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Science News

Forecasting Doomsday 854

Posted by Hemos
from the and-here-without-my-book dept.
Boccaccio writes "James Lovelock, the planetary scientist famous for his Gaia Theory, writes in today's Independent of his belief that it is already too late to divert an environmental catastrophe which will see much of human civilisation destroyed. Fearing it too late to be green, he instead suggests communities plan for survival in a Mad Max type world with limited resources ruled by violent warlords. "We have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can." He suggests we should be writing a practical guidebook printed on long lasting paper containing "the basic accumulated scientific knowledge of humanity.""
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Forecasting Doomsday

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  • Paul Ehrlich Anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarkPNeyer (729607) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:19PM (#14482902)
    People have been predicting the end of the world due to environment destruction for years. What gets me is that most 'intellectuals' will scoff at christians but listen seriously to these people.
  • by rcpitt (711863) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:27PM (#14482974) Homepage Journal
    Foundation series: Civilization is falling - accumulate all knowledge in a set of books and make copies to send to the far reaches of the known universe.

    Or do you subscribe to Heinlein and his survivor stories like Farnham's Freehold?

    With the various governments' movements to ban guns and such I'm beginning to smell a conspiracy theory here somewhere :)

    Me? I'll probably be one of the first ones to die when I can't get the drugs that keep me alive - of course Darwin is at work there too. "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "go lemmings!" are my two favourite catch-phrases.

  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:27PM (#14482979)
    In regards to climate change, and those who deny it:

    "Who are you gonna believe? Me, or your lying eyes?"

    Just getting off a week of +5-10C weather, in January, in Toronto. (40-50F for the Americans.) That is really, really atypical.

    So is the 28 days of rain the west coast just received.

    So is the 13 feet of snow in Japan.

    Its unsettling.

  • My theory... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bazman (4849) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:28PM (#14482983) Journal
    You know the anthropic universe principle? That the universe seems fine tuned for life? Well I have another theory that is that yes, the universe is fine-tuned for life, but its also fine-tuned so that life has a remote chance of making it off the planet and colonising the universe as seen in science fiction. The universe is in fact fine tuned just so that it can create sentient life that can consider its mortality, dream of conquering the cosmos, but then not being able to because fundamental physics just gets in the way...

    I call this the misanthropic universe principle...

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:38PM (#14483085) Journal
    "There is so much land available in the entire globe that I don't see how warlords can use the strength of weapons to take over"

    Useable land? Enough useable farmland to support 6 Bn people? Along with the fuel needed to get the same kind of return from the land that we experience now, including distribution of the food?

    I suggest you read Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed [grist.org].

    Good insight on the topic.

    My point is that faced with a growing population, uncertain sustainability of our current food production methods (e.g., how can we do it without fossil fuels to rely on for production and distribution), and reduced supply of both arable land and waters suitable for food production, how can we expect to keep everyone fed? And if we can't feed everyone, how will disputes be resolved? My guess is through warfare. State action in some cases, "Mad Max"-style in others. If the drop in food production is extreme enough, modern states will collapse, and the "Mad Max" vision may come to pass.
  • by 955301 (209856) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:39PM (#14483093) Journal
    Who do we believe? The physician or the author?

    Both. James Lovelock is stomping to sell his book:

    My new book The Revenge of Gaia expands these thoughts, but you still may ask why science took so long to recognise the true nature of the Earth.

    Look, my hypothesis is that the reversal of our impact on the global environement will take on the order of a thousand years for one reason - vegetation. We are not the only life on the planet which deliberately change our environments to make then suitable for our own well being. Plants drop leaves that are poisonous to competing vegetation, that compost and help the ground turn to soil and maintain moisture. They grow tall and create hospitable environments for their root systems underneath their canopies. So wherever the fringe of life ends up by the time the tides change vegetation will re-establish itself and make the march back down the planet.

    Let's suppose we hose the cycle and end up in the poles as this guy suggests. We won't be able to sustain our current populations or continue to cause damage on that scale any more. The instigator is now marginalized. And so long as there are seeds somewhere on this planet, which is mostly surfaced with water btw, a time lapse of the 1000 year recover time will look like a terraforming scene from a Star Trek movie.

  • Re:I disagree.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tgd (2822) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:54PM (#14483246)
    When 2/3 of the current food-producing land in the world no longer can produce food, I think the billions who starve to death may beg to differ about "feel[ing] the pinch", but that might just be me. After all I was miserable in my last meeting because it went a half hour into lunch and I was starving.
  • The problem is... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DanThuMan (915138) on Monday January 16, 2006 @12:57PM (#14483276)

    the probability of global environmental dissepation occuring tomorrow is extremely small.

    The reality is that a large single global event, whether it be a meteor strike, a volcano eruption or a tsunami will cause the a major loss of life on the planet earth. What is the probability of this occuring tomorrow, next week or even this year, is extremely low. The probability that this type of event will occur in the next 10,000 years, well that's probably (no pun intended) a more reasonable expectation.

    Governments can't afford to stake their political livelihoods on this type of low probability outcome. The reality for them is 4 or 5 years, that's it. Slow and progressive destruction of the environment is the same sort of thing. Who knows who the be in charge of the world in 50 years, so current governments are willing to risk their current votes on the chance that in the future something might happen.

    I disagree with this is part. On one hand, I agree that the likeliness of the earth being uninhabitable in 25 years is low, I do believe that if we don't incorporate sound environmental policy into our beliefs and plans for the future, the world will one day be a not so nice play to live.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:08PM (#14483385)
    His comments need to be taken seriously. Ignore him at your peril.

    Lovelock is no witless crank, and the description in the editorial blurb, er excerpt, is so far off, it's maddening. (Hint: look up 'photomultiplier tube').

    Laugh while you can. While I understand no one wants to take their medicine when yummy candy is all around, it'll be time to pay the piper soon enough.

    I look forward to skinning and gutting the brainless doughboys who think he's 'an ecoterrorist' sometime in the near future. I shall decorate the bounds of my territory with your spines.
  • by Zobeid (314469) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:09PM (#14483389)
    Just ask any geologist. . . The Earth is in an Ice Age. Actually we're in an "interglacial period", which is what we call it when an ice age pauses and the ice sheets retreat for 10 or 20 thousand years, then they advance again. In the 1970s several climatologists looked at the available data -- solar cycles and records, precession of Earth's orbit, etc. -- and concluded that the interglacial period was about to end, and the ice was going to come back Real Soon Now. They started warning their governments about the need to prepare for a colder climate, shorter growing seasons, dropping ocean levels, etc.

    That was before all the talk about global warming began, of course.

    And yet, their data didn't lie. What some climatologists are beginning to figure out is that global warming -- from greenhouse gases emitted as a by-product of human industry -- came along just in time to hold back the ice sheets. It began with clearing forests for farmland (which released carbon), and raising livestock which produce methane. It accelerated with the industrial revolution, and all the coal that was burned. Up to that point the greenhouse gases were roughly staving off the natural cooling trend.

    Then, in the 20th Century, we saw an explosion in the burning of oil and gas for power. That's when the global warming effect began to outstrip and overwhelm the natural cooling trends. Today we have a climate that is definitely growing warmer, alarmingly so. And yet. . .

    If we were to cut off greenhouse gas emissions today -- either on purpose, or as a result of our industrial civilization's collapse -- it seems likely that it wouldn't take long for the current situation to reverse. It certainly ought not take 100,000 years for the global climate to recover from our CO2 emissions. Like it or not, we are still in that ice age, and we'd soon feel it.
  • by SirLanse (625210) <`swwg69' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:11PM (#14483410)
    Most of europe is in population decline. When you look at the white norther europeans, it is even worse. The arabs and africans are breeding very fast. So when the weather does heat up, they are genetically ready for it. The pale skinned types are set for extinction. Humanity will survive, but it won't look like most slashdotters.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:15PM (#14483462) Homepage Journal
    I think oil is fairly cheap compared to the US dollar -- I track oil's price versus the US dollar versus the M3 money supply and oil has gone up slightly in the past year, but it is still cheaper than it has been in the past 150 years on average. Gold versus oil shows a different story (either gold is undervalued to oil or vice versa).

    For the tar sands to be profitable means there has to be reason to investigate ways to take advantage of them. 50 years ago we wouldn't believe we'd have one ounce of gold buying 400 gallons of oil (as we did a year or two ago). Technology brings prices down (except in heavily regulated and taxed markets).

    If we want cheap tar sand oil, we need to stop subsidizing crude oil completely. Let industry find ways to take advantage of all the oil that is out there. The price will drop. Prices always drop, except (again) when government manipulates markets and currencies.

    I have a lot of faith in science, and I have even more faith in people looking to profit.

    Western culture and the Western economy will collapse because our government is filthy -- they print to much money, they manipulate too many markets trying to save their cronies from doom. Heading back to the gold standard would do wonders for the first government that dumps fiat currency. Will any government do it? Not if they can help it.
  • by Pandemis (31296) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:16PM (#14483468) Homepage
    What will survive of our world today in 10,000 years time?
    Check out the Clock of the Long Now [longnow.org]
    Also, the Rosetta project [rosettaproject.org]
    Anyone know of other long term projects, like long term nuclear fuel storage facilities (ie that will survive into future 'barbaric' time periods) or animal/plant genetic preservation libraries?

    What about long-term human knowledge preservation projects (i.e. written on 'long-lasting paper'!)? doomsday or not, data CDs are good for a few years at best, and my 10 yr old college text books are ragged (and obsolete).
  • It's similar to the way things could be nicer worldwide. If, for example, everyone donated $0.25, you could cover the world's landmass with 802.11g WiFi and have enough left over to make it solar/wind powered, impregnable, maintenance free, and, aside from the $0.25, completely free to everyone.

    Similarly, if you donate $0.25, you could cover the world's landmass (6km granularity) with solar-powered atmospheric H2O/CO2 reclamation facilities. The would quickly offset the global warming problem; with less CO2, and more importantly, less water vapor in the atmosphere, you have less heat trapped and less H2O being produced to trap it. For that cost (at $0.25 per person, at 6km granularity - 3km radius per unit in a hexagonal array, the possible cost of a unit is about $400), you could rig seasonal fuzzy logic (unit is at lat 45, temp is about 66 deg, it's january. Turn on and start drying the atmo; we're too warm and wet right now.), to maintain the balance after the problem is repaired. Not to mention the possibility that a district could relocate its excess water to more needy places for cash.

    'Cept, you'll nevr get it done. Too many people would argue against either ("Free WiFi to all would hurt industry!" or "We have no idea what reducing moisture and CO2 levels could do to the environment!"). That's where it all falls apart, really. Doing such things would require both a full understanding of each project (to quell the naysayers) and an organization willing to actually act in the public interest (unlike government, which acts more on a pluralism of cash-backed interests).

    That's where it all falls apart really. To truly understand such projects, you need to actually do them, and there aren't any organizations that act purely in the public interest. Thus, you'd have to find a way to make the projects tangably profitable for all people.

    Oh, well.
  • by raxrat (776937) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:22PM (#14483538)
    Unfortunately, Michael Chrichton is not a climatologist. You have to ask yourself what climatologists have to gain by telling you that the stability of the climate is in trouble due to our burning of fossil fuels. For example, when ExxonMobil or Bush/Cheney tell you global warming doesn't exist or can't be proven (what can, btw?) they have a pretty clear agenda: keep making massive profits selling oil. When climatologists tell you the earth's climate is changing due to our burning of oil (and a few other things), what have they gained. Publicity and fame? Really? Name one scientist that has personally benefitted from saying that global warming is happening and we're at least partly to blame (without running to Google). Ask yourself who's got the conflict of interest and what's at stake. Then ask yourself if it's reasonable that scientists are faking temperature and ice core data. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4532344. stm [bbc.co.uk] [BBC]
  • Re:I disagree.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nido (102070) <nido56@@@yahoo...com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:23PM (#14483543) Homepage
    'Evolution' moves in fits & starts - short periods of rapid change, followed by long periods of relative stability.

    What we've seen over the last 10,000 years is relative stability. A little over 100 years ago things started to change quicker, culminating in a crisis-level change.

    As the oceans expand and the sea level rises, people will simply move further up the shore. When islands disappear, people will be unhappy but they quickly build new lives in new countries.

    This assumes slow, gradual change. Which I sincerely doubt is going to be the case. Volcanic/earthquake activity has picked up in recent years. The Indian Ocean earthquake a year ago (which caused the giant tsunami) shifted the crust of the earth by 50 feet. A volcano in Alaska has been going off for the first time in 20 years. Mount Fuji in Japan doesn't have any snow on it right now, possibly portending an upcoming eruption. Mt. St. Helens in Washington started erupting again in the last year or two... etc, etc.

    I'd wager that the fabled 'big one' will hit California's San Andreas fault sometime in the next few years, preceded and followed by massive earthquakes all over the world.

    What's interesting is that any number of prophets all say the same basic thing. St. John the Divine (book of Revelation), Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, Hopi tradition, Mayan tradition, etc... A couple short years of chaos, and then the emergence of a real peace.

    I, for one, welcome the coming shift.
  • Remember that the point of Seldon's encyclopedia was not to prevent the collapse, which was inevitable, but to shorten the following dark-age.

    Similarly, we are faced with the inevitable fact of rising global temperatures. We need to see more effort toward coping with the results of this fact and less useless rhetoric. By useless rhetoric, I mean any discussion that focuses on the fantasy of conservation and emission reduction or sweeping social changes that make societies "green". Only a fool thinks that anything like that will actually happen and we need not suffer fools gladly.

    Equally idiotic is the assumption of a Mad Max like disintegration of society. We'll simply continue burn fossil fuels, and emit green house gases, until it's no longer the cheapest thing to do; then we'll gradually turn to the next cheapest form of energy. (There may be a war between the Occident and the Orient before burning the last of the oil, but then again, maybe not. A lot has changed since the last world war and, for the first time ever, the entire world is now joined in a single economy. It might make more sense to divvy-up rather than duke-it-out. )

    Thinking that environmental change and the exhaustion of carbon-based fossil fuels is the end of civilization, however, is just stupidly short sighted. We can't imagine the specific changes that will occur to support the future, but we can be sure that they will occur. If I were alive in New York city in 1889, and the only thing I knew about 100 years from then is that there would be over six million people working in Manhattan (in 1989), it would be easy for me to think that the biggest problem facing them would be the removal of the literally mountains of horse shit generated by their comings and goings.

    Remember that every human being comes with not just a mouth to eat but also a brain to think and hands to work. It's much wiser to adjust our sails than to try to change the wind.

  • by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:26PM (#14483590)
    Don't you find that? Nearly everyone I talk to about the weather, at some point, shakes their head and expresses some concern about how it 'used to be' vs how it is now.

    Even though you acknowledge that this is andectodal, you are ignoring a significant part of that.

    The human body has no way to "remember" a sensation. You can recall what you were thinking at the time, how something affected your emotions, and partially the things you saw. What you cannot actually do is get your body to "refeel" a sensation.

    When someone remembers the past they tend to look at it in a chronological order, beginning from when they were a kid or from where they are now backwards. The interesting thing is that the younger you get, the more impressionable you were. So a really cold day ends up being even "colder" in your memory. A really hot day was even "hotter". Add to this ones tendency to mythicize their own past and past winters suddenly become "much colder than today."

    Also, the winter clothing we had back then sucked compared to what we have now. The jacket I used to wear has nothing on the coat I wear now. I barely feel the cold. But back in the day we just didn't have the technology we did today in manufacturing outerwear.

    Another thing that someone else already pointed out is, we didn't set any records. There have already been hotter days and colder days. We're just extra sensative to the weather these days because the media is constantly screaming "global warming" and now, "We're all gonna die!"

    Back when this wasn't of such a concern to us, we wrote off unseasonal weather as a godsend, everyone was happy for a cool day in summer and a warmer day in winter. No one remebers a moderately ammusing weather anomoly.

    We have really only been keeping track of weather for a short time compared to the age of the earth, be it either on ID time or Evolution time. A few hundred years of data, not all of which we can confirm, and some VERY new abilities to model weather kinda accurately do not give us a rock solid base from which to start modeling our future doom.

    I mean, come on, these guys can't even predict next day rain with complete accuracy. I'm not going to buy any weather forcasts aimed 20 years down the road.
  • Re:I disagree.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSync (5291) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:33PM (#14483660) Journal
    I suspect that genetic engineering will allow us to have crops that can survive almost any warming scenario.

    No one will starve, except for the people who remain under governments that provide low levels of economic freedom and high levels of corruption.

    Luckilly, almost two billion people in India and China are slowly getting more economic freedom, which have pulled hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty (under $1 per day) and millions of people into an almost western existence.
  • by AoT (107216) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:36PM (#14483687) Homepage Journal
    Everytime I hear comments about "alarmists" I think back to the beginning of Asimov's Empire and the way Hari "the raven" Seldon was treated.

    Most people wish to live in a world where everything is going to end up ok, where science will save us, where the doomsday predictions are not true. Not that this necessarily mean he is right; but we do need to take this with some amount of seriousness.

    It could mean the end of modern civilization and the death of billions, not something to be dismissed lightly.
  • by amper (33785) * on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:37PM (#14483702) Journal
    Disclaimer: I credit SimEarth with indtroducing me to Locklock's theories. :)

    Lovelock is a very smart person, and he may in fact be correct about the fate that awaits us, but the reasons for it may not be the particular concerns he's raised. For example, the most prevalent theory that I have seen regarding climate change is that "global warming" may actually have the more immediate effect of "global cooling" in the form of interruption of the thermohaline cycle in the Atlantic Ocean. It would be really helpful if we could figure out if we need to move north (as Lovelock seems to suggest), or south in the face of a cooling trend. These theories are well born out by the archaeological record.

    Second of all, it really disturbs me that so-called "greenhouse gases" still receive the majority of the blame for climate change in the first place. I am firmly of the belief that heat emissions may be just as much of a concern. It's not only CO2 and other pollutants coming out my my tailpipe...there's a whole lot of heat released in the process, and it has to go *somewhere*, and even nuclear energy leads somewhere down the chain to thermal inefficiencies.

    If you take into account the theories surrounding the Peak Oil phenomenon, we begin to see a more complete picture of what the coming decades may hold. Many people seem to think that technology will somehow save us from ourselves. How then, can we continue to make such great technological innovations in the face of a scarcity of energy? The flip side of this is that as the effects of Peak Oil become more prominent, it is highly likely, if not assured, that we will see a massive reduction in both heat emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. It is only the availability of cheap and plentiful energy, primarily in forms which are relatively easy to transport, that has enabled the massive cancer-like growth of the human population and the resulting positive feedback loop of resource depletion in an environment of fixed bounds (barring interplanetary/interstellar colonization, an idea which is vanishingly unlikely, Earth is all we have).

    There is also some evidence that a global increase in CO2 concentration is causing a global increase in vegetation, though much, if not all of this, is mitigated by our increasing resource depletion. It seems to me that the real question that Lovelock may not be able to yet answer is, "How quickly can the planet regulate itself, and exactly *where* are the "control points" beyond which the regulation fails?" I would submit that we cannot know this, even though we can look to the archaeological record for evidence of past self-regulation, the exact effect of human "intervention" in the climate remains unknown, even if we can be assured that it must inevitably have *some* negative effect.

    As regards the "Max Max"-like society--remember that a man can only possess that which he can successfully defend. Community is a basic human need, though in the future we may find our communities much smaller than we once envisioned. It would not surprise me in the least to see the human population decrease over the next century by a factor of 1,000 (5-6 million people worldwide). Such a population could probably be easily sustained, even in the face of extreme climatic change. However, it is likely that we may revert to feudal, or even pre-feudal, societies in an attempt to preserve what remains of civilization. Of course, this is quite the pessimistic scenario--perhaps, with what we now know after a couple of hundred years, give or take, of technological innovation, that we can maximize the efficiency of pre-Industrial Revolution ways of life so that we can ensure the survival of many more. The real question here is, "How much have we forgotten?" The discontinuity of human history created by the Technology Revolution may mean that while we better understand things at the micro level, we have forgotten how to operate simpler forms of existence at the macro level. How many blacksmiths are there these days? Farmers? Sa
  • Re:Film at Eleven (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DannDana (944764) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:45PM (#14483785)
    Heh, don't forget the 70's panic over the impending ice age. While now we keep hearing about the destruction of all life on earth due to global warming, in the 70's the "doom and gloomers" were screaming and yelling about the destruction of all life on earth due to falling temperatures and expanding glaciers.

    Interesting how the panic has changed in just 30 years.

  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:45PM (#14483792) Homepage Journal
    I not so sure about that -- Diamond says that government is a facet of society, and governmental collapse is a symptom of pending or occurring societal collapse. Government can also contribute to societal collapse, as it's actions or lack thereof directly affect the actions of the people in a society

    In Bill Bonner's recent book (Empire of Debt), he makes some amazes connections between failed empires and inflation/expansion. Society collapsed when government takes advantage of those in society -- overregulates, overtaxes, and overinflates the currency base. I agree with Bonner.

    This is exactly the problem. Can't see the forest for the trees -- everyone doing what is in their immediate best interests (an honest day's pay) can result in dire consequences in the long run for the entire society.

    No, that's not true. Everyone does what is in their best interest every time they make a decision. This means we're constnatly re-evaluating what "best interest" is. People think that this means they'll always do what they've always done. Government tries to keep the status quo by subsidizing industries to keep the afloat -- costing everyone else hard earned money and time. We, as humans, are able to constantly modify our lives in order to grow. This means we all can grow together. If oil starts "peaking" then we, as humans, still strive to innovate and find news ways to make energy. If the environment starts to get dirty and unliveable, we'll innovate and find new ways to live, even if it means living in huge glass enclosed societies. We're constantly changing our lives to better them -- and if that means we make it worse for the next generation, they'll find ways to innovate and survive and grow wealthier and happier.

    We need to wisely pick and choose what policies, restrictions, etc, we enact for ourselves, or else we'll burn out our resources and cause our own collapse. And how else do we enforce those policies except through government?

    We only need to think of ourselves -- that is how we make life better for us. The next generation does the same. There is no way we can destroy society or the environment so badly that no one can survive. I like to read old magazines (especially science topics) and newspapers and people have been forecasting doomsday for generations. It never happens, and things actually get better. Read the doomsday theories of when your parents were young -- not only did they not come to be, but our "doomed" generation made things better. This is always how it will be. Focus on making your life better.

    Also, historical models cannot be extrapolated to the future with certainty -- just because we've not yet hit the limit of sustainable resource use doesn't mean that no limit exists -- especially as our actions often decrease the supply of available resources.

    Society has become happier, healthier and wealthier for 6000 years. The failed societies tended to be the most tyrannical or the most focused on empire and spreading their genes. Simon didn't ignore these, necessarily. He looked at how humans not only survived the worst, but became stronger because of the worst. Who knows what will happen. Will we live in glass-covered societies in 100 years and wonder how we ever lived through the 1900s with unfiltered air, dangerous UV radiation and climate changes every 3 months? You don't know, but I know that things will always get better -- always.

    Which brings me back to my first point -- government is part of society.

    I can name nothing that government does that is a net good. Everything I see government doing helps a few (cartel cronies) at the expense of the many. My society is my family, my friends, my customers, and my suppliers. That's all I care about.
  • by radtea (464814) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:45PM (#14483793)
    Communism offered them shortened lives with no reason to want to live

    Shortened compared to what? The average lifespan in China rocketed upward in China after 1949. That's why they have a population problem. What's funny is that now that communism has lifted the nation out of the medeval mess it was in, we can see that Marx's Iron Law of History had it backwards: communism doesn't come after capitalism, but rather the other way around (no surpise to anyone who has studied the evolution of agrarian societies into mercantile ones.)

    With regard to the larger picture, it is simply wrong to suggest that only goverments can create disasters. I think the whole libertarian/socialist debate is metaphorically similar to black and white supremicists arguing. Neither side can see that its favoured race/institution is in fact not very much different in capability than the other. There may be historical differences in how and where each side has done its good and evil, but both are capable of either, and both have done a good deal of each.

    In fact, I believe war requires democracy.

    Ah, I see. I hadn't realized you were insane.
  • by buhatkj (712163) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:51PM (#14483863) Homepage
    It most likely is all total BS, but regardless it is wise to be prepared for any emergency in any way reasonable. What constitutes reasonable depends on your own discretion, but as an Eagle scout, I feel comfy with some flashlights, matches, my revolver, 2 boxes ammo, my pocket knife, and some warm clothes. I have all that stuff easily accessible in my apartment, so what ever may come, stuff it in a back pack and head for the mountains.
    I'm sure the day will come when there is some kind of disaster in my area, war, floods, whatever; When it does most of what we need is cool heads, and basic tools.
    Everything else is just melodrama.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:58PM (#14483918)
    What he is trying to say is that the same people who reject pseudo-scientific concepts like "intelligent design", seem to be willing to accept equally laughable pseudo-scientific concepts like "Gia Earth Theory". People only seem to get indignant about pseudo-science when it conflicts with their political beliefs.
  • by Hortensia Patel (101296) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:02PM (#14483979)
    Sensible post, but I disagree about nuclear war and MAD. I think humanity was just damn lucky there.

    From everything I've read on the Cuban missile crisis, the situation came incredibly close to all-out nuclear war. And "Mutual Assured Destruction" was always highly iffy because the assurance was never really mutual; the Soviet leadership mostly believed that a nuclear was was eminently survivable, and planned according. Their civil defence preparations went a long way beyond the West's "duck and cover".
  • by superwiz (655733) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:09PM (#14484057) Journal

    To say that something is too expensive to avoid may be an understatement. "Expense" at some point may become more than what is available to us. If you don't think the the global warming is real, then consider the fact that it has already began. The habitats or north pole's animals are already shrinking because the ice is thinning. The Gulf stream is already shaky. And yet we do nothing to address it. The changes we need to make in our society are too overwhelming to implement and no politician wants to be a spoil sport that says that the party is over and its time to go back to work. If we drastically reduce our energy consumption it will mean drastically reducing our living standards -- less living space, less food, crappier food, crappy public transportation instead of comfortable no-one-touches-me cars, etc. Of course, all of these already exit in the inner cities of today. The inner cities which are, in effect, governed by war lords. The inner city will not all of a sudden consume the entire planet. Rather all rural areas will empty up because of the expensive gas prices and the cities will not be able to afford services because they will be gradually becoming more expensive. The key word is gradually. Because that is how the change will occur.

    And if you think that watching the outside temperature is not such a big deal when going out, try having to decide whether to go out by watching the UV index. This is already the reality in southern Peru. Even in Lima the UV index today is 11. By comparision in Miami it is 3 and in New Jersey it is 1. And the further you get south in Peru the worse it gets. This is not a doomsday scenario for the future. It is the reality of today.

    The guy starts out the article explaining why he is not trying to be constructive. What can he say that is constructive? What can you tell an incurable cancer patient that is constructive?
  • http://tinyurl.com/dlxjm/ [tinyurl.com]The Wind from Nowhere
    http://tinyurl.com/9jtf3/ [tinyurl.com]The Drought
    (or for counterpoint)
    http://tinyurl.com/7pnh3/ [tinyurl.com]The Drowned World
    http://tinyurl.com/akd8o/ [tinyurl.com]The Crystal World
  • Re:I disagree.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RobertF (892444) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:15PM (#14484131) Homepage
    When 2/3 of the current food-producing land in the world no longer can produce food...

    I'm sorry, but honestly, where did you get that number? You make up a scary-sounding number and get modded interesting. If I went around saying that 2/3 of the women in the world are dieing to sleep with me, people would call me a loon. (Har, har). But talk about enviromental disasters and people gobble up every word.

  • by Theatetus (521747) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:42PM (#14484395) Journal
    1) it's never too late to avert an environmental disaster; it just costs more the longer you wait.

    It was too late for the Easter Islanders the moment they cut down their last tree. It was too late for the Norse in Greenland once they ate their last cow. Those were, admittedly, isolated ecosystems but there still will always be a point of no return beyond which a species is not viable in an ecosystem -- even a worldwide one.

  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:56PM (#14484551) Homepage Journal
    Actually, I've come up with a really good solution for government. I call it a unanimocracy.

    There are three rules in Dada's Unanimocracy:

    1. No law can exist with a unanimous vote of the populace -- direct democracy in ultimate form.
    2. All laws sunset after 6 years.
    3. No future laws can change any of the 3 basic rules.

    The unanimocracy will likely produce 7 different levels of government: Federal, Regional, State, County, Village, Community, Household.

    If 300,000,000 voters can't pass a law unanimously at the Federal level (let's say minimum wage), then they can try at the Regional level (3-4 states maybe). If those 40,000,000 can't pass a minimum wage law, they can try it at the State level. If those 10,000,000 can't pass the law unanimously, they can try it at the County level, and so on and so on.

    Some laws may only exist at the Household level. Some might be only at the County level -- and counties will compete for similar-believing citizens.

    Most laws will never pass at the Federal level. You might have "No murder" laws at the Federal level, but you sure won't have "No using drugs" or "No prostituting" laws at even the State level. If a law DOES pass, in 6 years it fails and must be repassed by the new voting bloc.

    This is hereby known as Dada's Unanimocracy.
  • "Shift" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Irvu (248207) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:59PM (#14484583)
    I, for one, welcome the coming shift.


    "Shift" is a funny word. And you only welcome it I suspect because you believe that you will either a) not feel it, or b) be part of tyhe "rapture" that gets to go to heaven and watch the rest of us die horribly. Either way I don't welcome it. I don't want to die. I don't want my friends to die. I don't want there to be wars that consume starving diseased populations in endless battles. Jesus didn't speak about "shifts" the notions of the rapture came from wandering preachers in the last century.

    In a world where some 2/3 of the population lives in a fe miles from sea level, our population is growing exponentially, much of our airable land is now unusable, and much of our weather has been growing increasingly unpredictable it is foolish, even egotistical to speak of "shifts" let alone to welcome them.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:01PM (#14484605)
    Incendiary foaming at the mouth "warnings of planetary illness" do our overall chances of mitigating the reality of human-caused global warming no good either. Extremists undercut the message for anyone more moderate, and more likely to actually effect change.

    I understand. And agree, to a certain extent. However I cannot help but fall back on the idea that extreme stories and happenings (assuming for the moment they are true) reported on people from the likes of the Royal Society deserve a modicum of credit. In other words, say the author is an eccentric genius, taken to fits of bombastic verbiage. Hey may also be right, and while you can call him bombastic, he does not deserve to be summarily dismissed based purely on writing style. Does that make sense? In other words, he might be a foaming-at-the-mouth incendiary character who may well have a point; it is up to me to see past the language and investigate/weigh the claim.

    I'm also sympathetic to the view of the earth acting like a living organism, in fact you can make the same argument for the whole universe. But because it looks like that doesn't actually mean it is a living thing, although I'm not sure how you'd define it at that macro a level...

    The question is whether it actually gives a shit whether or not it's hospitable to life. As a member of the Church of the Utterly Indifferent God, somehow I doubt it. It certainly will be a problem for us though.

    You reminded me of an Onion article: "God Wonders Whatever Happened To That Planet With All The Monkeys"

  • by Wellerite (935166) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:03PM (#14484616)

    From TFA:

    [Agent Smith Voice]

    We are not merely a disease; we are, through our intelligence and communication, the nervous system of the planet.

    [/Agent Smith Voice]

    A disease on this planet??? - reminds me of a movie I saw a while ago:-) Maybe this is how the skynet starts?

  • by mibus (26291) on Monday January 16, 2006 @08:19PM (#14487271) Homepage
    Asimov's "Foundation".

    The whole beginning of the book is how someone predicting doom wanted to make an encyclopedia of all knowledge to speed up the coming of the next great civilization.

    (Or so he said ;)

The idle man does not know what it is to enjoy rest.

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