Friday, October 30, 2020

The Yellow Peril: Propaganda and the Pandemic


The idea of the "Yellow Peril" about China was once a common way of thinking. Here I am illustrating how bad could that be from a short story by Jack London. Given the current situation, I wouldn't bet that this kind of attitude couldn't return, together with proposals for wiping out the Chinese population by means of biological warfare. Image source


As I was surfing the Web looking for data about how the Chinese government managed the COVID epidemic, I found this short story written by Jack London about a future where China grows so much that the Western Powers band together to exterminate the Chinese. They do so by means of a campaign of biological warfare that kills most of the Chinese population. Then, the survivors are killed by conventional weapons by the Western armies that invade China. Finally, Westerners sanitize and colonize the empty Chinese territory, resulting in an era of "splendid output."

I have to say that I was a little shocked: I knew Jack London for his "The Call of the Wild" and "White Fang," both could be seen as enlightened stories about the power of nature and the value of animal life. That London, who could so well understand the mind of a wolf, would so badly misunderstand the Oriental mind was a little unsettling, to say the least. On this, I later found that several critical essays on this story maintain that it was to be understood as ironic. Maybe, but I am sure many people who read the story took it at face value. 

So, we have here a description of a racially driven extermination of an entire population, done using biological weapons, the whole is said in glowing terms and apparently completely approved by the author. Hard to think of something more evil than this. Remarkable how this story could be published without anyone, apparently, complaining. 

But the curious thing about this story is that, although the story of the "Yellow Peril" seems to have gone out of fashion (fortunately), people in the West still badly misunderstand China. For instance, recently it has become fashionable to accuse China to have waged, or attempted to wage, a biological war against the West using the COVID-19 as a weapon (unlikely, to say the least!). Also, the fact that China managed to contain the epidemic much better than Western countries didn't generate a friendly attitude. 

The Western propaganda machine has been set in motion in this issue and the result is a wave of anti-Chinese feelings. I have seen many comments in the social media of people who seem to see the Chinese in the same way as they are described in London's story: a nation of incomprehensible and brutish individuals who eat bats and dogs and cultivate other disgusting habits. We haven't arrived yet to the proposal of exterminating the Chinese using biological weapons, but, who knows? The future always surprises you and the idea of "ethnic bioweapons" is circulating and probably being studied in the world's bioweapon labs. On this, London could have been prophetic, unfortunately.

Anyway, if you have 5 minutes, you can use them to take a look at this horrible thing that I still hope was to be understood as irony.

"The Unparalleled Invasion," by Jack London, 1910.

 Some excerpts (you can find the whole text here)

What they had failed to take into account was this: THAT BETWEEN THEM AND CHINA WAS NO COMMON PSYCHOLOGICAL SPEECH. Their thought- processes were radically dissimilar. There was no intimate vocabulary. The Western mind penetrated the Chinese mind but a short distance when it found itself in a fathomless maze. The Chinese mind penetrated the Western mind an equally short distance when it fetched up against a blank, incomprehensible wall. It was all a matter of language. There was no way to communicate Western ideas to the Chinese mind. China remained asleep. The material achievement and progress of the West was a closed book to her; nor could the West open the book. Back and deep down on the tie-ribs of consciousness, in the mind, say, of the English-speaking race, was a capacity to thrill to short, Saxon words; back and deep down on the tie-ribs of consciousness of the Chinese mind was a capacity to thrill to its own hieroglyphics; but the Chinese mind could not thrill to short, Saxon words; nor could the English-speaking mind thrill to hieroglyphics. The fabrics of their minds were woven from totally different stuffs. They were mental aliens. And so it was that Western material achievement and progress made no dent on the rounded sleep of China.

For many centuries China's population had been constant. Her territory had been saturated with population; that is to say, her territory, with the primitive method of production, had supported the maximum limit of population. But when she awoke and inaugurated the machine-civilization, her productive power had been enormously increased. Thus, on the same territory, she was able to support a far larger population. At once the birth rate began to rise and the death rate to fall. Before, when population pressed against the means of subsistence, the excess population had been swept away by famine. But now, thanks to the machine-civilization, China's means of subsistence had been enormously extended, and there were no famines; her population followed on the heels of the increase in the means of subsistence.

There was no combating China's amazing birth rate. If her population was a billion, and was increasing twenty millions a year, in twenty-five years it would be a billion and a half - equal to the total population of the world in 1904. And nothing could be done. There was no way to dam up the over-spilling monstrous flood of life. War was futile. China laughed at a blockade of her coasts. She welcomed invasion. In her capacious maw was room for all the hosts of earth that could be hurled at her. And in the meantime her flood of yellow life poured out and on over Asia. China laughed and read in their magazines the learned lucubrations of the distracted Western scholars.

But on May 1, 1976, had the reader been in the imperial city of Peking, with its then population of eleven millions, he would have witnessed a curious sight. He would have seen the streets filled with the chattering yellow populace, every queued head tilted back, every slant eye turned skyward. And high up in the blue he would have beheld a tiny dot of black, which, because of its orderly evolutions, he would have identified as an airship. From this airship, as it curved its flight back and forth over the city, fell missiles - strange, harmless missiles, tubes of fragile glass that shattered into thousands of fragments on the streets and house- tops. But there was nothing deadly about these tubes of glass. Nothing happened. There were no explosions. It is true, three Chinese were killed by the tubes dropping on their heads from so enormous a height; but what were three Chinese against an excess birth rate of twenty millions? One tube struck perpendicularly in a fish-pond in a garden and was not broken. It was dragged ashore by the master of the house. He did not dare to open it, but, accompanied by his friends, and surrounded by an ever-increasing crowd, he carried the mysterious tube to the magistrate of the district. The latter was a brave man. With all eyes upon him, he shattered the tube with a blow from his brass-bowled pipe. Nothing happened. Of those who were very near, one or two thought they saw some mosquitoes fly out. That was all. The crowd set up a great laugh and dispersed.

The wretched creatures stormed across the Empire in many-millioned flight. The vast armies China had collected on her frontiers melted away. The farms were ravaged for food, and no more crops were planted, while the crops already in were left unattended and never came to harvest. The most remarkable thing, perhaps, was the flights. Many millions engaged in them, charging to the bounds of the Empire to be met and turned back by the gigantic armies of the West. The slaughter of the mad hosts on the boundaries was stupendous. Time and again the guarding line was drawn back twenty or thirty miles to escape the contagion of the multitudinous dead.

 During all the summer and fall of 1976 China was an inferno. There was no eluding the microscopic projectiles that sought out the remotest hiding-places. The hundreds of millions of dead remained unburied and the germs multiplied themselves, and, toward the last, millions died daily of starvation. Besides, starvation weakened the victims and destroyed their natural defences against the plagues. Cannibalism, murder, and madness reigned. And so perished China.

They found China devastated, a howling wilderness through which wandered bands of wild dogs and desperate bandits who had survived. All survivors were put to death wherever found. And then began the great task, the sanitation of China. Five years and hundreds of millions of treasure were consumed, and then the world moved in - not in zones, as was the idea of Baron Albrecht, but heterogeneously, according to the democratic American programme. It was a vast and happy intermingling of nationalities that settled down in China in 1982 and the years that followed - a tremendous and successful experiment in cross-fertilization. We know to-day the splendid mechanical, intellectual, and art output that followed.



Monday, October 26, 2020

The Pandemic: Did They Hide the Truth from us?


Have you ever thought of governments as if they were human beings? In that case, you would want them jailed, or even shot by a firing squad. Governments normally engage in murder, genocide, theft, torture, terrorism, and more, but what they are truly specialized in is lying. Truly their second nature, just think of the story of the "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. So, there is an interesting question to ask, could it be that they lied to us also about the coronavirus pandemic? 

In the article below, I engaged in an examination of the consistency of the data we have for the pandemic. It turns out that, for Western countries, the data are almost always correct, with just a few possible exceptions, mainly Belarus. It seems that it is easier for governments to use their propaganda machines to terrorize people about the pandemic, rather than actually falsifying the data, with all the risks involved if discovered.


Post published on October 2, 2020, on "Pillole di Ottimismo" (slightly adapted for an international readership)

Note: Since the publication of the original version of this post on Facebook, three weeks ago, the situation in Belarus has not changed substantially, at least in terms of the data reported by the government. We see a modest increase in the virus diffusion and a mortality that remains very low, around 4-5 deaths per day.

By Ugo Bardi, Department of Chemistry of the University of Florence. (1)

πŸ’ŠπŸ’ŠπŸ’ŠThere are many legends about the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments are said to have kept quiet about the true extent of the epidemic to avoid panic, or, on the contrary, that the damage caused by it has been exaggerated in order to scare us. However, if we analyze the data, we see that they are on the whole reliable, except in some particular cases. πŸ’ŠπŸ’ŠπŸ’Š

It is sometimes said that "if you think ill of someone, you are usually right." It's probably true, but if you follow the rule literally you risk getting lost in the silliest kinds of conspiracy theories, from the story of the moon landings hoax to chemtrails and more. But if we take the sentence as an invitation to verify everything they tell us, then it is a useful invitation to prudence.

In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no shortage of speculations and legends. One is that the virus would have claimed many more victims than those indicated by the official data, but that governments hid the truth in order not to cause panic. The other is the exact opposite and it says that the pandemic does not exist, except as an invention concocted by evil governments in order to establish a dictatorship.

Let me tell you right away that the available data show that these are only legends, at least for what concerns Europe and the Western world. But it is still an interesting exercise to go into the details and see how things stand.

We can start by saying that it is never possible to say with absolute certainty whether something is true or false: a classic example is that it is not possible to prove that unicorns do not exist. But it is possible to rely on the idea that if something is true it must be confirmed by more than one independent set of data.

In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are faced with a fairly new event, so that the datasets we can compare are not so many. But we can reason that the pandemic should have caused a significant increase in overall mortality. So, we can verify the consistency of two datasets: the excess mortality must confirm that the epidemic has caused victims.

Perhaps you remember that in Italy, in March, someone who used this method to argue that the epidemic did not exist. Alas, if you want to be a good debunker you need to have a minimum of competence in handling data. As I wrote in a post of mine a few months ago (2), the alleged demonstration of the non-existence of the pandemic was simply a mistake based on incorrect data.

Fortunately, good data are available and we can find them, for example, in a dataset of 24 European countries provided by "Euromomo," European Mortality Monitor, an agency that works in collaboration with the WHO (World Health Organization). In these data for Italy, you see very well the excess mortality that corresponds to the effect of the pandemic. (3).
You see how the mortality peak matches well with the epidemic phase of COVID-19. It is more intense than other seasonal peaks related to respiratory diseases. This tells us that the epidemic has taken place and has hit hard, it was NOT a government invention to cheat us!

There is no need to go into a quantitative comparison between total mortality and the COVID mortality (for a discussion, read this interesting article in Nature (4)). Let's just note that the European countries covered by the Euromomo network have similar social and health structures, so we expect them to give similar results in terms of the ratio between total excess mortality and mortality attributed to COVID.

So, let's put the data all together in a graph. 
On the X-axis I placed the Euromomo mortality data, measured as the height of the peaks. It is an approximation, but sufficient for what we want to see. On the Y-axis, I placed the data for the COVID-19 deaths per million people. Notice how there is a certain proportionality: the majority of the points remain in the vicinity of an average value represented by the line passing through the graph. (note that the line does not indicate the "right" values. It is simply an average obtained by numerical regression). 
Some countries, such as Belgium, seem to have exaggerated in attributing deaths to Covid-19, while others, such as Greece, have been much more cautious in their diagnoses (perhaps too much). In any case, there is a certain agreement between the two datasets, even if not perfect. It is a good indication that the data are reliable within the limits of the uncertainty of this type of measurement.

But what happens outside of Western Europe? There are many cases in global data where it is difficult to trust the data provided simply because certain countries are too poor to afford a reliable monitoring system for the outbreak. There is, however, an interesting case to which I would like to draw your attention: that of Belarus.

Belarus is a European country, although not part of the European Union. Therefore, we would not expect great differences compared to the rest of Europe. But Belarus has the distinction of being one of the few countries in the world, perhaps the only one in Europe, to have taken almost no precautions regarding the epidemic (5). No lockdown, no distancing, no masks, nothing like that. President Lukashenko explicitly stated that in Belarus everything should continue to be done as before, epidemic or not.

Despite the lack of containment measures, the official data indicate that Belarus has been very scarcely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The government reports a total mortality of just 89 deaths per million people, which is six times less than the value for Italy. But can we trust the official data?

Returning to the principle that we shouldn't trust anyone, let's say that some doubts about the validity of the data coming from Belarus are legitimate. To try to verify how things stand, I placed the data for Belarus in the same graph for other European countries (see the figure above). Note that Belarus is not among the countries monitored by Euromomo, so I had to make an estimate starting from the excess mortality data reported by Mastitsky (6) (I took a value of 6000 excess deaths), assuming that the proportionality with the Z-score it is the same as for other European countries. The official Covid mortality for Belarus, on the other hand, is found in the most common databases. The result is that the point for Belarus is clearly an outlier on the graph

Is this enough to conclude that the COVID mortality data for Belarus have been altered? No, because the data on excess mortality come from non-validated sources and, as we said, it is good not to trust anyone. Let's say we have an indication that something is wrong. And other data are pointing in the same direction.

Do you remember what I told you in the previous posts? The epidemic diffusion curves are usually "bell-shaped" (not necessarily symmetrical) or sometimes appear as a superposition of bell curves. Now, if you look at the curve for the positive cases in Belarus (see below) you see that it is not exactly "bell-shaped", as in the case of Italy and many other countries. The central part is flattened and the result is something that is shaped like a hat. Also, look at the scale and notice how the curve never surpasses 1000 cases per day, it always stops a little lower. Let's say this is a little suspicious. It looks like someone told to the persons collecting these data, "we must not go above 1,000, or else....."


If we then look at the death curve, in Belarus, it is flat with an almost constant value of 5-6 deaths per day. We can also see this as a little unlikely.
Finally, I can tell you that I performed a validity test using "Benford's Law" which is a statistical method to check if the data has been manipulated. The results are not to be taken as anything conclusive, just an indication, but they do tell us that there may be something wrong in a dataset. So, it turns out that the Belarusian data do not follow Benford's law and therefore are suspect (the data I got from WHO, the Benford test I did by using the website (7)). Incidentally, I can tell you that Italy gives the "right" Benford test result - no indications of cheating.

Taken together, these results tell us something. As I told you before, it can never be proved with absolute certainty that a unicorn does not exist, and it is the same for data manipulation in Belarus. But we can have some legitimate doubts: the data coming from Belarus may well have been doctored a little to play down the extent of the epidemic.
However, note also that there is a limit to how much you can lie with the data. Even the work of Matsitsky (6), who is very critical of the Belarus government, does not come to the conclusion that the epidemic has done catastrophic damage. According to his data, the mortality was about the same as in Italy and other Western European countries.

If then it is true that Belarus has fared no worse than other countries even without containment measures, some might be tempted to conclude that the lockdown is useless but, beware: it is definitely not the case to launch into global generalizations starting from a small country of which we have only uncertain data. Among other things, if we consider the median age of the population, it is 45 in Italy against 40 in Belarus. This means that there is a much smaller number of elderly people in Belarus who, as we know, are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. An assessment of the effectiveness of the lockdown will require a much more complete comparison of data and we can only do it in the future.

I have dwelt on the case of Belarus to show you how even for a national government it is not easy to cheat on data without being discovered or, at least, without arousing suspicion. If other states had done so, someone would have noticed. On this basis, we can say that the data on the pandemic that the various government agencies provide are on the whole reliable, at least in Western Europe.

So, here with us there is no reason to get carried away by the idea that the pandemic is a conspiracy of the powers that be, nor to panic at the suspicion that things are wor
se than they appear. This is not to say that the media can't exaggerate the way they present the data to make it look more catastrophic than it is. Indeed, they almost always do that out of sensationalism. So, to find out how things are really going, you need to be careful and check more than one source of data, if possible. If you are interested in Italy in particular, I suggest reading Paolo Spada's daily "Pills" (8) as an antidote to media exaggeration.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Taboos and illusions in the environmental question: The viewpoint of a physician

Physicians have a view of the world that makes them especially able to understand the concept I called the "Seneca Cliff." Here, Lukas Fierz, Swiss physician, provides some basic principles that apply to collapses of complex systems, it doesn't matter if we deal with human bodies or entire civilizations. The basic behavior is the same: collapses start slow and often unnoticed, and then strike hard by a combination of mutually reinforcing factors. The final result may be that someone dies, or that an entire civilization goes down to the dustbin of history, or even that an entire ecosystem is destroyed. It happened, and it will happen again.



A painting by Holbein, presently at the Kunstmuseum in Basel. It was one of the sources of inspiration for this post by Lukas Fierz


Guest post by Lukas Fierz


Taboos and illusions in the environmental question

I am not a climatologist, but as a physician, you only master certain areas and otherwise you listen to various other specialists. We are also used to deal with uncertainties: e.g. If you are considering an operation, you estimate the chance of success based on the patient's age, nutritional and physical condition, morale, heart health and previous illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes etc. Every risk factor reduces the chances of success. Inability to calculate anything precisely does not release you from making an estimate.

Similarly, the uncertainties in the climate discussion do not release one from making an assessment. There we are unfortunately hindered by some taboos and illusions, but let’s try:

I grew up in Basel where in the museum hangs a picture of the dead Christ, painted by Holbein 500 years ago.

This made a deep impression on me and I had it above my desk for years: A mercilessly realistic view of our God, his passion and the end of us all. We have to measure our actions against this end. Until then we must do, what we do as well as possible and not lose time. And there is already the first taboo, death. Death being repressed in the prevailing consciousness, much that is related to it cannot be seen.

Later I studied medicine and learned some principles:

1.     Illnesses often begin in secret: First symptoms are often not the beginning, but the last act. A drunkard or a smoker take decades to ruin their liver or lungs; this goes unnoticed because the organism compensates. Once jaundice or shortness of breath occurs, the further course is not in decades, but rather years. Similarly, if our bees die, this is not a beginning but the end, because they have been poisoned already for a long time.

2.     Risk factors for disease can more than add up: E.g. depression occurs in one percent of the population every month. A serious stress factor (death of family member, loss of workplace, illness, etc.) adds two percent more. Two stress factors add three percent. With three stress factors, one could assume depression in nine percent, but it is 24 percent: Suddenly the risks multiply. Similar mechanisms may apply in other situations.

3.     Patients and insurances want forecasts. Diseases often remain true to themselves: A patient with multiple sclerosis who is only slightly disabled after ten years, will probably not be in a wheelchair after another decade.

4.     This is only true in the absence of self-reinforcing mechanisms: The most dreaded example is the narrowing of the aortic valve, the valve of the main artery. The heart adapts, uses more energy, generates more strength and pushes enough blood through the valve; patients can even practice athletics. But when the heart can no longer get enough blood for its own energy requirements, heart failure and death occur within seconds, We physicians are terrified of such self-reinforcing and uncontrollable mechanisms.

5.     In our profession there are authorities: If a physician repeatedly has made diagnoses missed by everyone else, he will get a fabulous reputation. You believe him with advantage, even if you don't quite understand his reasoning.

6.     Cheating is useless: If the patient dies you are dealt with by the pathologist or the coroner. They are merciless.

Let's apply this wisdom to the environmental situation:

In 1972 the Club of Rome fed whatever one knew into a computer and he predicted that if we don't stop economic growth and limit the population at four billion, ecosystems will destabilize in the middle of our century. They even mentioned the greenhouse effect hoping for a timely solution. The limiting factor was pollution, not scarcity of resources or of land. Whoever pretends that the Club of Rome is discredited because it incorrectly predicted a resource shortage tells a lie or has not read the report. Later, the Club of Rome corrected, that perhaps even a population of 8 billion could be sustainable, but they explicitly stated that the consequences of human aggressiveness could not be modelled.

In 1988 James Hansen first demonstrated that the greenhouse effect was happening while predicting the future warming with great accuracy to this day. Hansen is an authority. If he questions official forecasts and measures, this must raise concern.

James Hansen is taken away by police in shackles

The Paris Treaties of 2015 wanted to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 or 2 degrees. And this brings us to the illusions

First illusion: The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) takes 1850-1900 as the starting point which gives a temperature rise of more than one degree. But industrialization started 100 years earlier, and starting from the lower pre-industrial values we have already reached the 1.5 degrees.

Second illusion: From the start it was clear that the Paris 1.5-degree target would be missed. James Hansen speaks of a fake deal. If it were kept, the temperature would rise above 3 degrees, over land twice as much. Moreover, the Paris Agreement assumes large-scale sequestration of CO2 from the air, which Hansen describes as illusory.

Third illusion: Hardly anyone keeping the Paris Agreements we are underway to global warming of 4-5 degrees by 2100, again meaning about the double over land.

This is official mainstream, i.e. the predictions of the IPCC.

The fourth illusion assumes that this is hysterical alarmism. Even the greenhouse effect is denied although he has been proven more than 150 years ago.

But in fact, all statements made so far are not alarmistic, but rather too tame,

Fifth illusion: Many think that the temperature increase is linear. But it becomes faster, as one sees with the naked eye:


Even the IPCC suffers from this illusion: Before 2015 they talked of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees by 2100. In 2018, the IPCC moved this to 2040. American climatologists immediately objected: The IPCC had forgotten that greenhouse gases continue to rise which takes the 1.5 degrees to 2030, a shift of 70 years in  some years.

The sixth illusion holds that the greenhouse mechanism is the whole story. This would be bad enough, but the many positive feedback mechanisms are even worse  because according to Hansen they were always match-deciding in the previous history of the earth and they can cause tipping points.

The IPCC neglects these feedbacks, because precise predictions are impossible. However for a physician, they are more frightening than anything else: All go in the wrong direction, each can become uncontrollable, and their effects can not only add, but possibly multiply. And then, developments can be shortened to years.

The seventh illusion imagines that the CO2 concentration only depends on how much we blow into the air. However almost a third of the CO2 emissions have been absorbed by the ocean and a warmer ocean no longer absorbs, but releases CO2.

Similarly with trees and vegetation: So far, they also absorb almost a third of the CO2 emitted. Most CO2 compensation programs work with actual or alleged reforestation. But we are already losing forest through logging and fires. And with a temperature increase of four degrees by the year 2100, the trees will die off over large areas, like the coral reefs, and thus trees will change from being a CO2 buffer to CO2-production. The German Climate Pope Schellnhuber says: "We kill our best friends". CO2 emissions will increase, even with zero emissions by humanity! Not counted by the IPCC either.

In the eighth illusion the ice melts slowly, but things accelerate in the Arctic. Wadham, the Pope of Ice, believes that without snow and ice, the reflectivity of the earth decreases and warming becomes 50 percent greater. That may bring us to six degrees by 2100, twice as much over land. Not counted by the IPCC.

The ninth illusion was that the permafrost would not thaw until the end of the century. But it is already thawing, and methane is bubbling there and elsewhere and rising rapidly in the atmosphere. This short-lived but very powerful greenhouse gas can acutely accelerate warming with self-burning becoming a matter of years. Not counted by the IPCC.

The tenth illusion: At a higher temperature, the air stores more water vapor, also a greenhouse gas. Several models predict a decrease in cloud cover, which could further accelerate warming. Not counted by the IPCC.

The eleventh illusion is that everything goes slowly. But geologically, the pace of the current changes is unprecedented, ten times faster than the fastest changes in the last 65 million years.

Twelfth illusion: It’s not only the climate that endangers us, but also the extinction of species, at an extraordinary pace in terms of earth history. It’s still rather climate-independent, mainly caused by hunting and by the loss and poisoning of habitats due to expanding human population and activity. E.O. Wilson thinks that half of the earth should be reserved for wildlife if one wanted to stop this extinction.

Let’s summarize, like a surgeon before an operation:

The first symptoms of disease are omnipresent: droughts, fires, glacier retreat, loss of species, not a beginning, rather the beginning of the end. The biosphere can no longer compensate.

The effects of causal factors - CO2, methane, water vapor, forest fires, cloud loss, ocean acidification, pesticides, habitat loss - don’t necessarily just add up, they sometimes multiply with unpredictable results.

But a physician panics above all about the multiple self-reinforcing feedbacks: ice melt, methane release, forest fires, CO2 release from soil and ocean. There is little handle against such self-reinforcing mechanisms, even if they occur individually, and even much less if they work together.

The 1,5- or 2-degrees goal is out of question. The Paris Agreement is fake, the governments reactions inadequate or contra productive. Only with luck will we reach four or five degrees at the end of the century, but this is improbable, because the self-reinforcing feedbacks have already all kicked in. Some experts expect six or seven degrees, meaning twice as much over land, which human civilization cannot survive.

For Johan RockstrΓΆm from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, with four degrees of global warming the earth can only feed four billion people. This means widespread wars for a living space that will become increasingly scarce.  

Because death is tabooed in our consciousness we are unable to see him, even if he stares directly into our eyes. I don't blame idiots like Trump. But rather the climatologists, who do not tell the whole truth. And the Greens, who are raving about the 1.5 degrees, a lie to the voters.

Last but not least, we come to the second taboo: Nobody wants to see the fact that we are too many. We are reproductive machines and reproduction is programmed into us as the most sacred goal. Therefore many - e.g. our benevolent Greens – prefer to believe into the illusion that reduction of consumption is enough.

Admittedly, only the wealthy produce the pollution: The ten percent of the wealthiest probably fifty percent, the 50 percent of the wealthier almost all the rest. But a large part of resource consumption and pollution is forced because we have to live in megastructures, which need energy-guzzling transports.

Some want to solve the problem by eliminating the privileges of the top 10 percent or even - according to old revolutionary customs - by eliminating the top 10 percent of the privileged, guillotine. But even half the burden is too much. Therefore one would have to guillotine the wealthier half. This would work if the remaining half would not want to multiply and become wealthy, with industry, meat consumption, cars, airplanes. This they are already trying to do all over the world, e.g. in India, for the noble savage is just another illusion.

Many whose birth is not avoided by birth control will be killed by manslaughter, starvation and disease. That’s the reality we should face. Two generations of one-child family would be more humane.


Lukas Fierz (79), from a Swiss family of musicians and scientists became a physician and neurologist. Shocked by the report of the Club of Rome together with others he founded the Swiss Green Party for which he sat in the national parliament without any effect. He fought the resulting depression as an amateur cellist with music once played on the Titanic (live recordings on playlist “Music for Titanic”). Moved by the climate youth, he began to participate in the discussion again with his Blog  “Letting down humanity”.


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)