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The Twilight of Anthropolatry

General Ideas

During the last three months, while on hiatus from blogging, I’ve looked back over the eleven-year run of The Archdruid Report. As my regular readers know, the point of that prolonged experiment in online prose was my attempt to explore the primary historical fact of our time—the accelerating decline and impending fall of industrial civilization—from every angle I could think of, including some I never imagined addressing at all when I started blogging back in 2006.

Those changes of angle happened partly because it gets boring to talk about the same thing in the same way over and over again, of course, but there was a deeper factor as well. I started off discussing what I thought was the straightforward point that you can’t fuel infinite economic growth by drawing down a finite resource base. Sounds like basic common sense, doesn’t it? It did to me, too, but it nonetheless fielded a remarkable amount of pushback. A great many people seemed to be unable to get their minds around the fact that each ton of coal, barrel of petroleum, or cubic foot of natural gas burned to fuel their lifestyles really does go away forever.

So I began discussing that issue from different angles of approach, and over time the blog gathered an online community of people who found one or more of those angles interesting. We talked about systems ecology, economics, history and the cycles by which civilizations rise and fall; we hauled the appropriate-technology movement of the Seventies out of the memory hole to which it’s been consigned for the last thirty years, and unpacked some of the things it had to offer, now that we’re experiencing the future that the movement’s spokespeople warned about.

En route, we strayed into an assortment of strange byways, from faith in progress as an ersatz religion to the possibilities open to science fiction once it gets back to work discussing the kind of futures we’re actually going to get. Tolerably often, the results were interesting enough to be worth reprinting in book form—that’s where ten of my nonfiction books, three novels, and a newly released collection of short stories came from. In the process, the community around the blog grew to a degree I’d never anticipated, with up to a third of a million readers a month dropping in to check out the latest post.

All the while, though, the pushback continued—and the attitude behind it became more and more entrenched in the wider world. The rise and fall of climate change activism, for example, makes a good proxy measurement for the failure of industrial civilization as a whole to engage in basic reality testing. With each year that passes, the annual cost of weather-related disasters rises, the broader financial impacts of climate change take a bigger bite out of the global economy, and such unsubtle signs as seawater flooding the streets of Miami Beach, methane explosions blasting craters in the Siberian permafrost, and freighters steaming through the formerly impassable Northwest Passage sound nature’s equivalent of a warning klaxon.

Yet even among those people who think they take climate change seriously, you’ll have to look long and hard to find the very few who take it seriously enough to stop making the problem worse with their own actions. I had a pleasant email exchange with one of those few a couple of weeks ago. His name is Peter Kalmus; he’s a scientist who researches climate change; he decided, after careful assessment of the data, to give up air travel in order to cut back on his own contribution to the problem he studies; and he’s written a thoughtful book, Being the Change, which will be published later this year, and which talks in forthright terms about the way that change has to begin with our own lifestyles, if it’s going to begin at all.

Kalmus made a midsized splash in the sustainability end of the blogosphere a while back, when he published an essay suggesting that climate scientists might want to take the lead in giving up the carbon-intensive lifestyle habits that all of us are going to have to give up in order to keep the planetary climate from spinning hopelessly out of control. A few of his colleagues have taken up the gauntlet he threw down—last I heard, the number is up to half a dozen or so, out of the tens of thousands of scientists currently researching climate change. The rest keep on flying carbon-spewing jets to conferences where they talk learnedly about how we all have to stop spewing carbon, and then wonder why so few people take them seriously.

Think about that for a moment. If climate scientists—the people who have the most reason to understand what we’re doing to the Earth’s climate by using its atmosphere as a gaseous trash can for our wastes—aren’t willing to change their own behavior in response to that knowledge, how can they expect anyone else to do so? Again, this is basic common sense, but you’ll find any number of people doing their level best to evade it these days.

Check out any other issue where the survival of industrial society is at stake, and you’ll see the same thing. In case after case, it takes very little work to identify the habits and lifestyle choices that are dragging our civilization to ruin, and only a few moments of clear thinking to realize that the way to avert an ugly future has to begin with giving up those habits and lifestyle choices. Yet that last step is unthinkable to most people. It’s not just that they refuse to take it, for whatever reason; it’s that they don’t seem to be able to wrap their brains around the idea at all.

That incomprehension isn’t something that the movements to save industrial civilization from itself have yet really grappled with. Many activists still seem to think the difficulty is purely a matter of knowledge: if only they can explain what’s happening and what has to be done about it to enough people, they think, people will change their ways and everything will be fine. This approach hasn’t worked well, in case you haven’t noticed. If even climate scientists, who are as thoroughly informed as anyone about what their lifestyles are doing to the planet, aren’t able to take the very simple step from there to changing those lifestyles, knowledge is clearly not enough.

Among those activists who’ve grasped the failure of earnest explanation, the next step is usually to frame the discussion in ethical terms: if only they can get people to see that what they’re doing is wrong, they think, people will change their ways and everything will be fine. That hasn’t worked either. There are complex reasons for that, reaching back to the broader failure of ethics as currently understood to have much of an effect on human behavior—a theme we’ll be discussing at some length in later posts. Yet even those who have convinced themselves that the fate of the Earth is a moral issue of compelling importance seem, by and large, to be unable to go from that ethical realization to the obvious next step of giving up habits and lifestyle choices that actively harm the global ecosystem. Thus ethics are clearly not enough.

Among those few climate activists who have grasped the failure of knowledge and ethics, it’s common to hear the difficulty framed as a matter of will: if only they can find some way to motivate people to do what’s necessary, they think, people will change their ways and everything will be fine. That hasn’t worked any better than the other two notions. There are good reasons why it hasn’t worked; notably, most activists try to motivate people by threatening them with a really ugly future if they don’t change their ways, and this sort of rhetoric has been done to death for so long that it’s lost what clout it once had. Yet again, the issue of personal lifestyle choices casts a useful light: if activists who are perfectly willing to devote long hours on their own nickel to the cause can’t apply the same focused will to the task of changing their own lifestyles, will is clearly not enough.

It’s easy to dismiss all this as a matter of simple hypocrisy, but this doesn’t cover the territory either. We live in a hypocritical age, and one advantage that accrues from that fact is that most of my readers will be very familiar with the manifestations of hypocrisy in action. We’ve all seen hypocrites respond in plenty of different ways when they’re called on the mismatch between their words and their actions: the disarming smile, the sudden rage, the elaborate cover story, the sudden effort at distraction, and so on. A blank look like a cow staring at a passing train isn’t one of these—and yet that’s what I tend to get consistently when I bring up the failure of people to make the changes in their own lives their own rhetoric demands that others make.

The problem isn’t knowledge, then; it’s not ethics, and it’s not will. What remains?

Some decades ago, in a book far more often cited than read, historian of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out the role of paradigms in the process of scientific research. A paradigm, in Kuhn’s sense, is a particular scientific achievement that counts, in the eyes of scientists in one or more fields, as “good science.” For the scientific movement as a whole, for example, the research program carried out by Isaac Newton in the late seventeenth century, culminating in his epochal book Principia Mathematica, was for several centuries the paradigm par excellence, the epitome of good science; students in most sciences treated it as a model for imitation, not only in its procedures, but in the kinds of questions that it asked and the kinds of answers it got.

The difficulty with paradigm-driven science, though, is that no matter how good the procedures, questions, and answers mandated by any paradigm may be, sooner or later they stop yielding useful insights into nature. At this point whatever scientific field has relied on the paradigm in question slams facefirst into crisis; you see the endless circular debates, the frantic elaboration of existing theory, and all the other signs of a discipline that’s lost its way. In due time, somebody succeeds in solving some key problem the old paradigm couldn’t address, their achievement by and large becomes the new paradigm, and the cycle begins anew.

We’ll be discussing Kuhn and his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a great deal in posts to come, as it points out some of the crucial reasons why science remains stuck in so many unproductive ruts in our time. (Straightforward corruption by corporate and ideological interests accounts for most of the others.) The point I’d like to make here, though, is that Kuhn’s insight can be applied far beyond the boundaries of the sciences.

In every human society, every aspect of life is mapped out according to a paradigm of some kind, which defines what’s important, what’s relevant, what’s possible, and what’s unthinkable in that part of the world of human experience. This is by no means a wholly conscious process; it’s more akin to the habits of hearing by which most of us can tell when a musical note is out of tune, say, or the visceral discomfort most of us feel when some norm of our culture is violated. The more successfully a paradigm addresses its area of life, the less it’s likely to be noticed; it’s only when crisis comes, and the only way to deal with some pressing problem is ruled out by the paradigm of those who must confront that same problem, that the paradigm itself becomes fully conscious—and when it does, it generally loses its power to shape human behavior.

In every human society, in turn, all these subsidiary paradigms relate in one way or another to a more basic pattern—the society’s ur-paradigm, its concept of what it means to be a human being, which every member of that society either imitates or deliberately rejects. Concepts of this kind vary far more from culture to culture than most people ever quite grasp, and a good many of the failures in understanding between people of different cultures happen because each party tries to apply their own sense of what it means to be human to a person who doesn’t share that sense. Like scientific paradigms, though, these social ur-paradigms eventually stop yielding useful insights into the basic questions of existence; crisis comes, and a new paradigm has to be found.

We’re in the midst of exactly such a process in the industrial world today. Our core assumptions about what it means to be human, how we relate to the universe and how it relates to us, are well past their pull date; they no longer yield useful insights into the problems that beset us today. It’s because of that failure that the paradigm itself is becoming visible to us at last.

We could talk about that paradigm in a great many ways, but I’m going to suggest a deliberately edgy label for it: anthropolatry, the worship of humanity as a god.

Think about the blank looks I mentioned earlier in this post, the ones that show up on cue when I suggest the necessity of personal change to people—even to people who are well informed about the environmental crisis of our time, who grasp the moral issues involved, and who show in every other aspect of their lives the presence of adequate willpower to change their lives in response to a clearly recognized need. What lies behind those blank looks? A paradigm that insists that human beings are above nature—in the full literal sense of the word, supernatural—and therefore can’t possibly need to rethink their own choices for nature’s sake.

More broadly, think of the rhetoric that’s been lavished on our species over the years, especially back when you could get away with referring to the lot of us collectively as Man:  Man the measure of all things, Man the summit of creation, Man the conqueror of nature, and so on in an embarrassing parade of self-praise that lavishes on humanity pretty much all the characteristics that most other cultures have traditionally assigned to their gods.

The irony, and it’s a rich one, is that the scientific worldview that’s so often brandished by believers in the cult of anthropolatry contradicts this overblown image in every particular. Pay unbiased attention to the evidence from science, and it’s impossible to avoid realizing that humanity is simply a species of megafauna native to a single not very important planet. Like rats, crows, and feral swine, we’re invasive, omnivorous, and adaptable; we’ve evolved some unusual cognitive and behavioral tricks, but we’re not above or outside nature in any sense that matters. (Does that statement upset or offend you, dear reader? If so, why?)

We evolved from other species long after life emerged on this planet, and we’ll go extinct long before life dies out. However important we may be to ourselves and each other—just as rats are important to other rats, for good reason, and swine to other swine—in the greater scheme of things, we’re a temporary perturbation in the damp film that covers one small rocky world in an ordinary solar system on the fringes of an ordinary galaxy, and that’s all we will ever be. (Here again, dear reader, if that last statement upsets you, it may be worth asking yourself why.)

Most traditional religions embraced a similarly modest sense of our place in the cosmos, though the details differed for a range of reasons. The contemporary cult of anthropolatry, by contrast, insists that humanity is destined to bestride the stars, outlive the sun, give meaning and purpose to the cosmos, and so on. That enthusiastic embrace of the quality the ancient Greeks called “hubris” is its distinctive feature. It’s also its distinctive flaw, because—as an honest scientific assessment of our limited gifts and vast dependencies could have predicted a long time ago—the project of living like gods isn’t working too well for us these days. Despite the increasingly shrill claims of Man’s devout worshippers, what’s more, it shows no signs of working any better in the foreseeable future—quite the contrary, in fact.

The paradigm of anthropolatry thus faces a familiar crisis. Over the months to come, we’ll take a closer look at the way that humanity got assigned the dubious status of an ersatz god, explore the ongoing unraveling of that improbable ideology, and consider some of the possibilities for a new paradigm that fits our species with a less embarrassingly oversized role in the scheme of things.

The three months just past have been extremely busy for me, not least because a flurry of book projects of mine have now seen print. All the short fiction from my previous blog, The Archdruid Report, has now been published in a single volume as An Archdruid’s Tales; fans of The Celtic Golden Dawn, and more generally those interested in Druidry, will want to have a look at my new book The Coelbren Alphabet; the second volume of my epic fantasy with tentacles, The Weird of Hali: Kingsport, has been published in hardback, and the first volume, The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, is now available in trade paper. These and all my other books can be accessed from the menu bar at the top of this website. Thank you for considering them!

Finally, it’s probably a good idea to sketch out my current notion of the way I’ll be handling this blog. At this point—and of course there’s every chance that this will change as we proceed—I plan on posting one substantive essay a month. I’m also planning, beginning two weeks from now, on posting a monthly summary of news stories, with links and acerbic commentary, tracking the ongoing decline of our civilization and the spiraling mess around us.

That covers, roughly speaking, two weeks out of every four. As it happens, I have something to suggest for the other two as well, and each of them is the product of reader requests. First of all, I’m considering hosting a monthly open post to field questions and encourage discussion, a little like the AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions hosted on Reddit. Is that something that would be of interest? If so, we can do that next week.

Second, I’ve also fielded requests from readers of my books on nature spirituality and Druidry. They’re interested in having a regular opportunity to ask questions about, and discuss concepts from, my books in that field—one book that was repeatedly mentioned was Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth. It occurs to me that it might be entertaining, and possibly useful as well, to do something like a book club, in which those who are interested read or review a given chapter of one of my books, and then talk about the ideas it presents.

If that’s of interest, I’d encourage readers to read or review the first chapter of Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth over the next three weeks, and be prepared to discuss what it has to say. By “discuss,” of course, I don’t necessarily mean “agree with;” criticisms of the book and its ideas are welcome if they’re courteous and relevant. The same rules apply here as on my former blogs, though, and people who don’t abide by those rules will be shown the door.

With that caution—familiar to most of you—I welcome all my readers to the new blog!

 Ecosophia by John Michael Greer

23 Comments on "The Twilight of Anthropolatry"

  1. onlooker on Wed, 21st Jun 2017 6:23 pm 

    Yes, it certainly does seem that we lack humility in regards to our powers and destiny. No problem we like all living creatures are bound by our own limitations and those imposed by this planet and the Universe

  2. paul on Wed, 21st Jun 2017 7:17 pm 

    I wonder if he will continue to sing Trump’s praises like he did on his old blog. Trump doesn’t acknowledge climate change and seems quite happy in his ignorance.

  3. Goat1001 on Wed, 21st Jun 2017 8:27 pm 

    It’s getting too hot to fly airplanes. I think people will start to get the climate change message now…

  4. AlionStronge on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 12:32 am 

    No, people won’t get the CC message. Have you read Greer’s article above? It’s basically impossible for people to overcome their programming (most of which happens in the first 10 years of life). The exceptions are one in a million and are usually due to painful life events.
    BTW, the reverse is not true – there are many people that suffer enormously but never learn anything out of it. So it does not matter how bad CC gets, the rate of “conversion” (if you will) is going to be the same – one in a million.

    So enjoy your fellow 7500 people!

  5. Davy on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 4:55 am 

    I guess in some ways I followed JMG in my development. I started talking to others back in 05. A little earlier I started living different around 2000 but not fully understanding why until the internet. It is the internet and blogging that allowed a fellowship of doom. I have seen my message evolve and enter a plateau. My message is doom and prep but it is really more. The more is a return to Mother Nature.

    I agree with JMG on lifestyles and behaviors in the age of hypocrisy. I have brought them up here with the self-righteous. I deal with it myself. I come to grips with my own inconsistencies by using it to leave it. You can use the status quo to leave it and by doing this you can reconcile the neurosis that accompanies the living of a life that does not reflect natural meaning. Modern civilization does not have natural meaning. Its meaning is manufactured.

    I have always had a problem with the modern but I enjoy its benefits. I am into the technicals of material and equipment to more efficiently live. Yet, I also feel the estrangement to my spirituality because of it. I have a library full of Native American books. I have many books on spirituality and history. I grew up and was educated in Christianity. All this shaped me. Nature is where I have landed. Doom and prep is what I preach. It is a different kind of doom than we see on National Geographic. It is a doom that is really about a new dimension humans are entering. I may not enter this new dimension as a radical changed life system but my kids likely will.

    Prep is the actual expression of doom physically and in effort. I am practicing relative sacrifice where I can to acknowledge the destructiveness of being modern. I am trying to reduce my footprint. I do this sacrifice as an act of kindness to Mother Nature and my fellow man. I do this for myself because I am living in the lie of the modern and suffering because of it. It is only relative and not drastic because I like the benefits of the modern. There is no way to check out and into the bliss of the truth without leaving family, friends, and comforts. There is no way to leave without leaving who you are. This is about an existential trial within ourselves.

    I have tried to leave. I did it for a time but it was greatly disruptive to my family and friends. I lived in a cabin in the woods without electricity. I drank from a creek and bathed there. People thought me insane. Yet, who is really insane? It is sad that sanity is considered insane. Sometimes you must go insane to find yourself.

    I have now come to the point of acknowledging I am trapped but only trapped if I let myself feel trapped. Demons become angles by way of attitude adjustment. I am living a lie but realize why and through this realization I find meaning. I have cut back on travel significantly. I am buying things with a future that have value. These things are made well and serve a purpose for others who may come after. I am salvaging a hybrid life of new and old constructing a monastery expressing this life system of mine. I am the door from the modern back to what was before.

    Really I am nothing special and this profound idea is only in my head in my very little local around me here on the farm. Yet, this is where we can go as an individual. We can feel heroic in our own little place. Leave the mainstream idea of greater fame and find it in a small little place. The reason you should do this is this is man’s real scale. Our true expression should be in scale with our ecosystem and planet. It is though humility and modesty that we can find greatness.

    Downsize with dignity, live with less and slow down. There is a wisdom in saying no. There is wisdom in less in a time of more. Life above this personal scale is ok to dwell on for purposes of intellectual activity. We come here to battle with ideas and emotions. The key is being able to walk away from that back into the very small world we are really scaled to. Our minds reach out to the stars but should it? Since our minds natural expression is to reach out we cannot restrict that natural expression without experiencing spiritual discomfort. The key is balance and balance is something that is lost in the modern. Finding balance means shrinking in today’s world. Maybe there was a time when balance meant expanding but today with all that is available at our finger tips it is about shrinking.

    My doom has change over the last 5 years. It has molted. This is not its first molting. I was a radical doomer around 05 and this culminated in 08. In 08 I was crushed by a world that adapted. I have now molted for a second time. The modern may power on for a time and all my efforts at an alternative way of life may be seen as a failure by some because collapse has not occurred. I would say it depends on how you look at it. The collapse is occurring to our exceptionalism. We are seeing extinction and climate change. Civilization is coming apart just not the big bang but more a slow boil. My molting now is acceptance and going forth within modernity but with any opportunity I embrace nature. I do this as a Native American may have centuries ago. Unless you have read extensively on Native American history and culture you are not going to get this point. It is roughly a submission to mother earth. Submit to mother earth but realize you are human in a human ecosystem of a mechanization of a globalized civilization of billions. The contrast of this is amazing but that is where we are now.

  6. Estamos Jodidos on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 9:49 am 

    My wife and i grow almost 100% of our food. We have beef cattle, goats for milk, cheese, and meat, chickens for eggs, geese for a good fall dinner, and turkeys and ducks. We catch trout from the stream out back, kill a few deer in the fall and bottle and preserve the meat. We will raise a couple of pigs this coming year. But,,,,,,, we have a freezer, we have lights in the house, we own two farm trucks and a SUV for going to town, although our total annual milage on all three vehicles is less than 3,000 miles. Recently I flew to another state for my Grandson’s graduation from college. Our house is only 750 square feet and we heat with a wood stove, but we have an electric stove for cooking. We sell our excess garden production at the local Farmer’s Market and beef, lamb and goat meat within our community. We also make goat’s milk, cheese and eggs available to our community through a “herd share” arrangement. We own a diesel tractor, a rake, and a bale machine for hay production. So, here is the thing, we’re independent of the usual trappings of our cultural arrangement, big box stores, super markets, a big mortgage, frequent flier miles, and commuting time and milage but very dependent on petroleum products (propane, oil, gasoline and diesel) and infrastructure (roads, highways, bridges, etc.), hospitals, and other medical providers. We have to have a reliable vehicle for trips to town for feed, doctors appointments and an occasional dinner out of the house. I am too old to care for a team of horses and don’t have access to “horse” power farming equipment anyway. Much as we have done for our independence, we are still absolutely dependent on outside resources. Our place is at 7000 feet elevation, high desert, and our summers have always been mild and cool. The other day our daytime temperature was 98 F. Unusual, but not unheard of. Three years ago, on a September evening we got 9 inches of rain overnight……, unheard of. There is a large wild lands fire 100 miles to our southwest, burning out of control; our air is smokey and it burns my eyes when I’m outside. Our winter offered little in the way of snow, even on our 11,000 foot mountains and our irrigation water has been cut to 60% of our allotment. My personal opinion, we’re toast. Human kind won’t survive the next 30 years. Just keep the popcorn coming. I’ve spent much of my lifetime (70 plus years) outside and the changes in our weather have been slow, but nevertheless dramatic.

  7. Apneaman on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 11:21 am 

    The Wizard, like most humans, just can’t get accept the fact that the humans are not in control. Why is it that so many intelligent people have no problem whatsoever with explaining the behaviour of tens of millions of life forms on this planet in evolutionary terms, but when it comes to the humans it doesn’t apply? The humans just need a “new paradigm” to change their behaviour and of course the humans are the designers of said new paradigm. Sure, and great white sharks can go Vegan as soon as they implement a “new paradigm”. There are no new paradigms the humans can choose that will cancel out their inherent growth imperative. This is ingrained in their biology. The reason the humans are approaching the abyss is because of the combination of technology and population – each bolstering the other is a growth death spiral. The only way the humans could ever change their insatiable reward seeking is on the genetic level. Dial down the dopamine. There are plenty of assholes in the world, but the notion that the humans just need better people for leaders and a new system is absurd. You could have a different system that was more egalitarian and less damaging, but it would still be growth based (evolutionary) and would only result in a slower march to oblivion.

    Open-ended growth appears to be inherent in nature, all the way from the DNA to the arthropods to mammals, including humans. Open-ended growth is the psychology of a cancer cell. I am not sure I know of a species which has learnt how to limit its own growth. Unfortunately species which transcend their environmental resources can hardly survive – the final arbiter of the climate impasse will be nature itself.

    -Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleo-climate scientist, Australian National University

    “The romantic contrast between modern industry that “destroys nature” and our ancestors who “lived in harmony with nature” is groundless. Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to their extinctions. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of life.”

    ― Yuval Noah Harari, From Animals into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind

    “The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialisation, ‘Western civilisation’ or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with ecological devastation.”

    ― John Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts On Humans And Other Animals

  8. Midnight Oil on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 11:27 am 

    Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog of long ago, got it correct. We are ALL hooked in BAU, if we like it or not..all in or NOTHING.
    We can pretend it ain’t so, but regardless it’s always tapping us on our backs,

  9. Davy on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 11:36 am 

    Estamos, nice life, keep up the good work is all you can do. The trappings of civilization are more a requirement than a luxury. I can’t do without them with the current state of affairs on the farm. The status quo is set up this way. There are things we can do around the edges that make us more resilient and sustainable and those things should be what we focus on.

    I have made a big effort to fly and drive less. I am making an effort to only leave the farm when a number of errands can be combined. I live in a 40×12 log cabin with wood heat but I do have electric heat backup. I have an electric and propane stove. I have solar panels and soon will have solar hot water. I am reliant on the grid and the town for my livelihood. I am most guilty about my air conditioning. I wish I was tough enough to give that up.

    If SHTF I have a long list of stored up items per my prep efforts. I also have cattle and goats to feed on and barter. I am not sure how long I would survive if things got really bad but at least I can make my last stand here. Someone without supplies will sooner or later have to chance a scavenger trip. The coming period of decline does not necessarily have to be a full blown crisis. It may happen slowly over time. Maybe we will have a great depression but still with a functioning society. In any case I don’t live now to be safer in some fantasy future. I live now enjoying life to its fullest because I know how fragile life is. The study of collapse has been my intellectual life now since 2000 but life for me is in the here and now.

  10. Davy on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 11:49 am 

    “The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialisation, ‘Western civilisation’ or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with ecological devastation.”

    When the human population is bellow 1BIL and not modern his advances were manageable. It is only recently that the real damage has been done. Ecological devastation is part of the cycle of succession. New specie niches are created from this succession. If humans would not have modernized and grown its population by an order of magnitude we would not be at the abyss. We are little different than an ice age when premodern. When modern, humans are planetary killers. This is what we are now.

  11. onlooker on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 11:54 am 

    I don’t think any of us know exactly how all this will play out. It is far too complex with too many moving parts and of course human motivations. We can have a grasp of the principle contours and important factors but that is all. What we all who are being fully open have ascertained is that the trajectory is one of degradation decline and demise in both the environmental and economic spheres. I do not think anyone can truly deny that at this point.

  12. peakyeast on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 12:54 pm 

    “I am not sure I know of a species which has learnt how to limit its own growth.”

    Not difficult to find – many amphibians do that.

    For example in order to breed Xenopus laevis or a number of other frog species – salamanders you have to change the water in the tank every few days.

    This is due to chemicals being released from the animals that prevent eggs from hatching or similarly when there is too much. Thus the number of frogs is limited to the amount water(the habitat)and natural degradation of the chemicals and the renewal of the local habitat water from external sources.

  13. Jerome Purtzer on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 12:58 pm 

    Hey Davy, I thought you might be in sync with JMG. I am over joyed to see him back and as intellectually poignant as always. Right on all the way!

  14. Apneaman on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 1:25 pm 

    Davy, why did humans adopt agriculture starting about 10,000 years ago? They knew how to do it long before they did it. Why then?

    “Known collectively as megafauna, most of the largest mammals ever to roam the earth were wiped out over the last 80,000 years, and were all extinct by 10,000 years ago.”

    The humans don’t manage anything – they are managed by the laws of biology, chemistry and physics. Puppets. They grew their population and overshot/extincted their food supply and turned to agriculture for survival. If you ask me, from an evolutionary perspective (is there any other?) it’s the humans who are the ones who have been domesticated. If the purpose of evolution is to pass on as many copies of ones genes then it appears the grains are one of the most successful species ever. They don’t do a damn thing except soak up the sun while the humans do all the work. How many humans have slaved away their entire lives in wheat or maize fields or rice paddies? How much of industrial man’s time and energy goes into helping the grains pass on their genes? Same for the live stock. Which one has been domesticated again? Whose managing who?

    Slaves to wheat: How a grain domesticated us

    If you examine the success of wheat from an evolutionary perspective, we didn’t domesticate it, it domesticated us.

    “Suddenly, within just a few short millennia, it was growing all over the world. According to the basic evolutionary criteria of survival and reproduction, wheat has become one of the most successful plants in the history of the earth. Worldwide, wheat covers about 2.25 million square kilometres of the globe’s surface, almost 10 times the size of Britain. How did this grass turn from insignificant to ubiquitous?” writes Harari.

    His claim is wheat manipulated us. Up until then, humans had lived quite comfortably as hunter-gatherers. Our immediate sibling, Homo erectus had flourished for more than two million years in just this way. By 8000BC, when wheat was domesticated, anatomically modern humans had survived just fine for almost 200,000 years without wheat.

    “Within a couple of millennia, humans in many parts of the world were doing little from dawn to dusk other than taking care of wheat plants. It wasn’t easy. Wheat demanded a lot of them. Wheat didn’t like rocks and pebbles, so Sapiens broke their backs clearing fields. Wheat didn’t like sharing its space, water and nutrients with other plants, so men and women laboured long days weeding under the scorching sun.”


    Davy, in your comment to, Estamos you describe your own domestication. What happens to all your plants and animals if you walk away? What do have then? You could always go back to city living, but that just removes you one step away. You still need to pay someone to do the same and the machines we built to do the labour still need to be feed too. So we need to add all the inputs up: time, fossil fuel energy, weather satellites, fertilizer, agricultural colleges, pesticides, shipping, etc, etc.

    There is no choice and no managing. Even evolution is not managing – it just tries different things. A “tinkerer” and they either work or they don’t and 99.99% of them go bye bye in the end. Humans think they are in control, but that illusion is also an evolutionary adaption that came about so humans could manage the terror of knowing they will die. An adaption to consciousness along with a couple of hundred other cognitive biases and the need for the gods and afterlife. The humans have even created a fictional techno afterlife (singularity). My my aren’t we so modern & rational compared to our barbarian ancestors. Then there are the 4th turning tards which is just a pseudo scientific version of biblical prophecy.

  15. Apneaman on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 1:31 pm 

    7 Signs That Humans Are Domestic Animals

    How Plants Domesticated Humans

    “Humans have domesticated plants and animals for agriculture for thousands of years. What is less well-known is that plants and the chemicals they produce for defense have also had a significant effect on human biology and evolution.

    Join anthropologist Fatimah Jackson to discuss the fascinating story of co-evolution between plants and humans, and learn how the new field of epigenetics is helping us understand how these interaction over time have altered the course of human history.”

  16. Apneaman on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 1:43 pm 

    peakyeast, I don’t know much about amphibians, but it sounds like you are saying their growth is limited by the habitat – same as humans. So if the entire planet changed into the type of habitat that amphibians breed best in and there was sufficient food would the amphibians breed to their maximum capabilities or choose not to?

    It’s being limited, not choosing. Same as all life. The thing with humans is they have evolved more capabilities (cognitive) to reward seek and thus take overshoot to an unprecedented level. No choice. Biological programming.

  17. ALCIADA-MOLE on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 1:52 pm 

    Did a quick read and don’t have strong cult behavior concerns. Certainly the manufacturing of new vocabulary and the migration of “the flock” are a concern.

  18. ALCIADA-MOLE on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 1:59 pm 

    Look what I just found. They pop up like mushrooms!

  19. peakyeast on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 5:05 pm 

    @ape: The point was that its not limits to space or food or breeding habits.

    The population size is regulated by the excretion of “birth stopper” chemicals.

  20. Davy on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 6:03 pm 

    Thanks Jerome

  21. Sissyfuss on Thu, 22nd Jun 2017 8:49 pm 

    Mole, I just noticed that I can find Acid in your name Alciada, bet I can find it in your brain too.

  22. Davy on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 6:20 am 

    Ape man, the reason I have not responded sooner is your comment is valid and it requires reflection. Our comments are dealing with human reality. Personally I do not find either approach wrong. They are not right either. They are our own inner way of processing life. This is also true from the higher level of these positions in human philosophy and science. These positions are well discussed in philosophy so there is no need to qualify them. We are debating man’s nature and at some point neither can be right.

    I take a natural approach with a connection to nature. I find man as not exceptional but he is not the opposite either. He is an expression of life. Life evolved into a human form and now self reflects. His nature nurture is heavy on intelligence and tech. He is still an animal. I see more a living essence of humans as part of life’s essence and part of a life process. What we are doing to earth is horrible but it is not like it is special. Life can do these things elsewhere. It is part of a great process. We are just nature coming to know herself and losing herself in our little egos. Nature has developed a highly complex human ecosystem that is also highly destructive. It is part of her plan and essence. What I just said is not it either because how can words and concepts in a few dimensions explain something multidimensional and in ascending levels of being. We are talking linearly about something nonlinear. It is linear also because knowledge and thinking is also linear. Human science is only part of it and human spirituality covers some of it but the rest of it is other than human.

    I do not like saying what others think but this is how your comment struck me. Your position seems deterministic and emotional. Humans are bad and we are not in control. We are controlled by forces that mechanically move us like cogs in a wheel. We live in the lie of exceptionalism with false religions that are really just human superstition. We are tearing apart a good world for selfishness. In your world all that is really left is suicide. Humans would do everyone a favor of offing. I could go on but the drift is man is bad and out of control.

    How can I argue with your point. I feel the same way sometimes when I go out into my nature on the farm and see real beauty then I see and read about the destruction man is doing. It is horrible and I feel horrible to be human. Yet, I know this is only part of it and it is a product of man’s duality and separateness. Through our large brain with its strong ego we can get so far lost inside ourselves that we completely lose our connection. In a way this is nature’s way. I see it as nature’s frequency and movement. If for some reason nature was omnificent then it would be completely static. All actions would be known before hand and no movement would be possible. That of course is not it either but I am trying to make a point that human good and bad is not how nature operates. When nature evolved man it did this through a process that is part of its essence. In this line of thinking then we are an expression of life even if we think some of it is bad. There is a place that is above good and bad. Good and bad is still part of it because it is human and human is part of life. We should not separate human either way. Our humanistic tendencies are an expression of life but only part of it.

    I am not going to pick apart your arguments because I agree with it. I can choose to look at things from a deterministic mechanical way also. What I commented on above is just a demonstration of how I process life. I am not a science denier. I study philosophy and theology. I do not reject religion. Sometimes I am just stupid and human. I find spirituality as my last frontier and in my spirituality I am a mystic. I have no clue about life beyond a point. Not only that I am suffering slow decay as I age. I am slowly losing my faculties and strength. One of these days I will be more like a child than an adult as my mind deteriorates and my body declines. Even more dramatic I may die today suddenly and in a flash my life force is gone. Yet, I can still have wisdom to offer and I can still stand in awe of life until the very end. IOW I will live to die another day.

  23. Apneaman on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 11:13 am 

    Davy there is no “bad” in the big picture. There are plenty of humans doing bad things (causing pain) to other humans and other life. Other life is cruel to each other too. I once saw a brown bear run down and eat alive a screaming elk calf. Thing is that I have not had to put up with 50 years of bears telling me how they are the most wonderful creature to ever exist in the universe. They don’t let the bear shop at Safeway either, so what’s a bear supposed to do? As for suicide, I don’t prescribe it. I describe it. What else would you call human behaviour but suicidal? As I have reminded others, I do not advocate for anything. Davy, there are millions of web sites devoted to how awesome humans are and there are billions of comments per day saying the same thing and there are TV shows and movies and songs proclaiming the awesomeness of humans. There are only a small handful of folks like me speaking and showing the truth and pointing out the contradictions and never ending human bullshit. See how even just a few of us are too many? Even one is too many for the humans because most do not want to hear it even while it’s happening in real time. Most prefer any one of the thousands of fictions the humans have been spinning since the first words were spoken. No one is obligated to read my comments. They can scroll right by them and I bet some do. Some have even left this site altogether because the truth is too much for them.

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