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The Miraculous Hope of Climate Realists


Wow…you didnot get what the joke would be…ha!! Which. Is really not a joke…very dark horse…THERE WILL BE NO FUTURE FOR OUR YOUTH


But look: it’s still beautiful, isn’t it. I’ll fight for that.

Well here, I have to disagree. It’s neither beautiful, nor terrible - it’s both at once. It’s when we begin to understand that our relationship to the planet is akin to the relationship with a narcissistic being, that the spiritual transformation occurs. Neither one, nor the other. Both at once, flipping unstably. In this world, all good, all beauty is relative. To see what happens when a society comes to terms with this trap that we, as beings on this planet, find ourselves in, you might want to look at Pierre Clastres’ “Society Against the State”. Particularly consider the chapter entitled, “Prophets in the Jungle,” regarding the Mbya Guarani and their philosophy of the Land Without Evil.


Basically, no. I think I managed to do it once, but I was not able to replicate it.


I beg your pardon? I am 72 years old and have been on this increasingly since 1972, with degrees in physics and economics and social awareness. I am far from alone, I don’t know how old you are, but it doesn’t matter. The proportions of disengaged slackers and hard and consistent fighters in your generation is not that different from those in mine.


Yes, very good–we’re on the same page. I may have sprained my arm an hour or so ago, but I can still type sort of and should be online by early afternoon. Thanks.


Rich old people got us into this mess. Maybe (rich?) young people can get us out. Worth a try.


I am not rich, and the young people who are calling out the fossils have my full support. Few of them are rich, but there has been an active movement among those with a modest inheritance to use it to help build the common wealth (the “general welfare” mentioned in the Preamble to the US Constitution) for at least 25 years, with William (“Upski”) Wimsatt being one of the first, and Chuck Collins (“Inequality This Week,” with the Institute for Policy Studies) a more recent one.


Yes, you can, but I think you have to do it within some allotted period of time. I will post this, look for the EDIT function, and report how I did it to try to get the directions correct.

OK, hitting REPLY . . .

Alright, after I hit REPLY, I see my post appear as a finished post. There is also a pencil icon at the bottom towards the right. I hit the icon and get the edit window.


Initiate, we cannot either of us get empirical confirmation of our extinction, nor even our personal deaths. I will make as much of the journey as I reach, and I will fall in the path. I fail where I do without planning to do other than succeed. I lose nothing by trying: it’s the most fun I’ve had.

Your complaints about prior errors all sound pretty much correct.

My father, who had no special scientific training but spent time outdoors, spoke about global warming, desertification, and destruction of the oceans at least as early as '64, pointing to me the places where glacier and snowpack and marsh had retreated, comparing fistfuls of California sands with his memories of prior years.

“Some day we’ll have to do something,” he’d say, often with a shrug to suggest that he had no idea what. Now more people have a better idea than we did, for all the fracas. Let’s get to it.


(The “arm strain” turned out to be a contusion, and it took all afternoon because of the several branches of the same provider in my city the one less than two miles away was not in my network, only the one nine miles away, and they had to reboot the X-ray machine. Fortunately I had reading material and lots of interesting people to talk with.)

Yes, I am familiar with most of the items you mention, and especially interested in localist movements and the growing worldwide “movement of movements,” and alternative currency. My wife is a Master Gardener ™ and does save seeds and teach classes, but I don’t think she has read Vandana Shiva, nor have I although the name is quite familiar. I had to look up organoponicos – very interesting. I have copied out your list for future reference. Everything on it will have to be well underway within the next decade.

My background weighted heavily toward the “STEM” fields, which are effectively my native language, so I tend to look at the Transition in which we already find ourselves from a systems perspective, especially physical systems such as infrastructure in the broadest sense. The reorientation of industry and the economy worldwide will require a mobilization greater than that for WW II, the Manhattan Project, the Marshall Plan, and the Apollo Program together, greater perhaps by a factor of ten.

The driver behind the burning of fossil fuels is resource throughput (for which GDP is a crude proxy), and the drivers of resource throughput are marketing and the imperative that capitalist economies mus always grow or die. There is no telling how the latter could be accomplished by means other than collapse; thus hope. An 85% de-militarization worldwide focusing on nukes would get us a good part of the way there.

The framework for both these physical aspects of the transition and those of human ecology that you name is the re-establishment of the common good, the “general welfare” the founders of this Republic proposed to promote via the Constitution and its Preamble. Adam Smith’s Inquiry (Into the Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations) was published in 1776, along with the Declaration of Independence and the unveiling of James Watt’s first commercial steam engine. As a professor of Moral Philosophy He should have known better, but in the passage in which the infamous “invisible hand” is mentioned (for the only time in 900 pages) he avers that he has never known anyone to advance the “public good” by trying to do so directly, but only by pursuing one’s own individual interests. The factory owners wet their pants and poured some of their profits into university chairs to spread the word.

A little more tomorrow.


I look forward to it.

A well oriented mobilization by more centralized entities would be welcome and might be necessary. A lot of my interest here at CD comes because the politics of these large assemblies will not just walk off and leave us alone. And there are indications that entities of the necessary sorts may evolve or assemble somehow.

At the same time, we’re talking about epochal shifts of thought here, involving changes in a system that we must to a great extent use as we disassemble and reassemble it.

Because of this, I think that changes in physical systems often have to lead or at least be early in the iterations of our attempts. They are necessary for actual change, to begin with, but they are also essential in that they determine the sorts of daily activity that we will live through as we live through the larger paradigm shifts. The mutuality that all this requires requires our hands on common projects, since we will have to re-synchronize our social actions and signals.


Whew! Exceptionally astute and well said. Perhaps you should be in a public policy position. In the midst of the Sixth Extinction, we are simultaneously in the third great transformation in the way that humans live upon the planet, taking the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions as its forerunners and ignoring the control of fire and a few other little details.

Even in these forums people are speculating as to whether this transformation will require nationalization of some sort, and if so, whether that is even possible. The possibilities you suggest in the last sentence of your first full paragraph are of profound importance, and are entirely possible and not as unlikely as might seem to be the case. On the first reading I misread “evolve or assemble” as “emerge,” a term from complex systems theory with which it looks as if you may be familiar. Another conversation touching on that subject a couple of weeks ago prompted me to pull out a book from 1995 by theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman titled At Home In the Universe.

Kauffman makes much of the principle of “self-organizing criticality,” an aspect of complex systems in which order may suddenly spring forth as if “out of nowhere.” I’m not an expert in this field, and the reference is nearly 25 years old, but as I understand it complex systems often tend to shift back and forth from a regime of technical chaos (which had its fifteen minutes of fame in the mid-80s) to one of dynamic order. In fact, if my memory serves, Kauffman suggests that it is precisely along the border between chaos and rigid order that complex systems display “emergent behavior,” in which trajectories that were previously impossible become inevitable.

I have no idea whether all of the above is old hat to you or totally abstract gobbledygook, and I want to come back to explore some of the other points in your brief comment above. I can’t do it tonight (EDT), and my next two days are again going to be pretty strenuous. (I’m supposed to be retired, dammit!) But I will at least check in tomorrow evening, having read that comment in more depth.


Nothing tonight–relaxed but long day, and then I ran into an old friend who is quite sharp and has a degree in economics, and he started asking questions. Tomorrow may be strenuous, but I should finish up well before sundown (EDT).


Second and third paragraphs: I agree completely. It’s time for me to start looking for drafts of the proposed Green New Deal if any exist at this time. I think I saw one, pretty sketchy but on the right track.

Between us we have touched on most of the specific requirements and challenges, and most of the conditions that make them challenging (mostly US, individually and collectively, as many wise people have been pointing out for centuries).

The magnitude of the changes that would have to occur within just the next ten years to get us back on the track to a stable 1.5 degrees in 2050, and then to stay on that track for the next twenty years according to the IPCC interim report, can hardly be overestimated. As you pointed out in an early post in this thread, they encompass every aspect of society from individual consciousness to physical infrastructure worldwide, and they will entail massive coordinated disruption of the current order. Margaret Atwood titled an article on Medium a couple of years ago, “It’s Not Climate Change, It’s Everything Change.” Ms. Atwood was not sanguine about the outcome, and I am growing less so by the week.

Having delayed any serious effort for so long (Hansen’s paper was published more than 30 years ago, and those from the oil companies a decade and more before that), a worrisome amount of the disruption will NOT be coordinated. Things will get messy, probably very messy. But this is a situation in which our choices–again, individually and collectively–truly are Manichean: We can try our best to “nudge” the big fish in the necessary directions, or we can roll over and give up.


"Let’s get at it "…one …of the “other problems” …we face…is THE SIXTH MASS EXTIMCTION. …and that stems. A whole lot. Not just from climate change…but from . HABITAT LOSS . That…means we humans habe been TEARING UP the Earth…through mining and agriculture for hunfreds of years…and longer. SO… when it is proposed. That WE CONTI UE this process…through ANOTHER BUILD UP of MASSIVE INFRASTUCTURE and all the mini g and further HABITAT DESTRUCTION from it… we will be doing. NITHING different t fro. What we habe been doing. AND. because. We will not stop our juvenile and wasteful acribities… Lime professional sports. Flying all over the world and for business sake (ha)… and many many other ridiculous uses of energy. People will NOT give Al this up… I wish they would. So…no…we WILL NOT FIX THIS. there are noNO solutions…any more …


Nice essay, I wish I could agree with you. But I can’t, the math won’t allow it.
We have stepped into a runaway process already, but we don’t notice it. The reason we don’t notice it is a little-known quirk of global warming, which makes AGW similar to the story of the frog in warming water.
When Svante Arrhenius discovered the CO2 mechanism behind the greenhouse effect over a century ago, he also calculated the time evolution of AGW - “the temperature rises like the square root of the CO2 concentration.”
The “square root” bit is the problem. Because of this particular relationship between CO2 and temperature, humans don’t “feel” the effect of CO2 soon enough to respond, just like the frog doesn’t “feel” the temperature soon enough to spring out of the bath.
At this stage, what responsible, decent humans can do is mitigate the inevitable. First, do not procreate. Second, proselytize. Third, pray for the reincarnation of Claus von Stauffenberg, because the World badly needs him.


Math works nicely if one knows all the factors that one is calculating. In this case, we do not. I don’t see any percentage in making what could be a self-fulfilling prophesy.


bardamu is correct, and neither your math or your reasoning is quite right. The effect of the square root (of CO2 concentration) is swamped by the much larger effect of its exponential growth. But more important, it is not CO2 concentration that is the problem, nor is it what we experience, “we” being anyone except chemists.

What Arrhenius recognized was the connection between them, with both growing exponentially, and it is the exponential growth of temperature that we experience and that is the problem, with CO2 relevant only as the driver of the process. I do not know which Arrhenius noticed first, but that too is irrelevant. Anything that grows exponentially grows at an increasing rate, which for that reason often goes unnoticed. There is an old riddle about a lily pond in which the area covered by the lily pads doubles every night. After 30 days the pond is completely covered by lilies. After how many days is it half covered? The answer is left as an exercise.

Why did not other scientists – who DID notice – tell us? They did, starting not long after Arrhenius did. For example,ecologists and even gardeners in Britain have tracked it and written about it for decades. The problem is that we humans, especially in this country, pay little if any attention to science except as it is applied to provide us with more brain-numbing toys, and virtually none to warnings from scientists about anything we would prefer to be otherwise. And the corporations that are the de facto government (David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, 1995) find it in their short-term interest to keep us in the dark, and for the most part care not a whit for the future beyond next quarter’s earnings.

More important still, as bardamu also implies: My Econometrics professor (advanced multi-variable statistics) said a lot of things, most of which I didn’t understand. One that he repeated almost daily that I did understand was, “The future is unknown and unknowable,” a caveat regarding what we cannot learn from statistical inquiries. See also my reply to bardamu, no. 32, the last two paragraphs and the last two sentences of the one just before.


The solutions actually run in parallel because all these problems come from a common cause that can be corrected if–big, enormous, flagrant if–we do it. The problem is that we extract from the living systems around us without returning some equivalent to them.

We do not need to extract to survive, nor to live well. In fact, we need to stop.

Stopping requires our getting our needs from living systems without extraction, by returning surplus to those systems. Without this, people will continue to extract until all is destroyed. But there are ways to live without extraction that have been shown to work very well, far better than what we do now.

These would solve our ecologically related problems quite quickly were they put into effect more or less universally. Of course, universal implementation will not happen.The problems come because solution does require very particular parameters of human behavior.

It is obvious enough that the destruction will now continue without us: we have indeed set it in motion. It is obvious that this will result in loss of life and wealth and various difficulties for humans, too–will continue to do so, I should say, but of course the scale will change.

It is not obvious at what point we will respond in what ways. The extent of the damage will depend on that.


Economagic, with respect, you didn’t understand the square root of concentration versus temperature relationship.
If the CO2 concentration increases exponentially in time, the temperature increases like the square root of that exponential. Since the square root of an exponential is “also” an exponential, “both” the concentration of CO2 “and” the temperature increase exponentially, “but” the temperature increases “more slowly” than the CO2 concentration.

This is a very simple example of High School math, really, and you should have no problem understanding it. Your statement “the exponential growth swamps the square root” tells me you don’t understand how composite function works. Look up “composition of functions” on the Internet, please.

Americans have a horrible time with simple math, in part because their schools are just not very good, and in part because learning isn’t a priority in American schools (socialization is a priority, not learning, reason why American teens score dead last among industrialized nations in math.)