Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Endocene

Time there was and plenty, but from that cup no more

  ~ Robert Hunter

The Anthropocene Era isn't going to last much longer - geologically speaking, barely past its recent coinage!  Instead, the Endocene is upon us.  There are many intellectual ways of approaching ecopocalypse and collapse and incipient extinction - and I don't pretend that one is a better explanation than another, because I don't really understand entropy all that well.  Some believe financial collapse will lead to social instability and nuclear war, others see resource constraints coupled with overpopulation, while many expect climate change, particularly methane outgassing from permafrost and clathrates, to finish us off.  Meanwhile I tend to think pollution is enough to do it, and soon.

Consider new research from Hawaii that has conclusively linked pollution to lethal tumors in turtles. and more generally to coral reef decline, in a situation analogous to the death of forests from ozone.

Humans have always had some dim inkling that we aren't behaving particularly well.  Cautionary myths and legends along those lines permeate virtually every culture.   Because there is such a plethora of doomsday scenarios doesn't mean they are wrong, to the contrary, there are so many because it is inescapably logical (although it runs counter to human inclination) that we can't continue to exploit a finite planet indefinitely.  The clever tricks we devise to push back the day of reckoning are ever more amazing, but still, there's no question there will be a massive debt to pay sometime, and nothing left to pay it with.  Like the souls adrift in the fabled Ship of Fools - in the satirical allegory Das Narrenschiff, just one of many in that motif - we are obliviously lurching our way to Narragonia - the fool's paradise.

Ship of Fools
~ Hieronymus Bosch 1490-1500

It's eternally fashionable among many phony activist cohorts to place the blame for all these converging catastrophes on white European capitalism - which requires ignoring millennia of other rapacious societies untainted by any contact with the Judeo-Christian culture located in, say, ancient Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.  The comforting conviction that humans in far away times and places lived peacefully and sustainably is enhanced by judging behavior on stated norms rather than history - romanticized ideals instead of archeological evidence.  If that was the standard to judge European history, we would be able to imagine that the tales of warnings from the three dead to the three living held sway.  And of course we know they did not.

In which three corpses admonish the three horrified young men to
consider the transience of life and to improve their behavior before it is too late.

Oh but I digress! my mind, there is a much simpler and equally persuasive explanation for the looming crash, and it is biological.  Humans are doing what humans do, have always done, and cannot (despite our fervent fantasies) do otherwise.  By way of explication, Monday saw the premiere of a classic example of the fundamental delusion and egotism that operates the human animal willy-nilly, which we will shortly examine.

The claim of human exceptionalism is familiar - the notion that our species is special, the crown of creation, subject to different rules and even unique evolutionary influences, than other more lowly animals - or plants for that matter.  This idiotic conceit underlies everything from fanatic veganism (if only we didn't eat meat we could save the world and feed 10 billion people!) to techno-worship (we can have infinite growth on a finite planet!).

But there is deeper variant of human exceptionalism that presents a final irrevocable obstacle to any prospect (long since obsolete anyway) that we might mend our ways.

We EACH think our own individual selves are exceptional, even within the already exceptional human race.  Which of course is why it is so perennially droll when Garrison Keillor introduces his Lake Wobegon  radio show with "...all the women are good looking, and the children are above average".  Or think about the environmental icon who inspired Earth First!, Edward Abbey, who loved the wilderness so much he was against immigration, calling for "...a halt to the mass influx of even more millions of hungry, ignorant, unskilled, and culturally-morally-generically impoverished people", but had five children himself - and loved the desert so much he liked nothing better than to tear around off road in his pickup truck.

This brings us to the absurdly ignorant, painfully ironic campaign to save nature AND humanity, concocted by the group known as Conservation International which debuted at the beginning of the week.  M. Sanjayan, an executive vice president and senior scientist at CI, describes the project as an attempt to "rebrand" environmentalism to be less about preserving wildlife and more about preserving humans, by emphasizing that people are dependent upon nature.  Like the World Wildlife Fund, also founded by royalty and other elites, the leadership is so steeped in privilege that they have no clue at all what a bitter taste emanates from their efforts.

There is a straight line between the oblivious, deliriously happy greedy hunter gatherers who casually and thoughtlessly extirpated the megafauna to this insanely, self-besotted organization, as we shall see.  

George Monbiot earlier laid out the case for human-caused megafauna extinction as presented by numerous scientists at a conference earlier this year.  It wasn't just a few species destroyed, there were dozens and dozens - it would be as if, today, all the lions, tigers, bears, leopards, elephants, whales, dolphins, wolves and cheetahs - and more - all disappeared (there are pictures of some of the vanished at the end of this post).

Now Monbiot believes it is time for us to reflect on the ongoing mass extinction, and in a recent essay wonders WHY humans are so ecocidal.

"In fairness to the modern era, this is an extension of a trend that has lasted some two million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna – sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant – coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). It’s hard to see what else could have been responsible for the peculiar pattern of extinction then."
"As we spread into other continents, their megafaunas almost immediately collapsed. Perhaps the most reliable way of dating the first arrival of people anywhere is the sudden loss of large animals. The habitats we see as pristine – the Amazon rainforest or coral reefs for example – are in fact almost empty: they have lost most of the great beasts that used to inhabit them, which drove crucial natural processes."
"Since then we have worked our way down the foodchain, rubbing out smaller predators, medium-sized herbivores, and now, through both habitat destruction and hunting, wildlife across all classes and positions in the foodweb. There seems to be some kink in the human brain that prevents us from stopping, that drives us to carry on taking and competing and destroying, even when there is no need to do so."

So he attributes our compulsion to grow to what he calls a "kink in the human brain" - which is silly, since it isn't a kink at all, it simply IS the human brain.  After he writes cogently of the compelling evidence for an ongoing trend of over-consumption he then proceeds to spoil it by blaming modern culture as somehow unique (when you can see that exhibiting status through personal possessions is something people always do).
Getting back to Conservation International's vanity campaign, it's worth watching at least the first in their series of very short films with fabulously scenic backdrops and celebrity narrators, titled collectively "Nature is Speaking" (the others are linked at the youtube page and also here.)


Julia Roberts as Mother Nature sternly warns us naughty children that she doesn’t need us - oh no, we need her - and she is going to take away our toys if we don’t take better care of the gifts she has given us.  That's alright as far as it goes but then she declares:  “One way or the other, your actions will determine your fate, not mine. I am Nature. I will go on. I am prepared to evolve. Are you?”

This is ignorant on at least two levels.  First, humans cannot willfully evolve.  Evolution has no purpose, and it doesn't happen because we decide we want it to, and certainly not any any timescale that could matter.  Conflating natural selection with a wish that humans had a different brain wired for more altruistic behavior should not have made it through an organization that employs scientists.  Second, it isn't at all clear that Nature will go on, once we are no longer capable of trashing her.  A runaway Venus effect will do her in other than the laws of physics.

But to the more interesting question (at least, as long as humans are alive and capable of curiosity) which goes to the heart of the problem of consciousness, it seems fair, even requisite, to inquire - how are Julia and the other movie stars in these videos doing at reducing their impact on Planet Earth?  Well, let's see…Julia has three children and at least four houses - Hawaii, New Mexico, Malibu and New York, which she shuttles between via private jet.

Hey though, she makes up for it, as described in TreeHugger:

"The pretty woman will be helping biodiesel producer Earth Biofuels promote a program to encourage the use of biodiesel in more than 500,000 diesel school buses nationwide. A recent addition to the Earth Biofuels board of directors, Ms. Roberts will serve as a spokesperson for the eco-fuel. ''It's very important that we expand our use of clean energy and make a long-term commitment to it. Biodiesel and ethanol are better for the environment and for the air we breathe,'' Roberts said in an announcement about her new role. She will be joining current Earth Biofuels celeb board members Willie Nelson and Morgan Freeman."  [a couple of notes:  1.  Do I have to point out that biodiesel makes WORSE toxic pollution than regular fossil fuels? and 2. if you want to choke on vomit, watch this film narrated by Morgan Freeman promoting clean energy to solve the climate crisis.]

Speaking as the Ocean in another of the series, Harrison Ford recites:  "It’s not their planet, anyway.  Never was. Never will be. But humans, they take more than their share. They poison me and then expect me to feed them. Well, it doesn’t work that way."

"I’m only going to say this once, 'If nature isn’t kept healthy, humans won’t survive. Simple as that. I mean, I could give a damn. With or without humans, I’m The Ocean. I covered this entire planet once and I can always cover it again.'"

Let’s just check how Harrison is doing in terms of responsible stewardship, by reading his own words in an interview

1.  There's nothing better than seeing a herd of elk right outside the window of my house in Wyoming.   My land gives me an opportunity to be close to nature, and I find spiritual solace in nature, contemplating our species in the context of the natural world.

2.  All of my planes are great to fly, and that's why I've got so many of them.  I have a Citation Sovereign, a long-range jet; a Grand Caravan, a turboprop aircraft capable of operating on unimproved strips; and a De Havilland, a bush plane. I have a 1929 Waco Taperwing open-top biplane; a 1942 PT-22 open-top monoplane trainer; an Aviat Husky, a two-seat fabric-covered bush plane; and a Bell 407 helicopter. I also have more than my fair share of motorbikes - eight or nine. I have four or five BMWs, a couple of Harleys, a couple of Hondas and a Triumph; plus I have sports touring bikes.
3.  I'm a big fan of Prince Charles.  I met him because I worked on a little film project for The Prince's Trust last year, and he's a charming man, very nice and a very smart guy. We may be working together on an environmental project this year for Conservation International. I'm on the board, and we're very happy because Prince Charles asked to join us. A few weeks ago we voted to place him on our board of directors. We'll probably do something together soon connected with the protection of the environment.

Kevin Spacey is the voice of the rainforest.  I can't find much about him although I will say, staying on the 37-meter superyacht The Tango while in Sydney for performances of Richard III might have been less than ecologically prudent.
4.  Edward Norton, who is honest as dirt and humble too in the “Soil” segment, inherited millions from his grandfather, inventor of the modern American mall (thanks, Grandpop!).  In addition to the houses around the world he was left, he has since acquired more of his own - a pad in NY, a few houses in Malibu and a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.  He has a  Mercedes and a couple of Range Rovers - but they don’t count because he also, being a passionate environmentalist, has a hydrogen-fueled BMW.  See how that works?
5.  Penélope Cruz, who represents “Water” travels by private jet between her houses in LA, Madrid and NY - and various vacations spots like the Bahamas.  She takes helicopters for shorter jaunts - she doesn’t drive, ya know.
6.  Perhaps avid skier Robert Redford's claim to environmentalism is the most egregiously, outrageously hypocritical of all when he speaks to us as “The Redwood”.   Men's Journal recounts the adorable story about how he fell in love with Utah and single-handedly turned it into the luxury resort, Sundance, which is somehow presented as modest because it doesn't serve the numbers of Vail.

“…His master plan for the resort – which he insists is named for the way sunlight dances off the peaks and not his mustachioed character in 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' – tops out at 106 artist studios and homes, none marring the open areas above the tree line. The ski resort is small – four lifts, 450 skiable acres, and a top elevation of 8,200 feet – and that suits him just fine.”

Especially because people ride horses to get there.  Oh wait no they take private jets?

Redford considers Sundance home.  “…a great, great part of it is still untouched, still pure. I came because I like being around hardworking agricultural people. I like the contrast of moving from an urban, edgy place like New York to this place with people working the land for generations."

"Utah is not the only landscape that has a hold on Redford - he's building a house in Napa and owns another in Santa Fe".  

It's not exactly the "landscape" that has a hold on him - it's the HOUSE he puts in the landscape.  It's like when people say, "That's such a pretty road, when it isn't the road that is pretty at all, it's the land it is slicing through.  What kind of pristine wilderness is this?  Redford is to Utah what Flagler is to Florida.  Thanks a lot for carving up the mountain slopes for your entertainment, from the bears and bobcats.

Yet to be announced are the narrators for the upcoming segments, “Coral Reef” and “Flower”.  Care to hazard a guess?  I’m nominating Donald Trump and Oprah.  (But first they should watch the fate of the movie actress in this public service announcement.)

Monbiot winds up his plaintive post with the rhetorical question:  "Is this not the point at which we challenge the inevitability of endless growth on a finite planet? If not now, when?"

Well, the answer obviously is, NEVER.**

Time for a poetry break (shared by Mike Kaulbars)

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky
  ~ Lewis Carroll

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?

Oh by the way, the videos - which are going to be featured on Virgin Air flights (!) - were the brainchild of Lee Clow, a collaborator on this piece of Apple propaganda from 1984...which in hindsight, isn't very funny either:

*because I just can’t laugh.

**oh, and if you really think it's time for a change, George, you would publish a story about the trees dying from air pollution instead of pretending it's not happening.


  1. Thanks for so clearly spelling out the rampant hypocrisy in the environmental movement. I think I prefer the honesty of knuckle-dragging conservatives to hypocritical limousine liberals. When you're on top of the heap, it's so easy to tell others they need to change their lifestyles for the good of the natural world.

    1. All true although I think of these people as average, perhaps writ large, but still they have in common a tendency to discount their own impact on nature while wanting someone else to preserve it. Kind of like people complaining about the traffic when they ARE the traffic. Everyone does it. So there are two possibilities. Either they (and those who produced the campaign) genuinely don't understand that in order to preserve nature humans have to drastically curtain consumption and population - in which case, they are all dumb - or, they do understand it but they think somebody ELSE needs to reduce since obviously, they aren't doing a thing to reduce their own footprint - in which case, they are indeed savage hypocrites.

    2. My experience in LA was that actors are, in fact, kind of dumb. The whole green thing for them is mostly just another way to be fashionable. If they were serious, not only would they live more simply, they would put up a fight against the oil companies.

    3. They're not all dumb:

  2. Yeah well everyone is in it for themselves anymore (probably always has been this way) - the charade is so obvious now that people are actually beginning to sense that there's no future. Suicide statistics both here and around the world are going up dramatically. The stock market is a bad joke and the fraudulent banks are insolvent, while all the world's currencies aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Meanwhile the police state is ramping up all over, with people being killed for absolutely no reason (like the grandfather that was shot in a swat raid ON THE WRONG HOUSE), the medical systems of the world are being overwhelmed with diseases for which we're completely unprepared (see:, we're drowning in our own pollution (including Fukushima - which hasn't "gone away" despite being ignored, and don't forget that the Gulf of Mexico is now completely ruined along with Louisiana's ecology, among others, from the BP oil disaster that was never "fixed" and can't be), methane is pouring out into the atmosphere as politicians lie to us about everything being under control and the media content with daily distractions from reality, and the list goes on and on.

    It's so over for humanity. We had our chance and blew it, big time.

    Thanks for the post Gail. I linked it to another site where some clown insisted that "it didn't have to be this way" and trotted out the usual nonsense about ancient tribes and actually cited Egypt and China as examples!


  3. I do not really have a comment but a need to contact other human beings who are on the same page. So the 3 of you have been chosen and win the prize!!
    The very very sick leaves that did not change colors and are desperately clinging to the trees and the sooo strange light from the always veiled sky occupy all my conscious space and my waked hours. I hardly get out of the apartment anymore, the foul air is making me sick. And it will get so much worse.

    I learned at some point in my journey with you Gail (my virtual and one of my only friend) that leaves need some energy to quit the branch and fall. They do not just detach and float. I feel like them, not having enough energy to make some move. I feel paralysed and starved. I know it is normal and just stay put as long as possible, because the basic instinct is to live for ever. And I am nowhere further than basic instinct.

    1. Ehhh...I'm with you Michele. I am so tense I have been clenching my jaw and I think grinding my teeth in my sleep, so a tooth cap pooped off, and now I have started a dry cough at night which google tells me could mean asthma. Well why the hell not. My mind tells me to be calm and just accept things but my body has other ideas. A facebook friend asked me why do you blog so much if you think it will do no good and I said, I am just rearranging chairs on the deck. You have to do something while the ship goes down, and I'm not a musician. Are you still singing?

  4. I believe this would be of relevance:

    EPA last revised the ozone standard in March 2008, but the standards chosen at that time remain
    subject to controversy. A 23-member panel of EPA science advisers, chosen from outside the
    agency, unanimously recommended a more stringent range of standards than the Administrator
    chose. In 2009-2011, the agency reconsidered the 2008 standard, but the process was shortcircuited
    by a presidential decision to await conclusion of the next regular review—the review
    now nearing completion.
    Ozone Air Quality Standards:
    EPA’s 2015 Revision
    James E. McCarthy
    Specialist in Environmental Policy
    October 3, 2014

    1. Ah yes - thank you for that update - it looks to be awesome good reading! I did follow the last unsuccessful attempt closely - one of the posts was this

      and many of the documents of that failed attempt from the EPA and Science Advisory Committee are linked at the top of the blog. After the EPA issues its recommendations, there is a period of commentary and perhaps a year later they might become law (although I expect many lawsuits). And as your link suggests, there aren't enough monitors, there is no money to pay for them, and many areas won't be able to come into attainment because the source of precursors beyond their borders. Not to mention emissions from Asia.

  5. And also this:

    I remember with crystal clarity walking through woods back to our dorms, Third World Studies, and feeling pure rapture in the presence of those trees. How many centuries had those trees stood on this earth? My mind looked back to Indians who must’ve trod through these very same woods; my steps touching the ground that once crunched under their moccasined feet. Not only have these surviving remnants of their once great numbers been vanished from the land of their fathers, but the reverence with which they held these lands, their collective embrace of Mother Earth, has been vanished as well.
    Goddard Commencement Speech
    By Mumia Abu Jamal Source: Prison Radio/Z-Comm October 9, 2014


    simply breathtaking - pure rapture...It is how I recollect feeling about trees too, before they started their precipitous decline.

    I wonder what those trees he remembers look like now?

    I took pictures of dying beeches at Weslyen and a few months later a reader posted in comments a picture in which they had all been cut down.

    Ivy League College campuses are good places to find old trees, but they are, of course dying - Harvard/Radcliffe: and Yale:

  7. I think that there is an exceptionalism that applies to human beings - and possibly one or two other species that I can't be so sure about.

    That exceptionalism is our capacity to be conscious of our predicament, and the price we pay for being who and what we are. From Sophocles the Shakespeare to ancient and modern musings about the end of days, it is a uniquely human quality to have lofty ideas and ideals about how we should then live - and at the same time the ability to honestly assess our individual and collective inability to live up to those ideas and ideals.

    If only we were termites or locusts or whatever, we'd just be eating through everything until there was nothing left to eat, and then we'd all die off and something else would happen. But since we're humans, we think about it, even as we're doing it...and our thinking becomes endlessly abstract and convoluted and laced with endless projections about "the other", because that's just what humans do.

    It seems to me its a great opportunity for a whole new round of Gary Larsen cartoons, if only he would come out of retirement. I've actually been thinking about a new comic strip tentatively titled "Jellyfish and Cockroach", where the titular creatures who will apparently inherit the earth before too long have all sorts of interesting conversations in four panels or less - including this one.

    Meanwhile, there is one conversation that has been of overarching interest to me for the past 40 years or so - and that is the question of whether nature really does bat last - or not. I've long since concluded that nature doesn't bat last at all. Consciousness bats first, and last, too.

    So whatever comes to an end in this time and place, for all the usual reasons, will continue to emerge in some other time and place. There is certainly plenty of time, and plenty of places, too, for that to happen. It seems more worrisome than it really is because we're all quite shortsighted, and way too attached to our little blue ball and our place upon it.

    This too shall pass.

    1. Yes! Yes! That is the comedy and the bathos and the absurdity of the human condition. I rather imagine that guilt is a uniquely human invention. We can see how badly we behave, but are helpless to stop it. I have wondered if perhaps the ability to disassociate sprang from our switch to a meat eating diet (a transition posited by Monbiot) - we had to develop an ability to not feel the pain of the animals we killed since we obviously don't do it with the indifference of locusts or termites. So perhaps we acquired the ability to stuff away horror, at least in our waking hours, to survive. How funny that today I was reading this "Choice brings anxiety" (Keur baert angst). (p. 68) If you don't know it, you might like it Paul - it also has all sorts of references to the symbolism of trees. When I have read it a few times over I may do a post with the incredible illustrations.

    2. "But since we're humans, we think about it, even as we're doing it...and our thinking becomes endlessly abstract and convoluted and laced with endless projections about "the other", because that's just what humans do."

      While this may be true for a nearly insignificant number of "humans," Mr. Roberts, it certainly is NOT true for the majority. I am not trying to be "rude" or "insulting" but you obviously a) have not spent much time among "the masses" (aka "ordinary" people), b) have not been too observant or thoughtful of the "human affairs" taking place across this rock, or c) like far too many "humans," conflate believing for thinking. Perhaps you might read the exquisitely eloquent analysis of this "quality" presented by Dave Cohen in his "Adventures in Flatland" essay on Decline of the Empire. Otherwise, I mostly concur with what you have said and I, too, sincerely miss Gary Larson's parodies as well as those of Berkeley Breathed. In their absence, at least there is "South Park." My only other quibble is, if one considers the entirety of the universe, "known" or otherwise, as "nature," then most assuredly nature not only bat's last but has the home field advantage as well as ALL the "inside information" that we mere mortals will never learn.

    3. Maybe we're having two different conversations, Colin - but what I am talking about is the near universal human experience - found in all cultures, in all times, and all places - of creating an "other" and then ascribing all of our despised and hated qualities, intentions and actions to that "other" - with all of the usual outcomes that sort of thinking produces. Are you telling me you DON'T see human beings - whether from the masses or the classes - doing this ALL THE TIME? Do you actually need me to supply you with a dozen examples, including several culled from the "doomer" community?

      Projection. It's what's for dinner.

    4. Perhaps we are "having two different conversations." I was not referring to the near universal human experience...of creating an "other" and then ascribing.... I am more cognizant of that affectation than virtually everyone I have ever met. I am even aware of my own infrequent lapses into such "projections" and attempt to stymie or correct them as I am able. However, having spent more than a little time engaged in both "blue collar" and "white collar" circles, I KNOW for a fact that 1) most people are NOT aware of their projections of "others" and 2) hardly EVER think, they're ALWAYS too damn distracted by one shiny bauble or another. That applies as much to the wealthiest people I have met/observed as to the poorest. Whatever "thinking" does take place between their ears is mostly along the lines of "How do I do unto 'you' BEFORE you do unto me." Well, that and where and when their next "thrill" (or meal) will be coming. So, no, I have no quibble with seeing human beings...doing this ALL THE TIME, but I also see that MOST of the time (90+%, in fact) "thinking" is essentially absent. Yet, I suppose it is possible that they are, in fact, "thinking" but doing it so poorly as to appear not to be "thinking." However, I usually see "belief" being substituted for "thought" and that just doesn't work, either.

    5. Colin, thinking is how you get your thrill. I feel as you do about the idiot masses, but we're really not that different from them. Our brains are all wired to do what gives us pleasure and avoids pain. ... I try as hard as I can to empathize with them, but their ignorance makes me feel threatened. Maybe if virtual reality advances enough, we can all express our natures without destroying the planet. One of my only hopes.

    6. Thank you, Charles, for your kind words. You are, in fact, partially correct in observing that "thinking is how [I] get [my] thrill." I say "partially" because that "thinking" also brings me much chagrin as I am somewhat obligated to "have to" refer to myself as an "American" or even as a member of the alleged "wise" species commonly referred to as homo sapiens sapiens. Moreover, you are exceedingly accurate that "[o]ur brains are all wired to do what gives us pleasure and avoids pain," however, I am not so sure that that "wiring" is solely due to "human nature," as many espouse, versus being more attributable to the "programming" to which each and every one of us has been subjected since birth. Most likely, at least from my perspective, it is a combination of both, the latter being executed to maximize the "profitability" of the former. In days gone by, I would empathize with "them" (that should elate Mr. Roberts) and endeavor to increase "their" awareness and cognition. Alas, it ALWAYS resulted in derision and, eventually, ostracism. So, I no longer even try, fuck the "human" race, it is about to reap the full measure of what it has sown. The "world" will recover, eventually, from the transgressions of 'our' species.

  8. Apneanman

    Ha! actors. What else could one expect from people who spend their entire lives pretending to be someone else. I never understood the whole worship thing with them and athletes, musicians, politicians, etc. You would think appreciation of talent and acknowledgement for a job well done would be enough, but obviously we have some glitch that causes a need for worship of things and people and deities. Oh well.
    I appreciate your ideas and work Gail.

    1. I totally relate to your absence of understanding how and why so many idolize "people who spend their entire lives pretending to be someone else." However, that description fits a much wider population than just "actors." In fact, the preponderance of people I have encountered in my 60+ years on this planet obviously have endeavored mightily to appear to be someone else. In many cases, more than one "someone else" as their "persona" seemed to morph into another depending on changes in circumstances or company. I've met or observed far too few "genuine" people.

  9. Colinc: In fact, the preponderance of people I have encountered in my 60+ years on this planet obviously have endeavored mightily to appear to be someone else.


    You mean, most people you've met try hard to be someone else?

    Does that include how they talk? (grin)

    1. Yes and yes! :) While the latter doesn't happen "all" the time, it occurs more frequently than I would have ever guessed when I was young and "dumb."

    2. Well, clearly you're not "young and dumb" anymore. So there's that.

  10. you ask me if I still sing. I do as much as I can. but last week, there were a couple of very high pollution days and since then, I am almost totally voiceless and extreme coughing wakes me up 5-6 times during the night. It is so severe that I absolutely have to stand up and walk because I really choke very fast. If I could not get up for whatever reason, I would just choke to death.

    and as far as I am working at home as a translator, since a few weeks, I often have to lie down on the floor because I am frequently ovewhelmed with what I can only call anxiety. it is a feeling that is entering in my body from the outside and bring me to my knees. and no, I am not overreacting. just normally reacting to everything that see and hear on the tiny piece of earth where I still breathe.

    I would never dare write this on any other blog. I would be so sure that someone would torn my comment to shreds.

    I still cook, and sing, and laugh, and take hot baths, and do what I have always done... But my hearth is not so much into it anymore. I also clean a lot. clean my mind, my space, my relationships, everything. I could not descrive what "clean" is, but there is freedom for me in cleaning at all levels.

    enough ravings! delete! or send!

  11. Testing Future Conditions for the Food Chain

    "A network of pipes sprays extra carbon dioxide and a corrosive pollutant, ozone, into the air. Lamps and other equipment mimic future droughts and heat waves."

    1. "However, reducing ozone is not the only possible strategy for helping crops. Developing plants resistant to its effects would be another approach, and that is a major focus at the University of Illinois."

      Hardy har har. Even if they could do that (highly doubtful) what would that do to save wild plants and forests? Well, they seem to be throwing a lot of money at it so it must be a good idea.

  12. Thanks for pointing out the hypocrites: Hypocritus sapiens.

  13. Michele: I totally relate. Gettin' old all by itself is turning out to be not as much fun as I may have once thought. We get things like arthritis comin' outta nowhere and staying permanently (at least in my case) and the way our environment is rapidly changing (from both radiation and atmospheric chemistry if nothing else) we're reacting to it as much as the trees, bees, and marine life (to name a few) - negatively! This crap isn't "good" for us! Trouble is there's no place to shut it off, hide from it, or effective action we can take in the short amount of time it seems we have left, so moving won't help much in the end. Here in PA we're having fires and explosions of all kinds almost daily (not to mention sinkholes), but everyone is more worried about ebola. So far I've been able to keep the panic down, but I get nervous just doin' yardwork - where I can see the damage first-hand. My wife thinks i'm immersing myself in all this "doom and gloom" and not being positive and looking on the bright side while I claim i'm being realistic and seeing what's actually there - that i'm not making any of it up. (yes, she's still got a way's to go in thinking things will continue as is for a long time yet, where I expect everything to basically change overnight or in the blink of an eye to something completely different).

    michele, colinc, Paul, Gail, apneaman and the anonymous people: good grief YES! Nice to be among a few other "weirdos" lookin' reality in the face, thanks for your truthful comments.


  14. I've begun to see these folks as dis-abled when it comes to grasping how fucked we are by our own hands/natures, but tragically those of us on the 'depressive'-realism end of the spectrum are the outlying evolutionary mutants...

  15. Wow, I just came across Eric Pianka (*must add to the Library of Doom*)

    another version of his 2006 speech -

    from his wiki page

    Pianka appeared on NBC-affiliate KXAN Austin[21] and on two cable talk-shows "to try and clear his name". He posted a statement on his University of Texas website that said in part:[22]

    I have two grandchildren and I want them to inherit a stable Earth. But I fear for them. Humans have overpopulated the Earth and in the process have created an ideal nutritional substrate on which bacteria and viruses (microbes) will grow and prosper. We are behaving like bacteria growing on an agar plate,[23] flourishing until natural limits are reached or until another microbe colonizes and takes over, using them as their resource. In addition to our extremely high population density, we are social and mobile, exactly the conditions that favor growth and spread of pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes. I believe it is only a matter of time until microbes once again assert control over our population, since we are unwilling to control it ourselves. This idea has been espoused by ecologists for at least four decades and is nothing new. People just don't want to hear it.

    I do not bear any ill will toward people. However, I am convinced that the world, including all humanity, WOULD clearly be much better off without so many of us. Simply stopping the destruction of rainforests would help mediate some current planetary ills, including the release of previously unknown pathogens. The ancient Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times" comes to mind -- we are living in one of the most interesting times humans have ever experienced. For example, consider the manifold effects of global warming. We need to make a transition to a sustainable world. If we don't, nature is going to do it for us in ways of her own choosing. By definition, these ways will not be ours and they won't be much fun. Think about that.

    As a consequence of the controversy, Pianka and members of the Texas Academy of Science have received death threats.[24][25] According to Pianka, his daughters are now worried about his and their safety, and his life has been "turned upside-down by 'right-wing fools'."[26]

    1. well when critters feel threatened they tend to respond in kind if they can (still haunted by a swan drowning canadian geese chicks), no reasoning with the cognitive-biases that rule/shape peoples' lives...

    2. Link to infamous speech is here:


    1. Haha, I thought I was better informed by sticking to the internet but now I wonder if I'm not missing a lot by not having teevee!

    2. You're missing all the anthropocentrism!

  17. To boil this all down into one word, it is anthropocentrism that is our greatest threat.


  18. Definitely not your best work.

    Really, just a rant at the privileged. And this was waaaay off base: "Evolution has no purpose".

    Sure it does. How do you think everything living got here? Evolution forced life adaption to changing environmental conditions (otherwise there would be no life today). Even humans had to evolve and this process has not stopped for ANY species. It will continue - as long as life continues to exist (including humans).

    I've no idea why you made such an outlandish claim. Your angst at the privileged perhaps?

    Your guilty to doing what everyone else does at Prince Charles, Al Gore and any other celebrity who "dares" to speak up hypocritically - tossing stones and sticks in a futile fit and hoping some of them hit. Which they don't. Nothing you say will make a difference here.

    And isn't this hypocritical anyway? I mean, do you drive? Or buy food at a supermarket? Or even ride public transportation? Or any of the other things that we all do that have pretty much sealed the fate of mankind now? I'm sure you're not "as bad" as the examples given, but there will always be those that have "caused more" then others. Every American for example, you and me included, uses about 25 times more then those living in 3rd world countries - even if they're "poor". By your logic - we're all 25 times more guilty (and we are). But does this fact negate your "trying", which you do, evidenced by this very blog? I think not.

    Futile rants don't accomplish anything. It's like ranting against the poor - which we will always have, no matter what.

    I don't see what the point was to this post. Sure, they're hypocrites, but so am I and you. We all are. But their celebrity status does give them a far larger platform then anything we could ever hope to have.

    Be glad they're trying at all. Nothing you can do about how they live and ranting on this is pointless.

    1. I fear you have missed the point of what I wrote. I am trying to express the idea that we ALL (yes including me) are part of ecocide. We cannot stop ourselves and the examples that I gave in that post are simply some that are spectacularly telling because they are in the limelight. Nevertheless, every single person no matter how humble is just the same - it is in our DNA to consume and grow, despite our intellectual capability to see that such a trajectory can only end in our extinction, along with many others. I think you are reading what I write from your perspective (of course) but please grant me the effort to look at what I write from mine. Thank you.

    2. Oh...and, evolution HAS NO PURPOSE. It happens. Just like planets spin out of exploding stars. It is quite beautiful from a human perspective, if you can step back in awe.

    3. Then life has no purpose and therefore no meaning. Pretty nihilistic, don't you think?

      Since life actually is evolution, your definition of no purpose means life is completely meaningless. To who? You? Certainly not to me and a few billion others. The Universe is uncaring, but so what? That is not even relevant. What is relevant is how we appreciate life - and how we approach life - which is what your essay was really all about. If it had no purpose - then why rant or write anything at all? Your own actions defy your own definition and make no sense at all.

    4. Thank you for looking more closely at what I meant to express. It IS nihilistic, but there are many shades of nihilism. Life, of course is not meaningless to US, because WE manufacture the meaning in our brains. The universe is uncaring, as you say. And so the prospect of extinction (human) challenges the notion that there is any meaning. Even without that, though, there has been a conflict in the human experience as to whether there is meaning or purpose, and a tension - the anxiety - of knowing but not being able to act. Lately I have been reading abou the existentialism of Camus, because, it just works for me. Life is risible, and absurd, and should be savored...

    5. I am the Universe. Or at least a part thereof.
      Everything I see or perceive is the Universe looking back at me.
      "I" am ANY system, no matter how small and simple or large and complex, for ALL systems perceive and react, or are a part of, other systems.
      Mankind's greatest physical achievement, from the Universe's POV may be the sphere of radio waves from our electronic age traveling outward in all directions. Those radio waves will be traveling long after we're gone.

      Don't worry. Be happy!
      Carpe diem.

      'In Horace, the phrase is part of the longer "carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero", which can be translated as "Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future)".' -Wikipedia

  19. Futile rants. Been hearing plenty of those lately; all childishly arguing against reality. Expecting it to get much louder as demise speeds up. Ernest Becker was spot on.
    Thought readers here might be interested in this.

    Oilpatch Ozone Pollution

  20. The reality of victim and victimizer ought not to be forgotten. Oil-Qaeda is a victimizer and the people are the victims.

    1. I don't think I forget the victims. Human history is FULL of victims, it REEKS with victims...victims of cannibalism, torture, rape, war, murder, incarceration, slavery...that goes back as far as our history, as is plain in the archaeological record of smashed skulls, embedded arrows and sawed bones, and the entire race of Neanderthals disappeared (partially subsumed). But my concern is not with human on human violence and exploitation, since the victims readily become victimizers when power shifts. It is ecological injustice that concerns me, and from the point of view of butterflies, bats and bees, all humans are alike - one species obsessed with its own growth and expansion at the expense of all the others.

  21. Gail you forgot to read the memo: Do as they say, not as they do!

    I watched the Julia Roberts video and at the end I wondered what I could/should do to help save ourselves. Then Conservation International advised me: tweet about this series, share on facebook and donate to Conservation International. So you see, there is no need to be hopeless, thanks to the leadership of these wonderful celebrities, all will be well! Phew!

    (In case anyone is unsure: I'm being snarky!)

    1. Your sardonicism was most certainly noticed and applauded! Indeed, a vast many more of 'us' should mock and ridicule every "celebrity" and "leader." Add them all to the roster of Wall St. "Wizards" and banksters to be incessantly pointed at and belittled in as many forms of hilarious derision as can be mustered in as many venues as possible. All the aforementioned asshats should hear nothing but raucously scornful laughter their every waking moment. I tip my cap to you, Ms. Alexander. ;)

  22. Me, I'm still pushing the idea of renaming our species as 'homo fatuus brutus' in the firm belief that only when we each accept that we aren't as smart as we like to think we are will we have a chance of changing our ways.

    While I applaud your efforts to point out hypocrisy, if any change is to happen, someone has to start the ball rolling; and sheeple won't fall in line behind low profile non-celebrities. So, personally, I excuse folks who talk the talk while not walking the walk. If they were to entirely divest themselves of their riches then they too would become nobodies that nobody would follow. In the end they're just doing as we all do, because there is at this late stage nothing we really can do other than rearrange the deckchairs :(

    1. Hm well, they wouldn't have to "entirely divest themselves of their riches" to get just a teeny tiny bit closer to walking the walk. Their celebrity isn't based on their possessions and travel habits. But again, my point wasn't so much to label them bigger hypocrites than other more ordinary people but rather to highlight the general tendency among all humans to 1. maximize their consumption within whatever constraints are beyond their control; and 2. excuse their own impact on the biosphere, which is another form of denial. I find the enormous chasm between their rhetoric and actual behavior funny more than anything else, I am surprised when people say things like I sound angry. Savagely amused, perhaps! Did you know wiki has a section just for alternative names for homo sapiens sapiens? Maybe you should add homo fatuus brutus!

    2. I consider myself to be in your category (2) by dint of the fact that I smoke cigarettes. Despite several attempts to give up, I am unable to do so; if I were really so opposed to unnecessary consumption this should overwhelm my addiction. I think it's a good analogy: humans find it very difficult to change their ways, even when they recognise that they should.

      Thanks for the pointer to the Wikipedia's list of alternative names for the human species. Yes, I should definitely add homo fatuus brutus to that!


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