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12/30/2013

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Steve Wilson

Interesting that when asked if there was anything that could be done, Kolbert pointed out that she did not address in the book. Seems as though she knows the answer. We is what we is and we ain't going to change.

Jim

Impressive that a mainstream reporter is talking about it, albeit after a review of Mississippi tamales and a peppy musical intro.

"It's scary! Ha ha ha." Cue next segment.

Obviously, it ties in with "The starfish are dying, and no one knows why":
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/28/starfish-dying-wasting-disease-mystery/4208859/

Oliver

What I like about the Human Condition - perhaps it's the only likeable thing - is that everything we do is ultimately valued by us in a monetary way, except the one thing that really matters, and that's the cost to the biosphere of our puffed-up yet meaningless existence. Why I like it is because this means we are blindly self-limiting ourselves, just like most dis-eases.

I have no interest in whether or not "we" survive, or how soon or how long it is before we are forced to adapt or die out. What I am interested in is the concept of whether any other life form gains true consciousness - and makes a better fist of it than we did. We have blown it, a posteriori we are bad for the planet and on the big scale of things I detect no need for our further evolution.

Jim

Something towards the end of Quammen's article really struck me as prescient:

"What will increase most dramatically as time proceeds, I suspect, won't be generalized misery or futuristic modes of consumption but the gulf between two global classes experiencing those extremes. Progressive failure of ecosystem functions? Yes, but human resourcefulness of the sort Julian Simon so admired will probably find stopgap technological remedies, to be available for a price. So the world's privileged class - that's your class and my class - will probably still manage to maintain themselves inside Home-Dixon's stretch limo, drinking bottled water and breathing bottled air and eating reasonably healthy food that has become incredibly precious, while the potholes on the road outside grow ever deeper. Eventually the limo will look more like a lunar rover. Ragtag mobs of desperate souls will cling to its bumpers, like groupies on Elvis's final Cadillac. The absolute poor will suffer their lack of ecological privilege in the form of lowered life expectancy, bad health, absence of education, corrosive want, and anger. Maybe in time they'll find ways to gather themselves in localized revolt against the affluent class. Not likely, though, as long as affluence buys guns."

I'd add a bit to that last part. I think one thing that comes from higher levels of complexity and sophistication in technology is that people-powered revolt becomes much more difficult. In general, revolutionaries tend to be the lower strata of society, and there would likely be a huge gap between the upper and lower classes in technological prowess. It's just another way Progress rewards the 'winners' more than the 'losers'. And trend-wise, these things would only increase the depravity of those seeking to be in the 'winning' class.

Brian

Any problem or predicament, the reasonable response to which would in any way reduce convenience, consumption or standard of living, will be denounced or ignored. This is practically the working definition of modern human behavior. The plight of other species on this planet (hell, the plight of our own species on this planet) falls squarely under this dictum.

adam

I recently found that simply by pointing out that there is a problem, people will react like you pissed in their soup. There is a very strong denial mechanism in place for human caused extinction, nobody wants to admit that their behavior is harming anything. It bothers people when you make them look, even when what you're saying is much, much milder than "human caused extinction".

At this point the main thing that gives me comfort is that after all is said and done, nature's clock keeps ticking and ultimately this is just one passing extinction of many. Human hubris knows no bounds but human ability (powerful as it is) has limits. The human project is not forever, this too will pass.

Mike Roberts

Well, hopefully (apologies for using that word), this message can slowly get across as more Dave Cohens and Elizabeth Kolberts start to put the message out. As she says, it's unknown whether this is an intractable problem or not (though, by "intractable", I think she meant "unsolvable"). By, "unknown", of course, I'm writing hypothetically; we know it will not be solved and the only question is what kind of biosphere will there be at the other end? It's an oddly interesting question but one we'll never be able to answer (other than, "very different from what there is today").

Scary. Scary that, even if the whole world actually comprehended what is going on, it (the humans in it, that is) wouldn't be able to do a thing about it.

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