Friday, February 23, 2018

Our only hope for long term survival

Sometimes, a good rant is needed. Here is one by Geoffrey Chia

by Geoffrey Chia, February 2018

Language warning: Many may find the following article offensive, such as:
  • Technocornucopians - eg geoengineering and carbon drawdown fantasists, blinkered university academics and engineers, TZM, Elon Musk etc
  • People who think reducing population and/or consumption are sacred cows which should never be mentioned
  • People who are shocked by and reject the idea that billions will die this century
  • Economists - who know the price of everything but the value of nothing
  • The Pope (who jumped on the bandwagon too late, but nice dress though)
  • Christians and other religious types
  • Global warming deniers
  • Economists 
  • Creationists
  • Politicians
  • Most Americans (they are mad)
  • Kim Jong Un (slightly less mad)
  • NBL fanatics (not referring to the basketball league here)
  • Economists

If you take umbrage at this article please consider the possibility you may be a fw rather than a sp

I agree entirely with Dennis Meadows that climate change should be regarded as a symptom or complication or side effect of our overshoot. Climate chaos will relentlessly worsen to become the worst problem threatening our very existence, but it is not the core problem. Furthermore it is not the most urgent problem right now. Despite many areas having been hit by severe weather events, global industrial civilisation is not immediately at risk of being brought down by climate change 1. Financial and economic collapse, which are intimately linked with the depletion of “easy” (high EROEI) oil and the looming net energy cliff (which will cause all resource outputs to fall off their respective Seneca cliffs) are much more immediate threats.

I assert that those who endeavour to study our predicaments should categorise threats according to what is worst, what is at the core and what is most urgent. Climate change is just one manifestation of the Limits to Growth and is not a core problem. Trying to address climate change in isolation is and always was futile. Solitary focus on “fixing” climate change alone will result in:

  • failure to solve it
  • unintended consequences eg acid rain from sulphates, failure of the monsoons, marine dead zones due to algal overgrowth (assuming “fertilising the oceans” can actually work) etc
  • being blindsided by more urgent issues (eg financial/economic collapse) and subsequently being powerless to do anything
  • other opportunities being lost because of wasted time and effort

Nevertheless I do support those who protest against Adani and CSG in Australia, DAPL and Keystone XL in the US and new coal or unconventional oil and gas developments in general, because of the contemporary environmental vandalism wreaked and future carbon emissions released which may be the critical determinant whether we go extinct or not. However civilisation is doomed even if we cease all carbon emissions now, due to the extant GHGs and the numerous unstoppable adverse feedback loops already underway, which will destroy our capacity for large scale agriculture. Cities (defined as dense urban concentrations) are the basis for civilisation and cannot exist in the absence of large scale agriculture. There may be some hope for small scale permaculture in future residual climate resilient pockets (eg South Island of NZ, the southern tip of South America – a good jumping-off point to a thawing Antarctica), even as the rest of the world burns.

Any competent Physician will tell you that a disease can only be cured by eliminating the underlying cause. Managing symptoms is important but is only a temporary fix at best. Unless the underlying cause is treated, there will be no cure.

In my 3D collapse model, I indicated that the core issue driving all the collapse mechanisms was our total human footprint (THF) which I expressed as:

THF = total human population x (individual consumption + waste production) 2.

This begs the question: if our THF is the core issue, are there even more fundamental root causes for this core issue?

To me the fundamental root causes for the cancer-like overgrowth of our THF are dysfunctional human behaviour driven by greed and stupidity. Plunder and exploitation justified by the fabrication of self-serving narratives which have no basis in reality. For example, the delusional ideology that we were created by a supernatural all-powerful being in “his” image to hold dominion over all living things on Earth and exploit everything, any-which-way, just as we damn well please. Spread forth and multiply. And multiply and multiply. I have alluded to this before:

Only latterly did Il Papa come out stating that humans need to exercise responsible custodianship over our natural world or face catastrophe. Hey Pope! Your words were too little too late! And where did you get your ideas from? Did they come from an undetectable deity who telepathically beamed his thoughts into your brain from dimensions unknown, or did they come from reasoned conclusions derived from decades of peer reviewed scientific research conducted by mere humans? And what about population control and reduction huh? Huh? Per favore potresti spiegarmi.

Religious justifications for our historical bad behaviour, based on the claim they came from supernatural authority, may have had survival value long ago when we lived as primitive small tribes struggling against harsh Nature and the hostility of other tribes. Scientific advances and globalisation changed all that, but most human thought remains implacably fixated at the level of the reptile brained Id. It is impossible to become POTUS without public expressions of pious Christian religiosity. Tribal sabre rattling between “leaders” of Nations may well trigger nuclear Armageddon. And why? Because we are governed by fuckwits who were voted in by fuckwits (or who seized power by collusion with fuckwits).

It is not my intention to single out Christianity for bashing, no matter how well deserved. I am merely using Christian delusion as one example. Even worse than Christianity (or Islam or Judaism) is the insane theology of the neoclassical, neoliberal economic high priests, who claim that their so-called free market will save us if we just return to growth! Let's put out the fire by pouring petrol over it! Not crazy at all! They and their disciples are the most toxic fracking fuckwits on this planet, even more resistant to scientific persuasion than Il Papa.

Notwithstanding the impending demise of industrial civilisation, let us engage in a thought experiment. Imagine that benevolent aliens descend from outer space tomorrow to magically fix our problems. They reset our global population (by some unexplained deus ex machina), painlessly down to one billion people, the survivors being selected randomly. Mr HWAFL (which rhymes with “awful” and stands for “Hairpiece Without A Frontal Lobe”) and his dodgy clan vanish in a puff of flatus. However Mike Pence and Rex Tillerson remain. The aliens restore all ecosystems, resources (including subterranean fossil fuels) and greenhouse gas levels back to the pristine situation of 1850 CE. The aliens declare to the remaining one billion people: this is a one-off reset of humanity, one last chance to fashion a sustainable future for yourselves. You will never again be given such an opportunity. The benevolent aliens will never return.

Here's the rub: failure to address the underlying problems of human stupidity and greed will inevitably lead to a re-run of this same failed fossil fool experiment. The remaining humans, the majority of whom are fuckwits, will merely fabricate new or recycle old delusional ideologies to justify their ongoing pursuit of short term greed over long term need, condemning our biosphere to utter devastation yet again. Stupid and greedy humans never learn from history and the majority of humans are stupid and greedy. If it were not so, we would not be facing these planetary predicaments.

Our only hope for long term survival is if wisdom and restraint can permanently triumph over stupidity and greed.

Only if wisdom and restraint become enshrined in all our policies will humanity have any hope. Humans have held these values before. The Six Nations of the First Peoples of North America formulated such principles. Their time horizon looked seven generations ahead, not at the next quarterly profit. Unfortunately invaders bearing germs (which killed off 95% of the native population), guns and steel all but wiped them out. A few of their surviving descendants still fight at Standing Rock, among the last examples of decent human beings remaining on this planet. 

Are there any countries today where the sapients outnumber the fuckwits, enabling sane and just social and environmental policy to prevail? Very few, but they exist. Bhutan comes to mind, where the official State policy is gross national happiness. Maybe some Scandinavian countries. In New Zealand my guess is the sp/fw ratio may be as high as 50:50, although I may be wildly optimistic. John Key was a fuckwit who was cunning enough to get out while still able to take credit for the good times. It is possible Jacinda Adern may be a sapient. For the sake of her child I hope she is. In Australia, the fuckwits (=American wannabes) far outnumber the sapients, however there is huge regional variation. Even in America, land of the creeps, home of the knaves and the batshit crazy heartland of fuckwits (creationists, global warming deniers, Chicago school economists, new age antivaccination wackos etc), there are a few pockets of enlightenment. The Pacific Northwest and Hawaii are home to millions of sane, reasonable people who can look forward to a good medium-term future, if only they can find a way to prevent being overrun by fuckwits from the heartland, armed to the teeth with assault rifles and fleeing from “non-existent” climate change (mid-continental heatwaves, droughts, tornadoes etc). Maybe Northern California can build a fence and get Alabama to pay for it.

Is there any realistic prospect for the global ascendance of sapience and thus any hope for long term human survival? Actually, yes, there is a tiny possibility.

So here is another future scenario, perhaps unlikely, but far more probable than the benevolent alien scenario:

As this century unfolds we will witness the die-off of billions of people through wars, resource depletion, droughts, floods, storms, crop failures, sea level rise (with no place to migrate to), pandemics and numerous other disasters. However several thousand people, perhaps even a million, will survive to the year 2100 and beyond. They will be the descendants of those people living today who were intelligent enough to read the signs of imminent collapse and to plan in advance to cope with the looming catastrophes.

The ancestors of future humanity version 2.0 are those few people living right now who are planning to move to a climate resilient location and are preparing their off-grid community homestead to be as self sufficient as possible. As industrial societies fail and central services collapse, the fuckwits, almost all of whom will be living in the cities, will experience severe deprivation and will turn on the clueless sheeple (cs) and on each other like cannibalistic rats. It is possible some outlier fuckwits may overrun some rural homesteads. But not having cultivated the knowledge and skills of self sufficiency and not having built up community trust and cooperation, those invading fuckwits will inevitably die off quickly. In the long term, Nature will select for the sapients who had planned in advance and promoted the values of wisdom, restraint, conservation and mutual cooperation within their small local communities. As time goes by, life will get ever harder, but humans are adaptable and the survival instinct is strong. If the world heats up to the extent that the only remaining survivable location is Antarctica, then humans will migrate to Antarctica. Even if 99% of the (several thousand) surviving communities ultimately fail, all it takes is for a small nucleus of people to survive in the long term, for humanity to get through this genetic bottleneck. DNA studies show such a genetic bottleneck has happened at least once before and it can happen again.

Long term human survival depends on the survival of the sapients and the extinction of the fuckwits. Readers of this blog are a self-selected tiny population and (apart from NBL trolls) are very likely to be sapients. As sapients, you are bound to have strong traits of empathy and compassion. However my message to you is this: when the die-off begins, you must not mourn the fuckwits. You must maintain your focus and harden your hearts. The fuckwits will reap what they have sowed. Your responsibility, dear reader, is to save yourself and your family, because the future survival of humanity depends on your survival.

Some argue, using sound evidence and logic, that the most probable scenario is human extinction (via multiple mechanisms, climate chaos eventually becoming the worst) by 2100. I do not disagree. Nevertheless I assert that no matter how unlikely long term human survival may be, even if the chance is only one tenth of one percent, failure to at least attempt to survive will be foolish. At the very least you will buy yourself another decade of good quality life beyond the die-off of the fuckwits.

There is one former scientist who proclaims with absolute certainty that humans face climate extinction by 2026 – which I have shown using arguments based on physics to be an easily falsifiable hypothesis. That death cult prophet and his parrot-like disciples spew forth an insane ideology of nihilistic, fatalistic, helpless hopelessness (or hopeless helplessness – take your pick). Those misery mongering whiners are no better than the fuckwits. Failure to plan is planning to fail. The time to plan and get organised is now, before descent into chaos deprives you of options and agency.

A global population cull is on the horizon and if it selects for sapience then maybe, just maybe, humanity may have a long term future.

So how can we awaken potential sapients and encourage as many of them as possible to establish as many offgrid rural homesteads as possible? The first step is to improve and expand awareness of the troubles ahead among the populace. That, dear reader, is where YOU come in. YOU need to organise free community meetings in your location to raise awareness of the troubles ahead and how to mitigate against them. Most will ignore your message, but perhaps one in a thousand may listen and one in ten of those may act. That is what I am doing now and will be writing about next.

G. Chia, February 2018

  1. Even though climate change by itself will not bring down global civilisation within the next decade or two (economic and energy collapse will), climate chaos could kill you and your family right now if you live in a particularly vulnerable area. If you live in a hurricane corridor or mid continental location prone to heat extremes or are already experiencing unprecedented droughts or floods, you need to get the hell out now if you can, while you can. It is the most urgent issue for you personally.
  2. The ecological human footprint is properly expressed in acres or hectares as described by the originator of this concept, Canadian ecologist William Rees. It is the land and water area we use for resource extraction and waste expulsion to support the lifestyle to which we are accustomed. The physical footprint of a city may be small, but its ecological footprint may be a thousand times larger. No city can exist without a much larger hinterland to support it, whether that hinterland is inside or outside its national boundary. For example, the supporting hinterland for the city state of Singapore is essentially 100% outside its national boundary. Essentially all its citizens live in denial (a combination of fw and cs)


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)