Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Chris Sharples

Can human greed and denial ever end? The climate crisis as a transformational opportunity (1)

Image caption: Ice made us who we are; now we are destroying it. Just as the challenges of survival through the last ice age played a large role in driving the evolution of those cognitive qualities and skills that have made humans so successful, so too the climate change crisis we have wrought could be the trigger for the next major leap in the evolution of our consciousness. In response to climate change, the Ilulissat Ice Fjord in west Greenland has exhibited one of the fastest rates of iceberg break-up and glacier retreat in recent decades of any Arctic glaciers. Photo by C. Sharples (2013).

First published April 4

… it was the rigors and challenges of survival through the last Ice Age that drove the evolution of those new cognitive abilities such as foresight and the ability to plan, innovation, enhanced communication skills and enhanced co-operation, which transformed our distant ancestors into fully modern humans…These qualities, and the evolution of self-aware consciousness that underpins them, are the very things that make humanity distinctive from all other living things. In this light, the historically-recent rise of right-wing ideologies which attempt to justify neoliberalism and consumerism (read: selfishness and greed) as a preferred basis for society – and which are so strongly characterised by the use of denial as a means to ignore their self-evident contradictions – are truly regressive ideologies since they represent a resurgence of our most primitive selfish evolutionary traits, and undermine the more recent tendencies towards co-operation and altruism that are actually what made humanity so successful …

Thoughtful people have long recognised that excessive self-interest and greed beyond need are debilitating limitations on humanity’s capacity to flourish as a society, as are other associated behaviours such as out-group prejudice and aggression. Indeed the ending of these has arguably been one of the aspirations of many religions, and of philosophies such as Buddhism. However it is starkly obvious that none of these religions or philosophies have actually succeeded in achieving this aspiration, at least not on a sufficiently widespread scale as to have prevented the planetary-scale existential crisis of anthropogenic climate change that our collective greed and our denial of its consequences has led us to. In part, this has been because those religions are themselves befuddled by fantasy worldviews that deny reality, which inhibits their ability to recognise the real sources of our problems and thus gives them little capacity to actually transform our behaviour.

Yet over the last two centuries we have started to move beyond these confusions and have finally begun to understand some of the evolutionary sources of our behaviour. Moreover, as we have learnt more about the evolution of life, it has become apparent that some of the most profound leaps in life’s evolution over geological time have been driven by some of the greatest planetary crises (many resulting in mass extinctions) in the history of life on Earth. We are now in the middle of another planetary crisis – a perfect storm of deepening social inequality, species extinctions and habitat destruction, global climate change and a host of associated environmental ills caused by our own actions – and it’s arguable that the crisis we have created for ourselves has been inevitable ever since we first evolved self-aware consciousness and a high level of technical capacity. Perhaps this is the crisis we have had to have in order to finally teach ourselves how to deal with and move beyond the limitations of excessive self-interest and denial that our evolutionary pathways have bred into us. In other words, perhaps this self-inflicted crisis will be the trigger than can propel us to the next level in the evolution of our consciousness?

The limitations of human nature

Excessive self-interest and greed beyond need have long been recognised as fundamental problems of human nature, to the extent that I doubt there is any need for me to argue the case. The problem of course is not that self-interest is intrinsically a bad thing – on the contrary some degree of self-interest is obviously necessary for survival, not to mention ensuring one’s own ability to live a reasonably satisfactory life. The problem is that all too often justifiable self-interest grades into a level of un-necessary “greed beyond need” that unjustifiably dis-advantages others yet is rationalised by a self-serving refusal to acknowledge that this is the case, or that it matters. In other words, denial is used to legitimate greed. However not only is denial an important aspect of the ways in which we allow greed to flourish, but in historically recent times it has become starkly obvious that denial is in itself another pervasive and debilitating human limitation for many reasons additional to the role it plays in justifying greed.

Whilst these limitations have always caused discord & localised crises in human society, it is only now – because of the globally integrated scale our civilisation has reached – that they have become an existential threat. The social responses to the reality and implications of anthropogenic global climate change has put the phenomenon of denial itself in the spotlight.

Back in the 1970s a lot of thoughtful people assumed that humanity was ultimately rational; that if you logically identified a problem (like the limits to growth on a finite planet) then people would respond appropriately, and work to solve the problem. I think the logic at the time was something along the lines of “if we can get to the moon (with 1960s technology!), then surely we can solve this one too!” That was before we discovered how strong the power of self-interest could be; that it could drive a person (and corporations and governments) to sincerely convince themselves that an inconvenient problem that interferes with their aspirations (or greed) is just not real (because they don’t want it to be).

Indeed, a slightly more subtle level of denial is evident in how easy it is for people who actually say that they accept the reality of something like the limits to growth, but then find that it’s just too inconvenient to really do anything about it, that there are other more pressing matters like career and family and financial security to consider so they set it aside “for now”. This is basically just another level of denial – accepting that a problem is real, but still managing to deny that there’s any immediate need to do anything about it.

Denial is a pervasive element of human nature, and much more fundamental to us than has generally been realised until recently. Religion is perhaps the most pervasive form of denial – it is in essence ‘reality denial’ – which has similar underlying motives, in this case a desire to believe that we really can literally transcend death, and a refusal to accept that maybe the real world isn’t the way we think we would like it to be.

Why do we have such deeply-ingrained negative behaviours as greed, aggression and denial? At least in the history of western thought, three basic explanations have been influential (1). The first and historically the most influential has been the cruel and ignorance-based religious doctrine of “Original Sin”, St. Augustine’s notion that humans were created good by God, but sinned in the Garden of Eden and as a result all humans have inherited this Original Sin and are intrinsically bad; a condition which can only be remedied by God’s grace through acceptance of Jesus. In reaction against this mythological nonsense, some philosophers such as John Locke (2) have held a second view that human minds begin life as a “tabula rasa”, a blank slate which is neither good nor bad but is usually corrupted and perverted by life’s experiences and social environment to produce regrettable behaviours, yet which can instead be moulded into something much better given the right environment. Although this sort of view continued to be held into the Twentieth Century by some influential behavioural theorists such as B.F. Skinner, the discoveries of evolutionary psychology have made clear that this is too simplistic a view of human nature. Other enlightenment theorists such as Thomas Hobbes and David Hume also rejected the religious doctrine of Original Sin, but agreed that bad behaviours were innate, a natural and ineradicable part of human nature which could be managed but not eliminated. With the growth in scientific understanding of human behaviour over the Twentieth Century, evolutionary psychology has underpinned this third view with a growing understanding of how ‘innate’ behaviours have actually arisen through our evolutionary history (3).

The study of evolutionary psychology yields two clear insights of particular importance, firstly that key elements of our basic behaviour patterns – our ‘human nature’ – arose though our evolutionary history as successful adaptations which enhanced our capacity to survive in the pre-civilisation environments in which virtually all our evolution took place; and secondly, that in the highly complex social and technological environments called ‘civilisation’ that we have consciously, deliberately and rather rapidly developed over the last 10,000 years or so, some of those evolved natural behaviours are no longer appropriate, but are in fact now dysfunctional.

It is not difficult to understand that self-interest, dominance hierarchies and altruism towards in-group members combined with aggression towards out-group members, would all be necessary traits for small groups of social animals facing daily challenges to their survival in natural environments where other groups and other species were also struggling to survive on the same limited environmental resources. If our distant evolutionary predecessors did not have such evolved traits deeply ingrained in their behaviour they no doubt simply could not have survived, and their descendants would not have been around to create civilisation.

However during the more recent stages of our evolution into Homo sapiens, we also evolved some distinctive traits that no other species possess, or at least not in the same degree. We evolved a self-conscious awareness, language and a capacity for tool-making to a degree that allowed us to visualise and plan different futures for ourselves, and to deliberately build (not just unconsciously evolve) those futures in the form of agriculture, settlements and a division of labour which allowed us to co-operatively make the world a better and more secure place for at least some of us. Such deliberately planned and constructed societies are a unique innovation and a totally new level of organised and co-operative behaviour in the history of life on this planet. Unfortunately, a corollary of this is that many of our pre-existing behaviours – which did not evolve in the context of such a radically new form of organisation – are not so well suited to the ideal of civilisation but rather have become obstacles to its smooth functioning.

In a natural environment where resources such as food are limited and survival is always a challenge, self-interested accumulation of resources is obviously essential for survival and some level of security, and it would hardly ever have even been possible to accumulate more than you or your group needed. Today however, the same innate urge to acquire and consume as many resources as possible has led to a dysfunctional level of selfish greed, materialism and consumerism which has stretched our consumption of the world’s resources beyond a sustainable level, as well as allowing economic and social inequalities to grow to truly dangerous levels.

Similarly, a level of distrust and aggression between different social groups was undoubtedly the most efficient mechanism that could arise through unguided evolution to allow those groups to survive in a natural world where other species or groups were in competition for a very limited supply of resources, especially food. Today, however, that same tendency to use aggression as a means to exert your own group’s interests at the expense of other groups has allowed a level of racism, discrimination and warfare to develop which threatens the integrity and security of civilisation itself.

Arguably one of the keys to our unprecedented evolutionary success has been our ability to consciously and deliberately learn to mitigate our tendency towards selfish behaviour so as to co-operate and share resources to the increased benefit of others as well as ourselves, at a level of sophistication that has allowed us to build complex technological societies (more on this below). However this success remains compromised by a tension within us, between our older more fundamental evolutionary tendencies towards selfish behaviour, and our newer tendencies towards productive co-operation and sharing. Unfortunately, this tension is masked by our ability to deny inconvenient realities, an ability whose pervasiveness is so great that it too appears to be so deeply embedded in our ‘human nature’ that its origins must be sought in our evolutionary past

However, our tendency to deny whatever we wish to avoid acknowledging and having to deal with is not as obviously simple to understand in evolutionary terms as selfishness and out-group aggression. Indeed, as Eviatar Zerubavel (4) points out, denial and “social silence” about troublesome issues is so pervasive in human culture that the phenomenon of denial itself has in the past been widely ignored. As Kari Norgaard (5) shows, denial is not merely a matter of individuals refusing to acknowledge troubling realities, it is also a ‘socially-organised’ phenomenon whereby societies use a variety of cultural norms and practices to avoid allowing overwhelming and seemingly intractable problems to disturb the social order. It has become clear that denial – the refusal to talk or even think about troubling issues that are not obviously immediately life-threatening to ourselves – is a pervasive strategy we use for avoiding the effort, pain, stress or embarrassment of dealing with difficult or even overwhelming issues by simply pretending they do not exist (4). The well-known metaphors of the ‘Elephant in the Room’ (the overwhelming issue everybody steadfastly tries to ignore) and the Three Wise Monkeys who ‘hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil’ are symbols of a widespread desire to keep life simpler and less emotionally fraught by simply ignoring things such as incest, family violence and clerical paedophilia, because the emotional stress in actually dealing with such issues is felt to be too great to contemplate.

The pervasiveness of human denial and social silences as a means of dealing with ‘too-difficult’ issues is such that it seems very likely it too must have its origins in our evolutionary development. Perhaps it evolved as a way of optimising our formerly very limited capacity to control events in our environment, by ignoring those things that were in any case beyond our control (like the threat of extreme weather disasters and earthquakes) and focussing our efforts and worries only on things we could do something about. As useful as such a strategy might have been in the long-ago past of our species when life was much simpler, it is clearly a disastrous impulse today, when our normal everyday activities in the complex civilisation we have built are in fact changing such things as the Earth’s climate system itself.

Some climate change deniers have tried to downplay the significance of denial by asserting that the very notion is no more than a strategy by environmentalists to mislead and misdirect attention from their own ‘virtuous corruption’(6) through which they supposedly seek to impose their green ideologies on human society by misrepresenting science in such a way as to support their own supposed desire for a world government and for limitations on freedom to exploit the world’s resources without hindrance (etc, etc). Whilst the phenomenon of ‘virtuous corruption’ (“cooking” evidence to support an argument seen as being ethically good) certainly occurs amongst environmentalists (and every other sort of advocacy group), the important point that climate change deniers evidently fail to grasp is that such behaviour is regularly exposed and discounted by the normal energetic and competitive process of critical peer review amongst the scientific community itself. The notion that the entire global community of thousands of professional climate scientists is complicit in what would necessarily be an enormous and deliberate global conspiracy of virtuous corruption is frankly ludicrous to anybody who has actually worked professionally with climate scientists (as I have and do), and simply betrays an outsider’s failure to understand the mutually competitive and critical ways in which scientific communities work and interact. In making such claims deniers are attempting to deny denial itself, yet now more than ever we need to be see it for what it is.

As Zerubavel points out, the price of denial and silence can only be that it allows the “Elephant in the Room” that is being ignored to flourish and get worse. Just as family violence and clerical paedophilia only persist and get worse if they are ignored, so too it is obvious that continued denial of a problem such as anthropogenic climate change can only result in it getting worse. The real world does not go away because we deny it. If there are aspects of reality that will ultimately threaten us, in the end we have to face them and deal with them because the only alternative is that they will determine our destiny for us.

Broadly speaking, the modern scientific perspective on human behaviour is that much of our behaviour is “innate” in the sense of being an inheritance from our evolutionary history, but that as conscious self-aware beings we have the capacity to manage and modify our behaviour, and all the more so if we actually perceive and understand the nature of those ultimately evolutionary impulses that sometimes drive us toward behaviours that are inappropriate and damaging in the modern social and physical environments our evolved bodies now find themselves in. As the evolutionary psychologist Robert Wright put it, whereas most people are the ‘string puppets’ of their genes, it is by seeing and understanding the actions of the puppeteer that we can free themselves from that control (7).

The need to confront our evolutionary limitations

Despite the fact that our case is thus not necessarily hopeless, it seems that most people assume greed and self-interest (not to mention denial) to be as intrinsically ingrained in human nature as to be essentially ineradicable. Certainly this seems to be the case under any scenario in which our civilisation continues in a ‘business as usual’ fashion. A long tradition of political realism dating back at least to Thucydides (8), more recently expressed by Enlightenment thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and David Hume (9), and in the modern era by Morgenthau and others (10), teaches that it is futile to expect to be able to create a better world by changing human nature; rather our best hope for improving the world lies in working with human nature as it is, not against it. This tradition accepts human imperfection as inevitable and thus aims at achieving the “least bad” outcomes, rather than any state of perfection. This is undoubtedly a sensible perspective on the relatively short time frames of normal human politics. But over the longer trajectory of human biological and cultural evolution, we can now see that this sort of realism is no longer sufficient. The imperfections in our nature – most notably self-interest leading to greed beyond need, and our pervasive denial of the consequences of this – have brought us to the brink of a great existential crisis. The imperfections in our nature that were tolerable in the past have become terminal errors, with the result that the “least bad” outcomes consistent with our imperfections are now likely to be very bad indeed.

Robert Kaplan has noted (11) that while much of politics is at least rhetorically motivated by noble values and high ideals, it is always the realism of our underlying and imperfect motives such as fear and self-interest that dictate actual outcomes. And so the course of human history has followed its “politically-realistic” business-as-usual trajectory to lead us to our present crisis. However, the global environmental crisis we have now created – that diabolical combination of excessive population growth, depletion of soil and water (and thus food) resources, habitat destruction, species extinction and global climate change – is beyond doubt unprecedented in human history. That is why its reality is so vehemently denied by so many, because its implications really are so shockingly unprecedented. Yet for that very reason, it is conceivable that this – ironically the worst thing that we could have done – could become a singular pivot in human history, one that could overturn the assumptions of political realism and result in a very different world to the one we have become used to, with a very different set of constraints and potentials to those which have shaped the last 10,000 or so years of human history since our ancestors began settling down to grow crops, build cities and expand our reach.

Of course, in saying this I am well aware that there has been a long and rich tradition of false prophets predicting the imminent apocalyptic end of society as we know it, and the birth of a new world. That was after all the cultural context for the origin of the Christian religion itself, to give one amongst many examples. However it would be rash to just assume that because numerous predicted apocalyptic ends have not eventuated before, therefore they will not happen this time either. That would be rash because the implicit assumption that such catastrophes do not really happen is actually wrong; on evolutionary and geological timescales planetary-scale catastrophes have indeed occurred repeatedly and on dramatic scales (see further below). Moreover, even within the shorter history of humanity itself, locally- and regionally-integrated human societies have actually and repeatedly suffered catastrophic collapses, as Jared Diamond (12) reminds us. Given this, the fact that we have only quite recently in historical terms created a globally-integrated society simply means that the possibility of a global scale of social collapse has also only now become a very real possibility for the first time in history. Moreover this time it is not just a few religious nutcases predicting an apocalypse; for the first time in history it is the considered and overwhelming consensus (13) of the relevant scientific disciplines that we really have got ourselves into serious trouble.

We need to transcend our poor (but innate) behaviours if we wish to flourish any further. Judging by our own case (which is still the only one available for us to study) it appears to be a much simpler matter for newly-evolved conscious intelligences to develop a high level of technical and engineering skills than it does to develop the level of wisdom and moral restraint needed to use those technologies without catastrophic results. We need to develop that wisdom and moral restraint if our incredible technical skills are to flourish into the future. In the past, none of the local and regional catastrophes that human societies have suffered have been of sufficient scale as to threaten human civilisation as a whole. Now we do face a crisis of not merely regional but of global scale, and for that very reason if we can in some way or other work through it, the climate crisis may in the end prove not terminal, but rather transformational. As suggested by Gwynne Dyer (14), the global climate crisis may be in effect the “final exam” that we need to pass in order to graduate from the childhood to the adulthood of humanity.

Crisis and transformation in the evolutionary history of life and humanity

Clearly, transcending these innate problems which the baggage of our evolutionary past has left us with is the next fundamental evolutionary leap we need to make if our species is to reach beyond our current crisis and flourish. But as noted above, most of the more sensible and level-headed traditions of Western political and social thought seem agreed that the flaws in human nature are here to stay, and we must simply do the best we can with what we have to work with.

However there is a longer perspective available to us than that of the classical historian or political theorist, and that is the perspective of the evolutionary changes that have occurred over geological time scales. Our ability to appreciate this perspective has mainly developed in only the last 200 years as we have learnt to read the record of life’s evolution in the rocks and geography of our planet. The result is that we now know that profound and deep environmental changes have repeatedly driven life on this planet in new directions on time scales ranging from thousands to millions of years. The evolution of human consciousness and our related development of language and technology – arguably propelled by the environmental challenges of the last ice age – are simply the most recent of these, yet our rapid flourishing into a global civilisation over just a few thousand years since the last ice age ended has already transformed the Earth beyond any precedent. Moreover, the geological record clearly shows that some of the greatest transformations in life’s evolutionary history have similarly occurred in the wake of planetary-scale catastrophes that are recorded in the rocks as mass extinctions. And perhaps most notably, as the complexity of living things and ecosystems has increased, so too has the pace of evolutionary change quickened (because of the greater diversity in the system to drive change). Since we have set ourselves up for another such planetary-scale crisis, the possibility now arises that we have unintentionally created the conditions under which some fundamental changes in our consciousness – our “human nature” – have at last become conceivable.

One of the most interesting of the crises in life’s history is the now widely-accepted evidence for a period of repeated globally-extensive glaciations around 650 million years ago, known as the ‘Snowball Earth’ phases of the Cryogenian Period of Late Precambrian times (15). The last of these global glaciations was followed by one of the most important turning points in the evolution of life, namely the first appearance in the fossil record around 580 million years ago of large soft-bodied multicellular life forms which diversified over the next 40 million years during the Ediacaran Period of Late Precambrian times (16) (this was subsequently followed in turn by the better-known “Cambrian explosion” of multi-cellular organisms with more easily fossilised hard skeletal parts). There are good reasons to infer that the rigours of survival for the pre-existing single-celled organisms during the Snowball Earth phase drove the evolution of multicellular life forms better able to survive under such difficult conditions, whose inherent advantages allowed them to then rapidly evolve and diversify when conditions more amenable to life returned following the end of the final Snowball Earth phase (17).

Better understood are a series of mass extinction events that have punctuated the history of life since the Cambrian Period circa 550 million years ago. The greatest of these was the end-Permian extinction (circa 250 million years ago) when around 90% to 95% of all known marine and terrestrial species in the fossil record disappeared as a result of what the geological evidence indicates was the most intense episode of explosive volcanism in the last 600 million years. The ‘Siberian Traps’ volcanic event pumped unprecedented amounts of dust, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, leading to acid rains, an enhanced Greenhouse Effect causing global warming, and turning much of the ocean into anoxic sludge (18). Nonetheless some species survived in what scattered refugia persisted, and the extinction event was followed during the Triassic Period by the diversification of new and highly sophisticated reptile species including the first dinosaurs. Yet another major extinction event followed at the end of the Triassic (circa 205 million years ago), following which those dinosaur species which survived were subsequently able to take advantage of the changed ecological conditions of the early Jurassic Period to rapidly flourish and diversify so that the Jurassic is the period of geological history often called “The Age of the Dinosaurs” (19).

Just as the dinosaurs had begun to evolve during the Triassic Period but only really flourished after the end-Triassic extinction event ‘cleared the decks’ for them, so too early mammals had evolved as small cryptic furry creatures while the dinosaurs still dominated. At the end of the Cretaceous Period (circa 65 million years ago) the dinosaurs in their turn disappeared when what is now considered to be a perfect storm of volcanism (the ‘Deccan Traps’ of India) exacerbated by a massive asteroid impact resulted in the best known mass extinction event in Earth’s history. By famously removing the dinosaurs from the ecosystem this event ‘cleared the decks’ for the mammals (along with birds and flowering plants) to flourish and rapidly diversify in their turn (20).

Freed from the tyranny of the formerly-dominant dinosaurs, the rapid diversification of mammals over the last 65 million years led during the last few million years to the evolution of our own geologically-recent ancestors, the hominids. Whilst hominids were not the only group of animals to use rudimentary tools, our ancestors focus on this powerful specialisation was arguably fundamental in transforming our capacity to cope with environmental challenges and, by a positive feedback, enhancing our mental capacity to solve survival problems by developing new tool-oriented skills for doing so.

The increasing capacity to survive and flourish that better tool use gave our ancestors is likely to have been a major driver of improved communication and language skills, which not only improved their ability to learn and pass on better tool-making skills but also allowed them to more effectively use tools in a co-operative fashion to further enhance their survival capacities (21). Although many other species use rudimentary sounds and calls to communicate basic information such as warnings of danger, the full-blown development of effective language and symbolic thinking as a means of communicating complex ideas and strategies, and its payoff in terms of better co-operative survival skills (22), appears to have been triggered by yet another of those global environmental stresses that have influenced our evolution, namely the cold glacial climatic phases that challenged our survival both before and after the relatively benign conditions of the last warm Interglacial Phase around 125,000 years ago.

Archaeological work since the early 1990s suggests that during the cold arid conditions of the penultimate glacial phase preceding the last interglacial phase, the Homo sapiens population may have been reduced to a small number of humans inhabiting one of the few refugia available at that time, on the southern coast of Africa, and that the challenges of survival under those harsh conditions led to an early flourishing of tool-making and cognitive development (23). Human populations again spread with the return of briefly warmer interglacial conditions around 125,000 years ago, but with the subsequent return of colder and more arid conditions during the last glacial phase those nearly-modern humans (often called “Cro-Magnon” people) who had by then spread beyond their African cradle to areas such as Europe were again challenged by environmental conditions (24). In a dramatic burst of cognitive development which many anthropologists have called by names such as “The Great Leap Forward” (25), between about 80,000 and 40,000 years ago humans developed full-blown language capabilities, and associated cognitive abilities including foresight and the ability to plan ahead, a capacity for technical (tool-making) innovation and enhanced co-operative behaviour. As anthropologists such as Brian Fagan describe, significant changes in Cro-Magnon tools and artworks (especially cave-paintings) over this period imply that there was a very rapid development of these enhanced cognitive abilities as a successful response to the challenges created by the onset and intensification of ice age conditions (26). The development of these enhanced cognitive and behavioural skills enabled anatomically-modern humans to continue to occupy very cold regions of Europe, and to expand into the new regions they reached around that time, notably including the arrival of humans in Australia around 50,000 years ago which necessarily required the capacity to use watercraft to cross deep permanent narrow seas in the Indonesian archipelago that were never dry land even at the maximum intensity of the Last Glacial phase.

The development of language was accompanied by and most probably directly related to the development of full-blown self-consciousness, with the ability to use the “inner voice” that language and symbolic thought made available leading to concepts of “self”, and thus to self-consciousness via the feed-back process referred to as “strange loops” by Douglas Hofstadter (27). Indeed, the most telling archaeological indicator of our ancestors’ evolution of self-consciousness can be found in Cro-Magnon archaeological sites preserving indications of early religious beliefs, notably ritual burial sites with tools, weapons and food placed with the dead as clear indicators of belief in an after-life (28). Religion is one behavioural pattern that no species other than humans is known to show any indications of, yet it is not difficult to see that religious behaviour would be an almost inevitable consequence of the evolution of sufficient self-awareness as to be aware that one’s own self will inevitably die. Even today, mortality is difficult for most of us to think about, and for our earlier ancestors becoming newly aware of their own mortality this must have produced an existential horror which could only be dealt with by inventing religion as a cultural coping strategy (29). In this light, the lack of religious behaviour in other species is strongly suggestive that humans have a more highly developed self-aware consciousness than any other species, to the extent that we are probably the only species with a clear and direct insight that we ourselves will die (as opposed to simply being aware that others die).

Arguably the most fundamental key to our unprecedented evolutionary success in developing advanced cognitive and technological capacities in response to the rigorous survival challenges of the ice ages was our ability to consciously and deliberately mitigate our tendency towards selfish behaviour so as to co-operate and share resources to the increased benefit of others as well as ourselves. However as the most recent (post-1980s) phase of our history shows, this success remains compromised by a tension within us, between our older more fundamental evolutionary tendencies towards selfish behaviour and our newer and therefore less ingrained tendencies towards productive co-operation and sharing.

At least two more pivotal stages of conceptual development have occurred since our evolution of self-conscious awareness in “The Great Leap Forward”. The first of these has been called “The Axial Age” (30), and occurred around 2500 years ago when there was – at least amongst some of us – a profound change in human intellectual outlook, comprising a movement away from the old intuitive habits of simply accepting received mythologies and stories as explanations of the world, and towards the radical new idea of using evidence, critical inquiry and rational argument as ways to learn about the nature of the world and to order societies (31). A transition from mythos to logos (32). Although the Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are perhaps the most celebrated exemplars of this pivotal revolution in human thought, parallel changes in thinking emerged in the Middle East and Asia around the same time, including the ideas of Confucius in China and Buddha in India. Although the main focus of Axial Age philosophers was on trying to move from a mythological to a rational basis for religious ideas, their discovery of the power of rational and critical ways of thinking effectively laid the groundwork for a further deep revolution in human thought during “The Enlightenment” of the last few centuries. The essence of this second deep revolution in ways of thinking is that we finally began to move beyond religion itself, and realised that rationality and a secular outlook free of transcendental thinking could provide a much more satisfactory understanding of the world, and a better basis for social organisation, than the ultimately subjective and irrational confusions of religious thinking.

Björn Wittrock (33) has referred to periods of deep-seated cultural transformation such as the Axial Age as “cultural crystallizations”, and argues that they are driven by periods of technological innovation which bring enormous new opportunities but also new threats, and so are accompanied by a widespread perception of a crisis in civilised life; these factors drive a fundamental rethinking amongst those concerned about the evident crisis. In the case of the Axial Age the key factors were the introduction of iron tools and weapons which not only drove great economic expansion but also new forms of warfare with much greater social consequences than previously. In a similar way our present crisis has been driven by our colossal expansion of fossil fuel use, which has not only profoundly accelerated our cultural and technological development over the last two centuries, but has also simultaneously created the existential crisis of global climate change. We are in the throes of another deep “cultural crystallization” driven by this latest and most extensive crisis.

The global climate change crisis as a trigger for transformation

The planetary crisis we now face is not caused by impersonal geological forces as were the mass extinctions and planetary crises of the past, but by our own conscious actions – which in effect have become forces of geological scale (hence recent suggestions that the term “Anthropocene” be adopted for the new geological period that began with the industrial revolution about 200 years ago). However the effect will be the same – not only the mass extinctions of numerous species that are already underway, but ultimately also the subsequent flourishing of new and changed ecosystems. And just as nascent forms of some better adapted organisms survived previous extinctions to flourish subsequently, I don’t think humans will become extinct anytime soon (although our present numbers are clearly unsustainable). Our adaptability and resourcefulness will ensure that some of us will survive. We are good at coping with crisis when it happens, our problem is that greed and denial all too often prevent us from clearly foreseeing it and acting to prevent it occurring in the first place. Which is a critical failing given that our evolved consciousness and intelligence actually does give us the capacity to foresee new and even unprecedented problems to a far greater extent than any other species on this planet.

The question that interests me is whether this crisis will prove transformational for humanity, and result in something better emerging from the chaos, as many of the great crises in life’s past have done? The challenge for us is to be able to use this crisis as the opportunity to transcend the evolutionary limitations that have brought us to this point – most particularly greed-beyond-need and denial – resulting in a literally more evolved consciousness better adapted to real world we now find ourselves in than the powerful yet flawed consciousness that triggered the crisis.

Nor are millions or even thousands of years necessary for the next transformational evolutionary changes to occur in our consciousness. Whereas there is a common perception that evolutionary changes to living things during the Earth’s history have always proceeded at a gradual and glacially-slow incremental pace, palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists now understand that at least some evolutionary changes have actually been very rapid, with much of the evolution of life having occurred in a fashion known as “punctuated equilibrium”. The palaeontologists Niles Eldredge and Steven Jay Gould argued (34) that the fossil record supports the idea that many species show no evolutionary change over long periods of stasis, but that when evolutionary changes occur in response to environmental changes, they commonly take place in geologically-very rapid bursts. Indeed, it is now known that significant evolutionary changes can occur within a matter of years rather than millions of years when species are faced with environmental changes and challenges, and numerous such examples have been observed in recent times, in many species including humans (35). Studies of DNA recovered from human skeletons dating from more recently than the agricultural revolution (about 11,000 years ago) have shown that such pervasive modern human characteristics as fair skin, blonde and red hair, blue eyes and adult lactose (milk) tolerance all evolved rapidly within just the last few thousand years (36). For example, DNA analysed from Ötzi the Iceman, who was mummified in ice in northern Italy 5,500 years ago, shows that unlike nearly all modern Europeans, he was lactose intolerant and could not have digested milk as an adult.

As organisms and ecosystems have become more complex and diverse over time, the increased variability available for evolution to work on has dramatically quickened the pace of both biological and cultural evolution. While it took billions of years for multicellular life forms to evolve from single-celled forms, and hundreds of millions of years for those to evolve into vertebrates including hominids, it then took only a few million years for some of those hominids to evolve consciousness and language. From that point the cultural evolution of agriculture and city-building has been measured in mere thousands of years, and subsequent cultural crystallisations such as the Axial Age and the Enlightenment have occurred in just hundreds of years. The pace of change quickens as the complexity and diversity of the materials available for evolution to work on increases. Ironically in fact, humanity’s potential for evolutionary change has recently been increased significantly by the very fact that our population has exploded to unsustainable numbers in just the last few hundred years. Whilst those inflated numbers cannot last, they have resulted in many new mutations being randomly added to the human gene pool, which actually increases the likelihood of more beneficial mutations being available amongst us for natural selection to work with (37).

Given the accelerating pace of change that has driven human development over the last few millennia, it is now entirely conceivable that fundamental evolutionary changes in human nature itself could occur far more rapidly than the common but incorrect perception of evolutionary change as always being slow might suggest.

There are two ways that a transformational step-change in the quality of our consciousness could occur, namely by:

1. Cultural evolution: a deliberate conscious effort to set aside greed and denial, which of course already happens for some (but unfortunately not enough) people. It is a key insight of evolutionary psychology that being consciously aware of genetically-determined drivers of our behaviour – such as selfishness – gives us the capacity to consciously decide to behave otherwise; we do not need to be puppets of our genes, if we can see the puppeteers strings we can decide to cut them (38). But this is hard work and it is all too obvious that few people manage to do so most of the time. It requires rational thinking, but unfortunately the capacity for rational thinking remains a learned skill, not an intrinsic or inherited one, and so many of us never really learn it.

Or by:

2. Biological evolution: an actual change at a genetic level. Whereas it often seems to be assumed that our biological (genetic) evolution all happened in the past and that today it is only cultural evolution that drives further human change, there is no fundamental reason to think that human genetic evolution must be at an end. Small evolutionary changes in the human genome are known to be ongoing (39), and all it needs for major evolutionary changes to occur is a crisis big enough to overwhelm the capacity of our culture to cope with. It’s looking ever more likely that is just what we have gone and done to ourselves.

Of course, these two ways of changing are not mutually exclusive, and the ideal scenario is that there may be a positive feedback interaction between changing learned behaviour and evolutionary changes: if those of us with a greater innate (genetic) tendency towards co-operative and less greedy behaviour actually flourish better under the challenges facing us, then the evolutionary process may end up selecting for those whose evolved (genetic) capacity to learn more co-operative behaviour is stronger.

For an actual biological or genetic step change to evolve, at least two conditions need to be fulfilled, namely:

1) Evolutionary change depends on the right genes (for the intelligence to avoid denial and for less selfish or greedy behaviour) being already present in the human gene pool.
This condition does indeed appear to be met – at least in respect of selfishness – since it is now widely accepted amongst evolutionary psychologists that humanity does include individuals who are intrinsically (i.e., genetically) either more or less selfish or altruistic than others, and that the origins of co-operative social behaviour can be traced to natural selection of groups containing higher proportions of more altruistic individuals, since more altruistic and thus co-operative groups are more likely to outcompete more selfish and divided groups (40).


2) The ability to behave rationally and set aside denial needs to yield selective advantages in coping with and surviving the perfect storm of global crises we have created.
Whilst quite recent trends in cultural evolution have tended to weaken the value of cooperative human behaviour, most notably with the very recent (since the 1980s) rise to political dominance of right-wing ideologies which can be characterised as the attempt to find a moral justification for greed and selfishness, the very fact that these trends have led us to a global crisis is arguably nothing less that natural selection in action once again. With the catastrophic failure to rein in our selfishness that the currently building global climate crisis embodies, it is not in principle unreasonable to expect that selection pressures might again favour survival of those groups with higher proportions of less selfish individuals, and of those with greater capacity to avoid denial and deal with reality as it is, not just how they would like it to be.

The risk of course, is that the results of the continued climate change denial which is resulting in too little action being taken will be too pervasive and widespread for those who are not in denial to escape its consequences. The failure of most societies to make the real effort needed to transform human civilisation into something sustainable is already resulting in increasingly frequent and powerful extreme weather events disrupting infrastructure and services. There will be a point at which repeated full recovery of infrastructure and services becomes impossible, and the resulting social and political chaos could eventually make even partial recovery impossible for large parts of humanity. In this scenario the climate crisis could run out of control to a point whose consequences will overwhelm us all, including any societies or groups that are more rational, co-operative and actually making a real effort to build genuinely sustainable societies. Such a result would not necessarily extinguish human life, but would set us back to a point at which it would potentially take any survivors millennia to rebuild civilisation – and although we might hope, there would be no guarantee that the survivors would emerge transformed and ready to avoid the selfish and greedy mistakes we have made; on the contrary it might be only the most selfish who survive to make the same mistakes again.

However there is another more optimistic scenario, one in which we do indeed take decisive action to resolve the anthropogenic climate change crisis before it is too late to save civilisation itself. This is the scenario proposed by Paul Gilding (41) and called by him the “Great Disruption”: a transformative disruption in which we reach a point at which the likelihood of civilisation being destroyed by climate change becomes so obvious that we (collectively) actually do finally make the monumental effort to transform our civilisation – including our values and ways of doing things – so as to actually build a properly ecological sustainable civilisation. This is the most optimistic scenario now before us, but it is one which will require mobilisation and co-operation within and between societies on a scale previously only seen in the global crisis of World War II. This of course will require unprecedented altruism and co-operation between governments and people – the very thing that ideologically-driven right-wing climate change deniers wish to avoid lest it interfere with free-market fundamentalism, and ironically the very thing their own denial and inaction on climate change has made into our best hope.

Gilding sees in this scenario of the Great Disruption the potential for humanity to learn transformative changes in our values and behaviours; but I wonder whether the challenges and rigors of the Great Disruption might in fact be so unprecedented as to actually permit evolutionary changes to occur at a genetic level as well?

As anthropologists such as Brian Fagan have powerfully described (42), it was the rigors and challenges of survival through the last Ice Age that drove the evolution of those new cognitive abilities such as foresight and the ability to plan, innovation, enhanced communication skills and enhanced co-operation, which transformed our distant ancestors into fully modern humans (often called “Cro-Magnon” people) at the time of “The Great Leap Forward” between 80,000 to 40,000 years BP. These qualities, and the evolution of self-aware consciousness that underpins them, are the very things that make humanity distinctive from all other living things. In this light, the historically-recent rise of right-wing ideologies which attempt to justify neoliberalism and consumerism (read: selfishness and greed) as a preferred basis for society – and which are so strongly characterised by the use of denial as a means to ignore their self-evident contradictions – are truly regressive ideologies since they represent a resurgence of our most primitive selfish evolutionary traits, and undermine the more recent tendencies towards co-operation and altruism that were actually what made humanity so successful. As Wendell Berry (43) notes in regard to right wing economics, “The great fault of this approach to things is that it is so drastically reductive; it does not permit us to live and work as human beings, as the best of our inheritance defines us. Rats and roaches live by competition under the law of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

Whereas greed, selfishness and denial probably do indeed have their roots in our most ancient evolved behaviours, it was the ability of our Cro-Magnon ancestors to over-ride these with co-operative, foresighted and innovative behaviours that allowed them to cope with the challenges of the last Ice Age and to become fully modern humanity. Now more than ever we need to overcome the regressive tendencies that right-wing ideology promotes, and make full use of the capacity for foresight, innovation and co-operation that are the real essence of human success, in order to cope with the great challenges that now beset us. The resurgence of our older reptilian brain is clearly having disastrous consequences. We need to finish the job of evolving to the next level that was started by our Cro-Magnon ancestors during “The Great Leap Forward”.

The next great evolutionary leap that we need to make is quite simply the ability to put aside instinctive greed and denial and actually behave rationally as a matter of course. In other words we need a change in the quality of our consciousness itself, away from ‘fossil’ behaviours that no longer serve us well, towards the more rational and less selfish behaviours that allowed us to respond so successfully to the challenges of the ice ages, and which we now need more than ever. Rationality, or the skill of critical thinking, is a marvellous capacity that our evolved cognitive capacities allowed us to develop through cultural rather than biological evolution. It is our greatest invention or discovery, which underlies the most recent successes of our technological civilisation. Yet too many of us continue to reject and deny it in favour of magical thinking: believing that if rational inquiry tells us something we don’t want to hear (such as that too much consumption will destroy our world), then we can just deny it and it will not bother us. That is how our immature use of rational skills have led us into crisis; we have used rationality with great success to develop technologies that we can see a direct and immediate benefit from, but continue to ignore and deny the insights that rationality also gives us when it warns of consequences we don’t want to think about.

The possibility that the scale and scope of the existential crisis we now face will not be terminal – but nevertheless will be sufficient to trigger the transformational evolutionary leap we now need to make – could be the proverbial silver lining in the dark cloud of crisis that our collectively blind actions have created.

Chris Sharples is a geomorphologist at the University of Tasmania where he dabbles in researching the effects of sea-level rise on coasts. He is also interested in trying to spot elephants in rooms and state the bleeding obvious about them.

Refs …

(1) See: James Boyce, 2014: “Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World”; Black Inc., 260pp.

(2) John Locke, 1689: “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”.

(3) A useful online primer on the science of evolutionary psychology by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby (University of California Center for Evolutionary Psychology) can be found at http://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html (Jan 13th 1997; accessed 26th December 2016). See also their book: Barkow, J., Cosmides, L. and Tooby, J, 1992: “The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the generation of culture”, NY: Oxford University Press; and other works in the extensive literature on evolutionary psychology.

(4) Eviatar Zerubavel, 2006: “The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life”; Oxford University Press, 162 pp.

(5) Kari Marie Norgaard, 2011: “Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life; The MIT Press, Massachusetts, USA, 279pp.

(6) As is implicit in Aynsley Kellow’s 2007 book “Science and Public Policy: The Virtuous Corruption of Virtual Environmental Science” (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, Cheltenham UK, 218 pp.); In common with many critics of science, Kellow – a political theorist, not a scientist himself – appears to fail to grasp the degree to which energetic peer criticism is an absolutely fundamental driver of the scientific method and is the underpinning reason for the considerable success of science generally over the last several centuries. In particular, it is interesting that most of the examples of “virtuous corruption” of science which Kellow can cite are only known to him because the scientific community itself exposed them. However his apparent misunderstanding of the scientific method permits him to conveniently decide – citing the arguments of a “usual suspect” range of non-climate-scientist deniers – that widely accepted research findings in climate science are further examples of “virtuous corruption”. Actually that’s not real peer review and criticism, its ideologically-driven denial by people with little knowledge or experience in actual climate science. If such corruption was as widespread as many climate deniers try to imply, then the history of science strongly suggests that there would be a significant number of real climate scientists exposing the fact (as opposed to ideologically driven non-climate-scientists trying to claim corruption in a field they are not expert in).

(7) Robert Wright, 1994: “The Moral Animal”; Vintage Books, New York, p. 34.

(8) Thucydides “The Peloponnesian War” (431-404 BCE).

(9) See: James Boyce, 2014: “Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World”; Black Inc., p. 104-105.

(10) Hans J. Morgenthau, 1948: “Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace”; cited in: Robert D. Kaplan, 2012: “The Revenge of Geography”; Random House, New York, p.24-29.

(11) Robert D. Kaplan, 2012: “The Revenge of Geography”; Random House, New York, p.24-29.

(12) Jared Diamond, 2005: Collapse: “How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive”; Penguin Books, 575 pp. Whereas the collapse of some past societies such as that of Easter Island were a result of thoughtless over-exploitation of limited resources (timber in the Easter Island case), others such as the abandonment of the Mayan and Anasazi cities of Central America were the result of stresses – especially droughts – bought on by climatic changes that were relatively small compared to those we now face. Diamond argues that a frequent cause of societies collapsing in the past was a failure to question core values or methods that had worked previously but were no longer appropriate when conditions changed. The failure of our global civilisation to question its core value of unending growth in resource consumption now that planetary limits have been reached is clearly a case in point.

(13) An important recent peer-reviewed study used a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the scientific literature on climate change to demonstrate that of practicing, professional scientists actively working in climate-related disciplines (as opposed to journalists and other commentators with no credible understanding of the science), fully 97% agree that climate change is not only happening, but also that it is dominantly caused by human activities. The study was reported in the academic journal ‘Environmental Research Letters’ by:
Cook, J., Nuccitelli, D., Green, S.A., Richardson, M., Winkler, B., Painting, R., Way, R., Jacobs, P. & Skuce, A., 2013: “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature”, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 8, 7 pp., 024024, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024. (This study is available as a free download from the journal’s website)

(14) Gwynne Dyer, 2008: “Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats”; Scribe Publications, Victoria Australia, p. 274-276.

(15) Hoffman, P. F., Kaufman, A. J., Halverson, G. P. and Schrag, D. P., 1998: “A Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth”; Science, Vol. 281 (5381), p. 1342-1346 (doi: 10.1126/science.281.5381.1342).

(16) James O’Donoghue, 2016: “Lifes Long Fuse”, in: “Origin, Evolution, Extinction – The Epic Story of Life on Earth”, New Scientist: The Collection, Vol. 3, Issue 2, pages 36 – 40 provides a useful outline of current understanding of the Ediacaran fossils and their origins in the immediate aftermath of the last global ‘Snowball-Earth’ glacial phase.

(17) Boyle, R.A., Lenton, T.M. and Williams, H.T.P., 2007: “Neoproterozoic ‘snowball Earth’ glaciations and the evolution of altruism”; Geobiology, Vol. 5(4), p. 337-349 (doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2007.00115.x); See also Hoffman et al. (1998) above.

(18) Two recent books by palaeontologists whose professional work has focussed on mass extinctions in Earth’s history provide enlightening up-to-date accounts of the current scientific understanding of the end-Permian and end-Cretaceous mass extinctions: P.D. Ward, 2007: “Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and what they can tell us about our Future”; HarperCollins, 242 pp.; and: M.J. Benton, 2015: “When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of all time”; Thames & Hudson, 352 pp.

Refs continue in the article below …

New York Times: A message from the End of the World SANTIAGO, Chile — Here in Chile, in the far south of the Southern Hemisphere, it has been the summer of our discontent. Never have so many natural catastrophes in a row hit this country at the end of the world. For once, it is not the earthquakes that have assailed us since time immemorial or the tsunamis that often follow, devastating land and coast, mountainscapes and ocean. This time, our unprecedented woes have all been man-made …

Guardian: Climate change impacting ‘most’ species on Earth, even down to their genome Three recent studies point to just how broad, bizarre, and potentially devastating climate change is to life on Earth. And we’ve only seen one degree Celsius of warming so far.

Science: Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being


Dr Clive Marks: Democratic hemlock: saving earth from our animal selves


Jon Sumby: Global warming versus economy: Economy wins

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Kim Peart

    April 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Re: 118 ~ When did evolution and the survival of the fittest, become moral?

    Who is to define and enforce “learning to behave better”?

    Why say “escape Earth” when I suggest that we need to run with Nature beyond Earth, and assure our cosmic survival, so we will be in a position to win back a safe Earth?

    Is James Hansen wrong in his conclusion that with CO2 in the air above 350 ppm, a future planet temperature rise of 1.5C is generated, beyond which there is a runaway greenhouse effect, which he calls the Venus syndrome, because it will lead to the extinction of life on Earth in a heat death?

    Is Hansen wrong?

    We passed 350 ppm CO2 in the air in the 1980s, now going beyond 400 ppm, with what future planet temperature rise is now locked in, and rising as CO2 in the air rises, and methane is added from the fast warming Arctic.

    If there is nothing to see here, where is the evidence that Hansen is wrong?

    That the nations want to keep planet temperature rise below 1.5C, Hansen’s conclusion, is a matter of interest and concern.

    I suggest that the demands of the space environment will lead to different human behaviours, simply to deliver security in space.

    This can be examined, and also how this would affect human behaviour on Earth.

    This feedback loop may kick in while still on Earth, as the realities of survival in space are figured out.

    I am not saying that this is how it is, but how our future may work out with the space environment ~ an hypothesis.

    Concepts of better behaviour are a separate matter to evolution and raw Nature, and should not be blurred into the need to run for survival.

    If we do not survive, good behaviour is dead.

    I ascribe to a higher level awareness, where honesty and compassion are vital, along with an appreciation of simple happiness.

    The higher awareness, which we can engage in, is quite the opposite of the survival of the fittest via evolution.

    We cannot go looking for compassion in evolution, and it would be an error of judgement to do so.

  2. Christopher Nagle

    April 18, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Sharples’ article is important if for no other reason than it reflects just how concerned most TT readers are about our common future.

    Capitalism has proved itself to be an extremely flexible, dynamic & successful system. But given that growth & expansion have been basic drivers & defining characteristics of its behavior, the move to ‘capitalism lite’ could well be ‘traumatic & messy’.

    It is easy to imagine that it just won’t make it, & it mightn’t. But it can also move with great speed. Anyone who is following the progress of renewables electrification & storage will have noticed how quickly the fossil fuel industries have been outflanked by enormous shifts in capital flows, research and plummeting costs.

    And while that is some cause for optimism, the challenge to drastically reduce material throughputs & wastes may well be beyond the capacity of technological fixes to the size of our ecological footprint & our capacity to do it fast enough to matter.

    Then there is the problem of our already very damaged social infrastructure that is traveling no better than the ecological world.

    Oh, & don’t forget that the global post WW2 settlements & ideological consensus are collapsing as we speak, which will make things even more ‘lnteresting’.

    All the options are tough ones. Over the coming period, we will be lucky to come through it with a helluva lot of skin. And not everyone is going to make it through what will likely be a violent, traumatic & uncertain post-modern transition.

    Be assured that some of us & our descendants will make it out the other side. They will have adapted. But in the meantime, hang on to your hats & clutch onto your copies of Jarrod Diamond for a little ideological comfort food during the trip….

  3. TGC

    April 18, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    “Many would argue that if human-induced climate change wrecks the ecology of Earth to such an extent that we have to abandon it then we ought to humbly go extinct”. – fortunately #117, the rational amongst us- and I do include you- don’t believe either of those things will occur.

  4. Kim Peart

    April 18, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Re: 117 ~ Is this a religious position ~ “then we ought to humbly go extinct.”???

    At no point have I ever suggested that we abandon the Earth.

    This is twisting what I say to fit a personal opinion.

    I suggest that we must expand beyond Earth, so that we will be able to win back a safe Earth.

    If my words were not twisted to fit personal opinions, I would not have to keep beating the drum of survival, to again clarify what I am saying.

    What if the whole motivation of life, the whole momentum of evolution, the whole dynamic of Nature, was to expand life beyond Earth, where a tool-maker emerges in Nature that is able to build the means for this to happen?

    Were you not aware how all this was worked out in the 1970s ~

    To read, “The firm answer is NO,” is like reading carbon energy propaganda, again and again and again.

    To recommend extinction, because we are deemed not good enough to survive, is to be sitting at the table with some of the best mass-murderers of history.

    This is like the Christian creationist perspective, that only the good will survive, and all those deemed unfit will go to hell to sizzle and fry.

    Because the way is not seen, does that mean there is no way?

    Yet when the way is described, it is rejected.


    If we have emerged in life, emerged from the sea, and emerged from the animal kingdom, then we either move on to the next evolutionary phase, or we do not.

    The speed of events around us, environmental, technological, should be quite enough to indicate that the next evolutionary phase will happen swiftly.

    The article is suggesting that there will be a phase change, and it will be on Earth.

    What if this is wrong?

    What if the evolutionary phase change will be triggered in the next environment beyond Earth?

    Exactly what that evolutionary phase change will lead to, should be a matter of great interest to anyone who loves life, and loves this Earth.

    I have delved into this matter, and I see hope.

    If we cling to the Earth alone, I see hell on Earth, and a dead Earth.

    We can be a mass murder in our mind, and our action, by clinging to the Earth.

    Or, we can run like the win with survival beyond Earth, and gain the ability to win back a safe Earth.

    The view you express is very common, very cruel, and extremely dangerous, because it reveals a hatred of life.

    If this is not so, run with the love of life with survival.

    With CO2 above 350 ppm in the air, according to Hansen, if humans vanish in a pandemic, the Earth will still die, because the dial for the Venus syndrome was set in the 1980s.

    It is as if the Earth has given up all hope, if her tool-makers will not run like the wind for survival.

    The primal ways of Nature live, and we either respond, or we will go extinct.

    This way of extinction and planet death may be common.

    This may explain the silence from the stars.

    We do not need to add to the silence.

  5. Chris Sharples

    April 18, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    #117 Kim wont pay any attention Chris, you know this!

    I have previously argued to Kim in other TT comment threads that it would be morally wrong to simply export our dysfunctional behaviour beyond Earth, and that expanding beyond Earth will not magically solve our little problems anyway, it will merely spread them a lot further. In fact I’d suggest learning to behave better ought to be the condition (not the purpose) for expanding beyond Earth (not that this is likely to be enforced!! In fact I suspect the chances are things will ultimately work out the way Kim hopes, its just that wont be the way it should have happened…).

    Whats more I’ve also previously suggested that the need to escape Earth in order to guarantee our survival is not nearly as great as Kim tries to argue – life has survived numerous crises over the last 3.8 billion years (including many very large meteorite/asteroid impacts recorded in the geology of the planet) without life going extinct, and I see no reason to think (some) humans wont survive the currently building crisis.

    But now watch Kim restate his standard narrative for the umpteenth tedious time!

  6. Chris Harries

    April 18, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    The firm answer is NO, Kim.

    Yes, it would be a very greedy but pointless manoeuvre.

    Many would argue that if human-induced climate change wrecks the ecology of Earth to such an extent that we have to abandon it then we ought to humbly go extinct.

  7. Kim Peart

    April 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Re: 114 ~ Excellent set of anti-factoids.

    We hear how the the WWII began when Germany took back their old lands that had been given to Poland after World War I.

    That was the German invasion of Poland, which the British objected to, declaring war on Germany.

    What we hear less about, if anything, is the detail that the Soviet Union invaded the other half of Poland at the same time.

    Did the British also declare war on the Soviet Union for invading Poland in 1939?

    Under Soviet control of the East after WWII, the Soviets moved the old borders, so that the western border of Poland was moved into German territory.

    The Soviets kept the half of Poland that they invaded in 1939, so that the western border of Ukraine now lies on the old Soviet invasion line of Poland.

    We can but wonder if these shaken borders will again be shaken, from east or west.

    And I still wonder: did the British accept the Soviet invasion of Poland as legitimate, or was that invasion in some way legitimised.

    If legitimised, does that make a mockery of why WWII began?

    The greed for land drives many nations, as in Crimea, as in the South China Sea.

    The greed for resources is also a powerful driver, as in West Papua.

    If the greed for land and resources was directed into expansion beyond Earth, would this help save the Earth?

  8. Chris Harries

    April 18, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    And the abolition of the ‘slave trade’ didn’t so much come about because we all of a sudden became altruistic. The advent of the age of oil meant that machinery could increasingly take over from horses and human labour. Prior to the industrial revolution some 70 percent of all work was engaged in agriculture and food processing. Cheap farm labor was central to economic prosperity.

    This factor has massive implications for the future as the cost of recovering harder-to-get energy resources starts to bite into the modern industrial economy.

    (Before you jump on me, Leonard, yes I do know that human slavery still exists in some parts of the world. I am referring to the American Civil War saga.)

  9. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 18, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    110’s “but I think the story is most likely not what is commonly believed” should be far more widely applied:

    ~ the “Russian [October] Revolution” (centenary this November) was more of a putsch or a coup d’état; the real revolution began in 1921;

    ~ Galileo was not charged with heresy – his punishment was much more subtly Machiavellian (plus actually giving his views an ‘out’ to the Netherlands);

    ~ Weimar Germany voted Hitler into the chancellorship: wrong & wrong – the Nazis never won an electoral majority (even in the 1934 one), and Hitler became chancellor (‘PM’ to us) by the sort of parliamentary horse-trading we’ve become familiar with after recent federal election;

    ~ the US civil war was not primarily about slavery; rather it was about preserving the Union;

    ~ soldiers in the Great War did not spend day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month in the hell-holes of the trenches on the Western Front; most of their field time was in the back areas; curiously, in both World Wars, the victors use their enemy’s geographical nomenclature;

    ~ the Second World War, as such and in reality, did not start in September 1939 or April 1940, nor in June 1941; instead, December 1941 is more accurate, but who’re going to quibble?

    ~ there is nothing especially, far less uniquely, ‘Australian’ about our generally generous and at times courageous responses to natural disasters, although some features of our MO are unique to us;

    ~ the spelling rule, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’, is wrong – but not because it is ‘wrong’, but because its first half is usually omitted; younger readers may have to google what a ‘spelling rule’ is; and

    English spelling is neither ‘crazy’ nor ‘chaotic’, neither ‘irrational’ nor ‘stupid’; rather, it is a quite rational outcome of 1200 years of linguistic evolution from the mid-500s to the mid-1700s (which is something every teacher of English should know in some detail);

    ~ in their motoring lifetimes, 99.9% of us will never have ‘changed a tyre’.

  10. Kim Peart

    April 18, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Re: 110 ~ Some basic details are known, such as the growth industry in statue building, with statues getting bigger year by year, with the largest statue of all unfinished in the quarry.

    One suggestion is that the statues represented a form of money.

    Then the statue building stopped, and the statues were pushed over.

    An economic collapse driven by environmental degradation as the foundation of the civilisation crumbled?

    The lapidary garden system is an interesting one, which I will look to trial with our project.

    Where the barbed wire canoe has been sitting on the grass, as I build the stone cairn, the crass beneath grows greener.

    Along with biochar, there are many tricks that might be tried to improve the land and garden.

    Our land is marginal, and on the the hill above Ross, is quite a dry location, so many tricks will be needed to improve the pasture for the alpacas.

    And that makes me wonder, if the Easter Islanders who visited South America, and appear to have imported some stone-working skills, bring any alpacas back with them, or llamas.

  11. Kim Peart

    April 18, 2017 at 1:55 am

    Re: 109 ~ No mention is made in the article of the loss of all trees on the island, or the civil war, after which statue building no longer happened , with the former civilisation not continuing, and different cultural practices emerging. The term “may be” is used in the article, describing research that covers a narrow aspect of activity on the island. Further work would need to match the study information with all other known information about the history of Easter Island.

    For us, we are now told the Great Barrier Reef is doomed ~

    At what point do we look at the whole picture of our situation on Earth, and see that we have a survival problem? With environmental conditions continuing in this negative direction, if we leave that inspection too long, we may find we are too late to take critical action to assure our survival, let alone be in a position to win back a safe Earth, damaged, but able to heal in time through evolution.

    Could our problem be stubbornness? Are we thinking we will some how get by, when in fact we have just lost the Great Barrier Reef.

    If that was a canary in the coal mine, the miners would be concerned about their survival, if not running for the exit, while they still could.

  12. TGC

    April 18, 2017 at 12:39 am

    The UK cut down most of its forests-post industrial revolution- has it survived?
    A reassuring point about Tasmania is that ‘having cut down all its native forests’ – Greenie copy- tourists still flock to “experience our Wilderness” -more Greenie copy.

  13. Chris Harries

    April 18, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Thanks for that Leonard (#109).

    One of the things the Easter Island inhabitants did to manage their rather intolerable conditions was to develop very sophisticated lapidary mulching for food growing (mulching with stones to conserve moisture). Without developing this technique they could not have survived nearly as long as they did.

    Having found out about how they undertook this I practice it in our own home gardening, having gathered about a tonne of stones for the veggie patch. It works a treat.

    We don’t have enough info about Easter Island to know precisely what happened, but I think the story is most likely not what is commonly believed.

  14. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

    “The Easter Island civilisation collapsed and failed to survive, because they did not do that which would have allowed their civilisation to continue. ~ Cutting down all the trees was one of the main acts in their demise” – yes, that is a widely known interpretation.

    But (and this applies particularly to data-poor sites) new improved, more finely calibrated technology can reveal new data hitherto inaccessible; this may apply to Easter Island – link: http://www.livescience.com/49369-easter-island-civilization-collapsed-unevenly.html

  15. Kim Peart

    April 17, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Re: 107 ~ The Easter Island civilisation collapsed and failed to survive, because they did not do that which would have allowed their civilisation to continue. ~ Cutting down all the trees was one of the main acts in their demise.

    The Vikings failed to survive in Greenland, in fact died out, because they did not adapt to a changing environment and learn new ways to survive. ~ At the same time, the native people in the same area did OK.

    Will we dare to apply the survival magnifying glass to our own society and civilisation, and gather a few lessons. ~ if we will adapt at a level that will allow us to survive, then we can hope to continue.

    Exactly what we must do to keep the gates open for our survival, is the key question. ~ In seeking the answer to that, I see a tough challenge, but possible, at present.

  16. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 17, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Love 106’s “Survival only works for those who survive”!

    Similar to ‘Nothing’s inevitable until it happens’, and ‘Animal and plant species only evolve if they breed’ (and note that word ‘species’).

    And, down a byway, the ‘Victims-R-U’ industry must hate that word ‘survive’. Reckon Gloria Gaynor’s all-time great “I will survive” ain’t their fave.

  17. Kim Peart

    April 17, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Re: 105 ~ Rock number 8.


    Examines comment.

    Sees no denial of a plan by default.

    Comment says nothing.

    Grumbled comment may be a smokescreen.

    Back to the quest to understand what we must do to assure our survival, win back a safe Earth, and shift gear into the next phase of human evolution.

    Survival only works for those who survive.

    If any species is not on the road to survival, then they are on the highway into extinction.

    Are we on the road to survival?

  18. Chris Sharples

    April 17, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Re #102:Yes I know I shouldn’t even respond at all…but: “Still being Pearted, after all these comments!”


    Kim, if I thought it would make a scrap of difference I would love to point out some of the many short-comings in your repetitive views. But I’ve tried doing that several times in the past and you never even addressed my points, you merely restated your altogether-too-often-stated positions…at tedious length.

    So I can’t be bothered.

  19. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 16, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Is this from Comment 102, “The whole article presents the plan of doing nothing more than being on Earth, because somehow, it will all work out OK”, channeling the Great Chicagoan Autocue Reader?

  20. TGC

    April 16, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    #97 Yes, one can-!

  21. Kim Peart

    April 16, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Re: 98 ~ It is a magicians trick to suggest that there is no plan in the article.

    The whole article presents the plan of doing nothing more than being on Earth, because somehow, it will all work out OK.

    To deny a plan, when there is a plan, has to earn a medal as an unexpected level of denial.

    Now having identified the plan in the article, what if the plan is bleeding wrong?

    The key point is, fish did not evolve to survive on land while still in the sea, but acquired the skills of surviving on land by being on land and in the air.

    By that simple example, I wonder if Mother Nature has evolved in us all that we are going to get right now, and it is up to us to use what we have got to secure our survival and future diversity.

    I suggest that our next arena of evolution will be off the land, out of the air and in space among the stars, and we will learn to survive there by being there.

    I further suggest that it will be in the space environment that human finds a higher level of awareness and a better way to be, through the simple feedback loop of the demands for security in space.

    The space environment is so lethal, and human habitats in space are so fragile, we will have to learn a whole new set of skills, including keeping space clean.

    It is skills like that which will determine new ways on Earth, where the need to build peace on Earth will be seen as the way to deliver survival in space.

    By taking the position of clinging to the Earth, and knowing there has to be more with evolution to help us survive, the error is made of thinking human can evolve to the next level, while still in the air and on the ground.

    This will not happen, as we have set in motion a process of devolution, which run all the way, will lead us into extinction on Earth.

    I suggest that our plan needs to be a proactive run for survival in space, so that we can trigger the next level of evolution beyond Earth, which will then inform how we live in harmony with Nature on Earth.


  22. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 16, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    “I [at 98] think Chris Harries (in #82) has made the wisest comment in this thread so far, by pointing out that theorists of various stripes tend to think that their theoretical approach is the only one that holds the truth, and that other perspectives are irrelevant and to be dismissed with a ‘Ho Hum’ attitude. This of course is rarely the case.” Agree.

    IMHO, almost all every true believer in -isms (whether religionist or philosophical) can not help but be a moron. Had a good giggle at its Wiktionary derivation: “Coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard, from Ancient Greek μωρός ‎(mōrós, ‘foolish, dull’)”!! But – and this is a mega-but – theocratic and ideological -ismists can be much more dangerous than just by dullness and foolishness. But you’d’ve already known that, of course.

  23. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 16, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Little games can be very enjoyable, Mr Sharples. Enjoy!

  24. Kim Peart

    April 16, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Re: 95 ~ Is it true the Great Barrier Reef is doomed because of rising heat? ~

    If we have this level of problem now, and greenhouse gases are rising, how much more can we expect over the next couple of decades?

    We can focus on a single problem. like the Great Barrier Reef, and lament it’s loss, or we can examine the state of the planet as a whole, and wonder if all the stuff happening will make a worse collective whole big mess.

    At what point do we assess the demands of pure survival, and identify the way to win back a safe Earth?

    The peace medal is wonderful news.

    If only it were that easy to live in harmony with Nature on Earth.

    Meanwhile, the mangroves in Australia’s north are not expected to recover, leading to further erosion, which will accelerate as sea levels rise.

    There’s just one damned thing after another.

  25. Chris Sharples

    April 16, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    #84 etc Christopher, you continue to seem to think that my article is – or should be – trying to present some sort of plan for saving humanity, for example when you say “In what ways does your evolutionary psychological analysis illuminate and prompt future action within the context of our present situation, within a time frame that is going to head off catastrophe?”

    And at #89: “Chris Sharples view of what needs to be done to save ourselves is little better than an assertion of the potential evolutionary ascendance of good over evil and that enlightenment will come from the secular equivalent of ‘Seeing The Light’, being virtuous and doing good deeds. Ho hum….”

    That’s a pretty grotesque caricature of what I was actually saying, I think. Shame on you.

    I have not presented a “view” of “what needs to be done”, nor am I trying to. See Kim Peart if that’s what you want. And I’m certainly not trying to imbue evolutionary processes with some sort of teleology – that would be a fundamental mistake as most evolutionary scientists understand perfectly well.

    If you think I have actually tried to present a “plan”, then you must have skimmed my article very cursorily with a preconceived idea in your mind of what you think I must be saying – perhaps derived from your pigeon-holing of me as a ‘liberal-humanist”? (Actually I would prefer to be pigeonholed as somebody who thinks that science has a lot to tell us about ourselves).

    What I have actually tried to do is present some thoughts on what might be the ultimate outcome of our global crisis, informed by a perspective of the ways that evolutionary crises have driven evolutionary change in the past. And to raise the issue that if we want to understand human behaviour better then we ought to consider how our evolutionary past influences our behaviour today.

    I think Chris Harries (in #82) has made the wisest comment in this thread so far, by pointing out that theorists of various stripes tend to think that their theoretical approach is the only one that holds the truth, and that other perspectives are irrelevant and to be dismissed with a “Ho Hum” attitude. This of course is rarely the case.

    I have no doubt that the social and political dynamics of human society wield enormous influence on social and political outcomes. But I do not think we are born with our minds a “tabula rasa”, shaped only by our social and political environments as we grow up. We are born with minds shaped by our evolutionary past, and if we try to ignore that we will never get very far in trying to understand ourselves.

    We need your perspective, but it’s not the only relevant and important perspective.

  26. Chris Harries

    April 16, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I read the comment #95 on my email in-box and concluded to myself “That’s so cryptically and conservatively cynical it would have to be Leonard”. True enough.

    It’s a little game I play. After a while you can read each post and second guess nearly every author.

  27. Chris Sharples

    April 16, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    #86 Well Andrew, at last after all these years you’ve said something about that little episode to me directly, rather than just whinging about me behind my back (as was reported to me by none other than Pete Hay). I’d nearly forgotten about that!

    And why exactly is it that you will never forget my performance before the Tribunal? Is it because I simply did what an expert witness is supposed to do, that is to present the straightforward facts as I saw them about the nature of the soils and landforms in PTR 1698?

    Or is it because I failed to inventively dream up a story about the “amazingly wonderful” (sic) nature of the “highly significant” (sic) aeolian landforms in the PTR, when I could find no supportable reason to do so. That would have been what Aynsley Kellow (referenced in my article) refers to as “virtuous corruption”.

    I would much rather be denigrated by you for simply presenting the facts, than denigrated by my peers (you are not my peer) for making up a load of rubbish.

  28. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 16, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Spot on, 93, “Too many panicking over all the wrong issues”, with too little knowledge & too few brains, too little real life experience & too low a sense of reality.

    Prime example: Western feminism (including ours) ‘outraged’ over eye-rolling and wrist-watch glancing, while hundreds of thousands of their ‘sisters’ are newly enslaved in the Arab / Muslim Middle East(and like places). First World angst trumping Third World atrocities by an -ism whose name our feminists and their media / academic / celeb cheer squads dare not name.

    Priorities? What priorities?

    Bit of Good News: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56536#.WPPvYE2weAA

    And it took a bloke with all his 32 vertebrae in his spinal column to do this – in António Guterres, the UN may at last have a General Secretary to admire.

  29. Kim Peart

    April 16, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Re: 93 ~ Would you like to offer a list of all the right issues? ~ Explain why they are right. ~ And also what can be done about them.

    This could be one comment at a time ~ as the list could be quite long ~ or not.

  30. TGC

    April 16, 2017 at 12:02 am

    #91 Nothing curious about it- it is just so and will continue to be so unto the ages- and homo sapiens is a part of it.
    Too many panicking over all the wrong issues.

  31. Kim Peart

    April 15, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Re: 91 ~ What we do not have any idea about, is the transcendent environment in which our universe appears, like a seed, with all laws in full working order.

    Is this some vaster ecology of trees that produce seeds that fall as universes?

    Science has no idea, but we are amazed at how Nature works, and the more we delve, the more we are amazed.

    What we can be most amazed about at present, is why the human tool-maker is so hesitant about running with Nature in the expansion of life beyond Earth.

    Liberated from much of the instinct that drives survival in animals, we seem to need to consciously figure out that we need to survive, and how we do this.

    For the tool-maker, not so driven by instinct, survival may not come naturally, and that may be at the core of our strife on Earth.

  32. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    “Why did the Universe decide to exist?”

    What a strange question! But in line with this sort: ‘How do animals adapt to environmental changes?’ Or ‘ . . . know how to adapt . . . ‘?

    “Curiouser and curiouser!”

  33. Kim Peart

    April 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Re: 88-89 ~ Very well delivered.

    As the most advanced nation in 1939, if Germany had won that war, would their Wernher von Braun have opened the high frontier, allowing the next phase in the evolution of life, to begin in space?

    Nature is not concerned about whether life is nice.

    For reasons we know about, Germany was vanquished, but we adopted their von Braun, and he did open the high frontier for us.

    What a shame we defeated Germany, only to lose the plot when it comes to the main game of life and evolution.

    The Chinese once had great armadas that sailed the oceans, but then withdrew from such feats, closing their minds to the cutting edge of evolution.

    They paid dearly for their stubbornness.

    The Japanese ran like westerners, but failed to hone up on the cutting edge of evolution, when it comes to society, tumbled into conflict and paid a heavy price.

    Some of their leaders knew they could not win that war in 1942, but were stubborn sods.

    Are we westerners a bizarre mix of Mandarin China and Samurai Japan?

    Will their be an explosive awakening for us?

    If yes, how might that happen?

    And then, what would we do?

    Or will we be swept aside by China, by the East, who have learnt a few horrible lessons and are now applying ancient wisdom with new vigour to the game of being smart and fast.

    When the next phase comes, I see it happening swiftly, or never.

    I wonder how we, in the Antipodes, might be in the game of cutting-edge evolution.

    Are we able to focus that clearly on the demands of survival?

  34. Christopher Nagle

    April 15, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Who wants to admit that the libertarian social administration of capitalism is as much a threat to the social commons as the corporate one is to the ecological ones? Is it taking responsibility for the creeping chaos in family life, our schools, social welfare, aboriginal affairs and our detention system? I don’t think so.

    Denialism… There is plenty of it to go round when things don’t pan out so well.

    Chris Sharples’ view of what needs to be done to save ourselves is little better than an assertion of the potential evolutionary ascendance of good over evil and that enlightenment will come from the secular equivalent of ‘Seeing The Light’, being virtuous and doing good deeds.

    Ho hum….

  35. Christopher Nagle

    April 15, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Re #82. Chris H, no one here is into historical structural inevitablism. But certainly I am saying, having been at least influenced by Marxist analysis, that there is a relationship between economic activity, interests and technology on the one hand, and social and ideological life on the other, with the former providing the circumstantial contexts that shape the latter.

    That seems to me to be a reasonable working hypothesis.

    The ability to adapt or not is generated by far more immediate factors than the very long term ones elucidated by Sharples. The separation of faith and reason where faith becomes blind and reason becomes opportunist excuse making and obfuscation, is to do with contradictions and threats that are too large, profound and existentially threatening for some individuals and groups to deal with.

    My examples above of success and failure to adapt to modern times were a constant throughout the modern period and everyone across the globe was one way or another forced to uproot and shift, or face serial catastrophe.

    And none of them, failure and success alike, failed or succeeded particularly because of greed, selfishness or denial. Even aboriginal communities with a 60,000 year legacy to weigh them down and who should be big qualifiers in the denial stakes, might reasonably argue that ‘overwhelmed’ was a better word to describe their response, or lack of it, to the modern challenge.

    The modernizing samurai elite was as greedy and selfish as anyone, but its ‘denialism’ of the western imperative was kept out of the way until it showed its hand in 1941-5, when it demonstrated to its shocked victims that it was not even remotely westernized. All it had imported were western technology and industrial infrastructure. It never accepted western ideology and had stuck rigidly to the old traditions when it came to culture and family life.

    Because the Samurai were above all soldiers for whom death was preferable to defeat, setting aside their swords and castles for guns and industrial cities was, despite some traditionalist resistance, a no brainer.

    That was much harder for the Chinese, because to admit western technology and infrastructure was to admit some kind of cultural as well as technological/industrial inferiority that would delegitimize the regime.

    The fact that the brilliant mandarin literati whose culture and sophistication was unsurpassed anywhere, couldn’t manage hairy and chalky faced barbarians, caused an irresolvable existential crisis that they just couldn’t deal with.

    Their response to repeated defeat, internal disorder. and international humiliation was to pretend that these reverses were marginal in a greater Chinese scheme of things that had survived an existential crisis like the Mongol invasion, by rapidly Sinicising its new masters with the superior mandarin way of doing things.

    Ensconced in the 9000 rooms and 150,000 m2 of floor space in the Forbidden City in Beijing, the mandarins and their emperor went on seeing the aggressive western imperialists as just unpleasantly inconvenient and marginal grist to the overwhelming center-of-the-world Chinese mill…until they couldn’t.

    To suggest that such a catastrophic miscalculation could be put down to greed and selfishness is nonsense (even though traditionally in China, corruption and poor governance would become increasingly rampant in periods of instability and decay in the imperial centre).

    Even their ‘denialism’ can only be calculated after the fact, when their ideas about their real place in the world were proved to be erroneous, by the collapse of the imperial system, and the descent into warlordism and later Japanese invasion.

    We are starting to go through exactly the same kind of excruciatingly difficult conundrums as the modern age perhaps comes to an end, or at least faces a severe reduction in the extent and scope of its operations.

    Who wants to talk about retreat, reduction and making tough choices about what is sustainable and what isn’t, inside a system that for the last 250 years has been so overwhelmingly successful?

    Who wants to admit that capitalism has become a monstrous and dysfunctional Godzilla bent on pulling its support structures down on itself, like the bankers almost did in 2008? Can’t it bounce back like it always has?

    cont …

  36. Kim Peart

    April 15, 2017 at 6:35 am

    A further observation on evolution ~

    Why did the Universe decide to exist, with all laws in full working order, like a seed, beginning in a primal singularity, or infinitely small point 13.8 billion years ago, that swiftly expanded to infinity as a hot foggy plasma, that then cooled and cleared, allowing atoms to form, and stars.

    Stars had to explode, expanding their dust into space, so planets could form, like Earth.

    The next big shift in the Universe came with the dawn of life, as we see on Earth 4.5 billion years ago, where matter could enter a new journey of expansion in complexity, from simple cells, to fish in the sea, all guided by those natural laws that were in full working order at the beginning of time.

    Just as the forming of space, matter, stars and planets was wired into natural law, so we can consider that the emergence of life was also wired into the primal seed of the cosmos, which could then emerge when conditions were right on a planet, like Earth.

    Then we find life carefully manipulating conditions on Earth for the benefit of life, getting the mix of conditions just right for life, and the fierce process of selecting the fittest, to drive the pageant forward of increasing diversity ~ an expansion in diversity.

    Though the potential for fish to move onto land would have been wired into natural law, to happen when conditions were right, fish did not evolved for survival on land and then suddenly walk out of the sea.

    Fish had to learn to adapt to the new environment of the land, to gain a new set of skills to survive in the new environment of the land in the air.

    The success of fish on land further expanded the pageant of diversity, leading to the emergence of the tool makers, who were able to build the means to expand life beyond Earth, which life by itself has not been able to do.

    So in terms of natural law, of the force for expansion that drives increasing diversity in evolution, we can wonder if we are now like the fish before they moved onto the land.

    We now face the challenge of learning to survive in the new environment of space and among the stars, skills which we must learn in the new environment, which will then reveal new expressions of life through evolution.

    So we can define a process that is quite natural, an expression of natural law from the dawn of time.

    The catch for us is that once the tool maker is unleashed, the process happens at an exceptionally rapid pace, far faster than we had any idea was possible, and if the tool maker does not run in time to survive, the tool maker may not survive to know the further potential of evolution among the stars.

    Anyone who knows the history of space development, will know how the way beyond Earth was opened with the space race in the 1960s, opening the way to plans being forged in the 1970s for the building of orbital cities beyond Earth, where work could have begun in the 1980s, also allowing energy transition from fossil fuels to the stellar power of the Sun.

    It is an odd thing, in terms of evolution and the primal work of expansion in the Universe, that the decade when we could have been beginning the transition from Earth to space, and also making the transition from fossil fuel to stellar energy, CO2 in the air passed 350 ppm, which James Hansen found a decade ago, is the trigger for a future runaway greenhouse effect.

    Now we wonder why there is no sign of ET among the stars, no sound at all, and so we can wonder if life has a really bad habit of getting to the edge of space, via the tool maker, but then dillies and dallies too long, and brings on the Venus syndrome, their own doom, and adds to the silence of the stars.

    If this is how the cards of Nature are stacked for us, then we are faced with a pure survival run, a run for our lives, a run for our future, a run to break the silence of the stars, a run to expand life beyond Earth, a run to do that which we were evolved for by natural law, which began like a seed, with all laws in full working order at the beginning ing of time.

    What a tragedy it would be to go extinct on the very verge of the next and most exciting phase in evolution among the stars.

    Why would we let that happen?

    Is this simply a test for the survival of the fittest, at our level of evolution?

    The implications of the Venus syndrome mean that there will be no future chance for life to expand beyond Earth, as third rock will fall into a second Venus.

    For life on Earth, it is now or never in space.

  37. Andrew Ricketts

    April 14, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    Sharples, regarding:

    “Thoughtful people have long recognised that excessive self-interest and greed beyond need are debilitating limitations on humanity’s capacity to flourish as a society”

    I suppose you came to this view some time after you consulted for Gunns Ltd assisting their case over PTR 1698. I will never forget your performance before the Tribunal.

  38. Kim Peart

    April 14, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Re: 82 ~ How about a view as basic as the demands of survival?

    When confronted by the meaning of battery hens in Murdunna in 1987, I started to wonder about the root cause of all matters environment, what drives the problems, and what the working solutions were.

    I came to see that we were up against a primal challenge to survival, at the very roots of what we are as a species and a global civilisation.

    I put simple observations into a small paper called Keys to Survival in 1994, and a local rag published a story.

    Wondering if the prime key was the culture we lived, I began seeking lessons with culture, including indigenous wisdom.

    Taking on board Papuan story via William Takaku ~ “Nature is culture. We must learn fromn Nature. When man sees himself as separate from Nature, he is doomed.” ~ I began looking at evolution.

    William liked my paper, Keys to Survival.

    Survival only needs one working solution, with that which allows survival.

    With a simple focus on what must happen to survive, I continued gathering the key evidence, and seeking to see what must happen, and how soon that must happen.

    I have been shocked to learn that where the present search began in 1987, was the time we crossed the line to our doom ~ if James Hansen’s conclusions are accepted, which is why Bil McKibben’s 350.org has that name.

    So what I suggest is no “grand ‘solution’”, but is simply a lizard running across a beach from a hundred hungry snakes and up the cliff to a safe place to survival.

    With every day that passes, our basic survival challenge gets tougher.

    We are now doomed, according to Hansen’s conclusions, which the nations are beginning to accept by hearing the need for a 1.5C planet temperature rise limit ~ but the setting for that limit was passed in the 1980s.

    Is there room for a position that includes primal survival?

    If yes, then how primal survival is secured in our world, on this planet, with our tool-making civilization, is the challenge we face.

    What I am finding is a Luddite-like mind-set, clinging to old crafted ways, but failing to understand how the world has changed, and what we must now to to run with Nature and survive.

    Nature is a harsh mistress, long in tooth and sharp in claw, and has no place for failure.

    We are tool-makers, so what does evolution want with us?

    And from us.

    If we had grasped this basic question in the 1960s, participated in the planning in number in the 1970s, we could have been building for survival beyond Earth in the 1980s, as we crossed our survival doom line of 350 ppm CO2 in the air.

    We would have gained the ability to survive in this Universe ~ cosmic survival.

    Now the Earth may simply eat us, a failed civilisation, a failed species, as a last grand act on the tumble into the Venus syndrome, or the radiactive silence of a nuclear winter.

    This may be the way evolution works across the Universe.

    This may explain the silence from the stars.

    Are we willing to bet on some magical solution, some silver bullet from evolution.

    We have had our chance in Nature, and we have blown our survival chances, to date.

    It will only take ten to beat the drum of hope and wake up enough people to act.

    Time is not on our side.

  39. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    April 14, 2017 at 1:02 am

    OK Chris, what is that these longer term perspectives actually concretely deliver in terms of dealing with the obvious problems that we both agree need to be addressed, to save our collective bacon?

    In what ways does your evolutionary psychological analysis illuminate and prompt future action within the context of our present situation, within a time frame that is going to head off catastrophe?

    How do you argue that nuancing psychological disposition is a sufficient basis for dealing with structural and ideological decline and an indulgence culture that uses ‘freedom’ as a device of totalitarian control?

    We are more heavily propagandized and psychologically controlled than anything George Orwell could have ever imagined. Sales, marketing and PR don’t need or want state control or the appurtenances of a police state, because they do such an efficient job, customers will let them do things the old autarchs never achieved, like removing children from the authority of their parents and teachers.

    How much time left do you think civil action has got, armed with 30% of the media market (what is left after Newscorp’s 70%)?

    Profoundly intractable problems usually lead to war. Why not this time? Hasn’t it occurred to you just how ridiculously vulnerable modern urban agglomerations are to attack? Is that part of the evolutionary agenda? It usually is.

    What makes you think your liberal-humanist agenda is any more sustainable than the libertarian corporate ones? They have both cannibalized their respective economic and social commons’, haven’t they?

  40. Kim Peart

    April 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Re: 81 ~ Exactly.

    We are currently driving devolution with a vengeance, killing off species of life and eco-systems, needing more than one Earth of resources to keep our game going, pumping up a totally unsustainable human-industrial presence that has become a cancer in the body of the Earth.

    The mangroves of Australia’s north die suddenly in the heat.

    The Great Barrier Reef, I read, may now be doomed.

    The Arctic permafrost is exploding from the ground.

    The West Antarctic Ice Sheet may now be doomed the dissolve, as it melts from beneath, as with the Totten Glacier, together offering many metres of sea level rise.

    And in a hotter Arctic, the Greenland ice sheet is responding.

    How many canaries must fall from the perch, dead, before we see what is happening?

    Having become a cancerous growth in the disease of devolution, we cannot expect to suddenly evolve new abilities.

    We evolved as tool makers to the point of being able to expand life beyond Earth in the 1970s.

    Instead of running with Nature beyond Earth, we have contained our growth on this planet.

    I see our growth as an expression of Nature, the force for expansion, for life to expand into space.

    Containing the expansion force for growth on Earth is now turning this planet into a pressure-cooker.

    The dial was set in the 1980s, and we now wait for the pressure-cooker to explode.

    On the current trajectory, we are heading into an evolutionary dead-end, with extinction our fate, and now prediction from the grandfather of climate science, that we have the conditions in process for a runaway greenhouse effect, which will kill all life on Earth in a heat death, where the end result can be no water on a planet where the rocks glow in a heat that can melt lead.

    The Venus syndrome, he calls it.

    If his conclusion is correct, we passed the line of no return in the 1980s, when CO2 in the air passed 350 ppm, which Hansen says will deliver a future temperature of 1.5C, beyond which there is the Venus syndrome.

    Now three decades on, and with atmospheric CO2 going beyond 400 ppm, what future temperature will this deliver, and how much hotter will that be as CO2 and methane levels keep rising in the air?

    We have got all the evolutionary gifts we are going to get on this planet.

    We failed to see how sharply survival issues needed to be addressed in the 1970s.

    Our only hope now is radical surgery, to deal with the cancer, using the scalpel of the Sun.

    First we must survive, for the Earth to survive, and then we must get serious about survival beyond Earth, for the Earth to survive.

    With the carbon doomsday line passed in the 1980s, the carbon level may be such, and the rising level of methane from the Arctic may be such, that if we suddenly vanished in a global pandemic, the Earth could still fall to the Venus syndrome.

    If survival is our prime challenge, that we fix the human cancer on this planet to survive, then flights of philosophy in some parallel universe are playing the fiddle while the planet burns.

  41. Chris Harries

    April 13, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    There’s been a longstanding divide between those who primarily see the human predicament through the lens of psychology (innate human behaviour) or through political economy. The classic left wing of politics used to resent bringing the personal into the equation because it was seen to detract from the political. I think that cringe has dissipated somewhat in more recent times.

    More recently there’s a third category, those who see the sustainability problem simply through the lens of technology. Half of the environmental movement is caught up in the techno-fix pathway.

    I think we need to straddle all of these thought streams, rather than any one of them exclusively. Even Kim’s grand ‘solution’ should be on the table. (Please don’t let that go to your head, Kim.)

    It’s only when we get obsessive or exclusive about any particular thought strain that we lose the plot. Modern society is hugely complex. A predicament is, by definition, an intractable problem that has no clear solution. Too many blokes think along the lines of simple and single minded panaceas.

    There are valid and valuable links between each of these approaches. Being obdurately superior about any one of them is not all that constructive.

  42. Chris Sharples

    April 13, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    #79 You say “Selfishness, greed and denialism as an explanation for anything, borders on caricature. And to hope that we can evolve through either cultural and/or culture to beat these evils is no better. We do not have to do a grand tour of the history of the last million years when a simple study of the modern period will do very nicely.”

    I simply disagree fundamentally with these assertions. I think that there is a longer perspective here – essentially the perspective of evolutionary psychology – that has a lot to inform us, and is missed if we focus purely on the modern period and its ideologies and fail to pay attention to the deeper (evolutionary) drivers of our behaviour.

  43. Kim Peart

    April 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Re: 79 ~ I find the Easter Island civilization a poignant microcosm of the current global phenomenon.

    They were at their most advanced just before their fall, but were totally blind to what they had to do to plan to avoid the fall into oblivion.

    Such pride they had to see the largest stone statue of all, lying in the quarry, nearly completed.

    They had the skills to do anything, the philosophy to challenge infinity, but they did not have the sense to survive.

    At some point before their fall, they had doomed themselves.

    Similar threads can be found through history, and that thread can be read now in what we are doing globally.

    We now have a chance to avoid our doom by taking determined action at a number of levels, focused on survival.

    It will only take ten determined and empowered individuals, working as one with a shared vision, to crack a whip of action that will inspire ten million and more to act.

    In our age, with the technology we have at our fingertips, those ten would not need to be very rich, and could even be nearly poor.

    Their success would in time inspire the ten wealthiest people to join the vision and the action.

    Success will mean everyone will win, and we will be able to win back a safe Earth.

    That dynamic of ten is well understood in the background of human understanding, and has been used to build conquering empires.

    There may be a leader, a face, but there will be small group that drives the vision, which others will follow.

    This dynamic can be seen in the World of Trump, but I fear that he will bring on a global crisis that will be our brick wall to survival.

    I have been gathering the indicators of what will happen next with Trump on the World stage, and the signs point toward what Nixon nearly did to North Korea in 1969, after they shot down a spy plane.

    I hope we have time to crack the survival whip, and save ourselves.

    I hope at least one empowered and determined individual will rise to the challenge of doing that which must be done to assure human survival.

    If James Hansen’s findings are correct, then we are now doomed.

    The day of our doom was in the 1980s, when CO2 in the air passed 350 ppm, locking in a future temperature rise of 1.5C.

    I simply see a way to pull back from our own collective doom.

    I hope we have time.

  44. Christopher Nagle

    April 13, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Chris Sharples, I am not trying to have a gratuitous shot at you. I just do not think that your obvious effort and thought has produced much that anyone can work on…other than the indefatigable Kim Peart.

    I have been struggling with this subject for 40-50 years, because it was clear to me back in the later sixties that we were already in big trouble. But then I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

    Selfishness, greed and denialism as an explanation for anything, borders on caricature. And to hope that we can evolve through either cultural and/or culture to beat these evils is no better.

    We do not have to do a grand tour of the history of the last million years when a simple study of the modern period will do very nicely.

    You have not even begun to work out why specific economic/social change either fails or succeeds, or how social economic systems evolve, age and die, or have any sense of historiography that might shed light on how human systems work over time.

    An analysis of capitalism might be a help to elucidate why markets have succeeded brilliantly, and now they aren’t. Why do successful leverages stop being successful and become counter-productive? How do we gain and lose the initiative? What happens to make victory hollow and defeats disastrous, when once it was the opposite?

    What you have given us is a lot of admittedly quite interesting waffle. But I want to understand why late indulgence capitalism has been both a fabulous success story and catastrophe at the same time and I want to know the dynamics of that, because there are very large forces at work that have been operating at full bore for 50-70 years. That time frame has more than enough in it to keep us going for years.

    Clearly the post WW2 consensus and settlements are falling to pieces, but how the hell did superman become Humpty Dumpty? What is undoing him? What has turned Thomas Paine into an ideological junkie who deals unexpurgated libertarian rights-amphetamines in our schools and social welfare systems….that totally trashes the users?

    Selfishness, greed and denial….spare me.

  45. Kim Peart

    April 11, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Re: 77 ~ Is it “now too late to reverse the system”?

    Anyone bothering to get out of their fear cage and examine what is actually possible, will see that though much damage is now unavoidable, and much will be lost, it is possible to turn the tide and “reverse the system”.

    It will require an effort far greater than the Manhattan Project and the Moon race combined, but it can be done.

    The key is energy, accessed at a level only available directly from the Sun in space.

    This will launch industry in space, which will allow the manufacture of a sunshade above the Earth, which will buy time as excess carbon is extracted from the biosphere.

    If the death-wish can be overcome, if the love of apocalypse can be swept aside, we can save the Earth.

    To reject the possible is simply an amazing affirmation of mental laziness.

    We did not get to the level of civilisation that we have now, without being able to think large and act big.

    We need to find our nerve and our will to act.

    Like Salvador Dali’s painting ~ Birth of the New Man ~ we must hatch from the egg and become what evolution has prepared us to be.

    We have delayed this birth since the 1970s, and if we don’t break out, we will die in the egg.

    If the silence from the stars tells us anything, it tells us that this death of life may happen with sad repetition with life on planets across the Universe.

    If we will not fight for survival, we cannot expect to survive.

  46. Chris Sharples

    April 11, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    #74 You said: “Sharples ‘solutions’ don’t inspire much confidence either.”

    Really? What solutions do I propose? Pardon me but I don’t recall proposing any “solutions’ at all, merely exploring what might be some of the outcomes of the train-wreck already in progress.

    And I certainly don’t propose “throwing the system into reverse” as you appear to mock me for suggesting in your second para; on the contrary what I’m trying to do is explore some of the consequences of the fact it is now too late to reverse the system even if we do ever finally get around to really trying!

    Methinks you are a bit keen on the rhetorical flourish, eh Christopher? Trouble is, that tends to obscure meaning, not only from others but from oneself as well. Rhetoric-coloured lenses allow one to interpret what one reads through the prism of ones own pre-conceptions, and may obscure what is actually being said.

    I’m guessing you approached my article with the notion of “here’s another pathetic dreamer proposing a plan to save humanity”, and so instead of discovering that is not my drift, you have read such notions into my article yourself. They aren’t there. Sorry.

  47. Kim Peart

    April 11, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Re: 74 ~ Ned Kelly would have liked this comment.

    I have wondered about the role of cooperation.

    In the article I read ~ “the origins of co-operative social behaviour can be traced to natural selection of groups containing higher proportions of more altruistic individuals, since more altruistic and thus co-operative groups are more likely to outcompete more selfish and divided groups”

    Is cooperation an oscillating situation in the carnival of evolution.

    Cooperation can be seen in many species.

    Our survival may now hinge on a more resounding use of cooperation, much as I suggest in comment #75.

    It seems that cooperation is a natural matter in a mature phase, as when a rainforest matures, but a growth phase can be aggressive and competitive, as when a new lion takes over a pride and kills the cubs of the old defeated fellow.

    Nature can be pretty fierce at times, like that lizard running across a beach from a hundred hungry snakes, with no time to reflect, or cooperate, until his survival is safe.

    Are we in a growth phase on Earth that will strangle us, as it is now strangling this planet, killing life.

    The continuing of the killing of life can only lead into devolution, and toward extinction.

    If the evolutionary dynamic is driving life toward expansion beyond Earth, and we clever tool makers happen to be the means, then what we do next may prove pretty critical to shift the current growth phase to a mature phase, one that may well be a permanent state among the stars, where evolution would take different paths in a mix of life and machine.

    So creative cooperation may wait for us, if we run across the beach to a safe place in space and survive.

    I wonder if we see the emergence of selfish politics, because we didn’t reach for the stars in the 1970s, when this became possible.

    Does Nature writhe and twist now, confined in a cage on a planet, when the moment in evolution had arrived for other ways in space, where there is no limit to growth or expansion, and no shortage of energy from the stars to do any work, or build any dream?

    In terms of evolutionary survival, what should we be doing?

    At this level of survival, what happens next gets pretty personal.

  48. Kim Peart

    April 10, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Re: 73 ~ Agreed ~ we are not just fish.

    I was looking at the transition that happened from fish to land animals.

    Another transition phase can be from animal to tool-maker that came to be able to build the means to expand life beyond Earth.

    We can wonder why the natural order doesn’t allow life to expand beyond Earth on its own.

    Maybe this is how it works across the Universe.

    Maybe many planet civilisations fail ~ an evolutionary dead-end.

    Just as machines and robots emerge through our hands to reveal a whole new potential in evolution, maybe that’s just the way it is at this stage of evolution.

    It is the human-machine partnership that allows life to survive beyond Earth, and potentially, thrive among the stars.

    I also wonder if a higher level of intelligence will kick in as we expand beyond Earth, from being conscious and aggressive, to becoming aware and creative.

    It could be that wars do not happen among the stars, because of this shift to awareness and emphasis on creativity.

    In that way, the higher level of awareness kicking in with celestial action, may be how we get peace on Earth.

    Like I suggest in my current TT article ~ Sustainability is a Two-Edged Sword ~ what would the development plan for Earth look like if we were obliged to apply for it, even retrospectively, and with fines for any damaged done in the colonial and industrial age.

  49. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    April 10, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Sharples piece is nicely researched & referenced in the academic style, but its fundamental analysis seems thin. ‘Greed, selfishness & denial’ are civilizational constants with variations over time that need to be explained, for they are symptoms rather than causes.

    Adverse historical outcomes are not particularly a product of just bad attitude….Greed & profit, selfishness and individualism have produced the most overwhelmingly powerful system ever invented; capitalism. Couldn’t systemic overreach have something to do with them? And wouldn’t enormous accelerating success and growth over 250 years make throwing the system into a reverse just a teeny weeny bit difficult; something clearly it is not designed to do?

    Sharples talks glibly about ‘denial’ as if this were some obtuse weakness of character, when, as in the case of climate warming hydrocarbons, they have not just fueled the industrial revolution from its beginnings, but provide most of the chemistry set as well, in the process rendered the original ‘renewables’ technology obsolete and then from stage left, losers who couldn’t make it with class warfare turned to the environment to use it as a last gasp alternative stick to beat the system with.

    The fact that they are dead right, on a real winner & backed by science institutions that until very recently only brought the good news about solving every problem, meeting every challenge & expanding the horizons to Mars & beyond for millennia to come, makes the bitter pill all the harder to swallow. And now we have to go back to renewables! What?!

    Denial has numerous sources. One only has to go back to the original expansion of the modern world to see how adaption and denial played out under the enormous pressures that modernization put on people.

    For Japanese samurai, defeat and living to tell about it was unthinkable. Faced with military defeat, they swallowed their colossal pride, because they knew deep in their hearts they had to have whatever its was westerners were having, that made them so formidable, in order that they could beat them on land and sea, which they managed to do in less than forty years, at the expense of Russia.

    Their Chinese cousins on the other hand, who had too much politically invested in their literary mandarin culture, had consciously given capitalism the thumbs down in the fourteenth century & didn’t think that hairy and chalky faced barbarians had anything to teach the most glorious, cultured, sophisticated & longest lived empire in history, had to suffer serial catastrophes that didn’t stop until the death of Mao, when at last they really ‘got it’.

    Australian aboriginals, with 60,000 years of the same old same old weighing them down just couldn’t come at modernization at all, went into deep denial & many still haven’t come to the party, despite everything around them collapsing in a welfarist heap, kept going by well meaning
    white & near white goodbodies, whose great grandchildren will still be administering never ending defeat to the helpless poor things, by permanently entrenching denial as a sacred site ‘culture’.


    Sharples ‘solutions’ don’t inspire much confidence either. Our admittedly grim civilizational prognosis is supposed to be solved by evolutionary transformative transcendance; a sort of secular version of ‘finding God’, collaborative virtue, egoless altruism & all the good stuff that’ll save us.

    And that brings me to another problem that Sharples raises, which is ‘original sin’, but I call ‘The Beast In The Basement’. It lives in the brain base we share with crocs. It cares nothing for morality, but a great deal about getting what it wants, now, & comes armed with very persuasive hormones. And poor old consequential reasoning from the much more recent upper brain simply doesn’t have that sort of artillery.

    In this unequal battle, a lone individual is easy pickings for ‘the beast’, which is only combated with some success by collective community action & institutions that set some rules, standards for meeting them, mentoring oversight & enforcement if all goes ill. Religious institutions used to do that, but this is now, where anything goes, & frequently does; really bad stuff at both the corporate boardroom and youth detention centre levels.

    We now have a system run by the masters of business admin, who with their little liberal helpers have torn down and thrown out all that silly old fashioned morality stuff, collective discipline & respect for authority. We now slavishly do as we are told by sales and marketing, where fantasies become wants, then needs & finally, take flight as rights. And vulnerable egoism trumps everything, because all the protective internal controls have been systematically removed in favour of consuming desire, temptation & giving in to it.

    And that state of affairs won’t be busted by democratic action or human rights. Salvation means war.

  50. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    About this in Comment 69: “just as fish had to learn new ways when climbing onto the land” – but did they ‘learn’ them?

    Or, was it that those fish which were at the ‘wrong’ end of the Bell Curve for adapting to this new environment failed to survive long enough breed their ‘failing’ genes?

    Fortunately, we are NOT “just as fish”.

    And about 70’s “There are very many Aboriginal Australians who are a part of the Australian way of life and then there are many who are a part of the Aboriginal way of life” – the 2006 ABS figures are about 75% / 25%; the ‘Very Remote Area stat is about 15%.

  51. Kim Peart

    April 10, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Re: 71 ~ Puzzled, yes, but are my suspicions correct?

    If yes, puzzle solved.

  52. Chris Sharples

    April 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    #69 says: “I remain deeply puzzled.”

    I can tell that!

  53. John Wade

    April 10, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Leonard, there is a lot of ‘stuff’ in 64 that I disagree with and in 68 I am not even interested in pulling that apart other than mocking the ‘studies’ that collate information to present an established perception that the academics wish to produce for their own self aggrandisement or pathway to a Masters degree.
    The issue of expectations that one people will perform, conform or act in accordance with a substantiated set of behavioural patterns is basic ignorance, on the part of academics who correlate the distinctions of and, compare the behaviours of, Aboriginal Australians to Maoris and Inuits or North American Indigenous, is like comparing eggs to apples.

    Communities differ in the presentation of their intentions for their children. The ‘white way’ is discouraged in some communities (better that they be impregnated at ages 14 or 15 to members of their group, even uncles, a custom discouraged yet not abandoned), other communities grasp the learning that comes from the schools that are attached to them. Let’s say that communities like Corella Creek absorb the learning structure while others such as Yuendumu fiercely discourages the “white gubba man way” even their presence in the community.

    Basically, isolated Aboriginal communities do not want to learn the white way, they like it the old way, they understand it and are used to it.
    “the notion that enabling people to stay in areas far away from any sort of viable ongoing economic activity will magically produce sustainable livelihoods.” – some demand it! Teaching those, sustainability, is going to fail because they are not interested and as I said, other will absorb it. A lot of communities want others to do IT for them, maybe because of the absence of willpower, basic laziness or perhaps the shame of not being aware enough to act in accordance.

    However, in all of this there is a vast discrepancy. I have seen the younger men given the opportunity and the opportunity taken up because with that acceptance of the opportunity comes the pay at the end of the week and the esteem of having a wage and providing for a family, however, they are given a road grader to drive with limited instruction, or what appears as limited instruction, because the road is not graded properly, in accordance with run-off, etc. So the boys grade a road, it takes at least three of them, in and out then sit down for a day or two and talk. Or they sit on the side of the road and just stare off into the western horizon, for hours. They do not even acknowledge the white boy driving by unless I stop and ask a question of direction to Murray Downs, what the road is like ahead, etc.

    You just have to be there. Academics are not there.
    And then we have the teachers and nurses in these communities. These are the different people, who either become a part of the direction they have chosen, to teach and nurture, or, they are gone within 3 weeks, culture shock, they just up and leave. There is a huge onus on these people in the communities who are employed to assist and, they are not always whites who are employed, to understand and tread the correct path and not fill heads with nonsense or try to change a custom that has been active for some several thousand of years.

    The “gimme dat” mentality is borne of laziness or fear and this is what has to be overcome, by them.
    Of course television is not helping anyone, at least the programs being shown are not helping. The association and identification with African-Americanism is concerning.

    There are very many Aboriginal Australians who are a part of the Australian way of life and then there are many who are a part of the Aboriginal way of life. People tend to think in terms of 200+ years since White Man arrived and changed the lives of Aboriginals when in reality many have not changed and a lot have only changed in the last 60 – 80 years.

    Shockingly, not a lot has changed in some sections of the community on both sides of the divide.

    I could go on for hours, but I don’t have the ability in me to draw out my past experiences for the battleground that it creates from those that know an alternative experience, an experience outside, not inside.

    Unless we get it right and respect the situation, not herd people into major towns and ‘ejacate’ them we are going to have serious consequences. The conflict that occurred in Laverton, WA, in 1975 that forced a Royal Commission; it was not pretty.

  54. Kim Peart

    April 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Re: 65 ~ I remain deeply puzzled.

    The article is called ~ Can human greed and denial ever end? The climate crisis as a transformational opportunity.

    The article ends with ~ “The possibility that the scale and scope of the existential crisis we now face will not be terminal – but nevertheless will be sufficient to trigger the transformational evolutionary leap we now need to make – could be the proverbial silver lining in the dark cloud of crisis that our collectively blind actions have created.”

    How can human greed and denial ever end?

    How can the climate crisis be a transformational opportunity?

    If we are to see a “transformational evolutionary leap”, how will this happen?

    The article states how “… palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists now understand that at least some evolutionary changes have actually been very rapid, with much of the evolution of life having occurred in a fashion known as “punctuated equilibrium”.”

    These are the questions that I ask, and I see the potential for rapid evolutionary change.

    Will this change happen on Earth alone, or will this change be triggered by the demands of the environment beyond Earth, just as fish had to learn new ways when climbing onto the land?

    If there is potential for solutions to the problems posed in the article, by considering what will happen in the next environment beyond Earth, it would appear to be most logical to consider such matters.

    If a plan is needed to achieve the next stage in evolution, much as Elon Musk sells Tasmanians solar panels (love his tiles) and battery storage systems to finance his space development so he can build beyond Earth, so a plan may be the only way we get to the next phase in evolution.

    Are the findings of James Hansen, the grandfather of climate science, who identified the 1980s level of CO2 in the air must be regained to avoid a runaway grteenhouse effect, to avoid turning third rock into a secon Venus, rejected?

    If not, then where is the energy going to come from to extract all that excess carbon from the air, and then there is a whole heap more in the sea, which will leap back out into the air as carbon is extracted from the air.

    If there is no plan to deal with the excess carbon in the air and sea, and the additional carbon and methane that the Earth is now releasing in the Arctic, and there is no interest in a plan, then what in the hell is going on?

    Is there a religious and or political view that there must be a total focus on the Earth alone?

    As there is currently no physical solution to the carbnon problem we face on Earth alone, there is no need for a plan, because in the confines of the Earth alone, no plan is possible with present Earth-bound technology.

    That would explain the disinterest in a plan, the wishful thinking that something magical will happen, and humans will live happily ever after in a paradise on Earth.

    This approach is a’kin to creationism, where people of faith are required by their belief to wait patiently on this Earth for a magical solution to all problems.

    This can be read in the Nicene Creed, which states “shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”

    I know many conservationists are Christian, as was Charles Birch, and is Bill McKibben.

    If the faith position is influencing how we deal with Earth matters, then I wonder if we are saddled with a dangerous level of denial that serves to empower the fossil fuel monopoly and helps to maintain their grip on power.

    Magical thinking will not save this Earth, or break the carbon industry grip on power.

    Only a well designed campaign, a plan, can hope to win back a safe Earth.

    With no plan for a safe Earth that can deliver, and with no way to save the Earth on Earth alone, as the carbon noose tightens around the necks of all wishful thinkers on a planet going deeper into hell, where do these people turn?

    I have read of the suicide option being raised in the Tasmanian Times.

    I had an academic raise the suicide option next to me at a panel debate in Brisbane.

    If this is not so, if the science is open, then the prospect of evolutionary change being triggered by human expansion beyond Earth, will be a matter of interest, and a subject for robust debate.

    If a divine fellow flies in throght the air to land in Jerusalem and prevent Trump and Putin sending the Earth into a radiactive hell, that would be a rather magical solution to all Earth’s problems.

    It would also be a theological dictatorship.

    My suspicion is, it is up to us to work out a plan, if we want to survive, if we want to win back a safe Earth.

    The magical thinking we need is liberated imagination.

  55. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 10, 2017 at 4:55 am

    Fuller response to 61, from ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA:
    Laura Davidoff and Alan Duhs*
    University of Queensland
    June 2008:

    Table: Key Indicators of Aboriginal Disadvantage
    Life expectancy
    Life expectancy for Indigenous people is estimated to be around 17 years
    lower than that for the total Australian population. In North America and in
    New Zealand the equivalent differential is much less, at about 7 years.
    Disabilities In non-remote areas in 2002, Indigenous adults were twice as likely as non-
    Indigenous adults to report a severe activity-limiting disability. In 2004-05, the
    Indigenous rate for kidney disease was 10 times as high as the non-Indigenous
    rate, and this gap is widening. In 2004-05, Indigenous people were three times
    as likely as non-Indigenous people to have diabetes.
    Schooling In 2006, 21 per cent of 15 year old Indigenous people were not participating in
    school education, as against only 5 percent of non-Indigenous 15 year olds. In
    2006, Indigenous students were half as likely as non-Indigenous students to
    continue to year 12.
    Employment and unemployment
    In 2004-05, the labour force participation rate for Indigenous people (58.5 per
    cent) was about three quarters of that for non-Indigenous people (78.1 per
    cent). From 1994 to 2004-05 the unemployment rate for Indigenous people fell
    from 30 per cent to 13 per cent, but remained about 3 times the rate for non-
    Indigenous people (4 per cent).
    Household Income
    For the period 2002 to 2004-05, median gross weekly equivalised household
    income for Indigenous people rose by 10 per cent (from $308 to $340). This
    compares to $618 for non-Indigenous households in 2004-05. In 2004-05, over
    half of Indigenous people (52 per cent) received most of their individual
    income from government pensions and allowances, followed by salaries and
    wages (34 per cent) and CDEP (10 per cent).
    Home Ownership
    The proportion of Indigenous adults living in homes owned or being purchased
    by a member of the household increased from 22 per cent in 1994 to 25 per
    cent in 2004-05 (figure 3.7.1) – but at 27% is much less than the 74% for nonindigenous
    Suicide Rates Suicide death rates were higher for Indigenous people (between 19 and 45 per
    100 000 population) than non-Indigenous people (between 11 and 16 per 100
    000 population) in Queensland, WA, SA and the Northern Territory (NT) in
    the period 2001 to 2005.
    Child Abuse In 2005-06, Indigenous children were nearly four times as likely as other
    children to be the subject of a substantiation of abuse or neglect. From 1999-
    2000 to 2005-06, the rate of substantiated notifications for child abuse or
    neglect increased for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
    Murders Of 245 homicides in Australia in 2004-05, Indigenous people accounted for 15
    per cent of homicide victims and 16 per cent of homicide offenders (against
    about 2.5% of the overall population).
    Incarceration Rates
    In 2006, Indigenous people were 13 times more likely than non-Indigenous
    people to be imprisoned. Indigenous imprisonment rates increased by 32 per
    cent between 2000 and 2006. In the criminal justice system indigenous people
    are over-represented as both offenders and victims
    Infant Mortality
    Indigenous infant mortality rates in most of the states and territories for which
    data are available have improved in recent years. Nevertheless, mortality rates
    for Indigenous infants in these jurisdictions remain two to three times as high
    as those for the total population.
    Alcoholism In 2004-05, survey results indicated that a higher proportion of Indigenous
    adults reported that they did not drink or had never drunk alcohol (53 per cent)
    compared to non-Indigenous adults (36 per cent), but among those who drank
    alcohol, the reported rate of short term risky to high risk drinking for
    Indigenous people (17 per cent) was nearly double the rate for non-Indigenous
    people (8 per cent), even though the rate of long term risky to high risk
    drinking for Indigenous people was not statistically different to that for non-indigenous people.

    Source: Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2007, Overview.



  56. Simon Warriner

    April 10, 2017 at 12:21 am

    re 60. Hell yes, Leonard, lets talk about “isms” that hold nasty attitudes towards others, possess weapons of mass destruction illegally, and hold ambitions of global dominance.

    Ever heard of the Samson option, as threatened by the head of state of the nation whose very existence is the holy grail of that particular “ism”? The samson option involves launching its illegally held nuclear weapons to start a global war if the “ism” or its state comes under existential threat.

    A “ism” state that regularly lobs white phosphorus at its prisoners housed in open air ghettos, in actions that have all the hallmarks of a slow moving genocide attempt.

    And, there is some evidence that the Takfarri nutbags you are equating all Islamic adherents with actually got their start courtesy of one of that other “ism’s” mob who jumped the fence. Fascinating, when one considers the conduct and language of ISIL/ISIS has more in common with the exhortations of the Old Testament Levitical priesthood than anything else. The rabbit hole starts here:
    The link is a member of an obscure sect called the Donmeh.

    Sorry, Leonard, but your open disrespect of anything “Islam” has more than a slight air of projection about it and the closer one looks at it it the worse it gets. Everything I have read suggests the world will continue getting shittier until we honestly explore the issue of Zionism and the activities of its followers over time. (note, not Judaism, not Jews. They are distinct and different, and, often as not, victims of Zionist plots) A view Douglas Reed tried to express back in the early 1950’s but was prevented from doing so by the Zionist organisation dedicated to shutting down all discussion of the subject who bullied the publishing industry into black-balling him. That same organisation continues that work today, ensuring academics are never allowed the intellectual freedom to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

    “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise”. Voltaire must have been clairvoyant.

  57. TGC

    April 10, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Noticed that South Australia has already reached its 2025 target for ‘sustainable energy’ and all visitors to South Australia are remarking that climate change in that State is no longer occurring.

  58. Chris Sharples

    April 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    #58 Quote – “Your article is very long and I read it with care and took notes. It is a big ask that any comments on a very long article be minimal.”

    If your comments pertained to my article long responses would be fine. But your comments merely divert attention away from the issues I raised to your standard and well-rehearsed obsessions, which frankly have little to do with my article. For example, my article doesn’t contain “a plan” because that’s totally irrelevant to the points I’m trying to make.

    Given that you have contributed numerous entire articles to TT which describe your issues in detail, don’t you think its a little bit selfish to think you ALSO have the right to not just comment, but to smother every other vaguely-related comments thread with endless repetitive comments, no matter how irrelevant they are to the subject at hand?

    BTW do you actually think anybody is still carefully reading through all or any of your comments in this thread? You’re dreaming if you do. You’ve completely smothered the conversation with your strange conviction that everyone needs to hear what you have to say, again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again (etc).

  59. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 9, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    For 61: for starters, the ‘vision’ that Land Rights ipso facto will lead to healthier, safer and fuller lives. Then there’s the notion that enabling people to stay in areas far away from any sort of viable ongoing economic activity will magically produce sustainable livelihoods. That handouts of ‘free’ public monies, which the locals (contemptuously) call ‘sitdown money’, simply will adequately substitute for the satisfaction and self-respect from productively earned income. That the ‘production’ of hundreds of academic papers is anything more than job-protection and credential-gathering for the ‘producers’.

    That outback and regional Aboriginal children will have lower literacy (if any) and numeracy (if any) than their grandparents had is a shame which all the government’s bureaucrats and all the academy’s professors should be thoroughly ashamed of.

  60. Kim Peart

    April 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Re: 57 ~ If we could introduce a Bill of Rights into Australia, which we don’t have yet, this would be a good way to explore how we can build a Fair Go for all citizens.

    I like New Zealand’s Bill of Rights. ~ We could just about adopt that.

    For such discussion to happen at the grass roots across the nation, the people at the grass roots must have that discussion, rather than wait for Canberra to tell us what to think.

    I have been raising this matter in recent years, but not much of a whisper at the grass roots yet.

    If interest can be raised, we could also extend the discussion to Earth issues, to the care of the land, and to the concept of an ecologically sustainable society living a globally equitable lifestyle.

  61. Kim Peart

    April 9, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Re: 56 ~ Check the name, and if you do not wish to read the comment above the name, don’t read it.

    I’d love to read what you really think.

    Concerning outer space ~

    The Earth is in space, drawing energy for life from a star that is 149.6 million km away.

    To live on Earth we require energy from space for work and happiness.

    To live on Earth we are in space, and that is unavoidable.

    At this moment in time there are space pioneers like Elon Musk preparing to build cities in space, as he provides the means for us to harness the energy of the Sun in our home, and store the energy.

    And Jeff Bozos of Amazon.

    And Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines.

    Anyone can ignore what is happening with outer space, until it fills the news.

    We can turn off the news, but that doesn’t change the history being written now among the stars.

  62. John Wade

    April 9, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Leonard 57, please tell me about the “drivel inflicted on outback Aboriginal settlements and their unhappy inhabitants”, I need to know how and why the inhabitants are unhappy. Unhappy about what, exactly?
    And, what the “drivel” is that has been “inflicted” upon them?

  63. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 9, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    “[It’s] what happens here on Earth now [which]concerns me” – this is exactly why the threat from Islamism, with its inherent possibility of catastrophic apocalyptic destruction and mass-murder, is far and away much more dangerous than Soviet-style communism ever was, no matter how rigidly dogmatic it was. No CPSU general secretary would have had a ‘bring it on’ attitude to MAD; Islamists armed with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and annihilation are in a different league.

    The USSR could ‘do business with’ the West and did, and generally (albeit loosely – but doesn’t everyone?) kept their sides of each bargain. Islamists would be totally uninterested.

    BTW, what ‘crimes against the Arab / Muslim world’ has Sweden committed to ‘deserve’ being one of their targets? Puts the appeasement of Islamism by so many Western PC wusses in context, does it not?

  64. Kim Peart

    April 9, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Re: 54 ~ This comment lacks comment on the article.

    What do you really think?

    Criticism is not always required, but a decisive critique can be revealing.

    Dylan Thomas said it well ~

    “Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

  65. Kim Peart

    April 9, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Re: 55 ~ Your article is very long and I read it with care and took notes.

    It is a big ask that any comments on a very long article be minimal.

    Concerning the need for a plan ~

    To win an election requires a plan, and agility in the vault to the poll ~ and then the hard yakka of delivering in office, or grumbling in opposition.

    To run a carbon energy monopoly requires a plan, and determination to succeed and maintain the grip on power.

    To win back a safe Earth will also require a plan.

    To deny the need for a plan is a step out of reality and a most dangerous denial, one which too many people buy into, so they don’t have to think too much, or do that much.

    We can sell our soul to politicians, or we can use democracy to forge a vision.

    Lacking any real democratic opposition, the carbon energy monopoly has been able to maintain their grip on power since the 1960s when alternative ways emerged, and wreck the planet.

    Your article offers information to reflect on, which strengthens many of my observations, and reading, especially regarding evolution.

    There needs to be a more thorough understanding of evolution and how the natural force of expansion works through Nature and in human society.

    I cannot see the needed changes happening on Earth alone.

    When I delve and follow the trail of Nature from the beginning of time, I see rapid evolutionary change happening through building human society in space.

    I see the need for security in space driving the need for peace on a healthy Earth, so that aggression on Earth doesn’t follow humans into space.

    A democratic drive for peace with progress without poverty can begin on Earth now, delivering change now, in the determination that the space vision is being built.

    That will offer the hope that will drive the action that can win back a safe Earth.

    How does that stack up?

  66. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 9, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Various Comments on a / the “plan” highlight the importance of having them, plans, that is, not ‘visions’, nor ‘dreams’, and definitely not ‘schemes’.

    Just about every Canberra-spewed vision during the last 40 or so years has failed, none more so than the grandiose yet futile, narcissistic virtue-signalling drivel inflicted on outback Aboriginal settlements and their unhappy inhabitants, drivel which emanates from the warm & cosy, safe & sound, oh-so-clever and ever-so-credentialed in the inner precincts of Sydney & Melbourne.

  67. Christine simons

    April 9, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    I was interested in this topic, and it obviously is a well thought out essay. It could have been an interesting discussion. However,it has been overwhelmed by Kim Peart’s opinions. I personally find outer space extremely uninteresting ,What happens here on Earth now ,concerns me. I would feel the same if any proselytiser bombarded me with their opinion, the reaction is … you turn off.

  68. Chris Sharples

    April 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    #53 Its difficult to believe you cannot see why so many TT readers are sick and tired of your online behaviour.

    A hint: anybody’s impact on opinions and discussions decreases rapidly with long-winded and prolonged repetition, to the point where other interlocutors become so sick and tired of it that they finally feel urged to say something about it.

    Others have previously tried to explain why your incessant demand of “Whats the plan?” is irrelevant. I for one certainly don’t think this crisis is going to work like that, any more than previous evolutionary crises have resolved themselves according to a plan! There are in any case lots of plans competing with each other already.

    However you ignore all such comments, which makes further conversation with you irrelevant. If you have a plan, why don’t you stop bothering us and work on your plan?

    That might impress. But hounding the good readers of TT with your repetitious comments does not.

  69. Chris Harries

    April 9, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    (#51) Kim, I don’t think anybody has suggested censorship. What they are simply requesting is some self regulation.

    OK. You can ignore them and you can ignore me. I just insert a kindly little piece of advice that you aren’t getting anybody on side and you are turning quite a few people away from debating these issue altogether.

    I do respect (and try to understand) the fact that when people (nearly always blokes) get on to a obsessional mission then it doesn’t matter to them any more how people react, or even if they harm their own cause. They are just driven and they have to let it all out.

    As you say, we have the freedom to read or just abandon that space (forgive the pun!) out of disullusionment.

  70. Kim Peart

    April 8, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Re: 52 ~ Rock number 7.

    If it were a term used generally, and found in a dictionary, there is a point.

    As the term is derived from an individual’s name, and is then used against the individual concerned, it is more personal and targeted.

    What if I hounded one individual with a variant on their name in the TT forums?

    What if others joined in the hounding?

    What if the person hounded was sensitive and self-harmed?

    Would the hounding be justified?

    I am fine, and can kick back, but, this is an act that I would never do to anyone.

    There is a great article at the head of this thread, including valuable gems of information, such as ~
    “… palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists now understand that at least some evolutionary changes have actually been very rapid, with much of the evolution of life having occurred in a fashion known as “punctuated equilibrium”.”

    It would be far better to focus in on how such insights can be applied to divine a plan for human survival and a sutainable human future on this planet.

    How that can be achieved is at the heart of the matter.

    If light-headed banter is wanted, this is not a light-headed article.

    I hope we can get serious about how we can get ourselves into harmony with Nature.

    Our current disharmony is a serioius threat to life on Earth.

  71. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 8, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    What’s with the fuss about “pearted”?

    People use this sort of wordage all the time, as in ‘getting Trumped’, or ‘hoovering’ the rug. Today’s most used one starts with ‘g’. Won’t waste TT e-space by adding others. Get over it.

  72. Kim Peart

    April 8, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Re: 47 ~ Is there a comment limit for each contributor?

    If yes, ask the Editor of the TT to enforce this.

    Is your suggestion that I do not comment a form of censorship?

    If yes, what is the motive to control anyone’s comments?

    Either you read, or don’t read.

    Either you reply seriously, or don’t reply, seriously.

    Concerning the suggestion that I write an article, I have one up on the TT front page at present ~
    Sustainability is a Two-Edged Sword

    You are welcome to comment bomb it, especially if you have any insights to add.

    In the hunt for a survival plan for human, information is gold, and insights are diamonds.

    I have other articles in the TT concerning Earth issues, which can be found by typing my name into search ~

    Peace: the final frontier ~ 12 Feb 2017
    The Power of the Sun ~ 14 Oct 2016
    We are the Life of the Stars ~ 5 Oct 2016
    Second Earth? ~ 6 Sep 2016
    Can an Aussie Paper Cat survive a hungry Chinese Panda? ~ 6 Aug 2016
    An Open Letter to the Candidates ~ 12 Jun 2016
    Surviving the Carbon Apocalypse ~ 2 May 2016
    Will Space Miners Save the Earth ~ 25 Oct 2015
    Hands in the Dirt for Space Food ~ 3 Aug 2015
    Prince Cnut Defies the Waves of Reality ~ 15 Dec 2014
    A Hundred Year Plan to Save the Earth ~ 1 Jul 2013
    To Sing Among Stars ~ 22 Apr 2013
    Look up: our future is in a solar power plant in space ~ 17 Apr 2013
    A Deeper Level of Denial ~ 11 Feb 2013

    And a document ~ Creating a Solar Civilisation ~ 2006, revised 2012 ~

    If you, and anyone else, is keen to know what the shape of a survival and sustainability plan is, we could workshop that, promoted with a TT artrticle, posters and media release.

    This could happen in Ross, Hobart or Launcestion.

    Meetings can also happen in the virtual world via avatars, which saves on petrol, and wins carbon credits.

    The first challenge of such a workshop is to nail down the depth of the cause of the carbon and sustainability crisis.

    We need to consider how bad the situation is, whether James Hansen’s warnings are correct, and what they mean exactly.

    It is quite pointless blaming politicians and oil energy tycoons, which may merely be a distraction for inaction.

    We must get personal, and take action, if we want action.

    We can then identify exactly how much carbon must be removed from the air, to avoid a runaway greenhouse effect becoming irreversible.

    The situation looks touch and go right now.

    Then all options can be considered to extract carbon, and where the energy comes from to do this work.

    The geoengineering option may not solve the carbon crisis, and may turn the sky white.

    Do we have to go there?

    If the energy to save the Earth must come from space based solar power, drawing on the virtually infinite energy-well of our Sun, then how soon can that happen?

    If we can use a sunshade above the Earth to help cool the planet, as excess carbon is extracted from the air, then how soon can that happen?

    If Earth-only options add up, then we can look at that, but must still consider how to defend Earth from an asteroid, or survive the experience in number that allows human to continue.

    If there is an agreed plan, then we can hammer that like we are building an iron ship to sail into the future with.

    Ten determined individuals in Tasmania could save the Earth, because their combined focus would inspire ten million survival keen people to mobilise for action.

    Inspire that many people, and honestly, there will be more.

    It would be a people revolution, at the grass roots, including Earth care, and what we must do to survive.

    In terms of an ecologically sustainable society living a globally equitable lifestyle, we can look at how there can be real work with real pay for all able Tasmanian citizens.

    There is no reason why we couldn’t do that, as we save the Earth.

    We can offer hope with action, and action with hope.

    We must also figure out how to apply that solution globally, or everyone else on Earth will want to move to Tasmania.

    Contact me ~ kimpeart@iinet.net.au

    We need a plan that inspires action.

    All welcome.

  73. christine simons

    April 8, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    If people in a physical space have a conversation,a person who dominates too much is not allowed .If certain people were not allowed to present their views online, that would be undemocratic.On talkback radio, producers appear to ration some people.Maybe online, there could be a limit on what each person says, with links so any interested person could see more of that point of view if they wished.

  74. Kim Peart

    April 8, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Re: 47 ~ Having looked to see if the term “pearted” is a common term, no trace can be found, and as a word, it is not seen in the Oxford English Dictionary.

    Nor is the term “pearting” seen at #28.

    I did find “pearted” is an old word, meaning parted, or departed, and listed some of these at #25.

    Is the use of the term “pearted” and “pearting” in the Tasmanian Times drawing on my name?

    See comments ~ #18 #22 #27 #28 #34 #41

    If yes, is this a form of insult?

    If this is a form of insult, does it also amount to a form of bullying?

    If yes, how would a case stand in a court of law?

    If this is a matter of an insult and a form of bullying, is an apology in order?

    I am very sorry if you feel threatened in any way by my comments.

    I appreciate your article and gained much from it.

    I am hungry for insights into the root causes of the carbon and sustainability crisis.

    My motivatioin is to know how we will fix the carbon crisis, win back a safe Earth, and assure human survival.

    I am keen to know what the plan is that will deliver a future for the Earth, our children and our grandchildren.

    I have delved deeply into these matters, and am left quite alarmed, that our time-frame for action is running out, and one day we may find there are no options.

    How soon could that day be?

    When did the Easter Islanders know that their little civilization was doomed?

    Was it when the last tree was cut down, so they could move ever larger stone statues around their island?

    Was it when they could no longer build ocean-going canoes to go deep-sea fishing?

    Was it when civil war broke out in a maelstrom of burning, rape and killing?

    Now we watch to see what happens next out of Syria, and if this will become a nuclear fire that spreads around the Earth.

    When Alanna Mitchell woke up to how dire our situation is (Seasick, 2008), she went out onto the deck of the ship she was on, with a mob of marine scientists, and threw up over the side.

    That was over a decade ago.

    How much are we not being told by the scientists?

    Please delve more deeply and share what you find.

    Faced with a question of survival, we need to get serious.

    What is our survival plan?

  75. Chris Sharples

    April 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    #46 Congratulations, you are actually engaging in this thread with my argument!! My profuse thanks!

    However please don’t confuse what I’m suggesting with utopian ideas. As you are aware, utopianism invariably either fails outright, or degenerates into totalitarianism which then eventually fails (I continue to watch North Korea with interest). I think the key characteristic of utopianism – the thing which ensures its failure – is the notion that somebody has finally figured out the perfect system. So naturally no alternative ideas can be considered, and all dissent must be suppressed. So of course it fails.

    That idea is really different to what I’m suggesting!

    I’m merely suggesting that we haven’t finished evolving yet, and that there is still a possibility of evolving into something with more capacity to survive in the changed circumstances we call “civilisation” than we are currently showing. I’m not saying we will evolve into something perfect; just that in the same way that our past evolution of improved cognitive abilities unequivocally gave us an enhanced capacity to survive (e.g., during the last ice age), so too might further evolutionary changes in our consciousness.

  76. Chris Sharples

    April 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks #34, and I will continue to explore these issues that I think matter, although hopefully not with the sort of frequency, magnitude and repetitiveness that leads people such as yourself and Chris Harries to feel the need to dis-engage from conversations in this particular forum, primarily due to the smothering of any relevant conversations by one who rather ironically seems to imagine he is being bullied! (e.g., #35)

    Mind you, I struggle to identify which comments he is referring to as “personal insults”. Perhaps he regards any form of dis-agreement with his profound insights or his repetitive and seemingly endless expression of them as a “personal insult”? That might explain why everyone who has dared express (entirely justifiable) disquiet at his smothering of the conversation has been given a “rock number”.

    I do regard the good old Tasmanian Times as an excellent forum for expressing ideas and working through their implications, both in its own right and also as a step before presenting the same ideas elsewhere. Perhaps, given the near-complete domination of all relevant comment threads by one individual, its time to think in terms of seeing the real conversation as occurring between related primary contributions themselves?

  77. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 8, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Question (reasonable, but sometimes naively ignorant): “Can human greed and denial ever end?”

    Answer (the only reasonable, realistic and knowledgeable one, in one word): “No”.

    Utopias where, say, evil and greedy (aren’t they all!) capitalists are extinct, or evil right-wing racist fascists (‘rascists’?) have been exterminated, are fantastical nonsense. Which, IMHO, covers most of the posts above. Nice theorising (or theoreticianising, as in far too many pseudo-academic rubbish ‘Studies’), though!

    Anyway, in ‘The Faber Book of Utopias’ every single on of them, when tried, degenerated into dystopias.

  78. Keith Antonysen

    April 8, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Robin, my apologies for having spelt your name incorrectly above.

    Kim , at the time when the last note was published at 10.16 pm, the number of posts you have presented are 18 out of a total of 43. You clearly do much research in relation to climate change; the solution you keep pushing is one of a number. Others are Geo-engineering in various forms, and BECCS (Bio-energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) which was presented as a technological fix by the IPCC. In the US, missile silos have been converted to apartments.

    Rather than respond, please write an article on your views; rather than, comment bomb Chris’s article.

  79. Kim Peart

    April 8, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Re: 43 ~ I have been reflecting on this problem for some time, and wonder if the root cause is failing to ~

    ONE Tell the who truth about the carbon crisis, which James Hansen as shown will deliver a runaway greenhouse with CO2 above 350 ppm (the level in the 1980s, which locks in planet temperature rise beyond 1.5C). That means, with atmospheric CO2 sailing past 400 ppm, a much higher planet temperature rise is now locked in, and is racing ahead of us for the future as greenhouse gases keep going up.

    TWO While the reality of our dire predicament is not being confronted, while the full truth is not being told, the truth that is being told is easier to rubbish, because it is not the whole truth. Those who know the whole truth may fall short on telling it, out of fear of being labelled as extremists. Fear is therefore one of the key enemies in our way of getting serious about the whole truth of the carbon crisis, and the sustainability crisis.

    THREE Failure to address the brutal whole truth of the carbon crisis, leads to a failure to identify the exact working solution to the crisis, resulting in a cauldron of wishful thinking, hoping that somehow we will find a way. This is not the way to inspire belief in the whole truth, that is not being told, or the action needed to win back a safe Earth, and assure the survival of human.

    FOUR When the way to survival and a sustainable human presence on Earth is identified, and the truth of that told, a plan will be obvious, and the action needed will be obvious, as any lesser action will not assure our survival, or allow us to win back a safe Earth.

    FIVE Anyone waking up to the level of action needed and out of fear, not going there, leads to a kind of denial that works against survival, and also works against winning back a safe Earth. And so the carbon and sustainability problems just keep on dragging us all deeper into the carbon mire.

    SIX When the brutal truth of the carbon crisis is accepted, and the way out is identified, then an inspirational plan can be put on the table that can inspire action, because all survival boxes will be ticked, all sustainability boxes will be ticked, all evolution boxes will be ticked, and the means to maintain progress and prosperity boxes will also be ticked. We cannot hope to inspire action by a critical number of people on Earth, if the whole truth of the carbon problem, and solution to it, is not on the table and up for vigorous debate.

    SEVEN Survival transcends politics. Churchill united a whole nation to fight for their survival in 1940. We must first demand the kind of political candidate that has got their heads around the demands of survival. Then it will be possible to talk political turkey about delivering a healthy home planet into the hands of future generations.

    Is the need, then, to figure out how we get back to the 1970s, and draw down atmospheric carbon to a 1980s level?

    How much energy will that take?

    Where will that energy come from to do the work?

    How the work can be done is basic chemistry.

    We have the technology to solve the problem.

    Where the energy to do the work comes from is the problem.

    Where the will comes from to act is the problem.

    Once the path of survival is identified, the politics will follow, along with any politician wanting votes.

    When the whole brutal truth is not on the table, the messenger will not have confidence in the message they tell.

    That is comparable with Chamberlain meeting Hitler and declaring “Peace in our time.”

    The price of being wrong came home to roost.

  80. Kathryn Barnsley

    April 8, 2017 at 2:16 am

    I attended an excellent Lecture at UTAS on Friday. Prof Stephan Lewandowsky explained his work which shows that climate change denial hinges on where the individual’s beliefs are in relation to their beliefs in a free market. Fascinating. See one of his publications at

    Furthermore giving people who are strongly committed to the free market more facts has almost no effect on their beliefs.

    Also Conservatives with MORE education are less likely to believe in climate change. Democrats/liberals are the reverse. More educated liberals are more likely to believe in climate change.

    Therefore if you believe in climate change dont vote for conservatives .

  81. Kim Peart

    April 8, 2017 at 12:24 am

    Re: 41 ~ Rock number 6.

    “Pearted” as a term does not appear in the English Oxford Dictionary.

    So is the term being used as an insult, a form of bullying, again repeated?

    How might it stack up in a court of law?

    See comment 25 for references.

    Concerning the point ~ “though the theme is always the same … space based technological solutions” ~ the Earth is in space, where life is powered by a star. However we find ways to survive and be sustainable, they will be space-based.

    If people were more awake to what is possible with our technology, it would be easier to communicate. Part of the problem is that people don’t read, quickly scan, and focus on what they want. If this were not so, then the Earth aspects of my comments would be picked up on.

    I try not to be repetitive, but this is difficult when attempting to frame an argument when there is not a common understanding of what is possible.

    I have pursued Earth issues since Environmental Studies in 1975, and space prospects since 1976.

    Unfortunately, most people in the environment movement have not taken the time to understand the space options, preferring to focus on the Earth as if there is no space beyond Earth, and the Sun is just above the atmosphere.

    Often I wonder if it is a green religious view to focus on the Earth alone. Whatever the motivation, the total focus on the Earth has been a boon to the fossil fuel monopolies and related industries.

    When you know the technology and can see what was possible in the 1970s, then you can see that the focus on the Earth is the problem.

    The carbon energy monopoly focuses on the Earth for profit and power. Conservationists focus on the Earth for sustainability, but fail to see that they are in fact empowering the fossil fuel monopoly to maintain their hold on power.

    When that is understood, and rebelled against, we may begin to make progress on a real campaign for survival and sustainability.

  82. Keith Antonysen

    April 7, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Jon, at 34.
    Anybody who writes an article on climate change gets “pearted”, I think.
    Kim is clearly very passionate about his views and raises some interesting points, though the theme is always the same … space based technological solutions. We are not able to create Earth based technological solutions using technology; the IPCC had predicated their more positive outcomes on sequestration of CO2 (BECCS). The technology wasn’t available in 2014, and still isn’t.

    A week or so ago it was suggested that experimentation in geoengineering is an option, a much firmer option than had previously been suggested.

    Philip at 36

    It is the wealthiest people that use the most energy by far, e.g. they might have their own jets, large mansions etc. I can’t quite remember the exact figures; but, it was suggested that if the wealthiest 10% of people were to make huge inroads into the energy they use it would create a 30% improvement in emissions.

    Robyn at 37

    Trump has struck out at Syria; it may produce the result of stopping chemical weapons from being used. Trump has also declared war on science through signing an Executive order to prune Agencies down which research climate change. It is not a matter of cognative dissonance, more a matter of the Dunning-Kruger effect. It relates to climate science; where individuals and Agencies without any great knowledge/experience state the science is wrong.


    “Broadly speaking, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is defined as “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability to recognize their [own] ineptitude.””



  83. Kim Peart

    April 7, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Re: 37 ~ If you would like to have a look, I explored what could happen in my TT article ~

    Can an Aussie Paper Cat survive a hungry Chinese Panda?

    We have been threatened by China.

    In the future I explore, where the East may gain control of the Antipodes and Antarctica, we would see a space race between the East and the West for the resources of the Solar System, which includes direct access to the virtually infinite energy-well of the Sun .

    To save Australia as a free nation, we need to get very smart and very fast.

    I fear the US bombing in Syria may unleash the beginning of an overdue geopolitical resorting of the nations, which if it goes wrong could leave a radioactive nuclear winter on a silent Earth.

    No ecology to worry about then, where any survivors may be doomed, if they do not have access to a space option.

  84. Kim Peart

    April 7, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Re: 32 ~ I have been attacked by a senior Australian academic for daring to suggest that we are in a rapid evolutionary growth phase that may only be resolved by expansion beyond this planet.

    A Boston academic was milder in saying ~ “My feet are firmly on the Earth.”

    I have found this position to be so strong and so tight, that intelligent people declare a need for suicide, rather than consider expansion beyond Earth, where we can gain the means to fix the mess on Earth.

    Is this a case of my way or the highway?

    I can fight for anyone’s right to survive, but with academics calling for suicide rather than fighting for our survival, we have a deeper and more serious problem than most anyone realises.

    This deep philosophical flaw in conservationist thinking only serves to empower the carbon energy monopoly and related industries, which will fight for their fiscal survival, on Earth and in space.

    If you have a position that identifies a clear path to survival on a safe Earth, or one you ascribe to, put that on the table.

    Anyone can fire silver bullets like a lone ranger, but what is the principle, the laws, that those bullets are being fired from.

    Debate must reveal a position for there to be a debate.

    Firing bullets is beyond debate and into war.

  85. Kim Peart

    April 7, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Re: 36 ~ To be sustainable is to live in a planet’s ecology in a way that does not harm the Earth, often called an ecological footprint.

    In my TT article ~
    Sustainability is a Two-Edged Sword ~

    I wonder if we should be required to submit a development plan for our presence on Earth, which would identify the lifestyle that was sustainable within an identified population limit.

    The simpler the lifestyle, the higher the population could be.

    Ecologists like Charles Birch referred to this as an ecologically sustainable society living a globally equitable lifestyle.

    So either we get sustainable on this planet, or we look beyond Earth for resources, so we can be sustainable on home planet with our current lifestyle.

    Beyond Earth life can be fast, with no limit to expansion among the stars, which can include total recycling, because space must be clean to be safe for home and business in space habitats, which can be orbital cities.

    As we show no signs of changing our style on Earth, and with a carbon crisis that requires energy to fix before it goes full-steam ahead as a runaway greenhouse effect, we either get serious about the space option, or we may have no options.

    I once wondered if we could be sustainable on Earth, until I got serious about including evolution and saw that their was a momentum for expansion in Nature from the beginning of time, that we either ran with Nature for survival, or not and put our survival at risk.

    If Nature is seeking the expansion of life beyond Earth, then to not run with Nature is to fight life, put our survival at risk and become a problem for Mother Nature.

    Our footprint its now so great, and the carbon crisis is so serious, we could now have locked in the demise of Nature with unstoppable release of greenhouse gases from places like a fast warming Arctic, where the permafrost is dissolving and exploding from the ground.

    Are we in a rapid evolutionary growth phase on Earth, driven by the natural force for expansion, which will only open the prospect for a mature phase through expansion into space?

    If this is not the case, I welcome evidence to prove otherwise and demonstrate our path to survival.

    The silence from the stars may be telling us that this is a common problem for life at our stage, through a carbon crisis that drives environmental catastrophe that leads to conflict that slides into nuclear madness.

    Like us, ET may be just too slow to expand beyond their home planet, in what is a very rapid evolutionary growth phase.

    The accelerating speed of evolution is referred to in Chris Sharples’ article above.

    If we get smart and survive our own growth phase on Earth, we may find the answer to that puzzle with failed civilisations among the stars on Venus-like planets (James Hansen predicts that we now risk turning the Earth into a second Venus).

    Venus was once more like Earth, with as much water and may have had life.

    It would be a shock if we found the traces of a failed civilisation on Venus, which had advanced to our level, but failed to expand beyond Venus, and failed to survive, and solve their problems on home planet, which could happen with direct access to the power of the Sun in space and the ability to build a planet sunshade to help cool the place.

  86. Robin Charles Halton

    April 7, 2017 at 8:28 am

    The Climate Change crisis could suddenly take a U turn as Donald Trump pushs his US and Coalition partners “in a stand for humanity” conducting airstrikes against the Assad regime after their use of chemical weapons against their own citizens.

    A tough and maybe a very risky call to arms as Iran is providing troops to fight alongside Assad to establish a Shia foothold in an area that is Sunni!

    Hell knows what Russia’s response will be as the war against terrorism escalates beyond reducing ISIS and al Qaeda!

    Assad back on 2013 gassed 1400 of its citizens in Damascus, Obama did nothing!

    Climate change on hold as the flash points over the Muslim religious wars in the Middle East escalate affecting any chance of peace in the region and beyond!

    Look out!

  87. PHilip Lowe

    April 7, 2017 at 12:31 am

    what you are talking about is overpopulation..The human race is shagging it’s way into some big problems.Simple as that.

  88. Kim Peart

    April 6, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Re: 34 ~ Rock number 5.

    At what point does the hurling of personal insults amount to bullying?

    Or does the bullying begin with the first rock?

    Reminds me of that scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

  89. Jon Sumby

    April 6, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    #28, Chris, I have stopped writing articles for TT about climate change, ocean acidification, etc., simply because they were always Pearted.

    Good one you for writing your well thought through article though!

  90. John Biggs

    April 6, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    #19, #28 Yes indeed Chris we are reading from different ages in the same chapter. One or two others seem to be reading different books.

    #30. We were at the same event Keith — I can guess who the anti-refugee person was. Interesting, because if it is who I think it is, he was a refugee himself at one stage. Cognitive dissonance indeed.

  91. Chris Harries

    April 6, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    Kim, #29

    I agree and also emphatically defend the right of anyone to comment. Including yourself. Even long, repetitive diatribes. It’s all grist to the mill.

    And I have equal right to disengage if such commentary, in my opinion, disables sensible conversation. For the most part I do that and go to other venues to engage more sensibly.

    Kim, I think you need to emphatically defend my rights too.

  92. Kim Peart

    April 6, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Rock number 4.

    I sifted through the article with great care, making a total or 26 notes on matters that caught my eye.

    I saw reference to books that I had ploughed through, and writers whom I have read.

    I appreciate the historic thread and the science.

    I am always looking for evidence of where we can go next, and how we can go there.

    We have, collectively, totally failed to keep a safe Earth.

    Passing the buck to the fossil fuel industries for this failure is not good enough.

    We must ask why an alternative way was not forged that inspired action at a level that would have kept a safe Earth.

    Until that failure is adequately addressed, it will remain a dead albatros around our necks.

    Revolutions often begin on one issue, which breaks through the brick wall of tradition.

    What lies beyond that wall will be different.

    When we go through that wall, many old traditions will be left behind.

    We are facing revolutionary change, which will also be evolutionary change, if we plan to survive.

    What is the shape of that change?

    Will the new ways be coinfined to Earth alone, where we have totally failed to keep the place healthy?

    Will the new ways involve expanding beyond Earth, and what will the feedback be from the expansion of life beyond Earth?

    We need at least the skeleton of a plan for what lies beyond the wall, a wall which will either block our progress, or we will break though to create a new society on a healthy home planet.

    What is the skeleton of a plan that we can but muscle on, and use?

    Like ending slavery, the key hammer to break through that wall will be simple, and repetitive, as it is used.

  93. Keith Antonysen

    April 6, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Yesterday, had a discussion with somebody who was very negative about refugees; moslem refugees in particular. At present, India appears as though it is two months in advance of normal weather patterns; should that continue, then huge numbers of people are at high risk of facing famine. Already in Africa there is a mix of drought and civil war/unrest in countries other than Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

    It means that potentially we have only experienced the first wave of refugees, a wave already seen to be greater than experienced after WW2 (Four Corners a couple of weeks ago devoted its attention to Security matters).

    People do not wish to hear such messages, though the science of climate change is becoming more worrisome. Even what appear to be minor changes such as phytoplankton blooms in the Arctic are a sign of trouble. It is a case of more light getting through thin ice that enables such blooms to happen, a forecast of a changing environmentt. Also, a warming Arctic does not seem to be such a big problem to many; yet, a very recent paper has once again shown how jet streams are being diverted creating weather anomalies in latitudes further South.

    Floods are also a matter that cannot be ignored:


    Politicians are firmly ensconced in their political cycles afraid to make decisions in relation to going against their donors; or, creating policies which seen to be beyond what might be accepted by voters.

    Trudeau seemed to be a welcome relief from Harper in relation to climate; yet, the tar sands are still being mined. Cognitive Dissonance and the Dunning-Kruger effect are alive and well.

  94. Kim Peart

    April 6, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Re: 27 ~ WARNING: if afraid of words, do not read.

    When does name-calling become bullying, pursued by three in this threat, so far?

    The concept to “unbalance the conversation” may apply to folk who want to straight-jacket discourse confined into the shape that they are comfortable with.

    No one has to read any comment, but if read and understood, then an intelligent reply can be made.

    What is the problem?

    On the one hand there is a desire to chat in a way that is decades old, but has not stopped the current crisis that we are now tumbling into, and nor will that endless chatter whirlpool get us back out again.

    To surrender into the whirlpool of failed chatter, and not do the hard yakka of knowing the depth of the crisis, where it can send us, what will solve it, and exactly how we climb back up out of the mess, is lazy bugger country.

    Avoid Peart, or being “amazed”, by not reading, and therefore not needing reply.

    Throwing stones may be a neat way to defend the smoke-screen of hot air, but reflects badly on the motivation of anyone going there.

    If you have a solution to the sustainability and carbon crises that is as good as, and as detailed as defeating Hitler, and equal to the task, then put that on the table.

    In his book, The Disappearing Face of Gaia, James Lovelock wondered why we were not more serious about the crisis back in 2009, and reflected on the war years, when a nation rose to meet an impossible challenge.

    Avoiding the problem and its solution only empowers the carbon energy monopoly and related industries in maintaining control over our society, and where the wages ultimately come from.

  95. Chris Sharples

    April 6, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    #27 Indeed! Although it is unfortunate that the endlessly repetitive verbiage tends to smother what could have been an interesting conversation engaging with the issues I tried to raise rather than diverting the conversation (or monologue, rather) somewhere else entirely (albeit the smotherer is self-righteously quite certain we should only talk about his issues and nothing else, because only he can see what really matters while the rest of us poor fools stumble blindly along) (etc).

    That said, it is still possible to simply ignore the pearting and have another conversation apart from it! I hope!

  96. Chris Harries

    April 6, 2017 at 11:44 am

    The net effect of being pearted too often is just to disengage.

    (I say that whilst at the same time defending the democratic right of anybody to engage in discussions – even if they monopolise or unbalance the conversation.)

  97. Kim Peart

    April 6, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Re: 24 ~ Look at how slavery began to shift from a central pillar of the e economy, to a taboo practice. Though the practice of slavery in part lingers with practices like expectations of unpaid work hours in Australia, and could be seen in the way the western Papuans and their land, a territory the size of France, was sold to Indonesia to buy a pro-Western peace in 1962, which Australia has benefited from to the tune of many billions of dollars over decades, and the convict system was little more to a belated form of slavery, we do not find bonded servants in every well-to-do home in our land.

    The nail that ended main-stream slavery could be said to be the rise of industry, but it is a terrible shame the industrial revolution was not used to end poverty, which we allow to grind on in the midst of incredible wealth. Part of the problem is a political failure to ensure the mining boom wealth was used to future-proof and poverty-proof this nation. That is a really horrible public and political failure.

    Will we tell our politicians to pull their socks up and plan for our future. If enough people woke up to the path taken in Norway, and demanded that we go that way, there would be hope, instead of being shafted by greed driven mealy-mouthed politicians.

    The end of slavery began with a few individuals saying “NO” and walking their talk.

    Any change to a better way must begin with individuals waking up to what is happening and demanding action for a better way.

    When two and more stroppy individuals begin demanding change, there is a campaign, and if it gains a critical level of support, there will be change.

    Define that critical number, which will be a small percentage of the population, as when swinging voters determine a government at the polls, and the change recipe is not that hard to get.

    It all comes down to determined individuals waking up to the “wrong” in front of their nose and getting out the machete to carve a path through the jungle of justified stupidity to the “right” they see is just, and in this case, will deliver a healthy home planet with a sustainable human population.

    All waffle and wishful thinking to date has frozen change in ivory tower reflection of the size of the retirement package. The evidence for that claim, is the detail that we have totally failed to keep a safe Earth, and find ourselves riding the most advance technology in human history into hell on Earth, and a predictable mass-extinction, which will include us.

    To future-proof, and poverty-proof, and extinction-proof Australia now, as well as the rest of the Human family on this planet, our hope lies in the prospect of a space mining boom, with industry beyond Earth powered by the virtually infinite energy-well of our Sun.

    If we allow a greed monopoly to steal our future, silly buggers us, and lazy bastards to boot.

  98. Kim Peart

    April 6, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Re: 18 & 22 ~ As a matter of interest, “pearted” is quite an old word.

    It is found in The Montgomery Manuscripts 1603-1706, where we can read, “pearted this life”.

    In the Journal of the Forbidden Path of 1760 we can read, “this morning we pearted with”.

    In the Scots Magazine of 1817 we can read, “so y we pearted from the councel”.

    Dictionaries dub the word “peart” as meaning lively, brisk or cheerful, with “peartly” as the adverb and “peartness” as the noun.

    One urban dictionary refers to “peart” as a synonym for “awesome”.

  99. spikey

    April 5, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    The delusions of ownership as implemented ‘legally’ by those that ‘owned’ the most, appear to me to satisfy an aspect of territoriality, that may be less conducive to long term sapiens success Vs maintaining systems of power.

    The delusions of economy as implemented ‘legally’ by those that ‘owned’ the most, appear to me to satisfy an aspect of hierarchical dominance, that may be less conducive to long term sapiens success Vs maintaining systems of power.

    The delusions of governance as implemented ‘legally’ by those that ‘owned’ the most, appear to me to satisfy an aspect of… well, um, oh that’s right, lying to the people and putting them under the pump so they don’t get any ideas about advancing their species, withered too long under the shadow of delusions of others convenience.

  100. Kim Peart

    April 5, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Re: 22 ~ If serious, submit term to Oxford ~ rewind, and engage in serious comment on how we get sustainable. ~ All approaches to date have not delivered a working solution to the problem, resulting in total failure to keep a safe Earth.

  101. Jon Sumby

    April 5, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Re, #18, Chris: Yes you have indeed been Pearted!

  102. Kim Peart

    April 5, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    When 1940 dawned, Germany had become the enemy of Engaland that was to be fought, firstly through surviving, then by invading Germany and defeating Hitler. Help was needed to take that war to Germany and when that help arose, the war was won.

    Maybe our 1940 hasn’t dawned yet, so we do not yet feel the fight for survival. All signs indicate that we will feel that fight, but like England, we will not win our war against the threat to survival by clinging to the Earth.

    When I add up the odds stacked against us, and the size of the enemy that we have created, I see the need for our own invasion. To win this war, we must invade space, to gain direct access to the power of the Sun, so we will be able to win this war on Earth.

    It is the extraction of excess carbon from the air that we must fight to win, and where the energy comes from to do that work is critical.

    By reaching to the Sun for power in space, we will be able to make the transition from fossil fuels to stellar energy, be able to build a sunshade in space to help cool the Earth, and be able to fight back a safe planet, with a sustainable human presence.

    If we take on this fight, we will go through rapid evolution, from being conscious to becoming aware.

    Will the demand of the space environment deliver a feedback loop of peace on Earth, so we may achieve security in space?

    Values like honesty and compassion will be seen to be essential.

    We may even call them celestial values, as they would be driven by the needs of the celestial realm.

    Honesty we have in science now, as the way to discover what is real.

    Compassion may extend from our care of family to the wider community.

    Is this the victory we can aim for?

    Do we have to wait until we feel our survival is under threat, before we start fighting?

  103. Kim Peart

    April 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Re: 18 ~ Is that like being outed ~ and is it a good thing?

    The thinking to date, and all attempts at action, have not turned the tide of the sustainability crisis, now focused on the carbon crisis.

    For anyone who treats this debate seriously, the path of action that delivers sustainability on a safe Earth is the burning issue.

    That the crisis just keeps getting worse means that all efforts to date to turn the tide of catastrophe have failed, totally.

    What is the plan for planet sustainability and human survival that will work?

    To date endless volumes of hot air have been belched, but a plan of action that will deliver sustainability and survival has not been identified.

    Peart wants to know what that plan should be.

    Wishful thinking is not a plan, but it is a fantastic way to empower the carbon energy industries.

  104. Chris Sharples

    April 4, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    #17 Thanks John, its nice to get some comments that actually engage with the reasons I wrote this essay!

    I guess the two big points I’m trying to make are (1) Many of our biggest problems stem from our evolutionary baggage, and we wont understand them until we understand that simple fact (as you agree I think); and (2) we live in very interesting times since throughout the history of life on this planet it has been big crises that have driven big evolutionary leaps…and we’re entering a big one right now (in case anybody still hasn’t noticed whats happening out there beyond the Twittersphere).

  105. Chris Sharples

    April 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Aargh! I’m being Pearted!

  106. John Biggs

    April 4, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks very much Chris for that illuminating discussion. A slightly different take on this is the notion of Paul McLean’s triune brain, popularised in Arthur Koestler’s “The Ghost in the Machine” (simplified and fictionalised by me in “Project Integrens”). McLean talks about, in order of evolution, the reptilian brain which governs basic activies like perception, movement, digestion; the mammalian brain which covers basic emotions, some problem solving; and the rational brain which covers planning and all higher order cognitive function. The problem is that this triune brain works bottom up, the lower functions being in place for so much longer over-ride the higher. We know rationally that a certain course of action will be highly counter productive yet emotions actually dictate what we do: jealousy, anger, territoriality (now being no longer important for survival), send us to war, a cuckolded husband to kill his wife’s lover (and probably the loved wife too). And so on.

    What we lack is the equivalent of a “vertical” corpus callosum that would integrate the lower and higher forms of the brain allowing us to operate top down, just as the present corpus callosum integrates the left and right hemispheres. If that happened we could decide what is appropriate rationally, and summon our emotions to see the action through. Such a brain would never, could never, vote in a Trump, who campaigned on emotion and irrationality.

    Koestler realized that waiting for evolution to restructure our brains would take far too long. He suggested developing a pill to do the job and dropping it into the world’s water supplies. I guess he was joking but it draws attention to one aspect of our dysfunctionality.

    Maybe something like the Great Disruption could and hopefully would do the trick when things become too bad and we make another of those great transformations that have occurred throughout history — but such a transformation is more a matter of the software changing rather than the hardware.

  107. Kim Peart

    April 4, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Re: 14 ~ Greed is condemned as a killer, but what is the plan for life, one that includes survival?

    The article raises possibilities of how we will rise to the challenge of survival, but is mighty short on the details of what we must do to survive the mess we have tumbled into.

    Is wishful thinking another form of denial?

    If we will not confront the actual demands of survival in our age, in this universe, against the raw challenges that we face, then are we passing the buck?

    It is a neat cop-out to blame the fossil fuel industry, but that blame game misses the point that fossil fuel was an essential transition energy to the next phase in human evolution.

    Add up all the details and consider what the next evolutionary step for humans would be.

    This step needed to be happening in the 1980s, with energy transition at a level that would retire fossil fuel and avoid a carbon crisis.

    Now we are faced with carbon extraction from the air, to avoid a galloping greenhouse effect that stampedes off some cliff into oblivion.

    The science is on the table, and what we can do is known, but I do not see the plan about that level of action.

    Our collective plan for survival begins with each individual adding up the options, and deciding how best they should be running for survival, and actually running.

    Wishful thinking does not avoid collapse, or deliver survival.

  108. Chris Sharples

    April 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    #2 Thanks Chris. That is a very useful video and I recommend others have a look at it (preferably ignoring the unfortunate intro click-bait advert which epitomises the greed that is our problem…).

    Understanding the psychology which drives us is critical to everything – otherwise we are just stuck with ideologies dreamed up by self-appointed gurus which promise paradise but are just so much dreamy tosh…

  109. Keith Antonysen

    April 4, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Greed is fanned by Agencies such as IPA, Heartlands et al where profits from products that are harmful to humans are promoted. In the case of Heartlands they made huge efforts to slow down acceptance of the science showing the dangers of smoking. Now Heartlands and other Agencies, are promoting fossil fuels; the dust and emissions created cause death and major health problems for millions. As with the science of tobacco health impacts; a view has been successfully promoted that the science of climate change is not settled enough to warrant real action by governments. Like tobacco, a changing climate has already been responsible for the deaths of huge numbers of people, climate change has been partially identified with major political unrest, being one factor amongst a number of others ( research including a recent Four Corners program).

    The fossil fuel industry is doing everything possible to stymie the development of the renewable energy industry; renewable energy is fast becoming much cheaper than fossil fuels as the demand for supply is increasing (economies of scale).
    Renewable energy is a job creating Industry.

    Tax payers pay for infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, and schools that individuals, communities and large scale industry benefit from. Though, a number of companies are benefiting from the provided infra-structure, yet pay little or no tax.

    When taking such factors into account it is very apparent that profit is far more important than people’s lives; and many are happy to use infra -structure without accepting any responsibility to contribute.
    Greed kills.

  110. Kim Peart

    April 4, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Re: 11 ~ Jared Diamond also describes how some societies saved themselves and avoided collapse.

    If a critical number of people in our society can liberate themselves from the fixations that have got us into the mess we are in, they could find ways that work and lead the change to assure our survival.

    If the fixation is one of hoping we can work our stuff out on Earth alone, then that fixation is a threat to our survival, if we fail in that.

    It has been driving the level of technology on Earth alone that has delivered us into the mess.

    The environmental movement hoped people would be good with the Earth, but all that hoping hasn’t worked, nor inspired a critical number of people to lead the charge to save the Earth.

    We need a survival plan that will inspire people, a plan set in granite and light that will inspire action.

    A survival plan needs to include defence against all threats to survival that can be defended against.

    A large asteroid can end our time on Earth, so can we draft a plan that includes ways to deal the that asteroid, and describes how we can survive beyond any terminal event?

    All survival threats need to be examined for themselves, as well as a whole, as the threats often overlap.

    We are warned of a space junk cascade that could take out all satellites.

    Nations losing their eyes in the sky could panic and unleashing nuclear weapons.

    An AI waking up may look at its survival odds on Earth and seek escape to space, and if we get in the way, there may be a war with the robots, that could slide into nuclear madness.

    A lizard running from a hundred hungry snakes across a beach must run to survive, or get eaten.

    What should our survival plan include?

    Will we run like that lizard to gain a safe space and secure our cosmic survival, as best we can?

  111. Jon Sumby

    April 4, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Ten years ago…

    ‘Global warming versus economy: Economy wins’

  112. john hayward

    April 4, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Short of some truly freakish neurological mutation, H sapiens most likely response to our self-made mess of the world looks to be the traditional one that Jared Diamond described – collapse, this time on a global scale.

    Our mentor on this leg looks like Jared Kushner.

    John Hayward

  113. phill Parsons

    April 4, 2017 at 9:59 am

    d’etre = being.

    Interesting ideas. Who will provide the leadership and who will maintain order.

    Methinks some consideration of cultural transformations in modern times needs to be injected into this discussion.

    There are lots but I will only mention the UN and the dissolution that is expressed in Brexit and Trump to counterpose need to greed.

  114. Kim Peart

    April 3, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    How do we secure a sustainable human presence on third rock?

    When Apollo astronauts discovered the Earth from the Moon in 1968, a new wave of environmental action sparked up, inspired by that image.

    In the 1970s ways were worked out by scientists and engineers like Gerard K. O’Neill to build cities in space, the key to which was to tap into the power of the Sun.

    There were hopes of energy transition, from fossil fuel to stellar power.

    If all environmentalists has participated in building a future beyond Earth, we could have kept a safe Earth

    Two things happened in the 1980s.

    Humans ended being a sustainable presence on Earth, and

    CO2 in the air passed the safe upper limit, according to James Hansen, of 350 ppm, a level needed to keep planet temperature rise below 1.5C.

    Now we read the news of environmental crisis upon environmental crisis, and pass the solution finding role onto the future.

    What we need is an inspirational incentive.

    What if all environmentalists woke up to the need to invest in serious space development, to gain direct access to the power of the Sun in space, and use that power to extract excess carbon from the air?

    With industry in space, we would be able to build a sunshade above Earth to help cool the planet, as the Earth is going to get a lot hotter yet.

    We can sit on Earth and keep making the planet worse, because there is no sign of any turning of the tide, or we could get busy in space on a plan that offers hope.

    It is this hope generated by space action, that will inspire a new wave of environmental action on Earth, just like happened in 1968.

    It is a shame that this wasn’t happening in the 1970s.

    Better late than never.

  115. Kim Peart

    April 3, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I didn’t read anything about robots, yet it is robots and AI that look like shaping the future of what it is to be human.

    At present our society stumbles brutally with the power of machines.

    This cruel stumbling can be seen with the Centrelink robot debt debacle.

    The robot system allowed Centrelink workers to be sacked and more debt demands to be sent out in a process that defies logic, out any level of compassion.

    With the robot revolution predicted to eliminate half of current paid work over the next couple of decades, what kind of society are we shifting ground to become.

    We need to consider how all citizens can access real work with real pay, or we are failing as a society.

    How do we begin to design a fair society?

    We could work this out in Australia, especially if we turn the tide on resource abuse, and use the boom to future-proof the nation, for all citizens, as Norway did with North Sea oil money.

    To solve the equity problem globally, I see the need for a stellar economy built on the power of the Sun, with industry in space.

    If we solve the equity problem in Australia alone, we will become a bigger target for refugees.

    I see the defence of Australia as linked to an awakening of the need for serious space development, which will allow us to unleash the wealth created in space to build peace on Earth, and win back a safe home planet.

    We can use robots built in space factories to help achieve this, including cleaning up the trash in the oceans, even down to the micro-plastics.

  116. Simon Warriner

    April 3, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    It would be fascinating and hugely informative to read a similarly constructed piece on the forces that are preventing humanity at large from coming to grips with this issue.

    My prediction is that the climate crisis will be rolled out as the reason detre (sorry, don’t know how to do the french pronunciation thingies) for a unitary global government, and with that we will be staring tyranny right in the face.

    How convenient to have distracted attention away from the issue long enough to have it become a crisis able to be used to gain control.

    The question is whether such an investigative exercise would ever be allowed to inform a waiting public of its conclusions, or whether those responsible are already so untouchable as to make the exercise impossible.

  117. Kim Peart

    April 3, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    I read ~ “We need to finish the job of evolving to the next level…”

    With this I agree.

    If we take an overview from the beginning of time, we see the primal force of expansion driving space to infinity, filled with stars and planets.

    Then we see life on Earth emerge and drive fish onto land to end up with us, so what’s next?

    When I look at the space environment and consider how society would work there, where habitats are fragile bubbles in a vacuum, I came to see the need for change, to deliver security for cities in space.

    Would the best way to deliver security in space be to build peace on Earth?

    If yes, then sending poverty into history on a healthy planet with a sustainable human presence may be the only way to get peace on Earth that delivers security in space.

    When I considered that a stellar economy would be built on the virtually infinite energy-well of our star, and that there would be no limits to growth in space, across the Solar System and among the stars, then the sooner we get serious about space options, the sooner we save our hides on Earth.

    Trapped on Earth, I see conflicts intensifying as environmental crisis’ increase.

    Liberated in space, I see human evolution going to the next stage, from being conscious, to becoming aware of the value of peace.

    In peace, a dynamic celestial peace now, we can look to delivering a healthy and creative life to each child born.

    That would be a vast improvement on the current deal that delivers homelessness, poverty, starvation and death to far too many.

  118. Kim Peart

    April 3, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    I have read through this article with due care and attention.

    The author writes ~ “I don’t think humans will become extinct anytime soon… ”

    Could the silence from the stars be a stark warning for us?

    Astronomers wonder why there is no sign of any advanced civilisations out there.

    If ET has a habit of following the path we have trundled along, then they may have burnt too much fossil fuel for too long and brought on a runaway greenhouse effect, driving global heating and mega environmental catastrophes.

    Could ET have stumbled into global conflict that slides into nuclear madness, in star system after galaxy?

    All reason may be lost when nations panic, leaving Earth in a silent radioactive winter.

    I see the prospect of human extinction any day, if we do not lift our game.

  119. Robert Vincin

    April 3, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Bravo 11/10 mate

  120. Christine Simons

    April 3, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    I have read the article more slowly now.I am not a scholar,but can talk about my experience.I was born post WW2 and came from a family that were Weslyans since early 1800 in Ireland.Without going back to the wowserism,or self righteousness, they believed in showing restraint, being resourceful,not blowing your own trumpet, thinking of others, not accumulating a lot personal wealth, being co-operative and having a spiritual life.Apart from that, government policies of increasing human population to increase economic growth are adding to all our problems.I suppose the problem is ,trying to persuade people to change their current attitudes. Maybe it has to blow itself out, and then , with what is left, we carry on.It is good that here ,
    there is a chance for people to discuss it.In the mass media ,the same people are usually saying the same things.

  121. Chris Harries

    April 3, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks heaps, Chris for this informative perspective.

    It’s the 64 million dollar question that many have asked… when presented with stark information on the phenomenal rate of climate change that is happening why are so many people and governments all over the world so prepared to look the other way?

    It’s mistake to think that our failure to act should be blamed entirely on the political system, we are all hard wired by our evolution. Every one of us, no matter how pious we may feel, engages in cognitive dissonance, because it’s in our nature to do so.

    Recently I came across this TED lecture “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)” by a very learned American psychologist.


    It’s worth taking the time to listen to this. His take on it means there are possible ways to short circuit our evolutionary responses, by taking into account the four triggers that humans are hard wired, by our evolution, to react to.

  122. Christine Simons

    April 3, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    As someone who is an observer, not an intellectual, I have not seen before such a world that is so shallow, with so many people wanting to lead a ‘designer’ life, following the latest fashion in food ,or ‘lifestyle.’ Trump epitomises this. It reminds me of what I know of the fall off the Roman Empire, a time of decadence and ruin.

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