Archive for the ‘Civilization’ Category

NASA Models Predict Total Societal Collapse: “Irreversible”

March 30, 2014

societal-collapse

The end of the world as we know it is coming.

You’ve likely heard this before, especially from the growing number of voices in the alternative news and preparedness communities. Often dismissed as conspiracy theory or outright lunacy, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests these fringe thinkers may well be on to something.

Despite assurances from most political leaders, experts and researchers who argue that we live in a stable and sustainable world, a new study utilizing mathematicalmodels developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center may confirm our worst fears.

According to the Socio Economic Synthesis Center, which led the study’s research team and was made up of well respected natural and social scientists from various U.S.-based universities, society as it exists today is decades, perhaps just years, from a complete collapse of our way of life.

Given economic strati cation, collapse is very difficult to avoid and requires major policy changes, including major reductions in inequality and population growth rates. Even in the absence of economic strati cation, collapse can still occur if depletion per capita is too high. However, collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion. (SESC via Steve Quayle)

The study cites scores of historical examples of civilization collapse dating back thousands of years. Given the facts it is clear that humanity’s long sought after Utopian society is a goal that is simply unachievable. Every five hundred years or so, the whole system simply falls apart.

There are widespread concerns that current trends in population and resource-use are unsustainable, but the possibilities of an overshoot and collapse remain unclear and controversial.

How real is the possibility of a societal collapse?

Can complex, advanced civilizations really collapse? 

It is common to portray human history as a relentless and inevitable trend toward greater levels of social complexity, political organization, and economic specialization, with the development of more complex and capable technologies supporting ever-growing population, all sustained by the mobilization of ever-increasing quantities of material, energy, and information. Yet this is not inevitable.

In fact, cases where this seemingly near-universal, long-term trend has been severely disrupted by a precipitous collapse often lasting centuries have been quite common.

This brings up the question of whether modern civilization is similarly susceptible. It may seem reasonable to believe that modern civilization, armed with its greater technological capacity, scientific knowledge, and energy resources, will be able to survive and endure whatever crises historical societies succumbed to.

But the brief overview of collapses demonstrates not only the ubiquity of the phenomenon, but also the extent to which advanced, complex, and powerful societies are susceptible to collapse.

In short, the mathematical models utilized to determine the results of the study indicate that there are two key causes for what the authors call an “irreversible” collapse.

First, with the earth’s population now over 7 billion people our civilization is burning through resources faster than they can be replenished, and the burden of paid “non-workers” (i.e. those who are given resources for performing no actual function in society) leads to a complete break down in the system.

We can see how an irreversible Type-N (full) collapse of Population, Nature, and Wealth can occur due to over-depletion ofnatural resources as a result of high depletion per capita.

Workers and Non-Workers with the same level of consumption, i.e., with no economic strati cation. The Non-Workers in these scenarios could represent a range of societal roles from students, retirees, and disabled people, to intellectuals,managers, and other non-productive sectors. In this case, the Workers have to deplete enough of Nature to support both the Non-Workers and themselves.

Second, and this may come as no surprise, “elite” members of society are accumulating whatever available resources there are in an effort to maintain control over the “commoners.”

The Elite population starts growing significantly… hence depleting the Wealth and causing the system to collapse.

Under this scenario, the system collapses due to worker scarcity even though natural resources are still abundant, but because the depletion rate is optimal, it takes more than 400 years after the Wealth reaches a maximum for the society to collapse.

In this example, Commoners die out first and Elites disappear later. This scenario shows that in a society that is otherwise sustainable, the highly unequal consumption of elites will still cause a collapse. This scenario is an example of a Type-L collapse in which both Population and Wealth collapse but Nature recovers.

The Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature. Despite appearing initially to be the same as the sustainable optimal solution obtained in the absence of Elites, economic strati cation changes the fi nal result: Elites’ consumption keeps growing until the society collapses.The Mayan collapse in which population never recovered even though nature did recover is an example of a Type-L collapse

There are several other scenarios outlined in the study, but the above two are seemingly the ones that may be responsible for the coming collapse of our own civilization.

In Americanearly 50% of the population produces nothing, yet receives payment in the form of money, goods and services. This takes resources out of the hands of those who actually produce these resources.

Furthermore, it should be obvious that elite members of society simply take what they want through force, whether by taxation or criminal activity (as defined by natural law), putting even more strain on the system.

Over time, the debt builds and pulls forward wealth from generations ahead, resources are depleted, and costs begin to reach levels that are simply unsustainable for everyone, including the elites who attempt to amass as much as they can.

In the end, we all suffer the same fate.

According to this and other studies, like one recently published by the UK Government Office of Science and entitled A Perfect Storm of Global Events, we are very quickly approaching the breaking point. Over the next fifteen years, it is predicted that the strain could become so burdensome on society that the system will crack and eventually break down.

The result will be famine, war, and what some refer to as a “die off.” This will affectall segments of society.

Naturally, there will be those who survive, and it will likely be the people who are able to develop their own sustainable environments on a personal, familial or communal level. These people may have taken steps to not only prepare for long-term crises, but to develop sustainable practices that will allow them to produce their own food and energy.

The mathematics being cited here have been seen time and again in other studies, and they don’t bode well for human civilization as we know it today.

With seven billion people on the planet, a massively unproductive non-workforce, and the greed of the elite, it is only a matter of time before something breaks and there is a real possibility that our civilization will not be able to survive it.

The scary version? According to these studies, the consequences will be felt within most of our lifetimes.

Mac Slavo is the Editor of SHTFplan.com

total collapse

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Native American city on the Mississippi was America’s first ‘melting pot’

March 5, 2014

Date:
March 4, 2014
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
New evidence establishes for the first time that Cahokia, a sprawling, pre-Columbian city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, hosted a sizable population of immigrants. Cahokia was an early experiment in urban life, researchers say.

This small clay vessel was made in eastern Oklahoma but found at Cahokia. In the past it was interpreted as a trade item, but now it seems more likely it was brought by an immigrant who moved to Cahokia in the 12th century.
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

New evidence establishes for the first time that Cahokia, a sprawling, pre-Columbian city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, hosted a sizable population of immigrants.

Cahokia was an early experiment in urban life, said Thomas Emerson, who led the new analysis. Emerson is Illinois state archaeologist and the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the University of Illinois.

Researchers have traditionally thought of Cahokia as a relatively homogeneous and stable population drawn from the immediate area, he said. “But increasingly archaeologists are realizing that Cahokia at AD 1100 was very likely an urban center with as many as 20,000 inhabitants,” he said. “Such early centers around the world grow by immigration, not by birthrate.”

The new analysis, reported in the Journal of Archaeological Research, tested the chemical composition of 133 teeth from 87 people buried at Cahokia during its heyday. The researchers looked specifically at strontium isotope ratios in the teeth and in the remains of small mammals from the same area.

“Strontium isotope ratios in rock, soil, groundwater and vegetation vary according to the underlying geology of a region,” the researchers wrote. “As an animal eats and drinks, the local strontium isotope composition of the water, plants and animals consumed is recorded in its skeletal tissues.” Strontium signatures may not be unique to a location, Emerson said, but the ratios in a person’s teeth can be compared to those of plants and animals in the immediate environment.

“Teeth retain the isotopic signature of an individual’s diet at various periods of life depending on the tooth type sampled, ranging from in utero to approximately 16 years of age,” the researchers wrote. The strontium signature in the teeth can be compared to that of their place of burial, to determine whether the person lived only in that vicinity. Early teeth and later teeth may have different strontium signatures, an indication that the person immigrated.

By analyzing the teeth of those buried in different locations in Cahokia, Emerson, state archaeological survey bioarchaeologist Kristin Hedman and graduate student Philip Slater discovered that immigrants formed one-third of the population of the city throughout its history (from about AD 1050 through the early 1300s).

“This indicates that Cahokia as a political, social and religious center was extremely fluid and dynamic, with a constantly fluctuating composition,” Emerson said.

The findings contradict traditional anthropological models of Cahokian society that are built on analogies with 19th-century Native American groups, Emerson said.

“Cahokia, because it was multiethnic and perhaps even multilingual, must have been a virtual ‘melting pot’ that fostered new ways of living, new political and social patterns and perhaps even new religious beliefs,” he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Philip A. Slater, Kristin M. Hedman, Thomas E. Emerson.Immigrants at the Mississippian polity of Cahokia: strontium isotope evidence for population movementJournal of Archaeological Science, 2014; 44: 117 DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2014.01.022

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Native American city on the Mississippi was America’s first ‘melting pot’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304095029.htm>.

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014

 

By Chris Hedges

To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth–intellectually and emotionally–and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.

::::::::

Source: TruthDig


Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of a speech that Chris Hedges gave in Santa Monica, Calif., on Oct. 13, 2013. To purchase a DVD of Hedges’ address and the Q-and-A that followed, click here.

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew — there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel — is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed — just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

“If I had been downright honest with myself,” Ishmael admits…

“I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.”

Our financial system — like our participatory democracy — is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds — much of it worthless subprime mortgages — each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money — because wages are kept low — by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. … Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.

The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, a few days ago, issued a new report that warned that the oceans are changing faster than anticipated and increasingly becoming inhospitable to life. The oceans, of course, have absorbed much of the excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. This absorption is rapidly warming and acidifying ocean waters. This is compounded, the report noted, by increased levels of deoxygenation from nutrient runoffs from farming and climate change. The scientists called these effects a “deadly trio” that when combined is creating changes in the seas that are unprecedented in the planet’s history.

This is their language, not mine. The scientists wrote that each of the earth’s five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least one [part] of the “deadly trio” — acidification, warming and deoxygenation. They warned that “the next mass extinction” of sea life is already underway, the first in some 55 million years. Or look at the recent research from the University of Hawaii that says global warming is now inevitable, it cannot be stopped but at best slowed, and that over the next 50 years the earth will heat up to levels that will make whole parts of the planet uninhabitable. Tens of millions of people will be displaced and millions of species will be threatened with extinction. The report casts doubt that [cities on or near a coast] such as New York or London will endure.

Yet we, like Ahab and his crew, rationalize our collective madness. All calls for prudence, for halting the march toward economic, political and environmental catastrophe, for sane limits on carbon emissions, are ignored or ridiculed. Even with the flashing red lights before us, the increased droughts, rapid melting of glaciers and Arctic ice, monster tornadoes, vast hurricanes, crop failures, floods, raging wildfires and soaring temperatures, we bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.

The corporate assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts and critical thinking has left those who speak this truth marginalized and ignored, frantic Cassandras who are viewed as slightly unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. We are consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate masters lavishly provide, at the expense of truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche in “Beyond Good and Evil” holds that only a few people have the fortitude to look in times of distress into what he calls the molten pit of human reality. Most studiously ignore the pit. Artists and philosophers, for Nietzsche, are consumed, however, by an insatiable curiosity, a quest for truth and desire for meaning. They venture down into the bowels of the molten pit. They get as close as they can before the flames and heat drive them back. This intellectual and moral honesty, Nietzsche wrote, comes with a cost. Those singed by the fire of reality become “burnt children,” he wrote, eternal orphans in empires of illusion.

Decayed civilizations always make war on independent intellectual inquiry, art and culture for this reason. They do not want the masses to look into the pit. They condemn and vilify the “burnt people” — Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Cornel West. They feed the human addiction for illusion, happiness and hope. They peddle the fantasy of eternal material progress. They urge us to build images of ourselves to worship. They insist–and this is the argument of globalization –that our voyage is, after all, decreed by natural law. We have surrendered our lives to corporate forces that ultimately serve systems of death. We ignore and belittle the cries of the burnt people. And, if we do not swiftly and radically reconfigure our relationship to each other and the ecosystem, microbes look set to inherit the earth.

Clive Hamilton in his “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth — intellectually and emotionally — and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth — as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury — as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite — are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year [2012] in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward.

Complex civilizations have a bad habit of ultimately destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” Charles L. Redman in “Human Impact on Ancient Environments” and Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed, hubris and idolatry.

Collapse comes throughout human history to complex societies not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity.

“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote.

That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” calls the “progress trap.” We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion, Wright notes, that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature.

And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we, like past societies in distress, will retreat into what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist beliefs in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us. The Christian right provides a haven for this escapism. These cults perform absurd rituals to make it all go away, giving rise to a religiosity that peddles collective self-delusion and magical thinking. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the later part of the 19th century as the buffalo herds and the last remaining tribes were slaughtered. The Ghost Dance held out the hope that all the horrors of white civilization — the railroads, the murderous cavalry units, the timber merchants, the mine speculators, the hated tribal agencies, the barbed wire, the machine guns, even the white man himself — would disappear. And our psychological hard wiring is no different.

In our decline, hatred becomes our primary lust, our highest form of patriotism. We deploy vast resources to hunt down jihadists and terrorists, real and phantom. We destroy our civil society in the name of a war on terror. We persecute those, from Julian Assange to [Chelsea] Manning to Edward Snowden, who expose the dark machinations of power. We believe, because we have externalized evil, that we can purify the earth. And we are blind to the evil within us.

Melville’s description of Ahab is a description of the bankers, corporate boards, politicians, television personalities and generals who through the power of propaganda fill our heads with seductive images of glory and lust for wealth and power. We are consumed with self-induced obsessions that spur us toward self-annihilation.

“All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.”

Ahab, as the historian Richard Slotkin points out in his book “Regeneration Through Violence,” is “the true American hero, worthy to be captain of a ship whose ‘wood could only be American.’” Melville offers us a vision, one that D.H. Lawrence later understood, of the inevitable fatality of white civilization brought about by our ceaseless lust for material progress, imperial expansion, white supremacy and exploitation of nature.

Melville, who had been a sailor on clipper ships and whalers, was keenly aware that the wealth of industrialized societies was stolen by force from the wretched of the earth. All the authority figures on the ship are white men–Ahab, Starbuck, Flask and Stubb. The hard, dirty work, from harpooning to gutting the carcasses of the whales, is the task of the poor, mostly men of color. Melville saw how European plundering of indigenous cultures from the 16th to the 19th centuries, coupled with the use of African slaves as a workforce to replace the natives, was the engine that enriched Europe and the United States. The Spaniards’ easy seizure of the Aztec and Inca gold following the massive die-off from smallpox and [other diseases] among native populations set in motion five centuries of unchecked economic and environmental plunder. Karl Marx and Adam Smith pointed to the huge influx of wealth from the Americas as having made possible the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism. The Industrial Revolution also equipped the industrialized state with technologically advanced weapons systems, turning us into the most efficient killers on the planet.

Ahab, when he first appears on the quarterdeck after being in his cabin for the first few days of the voyage, holds up a doubloon, an extravagant gold coin, and promises it to the crew member who first spots the white whale. He knows that “the permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man … is sordidness.” And he plays to this sordidness. The whale becomes like everything in the capitalist world a commodity, a source of personal profit. A murderous greed, one that Starbuck, Ahab’s first mate, denounces as “blasphemous,” grips the crew. Ahab’s obsession infects the ship.

“I see in [Moby Dick] outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it,” Ahab tells Starbuck. “That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

Ahab conducts a dark Mass, a Eucharist of violence and blood, on the deck with the crew. He orders the men to circle around him. He makes them drink from a flagon that is passed from man to man, filled with draughts “hot as Satan’s hoof.” Ahab tells the harpooners to cross their lances before him. The captain grasps the harpoons and anoints the ships’ harpooners — Queequeg, Tashtego and Daggoo — his “three pagan kinsmen.” He orders them to detach the iron sections of their harpoons and fills the sockets “with the fiery waters from the pewter.” “Drink, ye harpooneers! Drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat’s bow — Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!” And with the crew bonded to him in his infernal quest he knows that Starbuck is helpless “amid the general hurricane.” “Starbuck now is mine,” Ahab says, “cannot oppose me now, without rebellion.” “The honest eye of Starbuck,” Melville writes, “fell downright.”

The ship, described as a hearse, was painted black. It was adorned with gruesome trophies of the hunt, festooned with the huge teeth and bones of sperm whales. It was, Melville writes, a “cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies.” The fires used to melt the whale blubber at night turned the Pequod into a “red hell.”

Our own raging fires, leaping up from our oil refineries and the explosions of our ordinance across the Middle East, bespeak our Stygian heart. And in our mad pursuit we ignore the suffering of others, just as Ahab does when he refuses to help the captain of a passing ship who is frantically searching for his son, who has fallen overboard.

Ahab has not only the heated rhetoric of persuasion; he is master of a terrifying internal security force on the ship, the five “dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air.” Ahab’s secret, private whale boat crew, who emerge from the bowels of the ship well into the voyage, keeps the rest of the ship in abject submission. The art of propaganda and the use of brutal coercion, the mark of tyranny, define our lives just as they mark those on Melville’s ship. The novel is the chronicle of the last days of any civilization.

And yet Ahab is no simple tyrant. Melville toward the end of the novel gives us two glimpses into the internal battle between Ahab’s maniacal hubris and his humanity. Ahab, too, has a yearning for love. He harbors regrets over his deformed life. The black cabin boy Pip is the only crew member who evokes any tenderness in the captain. Ahab is aware of this tenderness. He fears its power. Pip functions as the Fool did in Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Ahab warns Pip of Ahab. “Lad, lad,” says Ahab, “I tell thee thou must not follow Ahab now. The hour is coming when Ahab would not scare thee from him, yet would not have thee by him. There is that in thee, poor lad, which I feel too curing to my malady. Like cures like; and for this hunt, my malady becomes my most desired health. … If thou speakest thus to me much more, Ahab’s purpose keels up in him. I tell thee no; it cannot be.”

A few pages later, “untottering Ahab stood forth in the clearness of the morn; lifting his splintered helmet of a brow to the fair girl’s forehead of heaven. … From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.” Starbuck approaches him. Ahab, for the only time in the book, is vulnerable. He speaks to Starbuck of his “forty years on the pitiless sea! … the desolation of solitude it has been. … Why this strife of the chase? why weary, and palsy the arm at the oar, and the iron, and the lance? How the richer or better is Ahab now?” He thinks of his young wife — “I widowed that poor girl when I married her, Starbuck” — and of his little boy: “About this time — yes, it is his noon nap now — the boy vivaciously wakes; sits up in bed; and his mother tells him of me, of cannibal old me; how I am abroad upon the deep, but will yet come back to dance him again.”

Ahab’s thirst for dominance, vengeance and destruction, however, overpowers these faint regrets of lost love and thwarted compassion. Hatred wins. “What is it,” Ahab finally asks, “what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time. …”

Melville knew that physical courage and moral courage are distinct. One can be brave on a whaling ship or a battlefield, yet a coward when called on to stand up to human evil. Starbuck elucidates this peculiar division. The first mate is tormented by his complicity in what he foresees as Ahab’s “impious end.” Starbuck, “while generally abiding firm in the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the ordinary irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those more terrific, because spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace you from the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man.”

And so we plunge forward in our doomed quest to master the forces that will finally smite us. Those who see where we are going too often lack the fortitude to actually rebel. Mutiny was the only salvation for the Pequod’s crew. It is our only salvation. But moral cowardice turns us into hostages.

I am reading and rereading the debates among some of the great radical thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries about the mechanisms of social change. These debates were not academic. They were frantic searches for the triggers of revolt. Lenin placed his faith in a violent uprising, a professional, disciplined revolutionary vanguard freed from moral constraints and, like Marx, in the inevitable emergence of the worker’s state. [Pierre-Joseph] Proudhon insisted that gradual change would be accomplished as enlightened workers took over production and educated and converted the rest of the proletariat. [Mikhail] Bakunin predicted the catastrophic breakdown of the capitalist order, something we are likely to witness in our lifetimes, and new autonomous worker federations rising up out of the chaos. [Peter] Kropotkin, like Proudhon, believed in an evolutionary process that would hammer out the new society. Emma Goldman, along with Kropotkin, came to be very wary of both the efficacy of violence and the revolutionary potential of the masses. “The mass,” Goldman wrote bitterly toward the end of her life in echoing Marx, “clings to its masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify!”

The revolutionists of history counted on a mobilized base of enlightened industrial workers. The building blocks of revolt, they believed, relied on the tool of the general strike, the ability of workers to cripple the mechanisms of production. Strikes could be sustained with the support of political parties, strike funds and union halls. Workers without these support mechanisms had to replicate the infrastructure of parties and unions if they wanted to put prolonged pressure on the bosses and the state. But now, with the decimation of the U.S. manufacturing base, along with the dismantling of our unions and opposition parties, we will have to search for different instruments of rebellion.

We must develop a revolutionary theory that is not reliant on the industrial or agrarian muscle of workers. Most manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and, of those that remain, few are unionized. Our family farms have been destroyed by agro-businesses. Monsanto and its Faustian counterparts on Wall Street rule. They are steadily poisoning our lives and rendering us powerless. The corporate leviathan, which is global, is freed from the constraints of a single nation-state or government. Corporations are beyond regulation or control. Politicians are too anemic, or more often too corrupt, to stand in the way of the accelerating corporate destruction. This makes our struggle different from revolutionary struggles in industrial societies in the past. Our revolt will look more like what erupted in the less industrialized Slavic republics, Russia, Spain and China and uprisings led by a disenfranchised rural and urban working class and peasantry in the liberation movements that swept through Africa and Latin America. The dispossessed working poor, along with unemployed college graduates and students, unemployed journalists, artists, lawyers and teachers, will form our movement. This is why the fight for a higher minimum wage is crucial to uniting service workers with the alienated college-educated sons and daughters of the old middle class. Bakunin, unlike Marx, considered déclassé intellectuals essential for successful revolt.

It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast-food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt. These two groups, once united, will be our primary engines of revolt. Much of the urban poor has been crippled and in many cases broken by a rewriting of laws, especially drug laws, that has permitted courts, probation officers, parole boards and police to randomly seize poor people of color, especially African-American men, without just cause and lock them in cages for years. In many of our most impoverished urban centers–our internal colonies, as Malcolm X called them–mobilization, at least at first, will be difficult. The urban poor are already in chains. These chains are being readied for the rest of us. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread,” Anatole France commented acidly.

Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan examined 100 years of violent and nonviolent resistance movements in their book “Why Civil Resistance Works.” They concluded that nonviolent movements succeed twice as often as violent uprisings. Violent movements work primarily in civil wars or in ending foreign occupations, they found. Nonviolent movements that succeed appeal to those within the power structure, especially the police and civil servants, who are cognizant of the corruption and decadence of the power elite and are willing to abandon them. And we only need 1 to 5 percent of the population actively working for the overthrow of a system, history has shown, to bring down even the most ruthless totalitarian structures. It always works on two tracks — building alternative structures such as public banks to free ourselves from control and finding mechanisms to halt the machine.

The most important dilemma facing us is not ideological. It is logistical. The security and surveillance state has made its highest priority the breaking of any infrastructure that might spark widespread revolt. The state knows the tinder is there. It knows that the continued unraveling of the economy and the effects of climate change make popular unrest inevitable. It knows that as underemployment and unemployment doom at least a quarter of the U.S. population, perhaps more, to perpetual poverty, and as unemployment benefits are scaled back, as schools close, as the middle class withers away, as pension funds are looted by hedge fund thieves, and as the government continues to let the fossil fuel industry ravage the planet, the future will increasingly be one of open conflict. This battle against the corporate state, right now, is primarily about infrastructure. We need an infrastructure to build revolt. The corporate state is determined to deny us one.

The state, in its internal projections, has a vision of the future that is as dystopian as mine. But the state, to protect itself, lies. Politicians, corporations, the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and our ridiculous television pundits speak as if we can continue to build a society based on limitless growth, profligate consumption and fossil fuel. They feed the collective mania for hope at the expense of truth. Their public vision is self-delusional, a form of collective psychosis. The corporate state, meanwhile, is preparing privately for the world it knows is actually coming. It is cementing into place a police state, one that includes the complete evisceration of our most basic civil liberties and the militarization of the internal security apparatus, as well as wholesale surveillance of the citizenry.

Moby Dick rams and sinks the Pequod. The waves swallow up Ahab and all who followed him, except one. A vortex formed by the ship’s descent collapses, “and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”

As the planet begins to convulse with fury, as the senseless greed of limitless capitalist expansion implodes the global economy, as our civil liberties are eviscerated in the name of national security, shackling us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York, how shall we endure and resist?

Our hope lies in the human imagination. It was the human imagination that permitted African-Americans during slavery and the Jim Crow era to transcend their physical condition. It was the human imagination that sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred. It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants, work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that, as Ralph Ellison wrote, “we had in place of freedom.” The oppressed would be the first — for they know their fate — to admit that on a rational level such a notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the verdict to lead the evening prayers.

African-Americans and Native Americans, for centuries, had little control over their destinies. Forces of bigotry and violence kept them subjugated by whites. Suffering, for the oppressed, was tangible. Death was a constant companion. And it was only their imagination, as William Faulkner noted at the end of “The Sound and the Fury,” that permitted them — unlike the novel’s white Compson family — to “endure.”

The theologian James H. Cone captures this in his book “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” Cone says that for oppressed blacks the cross was a “paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last.” Cone continues:

“That God could ‘make a way out of no way’ in Jesus’ cross was truly absurd to the intellect, yet profoundly real in the souls of black folk. Enslaved blacks who first heard the gospel message seized on the power of the cross. Christ crucified manifested God’s loving and liberating presence in the contradictions of black life — that transcendent presence in the lives of black Christians that empowered them to believe that ultimately, in God’s eschatological future, they would not be defeated by the ‘troubles of this world,’ no matter how great and painful their suffering. Believing this paradox, this absurd claim of faith, was only possible in humility and repentance. There was no place for the proud and the mighty, for people who think that God called them to rule over others. The cross was God’s critique of power — white power — with powerless love, snatching victory out of defeat.”

Reinhold Niebuhr labeled this capacity to defy the forces of repression “a sublime madness in the soul.” Niebuhr wrote that “nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’” This sublime madness, as Niebuhr understood, is dangerous, but it is vital. Without it, “truth is obscured.” And Niebuhr also knew that traditional liberalism was a useless force in moments of extremity. Liberalism, Niebuhr said, “lacks the spirit of enthusiasm, not to say fanaticism, which is so necessary to move the world out of its beaten tracks. It is too intellectual and too little emotional to be an efficient force in history.”

The prophets in the Hebrew Bible had this sublime madness. The words of the Hebrew prophets, as Abraham Heschel wrote, were “a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven.” The prophet, because he saw and faced an unpleasant reality, was, as Heschel wrote, “compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.”

Primo Levi in his memoir “Survival in Auschwitz” tells of teaching Italian to another inmate, Jean Samuel, in exchange for lessons in French. Levi recites to Samuel from memory Canto XXVI of Dante’s “The Inferno.” It is the story of Ulysses’ final voyage.

We cheered, but soon that cheering turned to woe,

for then a whirlwind born from the strange land

battered our little vessel on the prow.

Three times the boat and all the sea were whirled,

and at the fourth, to please Another’s will,

the aft tipped in the air, the prow went down,

Until the ocean closed above our bones.

“He has received the message,” Levi wrote of his friend and what they shared in Dante, “he has felt that it has to do with him, that it has to do with all men who toil, and with us in particular.” Levi goes on. “It is vitally necessary and urgent that he listen, that he understand … before it is too late; tomorrow he or I might be dead, or we might never see each other again.”

The poet Leon Staff wrote from the Warsaw ghetto: “Even more than bread we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all.”

It is only those who harness their imagination, and through their imagination find the courage to peer into the molten pit, who can minister to the suffering of those around them. It is only they who can find the physical and psychological strength to resist. Resistance is carried out not for its success, but because by resisting in every way possible we affirm life. And those who resist in the years ahead will be those who are infected with this “sublime madness.” As Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” the only morally reliable people are not those who say “this is wrong” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t.” They know that as Immanuel Kant wrote: “If justice perishes, human life on earth has lost its meaning.” And this means that, like Socrates, we must come to a place where it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. We must at once see and act, and given what it means to see, this will require the surmounting of despair, not by reason, but by faith.

“One of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt,” Camus wrote. “It is a constant confrontation between man and his obscurity. ” It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

“… [T]he people noticed that Crazy Horse was queerer than ever,” Black Elk said in remembering the final days of the wars of Western expansion. He went on to say of the great Sioux warrior: “He hardly ever stayed in the camp. People would find him out alone in the cold, and they would ask him to come home with them. He would not come, but sometimes he would tell the people what to do. People wondered if he ate anything at all. Once my father found him out alone like that, and he said to my father: “Uncle, you have noticed me the way I act. But do not worry; there are caves and holes for me to live in, and out here the spirits may help me. I am making plans for the good of my people.”

Homer, Dante, Beethoven, Melville, Dostoevsky, Proust, Joyce, W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson and James Baldwin, along with artists such as the sculptor David Smith, the photographer Diane Arbus and the blues musician Charley Patton, all had it. It is the sublime madness that lets one sing, as bluesman Ishman Bracey did in Hinds County, Miss., “I’ve been down so long, Lawd, down don’t worry me.” And yet in the mists of the imagination also lie the absurdity and certainty of divine justice:

I feel my hell a-risin’, a-risin’ every day;
I feel my hell a-risin’, a-risin’ every day;
Someday it’ll burst this levee and wash the whole wide world away.

Shakespeare’s greatest heroes and heroines — Prospero, Antony, Juliet, Viola, Rosalind, Hamlet, Cordelia and Lear — all have this sublime madness. King Lear, who through suffering and affliction, through human imagination, is finally able to see, warns us all that unbridled human passion and unchecked hubris mean the suicide of the species. “It will come,” Albany says in “Lear.” “Humanity must perforce prey on itself, Like monsters of the deep.” It was the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca that sustained the republicans fighting the fascists in Spain. Music, dance, drama, art, song, painting [have been] the fire and drive of resistance movements. The rebel units in El Salvador when I covered the war there always traveled with musicians and theater troupes. Art, as Emma Goldman pointed out, has the power to make ideas felt. Goldman noted that when Andrew Undershaft, a character in George Bernard Shaw’s play “Major Barbara,” said poverty is “[t]he worst of crimes” and “All the other crimes are virtues beside it,” his impassioned declaration elucidated the cruelty of class warfare more effectively than Shaw’s socialist tracts. The degradation of education into vocational training for the corporate state, the ending of state subsidies for the arts and journalism, the hijacking of these disciplines by corporate sponsors, sever the population from understanding, self-actualization and transcendence. In aesthetic terms the corporate state seeks to crush beauty, truth and imagination. This is a war waged by all totalitarian systems.

Culture, real culture, is radical and transformative. It is capable of expressing what lies deep within us. It gives words to our reality. It makes us feel as well as see. It allows us to empathize with those who are different or oppressed. It reveals what is happening around us. It honors mystery. “The role of the artist, then, precisely, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through the vast forest,” James Baldwin wrote, “so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”

“Ultimately, the artist and the revolutionary function as they function, and pay whatever dues they must pay behind it because they are both possessed by a vision, and they do not so much follow this vision as find themselves driven by it,” wrote Baldwin. “Otherwise, they could never endure, much less embrace, the lives they are compelled to lead.”

I do not know if we can build a better society. I do not even know if we will survive as a species. But I know these corporate forces have us by the throat. And they have my children by the throat. I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists. And this is a fight which in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires us to embrace this sublime madness, to find in acts of rebellion the embers of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside of certain success. It is to at once grasp reality and then refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. It is, and I say this to people of all creeds or no creeds, to make an absurd leap of faith, to believe, despite all empirical evidence around us, that good always draws to it the good, that the fight for life always goes somewhere–we do not know where; the Buddhists call it karma–and in these acts we sustain our belief in a better world, even if we cannot see one emerging around us.

The Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, who spent most of his adult life in prison or in exile, knew something of despair. But he knew something too of resistance, of that rebellious spirit which must define us in times of terrible oppression and woe if we are to remain fully human. Any act of resistance is its own eternal triumph. Hikmet captured this in his poem “On Living.”

Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example –
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people –
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

II
Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery –
which is to say we might not get up
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast . . .
Let’s say we’re at the front –
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.

III
This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space . . .
You must grieve for this right now
–you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived”. . .

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. The Los Angeles Press Club honored Hedges’ original columns in Truthdig by naming the author the Online Journalist of the Year in 2009, and granted him the Best Online Column award in 2010 for his Truthdig essay “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists.”

Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University. He currently teaches inmates at a correctional facility in New Jersey.

Hedges began his career reporting the war in El Salvador. Following six years in Latin America, he took time off to study Arabic and then went to Jerusalem and later Cairo. He spent seven years in the Middle East, most of them as the bureau chief there for The New York Times. He left the Middle East in 1995 for Sarajevo to cover the war in Bosnia and later reported the war in Kosovo. Afterward, he joined the Times’ investigative team and was based in Paris to cover al-Qaida. He left the Times after being issued a formal reprimand for denouncing the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best-selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. His latest book is “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010)

Hedges holds a B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. Hedges speaks Arabic, French and Spanish and knows ancient Greek and Latin. In addition to writing a weekly original column for Truthdig, he has written for Harper’s Magazine, The New Statesman, The New York Review of Books, Adbusters, Granta, Foreign Affairs and other publications.

Violence, Infectious Disease and Climate Change Contributed to Indus Civilization Collapse

January 17, 2014

Jan. 16, 2014 — A new study on the human skeletal remains from the ancient Indus city of Harappa provides evidence that inter-personal violence and infectious diseases played a role in the demise of the Indus, or Harappan Civilization around 4,000 years ago.

The Indus Civilization stretched over a million square kilometers of what is now Pakistan and India in the Third Millennium B.C. While contemporaneous civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotomia, are well-known, their Indus trading partners have remained more of a mystery.

Archaeological research has demonstrated that Indus cities grew rapidly from 2200-1900 B.C., when they were largely abandoned. “The collapse of the Indus Civilization and the reorganization of its human population has been controversial for a long time,” lead author of the paper published last month in the journal PLOS ONE, Gwen Robbins Schug, explained. Robbins Schug is an associate professor of anthropology at Appalachian State University.

Climate, economic, and social changes all played a role in the process of urbanization and collapse, but little was known about how these changes affected the human population.

Robbins Schug and an international team of researchers examined evidence for trauma and infectious disease in the human skeletal remains from three burial areas at Harappa, one of the largest cities in the Indus Civilization. The results of their analysis counter longstanding claims that the Indus civilization developed as a peaceful, cooperative, and egalitarian state-level society, without social differentiation, hierarchy, or differences in access to basic resources.

The data suggest instead that some communities at Harappa faced more significant impacts than others from climate and socio-economic strains, particularly the socially disadvantaged or marginalized communities who are most vulnerable to violence and disease. This pattern is expected in strongly socially differentiated, hierarchical but weakly controlled societies facing resource stress.

Robbins Schug’s and colleagues’ findings add to the growing body of research about the character of Indus society and the nature of its collapse.

“Early research had proposed that ecological factors were the cause of the demise, but there wasn’t much paleo-environmental evidence to confirm those theories,” Robbins Schug said. “In the past few decades, there have been refinements to the available techniques for reconstructing paleo-environments and burgeoning interest in this field.”

When paleoclimate, archaeology, and human skeletal biology approaches are combined, scientists can glean important insights from the past, addressing long-standing and socially relevant questions.

“Rapid climate change events have wide-ranging impacts on human communities,” Robbins Schug said. “Scientists cannot make assumptions that climate changes will always equate to violence and disease. However, in this case, it appears that the rapid urbanization process in Indus cities, and the increasingly large amount of culture contact, brought new challenges to the human population. Infectious diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis were probably transmitted across an interaction sphere that spanned Middle and South Asia.”

Robbins Schug’s research shows that leprosy appeared at Harappa during the urban phase of the Indus Civilization, and its prevalence significantly increased through time. New diseases, such as tuberculosis, also appear in the Late Harappan or post-urban phase burials. Violent injury such as cranial trauma also increases through time, a finding that is remarkable, she said, given that evidence for violence is very rare in prehistoric South Asian sites generally.

“As the environment changed, the exchange network became increasingly incoherent. When you combine that with social changes and this particular cultural context, it all worked together to create a situation that became untenable,” she said.

The results of the study are striking, according to Robbins Schug, because violence and disease increased through time, with the highest rates found as the human population was abandoning the cities. However, an even more interesting result is that individuals who were excluded from the city’s formal cemeteries had the highest rates of violence and disease. In a small ossuary southeast of the city, men, women, and children were interred in a small pit. The rate of violence in this sample was 50 percent for the 10 crania preserved, and more than 20 percent of these individuals demonstrated evidence of infection with leprosy.

Robbins Schug said lessons from the Indus Civilization are applicable to modern societies.

“Human populations in semi-arid regions of the world, including South Asia, currently face disproportionate impacts from global climate change,” the researchers wrote. “The evidence from Harappa offers insights into how social and biological challenges impacted past societies facing rapid population growth, climate change and environmental degradation. Unfortunately, in this case, increasing levels of violence and disease accompanied massive levels of migration and resource stress and disproportionate impacts were felt by the most vulnerable members of society.”

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Journal Reference:

  1. Gwen Robbins Schug, K. Elaine Blevins, Brett Cox, Kelsey Gray, V. Mushrif-Tripathy.Infection, Disease, and Biosocial Processes at the End of the Indus CivilizationPLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (12): e84814 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0084814
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The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

January 16, 2014
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by Jan Lundberg
20 October 2011
ImageAuthor Keith Farnish has a problem with Western Civilization. So do I. I mean, Mozart is all well and good, but destroying the planet through industrialism and growth isn’t quite worth civilization’s accomplishments. Or is extinction a small price to pay for our glorious expansion? The downsides are hard-wired to the dominant culture.Even if sustainability were not a critical issue, for anyone to have to pay to live on Earth is a ridiculous notion for a society to undertake. But this is our brilliant system, whereby people are conditioned to compete and buy into their own slavery. Abandoning nature in order to have to buy pieces of it as commodities is inefficiency and waste of the tallest order. Modern man is demonstrably stupid to rely on unnecessary slavery, whereas any animal smart enough to survive in the wild cannot be stupid and is no kind of slave.

One form of human enslavement is to tolerate massive pollution, such as the sum of greenhouse gas output from the technological giants China and the U.S. One can surmise that those of us who sit by and do not lift a finger lack a “survival gene” in our evolutionarily strange times.

Keith asked me, in the spirit of co-liberation for humanity and the species we have enslaved, to furnish a chapter to his upcoming book Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Upon reading the introduction he wrote, I’m in support of the project. Here’s what he got from me in early October of this year:

 

The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

Usher in the “new” economics of local self-sufficiency and community cooperation

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man*
- Imagine, John Lennon
*Lest any feminists be offended by the quaintness of the last line, it is worth recalling that Lennon was soon to unleash “Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

I like to think that critics of civilization are above all compassionate, nonviolent and realistic.  So perhaps we can keep in mind that wishing for quick change to save the planet and throw off the shackles of capitalism and authoritarianism has to be weighed with today’s vast dependence on industry.  Yes, the economy will collapse and end most greenhouse gas emissions. But this is not to say everything will be just fine as soon as manufacturing and oil-powered transport stop. There will be severe repercussions to “lifelines” of energy, food and materials being cut or terminated.As industrial civilization is built on exploiting nonrenewable “resources” (many of which should never have been tapped), and human population and consumption of manufactured materials are near peak, the unsustainability of unlimited industrialism should be obvious.

Whether the unsustainability is obvious or not, collapse can be sudden and rapid, as the house-of-cards economy built on cheap, ample petroleum can have the rug pulled out from under it by any break in the chain. Then the infrastructure fails once and for all, beginning the final rusting of the machinery of civilization on all levels.

One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, “That’s fine, the Earth needs a break.”  But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization.

If we have simple starvation, and can survive the other assaults, then we can paint a picture of the world after industrial civilization that has a viable human presence.  I am optimistic about it.  A new culture borrowing heavily on traditional ways of various indigenous cultures, with some helpful influences from recent visionaries, will emerge from the rubble of petrocivilization.  The breakdown of the previous global corporate culture and lack of cheap, fast travel will assure a larger world of innumerable autonomous bioregional nations and tribes.

Individually the end of industrial civilization and massive government means being free from jobs, i.e., working for others for their purposes to earn money to buy essentials that nature actually provides freely.  This is unthinkable by many today, but they tend to distrust the masses’ thinking for themselves and managing with self-rule and voluntary cooperation.

Along with rejecting the obvious failures and mistakes of the previous era of growth and “progress,” the new culture will have to find harmony with nature.  This cannot be done with the hierarchal, patriarchal, religious empire-building mindset that ravaged the planet starting with perhaps Sumer.  Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.

As to nuts & bolts, or the lack of them, I wrote in January of 2007 in Culture Change Letter #150, “one can visualize local crafts-people soon making due with scrap materials and some renewable resources. The individual’s possessions will not be so voluminous and overbearing when the change comes. There will no longer be a great number of things used daily, because new stuff won’t be available and cheaply shipped to everyone the way it once was. So, re-using finally becomes the rule of the day.”

However, maximizing bicycles and bike-trailers may be a transition phenomenon that lasts only a century at best.  This may not be so terrible: as we become less material oriented we become more spiritual.  It can be argued that nature and spirit are really one.  If a “primitive” and simple life for all sounds objectionable, tough shit.  The question is “what is really ahead?”, not what we feel we are entitled to as modern homo “sapiens.”  As part of the swing of the pendulum, spirituality identified with the Earth will return strongly, as people revere life in part by deploring the past era’s trashing of the living world.

As certain regions will be damaged for centuries by past practices and the distortions of climate change, they cannot provide every essential food or material for sustaining the lives or happiness of the tribe or nation, if isolated.  So trade will be perhaps essential.  Without cheap oil, and in the absence of renewable fuels such as biofuels that still depend on mechanical systems involving high entropy, the low-tech, efficient mode of sailing will return to the fore.  Already it is making itself attractive in a cost sense as the corporate global economy continues to pollute the atmosphere with disastrous bunker fuel and routine oil spills out of view of the news media and public consciousness.

People in temperate and arctic climes can live without coffee, chocolate, and other delicacies now shipped thousands of miles to addicts and bon vivants.  But people prefer not to be deprived: if something can be done, it will be done.  Additionally, a favorable environment here for producing olives, for example, can result in a reasonable surplus to trade for some grain from over there.  Specialization is a questionable reliance, but sharing and assisting other communities will be carried out between peoples who, since the Great Collapse, will be evolving their bioregions into very diverse, unique cultures.  The loss of languages and cultures will be remedied over time.  Sailing will keep up the right level of communication, knowledge, and mutual aid, for the new reduced population size.

That’s if we can survive the undoing of civilization and its toxic and radioactive consequences.

- Depaver Jan Lundberg, independent oil industry analyst
Monterey Bay, California, October 8, 2011

 

Image

from Underminers.org

* * * * *

Further reading:

Keith Farnish’s forthcoming book, has begun online here:Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Some of his writings are on Culture Change.

Jan Lundberg’s January 2007 essay: Ending Industrialism: Will peak oil save the climate, or shall we first embrace a new culture?

 

The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

December 31, 2013
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by Jan Lundberg
20 October 2011
ImageAuthor Keith Farnish has a problem with Western Civilization. So do I. I mean, Mozart is all well and good, but destroying the planet through industrialism and growth isn’t quite worth civilization’s accomplishments. Or is extinction a small price to pay for our glorious expansion? The downsides are hard-wired to the dominant culture.Even if sustainability were not a critical issue, for anyone to have to pay to live on Earth is a ridiculous notion for a society to undertake. But this is our brilliant system, whereby people are conditioned to compete and buy into their own slavery. Abandoning nature in order to have to buy pieces of it as commodities is inefficiency and waste of the tallest order. Modern man is demonstrably stupid to rely on unnecessary slavery, whereas any animal smart enough to survive in the wild cannot be stupid and is no kind of slave.

One form of human enslavement is to tolerate massive pollution, such as the sum of greenhouse gas output from the technological giants China and the U.S. One can surmise that those of us who sit by and do not lift a finger lack a “survival gene” in our evolutionarily strange times.

Keith asked me, in the spirit of co-liberation for humanity and the species we have enslaved, to furnish a chapter to his upcoming book Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Upon reading the introduction he wrote, I’m in support of the project. Here’s what he got from me in early October of this year:

 

The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

Usher in the “new” economics of local self-sufficiency and community cooperation

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man*
- Imagine, John Lennon
*Lest any feminists be offended by the quaintness of the last line, it is worth recalling that Lennon was soon to unleash “Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

I like to think that critics of civilization are above all compassionate, nonviolent and realistic.  So perhaps we can keep in mind that wishing for quick change to save the planet and throw off the shackles of capitalism and authoritarianism has to be weighed with today’s vast dependence on industry.  Yes, the economy will collapse and end most greenhouse gas emissions. But this is not to say everything will be just fine as soon as manufacturing and oil-powered transport stop. There will be severe repercussions to “lifelines” of energy, food and materials being cut or terminated.As industrial civilization is built on exploiting nonrenewable “resources” (many of which should never have been tapped), and human population and consumption of manufactured materials are near peak, the unsustainability of unlimited industrialism should be obvious.

Whether the unsustainability is obvious or not, collapse can be sudden and rapid, as the house-of-cards economy built on cheap, ample petroleum can have the rug pulled out from under it by any break in the chain. Then the infrastructure fails once and for all, beginning the final rusting of the machinery of civilization on all levels.

One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, “That’s fine, the Earth needs a break.”  But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization.

If we have simple starvation, and can survive the other assaults, then we can paint a picture of the world after industrial civilization that has a viable human presence.  I am optimistic about it.  A new culture borrowing heavily on traditional ways of various indigenous cultures, with some helpful influences from recent visionaries, will emerge from the rubble of petrocivilization.  The breakdown of the previous global corporate culture and lack of cheap, fast travel will assure a larger world of innumerable autonomous bioregional nations and tribes.

Individually the end of industrial civilization and massive government means being free from jobs, i.e., working for others for their purposes to earn money to buy essentials that nature actually provides freely.  This is unthinkable by many today, but they tend to distrust the masses’ thinking for themselves and managing with self-rule and voluntary cooperation.

Along with rejecting the obvious failures and mistakes of the previous era of growth and “progress,” the new culture will have to find harmony with nature.  This cannot be done with the hierarchal, patriarchal, religious empire-building mindset that ravaged the planet starting with perhaps Sumer.  Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.

As to nuts & bolts, or the lack of them, I wrote in January of 2007 in Culture Change Letter #150, “one can visualize local crafts-people soon making due with scrap materials and some renewable resources. The individual’s possessions will not be so voluminous and overbearing when the change comes. There will no longer be a great number of things used daily, because new stuff won’t be available and cheaply shipped to everyone the way it once was. So, re-using finally becomes the rule of the day.”

However, maximizing bicycles and bike-trailers may be a transition phenomenon that lasts only a century at best.  This may not be so terrible: as we become less material oriented we become more spiritual.  It can be argued that nature and spirit are really one.  If a “primitive” and simple life for all sounds objectionable, tough shit.  The question is “what is really ahead?”, not what we feel we are entitled to as modern homo “sapiens.”  As part of the swing of the pendulum, spirituality identified with the Earth will return strongly, as people revere life in part by deploring the past era’s trashing of the living world.

As certain regions will be damaged for centuries by past practices and the distortions of climate change, they cannot provide every essential food or material for sustaining the lives or happiness of the tribe or nation, if isolated.  So trade will be perhaps essential.  Without cheap oil, and in the absence of renewable fuels such as biofuels that still depend on mechanical systems involving high entropy, the low-tech, efficient mode of sailing will return to the fore.  Already it is making itself attractive in a cost sense as the corporate global economy continues to pollute the atmosphere with disastrous bunker fuel and routine oil spills out of view of the news media and public consciousness.

People in temperate and arctic climes can live without coffee, chocolate, and other delicacies now shipped thousands of miles to addicts and bon vivants.  But people prefer not to be deprived: if something can be done, it will be done.  Additionally, a favorable environment here for producing olives, for example, can result in a reasonable surplus to trade for some grain from over there.  Specialization is a questionable reliance, but sharing and assisting other communities will be carried out between peoples who, since the Great Collapse, will be evolving their bioregions into very diverse, unique cultures.  The loss of languages and cultures will be remedied over time.  Sailing will keep up the right level of communication, knowledge, and mutual aid, for the new reduced population size.

That’s if we can survive the undoing of civilization and its toxic and radioactive consequences.

- Depaver Jan Lundberg, independent oil industry analyst
Monterey Bay, California, October 8, 2011

 

Image

from Underminers.org

* * * * *

Further reading:

Keith Farnish’s forthcoming book, has begun online here:Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Some of his writings are on Culture Change.

Jan Lundberg’s January 2007 essay: Ending Industrialism: Will peak oil save the climate, or shall we first embrace a new culture?

 

Comments (5)Add Comment

We can hope it will be as peaceful as you portray. All you suggest is possible. I would like to share the first two paragraphs of my essay on the coming new middle ages:
We will go kicking and screaming down the path to the new Middle Ages as fossil fuels desert us. With the decline of available energy, those of most of us who have sat at the top of the energy pyramid will become the new peasants. With the popular view of the Middle Ages as a brutal and dirty time filled with famine and disease and at the mercy of armed overlords. We cringe at the thought.

With great sadness, we must recognize the direct connection between present day population levels and the use of fossil fuels in food production, medical procedures, medicines and hygiene. With the fall in fossil fuel availability there will be a reduction in population. Population soared with the industrial revolution and the development of industrial, fossil fuel based agriculture. It cannot be sustained.
From: The New Middle Ages
http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/05/new-middle-ages.html

John Weber

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Votes: +8

There are so many illogical and ill thought out arguments in this article it is unbelievable. I’ll highlight JUST one:

“One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, “That’s fine, the Earth needs a break.” But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization. “

What? Assuming that your hypothesis of “simple starvation” happens (which wouldn’t be simple or peaceful), you say you are optimistic of the results. What if it was YOUR entire family that starved to death? Or are you thinking in a western mindset and assuming it will be the third world that dies off, leaving the west to “get in touch with nature, man.”

I’m not sure if you created these arguments as you went along, or if you seriously think that humanity will forgo progress to assume some spiritual ideology you hold to be superior. There are societies that currently exist that you would fit right in, so instead of publishing poorly constructed articles about progress on the internet (dissing progress on your Mac Book Pro?), why don’t you move to an environment better suited to your worldly beliefs? You do realize your proposed policies are half-baked, and anyone with an education understands how ludicrous this article is, right?

PS) You’re advocating a return to sailing and destroying trade specialization? Give me a break!

daftones

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You are dumb daftones. Plain and simple. There is no “argument”. He is saying it is math. This amount of petrol equals this amount of population. Its very easy. Goodbye Petrol= Goodbye petrol dependent monkey-men. And as far as what you deem “progress” (ie starvation at an all time high, nuclear fallout worldwide, a 4th major extinction etc etc etc)it seems there is no arguing that that is just about through. Better get over it buddy.
Zach

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Votes: +1

Reading this article, among others on the subject around the net, as well as their respective range of responses, I’m continuously reminded of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which, apparently, is a giant and relatively-permanent storm that forever rages…
It makes me think of our species as Earth’s biological red spot, raging forever on survival’s knife’s edge, never quite disappearing, yet blasting everything within itself and around it… as it wipes out more peaceful, intelligent, and/or mature mutations of us… what can mutually beneficially coexist and integrate with nature, like the honey bees or mycellium…

I try not to think of humans in this way, and used to feel fairly optimistic at my core, but that core’s optimism seems to be eroding, like the death-of-a-thousand-cuts, and soils and environments worldwide, as I continue to witness the dust-devils that increase in size and frequency.

…Perhaps it is just my imagination…

Caelan MacIntyre

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“Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.”

This will never happen, look at history – people repeat same mistakes and never learn. After the oil civilization, there will be another similar civilization using other resources and so on…Until the Earth becomes inhabitable for humans and finally cleanses itself from us…

December 23, 2013
The World After Industrial Civilization Goes PDF Print E-mail

User Rating: / 28
PoorBest 

by Jan Lundberg
20 October 2011
ImageAuthor Keith Farnish has a problem with Western Civilization. So do I. I mean, Mozart is all well and good, but destroying the planet through industrialism and growth isn’t quite worth civilization’s accomplishments. Or is extinction a small price to pay for our glorious expansion? The downsides are hard-wired to the dominant culture.Even if sustainability were not a critical issue, for anyone to have to pay to live on Earth is a ridiculous notion for a society to undertake. But this is our brilliant system, whereby people are conditioned to compete and buy into their own slavery. Abandoning nature in order to have to buy pieces of it as commodities is inefficiency and waste of the tallest order. Modern man is demonstrably stupid to rely on unnecessary slavery, whereas any animal smart enough to survive in the wild cannot be stupid and is no kind of slave.

One form of human enslavement is to tolerate massive pollution, such as the sum of greenhouse gas output from the technological giants China and the U.S. One can surmise that those of us who sit by and do not lift a finger lack a “survival gene” in our evolutionarily strange times.

Keith asked me, in the spirit of co-liberation for humanity and the species we have enslaved, to furnish a chapter to his upcoming book Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Upon reading the introduction he wrote, I’m in support of the project. Here’s what he got from me in early October of this year:

 

The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

Usher in the “new” economics of local self-sufficiency and community cooperation

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man*
- Imagine, John Lennon
*Lest any feminists be offended by the quaintness of the last line, it is worth recalling that Lennon was soon to unleash “Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

I like to think that critics of civilization are above all compassionate, nonviolent and realistic.  So perhaps we can keep in mind that wishing for quick change to save the planet and throw off the shackles of capitalism and authoritarianism has to be weighed with today’s vast dependence on industry.  Yes, the economy will collapse and end most greenhouse gas emissions. But this is not to say everything will be just fine as soon as manufacturing and oil-powered transport stop. There will be severe repercussions to “lifelines” of energy, food and materials being cut or terminated.As industrial civilization is built on exploiting nonrenewable “resources” (many of which should never have been tapped), and human population and consumption of manufactured materials are near peak, the unsustainability of unlimited industrialism should be obvious.

Whether the unsustainability is obvious or not, collapse can be sudden and rapid, as the house-of-cards economy built on cheap, ample petroleum can have the rug pulled out from under it by any break in the chain. Then the infrastructure fails once and for all, beginning the final rusting of the machinery of civilization on all levels.

One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, “That’s fine, the Earth needs a break.”  But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization.

If we have simple starvation, and can survive the other assaults, then we can paint a picture of the world after industrial civilization that has a viable human presence.  I am optimistic about it.  A new culture borrowing heavily on traditional ways of various indigenous cultures, with some helpful influences from recent visionaries, will emerge from the rubble of petrocivilization.  The breakdown of the previous global corporate culture and lack of cheap, fast travel will assure a larger world of innumerable autonomous bioregional nations and tribes.

Individually the end of industrial civilization and massive government means being free from jobs, i.e., working for others for their purposes to earn money to buy essentials that nature actually provides freely.  This is unthinkable by many today, but they tend to distrust the masses’ thinking for themselves and managing with self-rule and voluntary cooperation.

Along with rejecting the obvious failures and mistakes of the previous era of growth and “progress,” the new culture will have to find harmony with nature.  This cannot be done with the hierarchal, patriarchal, religious empire-building mindset that ravaged the planet starting with perhaps Sumer.  Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.

As to nuts & bolts, or the lack of them, I wrote in January of 2007 in Culture Change Letter #150, “one can visualize local crafts-people soon making due with scrap materials and some renewable resources. The individual’s possessions will not be so voluminous and overbearing when the change comes. There will no longer be a great number of things used daily, because new stuff won’t be available and cheaply shipped to everyone the way it once was. So, re-using finally becomes the rule of the day.”

However, maximizing bicycles and bike-trailers may be a transition phenomenon that lasts only a century at best.  This may not be so terrible: as we become less material oriented we become more spiritual.  It can be argued that nature and spirit are really one.  If a “primitive” and simple life for all sounds objectionable, tough shit.  The question is “what is really ahead?”, not what we feel we are entitled to as modern homo “sapiens.”  As part of the swing of the pendulum, spirituality identified with the Earth will return strongly, as people revere life in part by deploring the past era’s trashing of the living world.

As certain regions will be damaged for centuries by past practices and the distortions of climate change, they cannot provide every essential food or material for sustaining the lives or happiness of the tribe or nation, if isolated.  So trade will be perhaps essential.  Without cheap oil, and in the absence of renewable fuels such as biofuels that still depend on mechanical systems involving high entropy, the low-tech, efficient mode of sailing will return to the fore.  Already it is making itself attractive in a cost sense as the corporate global economy continues to pollute the atmosphere with disastrous bunker fuel and routine oil spills out of view of the news media and public consciousness.

People in temperate and arctic climes can live without coffee, chocolate, and other delicacies now shipped thousands of miles to addicts and bon vivants.  But people prefer not to be deprived: if something can be done, it will be done.  Additionally, a favorable environment here for producing olives, for example, can result in a reasonable surplus to trade for some grain from over there.  Specialization is a questionable reliance, but sharing and assisting other communities will be carried out between peoples who, since the Great Collapse, will be evolving their bioregions into very diverse, unique cultures.  The loss of languages and cultures will be remedied over time.  Sailing will keep up the right level of communication, knowledge, and mutual aid, for the new reduced population size.

That’s if we can survive the undoing of civilization and its toxic and radioactive consequences.

- Depaver Jan Lundberg, independent oil industry analyst
Monterey Bay, California, October 8, 2011

 

Image

from Underminers.org

* * * * *

Further reading:

Keith Farnish’s forthcoming book, has begun online here:Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Some of his writings are on Culture Change.

Jan Lundberg’s January 2007 essay: Ending Industrialism: Will peak oil save the climate, or shall we first embrace a new culture?

 

Urban Sprawl Threatens Water Quality, Climate Protection, and Land Conservation Gains

December 12, 2013

Dec. 11, 2013 — A groundbreaking study by Harvard University’s Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution reveals that, if left unchecked, recent trends in the loss of forests to development will undermine significant land conservation gains in Massachusetts, jeopardize water quality, and limit the natural landscape’s ability to protect against climate change.

The scientists researched and analyzed four plausible scenarios for what Massachusetts could look like in the future. The scenarios were developed by a group of forestry professionals, land-use planning and water policy experts, and conservation groups. The scenarios reflect contrasting patterns and intensities of land development, wood harvesting, conservation, and agriculture. The two-year study is unique in its forward-looking approach and its use of sophisticated computer models to conduct a detailed acre-by-acre analysis of the entire forested landscape of Massachusetts over 50 years.

“What we found is that land-use decisions have immediate and dramatic impacts on many of the forest benefits people depend on,” said Jonathan Thompson, Senior Ecologist at Harvard Forest and lead author of the new study. This is the first time a study of this magnitude has been conducted for an entire state. Thompson goes on to say, “Massachusetts is an important place to study land-use because it is densely populated, heavily forested, and experiencing rapid change — much like the broader forested landscape of the eastern U.S. The results of the study show that sprawl, coupled with a permanent loss of forest cover in Massachusetts, create an urgent need to address land-use choices.”

“We know from decades of research that forests are more than a collection of trees, they are ‘living infrastructure’ that works 24-hours a day to provide climate protection, clean water, local wood products, and natural areas for people and wildlife. The results of this new study show that seemingly imperceptible changes to the land add-up in ways that can significantly enhance or erode these vital benefits, depending on the choices we all make,” said David Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest and co-author of the study.

The stakes are high but there is good news in the study. “The Forests as Infrastructure scenario shows it’s possible to protect forest benefits while also increasing local wood production and supporting economic development, by making important but achievable changes,” said Thompson. Forests as Infrastructure clusters more of the development, implements “improvement forestry” on much of the harvested land, and increases the rate of forest conservation with a focus on priority habitat. By 2060, compared to Recent Trends, this scenario would:

  • Limit flooding risks in virtually all of the state’s major watersheds
  • Protect water quality by minimizing impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots
  • Grow 20% more high-value trees like large oak, sugar maple, and white pine
  • Double the amount of local wood harvested
  • Maintain a 35% increase in the storage of carbon that would otherwise warm Earth
  • Reduce forest fragmentation by 25%
  • Protect a quarter-million more acres of high-priority wildlife habitat

Kathy Fallon Lambert, Director of Science and Policy at the Harvard Forest and co-author of the study, says the timing of the study is critical for the Commonwealth. “Not only are we experiencing this historic downturn in forest cover, but the legislature is contemplating changing our zoning laws for the first time in 40 years. In addition, the environmental bond bill will set conservation funding levels for the next five years.” Lambert says the study’s findings point to three broad policy directions: recommitting to land conservation, promoting sustainable forestry in the Commonwealth, and redoubling land-use planning and smart-growth efforts.

The team has received funding from the National Science Foundation to extend the study to include the five other New England states. By using science to understand and inform land-use decisions here in Massachusetts, the researchers are building on the Commonwealth’s history as a leader in science and conservation to help shape the future of one of the most globally significant forested regions in the world.

Download the report and the executive summary with policy addendum; watch a short video on the report; and access maps, figures at:http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/changes-to-the-land.

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One hoarse town: The 5 dirtiest cities you don’t want to live in

October 29, 2013

By 

Life is grand in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston -- so long as you don't need to breathe.
Elizabeth Brossa

You may have heard that Americans are pumping less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we were a few years ago, which is great for mitigating climate change. But as Ben Adler pointed out in a post for Grist on Sunday, we still have a long way to go. CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas, and its often-overlooked “co-pollutants” have more immediate, localized effects on human health, particularly for poor communities and people of color.

During an address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation last month, EPA chief Gina McCarthy pointed out that emissions of co-pollutants such as nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, sulfur oxide, and soot contribute to as many as one in 10 deaths in urban areas. “That is not acceptable,” she said.

“And we know that minorities are more likely to live near hazardous waste sites,” McCarthy added. “We know that respiratory and cardiac illnesses there are at a higher rate. For example, an African-American child is five times more likely than a white child to die from an asthma attack.”

It’s not news that large polluting factories are often concentrated in communities where people of color and of low-income are the primary, if not the exclusive inhabitants. But an EPA report released last week drives this point home. The report, which documents greenhouse gas emissions from large facilities in 2012, is accompanied by interactive maps showing where those facilities are located (at least the ones that actually report to the EPA).

Looking at those maps, I located five of the nation’s worst areas where waste processing plants, refineries, and power plants are bundled — much to the detriment of families living close by. (A factory icon represents a single large facility, while circled numbers indicate clusters of these facilities.)

5. New York City

New York City
That factory icon in Brooklyn marks the Brooklyn Navy Yard Cogeneration Project, a power plant that was responsible for almost 870,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2012. That’s down from over 1.1 million emitted in 2011, but it still pumped out over 500 metric tons of nitrous oxide, a pollutant can cause reproductive problems for women exposed to it over an extended term. Nationally, nitrous oxide emissions increased 4 percent between 1990 and 2011.

4. Baton Rouge-New Orleans, La.

BR-NOLAshot

That stretch from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, with chemical processing plants marking the route, is known infamously as “Cancer Alley” by environmental justice advocates and fenceline communities that have suffered under the fog of pollution for decades. In one industrial area of Iberville Parish alone (right below South Baton Rouge on the map) there are 23 facilities.

3. Long Beach-Bakersfield, Calif.

LAshot

The Chevron Refinery in El Segundo (near the circled 8 along the coast) spewed almost 3.5 million metric tons of CO2 in 2012, almost the same amount it emitted in 2010. It also flares and spits sulfur oxides, or SOx —over 57,000 pounds this year alone — which are linked to asthma when one is exposed to it for as short as five minutes.

2. Ft. Worth-Dallas, Texas

FtWorthDallasshot

Just west of Dallas, near Oak Cliff, is the Mountain Creek Generating Station, which burns natural gas, the fuel credited for helping drop overall greenhouse gas emissions this year. Its CO2 emissions rose from about 415,000 metric tons in 2011 to close to 525,000 metric tons last year.

1. Houston-Galveston, Texas

Houston-Galveston

This picture says it all. From Houston to Galveston (in the lower right corner) to Port Arthur (just off the top right corner of the map), this is perhaps the most polluted, definitely the most clustered area in the nation. The Port Arthur area is where the Keystone XL pipeline would end, bringing tons of dirty tar sands and refinery waste to an already beleaguered community.

Brentin Mock is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who writes regularly for Grist about environmental justice issues and the connections between environmental policy, race, and politics. Follow him on Twitter at @brentinmock.

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Rethinking Civilization– Plunging Earth Into Sixth Extinction

May 6, 2013

May 5, 2013

Rethinking Civilization– Plunging Earth Into Sixth Extinction; Daniel Quinn Interview Transcript Part 2

By Rob Kall

Daniel Quinn’s book, Ishmael, about a telepathic gorilla, won a Ted Turner award for book with a hopeful vision of the future. It’s become a bestseller translated into many languages and I recommend it as must reading if you’ve never read it. This portion of the interview discusses the book AND his thoughts on civilization, beyond civilization, the Sixth Extinction and the disaster that hierarchy is…

::::::::

I interviewed Daniel Quinn on April 5th, 2013.  This is part two of a two part interview. Here is a link to the audio podcast. This is part 2 of the interview transcript.  Part one is here.

Thanks to Don Caldarazzo   for doing the transcript.

Daniel Quinn’s book, Ishmael, about a telepathic gorilla, won a Ted Turner award for book with a hopeful vision of the future. It’s become a bestseller translated into many languages and I recommend it as must reading if you’ve never read it. This portion of the interview discusses the book AND his thoughts on civilization, beyond civilization, the Sixth Extinction and the disaster that hierarchy is…

Rob Kall:   This success doesn’t seem like such a good thing /

Daniel Quinn:   (laughs)

Rob Kall:   – to most of the people.
by Yinghai

Daniel Quinn:   Yeah, that’s probably true, but what I’m trying to direct them to is: to look at the foundations instead of picking at individual things.  Saying, “We’ve got to stop being dependent on petroleum.  We’ve got to develop alternative renewable resources for power.  We’ve got to get rid of gasoline powered automobiles.  We’ve got to stop polluting the air, the greenhouse gases.  We’ve got to stop doing the things that are causing climate change.”  These things, these particulars – rather than to look at the underlying organization – that says, “This is the way.  It may be terrible, but this is the way people were meant to live.  There is no other way.  There is nothing beyond civilization.”

Rob Kall:   Can I read the final two paragraphs that you sent me on this?

Daniel Quinn:   Yeah.

Rob Kall:   You wrote:  “The success of our civilization is prodigious, and it’s success has never been more spectacular than it is right now.  It has plunged us into a sixth extinction that, unless checked, will bring an end to humanity as surely as the fifth extinction brought an end to the great dinosaurs.  But it must continue at any cost and never be abandoned under any circumstance, even if it kills us.

Our civilization is a cloud that darkens the entire living community of out planet; but by God it stays up in the sky, and it doesn’t fall to earth.  This is it’s success, and we know in our bones that it must continues at any cost and never be abandoned under any circumstance, even if it kills us and all life on this planet.”  Whew!

Daniel Quinn:   (laughs)  Something to think about.

Rob Kall:   Well you know, I call my show the Bottom Up Radio Show.  I believe we’re transitioning from a top down world to a more bottom up world.  The top down world was catalyzed by agriculture, and the creation of cities and civilization, and slavery and domination, and hierarchy and centralization – and that it’s the internet, this huge new communication method that is changing the way our brains work, particularly among the young, that’s shifting us a to a bottom up mode.  And it’s really got me thinking about civilization, and if it has been a mistake: a detour on the human path on the biological path of Gaia, the Earth.

Daniel Quinn:   Yes.  Well, all of them began as experiments; and people, humans are prone to experiments, so the tendency is admirable — sure, try something out!  But then our civilization became obsessed with the  idea that there was no other was to live, and everybody had to live this way.  The other civilizations that I’ve talked about, they didn’t have that idea.  They didn’t conquer the people around them and make them live the way they lived.  They didn’t spread out all over North America and South America.  We are unique in that, and that uniqueness is terrible!  And it’s something that we have to think about.  I think everybody should be aware of it.

Rob Kall:   What about religion?  It seems to me that one of the factors that moves civilization to evangelize and convert is religion.

Daniel Quinn:   Yes.  Well, I have this theory that there have been hundreds of more religions than the ones we know about, and the ones that survived are the ones that fit in with our cultural mythology: that fit in with the vision of humanity as the most important thing in the universe, that endorses the idea that humans are here to rule the rest of the living community.  The ones that didn’t, for example, Animism, which was the practically the universal religion of Leaver Peoples, and still is, wherever they are still found, does not support it [our cultural mythology], and so it is not one of our religions.  It’s hardly known, but it doesn’t say anything about that.  Animism is a religious world view rather than a religion, a world view that sees the world as a sacred place, and humans as belonging in a sacred place.  This is not an idea that fits with our civilization’s, our culture’s vision of the world and humanity, and so it doesn’t appear as a religion to us.

Rob Kall:   So, we’ve got this idea, “The Invisibility of Success,” and it’s really describing a problem.  It’s describing the inability, because of the meme about the inevitability, of people to say, “No.  This is not working.”

Daniel Quinn:   Yes.  I think the only way to get people to start saying “No” is to show them how they are saying “Yes,” see what they are saying “Yes” to.  It’s only then they can say “No.”  It’s like the recent general realization that there is really something fundamentally wrong with our economic system, and something that needs to be said “No” to.  But before that, it was always “Yes!  What’s wrong?  Everything’s cool.”  But now, in recent decades, people have begun to say “What, no.  Maybe not.  Maybe this is really corrupt.  Maybe it’s working for that one percent [1%], but what about the rest of us?”  People are now ready to say “No” to that, because they’ve been made aware of what they’ve been saying “Yes” to for so long.  I’ve added a paragraph to this essay.  (laughs)

Rob Kall:   Go ahead. Read it.

Daniel Quinn:   No, I mean I just said it.

Rob Kall:   Oh.  OK, OK.  Yes, well, this essay – who knows, maybe it’ll turn into your next book.  What are you going to do with it?

Daniel Quinn:   I am thinking of collecting all of my essays and making this the title essay, making this the title of the book.  I’m going to propose it to my agent and see what she thinks, and if she doesn’t think it will fly, I’ll publish it myself.

Rob Kall:   OK.  Do you think there’s a future for humanity beyond civilization?

Daniel Quinn:   I think there is, yes – if we can get beyond civilization.  Of course, I wrote a whole book called Beyond Civilization trying to point with a wavering hand toward the possibility of there being something beyond civilization.  The people of the Middle Ages couldn’t imagine anything beyond what they had.  It was the final state of humanity.  And then came the Renaissance.  They couldn’t have predicted the Renaissance, and we can’t predict anything beyond us;  but there better be something beyond us, or we’re finished on this planet.

Rob Kall:   Do you think there’s a possibility that the next stage beyond civilization could be a spiraling evolution up towards another bottom up way of being?

Daniel Quinn:  It has to be.  Hierarchy is the disaster.  So i”m pointing to the — oh, what is it called, the Marcora law in Italy – which makes it possible for a group of ten people who want to get together to work – basically as a tribe, work cooperatively – unemployed people, who will be given three years worth of dole payments as capital to start a new venture.  It’s an amazing idea, very much a bottom up idea.  It’s been a tremendous success in Italy, and I hope it will get more attention in the United States.

Rob Kall:   What’s it called?

Daniel Quinn:   I think it’s  Marcora Law
.  I’ve got it written down.

Rob Kall:   I’ll get the spelling from you after we’re done the interview.  So. going back.  You’ve described how early on you’d spent an awful lot of time looking at anthropology, and archeology, and aboriginal cultures; we still have aboriginal cultures on this planet now.  I personally believe that they should be protected to the point where anybody attempting to reach them is shot.

Daniel Quinn:   (laughs)

Rob Kall:   I really believe that.  I believe that we need them desperately because they provide a connection to our past that is totally unavailable once a tribe becomes civilized or gets touched by culture.  But I wonder from you, what have you learned looking at aboriginal culture?  There’s a new book out now by Jared Diamond called The World Until Yesterday, where he discusses some of the ideas about aboriginal culture and what we can learn from them.  What are some of the things you learned from aboriginal culture?

Daniel Quinn:   Basically that each tribe had it’s own identity, had it’s own laws, which were very bottom up.  They were not laws that punished people, they were laws that helped to make things right, rather than punishing what was wrong.  They were not the same from tribe to tribe: the Sioux didn’t think that everybody should have their laws, or should live the way the Sioux lived, and the Pueblos didn’t think that everybody should live the way they lived.  And the fact that, in a tribe, you’re never sick all by yourself; you’re never dying all by yourself, you’re never poor all by yourself.  The bringing up of children is not all your problem, it’s the problem if the whole tribe.  All of these things, the function of the tribe, is to make life work for everyone.  If food is scarce, everyone is hungry.  There aren’t a few at the top who get to keep on eating.  And if there’s a lot of food, everybody gets more food.

So it’s a much friendlier, (laughs) God knows, way of life than our,s where each of us is isolated, each of us, everyone for himself.  That just doesn’t work as a principle for people.  It’s very hard on people.  And people think we’re rich, but what I saw in studies of aboriginal peoples was how rich they were; not in toys, but in their lives, in the security they had.  They had no jobs to lose, they couldn’t become poorer unless they were all poorer.

Rob Kall:   I know that, in the 1800s, the theory about early humans was that they were brutal people who suffered and struggled; and what we now know from studying the Bushmen, the San people of the Kalahari, is that their average workday is two or three hours, and they’ve got a great life, and it’s not hard at all, and we work profoundly harder than them.

Daniel Quinn:   Oh yeah.  It’s incredible.  If you pick up a can of peas, and you think of the incredible amount of work that went into putting that can of peas on your shelf – it took thousands of people to do that! (laughs)  It’s just amazing; everything we have represents that kind of output of energy and calories, and then everybody thinks they had a hard life, primitive people have a hard life.  We’re the ones who have a hard life.

Rob Kall:   So this is the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM, reaching metro Philly and South Jersey, sponsored by Opednews.com .  You don’t even need to remember Opednews.com .  Just do a Google search for “Progressive Opinion” or “Liberal News,” and we’ll come up at the very top of the search, although we’re really kind of Left of Liberal.  I’ve been speaking with Daniel Quinn.  He’s an author, a person who is a cultural critic who has explored the bigger picture of the relationship of man with the planet.  And Daniel, I have a question for you that I think you’ll be able to answer.  While we were talking before I started recording the conversation, you mentioned to me that Oprah asked you a question that you weren’t ready to answer at the time.

Daniel Quinn:   Yes.

Rob Kall:   What was the question and what’s the= answer?

Daniel Quinn:   The question was:  “Your book is all about “Leavers” and “Takers.”  What are Leavers and Takers?”  (laughs) I was thinking, oh my God, how in the world can I answer that?  And years later I would have been able to say, I define them this way: Leavers are people who leave the rule of the world in the hands of the Gods, and takers who’ve taken the rule of the world into their own hands.  Da dah!  Finished.

Rob Kall:   All right.

Daniel Quinn:   (laughs)

Rob Kall:   And this is a big part of Ishmael, and I have to say again as we wrap up this conversation: Ishmael is an amazing book that will make you think of the world in a very different way, and make you think of yourself and civilization as well.  Daniel, I wonder — it has to be that there are people who have attacked Ishmael and the ideas in it.  Who have been your attackers?

Daniel Quinn:   They haven’t really brought themselves to my attention.

Rob Kall:   Really!

Daniel Quinn:   Really, yeah. (laughs)  Some people sort of tentatively said, “Oh, you’re idealizing aboriginal peoples,” which is nonsense.  I make a point of saying that they’re absolutely no different from us, they’re no more noble, or anything like that.  They’re just exactly like us, they just happen to have a way of life that works for them.  That’s about as far as anyone has gone.  The book is used in hundreds of classrooms in all sorts of subjects: archaeology, anthropology, history, religion, psychology – on, and on, and on.  Teachers really love the book, but scholars have not accepted it into their library yet.  I’m not a scientist, I’m not a scholar, and so I don’t come wearing the right clothes to visit their library.

Rob Kall:   You’ve certainly brought a light into this world that has made a difference that I think will continue to make a difference.  I believe Ishmael was one of the most important books of the last century.  In wrapping up, I just want to thank you.  You’ve done something really important, and given us all a gift of a way to think; and now this new idea, The Invisibility of Success, it’s a powerful concept.  Basically what you’re saying is, you have to see how something is successful in order to deal with it, I think.

Daniel Quinn:   Yes.  I want to say that my conversation with you has been great, and as I told you, I was a little nervous in the beginning, since I’d never talked about this before; but I managed to plow right ahead, and I’m very pleased by the outcome.

Rob Kall:   All right.

Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of Storycon.org, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Listen to over 150 of Rob’s Podcast interviews here.

Mediate ranks Rob Kall among the top 180 print/online columnists, often ahead of NY Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post columnists.

With his experience as architect and founder of a technorati top 100 blog, he is also a new media / social media consultant and trainer for corporations, non-profits, entrepreneurs and authors.

Rob is a frequent Speaker on the bottom up revolution, politics, The art, science and power of story, heroes and the hero’s journey and Positive Psychology. He is a campaign consultant specializing in tapping the power of stories for issue positioning, stump speeches and debates, and optimizing tapping the power of new media. Watch me speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

See more Rob Kall articles here and, older ones, here.

To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out

A Voice For Truth – ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article.

And Rob’s quotes are here.

To watch me on youtube, having a lively conversation with John Conyers, former Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click here Now, wouldn’t you like to see me on the political news shows, representing progressives. If so, tell your favorite shows to bring me on and refer them to this youtube video.

Rob’s radio show, The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, runs 9-10 PM EST Wednesday evenings, on AM 1360, WNJC and is archived at www.opednews.com/podcasts Or listen to it streaming, live atwww.wnjc1360.com

Rob also hosted a health/mind/body/heart/spirit radio show– the Rob Kall Futurehealth radio show. Check out podcasts from it at futurehealth.org/podcasts

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A few declarations.

-My articles express my personal opinion, not the opinion of this website.

Recent press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party’s Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table


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