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Human extinction within the next 100 years

by Magnifico Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 02:13:52 PM EST

Another wise old man thinks we humans are doomed.

Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans is how The Australian, Rupert Murdoch's rag, puts it. Virologist Frank Fenner, who oversaw the eradication of smallpox, now predicts that it is possible humans may be extinct by the end of this century.

Frank Fenner doesn't engage in the skirmishes of the climate wars. To him, the evidence of global warming is in. Our fate is sealed.

"We're going to become extinct," the eminent scientist says. "Whatever we do now is too late."

Fenner is 95 years old and I don't know if it is just that he is nearing the end of his life that his outlook is bleak, or if it is an insight gleaned from his long life.

"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years," he says. "A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.


The reasons for extinction?

Fenner says the real trouble is the population explosion and "unbridled consumption".

The over-consumption and over-population will lead to increased conflicts and wars over dwindling resources with the collapsing climates. His diagnosis is one I agree with, but I'm not sure we'll see complete collapse of the human species.

The article continues:

The number of Homo sapiens is projected to exceed 6.9 billion this year, according to the UN. With delays in firm action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Fenner is pessimistic...

"Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we're seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.

"The Aborigines showed that without science and the production of carbon dioxide and global warming, they could survive for 40,000 or 50,000 years. But the world can't. The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species that we've seen disappear.

I wish The Australian delved more into his thoughts leading to extinction. I would have expected Fenner predicting the warmer climates leading to more devastating viruses such as Ebola infecting humans, but the only reason he gives is war. Fenner may well be right, but his prediction is little more than holding up a sign saying "The End is Nigh."

Fenner actually makes James Lovelock seem like a bit of an optimist. Lovelock told Rolling Stone in 2007 that world population will collapse to 500 million.

By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth's population will be culled from today's 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes -- Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.

If the future is what Fenner or Lovelock predict, then I'm not sure how to best prepare the children of today to meet its challenges. My best ideas are try to teach and model community, adaptability, and flexibility. Any other ideas?

Display:
Predicting what the planet will be like, and what the human population will be, ninety years from now, is futile. And doesn't actually move anything useful forward, since pronouncements like these are so easy to dismiss as marginal or crazy.

I'm not saying they are marginal or crazy, any more than any other numbers thrown around. I'm just saying we don't know, and would be better off looking for arguments based on what can be rationally approached. Or narratives that are less easy to throw out of the window.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 02:48:08 PM EST
And are we worth it? Nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer to the question of why we, homo sapiens, are here ;-)

This is in spite of the best minds and bodies throughout history being devoted to finding the answer. My best guess is that it doesn't matter.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 03:08:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If not here, where else would we humans be?

I think it matters because some us think it does. Although it could be interesting, I suppose, that as a species we collectively decided through our actions to go extinct. Interesting to anything that might notice at some later point in time.

I doubt any other species on earth decided to go extinct. But really, in the big picture, with nearly 7 billion people extinction talk seems silly. There will be far many other species that die off before humans do.

by Magnifico on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 04:13:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
are we worth it?

why we, homo sapiens, are here ;-)

I dunno who's supposed to answer those questions... Perhaps whoever can also knows how many humans will be left (Behind?) at the end of the century.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 04:39:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're worth it to us.

Or we should be.

Unfortunately we're not, which seems to be part of the problem. Expecting a Deus Ex to take responsibility for our future when we refuse to isn't helpful.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 04:49:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly wouldn't be helpful. But that wasn't where my snark was aiming.

Oh, and I think we are worth it. But that's just me (thinking).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 05:01:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're worth it to us.

Or we should be.

Unfortunately we're not, which seems to be part of the problem.

The history of humankind in three short sentences...

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 05:29:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In using the word "worth," what are we being tested against?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 05:32:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
And are we worth it? Nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer to the question of why we, homo sapiens, are here ;-)

This is in spite of the best minds and bodies throughout history being devoted to finding the answer. My best guess is that it doesn't matter.

teleology strikes...

why we are here, two answers:

  1. sheer random dumb luck

  2. no two people will have the same answer, because each makes their own contribution to the resolution to that existential tension.

it amuses me to think that it matters hugely, and not at all, simultaneously...

;)


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 07:00:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since we are here (one way or other), why are we behaving like unconcerned morons?
by das monde on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 11:02:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
um, i hope you're not speaking for yourself or the other ETers!

short answer: because that's what we are unless we know better, because someone kindly slipped us a clue.

or spiked the punch, whatever...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 09:07:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure enough, I think of myself and fellow ETers rather better :-)

what we are... is what clues do we take. The thing is, there is this dominant elephant clue that we can't escape to take. The authoritative clue is that nothing else matters but your relative success in money, sex, SUVs and iPhones. We rationalize everything with game theory, evolutionary psychology, genetics, investment returns or sperm count. The humanity did not know this so well until quite recently. It was more grown up 30-40 years ago, for God's sake.

by das monde on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 10:20:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... why are we behaving like unconcerned morons?

Well, as one of the we I discovered that maybe .01% of people represent the real trouble makers (ultrawealthy/corporate higher-ups), another 99% would join that crowd given half a chance, and the rest of US realize that we are woefully outnumbered regardless of what we say/do.

What do you wish for the terminally ill?  A quick painless death.  What do I wish for the human species?  The same.  And that's being merciful given what you've done to the planet.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 09:44:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
iz you channeling your breakfast chicken, forsooth?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 07:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer to the question of why we, homo sapiens, are here ;-)

I didn't realize that modern non-religious people still asked that question.  Decrease in Gibbs Free Energy, my dear Sven.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 04:55:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
why we, homo sapiens, are here

I always figured it was because an evolutionary niche for an intelligent, social omnivore existed.

Which kind of simplifies the metaphysics, IMO.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 12:08:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
heh, that's a tidy little belief system, no fuss, no muss.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 07:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer to the question of why we, homo sapiens, are here



She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 02:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That more or less sums up my view ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 03:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed.

('So, 1953 issue of Popular Mechanics, where is my personal jetpack?')

-----
sapere aude

by Number 6 on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 08:22:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prepare the young for the future?  Good luck with that.  I'm a teacher, and I have to admit that I often feel rather bad that these poor kids have to waste their time in school, grinding away to learn facts that are already useless and soon enough shall become even more so, when they could be out there in the world, enjoying the last few years of Western Civilization in all its glory.
by Zwackus on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 06:38:54 PM EST
the last few years of Western Civilization in all its glory

I thought that was in the 1960's...

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 06:46:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i am coming round to believing the kindest thing you can do for the young is not to pop their bubble.

without enabling it either.

pretty impossible, but there are exceptions... some young folks are praeternaturally wise, old souls in young bodies.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 06:54:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On its own, global warming shouldn't cause the extinction of humanity. It will be disruptive and deadly, sure, but we ought to be able to survive it, just as other humans have survived the collapse of their civilizations.

The problem that I see is in our reaction to the global warming crisis. The current reaction is to deny there's a problem and aggressively reassert our "right" to continue living as we did in the 20th century, and to even ramp up the destruction of our environment and habitat. Denying the realities of global warming and the consequences of our ignorance of natural factors is likely to ensure that many more lives are lost in the coming troubles than is necessary.

Species extinction? Not quite sure about that. But Lovelock's hypothesis seems plausible, at least in terms of overall numbers.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 08:22:55 PM EST
Species extinction isn't the issue. Humans are perfectly capable of devolving to a resilient but not very interesting pre-hunter/gatherer culture.

For most of human history, that's all there was.

The problem is knowledge extinction. It's a huge waste to have learned so much over the last few centuries, and then to throw it away through lack of imagination.

But then I've suggested before that all intelligent species have to pass through a similar bottleneck, when the instincts and low-grade sentient processes that promote individual survival but lack broader context have to be replaced by sentient processes that are aware of the species-wide value and potential of cooperation, context and symbiosis.

For now, this is still the Darwinian Dreamtime - at least for our so-called leaders.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 28th, 2010 at 09:03:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
pre-hunter/gatherer culture ? What is that ?

More seriously, it's entirely possible any outlook on very long term survival would show hunting/gathering as the only viable means of survival, and that can lead to quite interesting culture.

In the past few centuries, a lot of knowledge has been gained, but quite a bit has been lost, too, when it comes to organize how to live together.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 03:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
linca:
More seriously, it's entirely possible any outlook on very long term survival would show hunting/gathering as the only viable means of survival, and that can lead to quite interesting culture.

That's been my suspicion for some time as well. The boom-and-bust cycles of human populations ("civilizations") were unknown until the invention of agriculture.

IIRC, the fossil record also indicates that neolithic hunter-gatherers were also healthier than their agricultural contemporaries.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 12:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, if the invention of agriculture was in part a response to changing climate conditions and the threat of starvation...

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 12:25:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There seem to be multiple explanations. Personally I think population pressure played a greater role than outright starvation...

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 01:23:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait, so the population bubble pre-existed agriculture?

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 02:08:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My assumption is that the hunter-gatherer populations expanded to the limit afforded by that niche, and that agriculture initiated a process whereby that limit expanded (and contracted) dynamically.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 05:32:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A collapse of western 21st century civilization to a hunter-gatherer system means massive die-off of humans. There's never been enough natural food to support our population booms.

A hunter-gatherer-based system presumes a healthy ecosystem that will support the production of edible animals and plants. With accelerating climate change, all bets on the future are off.

We've reached a place where we've poisoned the entire world and entire species are going extinct through our pollution and exploitation.

Even if we humans vanish tomorrow, the CO2 in the atmosphere, the petroleum spills, plastic gyres in the oceans, and so forth will remain. The CO2 will take centuries to mitigate naturally and the plastic doesn't decompose. New life would need to evolve to handle the mess we leave behind.

by Magnifico on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 12:34:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the exclusion zone around Chernobyl proves that the bigger threat to other life from humans is not from pollution but from direct habitat destruction, competition for resources, and direct extermination.

The rate of species extinction might (though we can't be sure) go back to baseline rather quickly as soon as human pressure relaxed.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 12:59:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Holocene extinction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Holocene extinction is the widespread, ongoing extinction of species during the present Holocene epoch. The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods; a sizeable fraction of these extinctions are occurring in the rainforests. Between 1500 and 2009, 875 extinctions have been documented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.[1] However, since most extinctions go undocumented, scientists estimate that during the 20th century, between 20,000 and two million species actually became extinct, but the precise total cannot be determined more accurately within the limits of present knowledge. Up to 140,000 species per year (based on Species-area theory)[2] may be the present rate of extinction based upon upper bound estimating.

In broad usage, Holocene extinction includes the notable disappearance of large mammals, known as megafauna, starting 10,000 years ago as humans developed and spread. Such disappearances have normally been considered as either a response to climate change, a result of the proliferation of modern humans, or both; however in 2007 a cometary impact hypothesis was presented, but has not been broadly accepted. These extinctions, occurring near the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary, are sometimes referred to as the Quaternary extinction event or Ice Age extinction. However the Holocene extinction may be regarded as continuing into the 21st century.

There is no general agreement on whether to consider more recent extinctions as a distinct event or merely part of the Quaternary extinction event. Only during these most recent parts of the extinction have plants also suffered large losses. Overall, the Holocene extinction is most significantly characterised by the presence of human-made driving factors and climate change.



By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 01:00:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Magnifico:
A collapse of western 21st century civilization to a hunter-gatherer system means massive die-off of humans. There's never been enough natural food to support our population booms.

A hunter-gatherer-based system presumes a healthy ecosystem that will support the production of edible animals and plants. With accelerating climate change, all bets on the future are off.

I do not think climate change will reach the level of say Venusian climate, mostly from co2 having been really high with plant life and everything here on Earth.

Assuming die-off to hunter-gatherer level of population I would predict that those who survives are predominantly those already living as hunter-gatherers, in particular those that live in (oil-free) deserts and other very inhospitable climates.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 03:51:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My bet would be that the 0.01% of the populations that would survive in such a massive die-off would be local. I don't think existing hunter-gatherer would spread so fast as to reach other parts of the world before the survivors would adapt - which is not that slow either, at least for a basic "survive and hold" form of occupation.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 12:40:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i think very few people in the first world have any idea how little food it takes to stay alive.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 07:26:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spiders (I'm not sure this is all of them) have to liquify their food because emergence placed their brain around their throat. As the brain grew it restricted eating in a rather nasty feedback situation.

A literal bottleneck in one way, but also one that prevents further emergence.

But I agree that our human bottleneck is cultural. Our bodies haven't had much time to further emerge, in only 3000 iterations.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 03:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
The current reaction is to deny there's a problem and aggressively reassert our "right" to continue living as we did in the 20th century, and to even ramp up the destruction of our environment and habitat. Denying the realities of global warming and the consequences of our ignorance of natural factors is likely to ensure that many more lives are lost in the coming troubles than is necessary.
The Limits to Growth was published 38 years ago and roundly attacked and then ignored by the serious people. The scenarios in the 1993 updated second edition which avoided collapse required a change in policy direction within 10 years, which patently didn't happen. So, we're screwed. However, extinction is a different proposition altogether.

Three years ago I diaried a report on Spain's ecological footprint: Spain is unsustainable

The report ends with three scenarios for the period to 2020:

  • Scenario A: assumes that the main variables influencing the ecological footprint continue on the current trends.
  • Scenario B: assumes that sustainability targets are substantially met and variables without set targets improve.
  • Scenario C: assumes that targets are exceeded and variables without set targets experience a remarkable improvement.
The results are not encouraging.
  • Scenario A: predicts an economic slowdown in 2010-2015 and a final footprint of 8 ha/person with a deficit of nearly 6 ha/person (capacity would have eroded by 20%, then)
  • Scenario B: manages to keep the 2020 footprint at the 2005 values,
  • Scenario C: the footprint is reduced to 5 ha/person with a deficit of 2.6 ha/person (and a reduction of the biocapacity by about 10%)
Assuming no economic growth, scenario C achieved a reduction to 4.5 ha/person.
So, we know, we've known for a long time, and recent denial of global warming is just one manifestation of a broader cultural/political problem.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 04:00:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Human extinction within the next 100 years

Is that suppose to be the good news or the bad news?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 04:58:58 AM EST
I'm guessing it would be good news for most animals and plants on the planet. The ones who'd be in trouble would be domesticated kinds, well except for cats. I'd imagine house cats would do just fine without people.

I think for the last humans it'd be bad news.

by Magnifico on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 12:11:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In another currently active thread I have quoted Noam Chomsky: The New War on Terror, though a different paragraph. This is the opening
Everyone knows it's the TV people who run the world [crowd laugher]. I just got orders that I'm supposed to be here, not there. Well the last talk I gave at this forum was on a light pleasant topic. It was about how humans are an endangered species and given the nature of their institutions they are likely to destroy themselves in a fairly short time. So this time there is a little relief and we have a pleasant topic instead, the new war on terror. Unfortunately, the world keeps coming up with things that make it more and more horrible as we proceed.
I found that resonates with the topic of this diary so I dug up...

Peering into the Abyss of the Future, by Noam Chomsky (talk delivered at Lakdawala Memorial Lecture)

I had intended to discuss some rather general issues that have unpleasant, possibly ominous implications for a decent future: issues of democracy, human rights, social and economic development, the role of force in world affairs, and others. The problems that arise are particularly severe because the policies pursued have a certain rationality within the framework of existing socio-economic and ideological institutions. I will do so, though only in a much more limited way than I had hoped. The reason is clear to everyone. These topics, while of utmost importance, have been displaced since Sept. 11 by another concern: the threat of international terrorism, which compels us to "peer into the abyss of the future," in the words of the New York Times headline I borrowed as a title.

...

The Space Command could have extended its analogy to armies and navies is earlier years. These have played a prominent role in technological and industrial development, dramatically so since World War II, but in fact throughout the modern era. There was a qualitative leap forward after World War II, primarily in the US, as the military provided a cover for creation of the core of the modern high tech economy. The same is anticipated for space militarisation projects. One primary reason why "national security exemptions" are build into the mislabelled "free trade treated" is to ensure that the leading industrial societies, primarily the US, can maintain the vast state sector on which the economy relies to socialise cost and risk while privatising profit.

Throughout history it has been recognised that such steps are dangerous. But now the danger has reached the level of a threat to human survival. But is rational to proceed nonetheless, on the assumptions of the prevailing value system, which are deeply rooted in existing institutions. The basic principle is that hegemony is more important than survival. That has been a striking feature of the arms race for half a century, with a most revealing record.

To move to another domain, the Bush administration has been widely criticised for undermining the Kyoto Treaty on grounds that to conform would harm the US economy. The criticisms are surprising, because their decision is entirely rational within the framework of existing ideology. We are instructed daily to have faith in neoclassical markets, in which isolated individuals are rational wealth-maximisers. The market responds perfectly to their "votes," expressed in currency inputs. The value of their interests is measured the same way. In particular, the interests of those with no "votes" are valued at zero: future generations, for example. It is therefore entirely rational to destroy the possibility for decent survival for our grandchildren, if by doing so we can maximise the particular form of self-interest that is hailed as the highest value, consciously constructed in considerable measure. The threats to survival are currently being enhanced by dedicated efforts to weaken the institutional structures that have been developed to mitigate the consequences of market fundamentalism, and even more important, to undermine the culture of sympathy and solidarity that sustains these institutions.

All of this is another prescription for disaster, perhaps in the not very distant future. But again, it is rational within a lunatic system of doctrines and institutions.



By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 10:38:01 AM EST
The question is whose grandchildren is the system working for?

Take Conrad Hilton for example, he left his children with $500,000 each and left rest of his wealth to his non-profit. His children contested it and won, thus the system works to maximize survival for their grandchildren (or in Conrad's case his great-grandchild) — the Paris Hiltons of the world.

Those in control of the markets maximize it to their benefit and the benefit of their children. It is for individual gain at the expense of society and humanity at large.

Conrad had the right idea, but his children had the system work in their favor.

by Magnifico on Tue Jun 29th, 2010 at 12:25:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains between LA and Boulder there is a tomb-monument to a moderately rich man. The principal feature is a number of statues (I forget how many) in marble... and two in limestone, because his estate went belly-up before his executor could finish the monument.

This was a feature, not a bug. He didn't like his heirs, and wasn't convinced that they couldn't get his last will and testament overturned.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 11:47:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it seems we have completely forgotten one of the two lessons our parents/grandparents learned the hard way during the 1930s and the 1940s. If so, we may have forgotten the other lesson... of a global war.

This time, we have nukes unfortunately, and I don't believe we are wise enough not to touch them. (Come to think of it, we Japanese have over 3 tons of plutonium inside the country, and have excellent rocket technology.)

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 05:33:40 AM EST
I think it can be safely assumed that any country that can build nuclear reactors can build nuclear weapons within six months...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 10:19:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By coincidence yesterday I watched David Attenborough's Horizon programme: How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?, which an ex-student recorded for me. It's very thorough, and very disturbing, especially given how little has been done despite earlier warnings about likely future problems:


In a Horizon special, naturalist Sir David Attenborough investigates whether the world is heading for a population crisis.

In his lengthy career, Sir David has watched the human population more than double from 2.5 billion in 1950 to nearly seven billion. He reflects on the profound effects of this rapid growth, both on humans and the environment.

While much of the projected growth in human population is likely to come from the developing world, it is the lifestyle enjoyed by many in the West that has the most impact on the planet. Some experts claim that in the UK consumers use as much as two and a half times their fair share of Earth's resources.

Sir David examines whether it is the duty of individuals to commit not only to smaller families, but to change the way they live for the sake of humanity and planet Earth.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00pdjmk

I now find that it's currently available on youtube in very good quality in 6 parts, part 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF15YAvT9G0

Surprisingly, The Sun has a piece by Attenborough, including quite a bit of the text of the programme, but not the stuff about the damage done by developed countries' consumerist lifestyles:


...
In the south west of India lies the long narrow coastal state of Kerala. Most of its 32million inhabitants live off the land and the ocean - a rich ecosystem watered by two monsoons a year.

It is also one of India's most crowded states. But the population is stable because nearly everybody has small families.

At the root of it all is education. Thanks to a long tradition of compulsory schooling for boys and girls, Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

Where women are well educated, they tend to choose to have smaller families. What Kerala shows is that you don't need aggressive policies or government incentives to persuade families to have fewer children.

...

I'm very aware that this film could be seen as bleak, even depressing. But humans have capabilities that animals don't - to think rationally, to study and to plan ahead. The number of people on the planet depends on the personal decisions we EACH make about how many children we have.

It's clear that humanity will have to change the way we live and use resources - and that may even extend to our political and economic systems.

We are at a crossroads where we can choose to cooperate or carry on regardless. Can our intelligence save us? I hope so.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2764068/Attenborough-on-a-growing-threat-to-mans-futur e-the-growing-population.html

I recommend watching the programme.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 06:14:26 PM EST
There's been a lot of speculation about where and when the last of the Neanderthals died, and basically the picture painted is one of a relatively small tribe that is irreversibly wiped out after an extreme weather event or bad hunting accident.

I wonder what is the smallest population of humans that would have the creativity and knowledge about agricultural and mechanical technology needed to survive under tough conditions. There's a theory that the human population experienced a bottleneck of around 15,000 individuals, 75,000 years ago. I would think that a community of that size would have a tough time keeping modern technology going, unless it happened to be a university town--preferably an agricultural university. A solid combination of engineers and ag experts could probably survive some pretty extreme conditions...not sure what the political science department would contribute, though!

by asdf on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 09:28:21 PM EST
That would make a superb TV series.

Strand a group of Republican politicians in a rain forest, watch to see how long it takes them to revert to cannibalism.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 10:14:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cannibalism's got a pretty bad rap. Most actual cannibal societies do it because of advanced symbolism, not basic hunger !

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 10:50:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Republicans don't know that.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 02:50:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
linca:
Most actual cannibal societies do it because of advanced symbolism

Catholic republicans?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 07:32:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not true.  A well marinated haunch of human roasted slowly over an open fire or slow cooked in a crockpot with onions, basil ... YUM.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 09:00:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Prolly about 15 minutes. Step one, identify a social hierarchy. Step two, eat whoever's lowest.
by asdf on Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 11:24:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
step 3, share food with next victim, to lull him into lowering his guard.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 07:37:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a glimmer of hope at the end of the article:

Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans | The Australian

"Frank may be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result, the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability," says Boyden, an immunologist who turned to human ecology later in his career.

"That's where Frank and I differ. We're both aware of the seriousness of the situation, but I don't accept that it's necessarily too late. While there's a glimmer of hope, it's worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don't have the political will."

Fenner will open the Healthy Climate, Planet and People symposium at the Australian Academy of Science next week, as part of the AAS Fenner conference series, which is designed to bridge the gap between environmental science and policy.

Interesting that this appears in one of Murdoch's papers, given that Murdoch and his friends are responsible in large part for the "row between climate change sceptics and believers". And note the framing here using the word "believers" to refer to the scientists.
It's an opinion shared by some scientists but drowned out by the row between climate change sceptics and believers.


By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 1st, 2010 at 05:05:50 AM EST


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