This is my article from 2013 based on mu understandingmof what Guy McPherson was saying.
To me I trepresents Guy McPherson at his best before hubris set in. To me the days whilehe was still living with his wife Sheila at the Mud Hut were the best days.
Since leaving to live in Belize and now, in Florida in my view it has been mostly downhill.
“Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Is he referring to himself here?
Sunday, 30 June 2013
Reflecting on anthropogenic climate change and near-term extinction
have been in the habit of collecting news stories that tend to
support what I have come to describe as the collapse of human and
have often been asked why I do it, and doesn’t it make me depressed
to be dwelling in so much negativity? My answer has always been that
I couldn’t live with myself (that’s a nonsensical statement if
ever there was one!) if I didn’t confront this head on.
has made it easier is to treat it all a bit like the martial arts –
to accept the information and then reflect it back out (in a more
concentrated form) into the universe.
I started this blog about 2 years ago it was all about collecting
stories about Peak Oil and the collapsing economy, and encouraging people develop strategies for themselves, their families,
and, first and foremost, their communities, to make them become more
resilient and to transition to a post-carbon economy.
years later the world economy is still dragging itself along, still
on the point of collapse, but things have become incomparably worse.
The stories have become shriller and more frequent – yelling out that
this cannot continue; something’s got to give.
Near term human extinction
all these ‘old’ processes have not gone away it is hard to escape
the reality that what we have now is runaway global warming with
numerous non-linear, irreversible processes – positive feedback loops
that ensure, in essence that ‘The hotter it gets the faster it gets
hotter, and the faster it gets hotter the more….’ etc.
the last weeks (since the onset of the northern summer) we have seen
events whereby we seem to be watching the break-up of the Arctic ice
in real time, and a series of truly horrifying extreme weather events
around the globe simultaneously
it seems to me, the narrative has to be changed from building
sustainable communities to acknowledging that humanity is on a
suicidal mission and the greatest likelihood is that we (along with
the rest of life) are heading for near-term extinction.
much so that it now has an acronym of its own – NTE.
woke up this morning after listening to Guy McPherson’s interview
with Doomstead Diner for the second time, with a strong need to make a tactical
retreat and to process for myself what this really means.
are various ways that we can process this.
is to totally ignore reality and take refuge in the lies and
distractions of mainstream, corporate media. Along with usually comes
an unconscious anger at having one’s comfortable view of life
challenged by the likes of you or I.
is highly likely that as things get worse this anger will take on
more violent forms.
are the people that become the foot soldiers of fascism, who will
invariably blame the victims and look for the reasons for their
predicament anywhere other than where they should.
genuinely fear the strength and violence of this reaction.
are others who will take refuge in a liberal view that also paints a
largely false picture.
huge chasm between the cloying rhetoric of Obama and the reality of
his administration stands out as well as the nonsense of the liberal
media that takes the rhetoric for fact and ignores the reality.
it comes to climate change the majority of those who recognise its
reality will follow the ‘official line’ which paints a
‘frightening’, but false picture of linear change.
oceans will rise and the world will get hotter – but not in our
media, science and the IPCC
have become somewhat used to the distortions of the media.
country (NZ) there seems to be a complete taboo agaInst dealing with the realities of climate change other than in brief items that see things in isolation from the global context and the reality on the ground.
should have been a bit more realistic in my expectations that the
stark realities of rapid sea ice melting and of methane release
(along with all the other feedbacks) would be reflected somewhere in
it turns out, they haven’t.
actual observations of scientists working in the Arctic (and the
Antarctic) has long overtaken the computer projections of mainstream
science. David Wasdell of the Apollo-Gaia Programme in the UK, in his
excellent presentation on Arctic feedback mechanisms, makes it clear
how wide the gulf between reality and the computer models of the
have always been aware of the inherent conservativeness of scientists and their tendency to become locked in their own specialities
(and thus avoid the ‘Bigger Picture’).
Regarding the IPCC, it is an international
body and so is subject, not only to all this but also to considerable
political pressures from member states who can literally veto any
conclusions they don’t like.
It is science by consensus.
would an elite that is suppressing the realities of economic
breakdown and of Peak Oil (and resource depletion in general) be
interested in having an informed public that is aware of the dangers
of runaway climate change? Why would they be interested in having people aware of ecological collapse – the extinction of 200+ species a day – and the predicament of having 430 +
nuclear installations that are past their use-by date and subject, at
any time to catastrophic meltdown?
‘The Pleasures of Extinction’
form of denial is illustrated by recent article, the
Pleasures of Extinction
who, I understand specialises in questions of Peak Oil.
His, in many ways, admirable essay points out how many times predictions
of Armageddon have proved to be false and discusses the important
role fundamentalism has played in the history of the United States.
addressing the sound scientific base behind the conclusions, he
attacks Guy McPherson without naming him, and refers to near-term
extinction as ‘the latest apocalyptic fad‘.
of imminent human extinction are one comforting if futile response to
this ugly predicament. If you want a justification for living as
though there’s no tomorrow, insisting that in fact, there’s no
tomorrow is certainly one option”
if the conclusions of McPherson and others was just one more example
of an apocalyptic cult, instead of being based on sound science.
did not come across a single scientific or factual argument in his article to counter Guy
he talks about a thermostat mechanism and ‘negative feedbacks’
without, I suspect, understanding (at least in the context of climate
science), what this means.
we contemplate increases in global temperature of 1, 2…4C, it is
easy to think there is nothing special in that. After all the human
species can withstand wide variations in temperature, and I
experience much greater variations when I step outside.
clear answer came from Guy McPherson in his recent interview with Doomstead
answer is not in the temperature per se, but in habitat.
are already seeing loss of human habitat from processes such as
desertification and from ecological disasters such as the Deepwater
Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico; from Fukushima. We are
seeing acidification of the world’s oceans and increases in dead
in temperatures that we are already seeing, and future increases from
concentrations of 400+ ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere (actually much
more, thanks to releases of methane from the permafrost and methane clathrates in the Arctic and Antarctic), mean that we will see huge
changes in the range of temperatures.
happens to humans and their habitat in these conditions, especially
with energy collapse when we won’t simply be able to turn on the air
conditioning any more?
will then have to live with the ‘new abnormal’
exposure to temperatures more than 95F and we lose our ability to
thermoregulate. In the words of Guy McPherson ‘in the short term
the temperatures go from freezing to 100F in the space of 2 days how
is our permaculture garden going to survive. At a certain temperature
protein starts to denature.
would contend this means we will lose our ability to feed ourselves quite
quickly – let alone the ability to feed 7 billion people.
sane person would wish for the extinction of life on this planet, (still less make afad of it), but
no intellectual argument is going to make the problem go away any
more than collectively burying our heads in the sand.
first thing we need to do is to accept the evidence.
you are going to argue please do it on the basis of facts and
Tell the climate scientists they are wrong; tell the polar
ice scientists that their measurements are wrong and the volume of
Arctic sea ice has not decreased by 80 per cent.
And please bring
some evidence along with you to refute the facts.
Living with uncertainty
we have accepted the evidence we have to work out how we are going to
respond – another stage of round through Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief?
not just accepting near-term extinction.
It’s a probability, not a
we need to learn how to live with uncertainty.
for me, at least, is harder.
common argument against dealing with the facts is to say that people
are incapable of doing so, so we should only give them such facts as
they can deal with. And always leave room for Hope.
me that equates roughly with lying.
to the perennial objection that the only possible reactions are to
fall into the most abject depression or to become a hedonist and
party our way to oblivion.
the latter, Guy McPherson had the perfect response.
the way that most of us in the developed world lead our lives it is
impossible to distinguish how living as a hedonist could be
distinguished from the way we are already living our lives.
regarding depression, does that have to be terminal? Can’t we move
from denial to anger, to depression through to acceptance?
about looking reality directly in the eye – without blinking.
me that is the only way of living my life.
For a summary and update on climate change by Guy McPherson GO HERE
PS – I put the following question to Guy McPherson
All the media talks about is sea level rise and do not talk about
changes to the human habitat. You don’t talk much about sea level. Is
this because the sea level changes could be slower than other changes
that will finish us off, like extreme heat, acidification and general
inability to produce food?
is it just one more factor?
Sea level lags well behind the changes in habitat that will kill most
of us. The exceptions are small islands.
Monday, 29 July 2013
Coming to terms with a melting Pole
Today is a beautiful, late winter day in Wellington
The sun is shining and there is no wind. True, it is a little warmer than perhaps it should be; true last night there was another strong 5.4 aftershock, but one would be forgiven for thinking that everything is as it should be.
Instead the last few days have been momentous.
Yesterday a photo came out, the last of sequence of shots from the North Pole that show the transformation from an icy wilderness, to large melt pools around the camera, until finally the camera appears surrounded by water.
I suspect that although is photo has made it into but a small part of the media, probably relegated to the back pages (and in this part of the world goescompletely unmentioned, this photo will turn out to be the one photo that defines the early years of the 21st century.
If you have not watched it yet I suggest you watch this sequence of photos from the Pole.
We are used to hearing about climate change being a process that occurs in decades and always threatens us some time in the future.
However, to the few that have bothered to follow the story this has been like watching the sage in real time.
I now have some concept of what non-linear, exponential change looks like.
What a year!
For those of us not directly involved in events it seems an age since ‘super-storm’ Sandy ravaged New York, then the unprecedented drought and wildfires in Australia – that required the weathermen to come up with a new color to represent the record high temperatures recorded.
In my own backyard we had a drought that turned out to be the most serious since 1944, in which the Wellington area, normally thought of as well-endowed, almost ran out of water.
Since then hardly a day goes by when I have not recorded some terrible extreme weather event that is happening somewhere in the world.
How many still go unrecorded. It is almost a full-time occupation.
I have managed by keeping going, just recording things as I find them with a dogged determination that people should not be kept in the dark but be informed of what is happening with this splendid planet of ours.
When I stop I usually feel exhausted, but as I sit in front of the computer following leads and transferring stories onto my blog I feel energised.
But after yesterday I felt the necessity to stop and reflect on what is happening and how this affects me.
Yesterday after a morning on the computer I drove out with my partner the 25 km to get beyond the city and into the backblocks that we are blessed with here to check up on our horses.
When you see this photo I’m sure you’ll know what I mean.
That’s me with my horse Biscuit.
The only way I can get up that high these days is for Biscuit to take me there, which he’s quite happy to do for me.
On the way out I felt immense sadness and it was hard to divest myself of thoughts about positive feedbacks, trigger points and melting ice.
However, when we arrived and walked up the short distance to get the horses I was met by Biscuit who whickered and walked towards me. For any of you who know horses you will be aware that this is the equine equivalent of being jumped on and licked all over by a dog.
It was enough to melt away the negativity and bring me to the Present and an awareness of the amazing beauty of Nature.
For a while it was untinged by thoughts of how we are killing it.
It simply was.
For those of us that make the effort, we’ve all got to individually come to terms with these momentous changes we are witnessing – with what it means for us personally, collectively and as a living planet.
It requires coming to terms with ourselves, what it means to be human and – ultimately – to reflect on our mortality.
In this respect, I feel blessed that I spent some of my earlier years studying Buddhism and learning meditation.
What comes through from that is ‘taking refuge’ or being at peace with the way things are.
Another way of approaching it might be to contemplate this photo of earth taken from the edge of the solar system
It gives a wonderful perspective of our own importance in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t it?
Since yesterday I have seen reactions to our photo series, that runs from outright denial – such as saying its a fabrication of the media (sic), even though, as of now, the media has yet to touch it, through depression, anger and bargaining.
This one really struck me. It was pointed out that there’s really nothing to get excited about because, it seems, the pictures were not taken at the North Pole. The cameras have moved 350 km.
Well, maybe the cameras have got up and walked the distance, although I suspect there might be other explanations such as ocean currents or the fact that the pole seems no longer to sit on ice.
I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.
Then, we’re told this is all quite regular and routine – that the Arctic experiences melt pools every year.
From the photo above I’m not sure if I would be game to walk forward with my waders – they’re welcome to try.
Somehow this all seems to ignore some basic facts, such as that ice thickness at the pole(0-1 metres) was thinner than surrounding areas.
Due to a ‘mangled’ jet stream the Northern hemisphere has seen record high temperatures
The Arctic has experienced temperatures that are unprecedented. I’m sure the 80+F that Norilsk has seen in recent days would melt anything.
Or the warm, dark water flowing into the sea from Canadian floods?
Or any number of feedbacks?
Perhaps it might be better just to keep your head in the sand or if confronted with reality that you can’t avoid, explain it away, express righteous anger at the messenger? Whatever you do, for God’s sake – keep to separate factoids. Don’t allow any connections be made!
For myself I believe it may be better to avoid trying to argue whether the world is going to be saved by permaculture or whether we are headed for near-term human extinction within a couple of decades.
The reality is that the computer modelling that is still being spewed out in the same week as we witnessed a melting pole and an Arctic cyclone that is sure to have further degraded the ice shelf.
To me it seems reasonable to conclude that at least 15 irreversible positive feedbacks have been unleashed.
That means that we already have runaway climate change.
it also indicates that the most pessimistic of the pessimists will turn out to have been proven correct.
I’m not going to be the one to say it – I simply don’t know,
But if you ask me I would say it is quite probable that, in the immortal words of Guy McPherson, “We’re done”
PS. It hasn’t taken the deniers long to come back with their sarcastic nonsense
our friends were hysterical about a six inch deep pool of water which
had accumulated around a buoy 350 km from the pole. They thought that
bears were going to drown in it.
the life guard drained the pool.”