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Bill McKibben: The Planet's Future Depends On Distributed Systems

One of the best ways to address climate change
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 3:03 PM

To environmental activist Bill McKibben, it's all about math. The planet has warmed 1 degree Celsius over the past few decades and is on track to rise another 4 to 5 before the end of the century. An increase of this magnitude is simply too much for the ecosystems we depend on to adapt to that quickly.

Much of the observed warming is due to the fossil hydrocarbons humans burn for energy and industry. McKibben predicts, whether by foresight or necessity, new sustainable energy and agricultural systems will emerge that will drastically reduce the greenhouse impact our modern lifestyle is having on the planet. These will be revolutionary not just for their "greenness", but also because they will be distributed -- disrupting the monolithic control of the current large energy and food producers:

In the late 80’s when I wrote the first book about all of this, we knew trouble was coming. The basic science is not that difficult: with its molecular structure, more CO2 is gong to trap heet that would otherwise radiate back out to space. What we didn’t know was how fast that trouble was coming or really on what scale.

Unfortunately, in the quarter century since, what we’ve learned is that this is happening harder and faster than we would of thought. 25 years ago, no scientist would have thought that at this point we would have melted most of the summer sea ice in the Arctic -- they would have said that’s still 50 or 75 years off. No one would have even bothered to really measuring the PH of the oceans, because we didn’t think we could substantially alter something that vast. Certainly, no one would have worried that, as we learned about a year ago, the West Larsen Antarctic ice sheet seems now to be fundamentally destabilized and beginning its slide into the southern ocean. And I think no one would of guessed the degree to which we’ve seen perturbations of the hydrological cycle, the way that water moves around the planet.

Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, arid areas tend to get more droughts, since the water vapor wants it to evaporate into the atmosphere where it resides on average about seven days. We also get way more precipitation, often in the form of downpour. So drought flood cycles are much more pronounced. This is what happens in the early stages of climate change. So far, we’ve raised the temperature 1 degree Celsius. The same scientists who have predicted what would happen so far, tell us we’re now on track for range of 4 or 5 degrees before the century is out. If that’s true, if we let that happen, if we don’t divert course quickly, that’s a far more temperature rise than we can cope with. There's no reason to think we can have civilizations that resemble the ones were used to at those temperatures. Among other things, growing food becomes a very difficult proposition...

My guess is that we’re going to see a rise of distributed green energy: solar and wind being the best examples. But that's going to result in interesting effects in all kinds of ways. Such a new energy system won’t be as dependent as the one we have today, and there are people in those places who happen to sit on top of coal, and oil, and gas.  This will be a different world; one in which we can meet most of our needs for energy close to home.

And you can see, some of the same things are starting to happen with food as the rise of the local food movement in the last 20 years. You know, the energy future we’re hoping for, I think, is a kind of farmer’s market in electrons: millions of solar rooftops connected to each other in a grid, for instance. And for that, we have that right here on the Internet that we’re using to talk to each other. Thirty years ago, the information system looked a lot like the energy system does now. A few big providers pushing stuff out at us who just had to kind of take it. The same way the a few big power plants now. But that’s not how our information system works anymore, we’re all both producers and consumers. And it shouldn’t be how our energy system works either.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Bill McKibben (31m:48s)

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity Podcast, I am your host, Chris Martenson. May 2015, was the wettest on record for Texas and Oklahoma. That’s on record. California is experiencing the worst draught in 1,200 years. And it’s so hot in India that the roads are melting. And of course, the world has always experienced strange weather events. But today it seems that new records for weather related anomalies are piling up faster than ever, exactly as climate change scientists have warned would happen.

Okay, so perhaps we adaptable humans can find ways to cope with these new strange weather events, but how does one cope with a 40% loss of oceanic phytoplankton over the past 50 years? Or the increasing ocean acidification that is already corroding larval oyster shells—and who knows what else—and is predicted to become so acidic that many forms of ocean life, may not be able to survive at all in the coming decades? Is there any way to out clever these facts and trends? Our longest running thread at Peak Prosperity, by far, is the one on climate change, moderated by Mark Cochran. Its longevity, rigor, depth, and civility show that this is an important topic that we can discuss like rational, prudent adults. But perhaps we’re an odd lot that way.

Speaking with us today is a man who has been at the front lines of the battle to raise awareness and spur action on the topic of climate change for many, many years. Both leading and participating in increasingly direct actions is Bill McKibben, noted Author, environmentalist, and activist. In 1988, he wrote The End of Nature, the first book for a common audience about global warming. He is Co-founder of and Senior Advisor at 350.org, an international climate campaign that works in 188 countries around the world. He is very much a leading figure in the climate change movement. Bill, thank you so much for joining us today.

Bill McKibben: Chris, what a pleasure.

Chris Martenson: Let’s start with the data. What are a few of the major pieces of supporting data that stand out for you that we have on climate change today that we did not have in 1988?

Bill McKibben: Well look, in the late 80’s when I wrote the first book about all of this, we knew trouble was coming. Basic science is not that difficult. The molecular structure of CO2 traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. What we didn’t know was how fast that trouble was coming, or really on what scale. Unfortunately, in the quarter century since, what we’ve learned is that this is pinching harder and faster than we would have thought. So, to answer your question, 25 years ago no scientist would have thought that at this point we would have melted most of the summer sea ice in the Arctic; they would have said that’s still 50 or 75 years off. No one would have even bothered to be really measuring the PH of the oceans, because we didn’t think we could substantially alter something that vast. Certainly, no one would have worried that as we learned about a year ago, the West Antarctic ice sheet seems now to be fundamentally destabilized and beginning its slide into the southern ocean. And I think no one would have guessed the degree to which we’ve seen perturbations of the hydrological cycle, the way that water moves around the planet.

Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, arid areas tend to get more droughts since the water vapor wants it to evaporate into the atmosphere when it resides there on average about seven days. We also get way more precipitation, often in the form of downpour. So drought-flood cycles are much more pronounced. These are what happens in the early stages of climate change. So far, we’ve raised the temperature one degree Celsius. The same scientists who predicted what would happen so far, tell us we’re now on track for range of four or five degrees before the century is out. If that’s true, if we let that happen, if we don’t divert course quickly, that’s far more temperature rise than we can cope with. There is no reason to think we can have civilizations that resemble the ones were used to at those temperatures. Among other things, growing food becomes a very difficult proposition.

Chris Martenson: Well Bill, I’ve heard some people say that growing food just moves north, and it’s that simple. What is the alternative view of that?

Bill McKibben: Well the alternative view looks at things like soil. Yes, it’s true that at a certain point, the temperature regime that’s been in Iowa is now in Siberia. That doesn’t help you much if you’ve got tundra and muskeg that you’re trying to grow your corn on. So, that kind of glib thinking kind of marks some of the early discussions twenty years ago or so of climate change. There would be winners and losers and things like that. At this point I think the scientific view is pretty clear that we are all – the biggest losers of course are those that have done the least to contribute to this problem, but live in those place in the developing world that are most exquisitely vulnerable to these changes. And they are already seeing that on a gross level. In May, we had the second deadliest heat wave in Indian history, and in June we had the deadliest heat wave in Pakistani history, these are just the kinds of things happening now at some place in the world every day.

Chris Martenson: So Bill, I called this a climate change movement in the opening piece, is that really the right word?As I listen to you talk, it’s clear that the scope and the scale of what’s happening is truly global. The West Larson ice sheet going down is many gigatons of ice in movement. And yet we find that places like India are saying that it’s their turn at developing and they need to burn coal to get electrification to their people, that’s what they’re going to do. Is "movement" the right word or what is it that we’re really needing to do and what are we facing here?

Bill McKibben: Well the first thing I'd say is differentiate between governments and people. There is a strong movement in India to keep them from digging up their coal and burning it, and it’s coming from Indians. And there’s a strong move to push them in the direction of going quickly to renewable energy. It seems to be maybe starting to work. Earlier this month, Adani, the great billionaire coal entrepreneur of India began to hint that they were going to scrap their plans for building the largest coalmine on earth in Queensland, in Australia, primarily for export to India. So things are starting to shift even there. That exemplifies I think, the kind of movement that has emerged around the world. It’s a global fossil fuel resistance I think you might say, active everywhere.

So climate scientists in the US and elsewhere have brought to light, say, the danger posed by that huge coal mine in the Gallery Basin in Australia. We’ve worked with people around the world to make sure that no banks agree to finance that plan. Most of the world’s big banks have announced they won’t. Meanwhile, out of the 350.org crew from the Pacific Islands that are threatened by the rise of the oceans launched canoes from 12 nations last fall and took them to New Castle in Australia, they have the biggest court in the world and blockaded the coal ships for a day. That’s right before the Queensland election that turned out that conservative government was backing this coalmine plan.

Meanwhile our friends in India are hard at work drawing attention not only to climate change, but to the fact that fossil fuel combustion is killing millions of people every year through what’s now the worst air pollution in the world. So we get some sense of how this sprawling fossil fuel resistance works, and it is good that it works that way because the fossil fuel industry itself is spread out in the same kind of sprawling manner.

Chris Martenson: Excellent, and this gets right to what I consider the heart of the matter. We study energy quite a lot at Peak Prosperity, and particularly the role of energy in feeding us and giving us the lifestyles that people think we deserve and are accustomed to, and you are familiar with this data as well. Anywhere from ten to maybe nineteen calories of fossil fuels are sort of embedded and subsidized in a single calorie of food. So we are literally eating fossil fuels in one respect.

What I’m wondering is, if I could get your comments on a quote I have here. Maybe you’re familiar with it, it is from Terry Leahy in an article titled “Checkmate, why Capitalism Cannot Survive Global Warming.” And the quote is “There is nothing about the switch to green energy that remotely resembles—” and I have to paraphrase here, “—the rise of increasing productivity and economies of scale that followed globalization. It’s all about substituting cheap ways of producing useful energy with more expensive ways of producing the same energy. It is a retooling to a lower level of productivity, and to a permanent cap on energy production. It is this simple fact that explains why the capitalist class is dragging its heels on this issue in a way that threatens our future survival.” And so what I want to get at here is, is there a fundamental disconnect between capitalism, or what we call capitalism, and the mandates of responding to climate change?

Bill McKibben: I don’t know, I mean I don’t really know exactly what one means. It’s clear to me that we’re going to have markets going on into the future, and it’s clear to me that the kind of alternatives that people have advanced in the past are kind of like collective planning that you saw in the Soviet Union or something weren't very good models for dealing with where we are. It is also true that this kind of laissez faire capitalism is not doing the job. The temperature is going up and up and up. So my guess is that we’re going to see a rise of distributed energy—solar and wind being the best examples. But that is going to have interesting effects in all kinds of ways, one of which is a more democratic economy than the one we have now, because it won’t be as dependent as those people in those places who happen to sit on top of coal, and oil and gas. It is a different world when we can meet most of our needs for energy close to home.

You can see some of the same things starting to happen with food as the rise of the local food movement in the last 20 years gets underway. You know, the energy future we’re hoping for, I think, is a kind of farmer’s market in electrons—millions of solar rooftops connected to each other in a grid, for instance. For that, we have that right here on the internet that we’re using to talk to each other. Thirty years ago the information system looked a lot like the energy system does now. A few big providers pushing stuff out at us who just had to kind of take it. The same way that a few big power plants now. But that’s not how our information system works anymore, we’re all both producers and consumers. And it shouldn’t be how our energy system works either.

Chris Martenson: Now leaving aside transportation fuels, which is a whole topic, I’m very interested in the role that alternative energies can play, and here is my view on this, Bill: I have solar thermal on my roof. It was one of the first things I put in, because it’s just a no brainer. The sun heats stuff up beautifully. And so getting hot water from the sun—that is something that, whenever I travel, I look to see who else is doing it. Because in the United States, it’s pretty rare; far less than 1% of the rooftops. But you go to some countries and they’re everywhere. It just makes good sense. So what I’m getting at here is, for me, solar thermal technology—it’s not sexy, it’s 1970’s, it’s a bunch of pipes and an empty black box on your roof with fluid running through it, and a little circulating pump, that’s it. It makes economic sense. If you care about not burning fossil fuels to heat water, it makes sense on that environmental front. It makes sense if you like local jobs. It makes sense on every front I can find, and we still don’t do it. Isn’t that really at the heart of this battle is that there are things we could do, but we’re not for some reason. And I’m wondering what your views are on why not.

Bill McKibben: Sure, I’ve been writing about solar thermal for a long time, I agree with you, it’s an obvious choice. We need to get in place, and I think we’re finally starting to, some of the things like the financing and the coordination and stuff to make these things easier for people to do. That’s what’s happening in these countries that have taken full advantage of them. I remember interviewing the Rong Wen, who runs the biggest – the Chinese solar thermal companies, became a billionaire several times over. And he was a good engineer, but as he said, the real innovation they had was the kind of marketing of these things. Figuring out how to get them up on people’s houses for no money down and so on and so forth. We are beginning to see those models start to emerge finally in this country. The leasing models for solar PV seem to be having a real impact in terms of spreading _____[00:16:19] at a different amplitude than we’ve seen before. But it's those what they call the soft costs that are at least as difficult to deal with as the engineering.

Chris Martenson: And if we had those financing models I agree, that would be part of it. To me it’s almost like we need a new narrative first. So people don't do it, primarily because other people aren’t doing it yet, or something, or there’s a narrative that’s been running since probably February 2013—I’ve been watching this narrative I think put out by the American Petroleum institute that the United States has 100’s of years of natural gas and we're the new Saudi Arabia and all of that. So that, to me, serves to blunt any people’s sense of urgency or need to do something different.

I’d like to turn now to maybe what are we up against here, and who really is – who has a dog in this fight. Because I’ll tell you, I’m sure you know this way better than me, but the people who want to see that we continue to frack and drill our way to something, some sort of future, have been running a very, very well-funded campaign, at least as far as I’ve noticed.

Bill McKibben: Yeah, and well look, the fossil fuel industry is the richest industry on earth. You know, I just had a piece in the New Yorker last week, explaining how they’re working hard to keep solar stuff from happening, utility by utility. You know, there’s a lot of dark money flowing into trying to blunt the rise of solar. This is true. No use whining about it, what we need to do is organize. We’ll never outspend the fossil fuel industry. We have other currencies we can work in, and those are the currencies of movements: passion, spirit, creativity. So that’s what we try to do, that’s why we put people in the streets, that’s why we go to jail, that’s why we do those kinds of things.

Chris Martenson: Well let’s talk about those actions then, because I’m very interested in what it takes to create a movement and what it takes to really affect change. And I’ll let out my personal bias or cynicism in this is that the pace and the scale of the changes I see coming are overwhelming our ability to organize. That’s how I feel about it. Perhaps that’s because I’m not as tightly enmeshed in it. But that’s what I see coming, economically, on the energy front, environmentally, all of that. It’s really fast and powerful.

So how do we effectively mobilize? What do you think that the halls of power really are listening to at this point in time? And again, noting that every single change to status quo in our country’s history was brought kicking and screaming from the outside in, right? Everything, labor rights, women’s rights, civil rights, you name it. So where are we in this large story of let’s say of altering the status quo in this country? Are things easier, harder or what works?

Bill McKibben: So normally politicians listen to money, on any given day, left to its own devices, that’s what wins. But then in rare cases, people do, as you say, rise up and we see examples of it, even in the news the last couple weeks. The gay marriage movement did such a good job that now most sane politicians have gone from being against it to being for it. Not because they changed their minds about the issue, but because the political calculus changed—because there was enough of a movement that it changed the zeitgeist. What activists really work for is to change the zeitgeist, and there are lots of ways of doing that. One of the things that’s helping change the zeitgeist is the fact that the cost of renewable energy is plummeting downward, and that’s good news. All credit it to the engineers. Another thing that’s happening is that resistance to every new fossil fuel plan, from Keystone Pipeline to fracking, to coal mines, to coal export, terminals, to whatever is making _____[00:20:35]. We’re imposing with our bodies some of the carbon tax that we can’t impose legislatively because of the power of the fossil fuel industry. There is this huge fight around divestment that’s beginning to sap the ability of the fossil fuel industry to raise new capital. It's all helping. Whether or not it will happen in time, I don't know. Because, as you are aware, with climate change this is not a static target. It’s really the first social movement where we’ve absolutely had to get our goal accomplished in short order. And if we can’t, then it becomes moot.

Chris Martenson: Well it does become moot, and there are a number of people out there, scientists among them, who have said we’ve already lost the battle. Climate change is – I mean certainly we’ve lost the one degree, and I think two degrees is baked in the cake, but the question now I guess is, we’re fighting how much beyond that we go. Is that accurate?

Bill McKibben: Well sure it’s… We're on track—I mean, even if we do everything right at this point, it’s going to be hard to stop the rise of temperature below two degrees, although God knows we’re going to try. But at the moment we’ll push – if you follow the business plans of the fossil fuel industry, they’ve got enough carbon in their reserves to double that, triple that. So left to their own devices, that’s what will happen. So that’s our job is to bring them to heel. And it's not an easy one, they’ve got tons of money, we may not be able to do it. But the good news is, a movement has really arisen, and it’s in the streets more and more and more.

Chris Martenson: Well, I want to talk about where that movement begins. One of the things that we advocate very heavily at Peak Prosperity is that we have to become the change we wish to see. And for me, that means understanding, analyzing my energy use, and then figuring out how to dial it back. And it takes effort, and it’s not as easy as just turning on light switches and filling up fuel and all of that. What I’m interested in, is your views on – let’s assume that, hypothetically, tonight, the world gets complete religion on climate change and says "wow, we have to treat this with real seriousness, I don’t know what – we’re going to dedicate our entire military budgets poured over this direction." It will be like a Manhattan Project times an Apollo Project, times a number. We get serious about it. What would that really imply? What would we do if we were serious?

Bill McKibben: Well, we’d treat it the way we did during World War II, we would mobilize the world's industrial might to get it done. We’d take every tool we could—like a serious and rising price on carbon—to make that happen. The tools really are less in question than the motivation to get there. I mean every economist for 25 years has said we need a price on carbon. We know how to do it. People talked a lot about the fee and dividend plans and things like that. But all of this is, you know, just talk, until there’s the political will to make it happen, that’s what we’ve got to, I think that’s job one. That's why we organize the way we do.

My house is covered with solar panels, and I drove the first hybrid electric Ford in Vermont and on and on and on. I try not to fool myself with that’s how we’re going to win this fight. Global warming is a structural and systemic issue, that’s where it comes from, the structures and systems. So changing those is what’s key. As individuals, we’re relatively powerless against climate change. That’s why the most important thing an individual can do is not be an individual, which means joining with other people in this battle.

Chris Martenson: All right, and in this joining, are you thinking of a movement where we’re trying to affect political change and more importantly I guess is that, political change follows the social change. So where are we on that front? What have you found that really works to help sway people towards this new future that we’d like to have?

Bill McKibben: People move for different reasons and in different ways. The rise of the solar panel as a workable technology is a good thing because everyone likes solar panels, left, right, and center. There is a big coalition emerging in this country of Tea Party activists and Sierra Club members working together to make it easy for people to put solar on their roof. Other people understand—and increasingly this is true of faith groups and things—understand the social justice dimensions of this work, and they’re motivated by a desire to help people out of the single most impoverishing thing probably ever done which is change the climate in which their daily stability depends.

Other people really are motivated by thinking about the future. This is the first truly intergenerational problem we’ve run up against and so it’s causing new ways of ethical reasoning and consideration. There’s so many kind of routes into this work. Others just think "hey, this is the next great economic tool we’ve got; I want the jobs that come from putting solar panels on the roof of everything that faces south in the United States."

Chris Martenson: When I look at the data, grossly speaking here, about a quarter of our energy use is for electricity. We can solve that in many of the ways with the alternative energies that you’re talking about. About a quarter is moving ourselves around; it goes into our gas tanks. And about half is actually in buildings themselves and their heating and cooling costs over time. And so when I look at that, I note that still the houses that are sort of being slapped up around my neighborhood are, for the most part, being done with what I’ll call "old school." Some of them have maybe two by six construction, but they’re still not doing our 40/60 kind of construction. And it seems to me like, when we talk about the jobs and the opportunities, there’s going to be a huge set of opportunities if we get serious—when we get serious—about this, just in doing the simple things like reinsulating or when we do build, building with much higher degrees of air tightness and insulating quality and all of that.

Bill McKibben: This is the point of this piece I had in the New Yorker at the end of June. You’re absolutely right, I mean the housing stock of this country is mostly older and it needs to be fixed. And that’s good news, because no one’s going to put their house on a boat and send it to China to get it insulated. That’s work that has to be done here close to home, and it’s good work and we can do it. The question is whether we’ll involve the series of kind of institutions and practices to really make it possible. I think those have more to do with financing than anything else. And it should be possible. Look, you can estimate pretty well how much money someone’s going to save from putting in good insulation and good windows and whatever else. That should provide the capital flow to make it possible to do this sort of work, and increasingly people are getting more sophisticated about how to bundle those projects in ways that make them easier to attract financing and so forth.

Chris Martenson: You know it’s interesting, I nose around in real estate all the time, just looking. I don’t remember running across a real estate website that among all the things that it will list, your cost of ownership, seeing a line in there that says here’s your monthly heating and cooling cost. I mean you can ask for and get that information I guess, but it’s not yet front and center. Like when somebody’s deciding, "hey I’m going to buy something I might own for 30 years, tell me what it’s going to run me," and you can run through the usual stuff, what’s your taxes and your insurance and things like that. But the heating and cooling costs, it turns out for commercial buildings, can be upwards of 70% of their total lifespan cost, and still I don’t really see that being that front and center.

Bill McKibben: It should be, but that number, that 70% number is a good reminder of just how much money there’s going to be to be saved. And the money that we can save on energy is what will finance this revolution, right?

Chris Martenson: Uh-huh. So fantastic. What I love is there’s lots of things that can be done, and what I’m interested in then is—so what would you suggest listeners to this, what should they be doing right now?

Bill McKibben: Well I mean, working close to home, that’s a good thing to be doing, on your own home, but in your community. We’re all sort of responsible for that. But you’ve got to save some energy to work at the national and global level too, because it’s the structures and systems in which we’re embedded that make the choices so much more constrained close to home. So, hook up with an outfit like 350.org or the Sierra Club or whoever it is that is working hard—NRDC, Greenpeace—that is working on a national/international level to try and take on the roots of this problem as well. And those things coexist rather nicely I think. It’s why we set up 350.org the way we have, as a kind of loose, sprawling coalition of people all over the world. And we work in every country except North Korea, and we can tell you, that issues overlap around the planet.

Chris Martenson: And how many people would you guess are involved in that?

Bill McKibben: I have no good idea.

Chris Martenson: All right.

Bill McKibben: Millions and millions upon millions.

Chris Martenson: Great, so it’s a good, big organization. I want to thank you so much for your time today. I’m wondering if you could please tell our listeners about any important events coming up they should know about or writings of yours, where they would find those, and your website.

Bill McKibben: Oh well you can find my books in the library, and there’s a list of them at BillMcKibben.com. But the real place to go is 350.org, and once you sign up, just give them your name and they'll keep you well posted on everything that’s going on in your community, in your nation, and on this particular planet where we happen to live as we’re dealing with this biggest crisis that we’ve ever had.

Chris Martenson: And it's a big crisis with lots of things that we can and should be doing that make all kinds of sense, we just have to change how we approach things, right?

Bill McKibben: Yes, that’s true, but we also have to work hard on human solidarity in ways that we haven’t in the past, because we have a great obligation and debt to the rest of the planet who we put in peril with our couple of centuries of burning fossil fuel. So you’ve got to think about others too, you know. Self-interest is a good motivator, but I was awfully glad to see the Pope raise the most important stakes in all of this, earlier this spring.

Chris Martenson: Oh wasn’t that fantastic, his encyclical was just wonderful. I am not religious and I’m not Catholic but this Pope has really caught my attention, I really admire him tremendously at this stage.

Bill McKibben: That makes two of us.

Chris Martenson: Again, thank you so much for your time today and all the best and we will certainly be doing our part to figure out what this new narrative is. Because it is time for a new story. Humans have clearly outlived the past story, which was we are going to grow into every crevice of the planet. Great. Did it. The question is: Now what? Thank you so much for your work in helping to answer that question.

Bill McKibben: Back at you. You guys do great work and we're really grateful for it. Take care, man.

Chris Martenson: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Bill McKibben: Bye.

About the guest

Bill  McKibben

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books. He is a founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty  thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.  

The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”   

A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of Books,National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, where he spends as much time as possible outdoors . In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat— Megophthalmidia mckibbeni--in his honor.

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33 Comments

mathewthomas999's picture
mathewthomas999
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 5 2015
Posts: 1
the answer is nuclear power

The only credible energy alternative to hydrocarbons is nuclear power.   McKibben himself is now (finally) coming to this realization.   Solar, wind and other "renewables" simply cannot generate the necessary energy density per capita.   More energy, not less, is necessary for not only next generation personal technology devices, but also large scale energy systems such as transportation, water, etc.

A properly functioning human race will only become more energy dense, not less.   Hydrocarbons will not be able to keep up with human development.   India, China, Russia and South American countries are aggressively investing in new nuclear power plants.    China has published plans for helium-3 mining from the moon's surface.   Even Saudi Arabia is calling for the development of nuclear energy plants, looking to the future.  Nuclear energy, especially new technologies such as thorium reactors, are the best solution to hydrocarbon polllution.  

Lastly, McKibben's comment to think of "government" as separate from "people" sounds ghoulishly Libertarian.  

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The way forward.

My case is made for me. (Much less ego, Arthur) 

Start again.  

It is becoming very clear that this is an exponential problem that won't have a satisfactory outcome on a finite planet. Our kids need us to man up and start finding real solutions,  and not excuses. 

Here is the plan. 

Divert resources from fighting pretend enemies into Manhatten type efforts on many fronts.  

We can walk and chew gum, but we need to divert resources.  The biggest resource will be young,  flexible rebellious  minds. Minds that do not accept received wisdom. They will be the diamond tipped tools in our toolkit. 

Here are a list of worthy projects to start on.

  • A new set of ideals and philosophies.
  • The manipulation of time and space. We need to escape this gravity well. 
  • Artificial intelligence.  We will need partners in this endeavour. Wet ware is amazing, but frail. (I have a hunch that Quantum computing,  evolutionary programing and optical switching will be a winning combination)
  • Humility in the face of Chaos. No, Gladys. It is not possible to control every parameter.  Life on whatever vessel you choose to travel is beyond your control. It can and should be guided, but forget about control.

Note to Mark.

Biodome 2 Never failed. It was vandalised. Dropping the ball after two attempts should give any student a failing grade. Just not good enough.

On April 1, 1994 a severe dispute within the management team led to the ousting of the on-site management by federal marshals serving a restraining order, leaving management of the mission to the Bannon & Co. team from Beverly Hills, California.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2
Hardly a Stirling Effort.
 
Please feel free to address the solution to the problem of infinite growth on a finite planet, and add your list of pivotal needs that have to be addressed. I cannot do all thinking for you. It is your problem Own it.
 
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mckibben is absolutely correct
mathewthomas999 wrote:

Lastly, McKibben's comment to think of "government" as separate from "people" sounds ghoulishly Libertarian.  

ghoulishly libertarian? what a bizarre thing to say. libertarians are about liberty, about us having the freedom to live our lives without oppression by others, it is not ghoulish at all, it is liberating, it is about breaking the chains of bondage that keep humanity oppressed.

the adjective "ghoulish" would be more appropriate to apply to apologists of the state, who view human beings as property of their governments, like cattle; not as sentient, self-determining beings who should be free to live their lives as they choose.

government is, absolutely, separate from the people. this is quite obvious. government mandate is enforced by men with badges and guns. if government really represented the will of the people, it would not need to be imposed on people by threat of violence.

i have never agreed to accept the government's laws, they are imposed upon me by force, from an armed gang of violent thugs, the same mafia which engages in massive rampant financial fraud that plunders the wealth of the people, that engages in unjust, unnecessary murderous wars of aggression in other countries that have never attacked us.

human beings have come a long way - the scourge of outright slavery has for the most part vanished over the last few centuries. hopefully within the next few centuries, the scourge of government will vanish as well, and be realized as an unnecessary barbaric relic of a bygone era.

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"Properly Functioning"
mathewthomas999 wrote:

A properly functioning human race will only become more energy dense, not less.  

What does this sentence mean?

Better check the depth setting on your downriggers.

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Ouch!

I was following along, quite happily until the last 60 seconds. Popish platitudes have little credibility when they are accompanied by the refusal to address birth control and population. If Mr. McKibben wants buy in by the populous and the opinion leaders/politicos, we need to be realistic about our human footprint. The general discussions from this website are bang on most of the time and foster greater awareness.GREAT! Unfortunately, it only takes one "reassuring lie" to counter an "inconvenient truth". To assume nuclear, fossil, or other mechanical conversion technologies will solve our human induced catastrophe, is to ignore the laws of thermodynamics and continue the "reassuring lie".

When I review your past podcasts, they're are superb examples of raising awareness. But let us be careful not to cross purposes. Time to review Nate Hagens slant on things. Employing slaves, energy slaves or otherwise, removes the onus on us to do something. Where I live, 40 pounds of coal is burned daily just so I can have 24/7 power. As I said, Ouch!

Great podcast, just axe the last 60 seconds.

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Libertarianism, Capitalism and Democracy

I have worshipped at the alter of the democracy/capitalism most of my life.  It's been hard for me to admit that the gods I have bowed to have been false.

Seeing the end result of years of "freedom" has finally sunk in.  

I know of no better government/economic system that the one we have now.  Never the less, our current system is producing catastrophic results.  Greed, corruption, sloth and ignorance run rampant through our society and it's literally killing us.

Libertarianism is merely another party within an already failing political system.  There is nothing to say it will not wind up like our current two primary parties.

To find a solution that works, we need a new political system, not a new political party.

Individual freedom includes the unrestricted ability to act in a manner that is individually satisfying while at the same time destructive to the people who share the planet.  

One example I can't get out of my mind is the 65 year old woman in Europe who recently gave birth to quadruplets, bringing her child count up to 17.  Her youngest child expressed a desire for a younger sibling, so the woman chose to take advantage of fertility measures.  Think about it.  When the quadruplets are 15, their mother will be 80.  Second, do you actually think a 65 year old mother and possibly her spouse are honestly providing for 17 children by growing enough food and generating enough energy, or are they acquiring the needed food, energy and resources by more effectively manipulating the system than their competitors?

That's largely what I consider when I think about personal freedom these days. 

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"Freedom without responsibility means nothing"

Not sure quite where the quote originated, but it's one of those universal truths, IMO. 

Having 17 kids in this day and age is completely irresponsible.  <Edit: What is the responsible number of kids we should consider having moving forward? 2? 1? None for a while?>

LesPhelps wrote:

"Individual freedom includes the unrestricted ability to act in a manner that is individually satisfying while at the same time destructive to the people who share the planet."

How do we get people to voluntarily accept a reduced forward reproductive rate without relying on "government" (which history has repeatedly shown will ultimately resort to jackboots et al?). Worldwide?

Incentives.

What are our primary incentives? What is our money?

Our money is nothing more than a claim on a future that no longer exists.

Except in our minds.

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I don't think population

I don't think population growth is a problem anymore. The western world's birth rate would take us into negative territory and the way the economic authorities counter this to promote their version of economic "growth" is to bring in tons of immigrants from the rest of the world which still has a growing population and billions of people just bursting to get out and move into our wonderful societies (sarc), many of which find that the grass isn't necessarily greener over here. The odd selfish person who has more than their fair share of kids is more than outweighed by couples with only 1 or 2 kids. Now, even the "third world's" growth rate is beginning to slow towards western rates, although they do have very high populations as a result of all their previous growth.

The problem is no longer population growth, it is growth of consumption and ecological footprint. Almost all leaders believe it is a noble goal to bring the "third world" up to previous western standards of living. Putting moral arguments aside regarding how westerners can criticize third worlders for wanting to live like westerners do (did), the fact remains that this will not be possible, and we are seeing the results as the western world is losing its purchasing power as the third world gains it. Economic growth is a zero sum game on a finite planet that is actually experiencing declining gross ecological production despite intensive modern agriculture. But deeper than this, the drive to modernize the third world reveals that the economic authorities are still clueless about where our wealth comes from and the limitations the environment places on our consumption.

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Crash the Grid

So it would seem that we are now at the point were an almost total collapse of the global marine ecosystems is baked in the cake.  There is enough carbon in the atmosphere now to kill everything in the oceans more sophisticated then a jellyfish within 100 years.  Sucks to be a whale, or a shark, or a coral polyp.  It sounds like the only hope to preserve terrestrial vertebrates is to stop fossil carbon emissions almost completely, very, very soon.  An abrupt end to burning fossil carbon fuel will result in a large fraction of the human race dying rather abruptly.  The substantial fraction of the human race that currently subsists burning renewable carbon fuel such as twigs and dung, however, might have a fighting chance of survival.  There is a popular notion among fossil carbon burners that the renewable, sustainable, subsistence carbon burning lifestyle is repugnant.  

As, it would seem, the extinction of the human race is inevitable, one way or another, perhaps the last, greatest, hope of humanity is not to seed the solar system with "wet ware" (with a nod to Arthur), but with intelligent, self replicating machines.  Perhaps as Trilobites gave way to fish, gave way to amphibians, gave way to reptiles, gave way to us, it is time for us to give way to what ever comes next.  Perhaps, in some distant future, some Greater Thing will look back on us with the same incredulity that we look back on the self replicating molecules that arose around some long lost geothermal vent in a primordial ocean eons ago.  Perhaps, recognizing our inevitable mortality, we should keep the "petal to the metal" in an effort to insure that some future organism will learn to adapt to the harsh extra terrestrial environment the way life before us has learned to adapt to the brutal ultra violet radiation of the oceans surface or the crushing lack of water on land.  Perhaps the idea that living in little climate controlled boxes eating preprocessed food that we reheat with the touch of a button is the culmination of evolution is a little self centered and naive.

Musings from the edge of the abyss,

John G.

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re Population

I refer you to my link on environmental issues disrupting fertility.

http://www.peakprosperity.com/comment/181962#comment-181962

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Mark_BC wrote: I don't think
Mark_BC wrote:

I don't think population growth is a problem anymore.

The currently reported World population growth rate is 1.14%.

A few years back I did the math on population growth at the then current growth rate of 1.3%.  Using modified assumptions from the Drake equations, I calculated that, at 1.3% growth, we would overpopulated the Milky Way Galaxy in less than 2,500 years.  Don't underestimate exponential growth, even at "low" levels.

Second, look around you.  Look closely.  The Earth is not doing at all well with 7+ billion.  A sustainable population is likely closer to 2 billion than 7 billion.  Any growth at this point is simply another nail in the coffin lid.

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LesPhelps wrote:The
LesPhelps wrote:

The currently reported World population growth rate is 1.14%.

A few years back I did the math on population growth at the then current growth rate of 1.3%.  Using modified assumptions from the Drake equations, I calculated that, at 1.3% growth, we would overpopulated the Milky Way Galaxy in less than 2,500 years.  Don't underestimate exponential growth, even at "low" levels.

Second, look around you.  Look closely.  The Earth is not doing at all well with 7+ billion.  A sustainable population is likely closer to 2 billion than 7 billion.  Any growth at this point is simply another nail in the coffin lid.

But you just admitted that population growth rate is going down, so it's not exponential. I'm not sure when it will turn negative but probably not too far in the future.Hans Rosling has a good talk and visuals showing how population growth is dropping. He seems to paint a rosy picture that everything in the future will be OK, which I disagree with, but I agree with his population growth demographic projections. They may be thrown off by future wars or famines, who knows.

I don't disagree that population is too high and we should be doing everything to reduce and reverse growth rate, however, the elephant in the closet is growth of per capita consumption in the developing world that dwarfs population growth. This is where the efforts should be mostly directed against because it is not possible for the whole world to live like westerners and by trying to achieve this, economic authorities are dooming us all. Instead we should be trying to improve peoples' lives without using western style development, to do things smarter, not bigger, for example promoting composting toilets instead of complicated sewage systems, local economic development and use of bicycles instead of the car centric urban culture that China has adopted, and to promote more vegetarian-like diets.

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I never understood the

I never understood the assertion that the oceans are going to die with rising CO2 concentrations and acidification. CO2 has been generally going down over the Earth's history and it was only 20 million years ago that it was this high, and a hundred million years ago it was way higher, so this is certainly nothing unprecendented in Earth's history. Shellfish have been around for a long time and corals are some of the oldest animals in the world so why it is that they won't be able to build skeletons now, when they had no problem doing this historically with much higher CO2 concs, I'm not sure.

Will global aquatic ecosystems be disrupted and possibly crash as a result of acidification, in combination with our pollution and overfishing impacts? Probably, yes. But are the oceans going to die? No.

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"MaMa Nature"...

is party to all our deals, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice, than we do."  Wendell Berry

I'm not worried about her getting by, I'm worried about me, personally, raising her ire. The Robinson hydrocarbon foot print continues to shrink.

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Rate of change important

Great podcast.  Thanks, Chris and Bill!

Mark,

I think the reason John and others (including me) think that there will be a major collapse of the ocean food web is because many of the calcareous organisms at the base of the food chain - esp. photosynthetic coccolithophores and other wee beasties - will not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive the rapidly changing ocean pH.  

There are few instances in geologic time when the composition of the atmosphere changed so rapidly, so even if shell-bearing organisms were able to produce shells at much higher CO2 levels (which I would assume equaled lower pH levels, but there may be a feedback I'm unaware of) in another epoch or era, the organisms would have had a chance to adapt more slowly to the change in most cases (meteorites aside).  Does this sound plausible?

Cheers,

Hugh

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Didn't the Permian extinction have such acidification?

I suspect that if you look at the geologic record, you will find that the Permian Extinction had such acidification. I suspect, further, that you wild find that it was at this time that such creatures as the soft squid and octopus developed from previously shelled creatures.

When you have such a great cataclism, I expect that creatures don't survive as long; creatures that manage to mate before dying will pass on juvenile characteristics, but the adult characteristics will be unimportant. Therefore, those genes will be open to modification: dinosaurs can develop birds, ammonites can develop to squids, and so on.

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Still exponential
Mark_BC wrote:

But you just admitted that population growth rate is going down, so it's not exponential.

"Exponential growth occurs when the growth rate of the value of a mathematical function is proportional to the function's current value."

The rate of growth has declined slightly.  This lengthens the doubling time somewhat, but it is still exponential growth.  The key difference is that the base is changing over time.  That is what distinguishes exponential growth.  10 years ago, it might have been 1.5% growth on 6.5 billion.  Today it may be 1.1% growth on 7.1 billion.

There are a number of good explanations of exponential growth.  The one in the crash course is decent.  Personally, I prefer Albert Bartlett's explanation best.

 

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I disagree that it is exponential

An exponential growth curve is impossible: it implies unlimited resources. what we have here is a different curve that at some domains appears exponential, but at other domains clearly is not.

That is not to argue that we are at a crisis point -- we are, and the entire Peak Prosperity website is based on that point. However, I think we might do better to identify what kind of a curve we really are on: is it an exponential, as claimed? Or an S curve? An arc-tangent? is it a bell curve? Or a stepped bell curve?

Maybe it's all elliott waves.

The better we can identify the maths, the better we can predict, falsify, and then discover what is really driving all this.

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Maybe you misunderstand freedom

Maybe freedom is not anarchy, because using freedom in ways that destroys later freedom is not self-consistent.

Maybe the Catholic Church's definition of freedom might be slightly better: (clipped from a web blog):

" ... many respected Catholic apologists define freedom not as the ability to d whatever one wants in life (whih is how most would define it), but rather as the ability to do what one ought to do. True freedom removes the roadblocks to doing good, and thus the person is free to do what he should."

In other words, freedom consists in having a pleurality of right paths open.

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Notes from the dialogue.

Apologies, insufficient references.

  • There is a war in the ocean between pelagic fish and jellyfish. Jellyfish eat juvenile pelagic fish and adult fish eat jellyfish.  (Moon fish,  turtles). Increasing the acidity tilts the balance in favour of the jellyfish. Jellyfish require greater culinary skill to prepare for the banquet..
  • A small reservoir of some threatened species surviving in a special environment is all that is necessary to re-seed the planet, weakening the position that acidification could not have occurred otherwise calcareous organisms would not have survived. 
  • Is it possible to identify a Point of Inflection in the population growth curves? Max Roser has it peaking in about 50 years.I think that he has not given enough weight to the effects of environmental pollution on fecundity. (See my reference above).

http://ourworldindata.org/data/population-growth-vital-statistics/world-population-growth/ 

  • Would it not be in our interest to question the value of the Calvinistic virtue of Industry? I think that our survival would be aided by elevating Idleness.  After all, bears hibernate in times of scarcity. Mental effort could Substitute for much physical effort for those unable to escape the iron grip of their "genes" (morphic fields.) After all if you are in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
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the human bacteria
Mark_BC wrote:

I don't think population growth is a problem anymore.

i guess that depends on how one would define the word "problem". if bacteria in a petri dish are growing exponentially until food supply is exhausted and then they rapidly collapse in number, is that a problem? or is that merely the self correcting function of nature?

are we any different from those bacteria?

 

Michael_Rudmin wrote:

Maybe freedom is not anarchy, because using freedom in ways that destroys later freedom is not self-consistent.

what do you mean by using freedom in ways that destroys later freedom - can you give an example?

it sounds like perhaps what you might be referring to, is one making poor choices that reduce one's options later on...but this is just a guess. if that's indeed what you mean, then the obvious solution is, don't make poor choices. and making that choice voluntarily is highly preferable to having a man pointing a gun at one's head, saying, "don't choose option B".

the word "anarchy" comes from the greek anarkhos: an- ‘without’ + arkhos ‘ruler.’

anarchy merely means that one is not ruled over by others.

in my personal experience, anarchists are those who have a great deal of respect for their fellow man, and follow the NAP (non-aggression principle).

 

Michael_Rudmin wrote:

In other words, freedom consists in having a pleurality of right paths open.

freedom consists in having all paths open.

wisdom consists in choosing what is the right path for oneself, consistent with one's conscience, knowledge, and belief system.

 

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i vote for the "no-party" party
LesPhelps wrote:

Libertarianism is merely another party within an already failing political system.  There is nothing to say it will not wind up like our current two primary parties.

quite true, les. that's why libertarianism/minarchism, as well-intentioned as it is, is a mistake. saying you strive for small government is like saying you want just a little bit of cancer. cancer, by its nature, spreads to consume and destroy its host, just like government does over time. the only solution is to cut it out entirely.

LesPhelps wrote:

To find a solution that works, we need a new political system, not a new political party.

i don't need any political system at all. if you feel that you need some sort of political system, by all means, go ahead. just don't impose it on other people who don't want to be involved with it.

 

LesPhelps wrote:

Second, do you actually think a 65 year old mother and possibly her spouse are honestly providing for 17 children by growing enough food and generating enough energy, or are they acquiring the needed food, energy and resources by more effectively manipulating the system than their competitors?

that's a great point, les.

i agree with you that this person's actions are pretty outrageous.

now, as far as this "system" they are manipulating - what do you suppose it consists of? while i'm not familiar with the individuals in question, i would suspect that it may be welfare handouts by the government which subsidizes people to have copious amounts of children. it's odd that you would point to too much liberty as being the culprit here. it is likely, in fact, the opposite of liberty - government - that is the culprit; it frequently acts in ways that creates perverse incentives for people, and destroys any personal responsibility or consequences for one's actions.

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HughK wrote: There are few
HughK wrote:

 

There are few instances in geologic time when the composition of the atmosphere changed so rapidly, so even if shell-bearing organisms were able to produce shells at much higher CO2 levels (which I would assume equaled lower pH levels, but there may be a feedback I'm unaware of) in another epoch or era, the organisms would have had a chance to adapt more slowly to the change in most cases (meteorites aside).  Does this sound plausible?

That may be correct. I used to work in aquariums (well I still do) and one job I had was to build the life support system for a 15,000 litre live coral tank. At the heart of the system was a calcium reactor which injected pure CO2 into a limestone chamber to lower the pH and dissolve the limestone and replace the calcium carbonate which the corals were removing via their growth. So in this case we were directly injecting CO2 at rates far higher than today's anthropogenic environmental contributions. The pH coming out of this unit was around 6 or something I believe, and at night when photosynthesis was off the overall tank pH dropped to 7.8. So I do not believe that pH itself is really very important in determining shellfish's ability to build skeletons, what is more important is carbonate hardness. Alongside this lower pH the water had a higher carbonate hardness, which was the whole point of the calcium reactor. So, as you say, maybe the problem out in the real environment is that the change may be too fast and carbonate hardness may not have enough time to find a balance with CO2.

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Famous Havard lawyer gives a fascinating lecture

Great discussion everyone. Arthur this is along the lines of your comment.

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Animal Ag Emissons

Has this topic been discussed here? I do find it interesting that during this podcast the industrial cattle industry wasn't brought up. It seems that the amount of environmental destruction that goes into factory farm beef plays a big role in this discussion. I really liked this documentary but don't necessarily agree with what they propose. I resonate with what Joel Salatin describes as carbon sequestration fertilization. http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/

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Very inspiring InfiniteSelf

Get popcorn, beverage go to the loo, settle down for good information. 

Many points for discussion.

And hope. 

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Thanks infinite self

That is a powerful presentation.  I have never seen anyone tie together our scientific, spiritual, intellectual and ethical worlds into such a coherent call to guide our quest for leaving the planet liveable not only physically but also in the sense of evolving toward a higher level of awareness.

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Fascinating Lecture

Concur - very interesting and hopeful discussion and topic.  

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Might be a hard sell

I can see it now.  "Hi, I'm the Pope, leader of the Catholic Church.  Yes, the bodily ascension, Holy Crucade, Galileo house arrest, inquisition, subjugation of women, pedifile priest, Catholic Church.  Let's all get together and sit on pillows and chant and center ourselves and balance our chakras and visualize world peace and commune with aliens through The Force (turns out the UFO crash sites in the desert are real and the Air Force was lying to us the whole time, go figger).  No, seriously".

Oops, sorry.  Being a nasty, cynical, doomer asshole again.  OK, check, center, breath, ooooommmm, Hail Mary (Mother Gaia), full of grace... Dig it, back on track.

If the universe is as full of life as top soil is with bacteria (which seems likely) and intelligent extra terrestrial beings are aware of us (possible) and they've been in contact with us (seems unlikely), why the big hush hush?  Given the amount of speculation about the possible ramifications of extra terrestrial contact over the past century or so I think that if the POTUS announced that he'd been in touch with the United Federation of Planets and that they were worried that we were on a trajectory for self termination and wondered if we needed a hand getting our sh*t together, few people would bat an eye.  I can see were the Pope announcing that aliens had told him that the only hope for humanity was the immediate over through if the Military Industrial Complex might cause a ruckus.

I wonder if the Church can buy the Rainbow Family franchise.  It seems that they've been on the right track for some time and it would save a lot of rebranding.

John G.

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The burr beneath my skin.

The salient point amongst many that I got out of the lecture John, is that human philosophy is in transition.

Scientific Realism was a reaction to Religious Dogmatism. Religious dogmatism has always been a tool of state. (Historical note: Constantine dictated the simplification of the Church at the council of Nicosia, AD 200)

Quantum Physics, an unwanted child of Scientific Realism has driven a wooden stake through the heart of its parent.

Pointing out the many salacious tales of the Church is an entertainment that I enjoy with my friends. Believe me they can throw a wild party. But I digress.

Scientific Realism has devolved into protecting itself with Dogmatisms of its own, hence the tale of the scientist turning his back on looking at the UFO that his peers were peering at. "It is not in my Model of reality, therefore I will ignore it." This is the psychological malady that Dr Iain McGilchrist says is  endemic.

That Complexity is a result of Entropy, and is an emergent property means that we will inevitability evolve. We are evolving in this Crisis.This, I believe is the nub of your discomfort. 

I know that it is the nub of mine.

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The dissolution of the Caterpillar

Those whom the gods would destroy or create, they first make mad.

Horrobin, The Madness of Adam and Eve.

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Thanks InfiniteSelf for

Thanks InfiniteSelf for sharing that lecture.  It too gave me many things to consider more deeply.  One of my immediate take aways of it is the need for us as a culture to come to a new understanding of the world that incorporates many of the disparate subjects Mr. Sheehan talks about.  It's something I've been working on for myself for decades now.

 

It also brings to mind the topic that has been coming up here on PeakProsperity of the need to develop new stories or narratives.  There seems to be a growing recognition that the old ones are breaking down and failing to offer the effective guidance they once did.

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