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11/07/2012

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adam

This is why I tend to think of humans as being more akin to cyanobacteria than anything; we produce a gas that will profoundly change the world, but have no free will (as a species) to change it. It's just what we do. Same thing with development - we destroy those coral reefs and estuaries and such because that's what we do.

What kind of civilization does this? What species would do this? Well, the cyanobacteria dumped oxygen into the air until it finally built up and killed most of what lived at the time. Are we different, or do we just look different?

James

We are bigger and actively enjoy killing things. Does that count?

PROGRESS!

NoHype

@ Adam: we have outliers within our population, unlike cyanobacteria. What's fascinating to me is that our success as a species is directly attributable to the existence of these outliers (people who don't behave like most people). Our success in surviving bottleneck events is because of, not in spite of, them. Yet, here we are in a place and time where the outliers have no apparent relevance one way or the other.

Am I wrong on this? Am I unable to see where a small subset of people (exhibiting counter-species-specific behavior patterns) would be able to reverse the madness before it's too late?

Ben

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/gordon-g-chang/western-engagement-meets-chinese-obstructionism

Gordon Chang:

Last Thursday, two weeks of talks to establish a 640,000-square-mile sanctuary off the coast of Antarctica ended in failure as three nations—China, Russia, and Ukraine—blocked agreement. The 25-member Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will meet next July in Germany to see if it is possible to resurrect the US-New Zealand proposal to protect the Ross Sea, “the world’s most intact marine ecosystem."

Chinese officials delighted in stopping the plan to create a preserve. As an unnamed official told AFP, “I think there was a little bit of ‘Don’t tell us what we can or can’t do,’ as well as keeping their options open.”

Chang predictably blames Chinese obstructionism, rather than human obstructionism, for many of the problems the world faces. But I thought it was an interesting read, so check it out if you want to.

Oliver

Whichever way you look at it, we are all (as far as I know) part of the gene pool that achieved global "dominance" at the expense of a colossal proportion of the rest of the natural world. Think of us as the descendants of thieves and marauders who raped and pillaged and laid waste to everything in their path. (Americans and Britons in particular can grasp this point via a rudimentary awareness of their country's history, but on the larger scale all Homo so-called sapiens are party to the vicious millennia of carnage that included the "clever" elimination of our physically stronger Neanderthal cousins.)

Today, human society still lauds the Alpha Male - who is nothing but the most self-centered and ablest destroyer in the pack. They may look as comical as Donald Trump, but they are examples of Darwinism at its finest.

It is therefore unsurprising that we are where we are today, presiding over a shit-on-our-own-doorstep environment that is really tired of us and will respond in fitting manner in due course through some form of natural correction.

All talk of changing our "civilization" is redundant. We can no sooner try to change the way we are than a slug can try not to leave a trail of slime.

The smart answer might be to pull the plug on ourselves, but I'm sure the vast majority would rather remain exactly the way they are - striving to amass worthless currency and silly possessions while the tableau that is their home planet degrades until it reaches the point when it must slough off most of us to cleanse itself.

Mike Roberts

Good stuff. I've never really got into Dark Mountain but I'm kind of gelling with the ideas of Derrick Jensen and (when I can fathom them) John Zerzan. Of course, environmentalists have taken the wrong track. Yes, Wild Bill, et al (mostly), just don't get that civilization is killing the planet (the only one we know can sustain life). It's difficult to see any other relatively immediate future that doesn't involve a collapse (whether it is slow and grinding or hits some unknown tipping point). Given that all civilizations have collapsed, it's a wonder that the lesson never gets learned (or perhaps it isn't since this may be the first that has some knowledge of those other civilizations).

I really can't get a clear idea of how events will play out though it sure looks like it will be messy. In some ways, I wish we hadn't had kids (only two!) because then the future may not have mattered quite so much. But when I look around (given my admittedly limited view of the world) pretty much no-one (given a population of 7 million) realises what we're doing to our only home.

Brett

We humans are venturing into new territories of scale, courtesy of carbon, that it will be a shit storm so vast that I wonder if any leadership will rock the boat. How long can the house of cards known as global finance, the petro-dollar, accounting fraud and the bread and circuses that keep it running...keep running? Just looking at graphs it's easy to see the exponentialism, and to know it's not sustainable, but how long can the bandwagon keep rolling just throwing the losers off the back?

Class warfare and starvation got the French pissed off a long time ago, and has many other times, but when it's global in scale, how can it be stopped? How long can Keynesianism go? Is everything just going to be inflated? Food gets shittier cause there's less real food, money gets shittier for the same reason, jobs get shittier, people are worth less too with more of them, how will it and my rambling end?

Brett

To add:

Every revolution in history had the desire of "more" in the ranks of the people. More freedom, food, wealth, whatever. With resource limits now in view, and overshoot now apparent, who would revolt for a new system (say, anywhere in the West or rising East) where "less" is the desire? Voluntary sacrifice on a social scale? Completely different way of life virtually overnight? The end of "jobs" via capitalism?

Would a collapse be enough to kick people in the face to change? But can't the Keynesians stave off rapid collapse?

Gail

I have been getting more information from my son-in-law, the Romney fan. He started a company out of high school that involves a lot of gigantic, fossil-fuel reliant equipment and machinery. The first day after the storm I was surprised (and so was he) that he hadn't been called upon to help. He says that is because the "authorities" are so fucked up they had no idea what was coming. Now he and his employees are working literally around the clock, no questions asked about money, whatever you want, just do it. He delivers transformers and poles and has cranes and so forth and describes the effort to restore power as "chaos".

One thing he expects to do soon is dismantle factories on Staten Island and the along the shore that were ruined from the surge. Meanwhile his regular work is on hold. For instance, NYC used to retire old subway cars by taking them out to sea on a barge and "making reefs" with them. The environmentalists complained, so now he has a contract to haul 2 cars/week out of the Bronx for the next few years, for quite a pretty penny. They get taken apart, the metal is scrapped and the toxins - apparently there is quite a bit of that - get buried somewhere in Ohio.

Such is our real world that most of us rarely see.

Oliver

Gail - And what do Ohians think about New York toxins being dumped in their ground? Or maybe they don't even know this reality.

john c. wilson

Paul Kingsnorth is dreaming about an idyll on a planet inhabited by perhaps 100 million humans. 500 million? Makes no difference. There's no way to get from here to there. Even a magic virus that quickly dispatched 95% of the present population would not do the trick. The environmental heritage of the past century will make life difficult for any survivors. Absent any new emissions of carbon the planet will still warm for decades. Most of the feared feedbacks will occur without any new emissions. The warm, lifeless soup is coming to the oceans regardless.

For whatever time we have remaining here Kingsnorth is right that it's foolish to spoil the view with gigantic wind towers. They're obsolete anyway and only continue to be built in that style because a builder always likes to build a big phallus.

don

I see thinkers like Kingsnorth and Derrick Jensen as missing the boat in one very large respect: they correctly look to the crisis as systemic, but then go on to say that the problem can be distilled down to culture, to values. Change the values and we'll see social change, and then perhaps reason to think humanity can get itself out of this mess. Values themselves are seen as the first principle from which all else follows. This idealism has serious philosophical shortcomings, for one can easily argue that values themselves are a product of something much greater.

Never in his discussion on the video does Kingsnorth address capitalism, and the systemic need for infinite growth (even with occasional creative destruction), nor the class system that is at the base of the global economic and political system. Such an oversight is as problematic as is those of the radical left who fail to see that there exists a human overpopulation 'problem', such as David Harvey, who otherwise has much to say.

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