Sometimes I hear a band I really like that I shouldn't like — post-punk revival, noise rock?
Time to wake up now.
Savages — Silence Yourself
- She Will
- Shut Up
- City's Full
- Waiting For A Sign
On Tuesday the President laid out his plan to end-run the Congress and allow the EPA to regulate carbon emissions from existing coal plants. The plan didn't get much attention in the press because the Supremes were very busy this week eviscerating the Voting Rights act and letting gays get married in California.
You can find an informed discussion of the plan at the Wonkblog, from which I took this chart.
On the eve of the President's speech, the almost-completely-useless Pew Research Center released the results of a poll on international threats.
I can personally attest to the lack of interest in the climate. Traffic to DOTE always goes down when I talk about global warming, especially when I put it in the title like I did today.
Also note that human destruction of life in the oceans didn't even make the list, as we would expect. On the other hand, the nuclear programs of North Korea (59% of Americans) and Iran (54% of Americans) did. That tells you all you need to know about the Human Prospect right there.
Obama has run in the last election of his political career, so there's no penalty for him personally to take a "strong" position on climate change. Not too strong, though. He said building the Keystone Pipeline would depend on whether doing so would "significantly exacerbate" global emissions. However, the State Department had already concluded that the pipeline is a wash emissions-wise. Predictably, Obama's initiative got the usual criticisms from the political Right — it's a war on coal, etc.
The president's proposals will be challenged in the courts and the Congress for years to come. Nothing much will happen.
And what is the point of all this nonsense? The point is that this political back-and-forth is more than likely the best humans can do about global environmental problems which they themselves created, not only here in the United States but elsewhere as well. The fact that most Americans don't give a damn about global warming is merely another factor driving further procrastination, which is understandable because political wrangling is a Black Hole from which no genuine solution to a real problem has ever escaped. Once the climate issue became politicized, lack of effective, concerted action on the issue was guaranteed.
That's depressing isn't it? But that's how humans work.
And of course I have tried over and over again on DOTE to explore the deep roots of our inability to confront and solve these kinds of self-created global problems.
I myself am extremely depressed, and I can't decide whether writing this blog alleviates that depression or makes it worse. I thought there was some benefit in pointing out human limitations, but now I'm not so sure. Such confusion naturally arises from the depression itself.
Have a nice weekend.
Bonus Video — Aimee Mann can hardly believe how her life turned out. Except for a few minor details, she could be talking about me writing DOTE — "I can't believe I'm doing what I'm doing!"
This week saw the release of a new study in PLOS ONE with the unwieldy title Identifying the World's Most Climate Change Vulnerable Species: A Systematic Trait-Based Assessment of all Birds, Amphibians and Corals. This text is from a press release from the University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, SA)
Vertebrate extinction rates are currently estimated to be 10–100 times greater than background, largely due to the effects of habitat loss, over-exploitation and invasive species. However, anthropogenic climate change is becoming a significant new threat...
Most species at greatest risk from climate change are not currently conservation priorities, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) study that has introduced a pioneering method to assess the vulnerability of species to climate change.
Up to 83% of birds, 66% of amphibians and 70% of corals that were identified as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are therefore unlikely to be receiving focused conservation attention, according to the study.
“The findings revealed some alarming surprises,” says Foden, who conducted the study while formerly working for the IUCN Global Species Programme. “We hadn’t expected that so many species and areas that were not previously considered to be of concern would emerge as highly vulnerable to climate change. Clearly, if we simply carry on with conservation as usual, without taking climate change into account, we’ll fail to help many of the species and areas that need it most"...
Species that are highly climate change vulnerable but are not currently threatened potentially represent new priorities for conservation. These include 1,715–4,039 (17–41%) bird species, 698–1,807 (11–29%) amphibian species and 74–174 (9–22%) coral species, and represent 74–83%, 51–66% and 61–70% of all highly climate change vulnerable birds, amphibians and corals respectively.
Figure 4 from the study — Climate change vulnerability under different emissions scenarios.
Red, black, and blue lines represent the percentages of highly climate change vulnerable species under high (A2), mid-range (A1B) and low (B1) emissions scenarios for birds (A), amphibians (B) and corals (C) for 1975–2050 and 1975–2090. Optimistic and pessimistic estimates for missing biological trait data are represented by solid and dashed lines respectively.
When you see such a study, you need to ask how much warming are we talking about? I discussed the high emissions A2 scenario in The Earth's Climate — Rethinking "Rethinking Wedges". We get about 2.5° C of warming by 2060 under A2. The other scenarios (A1B, B) yield less warming under standard assumptions. Future warming is likely to be in the range coverd by these three scenarios. In Figure 4 above, we note that increasing bird and amphibian vulnerability rates begin to level off in 2060, though coral vulnerability does not.
The "higher" animals, the vertebrates and many invertebrates, are vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change in the 21st century because of the rapidity of the warming. When the environment changes in a radical way, animal species have exactly three options.
The swiftness of the warming precludes option #1 for most animals, and option #2 provides only limited, temporary protection in many cases. If this warming were occurring over 10,000 years, or 100,000 years, many animals might have a chance adapt to the change with only minor physiological or behavioral modifications. (Many species would still eventually go extinct.) Moreover, the limits of option #2 are made worse by the fact that many animals must exist in a hostile human-built environment. A large percentage of birds, amphibians and corals are therefore left only with option #3, as per this study.
This was an IUNC-sponsored study, as was mentioned in the opening quote. I will quote from a October 17, 2012 press release about the palms of Madagascar.
Hyderabad, India — Eighty three percent of Madagascar’s palms are threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of local people at risk, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The update brings the total number of species listed on The IUCN Red List to 65,518, of which 20,219 are threatened with extinction.
That's 31% of the assessed species. Today's study tells us that percentage is too low if climate change proceeds apace.
Again, I would like to bring your attention to the full name of this organization. It is called the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The Conservation of Nature — think about what that phrase actually means.
When the global economy crashed in early 2009, central banks 1) sprang into action; or 2) went totally bonkers, depending on your point of view. It appears that we have reached the end of the "new normal" phase in global civilization's "progression" toward ... we don't know what—as least in the short- to mid-term. Is it the end of life as we know it? Certainly not. Is it the beginning of a global renaissance? Certainly not. Whatever it is, it isn't going to be pretty.
There's way too much worrisome stuff going on in global economies and markets for me to sum it all up, let alone tell you the meaning of it all. But the time has come to warn you that there are dark clouds on the horizon.
Here are some recent articles to look at, with short quotes and perhaps a comment from yours truly.
1. When the Ben and Bejing party comes to an end (Reuters)
Through the dark days of the financial crisis, and the grey days of the halting recovery that have followed, investors have always been able to count on backing from two sources - Ben Bernanke and Beijing.
They have provided stimulus, mainly by pumping funds into the U.S. and Chinese economies in various ways, when other pillars of support had become unreliable.
That helps to explain why global financial markets took such a beating last week when both signaled that they are getting tired of being leant on so heavily...
In short, the monetary stimulus party is over, or soon will be, or the end is in sight.
2. The worst is yet to come for emerging markets (Financial Post)
Everywhere investors look, the emerging market story appears to be unravelling...
Massive amounts of foreign money are being pulled out of emerging market funds. Outflows have hit their highest level in two years, with data from EPFR Global showing more than US$19-billion left between May 22 and June 12 — a pace that hasn’t been seen since the height of the European sovereign debt crisis in 2011. It also takes a big chunk out of the roughly US$31-billion brought in during the first quarter of this year.
The stampede to the exits started last month when the U.S. Federal Reserve first hinted it would scale down its US$85-billion a month asset-buying program...
Now that the source of that cash is about to be cut off, emerging markets are set to face a reckoning that could damage their economies and drag out the recent sell-off in assets.
“From a structural perspective, something deeper is developing in certain emerging markets,” said Pierre Lapointe, head of global strategy and research at Pavilion Corp. “Structural problems are now being revealed by the impending tapering of quantitative easing and the medium-term trend in these markets has changed for the worse.”
Countries that have current account deficits face the biggest risk, with Turkey being a prime example of such a country. It averaged eye-popping economic growth of 9% from 2010 to 2011, but last year that growth slowed sharply to 2.2% as the inflow of foreign money began drying up. Turkey imports more than it exports, and much of its previous economic growth was boosted by investors eager to sink their cash into a country that had a much more attractive growth profile than the moribund economies of the developed world.
Turkey is not the only "emerging market"—it is an OECD nation—taking a hit...
3. India records slowest growth in a decade (Financial Times, subscription required)
India’s economy grew at 5 per cent in the financial year to March, the slowest rate in a decade of rapid expansion, the Central Statistics Office said on Friday.
In the latest quarter that ended on March 31, gross domestic product grew 4.8 per cent year-on-year, in line with economists’ forecasts and only slightly above the 4.7 per growth rate recorded in the preceding three months.
Economists blame India’s relatively sluggish growth over the past year on a reluctance by foreign or domestic business to invest because of poor infrastructure for power and transport, uncertainties over taxation, bureaucratic delays and continued restrictions on foreign direct investment.
4. South African growth weakens to slowest since 2009 (Financial Times)
Gross domestic product grew by 0.9 per cent on a quarter-on-quarter basis, down from 2.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2012 and significantly below the consensus forecast of 1.6 per cent, data released by Statistics South Africa showed on Tuesday.
5. Indonesia trade deficit underlines commodity weakness (Financial Times)
Southeast Asia’s biggest economy recorded a trade deficit of $1.6bn, when most economists had been forecasting a small surplus, adding to concerns about the deteriorating current account position and the weakness in the rupiah.
With a large, young population, booming domestic market and plentiful natural resources, Indonesia has become one of the world’s hottest emerging markets over recent years.
However, investors have become more cautious over the past 12 months as economic growth has started to slow, the current account has fallen into a deficit and policy making has taken a protectionist turn ahead of elections next year.6. Brazil’s Economic Growth Disappoints for Fifth Quarter (Bloomberg)
Brazil's growth unexpectedly slowed in the first quarter, complicating government efforts to revive the economy as it battles inflation. Swap rates fell.
The economy expanded 0.55 percent in the January-March period, the national statistics agency said today in Rio de Janeiro. Gross domestic product increased less than the 0.9 percent median forecast of analysts polled by Bloomberg, the fifth straight quarter of slower-than-forecast growth. On an annualized basis, the expansion decelerated to 2.2 percent, down from 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Investors are paring bets the central bank tonight will accelerate the pace of monetary tightening to rein in inflation near the 6.5 percent upper limit of its target range. President Dilma Rousseff’s government over the past year has lowered borrowing costs to a record low, cut taxes and slashed utility rates in a bid to stimulate growth -- so far to little avail.
“The growth deceleration shows that the economic recovery has not manifested itself,” Kathryn Rooney Vera, macroeconomic strategist at Bulltick Capital Markets LP, said by telephone from Miami today. “The plan of attack has not panned out.”
That should be more than enough to convince you that the "new normal" of the period 2009-2013 is not going to be with us much longer. Economic growth in the 34 OECD ("developed") economies stagnated during this period, but global growth was supported by the booming emerging economies. (See The Guardian's OECD Economic Outlook - get the data). Now the emerging economies are slowing dramatically, which will further stunt already weak "growth" in the OECD nations, including phony GDP prints in the United States.
The "new normal" was anything but normal, and so was the "normal" which preceded it. Anybody with a functioning brain could see that dumping boatloads of liquidity into global markets was going to end sooner rather than later. China is trying to manage its failing banking system even as I write this (video below).
What now? The prognosis for the global economy isnt' good, but look on the bright side—there will likely be a sharp decrease in the growth of global CO2 emissions as economic growth in the emerging economies grinds to a halt.
My apologies to Billy Shakespeare.
There was a brief but frenzied sell-off in the markets last week when Ben Bernanke intimated that one day quantitative easing will end and short-term interest rates will rise. But of course the damage has already been done, another sad turn of events which is most clearly seen in the U.S. housing market. I've devoted some time to this issue lately, and it is still worth writing about because denial regarding "the recovery" is still running high. Of course that's not unusual in human affairs.
I was especially interested in CNN Money's Surging home sales raise new housing bubble fears (June 20, 2013).
The home price growth is too fast, and only additional supply from new homebuilding can moderate future price growth," said Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. He said there needs to be a 50% increase in home building.
Whoa! I think we need to look at new housing starts.
The latest data on single family homes and completions, from Calculated Risk
Are you a gambling man? Would you say the odds are pretty good that there will be a 50% increase in new home starts and completions in the next year?
The median home price jumped 8% from the previous month to $208,000, according to NAR.
While month-to-month price swings are not unusual, the year-over-year rise is now 15%, and prices are at levels last seen in the summer of 2008, just before the bursting of the housing bubble.
Previously we have noted the distressing fact that institutional buyers (making cash-only purchases) account for an outsized share of home purchases. We have further seen that lenders are keeping houses off the market to boost prices. This new housing bubble is nothing like the old one.
"The boom period was marked by easy credit and overbuilding, but today we have tight mortgage credit and widespread shortages of homes for sale," he said.
The improved housing market and mortgage rates still near record lows, despite a recent rise in rates, is pulling buyers back in the market faster than it's prompting sellers to put homes on the market.
Buyer traffic is 29% above a year ago, but the supply of homes for sale is actually down 10%.
That's caused homes to sell much more quickly — only 41 days on the market on average in May, about a month faster than a year ago, with nearly half the homes being sold in less than a month.
Prices are skyrocketing. The time to buy is now! Who knew that housing bubbles come in so many varieties?
On this subject, you can also re-read The Fed Engineers A Phony Recovery.
To encourage more reader participation, perhaps you could suggest a name for the as-yet-unnamed bubble. Alternatively, you could give Bernanke & Company a big raspberry.
Or you can try to score some heroin and mainline it just like Benny does when he fucks with the housing market.
I am retiring the Sunday post. This will be the last one. Many DOTE regular readers check in on Sunday, so this one's for you. This article has two parts. In the first one, I will go through some typical human bullshit. In the second part, I will talk generally about how to do what I do.
Reader Lucas W. from Hawaii sent me an email recently which directed me to Building a Better World for All: The Power of Narrative and Cooperation by Suzanne York, a senior writer for the overpopulation site HowMany.org. Before I get into it, I want to say that I am not singling her out for special treatment; she is no more or less clueless than thousands of other people who write about the Big Issues.
Interconnectedness. Community. Cooperation. Creating narratives. Social justice. Sustainability for all. These are just some of the themes that came up over and over again at the recent U.S. Society for Ecological Economics 7th Biennial Conference.
Lots of "feel good" words there.
The official theme was “Building Local, Scaling Global: Implementing Solutions for Sustainability.” For the most part, speakers and participants had a positive outlook for the future, yet the fear of “societal collapse” was often lurking.
Yes, general optimism or "collapse soon" pessimism. Why are these the only choices? I explained that in DOTE Has No Natural Constituency.
There was no disagreement that humanity is at a junction: do we continue with business as usual, or finally take the bull by the horns and create an environmentally-sound and socially just world? And looming over the path to a better world is the concern of whether or not we can we get there fast enough.
Changing the Narrative
Many presenters believed that creating a narrative could help people confront our dire environmental and social problems. Marta Ceroni, of the Donella Meadows Institute, stated that “Stories help us determine what we see and what we believe is possible.” The power of narrative was a recurring theme throughout the three-day meeting.
Even William Rees, an ecologist and ecological economist – and also a realist [???] when it comes to discussing the state of our world – noted, “Our challenge is to deliberately construct a new, more adaptive cultural narrative” (one that takes into account science and human behavior).
Rees, a co-creator of the ecological footprint, emphasized that no species in nature grows continuously, and said that people are in denial of societal collapse. It’s hard to argue that he’s wrong. The United Nations just released revised population growth predictions, projecting a world of 9.6 billion by 2050. And as the USSEE conference disbanded, early season fires were raging in Colorado, a tornado threatened Washington, DC, and protests continued to erupt in Turkey.
We need to create a new narrative? We've already got narratives out the yin-yang. The problem with these narratives is that they are all bullshit. Thus these happy ecological economists concluded that if only we create a new brand of bullshit just like all the other optimistic bullshit we've already got, humanity will be saved.
I also note that raging fires in Colorado, tornadoes around Washington D.C. and protests in Turkey do not a societal collapse make.
Taking Action, Creating Hope
It’s easy to think that the problems confronting us are insurmountable, and that it’s too late. Yet assuming the worst may lead to a “why bother” mentality and inaction. We know what we need to do, and have the skills to solve even overwhelming issues. Josh Farley, with the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, noted, along with many others, that the problems we face require cooperation to solve.
So the question boils down to can we overcome political, social, and environmental obstacles and act fast enough? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime
we can create the narrative that there is time – and hope – to get to that environmentally-sound and socially just world.
Sigh. This is some very weak bullshit, the non-solution solution. Yet, this is the kind of "thinking" that humans pin their hopes on. Those of us who know that the worst is coming—based on a good enough view of Human Nature and the observable trends which inform it—see nothing wrong with a "why bother" mentality and inaction.
Seeing The Signal In The Noise
Reader Lucas W. said some good things about this bullshit, including this—
Ms. York is real heavy on the self-delusion as is usual for those who talk of "the power of narrative". She simply lacks the self-awareness to realize, that all she is doing, is pouring the old wine of eternal unchanging human nature into a new narrative skin. I cannot think of a more fruitless activity.
It is always gratifying to me when DOTE readers see through the kind of bullshit Ms. York was offering up. Pouring the old wine of eternal unchanging human nature into a new narrative skin—I like that! That's exactly what Ms. York did.
Now, I want to talk about seeing the true signal (patterns) in the human noise. For example, we see what Suzanna York said, and we see that it is the same old hopeful bullshit we've grown accustomed to. That's the signal, and what she says otherwise is the noise. I have pointed out many such patterns on DOTE, including but not limited to the following—
1. the innate urge to growth in populations and/or consumption. (Birth rates decrease as wealth & consumption grow.)
2. the usual optimistic narrative and Obligatory Hope in the face of overwhelming contradictory empirical evidence which precludes hope and optimism (as in today's example). Also my post Dear Dr. Kelemen — You're The Problem.
3. the "technnological fix" which I described in Psychotherapy For Homo Sapiens. Also see The De-Extinction Fantasy or any of my climate geo-engineering posts, including Saving Marine Ecosystems With Alka-Seltzer.
4. the "too little, too late" behavior in which humans finally attempt to fix a problem when it's already so far gone that little can be done about it. For example, see my recent post The Experiment That Hasn't Been Tried about the oysters of Chesapeake Bay, or A Conservation "Success" Story about the Huemul, a species of endangered deer native to Patagonia.
5. the "politics makes you stupid" phenomenon in which pending planetary catastrophes are viewed a run-of-the-mill political issues and thus subject to the same gamesmanship which determines who will get tax breaks and who won't. This is one method by which humans avoid action on the climate, the oceans, etc.
These are the signals in the noise, and there are many others. DOTE has evolved, and more and more the idea has been to point out these characteristic behavior patterns so as to
demonstrate them by example, thereby teaching others to see them, or
provide a place to go for people who had already noticed these behavior patterns.
To see the signal in the noise, it is necessary to arrive at a place where you can apply conscious filtering of the constant waves of bullshit humans throw up around any subject. You've got to see through the usual smokescreen. The article cited above is a good example because Suzanna York attempts to blow a lot of smoke up your ass about the importance of creating new narratives as if there is something new in doing that.
As Lucas W. pointed out, Ms. York doesn't have the self-awareness required to see through her own bullshit, to see that she's offering up more of the same nonsense which prevents rather than promotes effective action to fix the enormous problems we humans have created. Humans are story-telling animals, and that's not good. They need to stop bullshitting themselves and each other, and start dealing with the awful truth about themselves. That's the only key to effective action, if there is one. See my post Authentic Versus False Hope.
The required filtering is nothing like confirmation bias in which a person (unconsciously) selects (cherry-picks) only that information which supports his or her pre-existing beliefs. Such bias is ubiquitous in human narratives, and naturally can only lead to more noise (bullshit). This cognitive bias affects optimists and pessimists alike, but optimistic narratives dominate almost all human discussions. Stick with the current facts and the historical trends, especially when optimists start spinning Tall Tales.
Your job, which is a lot like Mission Impossible, is to become aware of confirmation bias and disgard it. This is not easily done, but it is possible. You need to filter all the noise, not just some of it. It took me most of my 60 years on this planet to achieve this.
I've looked in vain for true exceptions to the behavior patterns I have described on DOTE. I'm convinced that true exceptions don't exist, or are so rare that they might as well not exist—they are the exceptions that prove the rule. In short, human behavior (discounting unimportant details) is utterly predictable.
Thus we see that human beings live in a deluded state. They generate endless quantities of bullshit, and at any given moment, they believe the bullshit they are purveying. Figuring out what is noise and identifying the underlying signal the noise obscures is the key to understanding human behavior, and thus the key to understanding the human future on this planet.
I was parked at my local watering hole getting shit-faced with a young Afghanistan vet who told me how much he loved the blues.
"Son," I said, "let me tell you about the blues..."
The SETI program listens for signals from alien civilizations, but METI (messaging to extraterrestrial intelligence, active SETI) sends messages from Earth to the stars. Such programs have been rare and controversial up to now, but the folks at Lone Signal aims to change that. Lone Signal will broadcast the First Continuous Message Beacon to Find and Say Hello to an Extraterrestrial Civilization.
Although scientists have been listening for years to search for indications of other sentient life in the Universe, just a few efforts have been made by humans to purposefully send out messages to the cosmos. Called METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence) or Active SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), these messages have so far been just one-time bursts of info – or “pulses in time” said Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra.
Haqq-Misra is leading a team of scientists and entrepreneurs who are launching a new initiative called “Lone Signal” which will send the first continuous mass “hailing messages” out into space, starting later this month. They’ll be specifically targeting one star system, Gliese 526, which has been identified as a potentially habitable solar system.
Potentially habitable? More on that below.
“From the start we wanted to be an experiment where anyone on Earth could participate,” said Haqq-Misra during a press event on June 11, 2013, announcing the project.
“Our scientific goals are to discover sentient beings outside of our solar system,” said Lone Star co-founder Pierre Fabre, also speaking at the event. “But an important part of this project is to get people to look beyond themselves and their differences by thinking about what they would say to a different civilization. Lone Signal will allow people to do that.”
Lone Signal will be using the recommissioned radio dish at the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel, California, one of the dishes used to carry the Apollo Moon landings live to the world [image above].
A continuous wave signal and your tweets will be sent to Gliese 526, a red dwarf star 17.6 light years from Earth in the constellation Boötes. What I found particularly striking about the choice of Gliese 526 is that there are no identified planets orbiting it.
Since Gliese 526 is 17.6 light years from Earth, the messages will be beamed to the coordinates of where the star will be in 17.6 years from now. Even though no planets have been found yet in this system, the Lone Signal team said they are confident planets exist there since missions like Kepler and Corot have found that most stars host multiple planets.
According to the source cited above, there are 891 confirmed exoplanets. Ten of them (image above) are considered potentially habitable. That 1.12% of the identified planets. And yet, Lone Signal is going to send your tweets to a red dwarf star that has no confirmed planets or even candidate planets.
The Lone Signal team is allowing anyone with access to the internet to send the equivalent of one free text message or Twitter message — a 144-character text-based message — into space.
The team said they want to have messages sent from people all around the world to provide messages that are “representative of humanity.”
Messages that are representative of humanity? Oh, no, don't do that! What a disaster that could turn out to be. Perhaps we will be spared the shame and embarrassment of representative messages from humans because there aren't any sentient beings anywhere near Gliese 526 to receive them. Maybe the fact that there are no known planets orbiting this star is a definite plus
What is all this for?
While some scientists have indicated that sending messages out into space might pose a hazard by attracting unwanted attention from potentially aggressive extraterrestrial civilizations, Haqq-Misra thinks the benefits outweigh the potential hazards. In fact, he and his team have written a paper about the concept.
For all we know, potentially "aggressive" extraterrestrial civilizations are avoiding Earth like the plague because they've become aware that there's a bunch a very crazy monkeys living there.
But what are we to make of this statement?
“We want to inspire passion for the space sciences in people young and old, encourage citizens of Earth to think about their role in the Universe, and inspire the next generation of scientists and astronauts,” said Lone Signal chief marketing officer Ernesto Qualizza. “We’re really excited to find out what people will want to say, and the science of METI allows people to do this – to think about more than their own backyard.”
I think Earthlings should be thinking more about their own backyard. Much more. Let me explain it this way.
Under this scenario, it will be 2050 when we receive a reply from these alleged Gliesians. And what is likely to be going on in the year 2050 here on Earth? If you're a regular reader of this blog, you can make a pretty good guess about what life in 2050 will be like, so I will skip the details.
So, what do you want to say to the probably non-existent sentient beings living near Gliese 526?
Restrict your message to 144 characters, including spaces, punctuation, etc.
Have a nice weekend.
Bonus Video — video message to Gliese 526
A democratic society must tolerate dissent and protest. To the extent that dissent and protest are not tolerated, and are instead met with violent police crackdowns, a society is not democratic. It is in the nature of those holding political power in human societies that they consider holding that power to be their right, not their privilege, and they certainly do not see it as an opportunity to serve the public, whether they have been "elected" or not. There are always powerful interests these politicians need to protect and defend against the anger of the very public they are supposed to serve.
This is an update to my original post Democracies Always Fail.
Thus in putative democracies we see over and over again that protests invariably construed as threats to political power are met with inappropriate (violent) force. It is an easy, oft-taken step from meeting dissent with violence to not tolerating it at all. Sometimes the pretence of democracy is maintained thereafter, sometimes not. It doesn't matter either way if dissent and protest are no longer possible.
Of course the picture is not usually as simple as I have painted it above. Protests almost invariably start off small and peaceful, but often turn ugly and violent, an escalation which is usually provoked by overreaction by the police. And naturally there are always troublemakers or criminals who see an opportunity to create some mayhem or steal some stuff by taking advantage of protests which turn violent. It looks like that's what has happened in Brazil.
So usually we end up with a clusterfuck in which everybody blames everybody else for all sorts of stuff. And of course the clusterfuck justifies further suppression of dissent and protest, for obviously the people can not be trusted.
The clusterfuck notwithstanding, suppression of the right to dissent and protest is always a reliable indicator that democracy has failed.
We'll tell today's story in pictures and videos.
Riot police pin a protester to the ground in Jakarta, Indonesia. The protests are over a planned fuel price hike.
The now famous woman in the red dress in Istanbul, Turkey. The protests started when the Erdogan government proposed to pave over the last remaining green space (a park) in Istanbul.
Bloomberg's Ben Holland reports from Istanbul about the protests in Taksim Square, where police raided the area with water cannons and pepper spray to disperse anti-government protesters who had occupied the area after blocking it off with barricades.
A now iconic photo of a woman being pepper-sprayed in Brazil. "Three riot officers approached the woman and told her to leave. When she objected — the woman either questioned the order or insisted that she wasn't doing anything wrong, [the photographer] Caivano recalls — she was pepper-sprayed. "This policeman just didn't think twice," Caivano says."
A clusterfuck in Brazil.
If you're reporting from Taksim Square, don't forget to wear your gas mask!
I happened to see a TV commercial for Dodge Ram trucks with a voiceover by actor Sam Elliott. I wasn't able to find that spot on the internet, but I did find a sixty-second spot just like it. I thought it might be worthwhile to analyze this advertisement in a disinterested way from a psychological distance.
First, you've got to watch it. Then I will go through it line by line.
These advertisements are meant to work directly on the unconscious of the viewer. To that end, the music, the CGI visuals and the voiceover all work together. It's too much work to hook all three up in great detail, so I will focus mostly on the voiceover. After I'm done, you can look at how all three elements sync up.
Remember, the design of this commercial was not an accident. A team of highly paid, highly skilled marketers conspired to craft this bullshit. Numbers are line numbers. I have divided the 12 lines into 7 parts.
slow, emotionally-laden music, dark night visuals, the music builds as the spot goes on, the voiceover begins...
1. to take it all head on ...
The set-up line, showing the truck at night. Lines 1-9 form a single sentence.
2. channel the Universe ...
3. shorten the distances ...
4. push beyond the possible ...
Let the bullshit begin! Channel the Universe? What the fuck does that mean? Shorten the distances? That line coincides with a CGI visual of two sides of a giant fissure (crack) in the Earth closing to "shorten" the distances. The truck jumps the crack. Push beyond the possible? That's contradictory, grandiose nonsense. However, these lines are not meant to appeal to the "logical" mind (the conscious Ego). These messages are meant to bypass the Ego and speak directly to the vast unconscious sea which lies beneath it. Now they've got your "full attention"
5. roar past convention ...
OK, this is the pivotal line and lie which will take us to the main message. The music goes uptempo. Nothing could be more conventional than a Dodge Ram truck, of course.
6. shift every course ...
7. defy the elements ...
If you're driving a Dodge Ram, you are in charge. Nature imposes no constraints on you. Go for it, nothing can stop you now! The music is louder, with a faster tempo, building to a crescendo coinciding with the main message.
8. and bring the world to its knees ...
9. it takes the new 2013 Ram 1500, engineered to move Heaven and Earth
Finally, the main bullshit (ah, ... message). And what is it? The promise of omnipotence, for it takes a new 2013 Ram 1500 to move Heaven and Earth. Mountains crumble when confronted with this truck. There's nothing subtle about this message. All the subtlety came before the main message to prepare you for it. Sam Elliott appears on camera.
10. the world doesn't end here,
11. this is only the beginning.
These lines reinforce the main message and introduce a temporal aspect—the promise of omnipotence forever, for this is only the beginning of the God-like status you assume once you own a Dodge Ram 1500.
12. Guts • Glory • Ram
The Ram brand logo. More reinforcement. The end.
I hope you found that interesting.
Remember, we're talking about a fucking pick-up truck here. If we get carried away, we might even regard this commercial as a microcosm of the world we live in—technology can solve any problem, human ingenuity and the power it bequeaths are boundless, Nature doesn't limit us, and so on. The promise of omnipotence forever.
Think back to 20,000 or 50,000 years before the present. You sure wouldn't have been able to see this coming had you lived in the Paleolithic.
OK, now watch the commercial again.
I wonder if the editors at Science Daily understand just how priceless their seemingly innocuous reprint Oysters Could Rebound More Quickly With Limited Fishing and Improved Habitat truly is. Even if they don't, you will understand it in a few moments. We're dealing with the dwindling oyster populations of Chesapeake Bay.
June 13, 2013 — A new study shows that combining improved oyster restoration methods with limits on fishing in the upper Chesapeake could bring the oyster population back to the Bay in a much shorter period of time. The study led by Michael Wilberg of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory assessed a range of management and restoration options to see which ones would have the most likelihood success.
"This new model we developed suggests that oysters should be able to come back if we help them out by reducing fishing pressure and improving their habitat," said Wilberg.
Eastern oysters in the Chesapeake Bay have undergone a drastic decrease in abundance over the past century due to overfishing and disease.
The population is currently estimated to be less than one percent of its historic high, making substantial restoration efforts necessary if the population is to recover.
The team's study shows that if oysters were allowed to reproduce naturally and fishing were halted, it would take between 50 to 100 years for oyster abundance to reach as high a level as could be supported by the Bay. If fishing were reduced to about half its current level, it would take as many as 200 to 500 years to see a healthy population restored to the Bay.
The current oyster population is less than 1% of the original stock. Here we have established the time frame for full restoration of oyster populations in Chesapeake Bay—50 to 100 years if fishing is halted, and 200-500 years if oystering continues at half its current rate.
"The fishery as it has been practiced hasn't been sustainable, and our model helps explain why," said Wilberg. "Oysters just can't replace the shell that has been removed fast enough to keep up."
Oysters are called ecosystem engineers because they build habitat for themselves and other creatures. Oyster harvesting methods, such as dredging and tonging, chip away at the oyster reef and knock it down, spreading the shells over the bottom and making the remaining oysters prone to being covered by silt or moving them to a soft surface where oysters cannot grow.
Since reefs are the place where oysters are born and reproduce, fishing not only removes adults from the population, but also removes habitat essential to their survival.
Here is the quote which makes this article priceless.
"Oysters should be able to rebuild their reefs if we leave them alone," said Wilberg.
"It's an experiment that hasn't been tried yet."
In yesterday's post, we saw that the costs of coping with climate change are going up as the Earth warms. Over the longer term, those mounting costs are bound to negatively affect economic growth, which will affect the amount of CO2 which goes into the atmosphere. For example, the IEA recently reported that "global emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use rose 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatons in 2012, setting a record..." What the IEA did not emphasize was that the growth rate of CO2 emissions in 2012 was much smaller than it had been in prior years, which indicates that the growth rate of the global economy slowed considerably last year.
This was not due to the costs of coping with global warming—at least, not yet. In fact, building infrastructure to cope with climate change will initially increase nominal economic growth! Jobs will be created, resources brought to bear, and so on.
Let us now consider the lowly oyster of Chesapeake Bay. If we were to leave the oysters alone, the population would rebound to historic levels in 50 to 100 years. But that experiment hasn't been tried yet, presumably because the cost (to some) is considered too high. If there were no cost associated with leaving the oysters alone, then presumably we would do so, for isn't it better to have a thriving ecosystem in Chesapeake Bay than to have the infertile wasteland we have created?
Now let us extend that thought to the oceans generally. I often write about the overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems, a trend which is truly global in scale. If we were to leave the oceans alone, the health of those ecosystems might be restored to a state last seen 500 years ago (to pick a date) in something like the time frame the oysters of Chesapeake Bay require.
Now let us consider the costs of leaving the oceans alone. On a grander scale, this is the experiment that hasn't been tried. The costs would be mind-bogglingly large. The direct cost of leaving the oceans alone is zero because doing nothing costs nothing.
But the opportunity costs and the general human costs—the indirect costs, the consequences—are literally unthinkable to humans, and therefore far beyond prohibitive as far as they're concerned. The world's fishing industries would be shut down. That's about 150-200 million people. How would all those people stay alive? What about the one billion people whose main source of protein is fish, crustaceans and mollusks?
Now we see why the experiment that hasn't been tried yet has not only not been tried, it will never be tried. If humans can't even leave the oysters of Chesapeake Bay alone, they are certainly not going to be able to leave the world's marine ecosystems alone. Humans have locked themselves in. These terrible dependencies only become stronger as human populations, consumption and wealth grow.
As you think about how the human future will go, carefully consider what I have said here.
It is interesting in a morbid sort of way to watch the non-Progress of humankind with regard to anthropogenic climate change. The Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein chronicles the next step in our collective failure in Climate Talk Shifts From Curbing CO2 to Adapting.
The conversation is no longer solely about how to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions. It's becoming more about how to save ourselves from the warming planet's wild weather.
It was Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement last week of an ambitious plan to stave off New York City's rising seas with flood gates, levees and more that brought this transition into full focus.
After years of losing the fight against rising global emissions of heat-trapping gases, governments around the world are emphasizing what a U.N. Foundation scientific report calls "managing the unavoidable."
It's called adaptation and it's about as sexy but as necessary as insurance, experts say.
It's also a message that once was taboo among climate activists such as former Vice President Al Gore.
In his 1992 book "Earth in the Balance," Gore compared talk of adapting to climate change to laziness that would distract from necessary efforts.
But in his 2013 book "The Future," Gore writes bluntly: "I was wrong." He talks about how coping with rising seas and temperatures is just as important as trying to prevent global warming by cutting emissions.
Like Gore, governmental officials across the globe aren't saying everyone should just give up on efforts to reduce pollution. They're saying that as they work on curbing carbon, they also have to deal with a reality that's already here.
In March, President Barack Obama's science advisers sent him a list of recommendations on climate change. No. 1 on the list: "Focus on national preparedness for climate change."
"I was wrong," says Al Gore. Back in 1992, Al thought we were going to lick this global warming problem and move on to a glorious future. Now, Al believes that coping is just as important as cutting emissions.
The full title of the U.N. report is Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding The Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable. There is a double emphasis. Humans will try to cut emissions while managing the effects of the warming we've already got (0.8° C) and the warming we will undoubtedly get unless we cut emissions to zero immediately (in the range 0.8-3.0° C).
In ten years, after the failure of the next round of climate talks has become manifest, the U.N. will drop "avoiding the unmanageable." Ten years after that, the final (?) U.N. scientific report on climate change will be called Shake Your Booty — Let's Party Like It's 1999!
For decades, scientists referenced average temperatures when they talked about global warming. Only recently have they focused intensely on extreme and costly weather, encouraged by the insurance industry which has suffered high losses, [Michigan professor Regina] Bierbaum said.
In 2012, weather disasters — not necessarily all tied to climate change — caused $110 billion in damage to the United States, which was the second highest total since 1980, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week.
Now officials are merging efforts by emergency managers to prepare for natural disasters with those of officials focused on climate change. That greatly lessens the political debate about human-caused global warming, said University of Colorado science and disaster policy professor Roger Pielke Jr.
It also makes the issue more local than national or international.
"If you keep the discussion focused on impacts ... I think it's pretty easy to get people from all political persuasions," said Pielke, who often has clashed with environmentalists over global warming. "It's insurance. The good news is that we know insurance is going to pay off again."
If you keep the discussion focused on impacts, even if not everyone agrees on causes, humans will come together. On the other hand, if you focus on severe longer term impacts which will occur over decades, humans will run around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off, achieving precisely nothing until they drop dead.
That is one reason why I believe that the human response to global warming is a window into Human Nature, a window which gives us insights not fully available in the past.
Describing these measures as resiliency and changing the way people talk about it make it more palatable than calling it climate change, said Hadi Dowlatabadi, a University of British Columbia climate scientist.
"It's called a no-regrets strategy," Dowlatabadi said. "It's all branding."
All that, experts say, is essentially taking some of the heat out of the global warming debate.
"It's all branding," says Hadi Dowlatabadi. No regrets! God-damned right.
Long ago the U.N. issued its final report on global warming ... I was dreaming when I wrote this ...
The sky was all purple
There were people runnin' everywhere
Tryin' to run from the destruction
You know I didn't even care
... tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999
Like everybody else, we were thrilled to learn that Justin Bieber has booked a ticket to go to outer space. And it only put him and his manager Scooter out $250,000. Each!
Jenny Depper of Oh My God! has got the scoop in The Sky Is the Limit: Justin Bieber Books Ticket to Space With Virgin Galactic.
As if he isn't already a big star, now Justin Bieber wants to go to the stars!
Justin Bieber already looks dressed for space!
The 19-year-old crooner and his manager, Scooter Braun, 31, have signed up for an intergalactic adventure with Virgin Galactic, according to Virgin's billionaire founder, Richard Branson.
The British entrepreneur tweeted the exciting news,
— richardbranson (@richardbranson) June 5, 2013
And followed up with an idea for the showstopper ...
— richardbranson (@richardbranson) June 6, 2013
Both stars retweeted Branson's message, but Scooter officially confirmed the exciting news via his own Twitter account.
— Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) June 5, 2013
For those of you ITK, multi-gazillionaire Richard Branson knows that global warming is real and he wants to do something about it. Maybe Richard will get Justin to climb aboard that climate "change" train!
But not all is sunshine for the Biebs. The suicidal daughter of Michael "I never molested children" Jackson hates Justin! MSN Now! has the story, which they cribbed from TMZ. His crimes?
Paris Jackson is no fan of her neighbor Justin Bieber. Wait, let's rephrase that. Paris Jackson HATES Justin Bieber, apparently because he won't speak up about teen girls cutting themselves, according to TMZ sources.
Jackson, who lives in the same gated Calabasas, Calif., enclave as the Biebs, is ensconced at UCLA Medical Center after allegedly slicing herself and consuming 20 Motrin in a reported suicide attempt.
Apparently, young female fans of Bieber have tweeted about cutting themselves to demonstrate their passion for the teen singer, and Jackson is irate at his silence on the issue. Jackson is also said to be irked at Biebs' alleged marijuana use revealed recently in photos posted online, making him a lousy role model for devoted followers. [Source]
Lousy role model? Sounds like the pot called the kettle black to us!
We don't want the Bieb's "young female fans" taking a shitload of MOTRIN® and slicing themselves up like Paris did.
But give him a break—he's smoking doobees blunts! (Is he a wake and bake man?) That's no reason to hate him! Maybe Justin will load a fat one in outer space. Check it out—there's no gravity up there!
We sincerely hope these Calabasas neighbors can kiss and make up.
And careful with those knives, girrrrrl!
Bob Seger popped into my head yesterday and stuck with me, so here we are. Here's something Bob wrote in 1980 which may be the truest and saddest thing I've ever read.
Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then
It seems like yesterday, but it was long ago. Here's to you, Bob.
Just for the record, and because there are some very confused hominids out there, this post is not about peak oil, Doomers, the collapse of civilization, near-term climate catastrophe, the end of life as we know it (TEOLAWKI), preparing for the End Times, survival strategies involving organic horticulture, or any other mentally unbalanced bullshit certain "advanced" primates like to obsess over. This post is about Homo sapiens doing what Homo sapiens does, as almost all of my writing is. I will keep making this point until I believe it has been sufficiently understood — Dave
If there's one thing humans can not abide, at least not for very long, it's other predators roaming the landscape. Yes, there are commercial interests to protect, but that's not the whole story. That does not explain why the government proposes to lift Federal protection for gray wolves in all the states which have wolf populations, as this New York Times editorial explains.
KETCHUM, Idaho — IT has been celebrated as one of the great victories of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. After several decades of federal protection, gray wolves — once nearly wiped out in the continental United States — have reached a population of roughly 6,100 across three Great Lakes states and seven Western states.
But this success has been only partial. The centuries-old war against wolves continues to rage, particularly in states where the species has lost federal protection in recent years, as management of wolf populations was turned over to the states.
On Friday, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service put forward a proposal that would make matters even worse. It proposed stripping the remaining federal protections for the gray wolf in the rest of the United States (with the exception of the extremely rare Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico)...
Wolves are already under state rather than federal control in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, which are home to about 97 percent of the gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Wolf management in those states is often driven by politics, and wolves are being killed at alarming rates in the name of sport in all but Michigan.
For instance, most of the nearly 1,700 wolves surviving in the West lived in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming at the end of 2012. Those states now have recreational hunting and trapping seasons, and in the past two years, nearly 1,200 wolves have been killed. Nearly 400 more were killed for attacking livestock.
Hunting and livestock attacks. That's why the Feds want to lift protection for the Gray Wolf. Consider this quote from the Associated Press story on the Gray Wolf.
Hunting and agriculture groups wary of increasing wolf attacks on livestock and big game welcomed the announcement.
Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association and a rancher from Yakima, said he was “ecstatic” over the agency’s announcement and believed it would make his colleagues more willing to accept the presence of wolves on the landscape.
“Folks have to understand that in order to recover wolves, we’re going to have to kill problem wolves,” Field said.
Problem wolves? Does Jack mean wolves doing what wolves do? To save the wolf, we're going to have to kill the wolf. And similarly, from the Vietnam era, it became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.
Over the past several years, hunters and trappers killed some 1,600 wolves in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Thousands more have been killed over the past two decades by government wildlife agents responding to livestock attacks.
That’s been a relief for ranchers who suffer regular wolf attacks that can kill dozens of livestock in a single night.
Dozens of livestock in a single night? Uhmm... Here's a quote from the Times editorial.
Last year, wolves killed 645 of the estimated 7 million cattle and sheep in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Those wolves can be killed legally; a federal fund also compensates farmers and ranchers for their losses.
For those of you who like math, the percentage of livestock killed by wolves was 0.00092%.
But that's not the best part. No, the best part is that ranchers are compensated for livestock killed by Gray Wolves. Consider this stuff from AP story Wolf's recovery seen in livestock loss payouts (September 6, 2012).
Minnesota paid out a record $154,136 to residents whose livestock or pets were killed by wolves in the past year, part of a gradual upward trend also seen in Wisconsin and Michigan — all states where the gray wolf came off the endangered list in January...
Minnesota, which has the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states at around 3,000, plans to allow hunters and trappers to take 400 wolves in a season that begins Nov. 3.
Minnesota has paid out a gradually increasing number of claims for wolf depredation over the last several years, mostly for cattle but also for some sheep, turkeys and pet dogs, even a horse and a llama, according to the agriculture department. The $154,136 the state paid in fiscal 2012 was for 111 verified claims.
Hunters will be permitted to kill 400 wolves out of a population of 3000, which is the largest of any state with wolf populations. There were 111 verified claims, a tally which included some turkeys, pet dogs, a horse and a llama.
For those of you who like math, that's 13.3%.
I could go on and on, but I assume you get the point—livestock claims can not fully or even partially explain the overwhelming human need and intense human desire to hunt down Gray Wolves.
A commenter reminded me of this Robert Heinlein quote, which seems like a good way to finish off the week.
Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.
Have a nice weekend.