Posted by: atowhee | February 11, 2019


“We have met the enemy and he is us.”      –1970 Earth Day poster (not Walt Kelly’s Pogo who simply parroted the sentence)

“Our species, it seems, is intelligent enough to understand the damage it is causing to the world in which we also evolved, but incapable of co-operating to protect the resources on which we all depend.”
— Anne Magurran in review of book on invertebrates in TLS, Jan. 11, 2019

 “Yet as the year turns, and we enter another millionth sliver of geologic time, it is apparent that although we humans are often individually long-lived, as a species we will die young. What remains is to negotiate the precise terms of our extinction.”  

                        — John Davis, “Burn Lands” (southern California), in CounterPunch, January 13, 2019

 “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”                                                                             –Max Planck, supposedly

Science, like nature, advances one funeral at a time.”        –Andreas Wagner

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
— Nelson Henderson

Nero fiddled.  We buy, and drive, and consume and throw away. There is some cause for optimism about life on earth.  There is much cause for alarm.  Bits of evidence from local changes to global trends demand human attention and action.  Yet that may not be forthcoming.  There may be need for more funerals first.   My Boomer generation is slow to depart.  Across the globe thugocracy rises:  Putin, Xi, Jong Un, Duterte, Assad, Fattah al-Sisi, Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Maduro, Ayatollah, Taliban.  These are not regimes that will pay any heed to the destruction of the earth as a place to live.  It says too much to read that Canada is now seen as the most moral major nation on earth—yet it makes its living fracking and taking oil from tar sands and shipping deadly fossil fuels to other addicts.  Let us stop ignoring the fact that burning fossil fuels is killing us, and them, and all those other creatures, too.  After many funerals it is possible my grandchildren’s generation will seize control and change the direction of the world’s economies, cultures and ethics…maybe.  To be able to return in a hundred years and see what has transpired would be a news person’s dream, nightmarish or otherwise I could not predict.

Santa Cruz is one of the most scenic small cities on the California coast.  Visit while you may, time and the Pacific march on.  

In Louisiana a coastal town is being inundated and it has the first-ever federal grant to relocate inland to higher ground.  Could we ever afford to move whoel cities?  Houston, Galveston, Miami, New Orleans, Manhattan…

We are killing off all those other creatures we depend on.  You may think it’s fine if spiders and mosquitoes and fleas all go extinct.  But alongside them will vanish the monarchs, honey bees and zillions of pollinators on which we depend for cherries and pecans and oranges. It should be upsetting to read a headline with the phrase “collapse of nature.”  Can humans survive in a world with only algae and dandelions and maybe a few brine shrimp?  Not to mention tiny strips of land where some other animals may linger?

Man vs. polar bear–twas ever thus.  As the planet becomes less accommodating to forms of life humans will inevitably make decisions to favorf themselves.

Can we make it better by turning to more nuclear power, less pollution of the atmosphere?  Do we send all that radioactive waste to the sun?  There is a book saying US and western Europe have failed to take advantage of nuclear solution.

There is now one analysis of humanity that says the population will begin to decline in this century, not continue to grow without restraint.  This projection of falling numbers is in a new book called Empty Planet. 

Will a declining population of humans and supposed reduced consumption and less exploitation of nature actually be enough to prevent apocalypse and massive extinctions, including our own species?  There is a new book out, The Uninhabitable Earth, which lays out the perplexity of our situation: 

“I have never been an environmentalist. I don’t even think of myself as a nature person. I’ve lived my whole life in cities, enjoying gadgets built by industrial supply chains I hardly think twice about….Whatever we do to stop warming, and however aggressively we act to protect ourselves from its ravages, we will have pulled the devastation of human life on earth into view…”

In his book, David Wallace-Wells is the first writer I’ve seen look at what a cataclysm it will be when Bangladesh becomes uninhabitable.  A densely populated Muslim nation trying to emigrate into Hindu India or secular China or Buddhist neighbors to the east?  Shipping tens of millions across the Indian Ocean to Pakistan or Indonesia or an unwelcoming Australia which already operates concentration camps for refugees?  We see how Europe has reacted to the Syrian refugee crisis and Syria is a tiny nation with a few million compared to the tens of millions of Bangladeshis.  Trump, naturally, has set a standard for how the US will treat anybody driven from home by violence, drought or starvation.  His unspoken message: go home and die where you were born.

Apocalypse has long been a word ascribed to various religious views. To those believers who say their god would never allow anything bad to happen to humans, I can only say there is little evidence in the world’s history of a kindly deity or a just one.  Don’t be expecting some benign force to come down from the heavens and remove CO2 and methane from the atmosphere, or cool our collective brow.

Are we looking at not just deserts but just desserts?  Coming soon: deadly heat, tropical diseases spreading globally, continental droughts…does our species deserve its power and glory or is our hubris our epitaph?  I will not be here to see the outcome, but my grandkids…



  1. Well said. Dire and distressing but feels accurate to me.

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