Thursday, April 25, 2013

Near Term Extinction: More Good News

I've not added to the blog for some time due to increased painting activity on my part--I paint in oils--and due to teaching English to college kids who are somewhat problematic. Also, a few good friends have died, leaving gaping holes in my heart. One other reason lurks and that is depression. I read about many disturbing things on the Internet, including peak oil, climate change, and the most disturbing refinement of climate change, Near Term Extinction (NTE). Those of you not familiar with NTE should watch Guy McPherson's lecture. To nutshell it, according to the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, the northern hemisphere is looking at the extinction of all life, THAT'S RIGHT--ALL LIFE, within eighteen years. The southern hemisphere follows in another ten years or so. Guy points out that this doesn't include the feedback loops that will accelerate this process. We may be wiped out in as little as ten years.

Wow. Ain't that a kick in the head? Of course, what they both don't mention is that the bad times will not occur all at once on some magical date ten or eighteen years in the future, but will manifest themselves relatively slowly (though you must remember that, in geological terms, this transition is an eye blink) then accelerate exponentially. For example, as I explain to my students, this will likely mean that chances are, in five years, no commercial crops will be grown in Kansas. This crop failure pattern will repeat itself all over the world particularly in the interiors of continents where most cereals are grown. (Global warming heats interior areas much more quickly.) These failures mean starvation, riots, war, disease, and chaos. And this comes before the accelerating exponential part.

When I tell this to my students, they, without fail, become bummed out. And so, for my entertainment, and because our youth culture puts youth above all else and nothing motivates the young like getting over on the old, I explain that I'm 54 and I've stupidly and wantonly and out of complete ignorance wallowed in huge towering gouts of energy use for such a very long time that I almost feel sorry for the fact that they will be thrust into an almost unimaginably energy constrained world. HA HA! I got mine!

"Oooo, Mr. Davies," they say, shaking their little fists at me.

At one point I was terribly sad for young people, but I've seen what passes for involvement in them. Ninety-five percent of them could care less. Mainly, they don't believe me. They grew up with the energy cornucopia, as I did, and they cannot see a life without it. Secondarily, they believe that some magical technology will save us, or at least enable them to continue with their lifestyle unabated, to allow them one more round of "Call of Duty," or to upload a video of a dog biting the gym teacher's crotch, or to write tweets about poor service at the coffee shop. The bad times will only come after they have gotten theirs.

So, to get back to my point, insomuch as I have a point, I've started to come out of my depression. I've achieved this by realizing, no, acknowledging, no--still not right--what I mean is, deeply internalizing the stark fact that we all die--some very young like the boy killed by the asshole bombers in Boston and others not so young, you can fill in the blank because death among the old is as common as comma misuse among my students.

I know I cannot stop the coming collapse of human society and its eventual extinction. I've taught about peak oil for eleven years and the NTE for one and half, and I've witnessed the complete lack of desire to change things. No one cares. And here is where I had my epiphany. (FINALLY! He reaches his point. Clearly a professor!) I realized that only one human will witness the extinction of humanity and that person will do so unknowingly. Until that last human dies, there is still a species. But, given the size of the planet, no one human can know that they are the last. Therefore, to most humans, it is inconceivable that extinction can occur. As long as they can wave at a neighbor, they cannot conceive of extinction.

I know what you're thinking: Won't they suspect the truth of extinction when ninety-nine percent of the people around them have died, when no electricity let alone television signals reach their propaganda box, when the radio is dead, when they must chase down rats for food, when the temperature at night is 110 degrees, when water must be collected during the occasional deluge such as to get them through until the next deluge, and when life during the 125 degree days are impossible aboveground. Won't they have an inkling? Let's hope so. Because then, maybe, just maybe, they will do what is necessary to stem this trend...................


As Derrick Jensen asks, "At what point will you act to save the oceans? When nine-seven percent of the fish are gone? Ninety-eight? Ninety-nine?"

At what point will people do the hard revolutionary work needed to stem the tide? We need to shut down the entire industrial economy today. Not a week from now, not a month, but now. Okay, let me ask you, and I want you to really think about this: "Will the people willingly let go of industrial society and all that entails?"

Now, the really hard question: "Will you?"


  1. Hi, I used up my comment allotment at NBL but wanted to tell you I liked your teetering bus analogy. I always like a good analogy. How else to comprehend the simple brutal truth? I see you read Des - his collection of rhino hippo tiger and shark stories is pretty persuasive that when resources become scarce, people simply double down on extraction. I read today that Montana has more coal than any other state so I would guess there's more than enough to keep us burning along until something else gets us.

    Glad you are not so depressed! I once told a (now former, haha) friend about trees dying and climate change and she said, "Why get so upset, of course eventually we're going to go extinct, everything does". And I still wonder, what part of her kids dying of starvation or violence did she not get?

    1. Gail, thanks for commenting!

      Yes, we seem to have plenty of carbon bombs left to drop on the planet. And, I suspect, we will do so in the bizarre belief that we are somehow helping--you know, with jobs, and energy, and all the life-saving that comes with all them energy slaves aworkin'.

      People must have skin in the game to feel committed enough to do what is necessary.


  2. @R.A.Davies

    The question "Will you?" demonstrates, IMNSHO, missing the point of the unavoidability of The End. Resources gone are gone forever. Not only will humankind disappear. In the process the earth will turn into a radioactive waste heap in which "only" some bacteria may survive. End of story. Therefore the question of some has become: How to use our time in a useful way? To which I would tentatively reply: focus on maintaining decency of everyday life here and now, as long as possible. Fight for human and animal rights, reduce suffering in the production processes, boycott inhumane products and practices. Be kind to each other. And so on.

    1. I know. Irony is lost on those who see the end. When I go about selling my novel to people from a card table or wherever I can, I sign the thing inside the front cover. I write, "It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here."

      I've been in a few automobile accidents, a couple of which I saw coming and could do nothing to avert. Strangely, I felt calm. At peace. It was an incredibly zen moment where I was simply lapping up the here and now. No fear came to me once I let go. I think that that is where many people who see NTE as inevitable and scheduled for some period during their lifetime, live. I think they have a zen outlook. Some just shrug and move on. Others find it liberates them to fight. And though they do not believe necessarily that their actions will effect change, they find that fighting the bastards they had been too timid to fight before is now suddenly great fun.

      However you take the news, fatalistically or with a new-found zeal for life, the fight, or pepperoni pizza, good on you.

      Take care, and as the THGTTG states, "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

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