Why we fail

Victor Lebow's 1955 description of how consumers must be grown

24327 votes for:
‘Keep Dropbox simple. Just make sure it’s fast, robust, multiplatform and bug free. ‘

59 votes for:
Go Green! Run your data centres with renewables!

Homo fatuus brutus doesn’t deserve to survive.

Meanwhile, in other news…

Leave it in the ground!
^ an article by Stephen Leahy, in which he points out (among other things) that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is currently meeting in Bonn, Germany.

One of the other things he points out is:

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere will likely hit 400 parts per million (ppm) this May. That will be the first time in at least three million years.

Happy May Day.

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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7 Responses to Why we fail

  1. penpusherpen says:

    oh well, not all bad news then, ;-) I shall instantly go and consume everything in sight, just point me in the right direction though my gimlet eyed stare.. . x


  2. ccgwebmaster says:

    When a sufficiently large proportion of a population is exterminated, evolution can be rapid. I think that’s because only genes helpful to the organism in that context are selected for – the rest are discarded. Notwithstanding the nature vs nurture debate – a lot of human behavioural patterns (or at least the propensity for them) is encoded genetically.

    The question then is (assuming an incomplete cull) will a sufficient proportion of genes favouring a propensity for behaviours that not only survive short term, but address things long term properly be prevalent or not? If not, we will repeat iterations of this until we are extinct or categorically unable to achieve effects on such a wide scale.

    If so, it might seem a rather cold viewpoint on the matter to most – but I’d argue it’s the little glimmer of hope for the very long term future of our species – given the present population patently and almost entirely fails to appreciate the issue and their role in it. Being doomed is a choice technically – or it was for some decades at least.


    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree with what you say, and would add that aside from genetic traits and individual nurture, another element is generational cultural knowledge. Of which our species has already lost a great deal in the last few decades, and as technology and social infrastructure ‘improves’ and we become ever more reliant upon it, this introduces another potential point of failure in the event of a cull.

      To illustrate. Me: I can spell; I can type; I can do lots of nerdy geeky things that are totally useless in a basic survival environment. Now, I’ve seen rabbits and pheasants running around locally. But, should I have to, I wouldn’t have a clue how to go about trapping one*, skinning one, preparing it for dinner. I’m pretty sure my grandfather would probably have known this — or, if not, then certainly his father would — but they’re no longer around to ask. And in any case: the few edible animals running wild in the locale would no longer be running, having all met someone else’s pot in short order…

      * (On the other hand, I fear for the future of the pet cats in the neighbourhood. I very much doubt that a softie like me could kill my own cat no matter how hungry I might get, but I know some people who don’t like cats in the first place. Come to think of it, my cat’s quite likely to chew the flesh off my bones in my sleep once I can no longer buy him catfood…)


      • ccgwebmaster says:

        You’ve pretty much summed up why I think we stand to potentially regress to the stone age. There is no safety net worthy of note to provide any sort of manageable technological regression. That’s why I predicate my longer term thinking on effectively starting from zero.

        You’re right if you’re also alluding that it also presents a substantial additional vulnerability to western societies. The UK of course is somewhat worse again – the population density is far above the carrying capacity and even if everyone knew how to catch pheasants and rabbits – there quite simply is nowhere near enough of them to catch.

        Some people would say snare rabbits but not consider how they will make more wire for snares later. Other materials may be easier for the rabbit to chew through. While I’m a strong believer that problems tend to have solutions I think one has to reduce to fundamentals to come up with longer term strategy here (regardless of the arguable need for a short term strategy to even get to the point where a long term one matters). Either way it’s necessary to solve problems on the fly too as one can’t foresee everything.

        People should think more about the remarkable feats that were every day life for “primitive” man. Our hominid ancestors (even when genetically they basically were us) marched across the world armed with little more than fire and maybe pointy sticks. Behold so many of their ultimate descendants, blinded by technology, claiming that it is “impossible” to survive without it.


  3. Wyrd Smythe says:

    The world is still filled with people who know how to hunt, fish and grow, especially in the undeveloped countries that still depend on it. The thing about non-industrialized versions of that is they only provide for a small number. The reason the human race grew to the size it did (and continues at the rate of 200,000+ per day) is that technology and industry allowed it.

    The reason larger hunter/gatherer tribes were usually nomadic was that they tended to use up the available game in a given area. Farmers allow their fields to be occasionally fallow so that the fields can recharge. A large enough group (say small town-sized) hunting an area will deplete the resources of that area (as you point out). Feeding a city requires industrialization.

    Now, I do know how to hunt and fish and grow, so I’d be fine with living by myself, or with a small group, in the wilderness. I used to spend 10 days every summer with a buddy doing rough camping (you only have what you haul in) up in Canada. It’s a wonderful escape, but after 10 days, it sure is nice to return to hot showers, ice-cold beer and cable TV.

    Oops, I got sidetracked. What I meant to say was that we did indeed hit 400 ppm. The Bad Astronomer wrote a couple of good articles about it:



    It isn’t just that we hit 400 ppm. It’s that the rate of growth has never happened before, even millions of years ago when there was a lot more CO2 in the air (and the place was quite warm). We’ve gone and spiked it in an incredibly short time, and that provides little time for adaptation.


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