’m being polite). The paleontology professors in our department were mostly beetle people and even in the 1990’s they were collecting data to show how climate was changing.

    In sedimentology class we learned that water moves sand and that spits along the coast or sand bars in rivers are in motion: forming, eroding, and re-depositing…their elevation and shape is always changing. So the fact that you are still seeing a sand spit in the same general location along the Florida cost probably isn’t a good reason to doubt reports by scientists that research climate change or predict storm surge and sea level rise along the Florida coast.

    My first professor in undergraduate geology in 1987 didn’t believe in plate tectonics. He was still a good introductory geology professor, even if his ideas weren’t current.

  158. @Shane W – the other face of the Good Goddess always HAS been Kali!

  159. @ Fred,
    “My point is that the urgency some people place on this, and its relative position on the priority list needs to be carefully evaluated. In my personal opinion, we will be confronted with far more immediate crises in the years ahead than sea level rise and warming global temperatures.”

    I don’t agree with you, but once upon a time I was also agnostic about climate change, and my husband has never let me forget it! In the mid 90’s much of climate change debate was centered on computer modeling. My agnosticism came from the fact that I didn’t like computer modeling and I didn’t like the bandwagon impulse, as in earth scientists seeking funding for “climate research”. I didn’t believe scientists knew enough to model the entire earth system. There were people in my soil science department modeling runoff and infiltration of storm water and they would say to me “We’re going to model water runoff and infiltration assuming soil composition is constant, rainfall is constant, and slope is constant, and then we get these results.” Since none of those assumptions are true, I had a difficult time believing their models could accurately predict runoff or infiltration. But it was also difficult for me because I was not fond of the mathematics needed for computer modeling. I much preferred to understand runoff the old-fashioned way…to go walking in the rain and observe water running. This is how I learned where to put pipes, where to put detention basins for infiltration.

    I also agree with you that some of the urgency (or doomsday prophecies) are unwarranted, and the proof won’t come until the conditions arrive. But I think the proof is here…warming temperatures are occurring and they are affecting the entire system. As someone well-versed in geochemistry I understand labile pools vs. fossil or sequestered reserves of elements. Fossil carbon underground is not labile, but when combusted becomes labile as carbon dioxide, so humans are affecting earth’s climate when we burn fossil fuels. Any geology student understands enough about chemistry to understand greenhouse gases. You must also realize that fossil fuels are being depleted and are not being reformed in human lifespan, so they will be gone at some point. All of this supports the idea that our climate is changing as result of burning fossil fuels, and that we will eventually need to transition to a different energy source if we want to maintain our ability to power our homes and businesses. You surely understand that fossil energy is more concentrated and portable than renewable energy and that this means we need to change our living habits!

    If you understand all this, I don’t quite understand how anyone who has studied earth science could be agnostic to climate change.

  160. Not apropos the conversation; I sincerely appreciate your commenting policy and moderation of the comments. It makes this a genial and pleasant place to converse, just as you said.

  161. Thank you again for helping me come to peace with myself. I am a climate denier. Or at least that is the tribe I would be put in if I ever opened my mouth on the subject in public. My issue has always been the oversimplistic pop-si cause and effect solutions with focus on ‘just give me power/money and i will fix it’ shenanigans similar to the thought process described by Soilmaker above. Anyone who says ‘The science is settled’ doesn’t know science or history and gives the process a bad name. The same is true of observing changes and flatly denying they are happening. I always assumed I was too cynical or didn’t know the right people (this last part is probably still true). But the ‘Man the Conqueror of Nature’ + the myth of progress explains both symptoms. I still have no idea what I will do about it but at least it is a start.

  162. Perhaps it was here that I shared a link to the Environmental Change Monitor database which I had hoped you would use as a research tool. It is a non-commercial venture compiled for its utility. I cannot help but wonder why it was deleted. What I really wanted was your feedback on the classification system which is designed to help people see the bigger picture.

  163. Given the lack of high-quality manufacturing jobs as result of American industrial decline. How do you think Americans that can’t find jobs should adapt?

  164. This discussion of a sand spit reminds me of Cape Cod, a place I have been and know a little bit about.

    Cape Cod and the Islands (Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard) are part of a terminal moraine. You can see the outline of the glacier that left them, on the order of ten thousand years ago (don’t have exact dates at my fingertips, but the geologists would know). Over geologic time, they are a temporary phenomenon. Another few thousand years and it will be reduced to sand bars and shallows on the continental shelf.

    One thing that kept the Cape above sea level in the past has been plant life. When Europeans first arrived, it was covered with scrubby little dwarf oak and pine trees. The beaches and dunes were held together by the roots of a tough salt-resistant grass, and bayberry shrubs. I believe the wild roses that live there now were a European introduction, though I’m not sure of that.

    A beach I used to know and love as a child, and then as a young adult, has been reduced to a narrow strip of sand along the road. It is in a little cove, and separates the seawater of Vineyard Sound from a brackish tidal pond nestled in the notch of the cove. Soon it will need be periodically ‘nourished’ with imported sand to keep the road from being destroyed. Eventually the strip of sand, and the road it supports, will be gone, salty sea water will wash into the tidal pond, and Nobska beach will be located further back into the cove. (without any sea level rise at all).

    The Cape is also the location of perhaps the earliest environmental regulation on this continent. After the Pilgrims (a group of religious fanatics that could give the Islamic State a run for its money) “landed on Plymouth Rock” in 1620, more and more people kept coming to settle around Boston. Through the 1600s they were setting up farms on the Cape, clearing the scrubby vegetation. Since there isn’t really any topsoil there, just sand, they planted grass and ran cattle on this commons. Within a few decades, by the mid-1600s, it became obvious that the scrubby vegetation had been holding the sand in place, and within the living memory of the human residents, the Atlantic had almost reclaimed the width of the peninsula from what is now the National Seashore, right through to Cape Cod Bay at Wellfleet. The whole of outer Cape would soon disappear.

    So a law was passed forbidding the running of cattle on the commons. They could actually accomplish such legislation back in the 1600s. Eventually the grass and scrub returned to hold the sand in place.

    Of course a 5-meter rise in sea level from a melting Antarctic and Greenland will quickly render most of the Cape from Orleans to Provincetown as a submerged sand bank, and a 20 meter rise will eliminate the entire Cape and Islands, as I don’t believe any point on them rises to that altitude. Perhaps a few scattered boulders will stick out of the water at low tide..

  165. OK, so I’m a little behind on posts, but thought I would share our area’s global-weirding weather. I live in shrub-steppe desert, 7″ of precipitation PER YEAR on average – with an inch of snow in winter on average. This past winter we received snowstorm after snowstorm and ice storm after ice storm (schools here had to close for a total of 10 school days due to storms) and, more than once, we had more than 12″ of snow on the ground.

    From May 1 through October 31, we usually receive a combined total of 2″ of rain. A freak storm cell showed up here about two weeks ago, delivering multiple lightning strikes to homes and the ground and delivering one inch of rain IN AN HOUR (anybody else ever experienced an inch of rain in an hour? It’s not for the faint of heart.) They had to close a main arterial road because there were cars FLOATING on it. In the desert.

    Fortunately for me, I’m big into learning about seed saving right now, and have several trials of flint corn going. I’m happy to say that all but one bunch was still standing, with ears intact. Keepers.

  166. I think we have a deeper unconscious force operating within us than the aniexity of giving up of our domination of nature and our extravagant lifestyles and that is the denial of death both individually and collectively. Climate disaster equals death. And that is unacceptable. We must pretend it can’t happen.

    I have missed the weekly Archdruid Report – just found this and it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling like coming home after a difficult journey.

  167. I am a little surprised that readers of JMG would have ANY faith in Government’s ability to control the climate. They are short term opportunists that care about the next election cycle. I think all the hand wringing and treasure spent on “stopping” or “reversing” climate change would be far better spent on adapting our infrastructure and economy to adjust to the changing climate.
    On the positive side, rapid, catastrophic climate change should cut the mankind generated greenhouse gas emissions down quite a bit when the human population falls to a small fraction of its current total.

  168. Well, multiple things here-

    First- Thanks for all your work. It is simply indispensable. I will be a steady purchaser of your books, month by month as my wee budget allows.

    Second- Thought it might be of interest to note that the weather changes I’m seeing in Atlanta line up with what someone earlier in comments described in Kentucky. Less winter cold every year. I expect this year to be the one when it finally just never dips below freezing at all. Summers meanwhile have become as waterlogged as they appear to be in Kentucky.

    When it is this hot and humid rain can be very welcome indeed. Yet I also learned a couple of years ago that every crop this state produces at large commercial scale had failed because of the rain. I don’t know if things have gotten better or worse on that front in the time that has passed since I read that post. I’m also not sure how much that does/does not impact local urban people.

    Third- This link just because it is funny.

  169. Soilmaker and all

    I echo your doubts regarding computer modeling. As the chief “green” agitator in my architecture office, I have established the energy modeling practices that we use to help analyze and hopefully guide our design decisions.

    For those not nerdy in the ways of energy modeling, this basically means that we create a three dimensional digital model of our proposed building, complete with the assigned thermal properties of the glass, soild walls, heating and cooling systems, electrical lighting systems etc. We then acquire a weather data file for the site (or as close as possible) which contains the historic average hourly average record of sun position, cloud cover, humidity, temperature, etc. for an entire year. These data bases are then fed into an energy simulation software which creates a prediction of how the building’s cooling, heating and electrical systems will respond to maintain a given thermal comfort within. We then begin to tweak the design to test for the lowest energy-use building.

    Sounds like a great tool for making better design decisions and better buildings right? This is how it is marketed. I wonder if anyone here can spot the glaring problem with the procedure?

    If you said, “Wait a minute, what good will testing the proposed building against “historic average” records do?”, you get a to-furkey dinner!

    The terrifying thing is, when I bring this up with the few industry leaders of this that I know, people who have dedicated themselves to sustainability, I get nothing but crickets or embarrassingly raised shoulders. The blind spot here seems to be a cryptic devotion to progress and scientism.

    I dare not raise this with the partnership in my particular office as they would scoff at the whole practice and expunge the entire process from our practice. You would not believe the badgering I have to do to keep sustainability on the agenda.

    This has me looking at similar ways to ” take a walk in the rain” with respect to architecture. It seems to me that we will have to develop buildings that will be adaptable to changes in wind direction, rainfall, and temperature throughout their lifetime, not just to pass some local code requirement to get a building permit. As an architect, this would mean maintaining a connection to the work we make long beyond the completion of construction. It would reframe practice into a lifetime of adaptation and engagement. To me this in a refreshing set of issues to address with buildings, far more impactful than the academic navel gazing currently in fashion.

    In the future we will develop a whole new appreciation for shelter.

    Black Birch

  170. @Black Birch,
    It sounds like the success of your industry has overtaken the original goals of the business, sustainable building construction. This seems to happen when a business becomes successful, grows too large and begins to value uniformity above innovation. Innovation comes at the beginning, but later corporation require uniformity so they can’t control their ‘brand”. The original purpose is less important than marketing image.

    Have you ever read the book “The Timeless Way of Building” by Christopher Alexander (1979)? I really enjoyed the author’s idea of what it means to be a builder. He is very Taoist in his approach.

    I applaud your thinking about maintaining a connection to the buildings you have designed. It seems strange that this isn’t a natural inclination for anyone who designs buildings. I think it would also be a good way of demonstrating that your company’s designs really do what you say they will. But I can’t quite see how buildings would adapt to changes in climate variables. Perhaps you could share some of your thinking.

    I do know that landscaping helps with home energy conservation. Trees and shrubs reduce wind velocity across the structure and thus reduce heat loss in northern climates, and they provide shade in summer and thus reduce heat gain. Walking under our solar panels I notice how much they cool the air as they absorb the sun’s energy. With all the new materials they are making solar panels from, it seems like builders could incorporate solar panels to both cool and power a building.

    I love some of the older home building designs that incorporated passive solar measures because at that time people didn’t have air conditioners or central heating powered by electricity or gas. Things such as deep verandas for summer shade, and thick adobe (or straw bale) walls in hot climates. South facing sun rooms and stone walls to capture warmth in colder climates; storm windows and storm doors, a small entry room to keep cold wind from entering too. Central fireplaces.

    In Kentucky we saw a cold storage building built in the 1800’s. It was a large circular, double walled structure built 25 feet into the ground. There was a stairway going to the bottom, shelves on the walls, and access to the space between the walls from ground level. During the winter people would shovel snow into the space between the walls, layering it with straw. As the snow got deeper and deeper it would compact under its’ weight forming ice. The last two to four feet were covered with straw. The space inside remained cold well into the summer months providing ‘refrigeration’ for food stores. The floor was gravel allowing the melting snow to infiltrate the ground. A clever way of using snow when you don’t have a lake nearby to cut ice for ice boxes. These ideas remind me of the book “Green Wizardry”!

    Good luck with your ideas,

  171. @infowarrior1
    “Given the lack of high-quality manufacturing jobs as result of American industrial decline. How do you think Americans that can’t find jobs should adapt?”

    You have asked, in my opinion, the most pressing question facing our country and probably many other countries as well. The middle class lifestyle was a result of cheap oil and high-quality manufacturing jobs. And as long as we rely on an economic system that requires money in exchange for goods and services, we need a job. Low-quality jobs barely supply a lifestyle of “working poverty.” Adaptation to climate change is always going to be easier if one has to resources needed to change their lifestyle.

    How to adapt without a job is an excellent question and I have only some rough ideas. I think the answer will be different depending on your age, marital and family status. If I had a family to support I would probably look to move to a city where there were jobs and I would try to find programs for job training. It seems that small manufacturing businesses are starting to grow in some cities and they are looking for workers with technical skills, such as welding. I recently heard a story in the news about a successful manufacturing company in Wabash, IN that can’t find enough workers. I know of a similar situation in my community. So, I think there might be some new opportunities if you are willing and able to move and if you can get some technical training. But, yes, that will require money to move.

    I think every family or person out of work has time to be growing food and cooking. And the nutritious fresh food will keep you healthy. There are also wild foods that you can gather. I eat a weed called lambs quarter that is rich in protein and minerals. Sauteed with garlic or stewed with potatoes, onions, and a small piece of meat it can make a very nutritious and inexpensive meal. I would look for ways to buy what I need as cheaply as possible. Goodwill has really inexpensive clothes and household goods. I can afford to shop at other stores but I still like to donate and shop at Goodwill.

    I know of people living in rural areas that have allowed people to live on their property in exchange for labor. During the Great Depression farm hands worked for food and lodging and were lucky to find positions. I would look for ways to pool resources such as living in extended family/friends options. We need to be rethinking our living arrangements and finding ways to cohabitate. There is a large number of aging baby boomers that would like to stay in their home, need help around the house and yard, and have several empty bedrooms. The key to cohabitating is that everyone needs to contribute their labor.

    When access to resources is reduced it becomes even more critical that we are able and prepared to work hard, spend less, and plan carefully. A cell phone doesn’t have to be a smart phone. Smoking costs money and reduces health. Junk food leads to depression and bad health. So learning to grow food and cook with less expensive vegetable ingredients (i.e. less meat) will save money and keep you healthy.

    I don’t think it is helpful if someone without a job, living in someone’s basement or sleeping on a friend’s couch, is spending time on the computer protesting the inequality of income and opportunity. I would never limit their freedom of speech, but if it were me, I’d be working two jobs, saving money, and planning my move out. The future is not likely to be kind to anyone unwilling or unable to help themselves. And we are not likely to have government programs that help us either. The harsh reality will be that if you can’t eat and shelter yourself you will likely die.

    Not so cheery,

  172. @ Soilmaker

    Apologies for the delayed response, Yay Windows’s update : ) !!!

    I have read Christopher Alexander’s “A TImeless Way of Building”. It is full of great wisdom on building well. I find it interesting that the academic training from most architectural schools makes writing such a book necessary, blinded as the training is by “Modernism” and its generations of “progressive” technology adherents and the ghosts functional fascism.

    I recently came across “The Barefoot Architect” by Johan van Lengen, a dutch architect who relocated to Brazil years ago and started working from a deeply ecological perspective. The simple building methods he documents along with the “Alexandrian” approach to human interaction is inspiring to me. With the building types focused on tropical wet, tropical dry and temperate climates, it will very likely be applicable to the future in the US! This book has a delightful sense of being displaced in time, as if it were written by a member of The New Alchemists but published 30 years later. It is an exquisite piece of appropriate technology writing.

    The cold storage building you mention is fascinating! I will do some research. It reminds me of a similar but much less complex building I saw in a preserved shaker village in western Massachusetts. People had a need to keep things cold and created incredible structures to achieve it. We will be doing this again.

    In the 1970’s, the British architect Sir Alexander John Gordon proposed that good buildings in the future be make to have ” Long Life, Low Energy, and Loose Fit”. If followed, this would lead to the types of climate adaptation through time that I am thinking. One could make the base structure from stone or concrete (important that it be designed to not use steel rebar) and sited in a way to work best with the sun. The remaining enclosure would then consist of recycled timber roof structure and wooden wall infill between the concrete to stone structure. This infill would then be adapted/ replaced as need and climate dictate. We cannot predict how the wind and water patterns will change over time but we can construct building to be “loose” enough to be partially and easily reconfigured as needs change.

    In the profession at the moment, there is very very little thinking along these lines. Most firms want to get out of the construction process as quickly as possible and rarely engage buildings once they are completed. This is mostly a consequence of the legal liability issues that rightly terrify most firms. My guess is that the “profession” will ultimately collapse into the construction industry which will transform back into a guild system. The legal system will likely undergo a similar contraction making everything much simpler while creating more room for long term engagement in projects.

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