After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to stop publishing DOTE on Friday, July 26, 2013, at least on a daily basis. (I may or may not publish sporadically thereafter.)
I am giving you three weeks notice. I will explain my decision (in part) by concluding some unfinished business with John Emmott, whose views I considered in What Are Our Options? I will also comment on John Gray's review of Emmott, which only reinforced my decision to quit.
Emmott says the following at the end of his essay.
Science is essentially organised scepticism. I spend my life trying to prove my work wrong or look for alternative explanations for my results. It's called the Popperian condition of falsifiability. I hope I'm wrong. But the science points to my not being wrong. We can rightly call the situation we're in an unprecedented emergency. We urgently need to do – and I mean actually do – something radical to avert a global catastrophe. But I don't think we will. I think we're fucked. I asked one of the most rational, brightest scientists I know – a scientist working in this area, a young scientist, a scientist in my lab – if there was just one thing he had to do about the situation we face, what would it be? His reply? "Teach my son how to use a gun."
Emmott explains himself in this Q&A subtitled "wind farms are not the answer to our problems."
Is your conclusion, that "we are fucked", a good place to start the debate from?
The problem is that I don't see much debate happening. So it's hardly surprising that I think we're fucked.
The whole point in writing the book is to try to get us to think about the problems we face in a way we just haven't thought about them before, and hopefully to act as a catalyst for a global debate. But this needs to be a different debate than just some one-dimensional discussion about "population" or "climate" or "going green". The debate we urgently need to have is about us – about how billions of us live, behave, consume irresponsibly, about how billions more want to live, behave and consume. And about how another 3 billion that have not yet been born will, or want to, do the same.
Emmott's first point—there is no serious debate or discussion about the human-caused destruction of the biosphere—is largely true with one egregious exception. DOTE is that exception. But Emmott has never read DOTE of course. And neither has John Gray. And neither has ... you get the idea. Reading some obscure blogger without proper credentials—he's probably a nutcase—would be beneath them.
Not only have I explained in tedious detail over the last 3 years why humanity seems to be fucked, but I have tried again and again to explain the deep roots of why humanity is fucked, i.e. why humans are not capable of changing their behavior. So Emmott wants to get a discussion going that has already taken place on one very obscure blog with a dedicated but very small following.
And by the way, I have also explained on DOTE why people do not think about the problems we humans face, as Emmott wants them to do, and why there is no general debate about the Human Future. Emmott is still talking about the debate "we urgently need."
In short, DOTE is effectively invisible. I am not accomplishing much here. I am keeping myself busy. Since you do not write this blog, you can have no real idea how being invisible makes me feel. All this stuff appeared in The Guardian, as does John Gray's review (below). Nobody is asking me to summarize my views for The Guardian. And there's more insulting stuff right here.
You presented Ten Billion on stage at the Royal Court in London last year. Was the theatre a good medium for this message?
It was enjoyable. The obvious limit of theatre is that it imposes a fairly heavy constraint on getting the message out – only a small number of people can listen. Interestingly, overwhelmingly, the people who came to speak to me at the talk, and everyone in my lab, and all my friends, all said: "Everyone should hear this message. You must write a book." So I did.
Take a moment to try to imagine how that quote makes me feel. Everyone should hear this message, Emmot is told, you must write a book. So he did. Jesus!
If Emmott, after his talk on stage at the Royal Court, needs a publisher, no problem! He easily gets that publisher, writes the obvious book, and the next thing you know John Gray is reviewing him in The Guardian. Easiest fucking thing in the world! Like falling off a log!
Needless to say, I was not invited to give a talk at the Royal Court. I don't have a publisher. Hell, I don't even have a pot to piss in. I could go through the exercise of self-publishing, which would only make my humiliation complete.
In one go at The Guardian, Stephen Emmott and John Gray got more readers for their incomplete thoughts on whether humanity is doomed than I could possibly get in a year of trying.
And if I say that I am light-years ahead of Stephen Emmott in thinking about the problems he discusses in his book Ten Billion, which I am, I simply come off sounding like an asshole. Lose-Lose!
At this point, you might be saying "Dave just wants some notoriety and attention." Well, clearly, some part of me does want those things, but what I really wanted when I started this blog is an interesting life, and laboring day after day in impoverished, frustrating obscurity does not offer it.
And if I say that I am well ahead of political philosopher John Gray in thinking about the problems Emmott talks about, I simply come off sounding like an asshole again. This is Gray talking.
Emmott's short, highly accessible and vividly illustrated book marshals compelling evidence that "entire global ecosystems are not only capable of suffering a catastrophic tipping point, but are already approaching such a transition". He sees only two ways of dealing with what has become a planetary emergency:
"The first is technologising our way out of it. The second is radical behaviour change." Emmott is skeptical about the first – particularly geoengineering schemes, which he views as highly risky – and sees no evidence of any readiness for radical behavioural change.
Yes, for a long time now, I have explained why humans always "prefer" technological solutions to their problems and why changing their behavior is not an option. (The word 'prefer' is in quotes because I don't think humans are making choices about how they approach the huge planetary problems they have created.)
Are we fucked, then? Well, it's clear we're in for a pretty rough time. The physical systems of the planet look like [they are] becoming more dangerously unstable. As Emmott explains [blah, blah, blah]...
As I have explained over and over again on DOTE.
... While the planet is changing at a rate unknown in human experience, there is no prospect of any radical change in human behaviour.
That doesn't mean there is nothing that can be done. Unless climate change escalates to chaotic levels, the human animal will muddle through... The shift in thinking that will be needed if we are to prepare ourselves for living in a different world begins with reading Emmott's indispensable book.
Well, the question of whether the human animal will muddle through, the title question of this post, is the question on the table. Although he says humanity is "in for a pretty rough time," it seems to me that John Gray just begged the central question. Obligatory hope, with a twist.
Gray simply asserts that if climate change doesn't become too "chaotic," humanity will survive the coming population bottleneck. Well, having read Gray, I can tell you he doesn't know the relevant science, and whatever Emmott told Gray in his book was news to him. And as an eminent emeritus professor of political philosophy at the London School of Blah, Blah, Blah, Gray must not stray too far outside the bounds of social propriety. If he did so, he wouldn't be writing for The Guardian, and neither would Emmott.
And nobody is talking about the human destruction of life in the oceans here. In the context of muddling through, or not muddling through, only I do that.
Writing DOTE goes nowhere for me. Writing DOTE has not opened up a single opportunity for me for life after DOTE. Nobody has offered to underwrite a book I might write. Nothing happens. I need to face the music. It's time I faced the horror—the terror—of life after DOTE
I have no idea what I will do. But I can not live with the frustration of writing this blog anymore. And what is worse, my frustration is so bad that I have become an asshole (with high blood pressure). I tell people off for making comments which seem to me to fall short of the mark I am aiming for on DOTE. I have become a jerk.
I don't like becomimg an asshole because I am not an asshole. That's not who I am, and I don't like turning into somebody I am not. If you and I met for a drink, you would probably be pleasantly surprised to learn that I'm a pretty nice guy who is easy to talk to.
And then there's the hate mail I receive. Have I mentioned the hate mail?
From all this writing and computer time, I have also developed early symptoms of carpal tunnel. I need to nip that problem in the bud. I changed the ergonomics of my work station, and that seems to have helped. I've been doing this for almost 42 months now. That's a lot of computer time.
Humanity may or may not be doomed—probably is—but one thing that's looking clearer every day is that I am doomed. I am not going to get that interesting life.
I have wanted to stop writing this blog, on and off, for some time now, for these reasons and others I haven't mentioned. I've given everybody three weeks notice, which is only polite, and I've also given myself three weeks to summarize all the work I've done here on DOTE. I won't be wasting that time, and hopefully, I won't be wasting yours.