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The Great Burning: On Rising to the Greatest Challenge Humanity Has Ever Faced


The Great Burning: On Rising to the Greatest Challenge Humanity Has Ever Faced

Richard Heinberg

CD editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Richard Heinberg's latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels (New Society/April 2015), which appears at Common Dreams with the kind permission of the author and publisher.


My career in water resources taught me well that greed rules the day. No decision is considered stupid if it serves mammon. We are a long way from being able to live in harmony with Pacha Mama. Maybe we'll nuke her if she turns on us...


Richard Heinberg is inspiring and even though he tends to write about difficult ideas, he tends to discuss ways that we can have an impact.

While no one has many illusions about whether our national leadership will be sufficiently prescient to engage any of this on their own, if the people--a whole lot of us--get behind it, we might be able to make a difference. So for all the people who LOVE to respond, "Sure they complain. But where's a solution?", here's a guy that is talking about what we the people can do. There are no guarantees EXCEPT THAT to do nothing will only get us down the road to our self destruction faster. Can this be everted? We don't know. It's legit to doubt it. But what possible harm is there in trying?



It may take a very sudden, visceral, painful (I stress 'painful') non-linear collapse event to really demonstrate to the world what is at stake.

Imho, it's the non-linearity of these systems which our (human) minds are least accustomed to understanding and which are gonna bite us the hardest.


Your model and its statistical conclusions are based on corporate centralized control models of farming. Vandana Shiva and Ronnie Cummings, among others, point to very different outcomes using natural methods.

And make sure to make it about population numbers rather than how any particular demographic uses, abuses, and cannibalizes resources.


Discussing what will happen to humans can only be realistic if what will inevitably happen to the infrastructure that humans are so dependent on is taken into account. That infrastructure irreversibly uses irreplaceable natural resources for it construction, operation and maintenance. It irrevocably ages. It produces irredeemable wastes. the operation of that infrastructure is an unsustainable process. Humans will have to cope with that stark reality. No amount of hype will change that reality.


I remeber I read here some of the articles which have now become sections of the book. While I am not in denial about the long term consequences of the worldwide embracement of the "American standard of living", I think the system in place offers too much comfort for us to truly address its shortcomings and be willing to change it. And the arguments offered by the "awaken minority" are too weak and too badly posed to create mass consciousness and stimulate action. Change will not occur because people fear the depletion of natural resources in 100 years. The topic should be what is happening NOW, and there is a lot to tell.


AFTERBURN is really frightening especially when you consider NASA-Goddard have been caught on to occasions falsifying the climate's raw temperature dataset to show warming post 1940 where there has been none:
Search: german-professor-nasa-fiddled-climate-data-unbelievable-scale/

Also, see this paper from a French Mathematics Society that shreds the IPCC's fake scientific analysis:
Search: Société de Calcul Mathématique SA The Battle Against Global Warming

And see this analysis of how methods of statistical deception used by FOX News is also used by the global warming/climate change camp:
Search: Corbett Report lies-damned-lies-and-global-warming-statistics/

The Afterburn is truly frightening.

(Sorry - I can't insert links as a new member)


Our greatest danger may be the environmental movement, and their doctrinaire attitude to nuclear power. Gambling that 7+ billion people will get by on the nascent alternative energy technologies is very reckless, when we have the technology to pro-actively replace fossil fuels at close to the current scale of use.

The notion that nuclear waste is the issue mistakes a possible CHARACTER problem for our species for an environmental one. They are NOT the same - if we choose to foul our own nests, that is not an environmental matter - it's shitting our own pants.

If it is claimed that that is indeed what we will do, then why look for solutions at all? Continue with the Childrens' Crusade, and proceed to the Cinder Planet status. Don't pretend to be an true environmentalist concerned with the Earth, if you are just being a naive ideologue - you'll be a BIG part of the problem when others must take the reins.