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Putting the Future Back in the Room
Alex Steffen   Apr 29, 2010   WorldChanging  

The future that my parents’ generation warned us about forty years ago looks an awful lot like our present.

The ice caps are melting, deserts are spreading, the planet is thick with people, most of the world’s primeval forests are gone, the seas are in crisis, and pollution, famine and natural disasters kill millions of people a year. Compared to the world we might have had, had the progress of the early 1970s continued steadily through the following four decades, we live on a half-ruined planet.


That half-ruined planet, though, is our home. People old enough to remember the first Earth Day can well grieve for that other, healthier Earth we might have had if only older generations had made different choices. Kids born today won’t have that luxury. This world is the only one they’ll ever know: they’ll have to make the best of it; life goes on.

image1970 is the same distance in time away from us now as 2050: that’s how close the future is. The 2050s, we know, will be a watershed era: the decade when, if we’re smart, human population will have peaked, a bright green model of sustainable prosperity will be widespread, and human damage to the climate and biosphere will have begun to be repaired.

In an amount of time about equal to that from the first Earth Day, we have to remake the world. We’ll know whether we’ve done well enough by 2050. If we fail, the resulting descent towards greater and greater catastrophe, will likely cause immeasurable human suffering and the end of civilization; it could include perhaps a general extinction of most life on Earth. The final outcome will almost certainly be ripped from our control at some stage. (It would be far better to tackle the planetary crisis while we have a chance at controlling the outcome).

Even if we do reach a safe plateau towards the middle of the century, with a stable human population, a new model of prosperity and a planet-wide effort to halt and reverse ecological destruction, much will still have been lost. Unfortunately, even a “win” may look like a ruined planet to the eyes of those used to the one we have now.

Climate commitment means that no matter what we do, more climate change is a given (even if we avoid triggering any massive climate tipping points). Living on a planet of children (the median age in the least developed countries is only 19, for instance) and in a world where billions are struggling to rise out of poverty, means that even if reinvention happens fast and models spread quickly, entire forests, fisheries, rivers, mountains of topsoil, and myriad creatures will be devoured by human needs in the meantime. In the best case realistic scenario, we’re going to do a huge amount of damage to the planet even as we transform ourselves into a global society that provides prosperity with essentially no impacts.

imageSome older environmentalists (most prominently, James Lovelock) have suggested that the fact that no future now awaits us in which our planet is not greatly depleted means the game’s over. Lovelock in particular seems to enjoy saying it’s too late to do anything to save humanity, but he’s not alone among his generation. These “it’s too late” doomers look ahead and see a world full of deserts and empty oceans, dying forests and dead coral reefs, and they say, “we tried to warn you…” and walk away.

The problem is, the children of 2050 will look at that future world, with all its problems, and see home: and they’ll look at the choices they have in front of them, and see the future. And since the choices we make in the next forty years will decide what choices our descendants are left with—a thriving society engaged in centuries of restoration and planetary repair, or a gradual desperate retreat towards the poles—giving up now because we don’t like the choice set we face is pathetic cowardice.

In fact, it’s worse: the writing off of the future (especially on the part of those who bear the responsibility of cultural authority) actually directly supports the work of those who are destroying the future; those that are stripping every last shred of profit from the planet’s biosphere while they still can. The idea that there is no future is a club used to beat people into submission and acquiescent participation in the unthinkable.

The planetary crisis we face may be made up of machinery and market failures and sheer masses of humanity struggling to live, but I’m more and more convinced that it is not at its core really a material crisis at all. Rather, the planetary crisis is a crisis of vision; we see a growing and darkening void where our future ought to be. The average person, presented with accurate information about the state of the world, can see no way forward at all. The path we’re on appears to end in darkness and a swift, cataclysmic drop. Most folks, entirely understandably, choose not to look.

That void in our future vision, I believe, is not accidental. In the 40 years since the first Earth Day, a whole set of industries has grown large attacking scientists and conservationists; falsely complexifying issues; spinning the news of environmental crimes; launching astroturf front groups; endowing think tanks; bribing politicians; obfuscating the need for systemic change by pushing funding towards NGOs that advocate the most limited of personal actions; and by promoting (in the most direct financial sense) cultural work that promotes cynicism and a disdain (if not a hatred) for idealists, from talk radio to teabagging.

In a twist on the old axiom that tyrants don’t care if they are hated so long as their subjects don’t love each other, these industries don’t care if the future they’re offering us looks dark, so long as no other futures we can imagine look brighter. Despairing consumers still buy, and they cause less trouble for the investing class. “We have an economy,” as Paul Hawken says, “where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it G.D.P.” Keeping the future dark hides the crime.

There is a vicious political fight for the future happening right now. Having realized that they’re steadily losing the war to convince people there are no problems, those profiting from the status quo have now turned to fear, uncertainty and doubt. They’re trying to convince the public that it is both too expensive to make changes that probably won’t work and too soon for drastic measures (I personally think that the political use to which geoengineering is being put is very much a part of this effort, but that’s a story to take up again another time). The dark, unknowable future has been turned into a weapon against action in the present.

The irony is, we already have the ability to solve or at least address the planet’s most pressing problems. We don’t have every solution we’ll need, not yet. We do, though, have the technological capabilities, the design genius, the scientific ingenuity, the entrepreneurial zeal, the policy acumen, the community-building skill, and the educational and cultural wisdom. It is not that we are not capable of sustainable prosperity. We have never had more or better ability to build a better world. What we seem to lack is a belief that we can actually use those powers to change anything, and we lack that belief precisely because the future has been ripped out of our cultural debate.

That’s why, if we care about the planet, the most important thing we can do is start showing how good a future we still can have. That’s why, right now, optimism is a political act, and a radical one at that.

I think, what we need today, is mass movement planetary futurism. I don’t mean futurism in the cheesy sense—the what-color-is-your-rocket-car sense—I mean futurism in the best sense: of people who understand that the future is not an alien world or a land-of-make-believe, it’s where we are right now, with a brief passage of time. Utah Phillips used to like to say that the past didn’t go anywhere. Well, the future’s already here. We’re making it, as we speak, and we make it better when we consider what the effects of our actions might be over a longer range of time.

Human beings make the future every day. Making the future—setting in motion future events—might almost be considered part of the definition of humanity. The problem is that today, when powerful men sit down and make decisions, they generally make those decisions as if the future didn’t exist, as if the consequences of their actions were beyond anticipation, as if they bore no responsibility for foresight. The future’s not welcome in the room.

We need millions of people ready to put the future back in the room. We need millions of people ready to demand that their governments, their companies, their communities and their cultural institutions confront the reality of the futures they make every day.

In 2010, any institution which is not looking forty years ahead and at least considering the long-term impacts of its work is probably engaged in actions that wouldn’t bear the full light of day. We need to sunlight them. We need to hold them up against absolute standards, hard numbers, and firm time lines (I prefer carbon-neutrality by 2030, myself, but again, that’s an argument for another time). We need to demand forty-year goals and bold immediate commitments. We need to be the voices for the children of 2050 who otherwise currently have no rights in our halls of power. 2050 is right around the corner: we need to fight for it in every discussion of practical action, in every institution on the planet.

And we need to be ready to envision the alternatives, and explore them with people struggling to make better decisions here in the present. Because the reality is that change is not only in the interests of future generations, it’s in our own interest.

Almost all the things we need to do to safeguard the best possible set of choices for the children of 2050 are things we’d want to do for other reasons, anyway:

  • Build better cities, so people can live in vibrant walkable communities and green homes, served by ecological infrastructure and a mix of transportation choices
  • Foster a culture of bright green innovation, helping to generate meaningful work for the billions who will need it, by spreading new approaches like adaptive reuse, product-service systems and so on
  • Develop new technologies and material and new clean energy industries
  • Redesign our products and manufacturing to remove the toxic chemicals that are poisoning us and recover materials to eliminate waste
  • Preserve farmland and forests, securing working sustainable foodsheds and needed ecosystem services
  • Protect and restore wild places and biological hotspots on land and in the sea, helping prepare them for climate adaptation as best we can, saving as much biodiversity as possible, and reconnecting us with the beauty of the planet

Even if climate change magically ceased to be a problem tomorrow, these are all things we’d want to do for other reasons anyway; places that do them will become far more economically robust and systemically rugged than those that don’t.

There will be opposition. We will meet people filled with anger and fueled by misinformation. Many of the men (and they are still mostly men) making these decisions are good people. A few are evil sociopaths, actively obscuring the future to hide their own knowing crimes, but most are people you’d find decent dinner company, people you’d welcome into your family. Some are among the most principled and conscientious people you’ll find anywhere. But many look only backwards.

Many, I believe, are secretly terrified of what they’d see if they looked ahead. The people most deeply traumatized of all in our society may be the older men who’ve devoted their entire lives, in grinding hard work and out of love for the people around them, to building companies and communities and systems they thought represented a pinnacle of human endeavor and free enterprise, but which instead—they would now find, if they could bring themselves to admit the possibility—have become components of what is quite possibly the most destructive way of life ever made by human beings. To have done right and well your whole life and yet find yourself ethically indicted in the end, to have your accomplishments turn to ash, to arrive late expecting security and respect, and find neither: I don’t think those of us who are younger can fully understand what a soul-wrenching experience that must be.

As the air goes out of the most destructive parts of our economy—as the oil runs out, as the sprawl financing dries up, as the world runs out of big trees to cut and big fish to catch—economic fear gets added to the mix as well. How will they survive? Even when they see a glimmer of a bright green economy, it looks full of jobs demanding different skills than the ones they’ve spent a lifetime honing. I think a lot of them refuse to see a bright green future—attack even the possibility of its existence, yell at those who even suggest its necessity—because they see no place for themselves in it, and hear a ringing condemnation of the legacies they’re preparing to leave woven into every fiber of the innovations we need.

I honestly have no idea how to reach out to these good people. We know, though, that they are the ones often at the table when the future is made, and though we will eventually prevail since time and numbers are on our side, spending another couple decades butting heads with these guys will at best slow our progress. Merely defeating them politically also wastes a huge creative resource: their talent and experience. Many of the people most angrily denying the future are those who understand how the systems we now need to retrofit, redesign, replace and adapt actually work—because they built them—and, if convinced that this new work needs to be done, they have oceans of insight and institutional knowledge to bring to bear on the problem. No one knows how to hack a system better than the person who’s been in charge of protecting it from change…if only we can win them over to the side of change.

Whether or not we can bring around the oldest generation, the fundamental need is clear: we need, now, to put the future back in the room.

Image credits, collage: (left to right): Flickr/Si Jobling, Flickr/flydime and Flickr/James Cridland. All shared under the Creative Commons license. Image editing: Amanda Reed. Image of gas mask smelling flowers from the first Earth Day from National Geographic Blog; Credit: AP Photo, 1970.


When the doctor comes into the room and tells you your loved one has terminal cancer and nothing more can be done - do you call him a doom sayer? Do you call him too gloomy and dismiss his idea?

James Lovelock is a doctor of the earth and he has a bad diagnosis. What should he do with it? Keep still because we don’t want to hear the bad news?

We are conditioned to stories that all end well. Hollywood tells us everything will be all right in the end. Don’t worry.

But we need to remember though we’ve surrounded ourselves with a kind of Hollywood “happy ending” world, we have done it on fossil fuel and ignored the laws of nature. The bill is coming due and it must be paid.

Lovelock sees man surviving in much smaller numbers - perhaps one billion out of seven billion humans will make it. He sees northern regions possibly habitable and suitable in a new climate for agriculture to support man.

It will be a brave new world, but man survived the Ice Age. He can survive this one, too, Lovelock feels.

So instead of looking for that bright new tomorrow we are promised by Hollywood and politicians, let’s face this coming world realistically. That’s the only way man can survive.

Facing this world realistically is too pessimistic for me. The Hollywood “happy ending” ends when the movie is over.

Malthus in the 19th century predicted that agriculture would never be able to feed an unlimited number of population. Today there are over 6 billion people.

Politicians promise to put a chicken in every pot, but behave like a fox guarding the chicken coop.

I was pretty unhappy with the Lovelock outlook at first. He is, at least for me, not someone who can be disregarded. Plus he is independent. That is not dependent on a university or company. So he can speak his mind. If he would a university professor dependent on grants and a salary we probably would never hear his true views.

I am thinking there must be many scientists like Lovelock who must remain on the sidelines or lose their livelihood.

There are things individuals and countries could do to prepare for the results of our CO2 addiction. But denial causes us not even to talk about it, let alone prepare.

I have a gut feeling, looking at the state of climate worldwide we may see this thing happen sooner rather than later. But even Lovelock says no one knows for sure what will happen.

My wife and I live part of the year on our sailboat. We have the option, for example, of sailing north to areas that may be habitable.

This is a great article

Quote -“That’s why, if we care about the planet, the most important thing we can do is start showing how good a future we still can have. That’s why, right now, optimism is a political act, and a radical one at that.”

Quote - “We need millions of people ready to put the future back in the room. We need millions of people ready to demand that their governments, their companies, their communities and their cultural institutions confront the reality of the futures they make every day.”

I freely admit that I cannot fathom the depth of our environmental crisis. There is so much conflicting data and articles and global views, and the sheer volumes of information available do not make it my focus of attention. Thus I am as guilty as all the rest that turn aside from contemplating these future problems. It’s not because I do not care, it is because I can’t handle the data, the information. I think most folks are the same, especially when the debate begins to focus in on details and conflicts by experts.

Yet do I really need to know any of the details above my own pursuits of interest? Do I need to read every article I can find on how this resource is depleting, or how this future catastrophe will pan out? Or do I just need to get on-board and guide my ethical philosophy towards the change in consumerism, and as you correctly point out, think about a better future?

It may be naïve, yet I cannot see any reason why, (aside from the suggestions here that successful tycoons resist change, for change sake), that all of the big oil players, should not turn their focus and investments and ingenuity towards non-carbon based fuel sources, and rectify the problems associated with their past histories of resource depletion. Is it merely just a case of the big oil companies re-inventing themselves?

As you say, these companies have the engineering knowledge and know-how, they already have global industrial networks, and they even have the political sway and weight to guide policy. Yet it does not merely begin or end with these companies.

I am quite convinced that politicians will not rock the boat if they can help it, and will preserve the status quo if they can. I also believe that these environmental problems are also too big for even our governments to handle decisively; after all they are just men and find the problems and solutions perplexing also?

No, I believe you are correct, it is for all of us to contemplate and change our philosophy and demand change, either through petition, demonstration, or even better by guiding market forces and consumerism away from carbon fuels and waste, and towards a greener culture. Yes all this has been said and suggested before by everyone and everyday, yet that is what is required, for us to think about it everyday when we do consume.

Your vision of green cities and technologies and green belts is text book stuff, and I almost discarded it at first hand, (it conjures many memories of pictures in books of futuristic cityscapes), yet on second reflection, there is absolutely no reason why this should not be a reality? Space is a premium and money is king in inner cities, yet what if our cultural focus changed, and we did allocate space more productively?

The only question or problem that needs to be urgently deliberated is how to organise the mass coordination and worldview to promote change in policies? How can we all coordinate our ethical focus collectively and actually make the future happen and help change government and corporation policy?

Its a happy outcome you posit. But frankly, between you and me, do you think there is any chance whatsoever of humans banning together to do what you want?

Optimism is good, but it should be tested against the possible.

I think going on the defense is the answer. But we are not able to mobilize to do that because of 1. sunny optimists who say we can fix this - somehow 2. the denial crowd - by far the largest 3. the never-know-crowd; those who because the media does not like the Lovelock scenario will never let the public know about it.

Its defense or nothing. I am hoping some people of means can start constructing self sustaining communities in the far north. That should hit the news, then the Lovelock predictions might be revealed to the wider public.

@ William G

Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean by defensive strategy? Could you explain a bit more?

I don’t really subscribe to the “too late theory”, and I think humans are highly adaptable anyhow, even if the future is bleak. But I really do think that, regardless, we still do need to change our views, individually at least, about “what we can do” to change the mindset? As to changing worldview you may be correct, but the internet is a powerful force : we only have to connect the dots, (blogs > create nodes > create hubs or whatever), to cause a wave of consciousness and force political and corporate change?

What ifThe internet was flooded with connectedness content that simply could not be ignored or disregarded? Would this kind of activity force mass awareness and political policy?

I like the on-going dialogue. The concerns expressed and the questions raised are well taken. The thoughts it generates for me are invigorating. Am I ready to draw a conclusion to be pro-active or defensive? No. Am I frozen to inaction? No. I am captivated and ensared. Where is it going to take us?

This is what I see in the eye of my mind? A paradigm shift of as yet unknown proportion. It has happened before. My father lived through the horse and buggy into the mechanical and the jet transportation. From Newton’s physic to quantum physics. My father’s experience has been the transportation of the human body from one place to another on earth and near-space.

My time has seen the effects of human knowledge by the emergence of electronic/computer and nano- and bio-technology experiences. My experience has been the transmission of human thoughts and ideas. It has been a time of seeing with the mind or thought travel. Movies, videos, blogs and websites like this promote it.

I have concluded that knowledge is like the weather. It start somehere by the stirring of a butterfly wings and it ends in a violent snow storm somewhere else. It is like an earthquake it starts somewhere and as the waves moves it spreads with sometimes devestating results. Some of your conclusions in the above postings describes these dire results.

Another conclusion I have drawn is that there is a part within the human soul, that when the opportunity is present; that drives it to act to create another vision. Some may attribute it to god, but God being omniscient and a Creator in His own right would not have made todays mess.

Now, here is where I think, the paradigm is shifting. The human experience in the past has always relied on an ethical philosopher ruler. Looking at Wall Street, our Congress and Senate; that time has gone, forever.

Does that mean ethical behavior is no longer a functioning principle? Far from it. Look at the Tea Party movements, the pro-immigrant’s movements. They all have blackberries and computers and they are now looking to participate in what the now deposed ethical philosopher ruler had. I believe the future is still as enticing as it was for my father and me!

Edward and Cygnus,

Thank you for your contributions to this blog. At least we few are talking about this environmental problem, not denying it exists as many do based on oil company-funded scientists whose job it is to create doubt about global warming.

Edward, the change you describe was slow in coming. People gradually took up use of new technology and it did wonders. According to Lovelock and others, global warming may develop differently from the slow scenario. They expect at some point we will have a spike that wipes out agriculture in many zones of earth, especially where there are many humans - Asia, the US, Russia and central Europe just to cover the Northern Hemisphere.

So we may not have the time needed to develop and adapt. As I understand it, this heat spike could come as suddenly as the one that killed 30,000 people in Europe in 2003, but it would NOT subside as that one did.

By “going on the defense” I mean planning for moving populations that we are concerned about to places that may sustain agriculture like northern Canada, northern Russia, northern Alaska. This would be Manhattan-sized project. (like the crash program to build the a-bomb). Areas could be designated, roads built, communications lines established, agricultural lands developed with needed infrastructure, etc.

This is planning for the inevitable, rather than swimming upstream, trying to change people’s habits and get governments into some massive action. Just look at Copenhagen if you want to understand what I mean. Here we are faced with the FACT of large environmental changes before our eyes like a melting Arctic Ocean, glaciers disappearing so fast, African countries whose agricultural base has disappeared, CO2 as measured by the Hawaiian Manua Loa Observatory showing steady rapid rise and much more.

We have all this before our eyes and governments did nothing at Copenhagen except promise some effective action sometime, maybe. What more proof do we need that the kind of fast, effective world action needed will NOT happen?

The defensive communities I refer to could be started privately by individuals of means who have the knowledge, foresight and money to prepare for their families survival now.

If this got started, news organizations would jump on it as the kind of sensational story they like. This in turn would give publicity to the theories of Lovelock and others about the threat from global warming. Then the public would at least have some inkling of what could well be in store for 7 billion humans, and soon.

There needs to be some action to develop a private planning organization and get some feasible, competent plans out there. Then the real work of developing construction plans could begin.

I hope this answers everything and finds some support as a concept.

OK this is scary stuff, checkout this brief interview with James Lovelock here.. “Enjoy life while you can” >>

I still see this as a call for awareness, and even more reason for us all to do something to change policies and mindsets, whatever that may entail? This does not change my view of the need for a call to action awareness at present. I’m hoping my further investigations will not change or reverse my optimism?


“Enjoy life while you can”

“It’s just too late for it,” he says. “Perhaps if we’d gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don’t have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing. I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can’t say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do.”

” This is all delivered with an air of benign wonder at the intractable stupidity of people. “I see it with everybody. People just want to go on doing what they’re doing. They want business as usual. They say, ‘Oh yes, there’s going to be a problem up ahead,’ but they don’t want to change anything.”

“There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that’s just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we’ll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That’s the source of my optimism.”

“What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: “Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.”


Interesting post. I have not looked at your Lovelock post, but be sure I will. I have reviewed a lot of Lovelock material - whatever I can get my hands on, in fact. There are recordings of radio interviews, videos of interviews and lectures by Lovelock. I’ve read his two latest books.

I find Lovelock one of those compelling human beings that are hard to deny. (Oh the deniers try so hard. But Lovelock it not a good target for them. He is completely non-political, so its hard for them to say he has some sneaky hidden motives. He’s not selling anything.

To me, at 91, he is an endearing sort of man, gentle, sure that science is not 100% sure, but telling us the direction all the evidence seems to be pointing. He does not smear or demean individuals in a mean spirited way like the deniers do. He is polite and soft spoken. All this makes him credible and hard to dislike. His accomplishments in life are legend. This is no light weight scientist.

I think we have to look at his being a completely independent scientist as very important when considering his subject matter. University professors are constrained in what they can say. A department head can tell a professor to not speak out about a theory. If he or she has tenure, they may speak anyway - but very probably not.

Just look at what happened to NASA scientist James Hansen. The White House under Bush made a strong effort to silence him. Lucky for us Hansen is a strong person and feels strongly that the public needs to be warned sternly about our environment.

What gives me optimism to some extent (I am deeply unhappy with the idea of so many species, as well as 5 billion humans facing extinction) is that Lovelock believes man may survive due to his resourcefulness.

I say let’s get to work at once applying that resourcefulness. Lovelock and others find that man and other species may be able to survive in the polar regions, and some other areas such as the UK and Scandinavia that probably will not suffer such extreme warming as to kill off agriculture.

Infrastructure can be created in may places to accommodate fleeing populations, or at least some of them. We could view this as a supreme challenge, the greatest ever to mankind, and take up that challenge with boldness and determination.

I like green machines and green living. My wife and I live half the year in our sailboat powered by solar and wind for electricity. We made the decision not to carry a fossil fuel powered generator on board years ago and put alternative energy devices on our boat. They work wonderfully well, needing no fuel or even care to keep pumping out amps for us. (They power my computer as I write these words.)

But we did not have to deal with a two party system to get going with this. No bills needed to be passed, no consensus built. We did not have to fight with naysayers like Rush Limbaugh or Fox News and oil company financed “studies” denying global warming. There were no vested interests - just our interest in free energy from the sun and wind (which is also from the sun).  It worked well beyond our greatest expectations

But looking at the sorry history of curbing green house gas emissions over the last fifteen or more years, I believe we must face reality. Yes, people will come to a point where they agree with you and I and others, but it will probably be in the midst of crisis and chaos and far, far too late to drop fossil fuel and stop other green house gas producing practices.

As I said in an earlier post, the bill for our glorious fossil fuel powered life from the industrial revolution to this day, and now China and India getting on board the development express - that bill needs to be paid. Mother Nature is no amused our violation of her inviolable laws. She has no sense of humor about this. She cares nothing for the happy endings we seem to believe are our right.

So, i say, let’s take an effective and immediate posture. I doubt any government would support this idea of defense (although I heard a small, brief report DoD was working on it), but there are I think private entities (like my wife and myself with our sailboat’s alternative systems but of greater means) who, given some organization and opportunity will get this going. That in turn might get governments such as ours moving on a defensive plan.

And we can enjoy life as each day dawns while we do this work. We are. At this moment we are on our sailboat in the Caribbean enjoying a cruising lifestyle. Everyone should enjoy his or her lives, moment by moment, while working to preserve what we can of our beautiful world and advanced civilization.

Quote : “What gives me optimism to some extent (I am deeply unhappy with the idea of so many species, as well as 5 billion humans facing extinction) is that Lovelock believes man may survive due to his resourcefulness”.

@ William G

I also believe that even with a worst case scenario, no matter what existential risk, there will be at least some humans who will survive. The question begs as to whom these humans may be, and cynically I may be reluctant to speculate it will most likely be the wealthy and influential, as well as the most resourceful. Lovelock’s prophecies do not paint a happy picture, and I for one would like to see him disproven, yet the reading this weekend has not been a pleasant one. I am still the optimist, and tenacity will be paramount for some of us at least, to attempt to prove him wrong?

Playing the devil’s advocate, one must rationalise that even if there is a shred of truth in Lovelock’s predications, that governments around the globe would have already analysed and speculated these outcomes, and formulated a contingency plan for the next 20 : 50 years? This would mean that there are parties who are already conspiring (?) to mobilise and transmigrate, and even hoard food supplies etc. I have a colleague who is an ardent conspiracy theorist who believes that foul play is afoot, yet as most theorists, he is not sure what? Perhaps this is it?

As to all of the disinformation, misinformation, or even dissemination of truthful information about climate change, I yet fear it is “what we are not being told” by our governments or elite that maybe obscures the real situation? I am hoping not, and I wish to continue with my naïve view that governments are still run by men of integrity, and that if they say that we can change or at least minimise further catastrophe then we should believe them and take action and try?

Yet Lovelock may be correct to say that we do need a major global catastrophe for the worldview to wake up and take notice? And that world politics and democracy is not up to the job of being proactive only reactive. Thus we are all doomed to only act after the worst has happened such as with that lazy human trait of only emptying the trash when its overflowing?

@ Eduard

I also want to see this paradigm shift and I believe it will come. Question is, will it come before it’s too late or after? Will it come after this doomsday scenario or can we make it a reality before? I am still contemplating some methodology to do my part in spreading awareness. Perhaps folks would be more receptive to the fear of destruction, rather than the constant barrage of hopeful technological solutions that you need a degree to understand?

The main goal is still to get everyone thinking about the future. And hey, if tweets can change worldview and opinion, then there must be some way to achieve a wave of conscious awareness? As the old saying goes, “it’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it?” or maybe, it’s “not what you say it’s the way that you say it?”

For all parties interested here is a link to “Campaign against climate change” Forum. I’m not sure what this is all about as yet, so if it is another load of blah, then kindly ignore. It does however keep the debate alive?

Response to Cygnus on Sunday


You are concerned about disinformation, conspiracy theorists, etc. You have the ability as we all do to figure this out. Forget about those trying to throw you off the truth for their own purposes. And there are those, for sure.

Look at the Irak war. We had a lot of disinformation. The intelligence agencies came around to saying Saddam had WMD. The Congress bought it. The New York Times bought it!

But a large segment of the public, worldwide, said Bull Puckie. This is a fabricated war with made up reasons to attack. Hans Bliz and the UN inspectors found nothing. US fly overs saw nothing. You cannot hide a big nuclear program plus a missile program. Where was all this supposed WMD and the means to deliver it.

Many of us in the public said this is pure BS and we marched against an attack because it would cause chaos, kill a lot of innocent people and be all for naught. But my Senator, Senator Feinstein wrote me and many voters an earnest letter saying in scary terms we best defend ourselves. From whom? This third rate little Middle East country with a tiny, unproven army? We marched in our millions - worldwide. WE WERE RIGHT and all the intelligence agencies with their billions of resources were dead wrong and it cost us taxpayers billions and will go on costing for years and years.

My point? Have some faith in your common sense. Read as much as you can of unbiased scientific information about global warming and its likely results. Believe in yourself because you will probably reach the correct, logical conclusion. Forget those plotting secretly behind closed doors about all this. First they probably do not exist and second you and other common sense citizens will probably come to a more correct conclusion than they will with all their secret, wonderful resources.

Look at the nearly melted Arctic Ocean. Look at the great melting of the Greenland Ice Cap. Look at the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica, about to drop into the sea and raise sea levels all over the world. Look at the grey brown band at your horizon made up of particulate matter from the coal fired electric plants in Indian, China and every country. Look at your sky, no longer a deep, dark blue as when I was a kid. Look at CO2 at 391 parts per million as measured by the observatory on Hawaii, ready to break through the emergency level of 400 ppm.

What more evidence is needed? Listen to scientists like Lovelock and James Hansen of NASA and Lynn Margulis and many more. You don’t need the conspiracy theorists to explain anything to you. You can draw your own conclusions.

We are in the 11th hour. It is time for defensive action that can be taken on the individual level and by larger, private interests. I feel there are many who have reached the conclusion that its now or never for action. We need to organize that group - not governments who will dither until the world jumps to the hot state and its too late.

Governments like ours must answer to too many parties and negotiate and discuss, and compromise. In that piece you highlighted, Lovelock says there is a time for unified action and democracy needs to take a back seat for awhile. He gives the example of war time.

We are in war time, we just don’t know it yet. The enemy, CO2 and global warming is just too stealthy. it comes upon us slowly. We accept each new frightening stage.

Again, forget the conspiracy people and the deniers. The evidence is plain as day. You can figure this out and so can any rational person using common sense. Have courage and go forward and spread the word.

We are stuck with counterproductive electoral politics; but, to be optimistic, what I want is a conservative alternative to the GOP and the ‘Teaparty’: want a party that conserves something. Whatever the flaws of the Democratic party one can communicate with them on environmental and other issues; while the GOP-dominated ‘Teapartiers’ are extremely hard to communicate with (to say the least) and want to dump not only tea in the water—but much else besides.

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