The problem of emergent human nature and civilization collapse
August 3, 2015 at 6:41 am #15641
I’ve just started reading Ehrlich’s “Human Natures” and I have a concern that might be the most difficult problem of all when it comes to the long-term survival of our species. Perhaps my concern is addressed in the book, but I’m anxious right now and just want a place to talk about it.
Every civilization that’s ever existed has collapsed. This suggests that while humans have variable potential natures subject to ongoing biological and cultural evolutionary processes, the emergent dynamic of human behavior seems to always be the same, which is expansion until collapse. I have a basic hypothesis as to why that might be so. The point in stating the hypothesis is really to frame the problem as fundamentally as possible so that mitigating solutions can be properly focused.
The basic idea is that exploiters will always emerge – somewhere – in the global population. As a thought experiment, imagine a world where systems were indefinitely sustainable, and the current global population was cooperative in maintaining this sustainability. Given inherent genetic and environmental variability, however, as well as the fact that the environment itself can undergo changes that are both locally and globally catastrophic (e.g. earthquakes and large volcanic eruptions), the emergence of people who are exploitive in nature will always naturally emerge.
And such exploitation would beget ever-greater exploitation over time, until we reach the state of collapse once again. This is because exploitation involves the hoarding of surplus and the manipulation of exploited people to produce this surplus. And once such dynamics begin, they only give the exploiters more resources and technology with which to accelerate the exploitation process. Exploitation inevitably leads to growth in other words.
This exploitation could develop from a sustainable cooperative state in a number of ways, from the generational erosion and conversion of sustainable mechanisms to selfish ones, to bands of raiders pillaging the countryside after losing their home to an environmental catastrophe.
This dynamic seems impossible to keep from developing. The only possible solutions would be to somehow change Homo Sapiens themselves (impossible), or build sufficient immunization into what necessarily must be a global system on some level, otherwise the development of an exploitive culture in one area of the world entails the demise of sustainable cultures elsewhere.
Has anyone discussed this problem and how to deal with it? This thinking puts a downer on my hopes for our species because, if we can’t reach sufficient technological sophistication to mitigate the more catastrophic existential risks, such as asteroid strikes, then our extinction is also eventually entailed. We had once chance with oil to make ourselves secure, but instead we’ve almost destroyed ourselves with a resource that could have preserved us long-term. Now what?
August 3, 2015 at 11:29 am #15645
Just a quick, pedantic correction:
Given inherent genetic and environmental variability, however, as well as the fact that the environment itself can undergo changes that are both locally and globally catastrophic …
I meant to say that catastrophes on different scales can potentially occur – local (earthquake) and global (large volcano). The way I said it implies a reference to catastrophes that occur on both scales at once, thought this certainly happens (i.e. a global catastrophe is also local as far as a given group is concerned).
April 14, 2016 at 9:57 am #18873
I was fortunate last night, April 13th, to attend Jared Diamond’s talk, “Crisis, Stress and Change, in Individuals and in Nations” on the Stanford campus. On stage were Jared Diamond and Paul Ehrlich talking about the psychology of crisis response. I was very surprised and pleased to hear so much reference to human psychology and how it has molded world history and will continue to do so. Psychology is one of my favorite subjects. Which brings me back to your post, Eric, largely about the psychology of human behavior. Hyper-specialization, particularly in Silicon Valley, is how we get things done here. If you have broad concepts that are also far-reaching and way out of the box, and also cross boundaries both psychologically (data management of sensitive ideas) and from an engineering point of view, your path to finding solutions to grow your research can face some strong headwinds. I have not yet found a way to stand up to these headwinds. That’s why, on my previous post, I mentioned that if climate heating continues to be an issue, our plan, so far, is to wait until an apparent climate emergency becomes a problem.
August 23, 2015 at 9:29 am #15865
Hi Eric! The answer to your well stated question regarding the inherent fallibility of modern societies is the hierarchic nature of humans and the environmental consequences of artificial resource surpluses. Hunter-gatherer societies are two-dimensional by necessity and cannot develop significant resource surpluses due to the constant need to migrate to greener pastures where game and foliage may be foraged. Prehistorically, we are descended from hunter-gatherer clan groups, who maintained a constant population of less than 10 million world-wide for over 60kyBP. Sedentary, post-agricultural revolution urban profoundly hierarchical civilizations living in huge urban groups are, of necessity, unsustainable–our resource extraction levels cannot be maintained. Evolution has allowed for the development of regulatory mechanisms, necessary to prevent resource “over-shoot”. My book “STRESS R US” (available on this site in the MAHB Library) details these mechanisms and proposes that untreated medical illnesses would have corrected the problem before now, if allowed to take their “natural” courses. However, we are extremely altruistic, as we are 99.9% genetically identical, and care for one another as no other species has ever done before. However, many animal models of over-population and its consequent population density stress result in catastrophic population collapses, due primarily to over-activation of the stress response, which drives their adrenal glands to ultimate failure and the animal’s death by shock. I saw this happening in clinical medical practice among my patients but intervened and helped them find less stressful life-styles and rebuild their damaged adrenal glands. This condition was named “Adrenal Fatigue” by clinical physician and nutritionist James Wilson. His little book describing the methodology to rebuild human adrenal glands has sold over 400,000 copies. We must reduce our population numbers and return to a sustainable lifeway by conscious, rational choices, or mother nature will do it for us-bugs will evolve that we cannot defeat, we’ll starve, we’ll run out of resources, we’ll cease reproduction involuntarily and our adrenal glands will fail. It’s not just climate change that’s at the tipping point, although we are obviously the cause of that on-coming train wreck as well. Read my book and limit our reproduction to single child families or perish as a species. This is our only choice left.
October 19, 2015 at 8:23 am #16359
Interesting stuff. How closely do you follow climate change? That’s the really big elephant in the room, even bigger than population growth in the 50’s. Or now. You believe that the planet will fare +4° up to the near future?
November 21, 2015 at 9:35 am #16473
William (Patrick) Ophuls has written a tight book exploring this called “Immoderate Greatness” (2012). He concludes that collapse is inevitable. As civilizations prosper they inescapably outgrow their resource base (most often in the past it’s been topsoil and soil fertility) and that sets in a decline that initially goes unrecognized because of human hubris. “We’re so smart progress can never reverse.” Continuing business as usual during the decline compounds the ecological overshoot and drives the collapse. Sound familiar? Difference now, of course, is that previous collapses have had limited geographies.
April 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm #18801
Hi,Eric, Great article. Population density can be a problem in many areas. However, the seeds of ingenuity to help us solve climate change and population stresses lie in the theory that the more intellectual capacity (people) on the planet, the more chance we have of solving planet stresses.
April 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm #18803
Eric, Further, I had another thought. There are remedies for the situation that planet earth is in. World leaders and others often talk of the moon shot scenario. For instance, in climate heating mitigation. They are convinced that this technology and / or scenario is already here. It’s just that nobody knows about it yet. Well, Eric, that is absolutely true. The moonshot to solve climate change, low CO2 power generation, population density demands, is here now. The thing is, some of it is so forward thinking (but not unreasonably so) that there are few places that can manage this data where stakeholders (governments, corporations) can implement these plans to everyone’s advantage. Frustration is implied. So the plan is to wait. Everyone is going to wait. Policymakers, scientists, risk management professionals, are all going to sit down in the shade and wait. Emergency response for runaway CO2 and methane means that everyone has to notice that there is a problem, so here we go into the world of human psychology. So, Eric, I really like your post and I would like to elaborate on these engaging topics that you have brought up, soon.
April 15, 2016 at 10:29 am #18965
Just reading one of my favorite climate reporters, Robert Scribbler, and his recent post, titled “Too Close to Dangerous Climate Thresholds.” He has said that the Japanese Meteorological Agency shows that the first 3 months of 2016 were about 1.5 C above the IPCC preindustrial baseline. This is not good news, as we are supposed to be nowhere near these temperatures, even with the El Nino factor. When I said in previous posts that solutions for climate change were a waiting game, I didn’t think that it would just take a few days to find out which direction we may be headed. (heating)
Many policy makers and others, it is our guess, would like a timely monthly magazine on climate related news. Talking to some of my friends in policy making, there is little collected climate news that they can easily digest, and that is up to date and easy to read, with just the basic facts. We have made some prototype books on the Apple platform, but we need more partners to help us with this project. If anyone is interested, please let me know.
So, Eric, this may be our next step, to make sure that clear communication is in everyone’s hands on future and present climate scenarios.
April 19, 2016 at 9:41 am #18979
Thanks to you and MAHB I have a forum to post to with my morning coffee. Your hypotheses on human behavior, which is expansion until collapse, and to frame solutions as quickly as possible so that policy makers and others can find their way forward. For instance, the drought in southern Syria sent hungry, destitute farmers, without water, into the Syrian cities and created a migrant nightmare all over Europe. This should have been addressed with timely international aid supplies, so that Syrian farmers could have stayed on their land where they wanted to be, and not waiting in a refugee/migrant camp in Europe somewhere. So a question reminds me to think of the psychology of crisis response and how we humans mitigate climate driven disasters for the benefit of sensitive populations. And the answer is, we are not that great at it, due to the formula that human psychology does not respond well to an ongoing environmental threat, because we are too busy with our own complex lives. Do you think that Germany and other European countries might have liked to have sent a few supertankers full of food and supplies to the farming families of Syria, rather than open its doors to a million migrants, and counting, because their psychology of emergency response for Syria, it would seem, was somewhat late.
So, Eric, you have begun to outline the way forward for the entire world, based on human behavior, (psychology) to build a new indefinitely sustained planet built for population cooperation.
The drought in Syria was well reported in climate circles, and we wonder that, if policy makers had had better and more timely information, that a response for Syria might have been more effective.
April 19, 2016 at 9:42 am #19035
I’ve been reading your post again. I like your sentence, “the current global population was cooperative in maintaining sustainability” which is an opportunity to address the obvious link to oxygen stability in the oceans so that humans and other life forms have enough oxygen to breathe. Climate change that entails heating the planet disturbs oxygen producing organisms and may lower oxygen levels on our planet.
Many, including scientists, have wondered that heating will burn forests, disturb food production and cause animal and plant migration. (also ice loss and methane releases.) But the potential for collapsing oxygen levels brought about by acidic conditions in the oceans due to the uptake of too much CO 2. It seems outrageous that we, in the generation we live in now, could face oxygen disruption. By this, I mean a chemical/oxygen disturbance that would slowly bring about biological and physiological changes to humans. These would be very subtle changes at first, but as oxygen levels diminish, so may humans. As you may have already guessed, oxygen, we presume, will not obey the European Union, U.S. Congress, the well-thought-of New Zealand parliament, or anyone else. Foundations and governments, we would hope, will re-energize their goals more towards a role in funding techniques and ideas, strategy and foresight, for mitigating oxygen depletion. In other words, this planet means more to us with sustainable levels of oxygen, and not a disturbed chemical soup that we can only hope our biology can adapt to.
If the atmospheric scientists who are reporting now are correct in their research that elevated heating is occurring outside of model predictions, then it would seem that, somehow, we have missed something. New thinking in risk management circles that provide data to places like the United Nations and scientists need new thinking in how the ingredients for life are manufactured on our planet. If they are disturbed, what is the implication for humans, and how quickly can we respond?
These subtle changes in oxygen levels may affect our biology. You may begin to notice mood changes and elevated stress levels in yourself, your friends and your family. Fluctuating and unstable oxygen levels may be a developing recipe for disturbed relationships in governments and in our private lives.
April 20, 2016 at 11:13 am #19069
Hi,Eric, and MAHB
On the website Arctic News is suggesting that the February world temperature record, dated Saturday, April 16, 2016, is higher than anyone expected. We would assume that these are not the kind of numbers that the Paris Agreement was thinking about when they were meeting late last year. Nations were intending to hold global average temperatures to well below 2 C. Even after El Nino effects are considered, it would seem that heating has become more of an issue than it was just six months ago. These heating numbers (well over 2 C compared to pre-industrial levels, depending on who is reporting) that are coming out now are surprising scientists in this field, and may be a cause for both reflection and alarm.
Some of the climate websites that I like to read have become deeply concerned in describing their shock at these elevated earth temperatures. More heating is implied here as feedbacks begin, starting with Arctic ice loss and Greenland melting. It may prove to be an interesting summer in the northern hemisphere with these elevated temperatures. Due to current climate heating events, it’s time to think about either forming a new type of risk management institute or to open up a special department in an existing one. Disciplines that would seem out of place (human psychology, quantum physics and risk analysis together) should be referenced in this new institute.
April 20, 2016 at 11:55 am #19079
Hi Vaughan Wiles,
Thank you for your active engagement with the MAHB Forum. The higher-than-expected Arctic temperatures you referenced are certainly concerning, especially with the potential for feedbacks and tipping points. The need for a better understanding of human behavior, and therefore psychology, is paramount to successfully shifting our trajectory. I recently read an interview with Tim Pychyl at the University of Ottawa, in which Pychyl describes procrastination as the outcome of the “‘present self’ always trumping the ‘future self'” –which seems to parallel the global situation we find ourselves in and the lure to continue waiting to take meaningful action.
Many MAHB members are very active in researching and promoting foresight intelligence: the ability to implement behavioral, institutional and cultural changes necessary for humans to ensure a sustainable and equitable future for all, and some actually just co-authored a paper you may find interesting: The Climate Change Challenge and Barriers to the Exercise of Foresight Intelligence in BioScience.
April 21, 2016 at 10:56 am #19125
Thank you, MAHB, for your reply.
A long time ago, in a shire far, far away, (Walnut Creek in the lands of California) I had a friend who loved me and mentored me, who, some say, was a retired nuclear physicist who worked alongside Albert Einstein. (privacy, etc.) We were fortunate emough to be in a small group that were thrown together for the love of psychology and other thinking. This group referenced that there are basically two types of people, reporters and generators. (for more on this, please see Stanford’s website, e-corner) As you may have surmised, generators need reporters, and generators, as we know, are not highly trained in reporting. (the Wright brothers – post flight) Although I make an attempt, I am no reporter. The data that I have bumped into very well could be paramount in assisting risk management advisors in their work. I am currently mentored by a new scientist who is one of your ex-colleagues from Stanford. My goal is to incorporate this accidental knowledge into risk management systems as soon as possible.
I appreciate your suggestions for reading research, and I will look at it very soon.
April 25, 2016 at 8:54 am #19151
I went to the University of California, Santa Cruz to get access to the paper. The library is surrounded in tall redwood trees, and is a very beautiful place to read and work. The staff at the library retrieved your article in BioScience, “The Climate Change Challenge and Barriers to the Exercise of Foresight Intelligence.” My first impressions are that this is the first paper that I have read that encompasses a great deal of human psychology on the subject of climate sensitivity. I was very pleased to have this paper in my hands. I have not read all of the paper yet, but I would still like to mention a quick comment. In your conclusion you mention that there is no silver bullet that would alleviate the environmental crisis we face. And this is where it gets interesting. There is the possibility of a Hail Mary pass. The information on this outcome might be considered ever so slightly disruptive, but maybe our only avenue for addressing a climate that is in severe reaction. (the current bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, for example). It would seem that ice stability, particularly in the Arctic, is what we should be most concerned about, and that the Hail Mary pass concerns this Arctic ice coverage.
April 25, 2016 at 8:55 am #19161
On NASA’s twitter feed, Carlos Perez Garcia-Pando, AXA Chair on Sand and Dust Storm, Barcelona Super Computer Center, wrote in his tweet: “We can’t control weather, but what we can do is to improve our prediction ability to allow more informed plans or mitigation actions. This is not only a scientific challenge but also a supercomputing and big data one.”
I think that this is a very interesting perspective. Perhaps the question is not whether the statement is correct (“we can’t control the weather”) but how would human psychology manage if it was incorrect. His statement might then read “weather control systems may be a possibilty under certain circumstances, with information from large data systems,
(NASA, etc.) coupled with information systems that may or may not be invented yet.” This is, literaly, the trillion dollar question. It wasn’t that long ago that if you drove a car in New York City, (circa 1900) by law you had to have a flag waver walk in front of your car waving a red flag to alert astonished and frightened pedestrians and horse drawn carriages. I suspect that this is sort of where we are now with the psychology of new thinking on what our options may be for climate heating mitigation. The other situation that is presented to us is that we seem to be under some type of time frame for climate heating mitigation. If this is so, then uncomplimentary data systems, perhaps, need to be combined sooner rather than later.
April 26, 2016 at 8:55 am #19199
Hello MAHB and Doug Carmichael.
Thanks, Doug, for your very nice article, “In Response: The Climate Change Challenge.”
It’s refreshing to read an article that manages to say that there are many sides to the planet heating problem that we need to address, and that clear global thinking, hopefully, should be encouraged.
I often attempt to find articles written regarding consumption of resources and how meaningful alternatives might help, while at the same time leaving the economies of people, particularly in emerging countries, able to manage their lives without going broke. Some tell the world to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The reality is, this, perhaps, cannot happen for some time to come, because everything that we do on this planet involves the availability and use of fossil fuels. Your ideas for how people need income and need power that they can afford in order to lead their lives is a perception that some countries, on occasion, may overlook.
We can solve our power needs carefully if we resist the urge to blame the power sources that have helped us build our economies for some time now and will continue to do so in the future. It would be wise to partner with power providers to build the next generation of low carbon fuels so that we can move forward with our economy in safety. The psychology of behavioral economics could be a tool to help us navigate the future of our climate without becoming overly emotional for data that we might not yet have.
Psychologically, we may need to be aware that our focus should move away from the worry of how we might have warmed the planet, and move into solutions towards foresight in solving our planet’s heating problem.
April 27, 2016 at 9:25 am #19203
Hello MAHB and Paul and Ann Ehrlich,
I am currently reading your paper, “Population, Resources, and the Faith-Based Economy: the Situation in 2016”
Thank you for writing this intriguing paper. A lot of skill and care went into its preparation. So far, in my reading, if I were to have one comment, it would be that this paper is about the future of earth’s sustainability and how to communicate those ideas.
The one comment I like on the heading: “Governance, Institutions, and Collapse, inattention to earth’s sixth mass extinction, which is already threatening humanity’s life support system.”
The word that has transfixed me is inattention, which, it seems, is the lack of a human response. And if we are focusing on inattention, what is the psychological solution to heal and respond to inattention? When climate warming data supports information on sensitive climate change outcomes, what has been the response to date? Will world wide governments prepare a plan in time for climate warming mitigation before tipping points come into play?
May 9, 2016 at 11:18 am #19499
I believe that the fact that we are discussing this issue in this way, on a connected web, is the reason the pattern of repeated collapse of civilization can be broken. Oil, and an interglacial period, has produced a global network of science and technology that could still produce another industrial revolution; renewable and storable energy, new forms of food production, easier access to orbit and revolutionary preventative medicine.
But the problem is still that of ‘the seventh enemy’ – As outlined by Ronald Higgins in his 1978 book of the same title:
If six threats to humanity’s continued existence are defined the seventh, the most deadly threat, is a general indifference to the first six.
May 9, 2016 at 12:25 pm #19505
Here in the UK there is a project to research and identify the nature of hubris; why the exploiters, referenced at the start of this discussion by Eric Hiatt, appear to retain control of this planet. The recent ‘Panama Papers’ revelations confirm this pattern of human behaviour.
The Daedalus Trust: http://www.daedalustrust.com/
May 18, 2016 at 8:28 am #19653
Good day Eric. A colapse is required, to bring about an opportunity for change. Unless acted upon by an outside force,the system has systemic issues that keep its current path constrained. The system inertia will yeild the expecteàd result. The work being done to understand the right way of living in harmony with nature, each other, is of great value. Handled correctly, the knowledge we learn from this catastrophic event, and prior, have an opportunity to lay the foundation for the next attempt at enlightened existance.
May 19, 2016 at 2:54 pm #19697
First, I apologize for my absence from this thread. I rarely check my e-mail and didn’t notice I was getting replies. I also didn’t return to this forum out of general despair. These issues are hitting me hard given that the long-term welfare of our planet is at stake. There are a lot of great replies and I owe a debt of gratitude to Vaughan Wiles for the time he’s taken in response. I’m going to spend the next few days replying to everything, but I just want to say quickly that I’ve since generalized the way I look at the problem, and I’m going to give a quick explanation since I think the model better explains what’s going on with our species. I’m certain this idea has been stated by someone before, but I’m not sure where.
I was thinking about the collective “stored programming” in our minds, which manifests anywhere from our psychology down to the lowest level unconscious processes, and I wondered how this collective stored programming must have evolved over time. In other words, I wondered about our memetic evolution.
To simplify, however, imagine the models we use to “navigate” the world without worrying about the neurological specificity. The only reason we have the particular models we do is because they could be passed onto us by our parents, education, institutions, culture, etc. And the only reason this was possible is because the models themselves produced the technology and behavior needed to acquire the resources required for the propagation and further enculturation of the models. That means that, over time, the models that are the best at acquiring resources will be the ones that survive. Of course these models evolve over time with successful modifications being passed on, and some other elements being discarded – though clearly not optimally. I think this gives an intuitive picture of where a structure like an Empire comes from over time, and I think it can explain the evolution of institutions – “parasitic” or otherwise – within a society as well as other structural features. The exploiter model I talked about follows from the idea of memetic evolution.
Is anyone familiar with Stafford Beer’s ideas? He was a cyberneticist, which meant he had a generalized systems approach for handling complexity at different levels. We couldn’t have evolved to such a state of management initially for many reasons I’d guess. For example, a degree of societal complexity is required to attain an understanding of complex systems, but our complexity has been driven by the resource-seeking process inherent to memetic evolution. It feels like we need a “model reset” as a species so we can halt an otherwise out-of-control evolutionary process and replace it with a managed systems approach.
May 30, 2016 at 10:38 am #19915
On behalf of Vaughan Wiles:
Hello, MAHB and Eric Hiatt,
In the ongoing quest for climate warming mitigation, there are solutions, but they are not always based on logical Western thought. One of the smart solutions available would be to create an institute with the foresight to nurture at least a few thousand people, (approximately 12 people from each of 196 countries). Members of this institute would have access to the latest high tech communications, alongside other forms of learning, where all levels of intellect, both intuitive and logical, meet in order to make a contribution towards understanding the uncertainty of looming climate change. People would be from all departments of their governments, from every country, in one place, managing climate data reference points, as well as data from natural disasters and accidents. This would move the whole planet under the same umbrella, and into further consensus as far as the biology and psychology of climate data is collected and disseminated under one roof.
I am concerned about the changing chemical make-up of oxygen, due to climate change and how this changing oxygen dynamic will affect humans. Could this ongoing and changing mix of oxygen create more anxiety and depression without humans realizing that oxygen levels are decreasing? Will this new and ongoing lack of oxygen make humans more rash in their judgements, setting the stage for a more dangerous world? Countries making irrational decisions with modern, no-turning-back weapons, based on faulty thinking due to oxygen depletion, is a way that Nature could move humans aside. The planet will recover, and, I think, so will we, although it’s going to be awhile. It seems that Nature has a solution for humans who have overplayed their hand. As the oxygen goes, so go the humans. (and other living things)
The model reset, Eric, that you mention in your very engaging and informative post, is the inclusion of the thought that pure Western ideals are not the gold standard for mitigation of climate warming, and that smaller voices need to be part of the equation.
- This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by MAHB Admin.
June 14, 2016 at 2:59 pm #20091
On behalf of Vaughan Wiles:
Hello MAHB and Eric Hiatt,
There is a recent article that I really like in The Guardian, “Climate scientists, mourning Earth’s losses, should make their voices heard” written` by Ms. Sarah Myhre, on May 19, 2016. This is a fine article on the human psychology of climate change. The article is implying that we are past the threshold of the uncertainty of where climate change is going to take us. The author suggests that we are heading to a warmer world where dangerous feedbacks will be a constant companion for the Earth’s ecology. The author addresses the psychology of risk aversion when it comes to scientists making public statements on climate change. If the scientists are right about climate warming, it is suggested that staid and formal academic institutions will be too late raising the alarm, and that policy makers will not believe in the coming climate feedback disaster. So, this is a matter of timing, and the issue is that climate warming has us all on the clock. We will all work together to find solutions for Earth warming with the understanding that the current mindset for warming mitigation is largely ineffective. Mourning the loss of whole sections of Earth’s life is quickly going to be a well visited theme for everybody on Earth. A new, progressive mindset is critical in finding brave solutions quickly before things really get out of hand.
June 22, 2016 at 5:44 pm #20275
On behalf of Vaughan Wiles:
Hello MAHB and Eric Hiatt,
Temperatures in Alaska are rising to levels statewide, according to an article from Climate Central, “Alaska Continues to Bake, on Track for Hottest Year” of more than 10 F (5.5 C) above average so far this year, according to NOAA. (see link) Temperatures recently in the lower 48 states have also been off the charts. Yesterday, June 20, it was 125 F in Needles, California. These extreme warming temperatures were not predicted to show up for at least 100 years, this early in the year, according to many climate scientists, and others. If these temperatures that we are observing now are only a casual anomaly that will soon pass, then temperatures might calm down in the future. If these temperatures that are currently showing up in Alaska and other Arctic regions are going to be the new norm, or the potential for further advancement in this heating situation, then new thinking on what mitigation means for humans and other living things will have to be discussed. Human psychology can handle a certain amount of extreme climate information at any one time, but if the data comes too fast, then a sense of hopelessness “what can we do, so who cares?” sets in. If temperatures continue their march this quickly, I suspect that this kind of stupor over climate warming data translation will set in, and we will move from a mitigation mindset to an evacuation response reaction. There are resources that are available that cross many known scientific boundaries, and as this planet heating scenario plays out, in the future, mindsets may have to change.
May 20, 2016 at 2:49 pm #19719
Could it be relevant to consider the evolution of cooperation –though its emergence may be rooted in resource-seeking and fitness-improving, maybe it also holds some of the tools and capacities (empathy, shame…) we need to reset in a manner that prioritizes the collective?
The Evolution of Cooperation by Richard Axelrod explores how cooperation emerges in the context of an iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma, and more recently articles like Culture and the evolution of human cooperation by Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson consider how human psychology has changed to support cooperative societies.
January 19, 2017 at 3:12 pm #22881
It seems to me that at the heart of all this is the need for the underpinning values and as such governance structure of our societies have to based upon ecological/sustainability principles. Without this solid foundation we will always end up straying off the path and over a cliff. I believe a sustainable society is possible (leaving aside things beyond our control like big asteroids etc). If our society was based upon such values we would have governance structures that constrain and discourage the exploiters as such activities would be seen for what they are. Sadly this is not the society we have, and it is highly unlikely humanity can avoid significant pain on our journey towards this possible future. We have a very slim chance to avoid a climate and habitat destruction driven mass extinction even, which some portion of our population might survive, depending on how sever things get. Despite this gloomy prognosis, I do thing it is critical that, whilst we recognize the reality of where we are, we continue to paint a picture of the future we could have. The more people who envisage that reality the greater the chance we have of getting there. IF we just paint a picture of destruction and collapse then I fear that will be our destiny.
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