Stuff to read and watch

I’m busy working on a difficult article which I hope to get published somewhere. In the meantime, I’ve come across several intriguing items on the Web, either in researching the article, or just poking around. Take a look:

[UPDATE: Take a look, as well, at this ongoing roundtable discussion of the question of population and climate change. In my view, Fred Meyerson, John Guillebaud, and Martin Desvaux’s comments have so far been on the money. I note that Guillebaud and Desvaux’s response to Betsy Hartmann is quite in line with my own past comments on her work.]

Cool book discovery

A book I’m amazed I hadn’t come upon until a week ago is Jeffrey K. McKee’s Sparing Nature: The Conflict Between Human Population Growth and Earth’s Biodiversity. Having just received it yesterday, I’ve only scanned it so far. But I learned elsewhere that Mckee, a physical anthropologist at Ohio State University, argues that no matter how much we lower per person consumption levels, we cannot end the current mass extinction crisis without addressing population size and growth. That’s a refreshing change from the usual insistence, “It’s all about (per capita) consumption,” so prevalent today among environmentalists. For some of McKee’s thoughts online, try this pdf.

Food for thought from Anthropik

At the Anthropik Network, rewilding advocate Jason Godesky, whose work you should know, responds to an article in The Economist which tries to debunk the “myth” that early hunter-gatherer cultures were in many ways fairly benign and livable compared to today’s civilization. Not surprisingly, Jason debunks the debunker quite handily.

The heart of rewilding from Urban Scout

Urban Scout gets to the heart of the “rewilding” movement in a video on his blog. Rewilders such as Scout and Godesky have a better handle on our ecological dilemma than just about anyone. Don’t overlook what they’re doing!

Danny Bloom’s bloomin’ polar cities

Danny Bloom, who’s commented here a few times, is trying to get people to think. It seems he’s trying to nudge us to consider how serious climate change just might be by imagining a possible future need for special communities in the polar regions for those who survive global warming. Environmental writer Stephen Leahy reports on Danny and his polar cities idea. In email, Danny told me he’s serious, but on some level is also “kidding, in a kind of guerilla theater public awareness wake-up call kind of way.” His idea is sometimes dubbed “quixotic,” but if it fosters discussion that can only be good.

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36 responses to “Stuff to read and watch

  1. Thanks, John, for the brief note on polar cities and my quixotic quest to raise the alarm in a novel way. It’s working, but slowly, drip drip drip, most people still cannot hear the alarm bells going off all around them. Sigh.

    I just heard, via email, from a prominent scientist in the UK, well known for his pioneering work on global warming and climate change: I emailed him in the morning with some images of what polar cities might look like in the year 2500 or so, and he emailed me back in the afternoon, saying:

    “Many thanks, Danny, for your thoughtful images. It may well happen and soon.”

    I won’t say his name for now, as it was a private email conversation. But I think you know who it was.

  2. John,
    One more note. After blogging about polar cities as ”a non-threatening thought experiment” now for about a year now, I feel that the date I first envisioned for moving into these so-called “polar cities” would be about ….just a generous guess…..year 2500 A.D.

    But what I have discovered from this year-long thought experiment is that most people simply cannot get excited or worked up or even interested in something so remote as the year 2500. So I have decided to revise my guesstimate and change the date of moving into our first global, multi-national, democratically-run and “open admittance” for all people POLAR CITIES to …….ready for this? ……2121 A.D.

    If anybody is reading this, what’s your take on the new date? Better? Too soon? John?

    I think that in future interviews with the media I will give out the date of 2121 instead of 2500.

    I want people to get involved in this issue of polar cities, pro or con, and I now feel that the date 2121 is a much better “take” on what might happen and when.

    Agree? Disagree?

  3. Danny, my cynical-humor muscle is maybe too fatigued, but I really don’t buy your pitch. There are just too many truly absurd ideas out there being pitched by serious (if badly educated or insane) people that polar cities only makes me angry. Cynicism is easy, producing real information and useful ideas is hard. You’ve got time on your hands, go for the latter.

  4. Danny, my cynical-humor muscle is maybe too fatigued, but I really don’t buy your pitch. Trinifar,
    Thanks for your comment. RE: “There are just too many truly absurd ideas out there being pitched by serious (if badly educated or insane) people that polar cities only makes me angry. Cynicism is easy, producing real information and useful ideas is hard. You’ve got time on your hands, go for the latter.”

    I don’t completely understand your comment, but I appreciate the feedback. Can you email me offline at danbloom on the GMAIL network? Just curious why you think I am cynical? Not at all. I am completely serious, and there is a method to what I am doing, although it might not be the method for you. And I understand that. But pls explain why you think I am being cynical. Polar cities are not a geo-engineering fix, but they are a possible future we might as well discuss and explore. Many people have told me so. So how it this cynical? I am the least cynical person you would ever meet, I think! SMILE. Do email me offline. If time allows. Thanks. Or post another comment here. What intrigues me is how some people are totally angry and put off by my polar cities PR effort. Why so angry? Isn’t this a positive way for one individual to contribute to the large large discussion? Of course, Trinifar, this polar cities idea to wake people up who still need waking up is not for you, you are already very alert, this is for those people who are still living in denial. It is a kind of Internet guerilla theater thought alarm! No good?

  5. Magne Karlsen

    Personally, I operate with a time frame that ends once my 13-year-old daughter’s life will be over and done with. — Now, if she should die at the age of eighty-one, that would be around 2075.

    As far as I can imagine, the world will probably be populated by more than 10 billion people by then, and the medical sciences has made every thinkable forms of progress in the quest to make average lifespan much longer than it is today. A vaccine against cancer will probably be in place, and malaria, sleeping sickness, and typhoid fever will be things to read up on in the history class.

    The history class will also involve the extinction of a whole lot of animals, birds, insects, viruses, bacteria and plants; as a natural result of all sorts of human overgrowth activities. The desert areas of this planet will be much bigger than they are today. The jungles of this world will be significally smaller. Sea levels will be slightly higher than they are today; extreme weather will be perfectly normal.

    What will be the most normal political system, I totally don’t know, but I believe it should have at least something to do with the world wide web.

    I should have liked to believe that, in 2075, a ban on fossil-fuels will be in place, as the human race, by and large, has come to conclude that making use of that stuff — putting fire to it, and all — was a terrible historical mistake. A most unfortunate one, as well. Like primary school pupils are being taught to think: “What were they thinking?”

  6. Magne Karlsen

    As for “polar cities” — I only just heard about the idea. What I do know, is that it would be wise for all human beings to start thinking ahead. And not only that, but actually start changing our ways a bit. And here’s where I always land myself in one heck of a problem, as I am convinced that there really can be no serious lifestyle changes on this planet; not so long as grotesque inequality is the order of the day. Now, that’s a pity.

  7. Many thanks to Danny Bloom!

    There is someting else I believe all of you could choose to watch and would find revealing……………….



    Steve Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population

  8. Hi Danny,

    I thought I’d post my earlier email reaction to your “polar city” idea here as well.

    I saw that article when it first came out. It’s intriguing, because obviously the place to be if the planet really warms up a lot is at the poles. However, I have mixed feelings about the idea, beyond what I said before about the impact of a converging multi-factorial crisis on our ability to execute such an ambitious plan.

    The main concern I have is that we’re not thinking of the right set of circumstances when we think of climate change. The immediate reaction of the public (and Jim Lovelock) to that phrase is to imagine a hot planet with rising sea levels. While that might ultimately come about, long before that happens we’ll be hit by the real medium term concern – climate chaos. The world won’t get gradually and uniformly warmer, and the big problem won’t be rising oceans. The big problem will be changes in rainfall patterns. These changes could includes shifts in the rainy and dry areas of the planet, but are more likely to manifest as a sort of concentration effect. Dry areas get dryer, drought-prone areas turn to deserts; wet areas get wetter and flood-prone. Periods of rain like monsoons lose their regularity and start to come early, late or not at all; when they do come they may drop little rain or may drop a whole year’s worth in a couple of weeks. These effects are already being seen in Europe, Australia, Africa and the American south-east. A climate like that would make industrial agriculture difficult to impossible, and even indigenous smallhold farmers would be knocked from pillar to post by not being able to plan their crops or their planting/harvesting cycles.

    If that happens, moving people poleward may not accomplish much since the land quality and sunlight intensity there are poor for agriculture, and the weather will be as chaotic there as anywhere else on the planet. In addition, cities imply concentrations of people. In an environment characterized by social, energy, ecological and financial instability, large collections of people will be inherently more vulnerable. Considered from many points of view cities lack resilience. They are efficient, but one of my favourite insights is that (Efficiency = 1/Resilience) – i.e. the more efficient a system becomes, the less resilient it is. I think cities suffer from this problem to a dangerous extent.

    I still think our best bet for survival is to have a thin layer of small communities covering as wide as possible an area of the planet. Such communities are more resilient, more survivable, and put people into as wide a variety of circumstances as possible. If it is possible for us to survive the bottleneck we’re likely to have better luck in maximizing our exposure to a wide variety of circumstances. I think that will ultimately be more successful than trying to forecast loci of stability within an inherently chaotic system and planning to put people large numbers of people into what we hope will be survivable situations.

  9. I should have included this above, it was my initial reaction to the idea:

    If all we were facing as a species was climate change, I might be more positive about the idea. My position is that humanity is facing a much larger and more complex problem than just global warming. It’s really a set of mutually amplifying problems that are all converging on us at once. Broadly speaking, the problem set consists of Climate Change, Peak Oil and Gas, economic destabilization and a threat to the global food supply. Unfortunately, there is a compounding factor – the nature of our probable response (or lack of response) due to human psychology as described by the field of “evolutionary psychology”. What this means is that the problem is too big – much larger than even the sum of its components – and that as a society we will react both too late and inappropriately.

    The difficulties that would be faced by polar cities as a result of this situation would come from several directions. Constraints will include the lack of capital due to the economic crash, the lack of energy required to build them due to peak oil, and the unwillingness of people to even consider them as a solution because our mental “threat analysis circuitry” can’t identify the problem as being that serious.

    I agree that lifeboats will be required in the coming years, but my preferred approach is to ensure the creation of a great many small, ordinary communities, as self-sufficient and as widely distributed as possible. This of course relies much more on the workings of chance than planning to ensure the survival of the human species and some portion of our civilization, but I think it’s a more likely solution than one that tries to engineer our way through the crisis. Engineered solutions, whether it’s polar cities or a renaissance of nuclear power strike me as unsustainable even over the medium term.

  10. Danny,

    …this polar cities idea to wake people up who still need waking up …, this is for those people who are still living in denial. It is a kind of Internet guerilla theater thought alarm!

    From the article John links to:

    “Life on Earth is very fragile but we’re screwing things up,” he told IPS. “I’m going to spend the last years of my life pushing this idea of polar cities to wake people up. I don’t care if people call me crazy.”

    And from a comment on another blog:

    Even if they never get built, the very idea of polar cities should scare the pants off people who hear about the concept and goad them into doing something concrete about global warming. That’s part of my agenda, too.

    I’m delighted you have fine intentions, and it may be I’m not adept enough to grasp guerilla theater or this particular version of it. My anger (which is not a hot sort of thing, just a soft growl) comes from thinking about how the polar cities idea fits so nicely with the idea of colonizing space, a concept with a lot of proponnents among members of my profession, engineering. These guys (inevitably guys) don’t need any help in that direction and will gladly ignore the theater part of work.

    To me polar cities as theater seems cynical because the underlying assumption is that people can not be informed by a more direct approach. Again, that’s very subjective and I’m open to the idea that you may be reaching some people who might otherwise be missed. It’s when weighting that against the number of misguided folks you might be unintentionally misleading that I find polar cities wanting.

    In short, I see the polar cities work you’ve done (including getting around the net and commenting on blogs) and think, “Here’s a guy that switched on and he’s doing that?.” Just my personal perspective. I assume you are doing many other productive things as well.

  11. Magne Karlsen

    – —

    Stuff to watch. — Two short Greenpeace videos covering \logging of rainforest for commercial purposes in Brazil and D.R. Congo. And then a longer video from Journeyman, on overfishing activities off the coast of Alaska, U.S.A.

    These videos and these concerns are specifically linked to human actions and economic activities, and should be noted as complimentary to Paul’s list of serious environmental concerns.

    Overfishing and logging in the rainforests of this world, without much restraint, are perfectly natural by-products of the westernization of the world and indeed the westernization of modern humanity. And as the human population keeps on growing exponentially, and human enterprise are sending all forms of industries down the fast lane, one can only guess what might become the end product of the developments. Like so many other things are growing at an exponential rate, I can only assume that rainforests and oceans are no exceptions to the rule.

    Everything seems to be happening at exponential rates, I say. Proof of this is to be found all over the internet. I’m thinking of companies reporting on their economic and industrial activities, and of reports from newspapers, television stations, radios and activist groups on whatever is going on at a local level, here and there. For example: there’s a building and construction boom that is taking place in every nation and country of this world, including Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Malaysia, and The Maldives. New airports are being built everywhere around the Third World, and airline companies are recording a significantly growing number of customers. New highways are being built. New shopping malls. New everything. It’s a Brave New World in the making.

  12. Magne, great point about the building boom. On the one hand, it’s to be expected with growing population and economic growth (I guess it’s traditional economic growth by definition). On the other hand, growth begets growth, althought the current or coming economic resession will put a damper on it for a time.

    Weather patterns of the last few years are often cited as being the result of climate change, but that is not a valid claim. No one can show that any particular weather event is cause by climate change which is a longer term phenomena. The same is true of ression. Many will say it’s a sign of the coming die-off or bottleneck, but that’s just a guess, not science. The thing is, a huge building boom of the traditional sort (as opposed to a new generation of green, sustainable, well-planned buildings) certainly makes us all more fragile with respect to future constraints. It’s a sign that the world’s economy does not yet recognize what science and what most of might call common sense is telling us.

  13. ression == resession

  14. Trinifar, I agree that you can’t track back from weather variability to climate change – the SNR is too high. However, we expect a changing climate to produce weather shifts. Trends in variability are a bit harder to identify with confidence, but If you have a large enough sample over a long enough time it’s relatively straightforward to tease the trends out of the chaos. The problem is, of course that weather is chaotic and you need both enough data and good statistical techniques.

    Prediction is still difficult, especially about the future, but some people are making very credible attempts. One paper that I’m reading for the next article in my quest to pin down the start of the die-off is the recent paper by the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi: “Mapping Climate Vulnerability and Poverty in Africa”. they use downscaled GCMs to predict hotspots of agricultural vulnerability to climate change.

    Once again, the analysis is limited to the effects of climate change. If it comes even close to the mark, however, the impact of oil depletion on transportation costs and the effect of rising fertilizer prices on an already under-fertilized crop base will inevitably combine with climate-induced weather changes to make their situation untenable.

  15. Trinifar,

    Thanks for your explanation, now I understand your first comment better, thanks. And re: “In short, I see the polar cities work you’ve done (including getting around the net and commenting on blogs) and think, “Here’s a guy that switched on and he’s doing that?.” Just my personal perspective. I assume you are doing many other productive things as well.”

    ROTFL! Trinifar, I think maybe your engineerintg background and high IQ, much higher than mine, I am sure, I am just a normal thinking reed, not much in the upstairs department, I think your engineering background gives you a keen sense of humor. Thanks for a good laugh. Yes, yes, I am doing many other productive things as well, but nothing as productive as the polar cities concept. You break me up! Thanks for that, I needed it this morning here in Taiwan…

  16. RE: comment above, my reply in CAPS:

    [As for “polar cities” — I only just heard about the idea. GOOD! What I do know, is that it would be wise for all human beings to start thinking ahead. YES! And not only that, but actually start changing our ways a bit. … YES YES YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES NOW YES!]

  17. And to Trinifar, just one last note, and again, thanks for your good feedback, it helps me think this through better:

    RE: “I’m delighted, Danny, that you have fine intentions, and it may be I’m not adept enough to grasp guerilla theater or this particular version of it. My anger (…which is not a hot sort of thing, just a soft growl….LOL!) comes from thinking about how the polar cities idea fits so nicely with the idea of colonizing space….”

    Just want to make one thing clear, Trinifar, because I think I have not been able to be as clear as I want to be: polar cities ARE NOT like colonizing space. They are not a cop out, they are not a cynical ploy. They are something to think about IF AND ONLY IF nothing else works. FIRST, of course, we must try over the next several centuries, to fix these problems with engingeering and lifestyle changes, but IF AND ONLY IF NOTHING WORKS AND WORST COMES TO WORST, then and only then, we just might need polar cities, or something like polar cities, for survivors of the global warming disaster events. So this is just preventative medicine idea, not an idea to colonize space and leave earth or colonize the poles and live the temperate zones in ruins. No, no, this just IN CASE ALL ELSE FAILS, just something very very minor to think about.

    The most difficult part of my project is communicating clearly its intentions…..thanks again for your feedback, Trinifar. Really.

  18. Magne Karlsen

    Paul: “While [rising sea levels] might ultimately come about, long before that happens we’ll be hit by the real medium term concern – climate chaos.”

    Trinifar: “Weather patterns of the last few years are often cited as being the result of climate change, but that is not a valid claim. No one can show that any particular weather event is cause by climate change which is a longer term phenomena.”

    Paul: “Trends in variability are a bit harder to identify with confidence, but If you have a large enough sample over a long enough time it’s relatively straightforward to tease the trends out of the chaos.”

    – —

    As far as I can understand, the past few years of extreme weather patterns and extreme seasonal weather conditions here in Europe — which farmers, first and foremost, have witnessed (for economic reasons, if no other) — is a strong indicator of global warming and climate change (in the making). From year to year, over many years now, we have been seeing these chaotic weather conditions: extreme draught one summer, floods the next summer, and winter conditions that have been anything other than normal.

    Problem is: people do not tend to remember last year’s weather. 🙂 — The next problem will be that people get used to extremes. No, we’re not going to start responding. Not until black rain is falling from the sky.

  19. I think it’s essential to speak accurately to get the message heard. That’s what I was trying to emphasize in my remark. (You probably know that, but for clarity…) Exaggerated or invalid claims reduce the effectiveness of the communication — to say the least. There is such a vast difference between subjective reports and real science it’s really important to distinguish between the two.

    I too have noted how the weather in the area in which I grew up (lot’s of snow in winter, skiing with little help from snowmaking equipment) has become much more mild (ski area closed several years ago). That’s subjective and it also covers a 40 year span. All we can say about weather over the last few years is that is appears to fit with predictions of climate scientists, but given the short span of time involved it doesn’t contribute directly to the case for climate change.

    It does is make more people think more seriously about climate change and wonder if all those climate scientists may be onto something.

    As Magne says, like all changes that happen relatively slowly, the danger is we just adapt. Cities like Pheonix and Las Vegas continue to grow. Hotter and drier in the summer? Just turn up the air conditioning and run the sprinklers to keep the lawn green.

  20. On another blog, re: Green marketing VS. Effective marketing on climate change, I found this interesting: — danny

    SAID THE BLOGGER: “Green marketing is irrelevant unless there is something of value to
    consumers. The fact is that environmentalists have been trying to do
    green marketing for years (since the 1970s) on the various merits of
    doing this and that to help the environment. Most of it is to no

    The only reason that Canadian green activist and TV personality David
    Suzuki has succeeded with his ads for the compact fluorescent (CF)
    bulbs is because there is an easily quantifiable economic advantage to
    using them for the average consumer.

    The case has improved greatly over the last 8 years because energy
    prices have doubled, and because the costs, lighting quality, and form
    factors of compact fluorescent have become much more bearable.

    I switched to CF about 4 years ago because it made sense for me then
    even if they were too expensive. For me the convenience of not having
    to change 30 bulbs every year was worth it. (I now change about 4 CF
    bulbs per year).

    The other factor is that environmentalists tend to advocate ideas that
    require inconvenient changes of lifestyle (e.g. taking buses, buying
    hemp clothes, running the house cooler, walking, using reusable
    diapers & menstrual supplies…etc). Needless to say, the uptake is

    But the CF light bulb represents a convenient change in that for a
    slight increase in up-front cost, a greater decrease in power costs,
    one gets the convenience of not having to change light bulbs as often.

    Although it is true that “the medium is the message” (Marshall
    McLuhan), if you want traction, you have to have a marketing message
    with a clearly *profitable* economic value proposition, and one that
    does *not* require inconvenient lifestyle changes. Suzuki did it with
    the CF bulbs.

    Here are some products/technologies that have immediate value, and no
    lifestyle changes:
    1) Hybrid cars and engines with load-based cylinder activation.
    2) LED-lighting – uses about 50% of the power of CF lighting and lasts
    even longer.
    3) Ground-source heat pumps. Canada’s real energy advantage (although
    it presents builders with an inconvenient change of behaviour).
    4) High-efficiency furnaces with DC fans. (Inconvenience of slightly
    higher up-front costs).
    5) LCD monitors for computers.
    6) Side-loading washing machines which use less energy and less water.

    None of these technologies are sexy or earth-shaking, but each will
    deliver huge energy changes….”


    Believe it or not, but from this Gizmodo story, I received 4 applications for residency and one interview request from a Mexico radio station. It was not the most accurate of reporting, but it reached a lot of people, and made some people THINK… 6000 hits in 8 hours at Giz….

  22. Comparing lifestyles in Bali in 2007 and in Davos in 2008……more stuff to watch

    Dear Friends,

    This blog is helpful and refreshing in many way. Thanks, John. It becomes possible for people to see something clearly that is routinely obscured by the politicians, economic powerbrokers, celebrities, talking heads in the mass media and all the minions who benefit from patently unsustainable levels of per-capita overconsumption driven by the rampant spread of unbridled, seemingly endless economic globalization.

    Perhaps someone in Davos in 2008 will notice what is being discussed in blogs like this one.

    At the recent IPCC Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia quite a lot of criticism was directed at the lavish behavior of some of those in attendance. This is only a guess, but I am imagining that there is no place on Earth this year better than Davos, Switzerland to see so grotesque a “parade” of `virtuously’ rich, famous and powerful people living such a patently unsustainable lifestyle.



    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  23. Magne Karlsen

    – — 😀


    I remember, during the televised Nobel Prize Peace Concert in the Oslo Spectrum Arena of 2006, celebrating the awarding of the Peace Prize to Muhammed Yunus and Grameen Bank, the Norwegian television commentator made a comment thatr I’d never believed I’d ever get to hear on Norwegian television.

    – —

    “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.”

    – —

    The television commentator, like straight out of the blue, made a rather blunt but equally brilliant statement concerned with the kind of people that were seated in the audience that evening. — Rich people. Extremely rich people, famous or not.

    And the television commentator made the blunt statement that if anyone had placed a bomb at this location, this evening, the entire cultural, political and financial elite of Norway would be wiped out in a moment.

    Furthermore, the television commentator was thinking about the reality of proposed poverty eradication, and hinted at the fact that none of the people in the audience had any intention to doing very much for the poor of this world, and chuckled a litte as (s)he said: “I wonder, who is going to tell this tale?”

  24. Dear Magne,

    It does appear that commentators like the one you cite above as well as many too many leaders of our culture can choose to keep chuckling and running away for a while longer from discussions like ones found on this and other blogs, but that they are not doing our children any favors by trying to hide from the predicament looming ominously before humanity on the far horizon, the one dimly visible in the offing.

    Thanks to you and a growing number of other people who possess a capacity for intellectual honesty, clarity of vision, coherence of mind and moral courage, the “tale” is beginning to be told…… and yes, thanks to the tellers of the tale, perhaps life as we know it and the integrity of Earth will be saved for coming generations.



    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001.

  25. In the “overdeveloped” world, millions of people emit vast amounts of greenhouse gas, while billions of people the “underdeveloped” world produce scant emissions.

    The overdeveloped world is showing a decline in the growth rate of absolute human population numbers, while the underdeveloped world is witnessing a continuing explosion in its population numbers.

    In the overdeveloped world, millions of people are moving toward the stabilization of their populations, while billions of people in the underdeveloped world are rapidly growing their numbers.

    A person in an overdeveloped country like the USA consumes 32 times more resources than a person in an underdeveloped country.

    These unsustainable practices and gross imbalances need to become primary sources of immediate concern for the human community, I suppose, because global overgrowth activities of human species could soon produce either an economic breakdown or an ecologic collapse or both in these early years of Century XXI.

    What leaves me with a sense of foreboding has to do with something within the psyche of the family of humanity that is making it difficult for too many of the brightest and best leaders of our species to recognize and come face to face with the threats to life as we know it and to the integrity of our planetary home which are posed to humankind by the gigantic scale and rapid growth of unrestrained consumption, unbridled production and unchecked propagation activities of the human species now overspreading the surface of Earth.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  26. I have the same fear, Steve. Let’s keep at though.

  27. What could be finer than occasional good humor as we go forward with this vital, difficult and at times forbidding work…….


    by Dave Barry

    1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative
    on the same night.

    2. There is a very fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness.’

    3. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never
    want you to share yours with them.

    4. You should not confuse your career with your life.

    5. Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.

    6. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling
    reason why we observe daylight saving time.

    7. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests
    that you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging
    from her at that moment.

    8. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age,
    gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep
    down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

    9. A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice
    person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)

    10. Your friends love you anyway..

    11. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur
    built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.

  28. Magne Karlsen

    “I’m afraid of Americans. I’m afraid of the world. I’m afraid I can’t help it. I’m afraid I can’t.”

    – David Bowie, 1997

    “If God is not listening to our prayers or if the “gods” have forgot they made us, then the fool must step in to describe the majesty and sorrows of this “god-damned” starving life. The blind fool is a “Sober Philistine” in a state worse than Hell. A Stone Boy watching the crawling land. A Poor Dunce standing so near to innocent eyes.”

    “The soullessness that pervades ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’ also infiltrates the song ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’. Johnny is in America. He’s a Nobody, a low tech “has been” and he’s behind the wheel. In 1997’s America, it is every man for himself. Individualism means everything. Nobody needs anyone and it’s not just pretense! Johnny’s desires are mediated through mass consumerism and rampant commercialization. Johnny wants a woman but he’s having a hard time thinking of a joke to tell her. Johnny can’t think, not unlike the zero in 1989’s ‘I Can’t Read’, who spends all day changing tv channels and watching the police cars.”

    – Nevada Kerr, 2001

  29. Magne Karlsen

    This demands for an explanation, I guess. 🙂

    I know, very well, that David Bowie must have been in a more humourous mood while writing this song, which really is all about paranoia and social angst, and not much more than that. Well, anyway, this I can imagine.

    However, these days, and in this very space — an environmentalists’ internet subculture, or blog — I think I’m finding a lot of reasons to be worried about the notion that God lives in every man and woman, and that God, in this sense, is very much an American, and that the American dream is the key concept for all westernized humans to try, as hard as they can, to live up to. It’s the meaning of modern and westernized human life. The United States of America, the American culture, and the American lifestyle is what guides all the cultures of the third world, and urges them on, as they are struggling to modernize and become prosperous as fast as they possibly can. And there really can be no expecting any climate change mitigation to take place on this planet; not until the word is out that green living has become hip and cool in the cities, the suburbs, the bigger and smaller towns, the villages and the countrysides of the U.S.A. — Until the populations of every other nationalities from around the world get to hear and see good evidence that the American people has actually started to do something useful about their larger than life ecological footprint, there can hardly be any reason to believe that any positive climate change action is going to be undertaken by any South Asian, Chinese, African, Central or South American.

    Looking at the most problematic topic of climate change inaction, there’s every reason to say that God is indeed an American, and that he just don’t give a shit.

    – — 8)

    “There’s a starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds. There’s a starman waiting in the sky. He’s told us not to blow it. ’cause he knows it’s all worthwhile. He told me: Let the children lose it. Let the children use it. Let all the children boogie.”


    – —

    Life is not as difficult as people think; all one needs is a good set of rules. Since it is probably too late for you, here are some guidelines to pass along to your children.

    1. Relax and take it easy. Don’t get caught up in hollow conceits such as “doing something with your life.” Such twaddle is outmoded and a sure formula for disappointment.

    2. Whatever it is you pursue, try to do it just well enough to remain in the middle third of the field. Keep your thoughts and ideas to yourself and don’t ask questions. Remember, the squeaky wheel is the first one to be replaced.

    3. Size people up quickly, and develop rigid attitudes based on your first impression. If you try to delve deeper and get to “know” people, you’re asking for trouble.

    4. Don’t fall for that superstitious nonsense about treating people the way you would like to be treated. It is a transparently narcissistic approach, and may be the sign of a weak mind.

    5. Spend as much time as you can pleading and impressing others, even if it makes you unhappy. Pay special attention to shallow manipulators who can do you the most harm. Remember, in the overall scheme, you count for very little.

    6. Surround yourself with inferiors and losers. Not only will you look good by comparison, but they will look up to you, and that will make you feel better.

    7. Don’t buy into the sentimental notion that everyone has shortcomings; it’s the surest way of undermining yourself. Remember, the really best people have no defects. If you’re not perfect, something is wrong.

    8. If by some off chance you do detect a few faults, first, accept the fact that you are probably deeply flawed. Then make a list of your faults and dwell on them. Carry the list around and try to think of things to add. Blame yourself for everything.

    9. Beware of intuition and gut instincts, they are completely unreliable. Instead, develop preconceived notions and don’t waver unless someone tells you to. Then change your mind and adopt their point of view. But only if they seem to know what they’re talking about.

    10. Never give up on an idea simply because it is bad and doesn’t work. Cling to it even when it is hopeless. Anyone can cut and run, but it takes a very special person to stay with something that is stupid and harmful.

    11. Always remember, today doesn’t count. Trying to make something out of today only robs you of precious time that could be spent daydreaming or resting up.

    12. Try to dwell on the past. Think of all the mistakes you’ve made, and how much better it would be if you hadn’t made them. Think of what you should have done, and blame yourself for not doing so. And don’t go easy. Be really hard on yourself.

    13. If by chance you make a fresh mistake, especially a costly one, try to repeat it a few times so you become familiar with it and can do it easily in the future. Write it down. Put it with your list of faults.

    14. Beware also of the dangerous trap of looking ahead; it will only get you in trouble. Instead, try to drift along from day to day in a meandering fashion. Don’t get sidetracked with some foolish “plan.”

    15. Finally, enjoy yourself all the time, and do whatever you want. Don’t be seduced by that mindless chatter going around about “responsibility.” That’s exactly the sort of thing that can ruin your life

    – George Carlin

  31. Magne Karlsen

    Only one last snippet of David Bowie madness:

    “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time. I said that time may change me. But I can’t trace time.”


    When oil crisis hits, fantasyland will become nightmare

    Wed Feb 6 2008

    Frances Russell

  33. ********URGENT ALERT*********


  34. Magne Karlsen

    DR. R.K. Pachauri: The key massages of the IPCC Report

  35. Dear Magne,

    Rajendra Pachauri was a speaker at the State of the Planet Conference at Columbia University (NYC) where I met him in 2006. Tomorrow he will speak at the EMERGING ISSUES FORUM (along with Thomas Friedman) in Raleigh, NC. Such good fortune does not occur often. I will attend a reception/luncheon in Dr. Pachauri’s honor, prior to his address to the EIF.

    The presentation of Dr. Pachauri’s thinking, just above, was timely and most helpful. Thanks.