Snap into Action for the Climate

Painting: Guy Nindorera, Age 12, Burundi

RECORD HEAT and wind and fire displace nearly one million Southern Californians. Record drought in Atlanta leaves the city with just a few more months of drinking water. Arctic ice shrinks by an area twice the size of Texas in one summer. And all over the world — including where you live — the local weather borders on unrecognizable. It’s way too hot, too dry, too wet, too weird wherever you go.

All of which means it’s time to face a fundamental truth: the majority of the world’s climate scientists have been totally wrong. They’ve failed us completely. Not concerning the basics of global warming. Of course the climate is changing. Of course humans are driving the process through fossil fuel combustion and deforestation. No, what the scientists have been wrong about — and I mean really, really wrong — is the speed at which it’s all occurring. Our climate system isn’t just “changing.” It’s not just “warming.” It’s snapping, violently, into a whole new regime right before our eyes. A fantastic spasm of altered weather patterns is crashing down upon our heads right now.

The only question left for America is this: can we snap along with the climate? Can we, as the world’s biggest polluter, create a grassroots political uprising that emerges as abruptly as a snap of the fingers? A movement that demands the clean-energy revolution in the time we have left to save ourselves? I think we can do it. I hope we can do it. Indeed, the recent political “snap” in Australia, where a devastating and unprecedented drought made climate change a central voting issue and so helped topple a Bush-like government of deniers, should give us encouragement.

But time is running out fast for a similar transformation here.

A CLIMATE SNAP? REALLY? It sounds so much like standard fear-mongering and ecohyperbole. But here’s proof: One of the most prestigious scientific bodies in the world, the group that just shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for its climate work, predicted fourteen months ago that unchecked global warming could erase all of the Arctic Ocean’s summertime ice as early as 2070. Then, just two months later, in April 2007, a separate scientific panel released data indicating that the 2070 mark was way off, suggesting that ice-free conditions could come to the Arctic as early as the summer of 2030. And as if this acceleration weren’t enough, yet another prediction emerged in December 2007. Following the year’s appalling melt season, in which vast stretches of Arctic ice the size of Florida vanished almost weekly at times, a credible new estimate from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, indicated there could be zero — zero — summer ice in the Arctic as early as 2013.

Five precious years. An eye-blink away.

So the Arctic doomsday prediction has gone from 2070 to 2013 in just eleven months of scientific reporting. This means far more than the likely extinction of polar bears from drowning and starvation. A world where the North Pole is just a watery dot in an unbroken expanse of dark ocean implies a planet that, well, is no longer planet Earth. It’s a world that is destined to be governed by radically different weather patterns. And it’s a world that’s arriving, basically, tomorrow, if the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School has it right.

How could this be happening to us? Why is this not dominating every minute of every presidential debate?

Actually it’s the so-called feedback loops that have tripped up scientists so badly, causing the experts to wildly misjudge the speed of the climate crash. Having never witnessed a planet overheat before, no one quite anticipated the geometric rate of change. To cite one example, when that brilliantly white Arctic ice melts to blue ocean, it takes with it a huge measure of solar reflectivity, which increases sunlight absorption and feeds more warmth back into the system, amplifying everything dramatically. And as northern forests across Canada continue to die en masse due to warming, they switch from being net absorbers of CO2 to net emitters when forest decomposition sets in. And as tundra melts all across Siberia, it releases long-buried methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more powerful than even CO2. And so on and so on and so on. Like the ear-splitting shriek when a microphone gets too close to its amplifier, literally dozens of major feedback loops are screeching into place worldwide, all at the same time, ushering in the era of runaway climate change.

“Only in the past five years, as researchers have learned more about the way our planet works, have some come to the conclusion that changes probably won’t be as smooth or as gradual as [previously] imagined,” writes Fred Pearce in his new book With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change. “We are in all probability already embarked on a roller coaster ride of lurching and sometimes brutal change.”

GLOBAL WARMING is no longer a hundred-year problem requiring a hundred-year solution. It’s not even a fifty-year problem. New data and recent events clearly reveal it’s a right-here, right-now, white-hot crisis requiring dramatic and comprehensive resolution in the next twenty to thirty years, with drastic but achievable changes in energy consumption required immediately. But even a near-total abandonment of fossil fuels might not be enough to save us, given how fast the planet is now warming.

So the rising whisper even among many environmentalists is this: we might also have to develop some sort of life-saving atmospheric shield. In a controversial but decidedly plausible approach called geo-engineering, we could do everything from placing giant orbiting mirrors in outer space to seeding the atmosphere with lots of sulfur dioxide, basically becoming a “permanent human volcano.” More on this in a moment.

But first, if there’s any good news surrounding the sudden and unexpected speed of global warming it is this: it’s nobody’s fault. New evidence shows that we were almost certainly locked into a course of violent climate snap well before we first fully understood the seriousness of global warming back in the 1980s. Even had we completely unplugged everything twenty years ago, the momentum of carbon dioxide buildup already occurring in the atmosphere clearly would have steered us toward the same disastrous results we’re seeing now.

So we can stop blaming ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal and the father-son Bush administrations. Their frequently deceitful lobbying and political stalling over the past twenty years didn’t wreck the climate. The atmosphere was already wrecked well before the first Bush took office. These staunch conservatives simply created a “solution delay” that we can — and must — overcome in a very short time.

The tendency toward denial is still very much with us, of course. From this point forward, however, there can be no hesitation and no absolution. In a world of obvious climate snap, any obstruction, any delay, from any quarter, is hands down a crime against humanity.

AMID THE SUDDEN need to rethink everything a.s.a.p. comes another piece of good news: the clean-energy solutions to global warming grow more economically feasible and closer at hand with each passing year. Europeans, with a standard of living equal to ours, already use half the energy per capita as Americans. If we just adopted Europe’s efficiency standards we’d be halfway to fixing our share of the problem in America.

We can’t do this? We can pilot wheeled vehicles on Mars and cross medical frontiers weekly and invent the iPhone, but we can’t use energy as efficiently as Belgium does today? Or Japan, for that matter? We can, of course. Wind power is the fastest growing energy resource in the world, and a car that runs on nothing but prairie grass could soon be coming to a driveway near you.

But to achieve these changes fast enough, the American people need a grassroots political movement that goes from zero to sixty in a matter of months, a movement that demands the sort of clean-energy policies and government mandates needed to transform our economy and our lives. We need a mass movement of concerned voters that “snaps” into place overnight — as rapidly as the climate itself is changing. Skeptics need only remember that we’ve experienced explosive, purposeful change before — quickly mobilizing to defeat Nazism in the ’40s, casting off statutory Jim Crowism in a mere decade.

What just took place in Australia could be seen as a dress rehearsal for what might soon happen here in America. The underlying factors couldn’t be more similar. A historic drought (similar to current conditions in the U.S. Southwest and Southeast) with an established scientific link to global warming had become so bad by 2007 that 25 percent of Australia’s food production had been destroyed and every major city was under emergency water restrictions. The conservative incumbent government, meanwhile, had denied the basic reality of global warming for a decade, refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol. But voters were increasingly traumatized by the drought and increasingly educated. (Proportionally, twice as many Aussies watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth as Americans.) Against this backdrop, Labor Party candidate Kevin Rudd made climate change one of his topmost issues, talking about it constantly as he campaigned toward a landslide victory. It was good politics. The electorate had snapped into place and so had Rudd. His first official act in November was to sign Kyoto and commit his nation to a major clean-energy overhaul.

That time must come soon to America. November 4, 2008, would be a nice start date. And when we go, we must go explosively. Voters, appalled by the increasingly weird weather all across America — weather soon to be made worse by the bare Arctic Ocean and other feedback loops — must finally demand the right thing, laughing all the way to the polls over the recent congressional bill requiring 35 mpg cars by 2020. By 2015, we need to have cut electricity use by at least one third and be building nothing less than 50 mpg cars. And constructing massive and graceful wind farms off most of our windy seacoasts.

That’s our snap. That’s our glorious feedback loop, with political will and technological advances and market transformations all feeding off each other for breathtaking, runaway change.

BUT WILL IT BE ENOUGH? As inspiring and unifying and liberating as this World War II–like mobilization will be for our nation, it sadly will not. Getting off carbon fuels — though vital and mandatory — won’t steer us clear of climate chaos. We’ve delayed action far too long for that tidy resolution. Carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for up to a hundred years, and there’s already more than enough up there to erase all the “permanent” ice in the Arctic.

This leaves us with a huge decision to make. Either we fatalistically accept the inability of clean energy alone to save us, resigning ourselves to the appalling climate pain and chaos scientists say are coming, or we take one additional awesome step: we engineer the climate. Specifically, human beings must quickly figure out some sort of mechanical or chemical means of reflecting a portion of the sun’s light away from our planet, at least for a while. Whether you’re comfortable with this idea or not, trust me, the debate is coming, and we’ll almost certainly engage in some version of this risky but necessary tinkering.

First of all, forget the giant mirrors in space. Too difficult and expensive. And all those lofty notions of machines that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere? At best, they are many years away, with significant cost hurdles and engineering challenges still to be resolved. More likely, we’ll engage in some combination of cruder efforts, including painting every rooftop and roadway and parking lot in the world white to replace some of the Arctic ice’s lost capacity for solar reflectivity.

After that, all roads pretty much lead to Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. In 1991 that volcano erupted, spewing enough light-reflecting sulfur dioxide and dust into the atmosphere to cool the entire planet by one degree Fahrenheit for two full years. Could humans replicate this effect long enough to give our clean-energy transformation a chance to work? Can we artificially cool the Earth, using sulfur dioxide, even while the atmosphere remains full of greenhouse gases? Several very smart climate scientists, including Ralph Cicerone, current president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, think the idea is plausible enough to investigate thoroughly right now as a possible “emergency option” for future policymakers.

Ironically, we could “harvest” ample supplies of sulfur from modern coal-burning power plants, where it is a byproduct. In liquid form, sulfur could then be added — ironically, again — to jet fuel, allowing passenger aircraft worldwide to seed the atmosphere per scientific calibrations. In theory, we could even use powerful army artillery to shoot sulfur canisters into the atmosphere. But supply and delivery would likely be less of a challenge than the inevitable side effects, including an uptick in acid rain. And then there are the unknown and unintended consequences of subjecting the atmosphere to a multidecade or perhaps multicentury Mount Pinatubo effect. We would need an urgent research effort to assess the possible negative impacts of this process so we can devote resources to ameliorating at least the anticipated outcomes.

But the answer to the question Can human beings artificially cool the planet? is almost certainly yes. That answer, I realize, poses a terrible conundrum for conservationists like me who understand it’s precisely this sort of anthropocentrism and technological arrogance that got us into the mess we’re in. But like it or not, we are where we are. And I, for one, can’t look my ten-year-old son in the eye and, using a different sort of ideological arrogance, say, No, don’t even try atmospheric engineering. We’ve learned our lesson. Just let catastrophic global warming run its course.

What kind of lesson is that? I’d rather take my chances with global engineering and its possible risks than accept the guarantee of chaotic warming. As respected climate scientist Michael MacCracken has said, “Human beings have been inadvertently engineering the climate for 250 years. Why not carefully advertently engineer the climate for a while?”

SO HERE WE ARE, stripped of exaggeration and rhetoric, and hard pressed by the evidence right before our eyes. Our destiny will be decided, one way or another, in the next handful of years, either by careful decision-making or paralyzing indecision. We stand at a crossroads in human and planetary history. Or as my southern grandfather used to say, “The fork has finally hit the grits.”

Try as I might, I truly can’t imagine the Arctic Ocean completely free of ice by 2013, nor can I extrapolate all the appalling implications, from the end of wheat farming in Kansas to more record-breaking heat waves in Chicago. It truly is a terrifying time to be alive. But also exhilarating. As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”

The part of the picture that I can see is our own snap. I can see potent political change coming to America with our nation passionately joining the Kyoto process. I can see layers and layers of solution feedback loops that follow. I can see national policies that freeze and then quickly scale back the use of oil, coal, and natural gas. I see multitudes of Americans finally inspired to conserve at home, their money-saving actions feeding and amplifying the whole process. I then see consumer and governmental demand unleashing the genius of market systems and technological creativity, accelerating everything until we as a society are moving at geometric speed too, just like the climate, and suddenly our use of dirty fuels simply disappears.


I can see my son coming of age in a world where the multiplier benefits of clean energy go far beyond preserving a stable climate. No more wars for oil. No more mountaintops removed for coal. A plummet in childhood asthma. A more secure, sustainable, and prosperous economy. Although there are surely dark times ahead, I can see him living through them, living deep into the twenty-first century, when most of the lingering greenhouse gases will have finally dissipated from our atmosphere, allowing an orderly end to the geo-engineering process.

Best of all, I see spiritual transformation ahead. We simply cannot make the necessary changes without being changed ourselves. Of this I am sure. With every wind farm we build, with every zero-emission car we engineer, we will remember our motivation as surely as every Rosie the Riveter knew in the 1940s that each rivet was defeating fascism. A deep and explicit understanding of sustainability will dawn for the first time in modern human history, moving from energy to diet to land use to globalization.

We will know, finally, that to live in permanent peace and prosperity we must live in a particular way, adhering to a particular set of truths about ourselves and our planet. To borrow from the great architect William McDonough, we will finally become native to this world. We will have lived through the climate threat, evolved through it, and our new behavior will emanate from the very core of our humanity.

Mike Tidwell is the founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia, and nationwide. He is also an author and filmmaker who predicted in vivid detail the Katrina hurricane disaster in his 2003 book Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast. His most recent book, focusing on Katrina and global warming, is titled The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Race to Save America’s Coastal Cities. His 2004 documentary film, We Are All Smith Islanders, vividly depicts the dangers of global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C.

Tidwell has been featured in numerous national media outlets including NBC’s Meet the Press, NPR, the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, Politico, and the Washington Post.


  1. Wow! Very powerful piece – I have to go back and read this more than once. Thanks for the insight!

    (And kudos on your name as well 🙂

  2. Thank you, Mr. Tidwell. I feel hopeful and it’s been a long time.


  3. I wish I could be as upbeat as the previous comments, but frankly, I’m appalled. This sort of “RAH! RAH!” approach to using yet more of the “tinkering” (what a benign word, what a truly screwed up outcome!)that indeed, got us here in the first place is, I believe, truly off-base. While I agree we need to mobilize the population faster than yesterday, and that any obstruction to addressing climate change is absolutely a crime against humanity, why in the world would we encourage more coal-fired plants in order to reap their sulfur dioxide, so we could then seed it into our atmosphere?!?

    Are you nuts? A “little more” acid rain???

    Since we’ve hardly even begun to determine what kind of lethal fallout there is from the fiasco of GMOs(oh gee, thanks, Monsanto, you’re right, it really is better living through chemistry!)why in the world would we expect better from something like this?

    I am horrified that Orion would publish this.

  4. I agree with Julianne on the acid rain concern. I am apalled that the author completely ignores the potential CO2 output of China and India and the looming explosion of automobile use – NY Times Sunday April 20, 2008 – 2 billion automobiles on the planet in 10 to 20 years up from a billion today. Maybe, $300 per barrel oil will be enough to stop global warming.

  5. I agree with Julianne’s opening statements, but I’m very glad Orion has published this. It’s a very dynamic, forceful example of motivational writing. Altho I don’t agree with Tidwell’s ideas or methods of persuasion, I’m glad Orion has made such strong writing available for thoughtful readers’ study and debate.

  6. I agree that the rate of change is sufficiently alarming to warrant a big response, but sulphuring up the atmosphere sounds like another cure that’s as bad as the disease.
    There are a few important things Mr. Tidwell’s article doesn’t address: 1. Unlike Australia, the US doesn’t have a candidate who grasps the importance of the warming issue. 2. Population: If the planet has not already exceeded its carrying capacity for human life, it soon will, at this rate.
    3. In the scramble for solutions, we must not forget to focus on adaptation too.

  7. Very good article, should be read by all concerned with future of our planet. Time is running out, time may already have run out. Tim, I wonder if you have heard about my idea of polar cities for survivors of global warming in year 2525 if none of the fixes work. I fear the worst. We need to also discuss adaptation strategies if all else fails. Which it looks like all else will fail.

    See here:

  8. Surely you jest . . . bio-engineer the atmosphere? . . . more acid rain? No-one is to blame? Spirtiual transformation? Oh blither, oh blather. The entire article makes me cringe. The planet will survive quite nicely, I do believe. Humans may have to start over from the beginning, however. Sheesh . . .

  9. I understand that Julianne is “appalled” by Tidwell’s article, “horrified” that Orion would publish it, and wonders aloud whether Tidwell is “nuts.” Unfortunately I didn’t catch her notion of just how she would “mobilize the population faster than yesterday.”

    But I also understand her failure to show us the way out of the dilemma that we all face. I confess that my own crystal ball does not reveal any shining solution that will spare us decades or centuries of mayhem and despair. The only thing I do see that gives me any hope, frankly, is that some transformative vision may be emerging from the present and future wreckage, an entirely new vision around which humanity may be able to gather. But I do not see any way of avoiding the wreckage. The question is can we mitigate the damage at all?

    Anyone who has the courage to try to grasp our situation in its entire global complexity, face the tragedies that are befalling us and our earth-brethren, and grope for solutions that have even a shred of compassion in them, is doing good work. Thank you, Mr. Tidwell. You did well.

    I found your article bracing, especially the theme of the “snapping” pace of climate change. It’s the kind of image and language we need to introduce into the debate to counteract the slumber-inducing tone of so many articles that project certain “possible” effects into the future — by 2050, say, or by “the end of the twenty-first century.”

    Shooting sulphur into space, of course, should show us how tragic our situation has become, and is one more symptom of the hubris that brought us to this point. If there is any “Rah! Rah!” cheering in Tidwell’s article, it is not about the joys of engineering a climate-fix for the entire planet, it is the idea that we are even capable, at this late date, of snapping awake from our suicidal, ecocidal sleep-walk.

    I hope he’s right. Meanwhile, Julianne, I am truly interested in what your mobilizing vision would be, because I believe each of us carries, somewhere within us, a piece of the puzzle.

  10. Paco and others, thanks very much for your additional responses, thoughts and insights re: Mr. Tidwell’s article, which if nothing else, has certainly been stimulating for discussion.

    And I do have thoughts about a number of things I perceive as being important to pursue in the face of what is truly the catastrophe of climate change, *and* I’m also on a time crunch for dashing off to work. >;-) I look forward to responding more fully later today.

  11. I am always amazed by the people who clamor about the environment in one breath, then talk about the effects on their offspring in the next. Do they see no correlation? In nature, a given population of organisms will mate and breed and increase in numbers until such time as they outstrip resources and habitat; then the rate of breeding drops off and the population reduces until such time as adequate resources and habitat would support growth. For some reason, otherwise rational human beings think this does not apply to them. In no population of organisms should every individual of the population reproduce, and yet even now humans are worried about birth rates (that great good green Europe) and infertility (at least according to my health insurance policy which does not have true parity for mental health which may soon be epidemic, perhaps as a new diagnosis, say Climate Panic Disorder). The planet will survive. Perhaps as a barren rock, perhaps as a rock in a ball of vapor, perhaps as a habitat for “lesser” species, say invertebrates on “down.” I can envision any number of outcomes that do not include a future for humanity. And I do not think this is a bad thing. The planet has survived other extinctions and new habitats and life forms emerged. I am comfortable going the way of the dinosaurs. It saddens me that we’re hell-bent on disregarding and destroying the other beings on this planet as we struggle to sustain the world we’ve created.

  12. There are two ways this discussion can go. One is the mitigation route, and we should check out everything there is in that file cabinet, yes.

    The other way is the adaptation route, and we need to seriously shift gears and go down that road, too. But most people are interesting in mitigation, or, conversely, end of the world who cares?

    But are there so few comments about polar cities as an adaptation strategy? Why is it that nobody wants to see future generations survive, even if they have to live in northern refuges for 100 or 1000 years? Why is nobody looking at this route, too?

    Denial? Fear?

  13. Hi Danny,

    I apologize for not having responded to your “polar cities as adaptation” strategy. I had some problems with it. First, look at a globe. The broadest portion is at the equator, the narrowest portion is at the poles. Do you propose transporting the population, say, of Sâo Paolo, Brazil, to the North Pole, and to hell with Mexico City, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Tokyo, etc.? Or do you propose to elect representatives from each major urban megatropolis, with concessions to the suffering rural areas, to occupy these polar cities? Or is it, as the French say, “sauve-qui-peut”?

    Assuming the entire equatorial belt is on fire, so to speak, and the temperate areas of the globe are devastated by drought, flood, insect infestations, etc., etc., who will support and feed the lucky few who inhabit your polar cities? Serfs? Slaves? On what basis, in other words, will those cities survive? Fishing? The ocean is dying. Hunting? The animals are practically gone. Agriculture? By that time will there be enough order to permit the placid cultivation of those northern “soils”?

    There may well be polar cities in the not-too-distant future, but I fear they may come about not as a result of a grand, planned adaptation to a global “rough patch,” but out of sheer desperation. The pre-conditions for your polar cities are too grim to behold for any extended period.

    In The Revenge of Gaia, James Lovelock speculates that we may be able to support half a billion souls in those polar cities, or better, refugee camps. This was his estimate of the number of people a climate ravaged planet could support. In other words, no matter which way you measure it, it’s not a pretty picture. Which is why I appreciated Mr. Tidwell’s effort to inject a little “juice” into his readers.

    Many thanks for your concern. Something may yet come of all this palavering.


  14. Hello Paco,
    Thanks for your good comments and feedback. I agree with you that the so-called polar cities scenario won’t be a pretty picture in year 2500 or so, maybe sooner, maybe later. Lovelock says sooner. I say 2500 just to give people “time” to think about this.

    But let me explain a few things, which many people seem to get confused about when discussing the idea of polar cities:

    Your post above inspired me:

    1. Polar cities will not be at the poles per se, it’s just a name that has a certain punch to it, but these polar cities will not be at the North Pole. But in a warmed world, say 2500 or so, most of the tropical, subtropical and temperate zones will be uninhabitable, not only because of the temperatures, but mostly because of lack of food and fuel. And rising sea levels.

    So as people migrate north en masse, they will leave Africa and Mexico and USA and France and Germany and Asia, and move up slowly to northern areas along the Arctic Circle dotted line on our maps. Some of these polar cities, perhaps administered by the IPCC or another UN agency, or by individual countries, will be in Juneau, Alaska, or Fairbanks, or Churchill Canada or Whitehorse or Yellowknife and Ellesmere Island, Baffin Island, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, even Oslo and Longyearbyen, Sweden Finland, Russia.

    But not at the poles, just in northern regions. They won’t be called polar cities then. Who knows what they will finally be called, but they will be safe refuges for survivors of global warming’s disaster events. There might be 200,000 people only, as Lovelock has suggesteed, or maybe 10 million people, we have no idea. But certainly all 10 billion people of 2500 cannot survive what will happen.

    The thing is this: whatever we call these safe refuges, and whenever we need them for “breeding pairs” (in Lovelock’s famous words) to continue the human species in northern retreats until they can come back down to repopulate the Earth …. should not some agencies start talking about this possibility now, and planning and designing and siting them now? That is all I am calling for, with my proposal?

    That a certain amount of time and energy, maybe just one percent, go into planning worst case scenario ideas for ADAPTATION retreats, so that we can rationally discuss how these “polar cities” will be governed, administered, defended, guarded, protected, fed, fueled, powered, educated, given medical care and mostly importantly: WHO will be allowed in?

    I don’t have the answers. My entire project is set up to ask questions, and allow people around the world to answer them. Do you think we should spend any time at all discussing so-called polar cities, or “human population retreats”, now, so as to avert the Mad Max Meets The Road scenarios that many think they see coming down the road?

    Mitigation won’t work, IMHO. Giving up is senseless IMHO. So why don’t we put more time now into thinking about various adaptation strategies, while there is still time, and there is still plenty of time.

    What worries me, ever since news of my polar cities idea hit the blogosphere and MSM over a year ago, with a New York Times blogpost on March 29, is how few people have responded to my call for airing this issue in public.

    There seems to be denial and fear and depression about the very idea of polar cities. Why? It’s just an idea. Nothing to be afraid of. But it seems most people DO NOT want to talk about this at all.

    So the two paths now seem MITIGATION IDEAS (fixes) so we can continue our wonderful consumer lifestyles in our SUVS and second homes at Cape Cod, and exotic vacations in Nepal and Patagonia ….or END OF THE WORLD DIE-OFF IT’S ALL OVER scenarios.

    But a third way is : ADAPTATION strategies, no? Shouldn’t we at least be talking about them, in a soft, rational tone of voice, even as a mere thought exercise?

    It’s the amazing “silence” about polar cities that baffles me. I’ve had people write some very nasty emails about the idea. Some very top people in the scientific field have told me shut up. WHY?

  15. Paco,
    A few notes:

    1. “Do you propose transporting the population, say, of Sâo Paolo, Brazil, to the North Pole, and to hell with Mexico City, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Tokyo, etc.?

    ANSWER: I think there will be mass migrations north, so shouldn’t governments be planning and talking aboht them now? Just as a plan, so as to avoid the Max Max scenario and the sauve qui peux result? [Maybe some agencies like CIA are already planning all this, secretly? Did you read the AGE OF CONSEQUENCES report last year?]

    2. “Assuming the entire equatorial belt [AND USA LOWER 48] is on fire, so to speak, and the temperate areas of the globe are devastated by drought, flood, insect infestations, etc., etc., who will support and feed the lucky few who inhabit your polar cities? Serfs? Slaves? On what basis, in other words, will those cities survive? Fishing? The ocean is dying. Hunting? The animals are practically gone. Agriculture? By that time will there be enough order to permit the placid cultivation of those northern “soils”?”


    3. “There may well be polar cities in the not-too-distant future, but I fear they may come about not as a result of a grand, planned adaptation to a global “rough patch,” but out of sheer desperation. The pre-conditions for your polar cities are too grim to behold for any extended period.”

    ANSWER: WHY ARE THE PRE-CONDITIONS SO ”GRIM” TO BEHOLD? Please answer this…. or explain to me, thanks

    4. “Many thanks for your concern. Something may yet come of all this palavering.”

    ANSWER: I hope so. I am doing this polar cities project out of a concern for the future, and I don’t even have any children of my own. I just care. I can accept that many people will die in some scary future scenario, but I cannot accept that all will die. So even if only 10,000 hardy lucky souls survive in polar cities in the north and maybe Antarctica too, even if only 5000 people survive, it’s better than no survivors. So I remain optimistic and hopeful. I see people coming out of these polar cities, after 1000 years or so, and re-populating the Earth again. Albeit under very different “circumstances” — no SUVs, no computers, no printing presses, no civilization: just huts and campfires and crops and animals for food and transportation.

  16. The writer makes the usually rare point in environmental arguments that to confront this problem would mean that humans would have had to pass through a spiritual catharsis. This suggests that the problem in not just physical/technological, that somehow our spiritual “wrong-headedness” is at the root of the problem. “Spiritual” suggests concerns not just for physical survival, our “means,” but also the “ends,” i.e. identifying a purpose for life once our physical needs have been met. But we have been functioning under an extreme consumerist model that holds as its rewards such concepts as “luxury” or “the American Dream”… in other words, in lieu of identifying any purpose beyond physical comfort and pleasure, we have asked double-duty of our means, that they also function as life-goals (e.g. bigger house, faster or more comfortable car, etc… a pattern with no end in sight).

    How does this comment help with the problem? Maybe it doesn’t, since we seem to be at such a desparate point. But at least let’s not kid ourselves that spraying the atmosphere with sulfer, or painting everything white, is anything more than treating symptoms. If we could somehow solve the problem with giant mirrors only to support more gluttonous consumption, that’s precisely the type of unenlightened society not worth saving. So let’s hope that what the writer implies will come to pass: as we save the planet, we find (and save) ourselves.

  17. Paco and others:

    News today: WASHINGTON (AP) – Human beings may have had a brush with extinction some 70,000 years ago, an extensive genetic study suggests. The human population at that time was reduced to small isolated groups in Africa, apparently because of drought, according to an analysis released Thursday.

    The report notes that a separate study by researchers at Stanford University estimated the number of early humans may have shrunk as low as 2,000 before numbers began to expand again in the early Stone Age.

    NOTE: So if we got down to 2000 once before, due to climate conditions, it could happen again, just 5000 people maybe, but they can bounce back, too. IF we make plans NOW. (Even if we don’t make plans, they will bounce back anyways……SMILE……Human beings are resilient, they don’t need polar cities plans at all. They can do it and will do it by themselves, by hook or by crook…..but planning doesn’t hurt)

  18. Three years ago, as a botanist, I noticed my native plant communities dying. I thus looked up the NOAA weather station at our local airport in Ellensburg. The graphs from the mid 1900’s showed temperatures commonly reaching 20 to even 30 below zero. Temperatures we never even heard of today. The call this winter a cold winter but we never even hit zero. People are so short sighted. I talked to a friend Dr Haard at Fourth Corner Nurseries and he wrote an article on our data. You can google the nursery and go to the articles section. There are two articles on global warming. And we reported SERIOUS 20 degree change ALREADY!

    Nobody would listen to us.

    At the time, everyone was saying 10 degrees of warming over the next 100 years. I was screaming “WE HAVE 20 DEGREES OF WARMING NOW!”.

    It is clear in the NOAA data for most inland areas. The last 20 years we have gone up 20 degrees. And the data shows we are getting hotter faster.

    I think it is too late. I am an ecologist and I look at the extinction of the dinosaurs which we believe was the result of castrophic climate change (asteroid strike). We are faced with about the same thing as our plants cannot move north fast enough with the warming temperatures. If we want to even hope of saving the earth, we should be shipping thousands of pounds of palm tree seeds north to Alaska. I am NOT kidding. The plants cannot adapt this fast.

    During the ice ages, temperatures changed 10 or 20 degrees over thousands of years. Now we have 20 degrees in 10 or 20 years.

    The plants will not live through that and only very primitive algae that can transport long distance on currents or the wind will survive… if anything will be able to survive at all.

    It is my professional opinion that we have already screwed the pouch. ANd the elite know it. That is why they are ripping off the American people. They are all gathering wealth for the big move north buying properties like mad.

    All you have to do is look at the property records for the last 10 years in northern Canada. Look who has been buying the land up…

    Quite frankly, those people are the same ones that caused this problem and profitted off it both then and now. And I hope the native people hunt them down as they move north like the invasive species and the worst of humanity that they are.

    It would be better if that gene pool of expressed greed did not survive (if humanity will survive at all).

    Ken Boettger
    Ellensburg, WA

  19. I really regret my last comment in the post above. My apologies.

    Not very Christian like. If we are to survive, we have to learn to love and deny our inner selves (greed, selfishness, etc). And I guess I will make the first step in that direction by apologizing here…


  20. Hi Danny,

    Thanks for the reply. Your example — that the human population may have shrunk to 5000 or so people 70,000 years ago, but we bounced back BECAUSE WE’RE SO RESOURCEFUL — gives me scant comfort. Compare the circumstances now with then. A reduction in the human presence on the planet, from our current six and a half billion to a few thousand, or even a few million, would amount to a catastrophe beyond our imagining. Call it “the end of civilization,” if you will. I understand that, from a biological standpoint, the human presence on earth has recently reached a level of toxicity — for other forms of life as well as ourselves — without parallel in the history of the planet.

    I’m probably hopelessly romantic for thinking that there is some cosmic purpose implicit in our presence in the universe. It has something to do with the advent of reflective consciousness and the creative imagination. I can’t help believing that there is something more that we are meant to become, besides ragged scavengers on a dying planet.

    You seem remarkably at ease with that possibility. Or am I misreading your position?

    Best wishes,


  21. My response, a debate, for Mr. Mike Tidwell, by Jenni M. Wenhold.

    Mr. Tidwell’s article entitled “Snap Into Action for the Climate,” reminds me of the Apocolypse watchers who predict exact dates when Jesus will return. They look for signs and seasons all over the world and give dates as to when things are likely to happen. They look at the middle east. They look at Russia. They look at the fight for Jerusalem. They read the Bible over and over looking for clues. They talk about what is going to happen next and timelines. They are, for the most part, entirely wrong. The timing of Christ’s return is in God’s hands. And so, I would say the same about our Earth and climate change.

    Climate change and the “snap” of Earth’s demise is in the hands of God, not in human hands. I believe it is biblical for God to care for our land and sky and it was given to human hands to care for animals and their needs (see the first 3 chapters of Genesis). God clothes the lilies of the field (Matthew 6). I am not saying that we cannot or should not take care of the earth that God has given us. After sin occured, by man in the garden of Eden, God put the oness on man to care for and eat from the land. As God said to Adam, “in sorrow shalt thou eat of it [the ground] all the days of thy life.” Next Earth day, plant a tree. Cultivate a garden. Pick up trash and recycle everyday.

    Speaking of climate change though, Mr. Tidwell’s article states, “But first, if there’s any good news surrounding the sudden and unexpected speed of global warming it is this: it’s nobody’s fault.” He is wrong. It is our fault totally… and I’m not talking about the release of extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past 100 years. This goes back over 10,000 years. Unfortunately, from the day Adam and Eve sinned, the ground was “cursed” (Genesis 3:17). To this day “the creation groans” (Romans 8) waiting to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption.” Global warming is REAL and is the climax of the symptoms that have been developing since the fall of man in Genesis.

    So then, the real question I have for Mr. Mike Tidwell is this: What if it isn’t our job to stop global warming?

    Environmentalists must have considered my next point… this is just the cycle of the earth. We cannot stop it. There has been an age, a time, for everything. Everyone knows the song… it’s from Ecclesiastes 3:
    A time to be born and a time to die a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted
    A time to kill and a time to heal a time to break down and a time to build up
    A time to weep and a time to laugh a time to mourn and a time to dance
    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing
    A time to get and a time to lose a time to keep and a time to cast away
    A time to rend and a time to sew a time to keep silence and a time to speak
    A time to love and a time to hate a time of war, and a time of peace.
    I’ll relate this point to what Christ said about his coming back… a simile… like the “pains of a woman in travail.” Once it starts (and I can attest to this), it doesn’t stop (without a doctor’s intervention) until the baby is born. Just a thought coming to me just now, even when a doctor stops the contractions, you know they will eventually start up again. So, even if we were to have a “near-total abandonment of fossil fuels” or make a “life-saving atmospheric shield,” it’s not going to stop what’s coming, only slow the process down.

    Going back to an age and time for everything. There was a Triassic age, and all those other ages in times past. This is the Present time/age. Job of the Bible asks “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?” Have any of the scientists considered that the humans’ days are numbered? Perhaps it is time for us to no longer be on the Earth. So, instead of finding ways to “engineer the climate,” why don’t we just let it be and let what is to come, come! Paul McCartney sang it best “speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

    A few sentences from the end of Mr. Tidwell’s article before I go on [underlining intentionally done by me], “I can see my son coming of age in a world where the multiplier benefits of clean energy go far beyond preserving a stable climate… Best of all, I see spiritual transformation ahead. We simply cannot make the necessary changes without being changed ourselves… We will know, finally, that to live in permanent peace and prosperity we must live in a particular way, adhering to a particular set of truths about ourselves and our planet.”

    So then, people say “leave the world a better place for your children.” Am I worried about my children or my children’s children? Yes, but only in a spiritual sense. As long as my children are raised believing there is a better way and God has provided that way, then I am in perfect peace about the environment and global warming. In Romans 8 Paul of the Bible is speaking to Christian believers, “Because the creature [or, creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope…” The hope is what John of the Bible writes about in Revelation “and I saw a new heaven and a new earth…” A New Earth? And he also writes in the next chapter “and there shall be no more curse.” BUT how do we partake of this new earth with no curse. In Romans 10 it says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” That is all God asks for us to be a part of this new heaven and earth. Everyone wonders why John 3:16 is so important. You see John 3:16 written on shirts, billboards, tattooed onto people’s skin. John 3:16 has everything to do with climate change, global warming, and the eventual change of the earth as we now know it… “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The truth is, we will not perish with the rest of the world in global warming. Instead we shall rise. We shall overcome! But, we MUST believe! God does love us and this world. His only joy is to see our complete happiness with Him, living in a world that is not corrupted by sin and destruction. A world that only He can provide for us.

    “Snap into action for the climate,” if you must. I instead will wait patiently for the redemption of this world. I will endure painfully with the sin that is continuing this world’s demise, until the return of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  22. Paco
    I am enjoying our conversation here, I find it instructive and useful, and I hope others here do, too.

    To answer your question re:

    YOU WROTE: “…I can’t help believing that there is something more that we are meant to become, besides ragged scavengers on a dying planet…..You seem remarkably at ease with that possibility. Or am I misreading your position?”

    DANNY ANSWERS: You read my position very clearly. Yes, although I am also a romantic about life here on Earth [cue the music], I do not believe in any supernatural God or gods or any cosmic reason for our being here. Other than pure cosmic evolution and DNA genepools, pure random chance, the dance of the cosmos, and we are stardust, yes, and yes, Paco, I do believe we have more “evolving” to do in the far distant future, not so much growing a third eye or a six arms, but in terms of our conciouness of life and the cosmos, yes, I do believe we have more evolving to do mentally and spiritually, and maybe all this today — the global warming problems we are facing — is part of that mental, intellectual and spiritual evolution. And because I believe in this future evolution of the mind, I care deeply about trying to find ways to keep this human species going on Planet Earth.

    I am comfortable with the notion that we might be ragged scavengers on a dying Earth for a while, in year 2500 or so, and this period might last for a 1000 years or more, but I have faith that we will bounce back once again to becoming civilized again, and perhaps that new chapter will indeed be glorious, far more glorious than where we are now: nuclear weapons, stealth bombers and all.

    So yes, you read my feeling correctly, I am at ease with the Mad Max scenario coming down the pike, but I posit “polar cities” as lifeboats that can save us from utter utter raggedness. Cross our fingers, hope to God.

    Do I contradict myself? Maybe.

  23. And Paco, you helped me think things through a bit more clearly today when you asked me what “polar cities” are exactly:

    Here is my response:

    1. Polar cities are not located at the North Pole
    2. Polar cities are not located “along the shores of an ice-free Arctic Ocean”, as the New York Times incorrectly phrased it in a blogpost on March 29
    3. Polar cities are not underground cites made of glass and tubes, like these images sugggest to some (
    4. Polar cities are not cities at all (they are, rather, small villages and small towns, safe refuge communities of anywhere from 100 people to 4000 people tops)
    5. Polar cities are not Gerbil Cities for pet hamsters, as one blogger joked (Google those terms)
    6. Polar cities are not Habitrail tubes for humans, as another critic joked (Google again)


    1. future safe refuges built on high ground or inside mountain caves or caverns in northern regions of the world, from Juneau Alaska to Whitehorse Canada, and also Greenland, Iceland, Oslo Norway, Stockholm Sweden, Russia
    — even Boulder Colorado and Quebec region

    2. There will also be some polar cities in New Zealand, Chile, Patagonia, Ecudaor high mountains, Peru, also in Antarctica research stations converted to polar cities

    3.Polar cities will be administered, governed and guarded by UN agencies, or individual governments where they are located

    4. Polar cities for survivors of global warming in year 2500 or so will be democratically-run lifeboats that will *NOT* discriminate on admitting residents based on gender, race, nationality, IQ, EQ or religious belief

    5. Polar cities are envisioned as ADAPTATION RETREATS to ensure the survival of survivors of global warming’s catastrophic events in year 2500 or so


  24. By the way, Mike, who wrote this very good essay that started this discussion off:

    I sent this letter to TIME magazine, following its greeen edition about global warming. I doubt it will be printed in the magazine, since they get over 10,000 letters per issue and can only use 3 or 4 of them per issue, so here it is:

    Dear Editor:

    When America decided to go the moon, we witnessed a nation divert
    huge resources into achieving that seemingly impossible goal, and we
    succeeded. The world is faced with climate disaster in the not so
    distant future,
    so why are not proportionately huge resources being diverted into
    developing solutions? Are we incapable of acting pro-actively and

    Danny Bloom
    Tufts 1971

  25. I roundly applaud Mike Tidwell’s communication of climate urgency while deploring his harebrained stab at “solutions.”

    There has been considerable effort to understand how to sequester CO2 the way nature does it: in soils. If, along with zero emissions, we undertake grazer/grassland eco-restoration projects on half of the roughly 4 billion acres of devastated land worldwide, we can go back to the preindustrial CO2 of 280 ppm and possibly mitigate the effects of positive feedback loops.

    For starters, check out and

  26. Hi Danny,

    I very much enjoyed your excellent, thoughtful — and sometimes humorous — replies.

    I understand one of the Scandinavian countries is currently assembling a world seed bank, for precisely the survival purposes you outline in your project description. in the early nineteen-fifties Lewis Mumford used the phrase “saving remnants,” referring to small groups of people who would act as cultural seed-groups in the post-apocalyptic future. His immediate concern at the time was the destruction of civilization by nuclear warfare — which danger, we should note, has not diminished one whit — but he was also well aware of other ecological threats growing out of our mostly unconscious worship of all technologies great and small.

    I find myself thinking often about that phrase, “saving remnants,” since I think it may just come to that — and well before 2500. (You must be an optimist!)

    But because I’ve studied dreams and depth psychology for thirty-five years, I am still impressed by the transformative powers of the deep psyche. I’ve had several dreams over the years that show me a surprisingly different viewpoint from what I can achieve on my own. But, as I hinted in an earlier post, the images in those dreams show the “new” emerging from the wreckage of the “old,” and they even suggest that the destruction is being carried out by autonomous forces in the collective unconscious.

    What the dreams have not said is how much wreckage there will be, or what the “timetable” is. As far as I can tell, much depends on people’s awareness and their ethical responses to what is happening. The importance of wakefulness should not be underestimated.

    It is stunning to me to see how few people even want to think about the “intolerable” future you and I are contemplating. I still hear people saying that “global warming” is a natural climate fluctuation not caused by human activity. Amazing.

    So, I applaud your conscientiousness and wish you great success in your project.

    Thanks again,


  27. Poor, poor Mr. Tidwell. He’s got it right. Partly.

    First off, scientists have been RIGHT about climate change all along, and for much longer than Mr. Tidwell apparently has searched the literature. Articles published in 1996 and 1997 defined with utter clarity the relationaships between dissolved CO2 levels in the Greenland ice cap and historic temperature and climate fluctuations.

    Second, that work and at least twenty years of preceding research demonstrated beyond doubt that climate shifts had been – and perforce could be – large. And very rapid, that is taking place in a period of decades down to years, and not over long stretches of centuries and millenia.

    The data, the interpretations, and the conclusions were stark, incontrovertible. And who listened? Not non-scientists, for sure. Raising the topic at dinner was a sure-fire yawn-producer.

    The other side of the coin, which Mr. Tidwell salutes but dismisses with a wave (and some entirely unsupported wishful-thinking scenarios for ameliorations if we follow his suggestions about adding sulfur and so on) is that climate also swung the OTHER way, from warmer to colder. And with equal swiftness.

    All without human input, if we disregard the controversial but very likely influences from burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution.

    And, not geologically based, Mr. Tidwell politely refrains from noticing the steep up-ramping of energy release in developing countries. Ssssh. Wouldn’t want to seem impolite among the cocktail gentry…

  28. A very spirited piece but we don’t have governmental system capable of such radical remedies. It would be nice to think society had the integral feedback systems that all other species need to survive but there is no indication of this. Moreover our democracies have economies which rely on ever increasing consumption – and this promise is renewed at every election.

  29. Many of these responses seem insightful but being and old geek, I have to wonder what it is about us humans that we have such a long history of preferring pleasant lies over unpleasant facts. Remember Malthus, back at the turn of the nineteenth century? I became convinced that human history was about to reach a crisis of unprecidented proportions after reading Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb.” Both of these men made s strong argument that we need to control our number. Again, president Carter made it clear that world consumption of oil was not sustainable. We’ve had convincing evidence that the burning of fossil fuels would destabalize global climate since the 1950s, but no one made a serious proposal that we should reduce consumption till the last few years.
    Well, no one knows the future, but as evidence continues to be compiled, several possible scenarios are coming into sharper focus, and none of them jibe with what economists, polititians and techno cheer leaders are telling us. What we have alwsys knows is now becomeing undeniable: the growth rate of our population is going to reach zero, with births equalling deaths, and we can be sure that the total population of the world will be much smaller than it is now. The growth rate of our economy is eventially going to be zero, and at a substantial reduction in total wealth. All of this will happen in the not-to-distant future. There really is a reality outside our heads.
    It is too late to avoid The Crisis. We don’t even know what we will have to face. Evidence from ice cores and elsewhere tell us that climate has made many abrupt changes in the past, and one of the scenarios suggested by the ice data is that the sudden melting of polar ice can trigger sudden cooling, at least in some areas. In the face of all these uncertainties, I am concerned about our social response to crisis. Will be learn to cooperate more and form decentralized civil societies or will we follow leaders into wars, or plunge into chaos? I am as worried about us as what we face.
    If a revolution can help us maybe we should get more curious about ourselves. We badly need another period of enlightenment.

  30. Paco,

    thanks for a very good discussion of all these issues, and thanks esp for the Lewis Mumford coinage of “saving remants”. I had not heard of that term before, and I like it. I will entered it into my conciousness as of today.

    More later


    if ever wish to chat offline my email addy is danbloom GMAIL

  31. As I’ve gone about my work-a-day life since contributing early on to this conversation, I’ve found it percolating throughout my consciousness repeatedly… Only the most foolhardy among us would deny any longer that we have likely crossed the threshold of actively being in crisis on multiple fronts – the last 8 years of which have brought into high relief.

    Between the redistribution of the wealth of the country (~$400Bn) from the middle and lower classes to the upper 1.0-0.5%, to the unemployment rates that are probably closer in real numbers to 13% (based on including those whose unemployment has simply run-out and who have been unable for years to find work), from statistics that 1 in 3 teens are now dropping out of high school and that 1 of the other 2 are either incapable of, or unprepared for, university-level work, to the clear evidence that climate change is progressing far more quickly than previously projected – truly, what are we to do?

    As a many decade devotee’ of permaculture, I believe that the seeds of whatever salvation is to be had are to be found in its pursuit. Rather than tinkering with misbegotten ideas of seeding sulfur into the atmosphere, let’s instead (immediately, if not sooner) begin growing our own food. This is perhaps the single most radical move any of us could undertake, and the knowledge to do so is widely available.

    It’s clearly possible to see that the diversion of food crops into bio-fuels is a huge mistake, and when large tracts of arable land are given to that, there is simply less available for growing the food that people need. Coupled with IMF & World Bank policies that have moved the many economies they’ve meddled in away from local horticulture that fed local populations into growing vast amounts of non-food crops for export, is it any wonder why the first step should be taking back both the right, and the responsibility, to grow our own food?

    And clearly, from my own investigation, people across this country, and others, are wild to begin doing this. Google “edible estates,” “abundant yards,” or visit Vancouver BC’s website: The City Farmer ( and you’ll quickly see that people are finding ways to share their yards with their neighbors to begin growing food for themselves.

    Or take a look at the website, On Day One, where people are suggesting what a newly-elected US President might consider doing on their first day in office. The absolute number one idea, as evidenced by the number of people voting on it, is that the President should convert at least some part of the White House lawn into growing food!

    In the context of permaculture (ala’ Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Toby Hemenway, and many others), we would look toward the creation of elegant local ecologies (particularly at the scale of the back yard!) that support both ourselves and wildlife. Permaculture – which I think of as a means to implement an ecologically-oriented lifestyle on many levels, including the primary one of growing our own food – gives us the tools for conducting careful observation, retaining resources for reuse rather than exporting them to the landfill, reducing our reliance on petrochemicals that are killing us (your preference – the war in Iraq, pesticides that mimic hormone receptors, toxic emissions contributing to climate change, et al…) to instead using organic and sustainable inputs like compost, rebuilding the health of the soil, and using redundancy as a means to protect against failure.

    Here’s another website that is a superb explication of the ideas of permaculture, the Bullock brothers’ farm on Orcas Is, WA. When you see what they’ve accomplished on 20 acres, and what they’re offering in terms of education to implement these ideas, it’s very hard to imagine doing anything else but…

    Several years ago I went to a reading by Barry Lopez at Elliott Bay Book Store here in Seattle. It was a typical dark and stormy night, made magical however by a very large flock of starlings that were wheeling and screaming against that turbulent sky. Barry was on the sidewalk with the rest of us – transfixed for many moments at the sight. Later, during the Q&A;, a young man asked Barry – given the incredible rush of content that assails us every day, if not every moment, how did he decide “what to keep”? Barry responded that he felt it was important to “keep” those things to which we are attracted, without regard to the hegemony of ‘political correctness’ – whether it was a pink and turquoise sunrise in the desert, the 3/4 view of a woman’s face as a bus rushed past, or the sight of a flock of starlings engaged in wondrous acrobatics against the clouds, wind and rain… He went on to say that he felt it was absolutely critical that everyone do this, because there would come a time in our culture when we would have need of every single thing that every person had “kept” in order to find our way to survival…

    To the writer who earlier asked what my own ideas were to help address climate change, besides being appalled at the article we’re discussing (a good and proper question I’ve thought long and hard about!), I offer that while I do not have a corner on the market for *all* the ideas that will be required, here is mine to be considered amongst the rest.

  32. Hi Julianne,

    I’m glad that your work-a-day life finally permitted some time for additional reflection on the very important questions we’re all struggling with, and, further, that you found the time and energy — I might even say “passion” — to reply in depth.

    I suspect that this whole process — i.e., this discussion we’re having — is more important than any of us can even guess. You mentioned Barry Lopez, the flock of starlings and Barry’s response to the question someone asked him. In his response, I think he was following a deep line of thinking — or feeling — or intuition.

    Jung once said that “wisdom” amounted to “following the deeper currents of libido.’ When Lopez advised people to “keep what attracted them,” it seems to me he was saying the same thing Jung was. And when Matthew Fox said that, according to Thomas Aquinas, you don’t change people through guilt, you change them through “pleasure,” he was essentially saying the same thing: Find what attracts you, follow the deeper currents of libido, learn who you really are, and then find the courage to follow that pattern and what it demands of you.

    It seems to me that you are doing that already, Julianne.

    In another of Jung’s writings pertinent to this discussion, he said, “What is the fate of great nations, after all, but a summation of the psychic changes in individuals?”

    How can we change the world if we ourselves don’t change? How can others care, if we ourselves don’t care? How can we expect to mobilize others “yesterday” if we can’t mobilize ourselves today? These are questions I sweat over every day.

    Perhaps you read my reply to Danny Bloom’s excellent posts on Page Four of this discussion, in which I referred to some dreams I’ve had that shed a light on the future. I would like to tell you — along with Danny or any other readers who are following this discussion — one of those dreams. (Perhaps you’ve had dreams of your own that pertain to this?) In the dream:

    A group of worshippers marches into our living room. They are separated by partitions, like an egg carton, so that they are separate and yet related at the same time.

    Led by a woman, they are looking for a place to “worship.” They do not belong to any sect or creed, but are bound together by love, in particular, by a common love of beauty, purposefulness, meaning, etc. The woman leader looks at the room and decides this is an appropriate place for them to pray. They all look down at the large oriental carpet on the floor and admire its beauty, then drop to their knees and begin to pray. Even though they pray together, simultaneously, their prayers are individual.

    When they are done praying they all get up and walk around the room, admiring the various antique, hand-made artifacts and art objects. [End of dream.]

    To me, Julianne, this is what I call a “wisdom dream.” It came to me from who-knows-where? I do not regard it as a personal possession, but rather as a cultural — or even natural — phenomenon, rather like Barry Lopez, on the one hand, or the starlings, on the other.

    I don’t know if you, or Danny, or any other readers of this discussion, have ever gone to the trouble of studying your dreams, but consider this: Every hour of the day, as the planet spins on its axis, half of the planet is in darkness. Within that continuous wave of darkness, most people are sleeping and therefore, at least a portion of the time, dreaming. Even if only one percent of the dreams occurring at night — one out of a hundred — fell within that “wisdom” category, with a population of six and a half billion souls, that would amount to 65,000 wisdom dreams per night. (Please check my math.)

    I can’t help but wonder what what would happen if we could tap into that continuous, nightly wave of wisdom which, I have to say, resides within each of us, as our birthright.

    Of course, most of us neglect, ignore or despise our dreams. But the day may be approaching when, in our increasing desperation, we might discover that the visions and images that will finally mobilize us in large numbers, possibly leading us to to a viable future, lie within.

    Please don’t misunderstand. When I say “within” I’m not talking about an egotistical or narcissistic point of view. Quite the opposite. I am saying that there is very little, or even no, separation between you and the starlings, between Barry Lopez and the stars, between me and the frogs. When Thomas Berry speaks of the “earth community,” he speaks the truth.

    When I anticipate a wider human response to the world within — in particular, the creative agency of dreams — it is very much within the context of the world without. I have had experiences that tell me that the boundaries that we have been taught exist between “inner” and “outer,” are in fact specious.

    If you will indulge me, Julianne, here is one last dream, a recent one, and short:

    “New Age = the Coming Birth of the Unconscious.”

    This dream surprised me, because I see so much “unconsciousness” all around me that I take it for granted as always having existed. How, then, can it be “born”?

    I understood the dream to refer to a rising awareness of the driving force of the unconscious in our lives and hence, to a potential awakening to the importance of dreams, which are, after all, the speech of the unconscious. I would even go further and say that through dreams we can actually hear the speech of the earth — if only we have ears to hear.

    Your most recent post –along with Danny’s and others’ — must have required a prodigious effort, which is why I spoke of your “passion.” This touches me deeply, because it suggests that not all humans are in thrall to the gigantic, systemic distractions that pull us away from our human tasks.

    I sincerely hope that you continue to find ways to express your passion and goodness. May there be more like you.

    Thank you so much, Julianne.


  33. we haven’t yet approached making a serious push toward cleaning up our carbon in the u.s., and yet i suspect we will see such debates and limited skirmishes on easing sulfur emissions, for instance, well before we have initiated a carbon tax on all property owners or instituted serious industrial reform.

    the reason? people are always more willing to let others clean up their messes with promised technological salves than simply change their lifestyles.

    i do expect and yearn for the greening of spiritual/philosophical systems as your article predits, but it will be hard won. respect for the earth’s global systems via acknowledged human ignorance and restraint in the field could be our first step toward being absorbed into this new relationship.

  34. Like all other megatechnic interferences with the environment to date, deliberate or accidental, Tidwell’s favored geoenengineering scheme would almost create intractable secondary problems. Some of these problems would be foreseen, others not. One of the already-foreseen results would be severe damage to the ozone layer, as discussed just a few days ago in the journal Science (“The Sensitivity of Polar Ozone Depletion to Proposed Geoengineering Schemes,” April 24). I’ve made a PDF of the article available (for personal and educational sharing only) at

  35. Re Australian action prior to the Australian Federal Election at the end of 2007 that led to the Kyoto signing, please see the link to youtube video re the “HALT CLIMATE CHANGE NOW” community human sign on Sandringham Beach, Earth Day 22 April, 2007.


    Tim Forcey

  36. Dear Friends of the Orion Community,

    Do you think the time will ever come when government officials stop employing every ruse under the sun to protect the selfish interests of over-consumers and hoarders, and start by choosing to do the right thing?

    Life and human institutions like national economies are utterly dependent upon the Earth for existence; but too many of our leaders view the Earth as some kind of thing to be manipulated, dissipated, and ravaged secondary to their adamant practice of a religion called Endless Economic Growth. This clear and obvious object of their idolatry is the soon to become unsustainable expansion of the leviathan-like, global political economy. What a colossal sham. What a shame. What a shambles for our children to confront.

    Always with thanks,


  37. To Jef on April 24:

    Why does everyone seem to forget that Homo sapiens has been the most deadly life-form this planet has ever known?

    If we do not work to end or reverse climate warming, we, humanity, will likely die and take many or all other life-forms with us. It is the neglect of the severity of our impact on the earth which has gotten us into this fix. My regret is that we have willingly destroyed huge pieces of this earth in the pursuit of wealth and ease. Having acted irresponsibly in the past does not allow us to act irresponsibly by standing by and watching the planet “survive quite nicely.” I, you, and all humans owe it to my children, your children, and all earth-bound life to work toward reversing the damage.

  38. Having just plugged into this thread today, I’m glad to see others as appalled as I am about this article and Orion’s publication of it. I am especially glad to hear Juilanne’s recommendations as to where we should be putting our energy. Concepts like re-engineering the atmosphere, and like polar cities, miss the point entirely. It is up to us, each one of us, acting individually and responsibly. Humans have created huge institutions that have enabled all the damage to take place, and we must learn to reclaim our role as biological species and work individually and collectively in small, self-supporting groups. We must learn to grow our own food from the resources immediately around us, provide our own shelter and medical care, etc. When humans learn to do this (and as one trying to make this transition in my life I can attest it is very hard to do, for most of the survival skills we need to know we have been kept ingorant of) then things like migration will happen as needs dictates.

    The real spritual awakening that Mr. Tidwell yearns for will happen not when we build more (fuel efficient) cars or more (wind) farms, but when we learn that we can stop building cars and power plants completely, and survive, as have the vast majority of humans throughout history, quite nicely.

    Thanks for the interesting conversation.

  39. I fully accept the reality of climate change and I believe that we must take appropriate actions to reduce the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. However, I found the sense of breathless panic and exaggeration in this article quite offensive. The statement highlighted in the red box is an illustration of what I mean. The author suggests that a world where the arctic ice is fully melted is no longer planet Earth. How does he feel about planet Earth as it existed in previous geologic periods? Paleoclimatic data indicate that the Earth has experienced large fluctuations in average global temperature in past eras. Was this not planet Earth? The whole of civilization falls into an interglacial period. These periods last about 10,000 years, and that time period has nearly passed. Without human induced climate change, the Earth might be headed for another period of glaciation. Would that not be Earth? The bottom line is that Earth will abide. The author’s vision seems very anthropocentric to say the least. This leads him to suggests that we can fix the situation by “tinkering.” I am not at all enthusiatic about efforts to “tinker” with the climate in order to lessen the impact of global climate change. I don’t believe we understand the climate well enough to undertake such experimentation! This is another example of human hubris.

  40. Greetings Orion readers,

    I come to this conversation with sincere concern and compassion as we struggle with unsettling news each day.

    The natural systems we have depended on for so long are stressed, as is humanity.

    Let’s not arrogantly seed the atmosphere with sulphur dioxide.

    The earth may do the job for us.

    Writing in New Scientist magazine, Bill McGuire, professor of geological hazards at University College in London, said: “All over the world evidence is stacking up that changes in global climate can and do affect the frequencies of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and catastrophic sea-floor landslides. Not only has this happened several times throughout Earth’s history, the evidence suggests it is happening again.”

    The latest scientific discipline to enter the fray over global warming is geology. And the forecasts from some quarters are dramatic – not only will the earth shake, it will spit fire. A number of geologists say glacial melting due to climate change will unleash pent-up pressures in the Earth’s crust, causing extreme geological events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. A cubic metre of ice weighs nearly a tonne and some glaciers are more than a kilometre thick. When the weight is removed through melting, the suppressed strains and stresses of the underlying rock come to life.


    The earth abides…perhaps we can honor its way of adapting to our species.

  41. Good point, Paco. IT COULD BE that the Earth will take care of the Earth in its own way, that somehow the very Earth itself will find a way to shut down global warming in such a way that the worst case scenarios that some have imagined (and I plead guilty here!) will not come true, and the Earth will abide, yes.

    It could very well happen that way, too. I have thought about that possibility, too.

    We should be prepared on all fronts, just in case. But good post, sir! Yes yes yes.

  42. To Paca and Danny,

    No no no no, geology was FIRST into the climate-change fray, BEFORE the climatologists got to it. It was geologists studying ice cores from Greenland who uncovered direct evidence of temperature fluctuations and climatic variation, and of the rapid changes that had taken place, historically.

    The rest, the dramatization of seismic activity as regional tectonic loading changes with melting of ice is something that will happen. Is happening. Has happened all along. This is hardly new, either.

    The tone of the posts, and especially that of the article, may sell page views but it is misleading.

    Or is it better to panic now…

  43. Troll

    it is better to panic now, than to panic later. it will be too late to panic then. panic now. but gently, in measured tones. stay in control. but yes, panic now.

  44. Cutting emissions is a weak (and very expensive) mitigation strategy. Besides, it is very unlikely that a rapidly growing population and world economy will cut emissions so fast and drastically that either abrupt climate change or runaway global warming will be avoided:

    I know of no realistic person who thinks carbon dioxide emissions are going to do anything but grow. Most European countries are not meeting their emissions goals, and of the ones that have, it’s because their economies are collapsing. In the United States, this notion that we’re going to reduce our emissions by 80 percent is pure fantasy. –Pete Geddes, Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, 2 April 2008

    “I’m going to tell you something I probably shouldn’t: we may not be able to stop global warming. We need to begin curbing global greenhouse emissions right now, but more than a decade after the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, the world has utterly failed to do so. Unless the geopolitics of global warming change soon, the Hail Mary pass of geoengineering might become our best shot.” –Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine, 17 March 2008

    “I no longer care much about the science of global warming. To me, the central question, and the one that few are willing to discuss in depth, is: Then what? Fossil fuels now provide about 85% of the world’s total energy needs. Even more important is this corollary: Increasing energy consumption equals higher living standards. Always. Everywhere. Given that fact, how can we expect the people of the world — all 6.6 billion of them — to use less energy? The short answer: we can’t. The developed countries of the world can talk forever about the virtues of solar panels and windmills, but what the energy-poor need most are common fuels like kerosene, propane, and gasoline” –Robert Bryce, Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of ‘Energy Independence

  45. Hello thoughtful Orion folk,

    I have a copy of the big coffee table book “Planet Earth” by Alastair Fothergill (also on DVD). It is a spectacular book, but for a time I could not look at it because each time I did I got angry or sad that we have largely messed up such amazingly adapted species and beautiful places.

    Yet I have to take some solace in the fact that we have lived at a time to see the height of biodiversity and functioning systems. Our technology allowed us to go places, take pictures, and engage in science and observation as never before. I am so thankful that I have seen wolves and grizzlies in Yellowstone; humpback, right and minke whales in the Atlantic; porpoises and beluga in the Saint Lawrence Seaway; wood storks and roseate spoonbills in Florida; a catamount in Vermont; and so much more.

    I am just as thankful to KNOW the about the 2 million species on earth and to wonder about the possible 3 – 100 million more that I will never see but may exist — at least at the moment.

    The knowledge of this amazing world is such a gift. And daily I try not to let it be my curse.

    I look at this beautiful book and sometimes I have a good cry and sometimes I celebrate the fact that earth has had a good life — just as we say about 90 year old uncle Jeb at his funeral.

    No living organism is meant to live forever.

    I am not saying what we’ve done is okay. We could have done a much better job of being stewards of the earth. I just happen to think that the human species is not cracked up to be what a lot of people think it is. Yes, we have created works of art, amazing music, wondrous cathedrals, poetry, functioning civilizations, and much more.

    But perhaps we are an evolutionary experiment that didn’t make it past the high school lab. (Harsh?) Species evolve and face extinction for any number of reasons. But there is only one species that could be admonished that “they should have known better”. Somehow our violent, greedy nature just got the best of us.

    So we should celebrate the fact that we had a 2.5 million year old picnic on earth with great joy, expanses of knowledge, wonderful inventions, cultural diversity, spiritual blossoming, amazing biodiversity, and …well name your experience. And at the same time we struggled with plagues, dark ages, wars, societal collapses and somehow were are still at it, on the internet right now discussing our basic humanity and it’s future.

    Thus the paradox of what it means to be human.

    Best to all,
    (not to be confused with Paco ☺

  46. PACA

    good good post. Yes, the paradox of what it means to be human at this time in human history (and herstory)…….we’ve got a good 500 more years to go……how to savor it? how to prepare for the end? 30 more generations maybe….

    For now, life is won der full!

  47. Yes, Paca, a 2.5 million year picnic on the grass…..dreams! inventions! Elvis Presley! Brigitte Bardot! We need to give thanks and be grateful, and then start the long slog to prepare for what is coming down the pike, slowly, drip by drip, generation after generation, 100 200 300 400 500 years from now……. there are still some more good things to come I feel. but in the end, the end is nigh…… SIGH

  48. Hello, Ron (Post 42),

    I have heard others argue, as you do, that “Paleoclimatic data indicate that the Earth has experienced large fluctuations in average global temperature in past eras.”

    Somehow this is advanced as a reason to downplay the “breathless panic and exaggeration” that so offends you in Mike Tidwell’s article.

    Are we supposed to dance with joy upon hearing about these geological precedents? Or lie down and wait for the waves to sweep away our houses and cities just because “it happened before” some 80 million years ago?

    What troubles me about your formulation is that — unless I misunderstand your intent — I cannot feel the ethical core in your position. Where’s the outrage? Why so complaisant? It is certainly true that “earth will abide,” either as a barren rock with rotten seas or as a teeming swamp crawling with who knows what new species?

    But yes, in the long run, nature will prevail.

    Frankly, I feel more sympathy for Paca’s posts 43 and 48, because at least she is expressing a human response and concern for the damage we’re inflicting on ourselves, our plant and animal brethren and, in some strange way, upon the very chemistry and geology of the planet itself.

    Outrage, grief, remorse, sadness, tenderness, etc., may be “soft-minded” responses to the cruel facts of geological time, but they strike a resonant chord in me.

    We should have known better, but we didn’t.

    The tragedy is that now we do know better — we can see and understand more than we ever did — yet still we proceed as if hypnotized by all our gadgets. Our heads nod before the television screens, and we laugh at the commercial “messages” designed to perpetuate our slumber.

    I am no more enthusiastic about the geo-engineering fantasy than you are, especially if it is carried out in the same arrogant Promethean spirit that got us into this mess in the first place — the march of progress, man’s dominion over all creeping things, conquest of nature, etc.

    I agree with you that, if we let it go so far as to shoot reflective mylar blankets or canisters of sulphur into space in an effort to do a technological “fix,” it will be one more example of our titanic hubris, yet another sign that we’ve blown our chance.

    I would rather see a sudden, widespread shift in our awareness — a Tidwell “snap,” so to speak. So far, of course, the signs are not good. It seems that we WILL live on a hothouse planet. Millions — or billions — WILL suffer and die. We WILL take millions of species down with us. Whether we survive in sufficient numbers to form the nucleus for a second run at “civilization,” time will tell. Danny’s “polar cities” allow for this possibility, but I woul hardly call it a happy prospect.

    I have a feeling, though, that a human-caused global die-off may provide a strict enough discipline that the human survivors may just learn to love this beautiful home that Paca already mourns.

    I don’t know if it’s “too late” or not. But it does seem clear that we don’t have much time to dither.

    Let me know if I’ve misread you, Ron.

    Paco (not to be confused with Paca 🙂

  49. Here’s what i have done:

    i got rid of my car
    i don’t use air conditioning
    i grow veggies
    i don’t have cable

    What else can YOU do?

    i cry about the polar bears too.

  50. Dear Miss Volare:

    What do I do? Here:

    I don’t drive my car
    (Prefer my bicycle)

    I don’t use A/C

    I eat veggies

    I HAVE broadband data links
    (Note the plural)

    concerning polar bears – and much, much more

    YOU need to do that too. Everyone.
    Then you must vote. Before you do that you – we all – must open informed, probing discussion of all such issues.

    Or else we die in our miserable garden scrubs. Neither the polar bears nor god will cry.

    Panic is bad. Reading the literature is good. An earlier post – to take but one example from this discussion – referred to climate cycles 80 million years ago. Doubtless there were, that long ago. But the misquote of geologic literature points towards the malaise of irrationality, and, frankly, ignorance.

    The base in the geologic data is that from Greenland ice cores. That information has been widely published over the past 20+ years. It refers to a time span of the most recent 120 THOUSAND (and not MILLION) years. And it defines very clear periods of climate warming and cooling, which includes the ‘Little Ice Age’ within the past 500 years.

    We are now emerging from a longer than normal (in the context of these data) cool period.

    Those are facts. We may deal with them. Or not.

    The end-time believing people may reinforce a certain personal security in doomsaying. I have my doubts. Once again, reading the record: we’ve been here before.

    We must – MUST – take many kinds of action. Considered action. Those who hang out on this discussion, too.

    So. What do YOU do? Again?

  51. To Bob Tyson, aka Troll 005-1/2 (Post 55), with respect.

    I just visited your photographic website and was very impressed with the quality, poignancy and sensitivity of the photos. I assume you took them. Very well done. You might increase the time, however, that each image remains on the screen. The images deserve to be taken in, and the lap-dissolve sequencing moves along too fast.

    Thank you, also, for your correction of my “80 million year” mistake. To be honest, I was simply reaching for a number that would convey geological scale, not trying to be “scientifically accurate.” I don’t regard numbers as the final determiners of value. To me they are images, more than anything.

    For this poetic infraction you reduce me with your comment: ” . . . the misquote of geologic literature points towards the malaise of irrationality, and, frankly, ignorance.”

    I confess, your honor, guilty as charged. I am irrational in many ways, and ignorant on many counts.

    But I have to reject your charge of “malaise.” I could just as easily say that the worship of numbers is an irrational malaise. Or was it my earlier references to dreams — in all their blatant irrationality — that aroused your pique?

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the amazing discipline and dedication of the scientists who took the Greenland core samples and managed to measure the CO2 content in the bubbles. The endlessly quantified data that reveal our global dilemma in its many aspects, actually enable us to estimate the degree of crisis we face.

    But the greatest problem is ultimately a crisis of imagination. How indeed can we “mobilize” as a species to meet the environmental challenge, without a profound and sudden activation of the human imagination? The “irrationality” you find so loathesome will actually play a crucial, if yet undetermined, role in the awakening of humanity. Paradoxically, it was our vaunted reason and our scorn for the “irrationality” of the past that led to our worship of numbers, our view of the universe as a dead machine, and permitted the full expression of our rage against nature in the ethos of exploitation.

    Numbers are important, yes. Rationality is important, yes. But as soon as we address the problem of motivation — the sine qua non for any effective global response — we move into the realm of moral, ethical, religious, spiritual, aesthetic and philosophical concerns that must take into account the whole person.

    Is this too much voodoo?



    P.S. Paca, where did you go?

  52. I’ve continued to watch this conversation with great interest, although I’ve been sidelined with a nasty case of whooping cough; during this period of my own personal malaise, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the two things which seem, to me at least, to be at the heart of our current dilemmas…

    (1) what Paco refers to as our ‘titantic hubris,’ this ongoing worship of technology as our savior, and (2), what I think of as not just a ‘crisis’ of imagination, but in fact, a failure of imagination…

    There are very many things about technology I can, and do, appreciate – but how often we seem to forget that technology in and of itself has no regard for humanity, integrity, compassion? These are the elements that feel to be missing from this equation. Some of our greatest scientists have certainly recognized this:

    Technological progress is like an ax in the hands of a pathological criminal.
    Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-Swiss-U.S. scientist.

    When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.
    Julius Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) American nuclear physicist.

    This act of doing things because we can, without regard to *why* we are doing them, or *what* the impact could or would be to our fellow travelers on this planet is so terrifically short-sighted. And now that most of what happens in our culture is driven by corporations – whose overarching rationale might be characterized as ‘profit at any cost’ – is it any wonder we willingly narcotize ourselves into passivity and denial so as to avoid the breaking of our hearts were we to awaken to the real truth of this soul-less and miserable existence?

    Technology is not, in itself, evil, but it is heartless. Its definition: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area, certainly doesn’t speak of the horrors of Hiroshima, or the many follies of the foolish.

    One might say it is appropriately devoid of the kinds of passions that so easily lead us astray. But at the same time, it’s a traveler on the same path as “I was only following orders…”

    There is no moral compass resident in technology, no guiding ethic, rather it is, quite specifically, amoral… And this is precisely why putting technology in the lead, blindly following because we can, rather than asking the question, “should we?” will always take us to that precipice of ‘titanic hubris’ of which Paco spoke so eloquently.

    And this is what brings us to that ‘failure of imagination.’ The failure, I believe, is that of not insisting that technology be yoked in tandem with humanity and compassion, the bedrock of what it means to be human… According to Merriam-Webster, compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. How different would our lives be if that single concept were at the foreground of our consciousness?

    We’ve allowed ourselves to devolve to the level of the amorality of our technology, and it will require every shred of imagination we possess to step away from that position. I truly believe that nothing less than re-inhabiting our own humanity, as fully as we possibly can, will suffice in finding our way through the perils now on our threshold.

  53. Hi Julianne,

    I’m glad you’re well enough to re-enter the conversation. A beautifully written piece (Post 57). I agree with everything you said. The only thing I can add is to focus on the very last sentence:

    “I truly believe that nothing less than re-inhabiting our own humanity, as fully as we possibly can, will suffice in finding our way through the perils now on our threshold.”

    I agree entirely. The question is whether we are so far enmeshed in the technological web we’ve created that we no longer know ourselves? And if we do re-discover our humanity, which portion will it be? The highest? Or the lowest?

    The answer to this question, of course, depends on the quality of the individual doing the re-discovering. Theodore Roszak (Person/Planet: The Creative Disintegration of Industrial Society, 1978) points out that cultural creativity has always been the province of a minority. With a planet of nearly seven billion, the size of that minority has to be larger than ever, if its influence is to be felt.

    What you and I might regard as our common human birthright — compassion, for example — is actually an achievement. Even those who adhere to traditional religions have no guarantee that the old dispensations — for example, law (among the Jews) and faith (among the Christians) — will vouchsafe to them the blessings of compassion. It remains a personal achievement, now more than ever, and often in spite of the fulminations from the pulpit.

    So it’s a paradoxical task: it’s up to individuals to reach deep enough within to connect with their basic humanity. “Humanity” itself cannot do it. Only individuals can.

    We may be in the throes of discovering a new dispensation. But it will not be based on prescriptive law, nor on blind faith, as in the past: the new dispensation for the future will be based on experience.


  54. Dear Paco,

    Thank you for your compliments (Post 56) for my photographs. Sorry they move too fast – you can always hang out for another round; or soon (geologically speaking) the rest of the website will be revamped so that those that invite you in will lead on to the rest.

    I think your points about imagination and – if this doesn’t move beyond the sense of what you wrote – passion are crucial. If anything I wrote seems to say otherwise it only shows how amateurish a writer I am.

    But, and this is a big ‘but’ – this thing called technology can’t be made a bogey-person so easily; nor can, as you seem to be saying, ‘numbers’.

    ‘Worship of numbers’ (you repeat the phrase twice) and numbers as ‘final determiners of value’are, neither of them, what I would drive for in looking to understand the dilemma in which we find ourselves. But I bet you have a ‘reaction’ of some kind if you reach for your wallet and it – along with a certain ‘number’ of tokens of buying power – are missing. Or the pilot of an airplane in distress, who goes ‘by the numbers’ to restore control and stability.

    If anyone can show me the ‘bright line’ that separates domestication of livestock, development of the arch, celestial navigation, perspectival representation, and the invention of the calculus from ‘technology’ I will be pleased to be shown the way.

    That is why the real theme of my previous post (55) was that of being fully informed, especially with respect to technical issues.

    And basing decisions, above all decisions with political consequences, on that breadth of knowledge. And not only.

    So Paco, how much voodoo is enough?

    Moral, ethical…. philosophical… and the whole person, of course. And if the roof leaks? Put out the fire! Then we can start talking.

    Hm. Just remembered: science (along with its handmaiden, technology) is part of philosophy.

  55. While I’m agree as to we have to fix this, and there is no time. If sulfur is an answer, do we know the side effects of putting this in our air and what impact this will have on our plant, animal and human life? While I know that the snap effect would be worse, we just need to be prepared on the chain reaction effect of putting this in our air. We will need to educate and prepare all humans to take action, farmers, ranchers, zoo keepers and those out in the middle of no where, what about tribes in remote locations of the world that don’t understand any of this. How are we going to educate them?

    I agree is time for a drastic change in our idea and it has to start on top, the government and it needs to start here with us, but like everything it’s all about politics and really, money, money talks. The big guys that have all the power behind the scenes as to why changes haven’t already taken change. If convert to electric cars, then the oil companies would be hurting, but they will just have to open up companies that build batteries instead, and car manufactures will need to move on to electric car technology.

    Then the war of oil would stop, then it would move to other resources, but that’s another topic. While there are other sources, it can not be water, since we already are lacking it and it will become a high price ticket item one day. But no one can live without it and it grows our food supply.

    So what’s left, well as you said wind, but also solar, I live in the southwest, where there are more sunny days than rain, here out of all places we should have everything solar, including cars.

    That is where research needs to go, and the government should encourage that with tax credits and so on, not totally educated in the subject, but last I heard we don’t have incentives as California those or use to. The government needs to make companies make this product more affordable to the average citizen, I would love to be able to have a solar panel and be able not to have the electric bill that I have and be able to pass on the electricity to assist in the cause, but I can’t because is to hard to make ends meet as it is.
    But if I could take the money I spend on electricity and purchase a solar system then eventually it will pay for itself and would cut cost. I’m sure there are upkeeps, but they should make a reliable product that will last. That is why the government needs to regulate it. But again, politics talk, like the gas pricing, in Arizona there seems to be always a broken pipe that makes the prices go up every summer, and gas stations close down the day that it’s even announced to save the gas for the next day when the prices go up and yet there are no price regulations on gas, funny that issue can’t be resolved even though it is such a big topic at least there.

    As I’m a big fan of doing good for the green cause, and actually I think it should be law to recycle our waste, I can also understand the how it’s hard for some of our population.
    Not all of us have great incomes and are leaving pay check to pay check and can’t afford to pay extra for another trash can to recycle. I know this from experience, I’m a single parent household due to divorce. I think the government needs to take a stand and make the cities, towns, maybe place trash bins so those that can’t afford to have their own bins can recycle by taking it down to a larger community one. This will cause would be a great cause, and it would not cost them anything, they just have to involve a recycling company.

    Well let’s of hope for a change, and somone taking action, let’s do it together.

  56. Juxtaposing this article with one I just finished reading here at Orion, titled “The Gospel of Consumption”, raises some interesting points for discussion.

    I fail to see how the world’s elite, convinced as they are about the supremacy of the almighty dollar, will yield to the idea anytime soon of reduced consumption. This concept does not exist in their world and without it the policies of our government (the elite, monied business crowd) will not and cannot change towards anything that resembles a contraction of economic activity.

    For the elite and the ruling class to get onboard of any ship named “sustainability”, there has to be a buck in it. The alternative, for the ruling class to lead the way towards environmentally sound policies, or even to be forced along by the population, is a pipe dream.

    Additionally, according to my college biology prof, all species follow a bell curve of population over time. The species starts off, establishes a steady-state population with a slight growth rate upwards, but fairly steady. Then something in the environment allows for the population to climb at an astronomical rate, such as Mr. Tidwell mentions about the Canadian beetles. From no beetles to a large population rapidly. Eventually, the trees will no longer provide food or shelter for the beetles, or the climate will get too cold or harsh for them, or something else, and they will die off in huge numbers. As will we, my friends. The curve has an upswing, a rapid peak, a sharp decline, and the good news for ours and all species, a relatively long gentle downward slope towards eventual extinction.

    It could be global warming and it’s consequences that gets us over the top of the spike into the one-third remaining population part of the graph, but if it’s not that it will be something else, nuclear war over scarce remaining resources, accidental release of some contaminant or agent, etc. etc. If Mr. Tidwell’s idea to pump chemicals into the sky doesn’t take off, something else will. Of course, the idea borders on lunacy as do any that require more of the same. The Homeopathic approach to any technological problem only makes it worse.

    Moreover, we as a species here in the West have come to resemble the Star Trek alien species The Borg- half-machine half-human creatures devoid of any feeling or humanity, only subservient automatons in an Economic SpaceCube.

    The popular uprising required to change the entire way of life of entire western societies, the will to do it has been stripped by alpha-wave brainwashing (television and mass media). The aformentioned article tells of the resulting Borg-like world we now live in, with the entire rest of the world clamoring to emulate as soon as possible, with a little help from Halliburton and Coca-Cola. The Gods MUST be Crazy!

    To me, it’s not about hope or pessimism, it’s about nature, the will of nature . We are not immune to this force. We have out-stripped our sustainable resources and are now living on borrowed time, of which we have little if Mr. Tidwell is correct in his geo-climatic conclusions.

  57. i think she is right the change must happen now.i my self am pagan and i know for a fact that pagans help nature in many ways b/c it is embeded in us to perserve nature b/c that is what my religion is about not just magik but also nature. if people would not let their religions hold them back there could be a change. and im not saying you have to be pagan to help nature every one can and every one should. if they want to survive. i agree with julianne on the acid rain also how could that be ignored if were the reason it is produced b/c of the polution factories emitt to make that things that make it were we can live comfortble. id rather live with out such comforts and survive then have them and be destriyed

  58. Bob Tyson (aka) T 5.5

    Hi Bob,

    Many thanks for the intelligent, well-written response to my Post 56.

    Interestingly, I agree with everything you said in your Post 59.

    It occurs to me that we are trying to wrap our heads around the most comprehensive problem that humanity has ever faced. Just imagining how to determine the scale of the problem, in all its stunning complexity, and then asking the right questions, is a daunting task.

    It’s a bigger challenge, in a sense, than figuring out “The Theory of Everything.” The physicists can keep pursuing their “elegant” theory, and if the solution escapes them for decades, for centuries, or forever, it doesn’t really interfere with their quest per se. But even if they do arrive at The Theory of Everything, they still will probably have very little to say about how to deal with the practical, ecological, political, emotional, economic, ethical, philosophical dimensions of the global crisis. Of course, a comprehensive Theory of Everything will certainly play a PART in the new cosmology that’s developing, and the new cosmology — with all the number-based science it implies — must sooner or later form part of the foundation of the new world-view that we so desperately need.

    That’s the problem we’re all facing. We’re trying to deal with a troublesome future that is calling for new ways of acting, thinking, seeing, feeling, relating, imagining, etc., but we’re trying to do that on the basis of the same attitudes and viewpoints that led to “the troubles” in the first place. We can’t expect “more of the same” to get us through — it can only get us into a deeper mess than ever. That’s why the idea of sulphur bombs in space evokes such disgust in many Orion readers.

    It’s not surprising, then, if occasionally we lock horns over words, or overreach in our efforts to express ideas for which no developed vocabulary really exists. I come from a psychological, therapeutic, dream-oriented, musical and artistic background. I count on images that come to me spontaneously from the depths of the psyche. You come from a scientific background, I gather, and count on the accurate treatment of precise numbers. Both of these perspectives are valuable in themselves, and in my opinion they MUST eventually reach some accomodation, if not common ground, if we are to succeed in our evolutionary task. The coming together will require as much art as science, autonomous images as much as numbers.

    So, what it boils down to is that I’m groping in the dark. I cast about for ideas, images and insights that will enable me, first of all, to avoid losing myself in the turbulent sea of facts, data and information we’re all swimming in. In addition, my quest for images is not just personal. I am simultaneously searching for the healing formula which, my experience and temperament have convinced me, is emerging from the “unconscious.” If it were a matter of conscious productions alone, we would have long since invented the secret recipe we are so deeply hungering for.

    In your own way, I know you want to do the same, which is why I appreciate your thoughtfulness and concern. Your “solutions” will differ from mine, of course, but “truth is a concert of many voices.” What is certain is that the crystallized forms we have created, and which are slowly strangling the planet, need all the solvents we can apply, as soon as possible. Therefore we must pool our “solutions.”

    There is an old alchemical saying about fixing the volatile, and volatilizing the fixed. We need both. We need to fix the volative ideas buzzing around in our heads and pouring through our fingers in our dreams. But we also need to volatilize the fixed forms of our institutions and modes of thought, to free up the energy needed to meet the challenges ahead.

    I apologize for taking so long to respond. I didn’t realize you had answered my last post (thank you, Orion).

    Take care, Bob


    P.S. Can you convert you photo website from an automatic lap-dissolve format to a click-when-you’re-ready format? I don’t know anything about it.

    Also, can you set it up to allow comments?


    We need to fix the VOLATILE ideas buzzing . . . .

  60. Perhaps the human community could more effectively snap into action for the climate if so many of our leaders did not abuse human intelligence and ingenuity by choosing to adamantly idolatrize the endless growth of the global political economy.

    Science, reasoning and common sense are being twisted and subordinated to conform to whatever thinking serves our leadership’s intentions to promote the politically convenient and the economically expedient, in the course of its worship of soon to become, unsustainable economic growth.

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

  61. I am grateful for those who write the “in your face” books about the realities of climate change because they are telling us what we need to hear said out loud every single day.
    My concern is that I am not hearing the solutions spelled out clearly enough to pull our collective heads out of the sand and create the political will to turn things around. Every time some idealogical or corporate flunkie says global warmng is a hoax it gets reported on the evening news as if it were real science and the people sigh with relief and go out and buy more SUVs and all sorts of other soothing consumer toys.
    Every time I hear more equivocation I want to scream. We do not have time for this. No global mogul needs to make more money. Progress is not consumption. It is not big and red and it not a very tall building. Progress is coming up with ways to live on earth together with all the other creatures in health and peace and with intelligence. We need to stop putting little boys or girls with something to prove to daddy in the seats of power, and start cleaning up the mess TODAY. We need to make it very clear to our candidates and ourselves that there is not time to waste. Politics as usual is not going to get it done.
    When I was a child some 50 plus years ago I learned in school that the rain forests were like the lungs of our planet and was totally convinced that no one would tear them down because no one would be so stupid to tear out his or her lungs. I was wrong.

  62. Sandy Olson,

    You said it so well.


    “When I was a child some 50 plus years ago I learned in school that the rain forests were like the lungs of our planet and was totally convinced that no one would tear them down because no one would be so stupid to tear out his or her lungs. I was wrong.”

    50 years ago Danny Bloom too:

  63. Hi folks,

    I’m glad this conversation is still active. I have been keeping track best I can.

    On a good day:

    my carbon footprint is next to nil,

    I enjoy this beautiful earth,

    I do my “good work” in conservation, and

    I am able to “process” the increasingly hard news.

    The Hubble photos are very grounding and reassuring. Humans define life in terms of water based biology.

    When I glimpse at the universes, I see all kinds of other ways of defining life and death– galaxies, nebula, death stars, star births!

    Cosmic dust that I am.

    On hard days, I cry myself to sleep in earth’s arms.

    xoxo, Paca

  64. Hi Paca,

    I thought we’d lost you, with your dwindling carbon footprint. I missed your input.

    I’m trying to track the archetypal changes that are taking shape in the unconscious, mostly via dreams. I know this is a minority viewpoint, to say the least, but nevertheless I believe that any change on a conscious, human level will be short-lived if it is not supported by the deeper psychic currents within us. It seems to me we’re in the throes of a world-wide shift in fundamental attitudes. This in itself is a major crisis, and amounts to a collapse of the old vision that sustained us for many centuries. At this point, we don’t know what the critical features of the new vision will be, but it is certain that it will be different from the old.

    I just picked up a copy of a book by Theodore Roszak, Person/Planet, published in 1978. It has so many pertinent points that are relevant to our situation today, that I would say it was ahead of its time. I’d like to quote from it, if I may. You may appreciate this, if you haven’t already read it:

    “Once, so we have been told by science textbooks since our school days, the Earth was barren rock and vapor. Then her lethargic chemicals were somehow touched with life, and, at last, the planet “peopled” — as spontaneously as a tree bears fruit in season. All this, the long natural history of the Earth, is treasured up in us. The salt of ancient seas can still be found in our blood. The rhythm of the moon is echoed in the cycles of the female body. The remembered shapes of our evolutionary ancestry are recapitulated in every human embryo. In some sense that blends science and myth, vision and history, we were mothered out of the substance of this planet. Her elements, her periodicities, her gravitational embrace, her subtle vibrations still mingle in our nature, worked a billion years down into the textures of life and mind. Even our queer, alienating consciousness rises out of some uncanny potentiality of her elemental stuff. Can a few generations of urbanization and a century or two of scientific skepticism really be enough to cut us off forever from the sense of vital reciprocity between ourselves and the planet that was once the universal knowledge of our race? I think none of us who have experienced even a glimmer of that living continuity should find it hard to accept that our destiny is tied to the need and the will of the Earth. Perhaps what we lack is only the courage to speak what we know.

    “How, then, could we now pass into an era of acute ecological emergency, as terrible an emergency as the planetary biosphere has ever known, and not feel the tug of that reciprocity upon us — a deep organic remembrance, a warning, an instruction? But how would we expect the Earth to issue such an instruction? Would we expect it to roll down from the skies — or be proclaimed to us by a goddess who rose from the sea? Surely, we know that the web of nature is spun more subtly than that. The instruction would come to us in the one language most capable of transforming our conduct: not as a command from above or beyond, but as a moral idea realized from within. Just at the planet thinks through us, so we, in our thinking, may draw upon themes and images as ancient as the planet’s own star-burst birth.”

    Roszak wrote that passage just over thirty years ago, and, I am convinced, it will still be relevant many years from now.

    I just inaugurated a new blog, a week or so ago, in the hopes that I could engage a few hardy souls in exploring the deeper processes that underlie our conscious efforts. I invite you to visit it, Paca, just in case you might find something that speaks to you. The biggest problem I find with blogs, by the way, is that they start at the end, with the latest post, instead of the beginning. I suppose it’s part of the new paradigm. I belong to the generation characterized by what Neil Postman (Technopoly) calls the “typographical mind.” I think in terms of books, where you start at the beginning. Call me old-fashioned, if you will.

    Hope to hear from you again.

    Your “tocayo,”

    Paco Mitchell

  65. Tidwell, you should be ashamed of writing such rubbish. For all our sakes please do your homework, and limit yourself to actual facts rather than populist rant. The climate is changing, slowly, as it doees naturally, and we need to adapt to such changes not try to stop a planetary change which is primarily natural. Monumentally stupid ideas like seeding clouds with sulphur or dumping tons of iron filings into the sea will have unintended effects and are most likely to fail at what they are intended for and create new probl;ems not foreseen by their idiot inventors. Please, people, do your home work and find out the actual facts, not this speculative rubbish.

  66. To Paco, Post 63, among others.

    I appreciate that I’m late to respond, and that I haven’t had the time to follow your later posts, nor to follow up at your blog, as you’ve noted you’re posting.

    Perhaps the best I can do is to acknowledge and respond to the tone, as much as to the substance, of your post. Which is that I ‘agree’ or perhaps better said, also carry in me, the yearning you express to understand our own natures, and to discover the path to right action. You point towards a mystical search, if I might say it, through dreams and imaging.

    My message here may not ‘wash’ with this audience. Indeed it may be fruitless to propose it, as I have, and would continue to do. But what it comes down to is this: as deep as one may go into the unconscious, into the refreshing and re-creative depths of the mind and our intuitive resonances with the worlds around us (plural intended), we also, if there is indeed a difference, have little choice but to mind pragmatics, quantitative and material actualities.

    Who crosses a busy street on whim or instinct alone, but also checks to see what’s coming his way, first?

    My earlier point had to do with my worry that dialogue based on vague, inaccurate ‘imagery’ of science and technology serve no one. Hence my correction to lines in an earlier post of yours.

    I see it again in another message, Post 71, where MikeF writes, ‘…do your homework, and limit yourself to actual facts… The climate is changing, slowly, as it doees naturally…’

    Limit ourselves to the facts? Perhaps ‘limit’ is too ‘restrictive’ but by all means we need to be educated to the facts, to know them and be able to work from them towards both practical solutions and spiritual, informed inner positions.

    MikeF also has stretched the facts by the way. The ‘facts’ are, based on the Greenland ice core measurements, that the climate has at times warmed, and cooled, VERY rapidly, not ‘slowly’ as his lines state. We are presently in a warming phase. AND the level of CO2, AND the actual, observed rates of climatic warming suggest, if they do not prove, that the contemporary situation IS different from passages of time previously seen.

    And of course it IS that present collision of actual events that triggers the ‘panic’ counseled in this article. And which rouses me to remind one and all: panic is not the answer, while considered, informed decision-making IS.

    It’s quite popular to dismiss an issue as ‘easy’ by saying ‘It’s not rocket science, you know.’ Well, maybe it IS rocket science, or something close to it. I watched the JPL scientists and engineers husbanding Phoenis to its successful Mars landing the other day and enjoyed immensely their pleasure at a job done well. Deserved pleasure.

    As a former middle-school science teacher – and as a practicing fine artist – I am frightened much by the scientific-technical illiteracy of our whole culture. AND by our artistic-humanities illiteracy. Both.

    We need to understand rocket science, and we need to know our history and our literatures, if we are to use what we understand for our own good.

    That’s what I ‘dream’.

  67. Hi Bob,

    Good to hear from you. Thanks for the reply.

    Decades ago I taught Foreign Languages at a small boarding school in rural Hawaii. A Stanford classmate of mine taught Marine Biology at the same time I was there. We were motorcycle buddies, and rode our bikes all over Parker Ranch and, on one memorable occasion, up to the summit of Mauna Kea. There were only two observatories on the summit in those days (mid-60s).

    As you can imagine, he was well-schooled in science, as I’m sure you also are. One night we had an argument that lasted over two hours. We must have resembled two medieval scholastics arguing points of theological doctrine. The gist of our disagreement was this: He argued that the universe was ultimately knowable in every respect, given, of course, enough equipment, enough colossal budgets, time for experiments, etc.

    I found this to be a hideous prospect, outrageous in its arrogance and presumptuousness. It seemed to me that the scientific point of view had lost its moorings and, in some practical sense, had gone crazy — driven from below by some titanic myth. I don‘t mean that my friend was crazy. He was and is a decent, well-respected scientist. He was like a brother, after all. But I felt that the path he advocated, if given the free rein he imagined it warranted, could only lead to disaster.

    And what was my contrarian position? Simply that the universe, in ALL its aspects, was ultimately unknowable, that there was a MYSTERY surrounding human consciousness and its artificial constructs, that would ultimately remain UNKNOWN, and this was as it should be.

    Of course, looking back on it, my friend and I were just slinging bull, and both of us were full of it. A real bull session. That was forty-two years ago. Looking back on it, and having learned a lot since then, I find that we were both being true to our individual temperaments, and were bound to clash.

    A few years ago I tried to engage him, as a scientist and an old friend, in a discussion of global warming. Curiously, he almost dismissed it because, as I understand it, he didn’t want to become “depressed.” He made a joke about his inland house eventually becoming situated on “sea-front property.” I didn’t think it was funny. Our correspondence dwindled to nothing.

    What am I supposed to think when a very well-educated, brilliant scientist — a marine biologist, no less — can’t carry on a discussion about the planetary crisis because he doesn’t want to become “depressed”? That we can only engage the “facts” that don’t depress us? Or that we’re not supposed to factor the subtleties of the human psyche into our equations?

    The “myth of objectivity” is one of the more lethal aspects of the modern world-view. Somehow we must find a way to take emotion, fantasy, imagination, projections, etc., etc. — in short, the human psyche — into account as we deal with the “facts” that are piling up on our shores like so much jetsam following a tsunami.

    I hope you know that I VERY MUCH APPRECIATE your most evident intelligence and caring. I agree with you that attention to both sides of this conundrum is required, that we have to deal with what you called “pragmatics, quantitative and material actualities.” Of course we do.

    But we’ve been doing that for centuries now, and it still hasn’t prevented us from piling up an enormous imbalance on the scale of power-to-wisdom. I don’t have to tell you toward which side the scale is overbalanced.

    The calm, rational approach — what you called “considered, informed decision-making” — is a tremendous accomplishment in human history, something we would forfeit only with disastrous consequences. But it’s not enough. Something more is needed. And insofar as I can read the symptoms of the day, it is needed FAST. That’s why I appreciated Mike Tidwell’s article (with apologies to Mike F. who considers the article “rubbish”), since it moved the dialogue forward with the image of climate “snap.” Tidwell even saw fit to imagine how the body politic might respond with a snap of its own, something I have been hard-pressed to envision. Any such shift in people’s attitudes, on a widespread basis, can only occur as a result of psychological change, since the attitudes themselves are nothing if not psychological.

    Hence my hope. Hence my despair.

    Don’t forget, calm rationality is a rather specialized psychic function, underpinned by irrational moods, emotions, motives and fantasies. The scientists at Alamogordo — just like your Mars landing group — also stood back and savored their “well-deserved” pleasure upon seeing the fruit of their labors, with the detonation of the first atom bomb over the New Mexico desert. The pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, avowed decades later that he had “slept like a baby” ever since. But I would like to see his dreams.

    Rationality is no proof against unconscious motivations which, as often as not, subvert the conscious aim. Too often, the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Show me the person who doesn’t cast a shadow.

    Nor has calm rationality prevented a host of psychopaths from taking control of government in recent years, with who knows what dire consequences still to unfold. In most centers of power, at least in America, it seems that those in control could care less about what we are talking about.

    As for the “panic” that you ascribe to Mike Tidwell, I don’t see it. What I see is the s – – t hitting the fan — pragmatically, quantitatively, materially and actually — while most of us seem to be sleepwalking to oblivion. A few years ago — according to an aerial survey — some forty-five million piñon pines in New Mexico alone died as a result of a borer beetle infestation. That was just one year in a three-year die-off. The devastation extended all the way to Alaska. I understand that this year enormous tracts of forest in Canada are succumbing to beetles. Everywhere you look, the evidence is plain, and it is accelerating at a breath-taking place. Given a choice, I have to side with Mike Tidwell and his “rubbish,” and take issue with Mike F. and his fantasy of slow, natural change.

    I don’t pretend to have any “answer” to our dilemma, but I am convinced — by temperament, I admit — that no real solution will ever be brought into play without the cooperation of the deep psyche.

    Best good wishes, Bob, and thanks again for your reply,


  68. Dear Paco,

    I think we come to a parting of the ways, although I’m not entirely sure why. You seem to move the goalposts with each exchange, in terms of re-framing the discussion. And in mis-quoting, misunderstanding, or just not knowing vital facts. For one, it sounds false to me to say that the Manhattan Project scientists at Alamagordo ‘…stood back and savored their “well-deserved” pleasure upon seeing the fruit of
    their labors…’ In fact, in this example, the story I have heard over and over is that those people were well-prepared for something that might go horribly wrong in that instant – and with the anguish, not pleasure at all, that if it did go ‘right’ – that is as planned – then it foretell a future of something that would be – horribly wrong.

    For my money that is not at all what goes on in a project like Phoenix. Those men and women, it seems to me, may take genuine pride and pleasure in completing a complex task, and in the further search into those very mysteries of the universe.

    Which makes me want to complain that it is you who seem to think that science has a kind of hubris, that it’s goal is knowing ‘everything’. I’m not at all so sure, have never been. There’s plenty of mystery to go around and to keep us all busy – for a very long time. Paul Valery (not a scientist but a humble philosopher): ‘The world is always more interesting than any of our ideas about it.’ You haven’t heard me say we’ll get to the absolute bottom of things through science. But you seem to believe that scientists think so.

    Oddly enough I, too had a biologist Stanford classmate from the 60’s. He, too has been discouraged by the state of affairs he observes around him. Maybe this is characteristic of biologists? But I can’t tell. Your exchange was long enough ago that the global climate cycling cards we now have from Greenland weren’t yet on the table. Even so, I can well imagine. There’s ample room for worry.

    Tidwell did, actually, speak of panic. Else this discussion never would have been. Right?

    I disagree with you, Paco. What we need is MORE science, MORE rational thought. Along with – intuition, dreams. Always have. It’s been a millenial slog to get here, and the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, to say nothing of the Enlightenment, earned their names. I fear we are backsliding.

  69. Hi Bob,

    It’s too bad you feel we have reached a parting of the ways. I’ve enjoyed our exchange, in spite of the mutual frustration born of differing points of view. I’ve looked forward to your responses, because at the very least I could count on them to be intelligent, well-crafted and carefully thought out. If you and I can’t agree on an area of solid accord, with all the good will in the world behind us, then how are 6.65 billion souls (or more) supposed to reach anything approaching the necessary consensus?

    In the early fifties Lewis Mumford called for “unconditional cooperation” on a global scale Many other contemporary writers have called for something on the order of a “Manhattan Project” to deal with the global environmental crisis. How exactly is that to be achieved — and with the alacrity of a “Tidwell snap” — if large numbers of individuals don’t crank up their sense of urgency, look at the scientific data that exist in abundance, and along the way subject themselves to the criticisms of opposing viewpoints?

    Your point of view holds up practical reason as a guiding value — “What we need is MORE science, MORE rational thought.” And though you add, almost parenthetically, that somehow dreams and intuitions are permissible, rather like a “refreshment,” still you worry about a regression to “the malaise of irrationality.”

    My point of view, of course, RELIES on dreams and intuitions. I would say “What we need is MORE dreams, MORE intuition. Along with science, rational thought.” Dreams and intuitions constitute my guiding values. But note, my approach to these irrational data requires a very, very careful discernment — not a scientific approach, to be sure, with electrodes and charts, but something more poetic, more visionary. Call it “mystical,” if you must, if by that term you mean a cultivation of inner vision, or a perception of the Other through direct experience, intuition or insight.

    I share your worry about the regressive tendencies afoot today, but I see them as much among hard-boiled politicians, Pentagon planners, corporate titans and SOME scientists as I do among the religious “ministries,” New Age “bliss-ninnies, TV pundits, etc. When Dick Cheney said that the American life-style is “non-negotiable,” he proved himself to be a destructively regressive force every bit as dangerous as a cult of rattlesnake handlers in the Deep South. Is he a rational person? You tell me. If the answer is “yes,” then we are in deep trouble indeed. But if the answer is “no,” and you can tell me wherein lies his irrationality and whence it derives, I predict we will find ourselves smack in the midst of “psychology” and all its messy reality.

    With many thanks and best wishes.

    Your cantankerous friend,


  70. Dear Paco,

    My disagreement with you arose in your dismissal of science, although your latest post confuses me. Now you say dreams and intuitions are – merely – “refreshment. I had understood it that for you they are instead the be all, end all, without which nothing else; and that science and technology are to be rejected or profoundly distrusted. I didn’t sense in your words an understanding of the rigorous testing and questioning – the philosophical basis – that underlie scientific research and intellect. Nor have you acknowledged, in science, the dream-components. Maybe you know the story of the chemist who uncovered the ring structure of benzene, in a dream about snakes?

    Life may just have to be so odd. I am a geologist, by training and a career of direct experience; and artist. (BS – geology 1969; MFA – photography 1986; Stanford.)

    We require both parts, sciences and humanities. Eh? Your rejection of technology and of scientific understandings, made explicit in several of your posts, and echoed by others were my prompt to contribute here. I consider that rejection to be a terrible mistake. As citizens we have a moral and practical duty to embrace the sciences, and with vigor. Else how stack firewood for winter, provide gymnasium for acrobat-ist, conservatory for singer?

    You, and others, active here and elsewhere, best express and uncover what is important from dreams and intuitions when you focus on that realm. Counsel: leave the other stuff alone along the way, drop the side-trip to bash what you would avoid. This too will deepen focus.

    (Aside: I’m profoundly unconvinced that there actually ARE two separate worlds, one of the soul, another of the scientist. I’m not here to make that argument, but to stress that pressing the holy work in every sphere really matters. As does dialogue that connects the one into the other.)

    I could be more curious of your journey as you’ve noted it, but your strong term ‘RELIES’, as it appears stressed, in caps, clearly expresses your elevation of the inner realm and your exclusion of science. That worries me. I return to my silly example, upon what do you rely when you cross a busy street?

    An artist colleague wrote me from a residency in a colony to marvel at the support and ease she found there to focus her attention completely on her expressive work.

    ‘It’s as if art were all that mattered.
    And perhaps it is,’ she wrote.

    Perhaps so.

  71. to paco i did not dismess science and to some of the others who had something to say about my commett i dont know what you guys are talking about

  72. Hello Lathan,

    I was intrigued by your post (77), but I have a couple of questions for you, spurred by some of the comments in your earlier post (62):

    1. “to paco i did not dismess science”

    Excuse me. Did I say you did?

    2. “i myself am pagan . . . my religion is about not just magik but also nature”

    Perhaps you could tell us more about your religion, Lathan, since “paganism” is a long-abused term and doesn’t have a very reliable definition at present.

    I assume you don’t mean that you follow a pre-Christian religious practice, sacrificing to multiple gods, etc., the way an Eyptian, Greek or Roman might have done in the past. My guess is that you have disaffiliated yourself from contemporary Christianity, Judaism, Islam, even atheism, and have chosen to “worship nature” instead.

    If this is correct, it certainly would amount to an advance over the exploitative attitudes currently dominant. I am curious what form your worship takes, how many fellow worshippers you are in contact with, whether there is a church or liturgy attached to your religion.

    These are not idle questions either, since I believe we are in desperate need of a deep renewal in terms of our feeling about the Earth, the way we imagine our position in and relationship to nature, and so on.

    3. “it is embeded in us to perserve nature”

    I am very interested in your opinion, and especially your exerience, of how it is embedded in us to preserve nature. Personally, I agree with you, but I would like to hear your version. In fact I hope your opinion prevails, in the long run. But as I look around at how doggedly we humans cling to our destructive habits, I find myself wondering to what extent the will to destroy nature is not also embedded in us, a selfish, careless element that we seem to be scarcely aware of. I cherish the hope that it’s just a cultural residue of the past two or three thousand years — a bad habit of negation — that will be swept away in a massive turnabout soon to happen.

    What IS that destructive element? Where does it come from? Why have we grown so complacent when faced with its consequences? How much of it is cultural or historical, how much of it is in-born? To answer these questions requires not just historical knowledge, but self-knowledge as well. That’s perhaps the essence of what I’m trying to say — though apparently not too successfully — to my friend Bob Tyson.

    Hope to hear from you, Lathan.


    P.S. Bob, I’m still working on a reply to your last post (76). Apologies for the delay. Many demands on my time lately.

  73. Academics, jeez! ☺

    I am not sure all this parsing is necessary. Dare I say I see more agreement than disagreement here. Let’s focus on the common ground. If Orion readers can’t come together —-we’re truly in trouble.

    We have a left brain and a right brain and the part that connects the two is the source of our creativity. We need both.

    Science and emotions
    Logic and art
    Math and dance
    Mind and heart
    Intellect and feelings
    Conscious and subconscious
    Waking reality and dream reality

    “If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.” — Rachel Carson

    Joanna Macy, an incredible teacher and mentor (a lifeline for me) wrote in her web letter recently. She was responding to a question about what was important to her at a gathering of folks at Findhorn. Her reply “The earnestness and the intention of the people stir me greatly. The willingness, the sense of unpanicked urgency. The deep goodwill. The dancing. The humour. That these folks are all doing it for the love of it without seeing the results of their own actions. That they are freed from continually computing our chances of success.”

    This is my hope: I aspire to do my work on behalf of the earth for the love of it, knowing my actions may not bear fruit in my lifetime. I seek freedom from the self-doubting, guilt-ridden “bargaining” attempts to make my poorly-evolved mind somehow process our predicament. I embrace humor. I will spend time each day loving nature and let go of trying to calculate our chances of success.

    That’s my intention. I will let you know how it goes.

    I find the grief cycle so helpful at this time. In fact, I joke (not) with friends that I go through the cycle several times a day sometimes. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

    In acceptance (at the moment), Paca

  74. ahhh, Paca, such eloquence! Thank you! “That these folks are all doing it for the love of it without seeing the results of their own actions. That they are freed from continually computing our chances of success.” – this is to me the very nub of it all.

    We simply have to rise to the challenge of greeting each day with as much grace as we can muster in any given moment, and doing the work that must be done because we are in love with the earth.

    As a very dear friend once told me, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else does – it only matters what I choose to do, and that I do so from a place of integrity and intention, choosing my actions because they are in alignment with my values and for no other reason.

    *This* is the place where we share common ground. Not that our values are all the same, but in the act of possessing them at all. If we are true to ourselves, respectful of others, and apply ourselves to the tasks that are required of our own beliefs, that’s really all there is.

    It’s akin to Victor Frankl’s realization in the concentration camp that everything – except his attitude of how he met the day – could be taken away from him. That is always what remains within our control. We don’t need to convince one another that science/logic are better, or that dreams/metaphysics are closer to nature.

    We need only hold on to our part – ala’ Barry Lopez’ concept of “keeping that to which we are attracted” – knowing that it is not encumbent on any one of us to have either all or the complete answer.

  75. Julianne, Thanks for your grounding words.

    I read an essay by Derrick Jensen recently where he drew the distinction between hope and love. It was in Orion. I have some friends who worry about me when I say I feel hopeless. They think I’m done for.

    Jensen: “Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth. Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation.

    …..I want to accomplish something in the real world.
    Why? Because I’m in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don’t determine whether or not you make the effort. You don’t simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn’t cause me to protect those I love, it’s not love.”

    Derrick is offering an embrace of our emotional complexities as humans. As a life-long conservationist and activist, I sometimes find myself laughing and crying in the same breath. My range of my emotions can be truly staggering. I don’t think it is a form of mental illness (?). It is a response to pathetic, preposterous, absurd, shameful, desperate — yet entirely laughable —- situation into which we have put ourselves and this earth.

    I do not use the word laughable lightly. I use it to point out that as cosmic dust, if we can step back for a moment and not take our humanity quite so seriously perhaps we CAN have a good belly laugh. It doesn’t me we laugh anything off. It means we give ourselves a break. We choose our attitude. And if Victor Frankl did it, certainly we can.

    Laughter and light-heartedness are the antidotes to the real nemesis in all this: Fear.

    Love, laugh, cry, laugh some more — and do whatever we can for what we love. Haha!

    And just like we teach our children: honor all feelings. We can argue facts, science, the relative value of the left and right brains. But we can’t argue each other’s feelings.

    As you say, Julianne, not all our values are the same but we are all in this together in how we process them. Our work is in helping one another greet each day with grace.

    With love and laughs to all contributors, Paca

  76. Excellent reference to Derrick Jensen’s words, Paca! I’m familiar with that particular passage, and I heartily agree – I have also come to believe that “hope” as most of us so often experience it is far too passive a response, and it dangerously lulls us precisely because it requires nothing of us.

    In much the same way that there is confusion in our understanding of “freedom” and “license,” wherein freedom carries with it a cognizant responsibility of the impact of our actions while license is the toddler’s response – I’ll do what I want because I want to, the rest of you be damned – there is this confusion between “hope” and “love.”

    Love is a verb of action.

    Derrick quite rightly identifies that in saying: “And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don’t determine whether or not you make the effort. You don’t simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn’t cause me to protect those I love, it’s not love.”

    And as Emma Goldman so succinctly summed up that value of laughter and the need to hold on to it while we are doing the work which demands so much of us, “If I can’t dance – I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

    Perhaps our most profound task at hand is to be rigorously attentive to the continual necessity of grounding ourselves by those things which infuse us with joy.

    Several years ago I went through about a 3 year stretch that felt to be a personal re-enactment of Inanna’s descent to the underworld… and about halfway through it (not knowing, of course, at the time how far along in the process I might be) I realized if I didn’t take some active steps to address my attitude I was in danger of becoming hardened and embittered.

    The process I came up with is something I’ve come to think of as the “Discipline of Joy.” >;-) There are only two requirements: (1) I have to do it every day, and (2) I must overtly acknowledge to myself those things which bring me joy.

    What I discovered was that joy resides in the smallest and most mundane of actions – a good cup of tea with a friend, playing with my beloved cat, the satisfaction of making my gifts for others, the appreciation of the quality of the light in the late afternoon. And what I also realized, after being persistent in this practice over time, was that it came to sustain me more fully than I could have ever imagined. The cumulative effect of both “noticing” and “appreciating” brought me to reside in a place of “gratitude.”

    The thread that runs through all of these – freedom, love, gratitude – is personal responsibility. An awareness of the impact of my actions on others informs my freedom; the responsibility of working to defend my beloveds defines my tasks; the remembrance of gratitude for all that brings me joy keeps me humble – and getting up to start all over again each day.

    Paca, I echo your love and laughter to all,

  77. Sometimes a tangential encounter suggests another way to express an important matter. Last evening I attended, over dinner, a meeting among faculty where I teach to share ideas to improve ourselves as instructors. And to be better acquainted as colleagues. The person next to me had a tattoo of a line of text, wrapping around her forearm. The script looked oddly familiar – I’d seen it in Nepal. Sanskrit, it read, ‘When you have come to know a thing objectively you must go beyond.’

    Buddhism teaches non-attachment. The trick of course is in how that presupposes attachment and a consciousness of one’s attachment, on the path to non-attachment.

    One might consider how in the same way to ‘go beyond’ objective knowing it may be required, first, to complete that very objectivity.

    So it seems to me the discourse relative to the sciences and technologies, that appears here and in other Orion discussions, is important, a sine-qua-non.

  78. To Bob, Paca and Julianne,

    When a river arrives at an obstacle the water must find a way to flow around the obstruction, or be dammed. And even if dammed, it will either break through eventually and keep flowing, or it will stagnate and corrupt itself, if it doesn’t dry up first. But in order to support much life, one way or another the water will have to flow.

    So, Paca and Julianne, far and away two of the most eloquent contributors to this particular conversation, saw fit to dam one portion of it, apparently so their preferred channel could swell. Paca threw up her hands, or so it seemed, exclaiming: “Academics! Jeez!” In the absence of any clarifying context I took this as a form of insult, in spite of her and Julianne’s proclamations of “love and laughter.” Am I just too sensitive? Probably.

    I was aware that Bob and I were engaged in a modern version of a Medieval “disputatio” — a theological debate — and that it probably wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But so long as others were content to “lurk” in the background, I saw no reason not to continue wrangling with Bob. The point, as I saw it, was not to crush one another in a power struggle but to thrash out the terms on which we could finally balance our respective visions of knowledge and truth. I also know that Bob and I agree on many issues, probably far more than came to light — as Paca astutely pointed out. In fact, I was about to summarize the points of agreement between Bob and me when Paca slammed the door.

    I find it ironic that Paca and Julianne are expressing viewpoints closest to my own, and yet I felt that they were in effect telling me to take a hike. It is also ironic to me that I feel a strange kind of kinship with Bob and his point of view, even though he and I might have seemed to be crashing around like a miniature King Kong and Godzilla. If my respect for Bob’s point of view was not evident, it should have been, and I apologize for the failure. But believe me, if I didn‘t think this conversation was very important, I wouldn’t be engaging in it. For me, the point is not to “win,” but rather to clarify some of the historical baggage we all have been carrying around for centuries. Why? Because the baggage is a big part of what prevents us, generally, from “snapping” awake to meet the burgeoning planetary crisis.

    Whether we like it or not, we Westerners all breathe the air of science, on the one hand, and Christianity on the other, and we all swim in a sea of technology. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in either one or not, whether we agree or disagree. We are all saturated by both, and together they constitute a profound conflict in the Western soul. How are we to heal this conflict unless we face it? And how can we face it unless we find ways to give voice to it? And once we have given voice to it, are we not then subject to experiencing the conflict to the fullest degree? That is probably why most people prefer to ignore or avoid the conflict. Too uncomfortable. And the more people seek avoidance, the more will that inner dividedness be projected onto “enemies” out in the world. This is a basic principle of psychology — not the academic kind, but the psychology of practical life.

    My own “credo” is quite similar to Paca’s, and to Julianne’s as well, although obviously we are different. But I think we all possess the same conflicting qualities we see in people around us. That’s the problem, and the potential, if only we can realize it. As Marie-Louise von Franz once put it: “Show me your friends and enemies, and I’ll show you who you are.”

    With love and compassion,


  79. Greetings Bob, Paco, Julianne (and whomever else is still reading),

    May I try this again? First apologies for my comment which was taken as an insult. Blogging (or whatever this is) lacks body language. Thus, my attempt adding the smiley face. I was trying to be too familiar and should have realized my comment could be taken differently.

    New to blogging, perhaps it was not my place to insert my thoughts into an exchange between two people. However, I wasn’t lurking. I was reading your exchanges (between other commitments) and trying to process what you were both saying. I attempted to offer what I felt was some needed glue: the point that we need BOTH: science and spirituality, facts and emotions, logic and creativity, technology and nature—and that the breaking down of these dualities is beneficial to our future.

    Paco referred to the exchange between he and Bob as “wrangling” and honestly that is how it was beginning to feel to me. I was hoping to offer a different course for the river to flow (nice metaphor, Paco), and certainly did not intend to slam any doors.

    All this raises a good point. As we move forward in uncharted territories and rapid change we will need to continually assess how well we are communicating with each other. I saw this exchange similar to a dinner party conversation amongst friends, where anyone was free to jump in reaction to what others were saying to each other–and that the conversation might move in a different direction as a result. At that particular point in the evening, I needed to move toward an exploration of common ground. Perhaps I was being too casual in my attempt.

    We all come to this communication space with different needs, expectation, and styles. Rarely do we have ground rules for dinner parties – other than the unspoken rules of social behavior. However, perhaps some understanding of participants’ communication styles and needs for empowering conversation is worth exploring in a context like this. Civil discourse is a good thing and will be increasing important to our survival.

    My best, Paca

  80. To Paca, Paco, Julianne, too,

    First, I consider myself the LEAST eloquent of posters. That out of the way, Paca, it may help if you know that the way my email reader mangles things, your ‘smiley’ appeared as an incomprehensible mash of two strange characters. It was days later when I came to re-read yours and other posts on the Orion site that I realized what you had intended there.

    That said, and with good will, I was also intrigued at your next line, ‘I am not sure all this parsing is necessary.’

    I’d like to return to what you added immediately after that, which to me also is at the heart of things, but first, again with almost a wink, I had to notice that the rest of THAT post of yours amounted to one heap ‘o’ ‘parsing’!

    But your next two sentences are for sure ones I agree with: ‘Dare I say I see more agreement than disagreement here. Let’s focus on the common ground.’

    And to which I can’t help but repeat, ‘Yes, and the Angels AND the Devils are in the details.’ In the point of this discussion I responded to what I read, and that was a series of statements, from several posters, that rejected the sciences and technology. I don’t think I was misreading, and anyone can go back and read over the posts that appeared before mine.

    At any dinner conversation one parses, to use that word, the direction and motives of the various participants, and shapes his or her intervention accordingly. I find it seems my lot to become devil’s advocate quite often, here at Orion especially. That said, I cringe at Paco’s choice of ‘wrangling’ – that seems a little harsh.

    When I hear empty enconiums to ‘common ground’ I ask myself ‘but where is the commonality?’ So I felt it important to stress the role of science and technology. Paco has replied with a similar declaration, so you now may say that he and I, I suppose, are ‘on the same page’.

    And I hope – this is my defect as a human being, to be so hungry for this acknowledgment – I hope that I may have been heard, in what I had previously written about my own witness to the importance of ‘both’ worlds. And to each, in balance.

  81. Dear friends – Paco, Bob, Paca, *and* whomever else is out there, there are so many thoughts / responses jostling around in my head (and heart), having just gone back and reread all the latest correspondence all of a piece…

    And I’m rather wild to contribute, but I notice a curious hesitancy to dive right in, and instead a compelling urge to go dig in the dirt of my garden and quite literally ground myself before I return to our discourse. So I’ll come back later today, having had an internal grapple with myself about what I might hope to contribute, and in the meantime go commune with nature with an intention of gleaning some clarity about the priorities at hand.

    The one thing I do want to say before grabbing that spading fork, however, is how grateful I am to all of you for the willingness (and fortitude!) to hang in for the depth of this conversation. I, too, feel that what we’re engaging in has great value in illuminating at least one potential way to come together from our both disparate *and* common cosmologies and that can only be good thing!

    With love and my hands in the dirt,

  82. Touche, Bob!

    Okay, that does it. I hereafter swear off the smiley face. Besides, it reminds me too much of Wal-Mart.

    More later, after hopefully hearing from Paco. In the meantime, I’ve got to run and go look up the definition of enconiums.

    Wink, Paca

  83. Um, Paca,I dunno, it was just smart-sounding, a 50-center where a nickel’s worth would have been enough. Maybe related to geraniums?? You seem to have caught my drift…!

  84. To Bob, Julianne and Paca,

    Thank you all for your persistence in this online conversation. I find it to be a remarkable phenomenon, the first one I’ve ever participated in, actually. It’s a pleasure and privilege to be engaged with all of you in these exchanges, despite the periodic bolt of chagrin over misunderstandings and what-not. But as Paca pointed out, we all share much common ground. And as time rushes on, we may need one another more than we realize.

    Also, please accept my apologies for having delayed so long in responding. A week’s worth of intense duties intervened. The age of responsibility does indeed take its toll.

    First, I very much appreciate both Paca’s and Julianne’s considerate replies (85, 87, 88). Paca, you suggested that perhaps it was not your place to insert your thoughts into Bob’s and my wrangling. (Another opportunity for misinterpretation. Bob, I chose the term “wrangling,” not to suggest that something “harsh” was passing between us, but more simply as colorful language — like cowboys bulldogging calves in a rodeo, or some such thing. It was not a reference to a violent argument.) But your point of view is extremely valuable, and we all would have benefited more had you not waited so long to add something.

    And Julianne, I understand and support your “grounding” work with the spading fork. So much of humanity’s suffering, after all, rises from our disconnection from the Earth as Holy Grail. Perhaps we need a new kind of prayer: dirt + hands.

    Bob, I also accept your point that you recognize the value of both sides of our debate. Sometimes a conversation, especially one without “body language,” shipwrecks on nuance, and unnecessarily. At some point we might want to resume what I’m calling our “disputatio,” but for now let me just list a few elements of my “credo.”

    1. Science and religion are both indispensible to the human project on earth. We cannot do without one or the other, in spite of the struggle between them for the past few centuries. Any attempt to eliminate either one will be disastrous. Thomas Huxley may have trounced Bishop Wilberforce in Victorian England, but the controversy between their descendents still rages, witness the recent flap over “creationism.”

    2. But religion as we have known it is going through a profound transformation, and the institutions of the past are breaking up. What is taking their place, however, is not so much a burgeoning atheism, as it is a different kind of “spirituality.” Every possible avenue is being explored. Nothing is too far-fetched to warrant attention. This, of course, results in a lot of silliness, but there is a profound need underlying it. And out of it, eventually, will come a new dispensation based on personal experience, widely shared. And the revelations of scientific knowledge will form a crucial component of this new dispensation.

    3. Notice that science is going through its own transformation, similar in scope to that of religion. And not because of cranks like me. It is because of the efforts of the most scrupulous scientists themselves. The old thought-forms of the reductive, mechanistic model are also breaking up, and a new paradigm is taking shape on the leading edge of science, in many areas. Paradoxically, science and age-old precepts of mystical and spiritual traditions are converging. And what is the meeting point? Briefly, the inter-connectedness of everything, and the presence of “mind” in matter. A new sense of reality is on our doorstep, thanks to science, yes, but thanks also to countless others who are working in areas far removed from science. It may take centuries to assimilate and formulate all of these elements, but their integration is inevitable.

    Still, the old, conventional scientific model, especially as it finds expression within the industrial/technological complex, with its obsolete drive toward the domination, exploitation and control of nature, still has a tremendous amount of momentum and inertia. And a LOT of money is at stake.

    What I would call “conventional science” and “conventional religion,” then, for all that they seem to be opposed, are both still so devoted to the materialistic principles of power and wealth, that together they form a formidable complex that may just prove to be our undoing.

    4. Jung once said: “The whole world hangs by a thread, and that thread is the human psyche.” What could be simpler? What could be more profound? And in my view, what could be more evidently true? In view of the power we hold in our hands, we understand ourselves far too little. So I try to introduce a psychological perspective now and then — however alien it might seem — into the debate, along with a few historical considerations. I’m sorry if my formulations are obscure, too convoluted, poorly expressed, or if they go on too long. But it’s no small thing to digest something so unpalatable as the intellectual, spiritual and moral history of the West. And it is precisely that history that still drives the machine that we all serve, one way or another.

    Finally, if my experience has shown to my satisfaction that dreams, in the aggregate, carry all the wisdom we need, why should I not try to advance them as being of at least potential value?

    My best to all,


  85. Dear Paca, Julianne, Paco,

    Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. I’d like to make (or repeat) three points.

    1. The role and nature of science is something we each and all need to understand.
    2. Aspects of science, as expressed in Paco’s recent post (90) bear careful examination.
    3. As individuals seeking our own clear ways, and as citizens with any collective sense of conscious responsibility it is upon us to know more of science, of letters, and of history, and to act, to the best of our knowledge.

    We, each and every one, need to ‘know’ as much as possible. In this exchange, I am hopeful that our dialogue, whether or not it specifically furnishes actual and useful information, can at least point in helpful directions.

    I consider that I must respond to several parts of Paco’s last post, with apologies in advance if what I write appears provocative. I mean it to be informative, and to encourage critical (and creative) reflection.

    . ‘…something so unpalatable
    . as the intellectual, spiritual and
    . moral history of the West…’

    May I boldly go to point out the inherent value-judgment, and dismissal, a priori, of the ‘…history of the West…’ in this phrase? Humbly, there IS much more; which we deserve. (I may be spoiled, in that every day I pass in the street the triumphs (See Note) of Western art, science, religion, and history in all it’s dimensions, writ large in the landscape, architecture, art, civic life, and people of Italy.) May I inquire, does this dismissal imply that there is some other history (perhaps of the East?) that avoids the quagmire of ‘unpalatability’? One suspects…

    . ‘…the old, conventional scientific model,
    . especially as it finds expression within
    . the industrial/technological complex,
    . with its obsolete drive toward the domination,
    . exploitation and control of nature…’

    Implicit value-judgment and dismissal, or more accurately, the assignment of very narrow ‘coded’ meanings for words like ‘domination’, ‘exploitation’ and ‘control’. Ask a scientist, better yet, an engineer about ‘control’! For example, the meaning of the engineer’s term ‘100-year flood’. The informed citizen needs to understand this sort of thing. Deserves to, in fact. Any engineer or scientist is a sort of realist (yes, I know that word too may be ‘coded’ but here I intend it in the broad sense found in the first listing in Webster) who can look you straight in the eye while she tells you how those terms, under nature, will be found wanting.

    How much of our word choices are we REALLY to insist are literal? How many, metaphorical?

    . ‘Paradoxically, science and age-old precepts of
    . mystical and spiritual traditions are converging.
    . And what is the meeting point?
    . Briefly, the inter-connectedness of everything,
    . and the presence of “mind” in matter.’

    Sometimes one thinks, like the kid at the Emperor’s parade, that it just becomes unavoidable to shout out, ‘no clothes’. This assertion is naked, I fear. Devoid of any dressing of significance or truth. What convergence (?) there may be is one of hard-headed interpretation from data (with tough-minded, skeptical peer review) from the sciences, encountering equally straight-laced understanding and acceptance of those discoveries, among the humanities and philosiphical communities. Even the Catholic Church is creeping that way, albeit (as usual) with a time lag that will probably span several centuries.

    There is no ‘mind’ in ‘matter’.

    . ‘…the institutions of the past are breaking up.
    . What is taking their place, however, is not so much
    . a burgeoning atheism, as it is a different kind
    . of “spirituality.”’

    While this assertion is too general to test, I’m assuming Paco, as a Stanford grad, was subjected to a Freshman course called The History of Western Civilization. I remember discussions and readings on the nature of the study of history itself, including a requirement to write on the differences, if any, that distinguish ‘reform’ from ‘revolution’.

    . ‘Thomas Huxley may have trounced Bishop Wilberforce
    . in Victorian England, but the controversy between their
    . descendents still rages, witness the recent flap
    . over “creationism.”’

    Which, reform or revolution, is occurring, today? The ‘recent flap over Creationsim’ is not, really, a controversy about science, but a panic-move by the ignorant. What we are witnessing, in the farthest camps of fundamentalism (Right-wing Christian and Islamic Fundamentalism, equally) is a reactionary, fearful retreat into what appears to offer refuge: a system, self-contained, tautologically understandable (and unassailable through ‘reason’) that seems to explain and palliate the anxieties and pain of modern life. I include the sub-refuges, accepted by many in the affluent First Worlds, of the ‘alternative’ healings, homeopathy, and so on, and on.

    Folks, we’re out here, strapped onto the front of the bus (as the fellow who wrote ‘A Manual of Procedures for the Compleat Idiot’ back in the ’60’s, on how to maintain your VW bus, put it) where we’ll be the first to go. It behooves us to know what we’re talking about! And we must, must take that into account as we act, as we vote, and perhaps above all as we speak/write/persuade our fellows.

    It is that last, reading a discourse such as this one, that worries me most. We are in danger of lapsing into that comfort zone of preaching to the choir, here. And if we take that tone to the un-convinced, the un-commited, yes, even the un-washed, what will be? An arched eyebrow? Rolling eyes? Or worse?

    Note: ‘Triumph’ certainly may also be taken as a code word. May I ask that it be treated as such in this context: to stand for the victory of consciousness over sleep, of active caring over apathy.

  86. There may be a glaring inaccuracy as to the articles “latest” prediction as to arctic ice…I saw a Washington Post article about a month ago and they cited a prediction that the ice cover would be gone THIS YEAR.

    I’ve read several books on global heating (not the nice sounding warming) and I came to the same conclusion as Tidwell…we are in it up to our necks now. But I disagree with him on several thoughts.

    First, I’m his flip-side and am pessimistic as to American action, his snap. Our society has become a nation of meek followers, simply hoping things will change for any number of issues…for examples, the Iraq War, corporate power, widening income gap, I could go on. The leadership in the US has long since given up listening to the people, excepting during election season when our votes are temporarily needed. Incumbents almost don’t care if they lose anymore as some cushy lobbying job or Wall St. career will follow.

    Second, we are in no condition as to infrastructure and manufacturing potential to quickly alter our ways. Mass transit is for the most part a joke. Our manufacturing base has been sent away (although I’ve been predicting that higher oil prices would eventually bring the manufacturing back to our borders, when is the question).

    Switching over to an alternative vehicle is going to take too long. Notice how because of high gas prices the Toyoto Prius is in demand, but they can’t produce them for the demand AND this demand is from people with higher incomes. What about those of us making $50 grand or less? We can’t afford brand new cars of this price, that’s the majority of Americans. Combine this problem with a faltering economy of increasing unemployment and inflation of energy and food prices. The average American is going to be expected to “do their part” as to switching to alternative energy as they get pinched economically.

    I’d love a solar panel or two for my home, a small wind turbine would be nice as well. Guess what? I can’t afford one as I’m trying to pay for gas and food today. Unless the government plans to give them away for free, I’m stuck in the old energy economy. Where I live I’d have to quit my job if I were to be forced to our vastly inadequate mass transit.

    Our rail system in this country is in disuse and disrepair. It’s going to take a decade at least to get the rails to where we need them now.

    Third, we have a very powerful moneyed elite that is opposed to losing their position of power and certainly if that loss of power were to be expected quickly. Even if masses of people were to SNAP into demanding immediate changes, those in power use the political system to thwart the pesky snappers.

    I can’t stress enough how the marriage of corporate power and the political system has become so embraced as to leave the masses with no control. We’ve needed a new progressive era to change the political system for some time now. Everything from the voting procedures to how Congress does its’ business, I could name 10 reforms at least. Reforms are needed to break up that marriage before global heating would really be seriously addressed.

    Fourth, Tidwell’s suggestion to “volcanoize” the atmosphere is interesting but I would never want to even attempt it until massive research about what might happen if we did, beginning with plugging into climate change computer models (as they do to predict global heating) what might occur.

    I wonder whether acid rain would drastically increase thereby killing off more trees which are CO2 sinks. And since CO2 that has been produced by humans lasts a 100 years, would we have to sulfur the atmosphere for a similar time frame? What about human respiratory health? Tidwell’s suggestion seems to be put forward in a panicked mood. This cure might be even worse than the ill, we obviously don’t know.

    I agree that global heating is happening faster than anyone expected. The real basis of the problem has been rapid population growth and no solution can be valid without accepting that we have to decrease population. All the technology at our disposal even if applied in snap fashion can’t overcome continued population increases. But of course, no one wants to be the person that advocates that the world’s population needs to do some dieing off, and soon.

    We already know that even if the entire worlds’ population were to disappear in a snap the Earth will warm another two degrees celsius regardless. But to stop it at just the two degrees our carbon emissions must be cut drastically and fast and that’s really going to take cutting population. An unpleasant thought and I guess this thought although not stated is why Tidwell suggests the sulfur solution.

    I came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that we are just going to have to adapt to the wild weather, the droughts, the rising oceans, etc. Certainly we need to take actions as a world (and the US should be leading the way), but it just isn’t going to happen fast enough. Chances are that global heating will cause a population slowing or even decline as a result. We are entering a species extinction event, humans will survive (maybe) but so many other species are doomed. There’s nothing we can do now about it, except try to reduce the toll. No snap is going to change that. we are living in a sad time.

  87. For ‘jonb’, gee! How to stay ‘light’ and ‘serious’ the same time. If it’s all as hopeless as that maybe what we’d all best do is ‘party’ – in whatever mode one prefers, from gettin’ down to getting high to getting to church. ‘Whatever’ (sic).

    If I may.

    Waaaaaayyyyyy baaaccck in the Pre-Cambrian Age of the Nineteen And Seventies I performed geologic studies preparatory to the city of Buffalo, New York, deveoping a metro or subway line. The purpose of the study was to arrive at a price tag for the project.

    As the chips were falling into place the project manager and I were chatting one day, and he said to me, ‘You know, underground metro lines are dandy, but they could take half the money in the estimate, buy a fleet of nice new buses, and invest the other half, using the return to run that system forever and nobody would even have to put a penny in the farebox!’

    Smart guy.

    I concede to jonb, and share with him at least a few drops of pessimism about politics and greed. All the same I wonder how very many similar forks in the road are in front of us. Buffalo may be a bad example – or a great one. It’s been a dying city for longer even than since that ancient age when I spent a winter there. But what if the city had taken the other road? (It now ‘boasts’ a metro line, in fact, but I wonder who rides it?)

    The stark choices, as if life ever resolves so neatly, are to engage and push for political action, particularly on issues parallel with the ‘metro or bus’ kind of thing; or to escape into the mountains, the desert, the jungles of Chiang Mai – wherever we imagine we’ll find solitude, slip the bonds of worry.

    Except that there is no desert, nor jungle, wide or deep enough.

    I’m sorry for, yet sympathetic to, jonb’s sadness. I wonder though. We’ve been here before. What did the world look like during the Thirty Years’ War? The epidemics of the plague? Look at the paintings of Bosch…. Or, more to the point, LOOK! At the paintings. Here is a witness. Did he panic? Did Durer?

    If they did, they kept their wits well enough to make, and leave for us, such elegant and eloquent testimony. And we, that collective, ancient ‘we’ persevered.

    Here we are…

  88. Hey BobT,

    My sadness is in a broad sense. Humanity will survive in some sense, adapt, after all we do have the most control over our species than others do. My concern is more for all the other life on Earth.

    I’ve read several books on the Permian age and the following extinction event and am in awe of the vast change that occurred, an estimated 90% of all life went extinct, extraordinary. We are in the early stages of the 6th extinction event and the curiosity in me wonders what percent survives this time and further which forms of life do continue on.

    Our event began to be recognized even before global heating became common knowledge. Then, we blamed humans for our impact such as land and sea use. Now we know that our way of life as to carbon culture is also part of the equation. It might have been easier to slow this extinction event if it had been simply stopping the cutting of the rain forests, cease over fishing the oceans, and end pollution of land and rivers. But such an overhaul of our carbon way of life is more daunting.

    You seem to think “we been here before” and I don’t see that at all. Global heating will affect every corner of the globe in some way, from the poles to the newly formed deserts to the inundated shorelines. And the human reactions to all these problems and all others will not be smooth and well debated.

    In fact, it’s more likely to be hectic. Dafur is really about global heating as the further desertification of the region is forcing the grazers onto farm land, two ways of life clashing. Today, the Midwest is seeing flooding of rare history (at least written history) and it’s looking as if this years corn crop in that area is going to be ravished (at a time of already high prices).

    We are at war in Iraq for a declining natural resource, oil. And it doesn’t seem unlikely that the Middle East will be a war zone for the foreseeable future. Nothing would surprise me in the waning year of Bush as we keep hearing Iran, Iran, repeatedly. So, it sure seems that the oil economy will continue full force even if it takes force, and the CO2 keeps on heating.

    I see some good things coming out of Europe as Germany has become the leader in solar power and Denmark in wind turbines. But what we do here in the USA can and does negate the good they do.

    The biggest problem for humans is going to be food supply. Places of high agricultural yields will be affected. That’s happening now. Australia’s wheat output is faltering after droughts, our Midwest (mentioned above), our Southeast and Southwest is certainly going to experience even worse droughts than even today. Most global climate modeling predicts our former prairie region (now wheat, sow) will revert back to desert, possibly as soon as two decades.

    Food of course requires water. Fresh water is another developing problem. Many of the world’s largest rivers (Nile, Colorado, etc.) don’t even reach the ocean anymore as diversion for irrigation and other human uses drains those rivers before they see the sea. Ground waters are drying up from pumping, again I can cite our Great Plains for this. Mountain snow pack in the West is waning every year and will affect water supplies coming from the rivers of that melting snow. Other areas of the world will get too much water from rain that previously the particular regions didn’t get.

    No time in history have we ever had the mass amounts of humans we do today all relying on a stable climate. In the past it was a bit easier to migrate away from areas of drought, today with borders all over the globe and packed populations, migration might be out of the question. Look at the controversy surrounding our Mexican border.

    You mentioned facing plague in the past, well, that may come as well. There have been many warnings from health experts that we are a worldwide epidemic waiting to happen. Imagine adding something like that into the mix. Which would be more important, epidemic or global heating as the problem for immediate attention?

    We are staring at many stressful issues now and in the near future. I’d call it the “perfect storm” if it didn’t sound so contrived.

    Addressing the “snap solution” again. The more I try to think of sometime in American history that we did come together over a major important issue with speed, the more I can’t come up with a precedence. Always, issues were divided in some way. Always, only the result in retrospect or revisionism could we say we “came together.” And never was it easy, it usually took deaths to resolve.

    From the Revolutionary War (insurgents and Loyalists), slavery (North and South), labor reform (workers and industrialists), Jim Crow South, Abortion, etc., etc.

    Today, there are far too many Americans that have no interest in changing their lifestyles (even if they believe in global warming…it sounds good for us Northerners) beyond maybe using energy efficient light bulbs. And there are powerful interests that will fight change all the way. If you think the Right Wingers are going to join in singing some sort of Kumbuya with the Left to ending global heating, I’ve got some future desert land to sell you.

    Just yesterday I was driving along the road with a Hummer speeding to ultimately not make every traffic light as I would roll up a few minutes later…to then watch the Hummer speed off at the green for me to meet again at the next stop light. There are a ton of attitudes to change.

  89. Dear jon b, good! Send me coordinates/price per acre for some of that soon-to-be desert land. I might be interested. Bob

  90. Well Bob,

    You’ll have to wait until I buy the property. I suspect some McMansion properties outside of metropolitan Southern Western cities will become available cheap in a decade or so. There might even be some old rusting SUVs abandoned in the garages as well.

  91. Transformation of the planet is coming quickly. It will BE DONE in 4 1/2 years. I look forward to it. I will enjoy snorkling the Washington and Jefferson Memorials in Washington DC. The status quo will be gone. Life will be valued again. The great floods will increase estuaries of the planet where sea life will flourish. The Kryptona dn Xenon nuclear pollution will cause massive electromagnetic storms and a reversal of the magnetic poles as has happened throughout the geological history of the planet. Life will be simpler. Solar and wind power will be king and the meek shall inherit the plant. I look forward to it. No longer under the thumb of “The Man”. I plant clover seed everywhere I go to increase the fertility of the land. My carrots and beets grow wonderfully under the protection of the ground. I help all that I can get a solar system or a wind turbine, only the nuclear induced electromagnetic storm has increased the volitility of the lightning causing more problems. I plant corn to make ethanol, but I will not burn it in a car. I will drink it and share with my friends and offer a toast to the times past – thankful for change.

    Adaptation is the only course of action. And once we lay down our nuclear weapons or they are swept into the sea, aliens from other worlds will come to help us, when we are willing to let go of our arrogance and anger and fear.

    In the end – only life matters and love, food and good drink and communion with father/mother God. Honor thy Mother and Honor thy Father – Mother Earth and Father Sky!! Give a hoot don’t pollute. Buy seeds, plant clover, dig an earth shelter, the storm is coming and nothing can be done about – except adapt and have your snorkle mask ready. The Washington Monumants will make a great artificial reef and under water park. I cannot wait to take my children to see it. The earth is going 200 Millions years back into the time of the dinosaurs – hot and sultry – full of life.

  92. The piece seems to have very impor-tant information, but it is too long and complicated. About half-way through I started seeing each new piece of information as an addtional “another thing” piled on top of concepts that are hard to incorporate into my view of the world. It is as if Mike is saying, “And if what I have said to this point is not enough, this next bit will really overwhelm you.” A shorter “Things are getting worse; here’s why and here’s what we can do approach might have made this more palatable. Mike asking people to e-mail this far and wide in this format would, I fear, turn more people off than getting to think more rationally about our current situation climate wise,

  93. its too late…
    so the question becomes how do we protect ourselves from the coming environmental catastrophe? do we prepare much like we would if we knew a nuke attack was coming or more like a class/hunger/race war where the have nots will attack the haves…basically urban v rual which means we stock up on food AND guns?
    whats a father of a 4 year old to do?

  94. Mike – Well said. We do need to act now. Let’s hope that the crowd in Washington get the word and take action.

    Lets carefully examine the bad effects of seeding space with sulfur, as well as the positive effects before we do the deed.

  95. I really think alot of people here are way “out there” as far as this whole situation goes. Half of you have already given up and are talking about polar cities and how human civilization will go down to numbers in the thousands and survive. The other half have thrown your hands up too and cited all the reasons why we can’t stop this. The first thing worth noting is that Tidwell assumes the worst for every scientific prediction, and assums all theur predictions are too conservative. Yes none of the predictions are good, but Tidwell selects the dire ones which suggest that it’s too late for us to mitigate climate change.

    The situation may look bleak, but it isn’t too late, despite what Tidwell insists in this article. I think this article is rather unproductive, all it does is promote despair that we have to “geo-engineer” our way out of this. By the way the sulfur idea would take away our Ozone. Without that you’ll have no life anyways. The climate is snapping, but we can snap back. If it’s going to happen, it will happen in the next 5-10 years. While the scientific community is behind with how much CO2 we need to cut, originally they were calling for 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. I’d suspect if they are behind the curve something like 30% by 2020 and 90-95% by 2050 would do the trick. The way I understand it from scientists, CO2 levels in the atmosphere are like Cholesterol levels in your arteries. They are by no means permanent. If you eat healthy you can lower your cholesterol. The same goes for CO2 in the atmosphere, we don’t have to geoengineer the darn thing and wait for the CO2 to fall out 1,000 years from now. We can naturally lower the ppm levels back down by going carbon negative, where we have more vegetation taking in CO2 than it’s being produced.

    The technology is right in our backyard we just need to unleash it. We stand a good chance of getting a president in office who is serious about this. High fossil fuel prices have people more likely to be open to alternatives than they ever have been before. The US is better than any other country at spending bucketloads of money. If we can spend a trillion dollars in half a decade on the hellhole Iraq we can cough up some major dough to save this planet. China and India aren’t going to be able to afford to run their economies off of fossil fuels for very long given the rate we’re using them and the price. The US and European countries can sell the clean energy technologies we have to these countries to help them transition. I’ll admit the world needs to move quickly, but what Tidwell is talking about is pure “we’re gonna die so jump off the building” panic. Be rational, we can get ourselves out of this. I think everyone here missed the core of his message which was “we need people to get serious about this and get moving”. Instead of sitting on here moaning about how we’re toast, how about you all get out there, push for these solutions and fight for the future. I’ll be damned if I’m going to throw my hands up because the challenge facing us is great. Rise to the challenge.

  96. Matt,

    Comparing CO2 to cholesterol is kind of odd, but I see your point…except CO2 lasts about 100 years in the atmosphere, with drugs and proper diet you can reduce cholesterol in weeks.

    I mentioned this before, even if all humans ceased to exist tomorrow (which would mean you didn’t read this) the Earth will still warm two degrees anyways, even if we enact Kyoto soon we are going to see another degree beyond that. That’s the best we can hope for, only three more degrees of warming. The predictions for three degrees of warming is not good.

    Now there are other possibilities. It’s possible that the Gulf Stream gets shut down because of large amounts of cold melt from Greenland. If this happens then Europe and possibly North America will experience a temporary drop in temperatures or mini-ice age.

    We’re in uncharted territory on this because of the speed of global heating, although the past may have experienced this as well, it’s just too difficult to discern from geologic records how fast it happened in previous times.

    Tidwell may not be overestimated global heating rates, etc. Much about the predictions cited in the media come from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is a very moderate report as the conclusions had come from consensus that included all sorts of interests including CO2 emitters such as the oil industry. The report was not just climate scientists. Trying to build consensus with so many groups resulted in a paper that more than likely underestimated the rate of heating and the rate needed to reduce greenhouse gases.

    The reason I’m dubious of some sort of snap solution, is knowing the history of the United States that massive change has never come easy, but then to extend it to most of the world seems even more daunting.

    Tidwell writes, “Skeptics need only remember that we’ve experienced explosive, purposeful change before—quickly mobilizing to defeat Nazism in the ‘40s, casting off statutory Jim Crowism in a mere decade.”

    These are not good comparisons. We certainly can’t bomb global heating into submission, and Nazi Germany was opposed because they were massively killing people in a very short period of time, defeating countries, etc. The Nazis were people and armaments, a visual enemy, whereas greenhouse gases are invisible and seem benign to most people. It’s going to take a lot of convincing to get a vast majority of Americans (and the rest of the world) to see global heating as the enemy.

    Jim Crow was regional and again people died in the effort. And I don’t accept his characterization of “cast off.” The South fought for its’ right to maintain the status quo. In the events, it really didn’t cause masses of people to change the way they live and do things either, there was virtually no sacrifice particularly in the North. The “sacrifice” was in the South as they had to accept change.

    Finally, both his examples required the opposition to give in/up. Greenhouse gases aren’t human, they don’t make decisions to give up.

    Global heating…if it is the enemy, it is us. Masses of people that live in our CO2 producing world, must be willing to change themselves in multiple ways, quickly and permanently. We are mired in an oil burning culture, not so different as Great Britain was invested as a coal empire 100 years ago. They had to change an infrastructure, a way of life, and it wasn’t easy or quick. We have to do the same as an oil culture.

    There are not a lot of answers. Ethanol, is a net energy user, a bondoogle. Electricity produced in America is 60% coal, which is one of the worst CO2 problems. Natural gas in America has become more of an import (piped from Canada or brought in liquefied) but we don’t have as much control of it as a source of energy.

    I’m all for solar and wind, but we need massive building of theses sources. That’s going to take a lot of energy to produce the infrastructure. Sort of a catch-22, build a ton of solar panels and wind turbines using 60% coal electric power and oil of course for transport. We will be contributing more CO2 to eventually reduce CO2. Although after a certain length of time the coal-fired would presumably drop to 50%, then lower…as long as we don’t increase our power usage at the ratio we are reducing coal as we advance along.

    It’s a big messy puzzle as I see it. Snapping into it isn’t going to be so easy.

  97. February 30 2008

    June 1, 2008
    Shout the people.

    June 10, 2008
    “THE PLANS OF THE DEMOCRATS WON”T WORK. OURS WILL” holler the Republicans.

    You, Mr. Tidwell want to join the Kyoto Accord which will require the United States to reduce emissions while China, India and Brazil to have no obligation other than to monitor and report their emissions
    And, there is no provision to ever reqire China, India or Brazil to control their emissions.

    China is on track to add 562 coal-fired plants – nearly half the world total of plants expected to come online in the next eight years. India could add 213such plants.

    China’s coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.(NY Times June, 11 2006)

    And, remember there is no provision in the Kyoto Protocol to require China to control their emmissions but we in the US would be required to reduce ours.

    If you read the Kyoto Protocol Compliance mechanism you will begin to understand that the Kyoto Protocol of the UNFCC is not capable of succeeding in its stated goals just as the stagnation in our Congress (created by both Democrats and Republicans)has been incapable of meaningful decisions on many important matters.

    I would appreciate it if you, Mr Tidwell could explain to me why a world body should control our industries and transportation systems and not have any mechanism to control the countries that in the near future will produce more harmful emissions than the United States.

    Mr Tidwell has written an interesting article but short on rational ideas based on facts.

  98. Let me clarify what I mean by my cholesterol analogy because this is a concept people often don’t grasp. Yes the CO2 we are burning RIGHT NOW will be up there for awhile, but the CO2 that we burned all throughout the 19th+ early20th century will not. The planet naturally discards some of this CO2 that’s in it’s atmosphere every year. Therefore, if we manage to cut out what we’re doing soon, it is possible to see the level of CO2 drop in our atmosphere. Right now there is about 375 ppm up there, originally with the conservative estimates you were referring to about the UN, we needed to stop by about 450 ppm in order to avert a disaster. I agree this report is too conservative, the new estimate that recently came out from James Hansen is that 350 ppm is our threshold. So like Mr.Tidwell and alot of you on here infer, we are already over the threshhold, but what is lost in all this is we CAN step back across the line if we act quickly enough.

  99. Mike, Well done, and yes, I will forward this to lots of friend in the US and overseas. Also I will take this opportunity to thank you for all your efforts to help create a more environmentally responsible government here in Maryland.

  100. Let us take a moment to identify global challenges that are emerging and converging in our planetary home. Of course, this is a partial list to which other threats to human and environmental health can be added.

    1. Unregulated human overpopulation of Earth
    2. Unwelcome human-induced effects of global warming in particular and climate change in general
    3. Human-driven pollution of Earth’s environs
    4. Reckless dissipation of Earth’s resources by the human species, with particular attention to the challenges posed by peak oil and peak soil.
    5. Relentless expansion of the unbridled global economy.

    These distinctly human activities appear to be overspreading the surface of Earth on such a gigantic scale and at so astounding a growth rate that scientists can make projections indicating a noticeable risk to life as we know it and to the integrity of Earth, perhaps in these early years of Century XXI. That is to say, Earth cannot much longer sustain unrestrained human population growth, unrestricted per human consumption and unchecked economic globalization without running the risk precipitating some kind of global ecological catastrophe.

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

  101. Steve,

    Your list of five is good except I would add two more that seems to be under the radar for most people in the US. First, available fresh water, which possibly fits into #4, although as water is important to all life it deserves its’ own ranking. Second, species extinction.

    What makes the list of problems so difficult is that each individual ranked problem is inter-related to all the others in some way, mostly major ways , and ultimately is embedded in how humans behave.

    This is the point that I think Tidwell seems to miss. That global heating is not a problem just by itself, all the other problems are involved. We probably can’t “solve” global heating without acknowledging that from the list, #1 has resulted in #5 which causes #2, #3, #4 plus my additions #6 lack of fresh water and #7 species extinction.

    Which raises the ultimate solution to begin with #1, reduce population, as we try to alleviate the others on the list in other ways, such as stop driving gas powered cars and cease cutting of the rain forests among so many actions humans need to change in themselves.

    I suppose it would be called a holistic approach, something I just don’t believe humanity the world over is capable of doing without different groups and interests either fighting against or agreeing to holistic action but then not taking all the actions.

    So in the end I simply presume that not having a full worldwide collective effort on a host of changes, we will eventually cause the reduction in population, #1, and then reduce the other points on the list, but sadly too late to save species or avoid global heating, etc. Catch-22, the actions will be too late and ineffective to avoid further problems which in turn cause reduction in population which will be too late to…you get the merry-go-round.

    I assume humans survive as a species albeit as a vastly reduced population unless we really get stupid and somehow cause the oxygen content in the atmosphere to be lowered so far as to not even be able to breath (by the way low oxygen content has happened in the geologic past). I suppose even if that happened our species might have a chance to physically adapt if it didn’t occur too fast.

    There’s always the possibility we still destroy the ozone, so adaption to protection from the sun would happen. But I might be overlooking something we do that changes some aspect of the Earth system that really does makes humans go extinct. I guess I just assume our collective brains are what cause our undoing while at the same time create an adaption strategy.

    All this is not to say don’t try to change things. If moderate improvements are achieved a dent will made into the whole mess and hopefully generations (at a reduced population) into the future will have a better Earth to live on. Not doing anything seems defeatist even if defeat is inevitable.

  102. World Population AND the concurrent demand for ‘western’ lifestyle and fuel is the elephant in the room in all of these discussions. I have been keenly interested and involved in environmental issues and see a correlation between the consumption culture and the world population as unsustainable. Americans for sure could get a grip on what they consume, throw away, and waste but while religion, tradition, and ignorance rule the world and we double our population in a few more years, nature will take over and kick us all off this blue planet.

    I am hoping it’s not so but…..

  103. In my last post, I briefly mentioned interests fighting against or pretending to care about global heating.

    An example is how the recent Federal budgets have given millions for research into alternative energies, such as solar and wind. What’s to research? Simply fly over to Germany where they are putting up solar on roofs, farm land, and in the divides of freeways. These aren’t research dollars, they are bonuses for corporate hierarchies. They probably did fly over to Germany for “research” vacations, “Wow, look at all the solar panels! Have some more wine?” What I do know is that we don’t demand some sort of proof of research when we give out subsidies.

    Author Keven Phillips points out several “end games” or “countdowns” that are all in progress at the same time.

    1) Global warming (heating as I prefer to call it), which is the point of this discussion. But the other countdowns interrupt and/or affect solutions for global heating.

    2) End times prophesy. There is a portion of the American public that truly believes that Biblical Revelations is true and is soon to happen. They point to global heating effects (such as polar melt, drought caused fires, devastating hurricanes, etc.) as God taking action. You can’t underestimate their numbers or their influence. Percentages of true believers range from 35% to 45%, it’s sort of an unknown as many don’t really want it to be known publicly they follow this thinking. The influence has reached into our government with a President and advisers as believers as well as many Republicans in Congress.

    Rapturists have no interest in fixing global heating as they don’t believe it is something to be fixed, it’s God’s will. To them global heating is our fault because of our moral disintegration. In my mind these people are nuts, but they are a huge block of nuts. They reject much of science, such as evolution. You can’t convince these people of the role they could play in alleviating global heating.

    2) World Peak Oil. This has been touched on in several posts. This also has believers in our government, Dick Cheney for instance. It’s clear that the oil corporations are believers, they’ve been saying so in sideway remarks such as “It’s harder to find new sources of oil.” But they have visions of the future in terms of profits.

    Less oil production means more profits at the refinery and sales level. Most oil production is now in the hands of state owned entities such as Aramco of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, etc. The multinationals are trying to gain some share of production in new areas of political difficulty, the Caucuses, Chad, etc. where nationalization doesn’t yet exist.

    The in depth geopolitics of oil is complicated. War is always an option, but another “war” is playing out…how to price oil. There is a fear in America that oil will be priced in something other than petrodollars. Venezuela and Iran periodically call to change to the Euro, I believe Iran already does. If OPEC ever agreed to change, our economy would fall off a cliff. Which leads to a third end game.

    3) American Economic Collapse. The reason for calls to change petrodollars to the Euro is the sinking value of the dollar (as well as an economic weapon against the US). The dollar is the de facto world currency, but any currency is based on faith. The sinking value has much to do with our Federal Debt. During the Bush years the debt has doubled and he will leave office with about a $10 Trillion Federal IOU. Empires of the past have spent themselves out of world hegemony, and it appears we are doing the same.

    When our country spends more money on the expansion of empire/the military industrial complex than the rest of the world combined it’s hard for me to see where the money comes from to build a new infrastructure to change from an oil based economy to alternative energy based, particularly as so much of that money is really just placed on the government credit card. Misplaced priorities is costing us big money and may in the end cost us our standing as the de facto currency.

    Brief mentions of other economic problems…the housing meltdown with loss of personal wealth through lowering home values is ongoing and unknown as to when a bottom will happen; a credit crunch in our banking system that is still ongoing; inflation due to energy and food price rises hitting average and poor Americans hardest; an ongoing widening of income disparity between the rich and the rest of Americans.

    Combining all these economic factors makes one wonder as to how we as individuals can enact global heating actions. I for one can’t afford a $40 thousand dollar hybrid vehicle and there is no used-car market for them. And if masses of people in “the richest country in the world” are in the same situation as I am, consider much of the rest of the world. Could the Chinese or Indian consumer buy hybrids for instance?

    The richest country in the world? We hear that all the time, but are we? As I write, the banks are continuing to write off loses, Americans are in credit debt, the federal government is in debt, Americans are losing value in homes as local governments struggle with a lowering tax base (taxes from home values) and the stock market has been essentially sideways for the entire Bush term (in 2001 the Dow topped 11,000, today it is about 11,900 an average of only 100 point rise per year, that’s anemic growth). American wealth is vanishing except for the richest top percentile.

    I certainly haven’t even come close to detailing end games, only trying to quickly explain them. I’ve not even covered them all…such as dwindling rare Earth elements that tend to be used in our modern technologies, semiconductors and hybrid car components, the things that are supposed to help us in curtailing global heating, but also used in modern weaponry (and you know that wars are started over resources).

    As I’ve stated in previous posts, we are in a huge complicated puzzle. And as America is the most influential nation in the world and also the most complicated, I just don’t see some snap response to just one issue, global heating.

  104. Dear Jon B. and Janice Grounds,

    Thanks for speaking out so loudly and clearly. You will not be at all surprised to learn that I agree with what you are reporting.

    What I find refreshing is the way tabooed topics are beginning to be discussed much more openly, even in special communities like Orion. Even though the mainstream media still finds this kind of discussion anathema, reality-oriented people are now being heard in a rapidly growing number of places on the internet.

    The family of humanity is only now starting to learn unexpectedly and painfully about certain human-induced global threats that could soon be presented to the human community by the unbridled growth of human propagation, consumption and production activities increasing exponentially and overspreading the surface of Earth in our time.

    For the sake of comparison, let us the consider the way many too many economists, politicians and their super-rich benefactors who primarily govern the workings of the mass media, would have us believe that Earth can indefinitely sustain people conspicuously consuming its limited resources the way millions of fortunate people worldwide are doing; but I fear these intelligent ‘dreamers’ have lost their reality-orientation with regard both to human biological limits and the limitations of the bounded physical world we inhabit. The Earth is relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible; it is neither an eternal provider like a mother’s teat nor is it an endlessly overflowing cornucopia.

    A planet with the limitations and the make-up of Earth cannot realistically be expected to much longer maintain increasing, profligate over-consumption and adamantine hoarding of resources by millions of people, mostly in the overdeveloped world, that we see occurring as a result of actions by a tiny minority of people who possess the wealth and power needed to behave in this way.

    Obscene displays of consumption by people with great wealth could be directly undermining the biophysical integrity of Earth as well as precipitating deleterious effects upon its environs. Please consider how scarce resources are being recklessly dissipated and global ecosystems are being relentlessly degraded, at a much faster rate than the Earth can restore its resources and ecological services for human benefit. Unintended, pernicious challenges resulting from unrestrained increase of per capita over-consumption of Earth’s finite resources appear to be threatening to ravage our planetary home.

    Perhaps the current scale and fully anticipated growth of per human consumption of Earth’s limited resources could become unsustainable, well before the year 2050.

    Sincerely yours,


  105. The author of this article shows his lack of consciousness by revealing this is a “terrifying” time to be alive. It is arrogant egoism that would lead someone to an extreme idea of pumping sulphur into our atmosphere. Mother nature will correct what’s been fouled. We must deal with the consequences of our actions. We are adaptable. We will survive and thrive as a new more aware species by taking correct action on living within our means.

  106. Skimming through one post after another, my conclusion is to recall an earlier Orion article and discussion which included in its title the phrase ‘preaching to the choir’.


    My own posts here have been intended to underscore the importance of being knowledgeable. Once informed, and above all WITTHOUT prior judgment, on all facets of these issues (above all on those lump-able as ‘scientific’ and ‘techological’), the greatest form of expression AND of effective action will be political, or, if you prefer, civic.

    Bug elected officials, keep the heat on CEO’s and others who wield economic and political clout. Merely chattering, as here, is highly cathartic, but mostly symbolic. Public involvement, in gross numbers, is – effective.

    It happens that today’s Salon includes a brief and very cogent opinion article. I refer you to ‘Ask Pablo’ and today’s piece, ‘What can I do to help stop global warming?’

    Three things: bug political reps at all levels, cut down on meat, insulate your home and otherwise make it more efficient. (And comfortable at the same time.)

    Funny – nothing new here. Nor the exhortation that accompanies: Just Do It.

  107. Bob Tyson,

    I guess I’m getting a little tired of exhortations of “just do it” from people that don’t seem to think in terms of individuals or the political/economical realities.

    Starting with the political. I HAVE repeatedly written to my Representatives over the years, who for the most part are probably sympathetic as they are all Democrats. Except, I live in Michigan and the auto industry is a big monster breathing down their necks with silent threats of taking their jobs elsewhere (even though they have been cutting jobs relentlessly in the past two years). Michigan already has the highest unemployment of any state in the country. I consider myself lucky I still have a job, a number of years ago I used to be in the auto industry, now I’m nothing but service.

    Further, have you not noticed that a dude named Bush has no interest in global heating? Have you not noticed that for most of his term he has been backed by a party that agrees with him? Have you not noticed that even after the 2006 elections that the Senate is still too close in party numbers to beat out presidential vetoes?

    The personal. I’ve been living a lean financial life for years. Unfortunately it’s going to get leaner. I’m filing a personal bankruptcy this week as it turns out. I’ve had a garnishment for a long ago credit card racking my wages, but I was able to handle it, until my SO lost her job two months ago. Combined with the higher cost of things I need on a daily basis such as food and gasoline, the wages aren’t cutting it anymore. Have you seen the price of bankruptcies these days? I’m having to borrow the lawyer up-front fee from a relative until I can make payments back to them after the garnishment vanishes.

    And you want me and people going through financial difficulties even worse than myself to outlay costs such as insulate homes, and other energy efficiency ideas? Send me the money, I’ll be glad to.

    I drive a used Ultima, which is good on gas mileage, but it’s used and I worry about its’ future. The used-car market for gas efficient vehicles has been driving the price up as of course SUVs prices are plummeting. I won’t be able to purchase a new fancy hybrid any time in the near future and there is no used-car market for them.

    I work night shift (I’m a baker) in a metro-area (Detroit) with poor to nonexistent mass transit at that time of night and since I’m the only one on my shift (I work alone) car-pooling is impossible. Somehow, the company I work for has weathered the poor economy well, I’m not about to quit to risk the high unemployment competition for a different job that may be more unstable in our economy. I’ve had this job seven years, while those around me are losing theirs, my SO for instance.

    We are a country of masses of people living paycheck to paycheck…if they have them. Have you not noticed that in the Midwest people are losing their homes and jobs to floods? Are you not aware that people flooded out by Katrina have yet to return to their city? Did you know wages are stagnant and the average wage is beginning to fall? Are you aware that food banks are swamped these days and are having trouble meeting the needs?

    People have trouble with paying the up-front costs of say, better windows, than paying more money in the long run, but in smaller more manageable doses. Further, credit is not only getting harder to find, but in the last decade personal bankruptcies have been record year after record year. There are a ton of people that can’t get many types of loans to outlay up-front costs.

    We got an energy efficient bulb recently, more costly of course than a regular. But I just found out that it has mercury in it. You can’t throw it away when it goes dead or recycle bin it because it’s a hazardous material, and don’t break it because you have to take care in clean-up. Wonderful, now I’m creating hazardous materials. Now I feel a little dirty, sort of like a little version of a nuclear plant. I can’t seem to win, even when I try. You talk about getting informed, mercury content was something that was downplayed in all the talk of energy efficient bulbs I’d ever seen, in fact, I didn’t even know.

    So, send money. I’ll be all about global warming. I know plenty of other people that desire solar panels for instance but can’t afford them, so send lots of money. I’ll even send you back the sales receipts to prove I purchased the items and pictures if you want, to show them installed.

    By the way, I “chatter” here because I’m not so pie-in-the-sky as many here are. I’m a realist. When I see a lot of undue optimism, I see the other side. If I see too much negativism I try to see the glass half full. But mostly I learn things about how people think.

    I initially responded to Tidwell’s piece. I still am bothered by things he wrote. Such as, seeding the atmosphere with sulfur, some sort of solution that makes me wonder if the medicine will come with side-effects. Sort of like having to deal with mercury in my energy efficient light bulb.

  108. john b,

    First off, what made you think my post was ‘personal’? Or, as a driller I worked with in my geology days used to joke, ‘Heck, I poked it at ‘er in fun, and she went ‘n’ took it serious…’

    Well, maybe all this IS serious, but at the same time not hopeless. I’m sorry for the real troubles of your own that you report, so I hope you won’t take me as being flip if I respond, to pretty much all of your philosophical questions (‘…have you not noticed that …’), by saying, ‘That’s affirmative.’ OK?

    So if I may take your example of the compact fluorescent bulb and its mercury content as just one example, how about this: research how much extra energy it takes to run the bulb it replaces, over its lifespan. Then find out how much mercury will be discharged – not into a controlled disposal stream, but into the air, water, and soil – by burning the coal required to make up that difference.

    THEN ponder whether you deserve to feel the guilt you report, being ‘dirty’. I’ll wager this exercise will clear your conscience.

    So it’s to that kind of thing that the encouragement to bug politicians points. Good for you, for your effort. I wish I were half the ‘bugger’ that you seem to be! And consider that just one specific political or legislative or civic policy that such bugging can achieve is to enact more sensible ways of encouraging and, yes, subsidizing better insulation, windows, transportation, and – even – light bulbs. So that it doesn’t forever rest just on our individual shoulders. And so that when the economics do catch up, suppliers can profit. On the right kinds of products.

  109. I perhaps should add, in all seriousness, to what I just posted, that once one DOES the research, as in this case on the ‘mercury cost’ of efficient bulbs vs. traditional, one will be armed with cold fact. With which to persuade others, not least politicians, who do respond. And better to an opinion argued from facts than from passionate belief, alone.

  110. Bob,

    I don’t feel like researching it (light bulb comparisons), I’ve got things to deal with. Remember, I’m a skeptic about solutions and that’s for the true believers to convince me. Besides, what about the requirements of bringing mercury to the market for production of light bulbs as to energy and health factors…there are two sides, or rather too many sides for me to spend time on. Further can I trust my fellow citizens not to simply forgo the hazardous material disposal and dump the used bulbs into nature?

    Here’s a current issue in Michigan. At this point we have a 10 cent bottle return on pop and beer (highest in the country) and the state is debating expanding it to plastic water bottles, wine and juice containers. So, certainly the plus is that our outdoor trash will be reduced…but returning bottles uses energy, at the store for crushing, then transporting, then recycling them, then transporting again to bottling plants. Is it a plus or minus for global warming to even recycle as opposed to making new plastics from oil or glass from sand? Some landfills are now being “mined” for methane, is that good? After all something is being recycled out of the landfill, yet it’s methane, a short term greenhouse gas.

    I’m not convinced that solutions ultimately address the whole entire hosts of problems. Ethanol at one time was suppose to be the answer to oil. We now know that it’s a scam perpetrated on us by the big agri-corps and that it produces as much or more greenhouse gases. Yet, if ethanol were to be an answer to not drilling offshore or in ANWAR maybe it is a good thing. Another yet, we are finding that ethanol from corn (as well as bio-fuel from soy) is affecting food supply. And there are probably other “yets” I’m not thinking about or even know of or have even been considered by others because they aren’t known until enough time has passed for the ethanol “solution” to accumulate a response time from society and nature.

    The more one delves into these solutions the more complicated they really are and the more one realizes all the special interests that vie for their part of the solution because of their interests in profits.

    Back to energy efficiency. Studies have shown that when Americans enact energy efficient ideas eventually the energy savings in dollars becomes a reason to spend more dollars on energy. We saved, so we spent. As our population increases we have more energy needs and the energy savings from efficiency gets lost. Until we stop population growth or reduce it, this will always be a catch-22.

  111. jon,

    You say,

    ‘I don’t feel like researching it
    (light bulb comparisons), I’ve got
    things to deal with. Remember,
    I’m a skeptic about solutions and that’s
    for the true believers to convince me.’

    Me, too. I’ll read the rest of your post when I can find time. Meanwhile I wonder: What IS a ‘true believer’ if not someone who hangs on to a position, never mind the facts? Is THAT the kind of person you want to go about ‘convincing’ you?

    If instead you do prefer the facts, I’ll take your word for it you can’t drop everything right now for research. Anyways, that was just my gimmick to get you (all) to pay attention!

    So: the research has already been done. If you had to use coal, which releases mercury and other heavy metals when it is burned, to provide the additional electricity to power a normal bulb (for the length of time the energy-saver would last), you would find that you are putting MORE mercury into the environment than by using the energy-saver. And remember that with the energy-saver you control, far better than at the power plant using the coal, what happens to that bit of mercury.

    I hope this will convince you, by way of the facts, that the energy-saver, despite containing some mercury AND the issues you point to about producing the mercury, is the better deal. Now it’s your turn. Prove me wrong. I’m a skeptic. Just don’t pull any true-believer stuff on me, ok?

  112. I have to add to what else I’ve posted the following bit of musing. (And, for jon b, please! This is NOT in any way intended for you, personally, at all!!!!)

    There happens to be another article that I have just noticed, in Orion, that I found to be excellent, clear, and in some way, tender. It seems to be saying, in broad terms, much of what Tidwell intended, but missed the mark on, by writing so clumsy a piece. Here is the link:

    Perhaps it is my own weakness. Or maybe certain Orion articles just attract the nutcases in the ‘Discussions’. (Nota Bene: I can write that, ONLY on the ‘It Takes One To Know One’ premise. Got that, you all?!)

    I frankly write, here, in a kind of twin mental state of excercise (of the act of writing, itself) and of despair (at the un-developed level of observation and analysis so often expressed). Maybe a poorly-written, badly-conceived article just begets the same, in discussion, I don’t know. Or the ‘choir’ effect is what dominates…

    I haven’t looked at responses to the article I’ve recommended to you all, but perhaps I might, and think about transferring my focus there…

  113. ….but in the meanwhile various relataed thoughts come to mind…

    Paco, you complimented me generously on my photographs, and left me your plea to clean up my act on the website where some of them are there to look at. I think I’ve dug out my ’round tuit’ and will get down to that scutwork in the next few days, at least enough to get the follow-on page or two arranged so the viewer can look at one picture at a time. Oh me. It is NOT what ‘runs my motor’ but still seem inevitable. Ugh!

    This next, who knows, may or may not make sense to any of you out there. I just read an email from a photography colloquiim in San Francisco in which the focus is usually on combining a concern in art with some overt expression of an ‘ethical’ stance.

    Now if I write this ‘as artist’ I think it prudent to affirm that in all art one part of the bone structure will be what we refer to as ‘ethics’. That, as ‘given’. So I next think to myself (and share, here) my own truth that not every work of art be ‘about’ ethics. Or instead be a tablet-screed that fronts a value-judgment. Such is propoganda. Or ‘advertising’.

    The reason this seemed right to express here is that if I see one underlying theme in what is expressed in this forum it is the journey to clarity or the very process of sifting and grading points of view, interpretations, courses of action, and facts. Beyond or behind those emotional and intellectual – nay – artistic – journeys is something else, a deep and dark-matter-ish kind of interior search, something that happens, and matters, in each one of us.

    So there is art which verges on the propogandistic, and in it, real power: Debra Bloomfield, Diego Rivera, Goya. Or there is art about something else, or that seems to be about something else. Perhaps ‘about’ art, or poetry: Joseph Cornell, Lee Friedlander, Velasquez.

    Both. Each.

  114. Bob,

    You’re absolutely correct, “true believers” was a poor choice of a term. Ideas and solutions certainly need to put forth (hopefully well thought out) and it’s up to readers to examine the ideas. I suppose when I used that term, I was thinking about once an idea starts out, there can be a bandwagon effect (the true believers) that don’t critically examine the idea before promoting it.

    In the last few decades it seems everywhere I turn, I see this sort of bandwagon effect or partisanship on ideas and policies and it’s made me suspicious of most everything, particularly when it supposedly is the “general consensus.”

    On another note…I’m thankful you have some sympathy for my current situation, but I also hope you understand I was only using myself as an example for so many people in this country that are having trouble in this type of economy and that going green isn’t going to easy for them. My bankruptcy doesn’t bother me, except the process involved. Hey, I’m almost proud of it, it puts me in the company of Donald Trump who has done it twice. I’m certainly in plenty of company and I’ll be better off after severing my ties to the bloodsucking credit card companies.

    I’ve thought that one possibility for reducing oil consumption that would not hurt those that I speak of, would be gas rationing. We did it during WWII back home in the states, why not now?

    Everyone would get the same ration (a reasonable amount for a month or a year for example) at a specified price (say $4.00 a gallon) and any fuel needed beyond that would be at a higher price (say $10.00 a gallon as to $4.00).

    People that are in lowered incomes don’t really use as much gas as others and in that way would be able to get through without passing to the $10.00 level. Others would have to rethink their fuel use and react. Dump the SUV, move closer to work, ride share, pay the higher amount if they are rich enough, etc.

    The price difference between the $4.00 and $10.00 that is paid could be rebated back to people in some fashion if they bought a solar panel for the home or an electric car, etc.

    But…politically our citizenship has a different mindset than back in WWII. We’ve become much more individualistic. There would probably be a fight against such limits placed on the “free market.”

    At any rate, I know that if we keep sticking it to the non-rich, our country isn’t really going to advance on things, just more resentment. Lesser income people need help financing going green, not financially punished into it, otherwise the awful gap between the rich and poor will only grow worse.

    I’m working class, I know it and am proud of it. But the policies from government has put a heavy burden on the working class in recent years. Many of us would love to go green in so many things, all we would ask is to give us the financial ability.

  115. Hey – the ration-coupon scheme sounds like worth kicking around a lot more, to me. How about if you don’t USE UP your four-buck tickets, you can sell ’em on the market to the highest bidder??

    Hmmm. I think that’s already got a name: cap and trade or sumpin like it, but so what? At the individual level. And we’ve got eBay…

    The notion that a member of the ‘working’ class may live a dignified, comfortable, and even joyous life seems so quaint or romantic at this point. If only. Yet if we really did honor labor it could make all the difference. I want to avoid the pitfall of glamorizing a ‘place’ unrealistically, but after living in Italy for the last several years one thing that does impress me is the simple, solid respectability and – no other term for it – middle-class comfort, that working people carve out for themselves and their families.

    You see it in every gesture, and in family cohesion. But that may be another can of worms. Or chickens. Or eggs.

  116. On a recent trip to London, I visited Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. I wanted to see what free speech looked like in a country other than the US.

    The weather was nasty, but a fair crowd had assembled to hear the ranting speakers. One man held up a Bible and exhorted his listeners to follow the Word of God. Another stood next to him, holding up a Koran, demanding to know if he had ever READ the Koran? Opposite these was a third who confidently proclaimed the evils of homosexuality, a fourth who extolled the virtues of socialism, while a fifth prophesied financial doom. Yet another, with three dogs lying obediently beside him on leashes, decried the evils of red meat and the superiority of vegetarianism.

    What does this have to do with Orion?

    Well, aren’t we all a bit like the speakers at Hyde Park? We speak from our own areas of knowledge, experience, prejudice and practice. Naturally, we lament the lack of wider application of our own point of view, and seek to advance what WE see as the path to follow.

    I have no problem with this, expecially when, not so long ago, the goal of “unanimity” led to the contrivances of the Inquisition (Catholicism), the goal of “obedience” somehow permitted the collection of wagonloads of severed heads (Islam) and the requirements of “piety” prompted toothless witnesses to carry faggots of dry kindling to the stake (Protestantism).

    So here I stand (“Hier stehe ich”), on my tiny soap box, advancing the value of studying dreams. (No one listening, apparently. Too far-out?) Bob weighs in declaring his own a priori requirements — knowledge and facts above all, please, and no a priori judgments! Paca and Julianne move already in the direction of their future, facing their despair, crying, loving and laughing — and who’s to say they aren’t, in their own wise ways, far ahead of the rest of us?

    We are participating, among other things, in an exercise in epistemology, “the study of what I stand upon.” Whoever responds to the ethical claims of reflective consciousness, will be faced one way or another with the problem of examining the basis of knowledge — how do I know that I know? This is not an academic exercise, by the way, for in practice it forms the substance of what passes for “truth” in the world, and with very real consequences. (Ask yourwself what Cheney’s epistemological stance is, for example, and you’ll see what I mean.)

    The sad fact is that the “choir” Bob refers to — Orion writers, readers, commentators, etc. — no long has a common hymn to sing. No shared text, key, melody or tempo. For that matter, most of us worship at different altars, if I may be permitted to extend the metaphor. Orion online may be the closest some of us ever get to a “choir loft,” and the Earth itself, under all our feet, the closest we’ll ever get to a common song.

    The fragmentations of our culture, as far as I can tell, are without precedent. And, paradoxically, even as we experience increasing degrees of dislocation, we simultaneously experience more and more the commonality of our situation, as the future bears down upon us. No single one of us carries “the solution,” just as not one of us has the wherewithal to impose that solution.

    But anything we would wish to call “survival” — let alone the “thriving” that Mark predicted (Post #111) — will be composed of many voices. Whether there will ever be anything approaching global unison, or harmony, remains to be seen.

    Nevertheless, in some sense we all suffer a common fate and participate in a common inspiration, just as we all breathe the same air. Orion is one of the constellations by which we navigate. Hopefully our tumultuous discussion in this terrestrial Orion will serve a similar function.


    Thanks to all.


  117. Paco, I’m just SO pleased you’ve been at your computer and NOT out crossing any busy streets lately. Hate to think of you being bothered by anything so silly as a fact or two!


    (Removing tongue from cheek.)

  118. Hi folks,

    On Monday NASA’s scientist James Hansen testified in Congress on the 20th anniversary of his landmark testimony in 1988.

    “This afternoon, he told the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Climate Change that the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies should be put on trial for crimes against humanity and nature. He argued that global warming science has been corrupted in the same way that tobacco companies once attempted to blur the links between smoking and cancer, and he called for government investments in alternative energy to help end our dependence.”

    I’d be curious what you all think about fossil fuel company executives being tried for crimes against humanity and nature for their corruption of science.

    Who else since the dawn of the industrial age falls into that category?

    I use gasoline and purchase some products made from petroleum or that use it in manufacturing. How corrupt am I — and our consumer-addicted society? Should we have all known better (or most of us, since I suspect there are some near zero carbon foot-printers out there)?

    I am also curious what you think of “science activism”. I believe Hansen is doing the right thing by speaking out on clearly what for him is a moral issue. I don’t think it diminishes his credibility as a scientist, as some suggest.

    In anticipation of spirited debate, Best, Paca

  119. We need to have every state redo their net metering policies to allow all of us to invest in renewable energy. We shouldn’t be waiting for BP or Comm Ed to invest in wind and sun. If we do we will wait a long time.

  120. Don’t know how ‘spirited’ this will be! James Hansen is very impressive, and has been for a long time. Impressive first off as a scientist, which is one thing that gives him ‘cred’ and makes the theater, if you’d forgive that characterization – it is NOT a dismissal, so much force. Another part of his impact was noted in the Guardian article in comments Hansen made in context, regarding direct action political demonstrations that he wasn’t sure he himself was quite ready to join.

    Of course, given his place in the constellation of informed observers, what he had to say at NASA was action alright, and plenty direct.

    Going after petroleum executives for crimes against humanity? Maybe. One may doubt the value of this, literally, yet as one of many ways to focus political and social attention, yes, of course. That, plus a preoccupation with one’s own footprint, but there again one thinks, less to suffer in guilt (or bloat with hubris) than, again, to focus attention and energy.

    I don’t care if you drive an SUV, if you ration its use to twice-weekly trips to the garden shop. But I do care if you drive your Prius 60,000 miles a year when you would as well have walked, biked, bused, trained, and so on.

    I was stunned to read, today, that that of the nine top car models preferred by American women buyers, not one had a stated fuel economy above 30 mpg, with one or two under 20 mpg; in contrast, there are new models by Fiat and Alfa-Romeo being released in Europe for which the LOWEST mileage rating is in the mid-40 mpg range, and with the higher ratings, in a diesel model, in the 56-59 mpg range. One additional model was mentioned as coming in at some unspecified mpg rating even higher than that. America, h’lo.

    All of this and all of us are interconnected. Even if you convince yourself you are a zero (carbon) person, I can show you how you do it on the carbon backs, so to speak, of others not able to join you in your virtue, and on the structure of a world society that doesn’t work that way, for now. But can move in that direction. The problem might not be in the criminality we perceive in past actions of certain players, but in the present state of the gelware being carried around by many of us, right now. Tell me those car sales figures again?

    (…for Paca 🙂

  121. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the reply. I will sleep on it.

    In the meantime, I googled gelware and it asked me if I meant Delaware.

    Is gelware the goey stuff that is used in mouse pad wrist rests and that sort of thing? Where do you carry yours?

    Smile, Paca

  122. Is gelware the goey stuff that is used in mouse pad wrist rests and that sort of thing?

    Wot? Google blew it? It’s slang for the gooey stuff you carry between your ears. Software – hardware – gelware, geddit??

    Where do you carry yours?

    Well, Paca, since I’m a guy…


  123. Nattering on . . . for Paca?? )grin(

    My gelware remark – and the rip on cars that get so-so mileage – to translate? (Or did I completely miss a boat, something about Delaware?)

    Something that shakes me up again and again is to be presented with the evidence, like this bit about cars people prefer, and realize again where that great middle lives. That’s middle as in middle of the bell-shaped curve of preferences, purchases… What’s hard to influence, in the ‘right’ direction at least, is people’s attitudes. Or values, as expressed in actual behavior.

    That’s where the notion of going after executives of polluting, wasteful corporations gets traction for me. Criminal behavior should actually be brought to court, tried, convicted, punished. And in the meantime, raising the possibility? One lever to shift attitudes, maybe.

    We need grabber slogans, ad images, and so on. The angels are in the details.

  124. Bob,

    Here’s a fact:

    When I was in Italy I ignored the street lights and ran like hell whenever I crossed the street. Then, when I went to Zürich for a weekend, I obeyed the street lights and walked across.

    Why is that?


  125. Paco,

    Mmmmm (thinking REALLY REALLY hard) – maybe because in Zurich, no one else was on the streets because everyone had gone over to Splügenstrasse 11, to see my photographs at Galerie ArteF??

    Boh – I dunno. Tell me.

    (Hint: it’s considered better form to cross streets with ones eyes OPEN. In Italy, even!=)


  126. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the cogent reply.

    So THAT”S where that huge crowd was going! Thought for a moment it was a riot! Sorry I missed your exhibit.

    By way of consolation, however, I did manage to see a wonderful Giacometti at the Künsthaus.

    Will definitely check out your revised website.

    Meanwhile, on to Paca’s questions.


  127. Hi Paca,

    Excellent questions.

    1. Crimes against humanity.

    Before you can prosecute anyone for crimes on such a scale, you must first have enforceable laws. This presumes that you have a functioning legislature. I’m not sure ours qualifies. Then you must have incorruptible courts. Again, there is some doubt on this score as well. As I recall, one of the first things Bush and Co. did when they got into office was to grant themselves and their agents — via an “executive order,” I believe — a widespread immunity from prosecution for “war crimes.” Hmmmm . . . I wonder what they had in mind? And now that they have control over the supreme court, and much of the lower judiciary as well, have you noticed that they’re no longer shouting about “activist judges”?

    (And by the way, just how many pages was that Homeland Security bill that they pulled out of a hat and ram-rodded through Congress? How many years of advance preparation did it take to write it? Just wondering.)

    There may be some publicity value, of course, in Hansen’s even raising the question of crimes against humanity, just as there is in Kucinich’s attempt to promote impeachment. No one expects either effort to succeed, but at least they’re talking about it.

    Thom Hartmann rails occasionally about a little-noticed court ruling in 1975 or so (I’m not sure about the date, Bob), that granted rights of personhood to corporations. Somehow, however, we forgot to insist that a public charter might actually involve a moral responsibility to act in favor of the public good. We see the results of this carelessness far and wide. We will have to reach deep into the roots of entrenched interests if we ever hope to alter this devastating system we’ve created.

    2. Scientists speak out.

    I would hope more scientists like Hansen, with access to a public platform, will find the courage to voice their outrage. The pursuit of “objectivity” in scientific work is well and good, but it doesn’t mean that one has magically forfeited other human responsibilities in the process. Good for Hansen.

    And to bring the question of moral and ethical obligations into a discussion of the activities of vast corporations or the consequences of scientific work, is something we need much more of. As individuals we’re already beating ourselves up over our “carbon footprint,” a display of what Cheney called “personal virtue.” But the gulf between individual conscience, on the one hand, and the ruthless attitudes of titanic global organizations, on the other, is difficult even to imagine. How much more difficult is it, then, to imagine how in the world individual ethics or a sense of personal responsibility might eventually come to inform executive decisions at Exxon or Halliburton?

    My intuition is that, sooner or later, the “system” — our global, industrial system and the societies it has given rise to — will crash on its own. And like a great airliner whose power is failing, no one can prevent the crash. In its present form, it is virtually unsustainable.

    But I suspect that depth of character in individuals, or what Cheney dismissed as “personal virtues,” will be more important than ever before. Whatever our individual carbon footprints might be, we will find out what we are made of.

    Thanks again, Paca.


  128. Paco,

    I’ll have to send you a photograph one of my students took in the Giacometti collection at the Kunstmuseum. It’s become enshrined in one of the offices at the Cattolica in Brescia.

    My Italian students, including the one who took that picture, were impressed with traffic in Zurich, noticing right away that drivers were polite. And stopped. In advance. At the next class meeting, back in Italy, they all agreed it was dangerous to go to Zurich. (I wonder about these kids – they seem to have been everywhere but when the idea came up to make the day trip by train it was as if we’d decided to go to the most exotic place on earth, go figure.) That is, dangerous once you came back to Italy, having lost your protective caution about crossing streets…

    And that was just from ONE DAY away.

  129. Yes, Paco, I vaguely recall there was a court decision granting corporations ‘personhood’. Year? No idea.

    To anyone, you might find thoughtful the views of Bjorn Lomborg. Google the name.

  130. …and Paco, in Zurich I know you really obeyed the lights because the cops mean business. Not because there was a riot. In Switzerland? Please! We’re Swiss! Even for my photographs.

  131. Bob,

    I’d love to see the photo. Send it to me at .

    I agree, it is dangerous to go to Zürich and then RETURN to Italy. What I found was that obeying traffic signals in Italy was actually more dangerous than making mad-cap dashes across the street.

    Let me know when you get “round tuit” — i.e., that clean-up thing with your website.


  132. Crimes against humanity? Don’t think so. We could charge so many people and organizations for all sorts of issues. Hansen was probably just trying to show his passion for his position. Using oil to propel the industrial age has been going on for over a century, there would be a host of people that could be charged. And if not oil, we would have been using even more coal, worse still.

    Spirited discussion? Hmm, you should see discussion about global warming in other places on the web. I saw a post about linking the Midwest flooding to global heating at Alternet and the comments coming from the deniers was ugly. I suppose spirited and ugly are different shades, but here we debate shades of actions to be taken in response to believing in global heating, elsewhere the debate gets boiled down to, I don’t believe, I do.

    In an earlier post I mentioned the influence of the fundamentalist right Christians in America. We don’t see them post here, but if they did discussion would get ugly. We would be spending a ton of time citing information and data in response to incorrect data deniers always post.

    That ideology isn’t ever going to accept that we are in any way responsible because of our direct actions, such as building and using coal-fired electric plants. No, the reasons for global heating results (drought, flooding, etc.) is because God is punishing us collectively for “sins” such as homosexuality, divorce, abortion, you know the list.

    Worse than this, you have the “criminals” in Hansen’s mind that align with the fundamentalists not out of belief but for reasons of self interest, mainly profits and refusal to change the status quo. This is probably where Hansen is deriving his anger, that the industries present false data and arguments. The religious right jumps on these “alternative” positions to continue to push their own agenda.

    What’s so strange about this strange bedfellows situation, is that the oil, gas, coal industries are using resources that they know is far older than the 6,000 year old Earth of fundamentalist belief. But that doesn’t matter I suppose because the Bible tells them so. Tells them to use the resources, tells them to be fruitful and multiply, on and on.

    I can’t even begin to explain how influential this religious block is in America. It’s the largest reason why Tidwell’s dream of a coming together won’t happen in the U.S. How can you even dent the brains of a block of people who go to church on Sunday, then entertain themselves with a NASCAR race (a glorification of useless resource depletion).

    A good portion of this block are smack dab in the middle of that bell curve of auto selection. Trucks and SUVs are a cultural development of this crowd. The only reason they will ever give them up is because the price of gas will economically push them out of their choice.

    This religious block is all over the U.S. but predominates in the South, an area that has been developed on the predication of cheap energy in recent times. It should be interesting to see how the ideology morphs to continue to deny global heating in the face of higher oil prices, more expensive electric bills for air conditioning and as in the city of Atlanta, dealing with lack of water. But morph it will as their interpretation of the Bible won’t let them believe they helped cause their own inconvenience.

    Many in fact welcome this turn of events as they are believers in “end times.” They in fact welcome war in the Middle East, and any other event that coincides with their interpretation of Revelations, such as floods and drought and pestilence, etc. They fully expect that they will be the ones that suddenly disappear from Earth to land in heaven, while the rest of us are “left behind.”

    Europeans and most of the world are puzzled even aghast at such thinking, but it is here and thriving. And as far as I’m concerned, it is dangerous.

  133. Corporate personhood. Yeah, bad decision from an 1886 court case. In fact, it wasn’t even part of the case, it was from the closing statements from a judge. But it has withstood most challenges.

    There are good things about it and bad. It gives corporations ability to lobby Congress, yet it also allows us to sue corporations.

    The concept is so odd. An entity containing many people is a person. But in reality, the many people are really those in control of the corporation (the CEO, top execs and the board of directors). The workers in the rest of the company have little to no influence in the personhood aspect.

    Further oddity, the legality was derived out of the 14th Amendment, which was actually about giving African-Americans the right to vote.

    Probably by far the worst aspect of it, is the influence over politics corporations have been able to establish. I think we all know this problem.

  134. How do rich and famous people, who live large and have huge ecological footprints, as well as corporate ‘citizens’ that cast giant shadows over the Earth today, so easily get away with socially irresponsible behavior?

    As everyone knows but few openly discuss, wealth and power buy freedom. What is all too obvious but often cloaked in silence is this: A small minority of individuals in the human family with great fortunes and virtually all large corporations exercise their great wealth and power in ways that allow all of these self-proclaimed masters of the universe to live lavishly and large as well as to willfully refuse assumption of the responsibilities which necessarily come with freedom.

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

  135. I am a composer of music. I have written at least two major works with religious language which glorify the work of environmentalists. Which glorify the work of God in creating the beautiful earth, to use the language of creation, wih which I am only comfortable to a point. The scientific reality needs to enlighten religious sentiment.

    The TE DEUM, comissioned by the University of Wisconsin Catholic Center for their 1985 centennial, BEGINS AND ENDS WITH THE SONG OF A ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. The first and last words are spoken by the birds.

    In addition, there is a duet between loons and a muted trumpet, and a duet between the tympani and the roar of the ocean surf.

    This “Earth Te Deum” needs to have wide currency and be heard in churches everywhere. It is a beautiful and very accessible piece of music, and it is a tour de force of power.

    The second piece is a setting of THE CANTICLE OF BROTHER SUN, a poem by St. Francis of Assisi for flute, violin, classical guitar, and mezzo-soprano. It has been played throughout the twin cities metro area, under a grant from the peacemaking Task Force of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities. This poem sings the praises of all the elements of nature, air, water, and so on.

    Please contact me at

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Tom Allen
    I would welcome inquiries and would love to get the score and parts to churches, schools, or performing organizations

  136. Mike, this is terrifying. Everyone should be required to read it and then get together to do something productive! Thanks very much for your eloquent article.

  137. I think the article was very poorly written – for me it just didn’t scare me enough – I need scaring more please.
    After AIDS, Bird Flu, Y2K, SARS and ‘the next ice age is imminent’ from the ’70’s this article didn’t live upto the highest ideals of the global warming alarmists.

    I’d be grateful if you’d re-submit it and scare us even more.

    Oh! and while you’re at it please explain why the world hasn’t warmed since the turn of the century, has cooled recently and Antartica’s land mass is growing.

  138. I recently read James Lovelock’s first book, “Gaia…” followed by “The Revenge of Gaia.” In the first he seemed to think that the earth would recover if left alone for 30 years; in the second he advocated for both nuclear energy and climate engineering solutions. Now he says it’s to late, that it’s going to take a 100k years for the earth to recover; given that context, this was a relatively ‘upbeat’ article! If the Gaia theory holds true, might the earth react with a snap of it’s own? Say, a super-volcano like the Yellowstone caldera explosion? On the other hand, if as Lovelock suggests, humans are the intelligence of Gaia, perhaps climate engineering is just another part of the natural system of balance?

  139. A passionate piece, however, the author has not considered many of the very serious downsides of geoengineering (not just acid rain, but disrupted monsoons, leaving the oceans acidifying and then there are the political questions of who sets the thermostat), including the most pernicious of all: the ability to use it as a way out of understanding what has caused our mess and taking responsibility for it, that is, using the idea of geoengineering as a convenient excuse to avoid the much more important task of mitigation (and adaptation, which is now also necessary no matter how much mitigation we achieve).

    Other issues: an “ice-free” arctic is a technical term usually meaning less than 20% of the baseline level, not zero. Sometimes, there is also confusion about whether it is this 20% mark that is being discussed, or an ice-free north pole, which is different again, and is quite possible with a much more modest decline in sea ice. The former (ice-free Arctic) occurring within the next decade is still something of an outlying view, though it is certainly true to say that the situation is much more dire than was realised even just a handful of years ago.

    And as anyone who has followed Australian politics over the last eighteen months can attest, Rudd did not turn out to be a climate champion, nor has Australia entered a new political paradigm. It was something of a false dawn (though a slight improvement over the last government). Much like Obama, really.

  140. I agree and disagree with a lot that is said in this article. I agree that America is in need of change. I agree that there is ways that we can reverse the climate and cool it down. I agree that we need to create ways to get better gas mileage. However, can we do all that? We most certainly can, but will we? I doubt it! I just don’t see “everyone” coming together as a whole and stopping  this. In order to find ways to create electricity and eliminate coal mining. In order to eliminate or create new ways to power vehicles besides gas. We must first find those employers jobs! If we don’t do that then the people will be in a world of hurt! Sure the world of climate change is bad, but you have to consider all of the lives that the coal and gas provide meal for, and puts a roof over their head. I agree with this article though, we have to change. If the number went from 2070 to 2013 that quick, just imagine what the next predictions will show? 2011??? Could it be? It’s very possible! Does this prediction mean anything? I don’t think so, I mean there is a prediction that world ends in 2012. So what does that mean? We may never live to see 2013. In order to overcome that we have to take a stand. We can’t blame this on other countries either, America is the leading polluting country, so we must first change!

  141. The ice? Still trying to give us a lesson-ing. Or is that, lessen-ing? Ah, well . . . .

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