Published on The Doomstead Diner on July 24, 2016
Discuss this article at the Psychology Table inside the Diner
The reasons people become Kollapsniks (followers of Collapse Dynamics) vary quite a bit. I came to collapse from the economic end, looking for the reasons behind the collapse of the investment banks Bear Stearns and Lehman brothers in 2008.
My early investigation led me to deduce it was primarily energy related, which led me to the Peak Oil forum. That forum had it's heyday slightly before I arrived on the scene in around 2006, although it was still a highly active forum with 100s of posts a day going up in 2008 when I got there. The preponderance of collapse discussion at this time revolved around economics and energy, and climate was only tangentially discussed occassionally.
During this period also, you were considered a fairly serious doomer if you suggested we would need to drop back to a 1750s style of living in order to deal with the lack of FFs and that a fairly significant number of people would have to die since the planet is in overshoot WRT Homo Saps without the extra energy input from fossil fuels. You were REALLY serious as a Doomer if you suggested the best we could do is Stone Age technology living as Hunter-Gatherers. There were a few people suggesting Extinction might be in the cards, but none of them suggested it would happen on an extremely short timeline, on the order of 20 years from present day or even less. Even those who did suggest it were a relatively small number in the commentariat.
In the intervening years though, deterioration in the climate with more and bigger disasters each year and steadily rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere has brought a new and rising number of Kollapsniks into the community, the Klimate Kollapsnik.
The KK is barely concerned with economics at all, what worries her or him are all the dieing fishes as the ocean acidifies, along with dying phytoplankton who we will suffocate without their production of oxygen. All of this gets blamed on the Great Evil occupying the Planet, Homo Sap. VERMIN IN NEED OF EXTERMINATION! Homo Sap is responsible for all our ongoing and escalating problems due to burning FFs and turning the planet into an industrial sewer. As a result, folks holding these views are becoming increasingly more prevalent across the collapse blogosphere, increasingly more nihilistic about possible outcomes and increasingly more misanthropic in their attitude toward their fellow Homo Saps. A fairly common meme now amongst this crowd is that Homo Saps DESERVE to DIE, and the SOONER THE BETTER!
Identifying where this meme began is fairly EZ if you have been following collapse dynamics on the blogosphere these last 8 years, it began on Guy McPherson's Nature Bats Last website. Guy was one of the first people to call for not just Human Extinction, but NEAR TERM Human Extinction, with his timeline constantly getting shorter on this, now to the point of calling it for 2020 according to some of his readers, although last I checked it was 2030. Either way, that is a remarkably short timeline to 7.2B DEAD PEOPLE!
I participated on NBL for a couple of years in the commentariat, generally making the case that Extinction is an inevitability but that such a short timeline is highly unlikely and in the meantime you need to figure out how to survive a changing climate, because for whatever the underlying reasons are for this, it's definitely changing. However, my attitude of trying to find solutions to a very nasty problem here was not well received in the NBL commentariat because it was deemed to be infused with too much HOPIUM. Having ANY hope whatsoever that ANY Homo Saps can survive coming changes was considered DELUSIONAL. Dr. McStinksion, the Great Guru of Death himself has proclaimed that it is HOPELESS. We're ALL GONNA DIE.
The effect of this leadership position by Guy drew in to the NBL commentariat a lot of serious nihilists and misanthropes, mainly from long time environmental activists who have experienced failure after failure for the last 40 years in terms of trying to get anything about BAU changed in any real significant way. Their conclusion now is that the BEST outcome that can occur is for Homo Sap to DIE as soon as possible, in order to perhaps save a few beloved trees and other animals.
There is a kind of confirmation bias ongoing here amongst these folks, Dr. McStinksion included. Since they WANT Homo Sap to die, they cherry pick every piece fo data they can dig up to demonstrate it will happen. AND SOON! No evidence to the contrary is tolerated, no argument that we can transition off FFs is acceptable. If you have the temerity to make such an argument on NBL you are brigaded in the commentariat as the Extinction Hound Dogs are let loose and ridicule you as hopelessly deluded.
As a result of this, I left the NBL commentariat behind a year or two ago now. Although I enjoy a good argument, the place was simply too fucking DEPRESSING. Not a thread goes by where people don't talk about suicide. You can't propose ideas for making things better because…IT'S HOPELESS! So all that gets discussed is how Evil Homo Saps are and whether suicide is a good option here? Even if you believe this to be true, is this really the way you want to spend your last days on Earth? Wallowing in Suicidal Misery?
Now, this would not be a terrific problem if it was confined to NBL, I just knock that one off my Blogroll of websites to read and chat up collapse issues. In the last year or so though, I am noting that the problem has metasticized. I also participate on the Reddit Sub r/collapse, and haunting the commentariat there are numerous fans of Dr. McStinksion, led by one regular commenter FishMahBoi who is obsessed with the possibility that Cannibalism will be a prominent feature of the oncoming extinction.
I also cross post and regularly talk on the Collapse Cafe with Gail Tverberg who runs the Our Finite World blog. I don't drop in the commentariat there too often, but after her last article I did so because I take issue with her cockamamie anthropological arguments that Homo Saps must have Fire because we have small jaws and need to cook our food. Mostly we had a fairly genial discussion about our conflicting opinions on this topic, but again OFW has a very prolific poster Fast Eddy, who is yet another nihilist/misanthrope. You can't make a positive comment on OFW these days without FE dropping in to accuse you of holding a passport to DelusiSTAN. The commentariat of OFW USED to be fairly balanced with people proposing different ideas and possible solutions, but they seem to have mostly disappeared as the overwhelming meme now in that comentariat is that Homo Sap is doomed and no solution will work. Although she is more cagey about it than Dr. McStinksion, you can tell Gail herself holds out no hope. She is convinced Homo Saps must have fire to survive, convinced we will be unable to extract the expensive FFs left due to economic reasons and then will proceed to burn down all forests on earth in the insatiable Quest for Fire. So this attitude attracts the nihilists and misanthropes into the commentariat, and then they come to dominate because they depress the hell out of everyone else and then people holding opposing opinions stop reading and/or contributing.
Now, given the fact I titled my blog the Doomstead Diner, you probably figure I am a pretty negative person myself WRT how things are going to progress as we move further down the Collapse Highway. Compared to the average J6P and even many people who frequent collapse websites I am pretty Doomy, since I forsee a large scale die off of the Homo Sap population occuring over the next century, 90% or even 99% of current population seems likely to me to go to the Great Beyond. That could cut Homo Sap population down to the millions from the current billions. That's a lot of DEAD PEOPLE.
I also am completely aware of the climate problems we face, and the likelihood that over some timeframe here we will get an ocean level rise which will inundate most of the major cities, which is one of the many areas die off will come from. We'll also have disease problems as sewage systems go offline and as clean water becomes less available to the population. We'll have famine as aquifers are drained dry and we'll have wars as the remaining populations fight over the few resources that remain. This is an old story, the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, with the only real significant difference the scale of the operation they will undertake this time.
One difference from prior events of this type often brought up is the presence of the NUKES, specifically the spent fuel ponds which need to be actively cooled for decades. While they are a nasty problem, I don't see them as existentially threatening, at least not the reactors, the ICBMs could be. One can only HOPE the maniacs with their fingers on the Button have enough CFS to keep from pushing that button in the MAD scenario.
In the event of a crash of the system, the spent fuel can be moved to places like Yucca Mountain. In the absence of active cooling, this stuff will melt down, but not go super critical if not packed too tight. The desert there is going to be unlivable ANYHOW due to climate change and there is no water table left to speak of to pollute there. It just becomes a no-go zone for a million years or so.
Some radionucleotides will be emitted as gases, and this will likely raise background radiation levels up some, but not by that much we can't survive it. Likeliest outcome there is a rise in infant mortality, greater cancer frequency and a shorter overall lifespan, at least at the beginning. Over time however, this radiation will dissipate.
So what you are left with here is a Binary if you are a serious Kollapsnik. Either there will be SOME people left (however small the number), or there will be NOBODY left. For the Nihilists & Misanthropes, they HOPE for the termination of Homo Sap as a species, so they latch on to every piece of evidence they can find to justify this conclusion.
For myself on the other side of this binary divide, I look for evidence to establish the opposite is true, that SOME people can survive.
The most important piece of evidence in this respect is the geological history of the Earth, which has gone through numerous periods of heating and cooling, numerous periods where carbon was released into the atmosphere and then re-sequestered, up to something like 4000ppm, an order of magnitude higher than the current atmospheric content of carbon. The Max AGT the earth experiences during these cycles has an upper limit, around 11C above the current baseline. So the question is here, can Homo Sap survive an environment where the AGT is 11C above the current one?
Well, not in many if not most places on the earth we currently inhabit, that's for sure. The Tropics are pretty certain to be Hell Holes, they already are in some places during summer with new records being set all the time for high temps. We already postulated we will lose a lot of current low lying coastal areas to sea level rise. So habitat will shrink, but will it entirely DISAPPEAR? Never has before, so I don't see why it would this time either. Both the upper latitudes and the upper elevations on the remaining land mass are likely to have survivable habitats. Rainfall in some areas is increasing to flood proportions, in other areas decreasing to drought proportions. Between the two, there are "sweet spots" where just the RIGHT amount of rain falls.
What about the fact that certain crops are adapted to certain environments, and because this change is occuring rapidly they won't have time to adapt?
Well, in this case Homo Sap can actually be HELPFUL, since as we migrate we can bring the seeds from one place to another and back into a suitable climate to grow those crops.
What about Poor Soil in many places in the North which have not been suitable for growing plants over the last few millenia? Well, soil isn't really necessary, plants can be grown through Hydroponics and Aquaculture. Over time, the compost from this can be used for soil ammendation, and gradually improve that end of food production, thus gradually bringing the population back up from a period of Undershoot to one of stability and sustainability.
You can of course go on and on with what the logistical problems are and why our current political systems will not allow for the necessary changes to be made fast enough. However, one thing is pretty certain here, which is that once we hit a period where half the population on earth dies within a few years, there will be significant changes in the political will of the people still left standing! Will they be able to organize and make the necessary changes as this progresses? That is an open question you can't answer for sure, since at least in recorded history Homo Sap has never faced such an existential challenge. However, this again is an area where I prefer to think POSITIVELY rather than NEGATIVELY, and simply assume everybody will start cannibalizing everyone else. Cannibalism may occur, it certainly has in the past in times of deprivation. It has limits though, and people generally only do this down to a certain point where they can once again gather enough other foods than their fellow Homo Saps.
In the end here if you are a Kollapsnik, you have 2 choices. Either you can be nihilistic about the whole thing and QUIT with the philosophy that there is nothing you can do to stop it or even just help yourself survive a bit longer, or you can take a POSITIVE philosophy and make attempts to survive and also to sow the seeds of a better society and a Better Tomorrow sometime in the admittedly distant future, as it appears now. Your days on earth are numbered no matter which way this goes, everyone ends up dead in the end no matter what. So WTF does anyone want to live out their last days on earth mired in misery bemoaning their own extinction?
Not to pull any punches here, WTF don't these folks just OFF THEMSELVES NOW? They might save a few trees and cockroaches, both of which have more redeeming social value than nihilists. Do everyone a favor and pull the plug already! At the very least, it would make the Collapse Blogosphere a whole lot less depressing!
For the rest of us, where there is life, there is still hope. It looks grim to be sure, but it is always darkest before the dawn. It's not OVAH until the Fat Lady Sings, and she's not singing yet. Skinny Little Girls are singing though, and cheer up here! The SUN☼ will come out tomorrow!