Jeremy Jackson talks about How We Wrecked the Ocean

We have been hearing a lot about what the oil spill is doing to the ocean. But something else which is also concerning is the condition the ocean was in, even prior to the spill. We live in a finite world. Our continued mistreatment of the ocean, the reduced fish population, and the disappearance of large fish in the last 50 years are all serious concerns.

Jeremy Jackson is the Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In this talk, Professor Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse. The film is from TED Talks. The movie is 18 minutes long and offers subtitles as an option. I've also copied in the transcript below the fold.


I'm an ecologist, mostly a coral reef ecologist. I started out in Chesapeake Bay and went diving in the winter and became a tropical ecologist over night. And it was really a lot of fun for about 10 years. I mean, somebody pays you to go around and travel and look at some of the most beautiful places on the planet. And that was what I did.

And I ended up in Jamaica, in the West Indies, where the coral reefs were really among the most extraordinary, structurally, that I ever saw in my life. And this picture here, it's really interesting, it shows two things. First of all, it's in black and white because the water was so clear and you could see so far and film was so slow in the 1960s and the early 70s, you took pictures in black and white. The other thing it shows you is that, although there's this beautiful forest of coral, there are no fish in that picture.

Those reefs at Discovery Bay Jamaica were the most studied coral reefs in the world, for 20 years. We were the best and the brightest. People came to study our reefs from Australia, which is sort of funny because now we go to theirs. And the view of scientists about how coral reefs work, how they ought to be, was based on these reefs without any fish. Then, in 1980, there was a hurricane, Hurricane Allen. I put half the lab up in my house. The wind blew very strong. The waves were 25 to 50 feet high. And the reefs disappeared, and new islands formed. And we thought, "Well, we're real smart. We know that hurricanes have always happened in the past." And we publish a paper in Science, the first time that anybody ever described the destruction on a coral reef by a major hurricane. And we predicted what would happen. And we got it all wrong. And the reason was because of overfishing, and the fact that a last common-grazer, a sea urchin, died. And within a few months after that sea urchin dying, the seaweed started to grow. And that is the same reef. That's the same reef 15 years ago. That's the same reef today. The coral reefs of the north coast of Jamaica have a few percent live coral cover and a lot of seaweed and slime. And that's more or less the story of the coral reefs of the Caribbean, and increasingly, tragically, the coral reefs worldwide.

Now, that's my little, depressing story. All of us in our 60s and 70s have comparable depressing stories. There are tens of thousands of those stories out there. And it's really hard to conjure up much of a sense of well-being, because it just keeps getting worse. And the reason it keeps getting worse is that, after a natural catastrophe, like a hurricane, it used to be that there was some kind of successional sequence of recovery, but what's going on now is that overfishing and pollution and climate change are all interacting in a way that prevents that. And so I'm going to sort of go through and talk about those three kinds of things.

We hear a lot about the collapse of cod. It's difficult to imagine that two, or some historians would say three, world wars were fought during the colonial era for the control of cod. Cod fed most of the people of Western Europe. It fed the slaves brought to the Antilles. The song "Jamaica Farewell" -- "Aki rice salt fish are nice" -- is an emblem of the importance of salt cod from northeastern Canada. It all collapsed in the 80s and the 90s. 35,000 people lost their jobs. And that was the beginning of a kind of serial depletion from bigger and tastier species to smaller and not-so-tasty species, from species that were near to home, to species that were all around the world, and what have you. It's a little hard to understand that, because you can go to a Costco in the United States and buy cheap fish. You ought to read the label to find out where it came from, but it's still cheap, and everybody thinks it's okay.

And it's hard to communicate this. And so, one way that I think is really interesting, is to talk about sport fish, because people like to go out and catch fish. It's one of those things. This picture here shows the trophy fish, the biggest fish caught by people who pay a lot of money to get on a boat, go to a place off of Key West in Florida, drink a lot of beer, throw a lot of hooks and lines into the water, come back with the biggest and the best fish, and the champion trophy fish are put on this board, where people take a picture, and this guy is obviously really excited about that fish. Well, that's what it's like now, but this is what it was like in the 1950s, from the same boat in the same place on the same board on the same dock. And the trophy fish were so big, that you couldn't put any of those small fish up on it. And the average size trophy fish weighed 250 to 300 lbs., goliath groper. And if you wanted to go out and kill something, you could pretty much count on being able to catch one of those fish. And they tasted really good. And people paid less in 1950 dollars to catch that than what people pay now to catch those little, tiny fish. And that's everywhere.

It's not just the fish though that are disappearing. Industrial fishing uses big stuff, big machinery. We use nets that are 20 miles long. We use long lines that have one million or two million hooks. And we trawl, which means to take something the size of a tractor trailer truck that weighs thousands and thousands of pounds, put it on a big chain, and drag it across the sea floor to stir up the bottom and catch the fish. And think of it as being kind of the bulldozing of a city or of a forest, because it clears it away. And the habitat destruction is unbelievable. This is photograph, a typical photograph of what the continental shelves of the world look like. You can see the rows in the bottom, the way you can see the rows in a field that has just been plowed to plant corn. What that was, was a forest of sponges and coral, which is a critical habitat for the development of fish. What it is now is mud. And the area of the ocean floor that has been transformed from forest to level mud, to parking lot, is equivalent to the entire area of all the forests that have ever been cut down on all of the earth in the history of humanity. And we've managed to do that in the last 100 to 150 years.

We tend to think of oil spills and mercury, and we hear a lot about plastic these days. And all of that stuff is really disgusting, but what's really insidious is the biological pollution that happens because of the magnitude of the shifts that it causes to entire ecosystems. And I'm going to just talk very briefly about two kinds of biological pollution. One is introduced species, and the other is what comes from nutrients. So this is the infamous caulerpa taxifolia, the so-called killer algae. A book was written about it. It's a bit of an embarrassment. It was accidentally released from the aquarium in Monaco. It was bred to be cold tolerant, to have in peoples aquaria. It's very pretty, and it has rapidly started to overgrow the once-very-rich biodiversity of the northwestern Mediterranean. I don't know how many of you remember the movie "The Little Shop of Horrors," but this is the plant of "The Little Shop of Horrors." But, instead of devouring the people in the shop, what it's doing is overgrowing and smothering virtually all of the bottom-dwelling life of the entire northwestern Mediterranean Sea. We don't know anything that eats it. We're trying to do all sorts of genetics and figure out something that could be done, but, as it stands, it's the monster from hell, about which nobody knows what to do.

Now another form of pollution that's biological pollution is what happens from excess nutrients. The green revolution, all of this artificial nitrogen fertilizer, we used too much of it. It's subsidized, which is one of the reasons we used too much of it. It runs down the rivers, and it feeds the plankton, the little microscopic plant cells in the coastal water. But since we ate all the oysters, and we ate all the fish that would eat the plankton, there's nothing to eat the plankton. And there's more and more of it, so it dies of old age, which is unheard of for plankton. And when it dies, it falls to the bottom and then it rots, which means that bacteria break it down. And in the process, they use up all the oxygen. And in using up all the oxygen, they make the environment utterly lethal for anything that can't swim away. And so what we end up with, is a microbial zoo, dominated by bacteria and jellyfish, as you see on the left in front of you. And the only fishery left, and it is a commercial fishery, is the jellyfish fishery you see on the right, where there used to be prawns. Even in Newfoundland, where we used to catch cod, we now have a jellyfish fishery.

And another version of this sort of thing is what is often called red tides or toxic blooms. That picture is just staggering to me. I have talked about it a million times, but it's unbelievable. In the upper right of that picture on the left is almost the Mississippi Delta, and the lower left of that picture is the Texas, Mexico border. You're looking at the entire northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Your looking at one toxic dinoflagellate bloom that can kill fish, made by that beautiful, little creature on the lower right. And in the upper right you see this black sort of cloud moving to shore. That's the same species. And as it comes to shore, and the wind blows, and little droplets of the water get into the air, the emergency rooms of all the hospitals fill up with people with acute respiratory distress. And that's retirement homes on the west coast of Florida. A friend and I did this thing in Hollywood we called Hollywood ocean night. And I was trying to figure out how to explain to actors what's going. And I said, "So, imagine you're in a movie called 'Escape from Malibu' because all the beautiful people have moved to North Dakota, where it's clean and safe. And the only people who are left there are the people who can't afford to move away from the coast, because the coast, instead of being paradise, is harmful to your health."

And then this is amazing. It was when I was on holiday last early autumn in France. This is from the coast of Brittany, which is being enveloped in this green, algal slime. The reason that it attracted so much attention, besides the fact that it's disgusting, is that sea birds flying over it are asphyxiated by the smell and die, and a farmer died of it, and you can imagine the scandal that happened. And so there's this war between the farmers and the fishermen about it all. And the net result is that the beaches of Brittany have to be bulldozed of this stuff on a regular basis.

And then of course there's climate change, and we all know about climate change. And I guess the iconic figure of it is the melting of the ice in the arctic sea. Think about the thousands and thousands of people who died trying to find the Northwest Passage. Well, the Northwest is already there. I think it's sort of funny, it's on the Siberian coast. Maybe the Russians will charge tolls. The governments of the world are taking this really seriously. The military of the arctic nations is taking it really seriously. For all the denial of climate change by government leaders, the C.I.A. and the navies of Norway and the U.S. and Canada, whatever are busily thinking about how they will secure their territory in this inevitability from their point of view. And, of course, arctic communities are toast.

The other kinds of effects of climate change -- this is coral bleaching. It's a beautiful picture, right. All that white coral. Except it's supposed to be brown. And what happens is that the corals are a symbiosis, and they have these little algal cells that live inside them. And the algae give the corals sugar, and the corals give the algae nutrients and protection. But when it gets too hot, the algae can't make the sugar. The corals say, "You cheated. You didn't pay your rent." They kick them out, and then they die. Not all of them die; some of them survive. Some more are surviving, but it's really bad news. To try and give you a sense of this, imagine you go camping in July somewhere in Europe or in North America, and you wake up the next morning, and you look around you, and you see that 80 percent of the trees, as far as you can see, have dropped their leaves and are standing there naked. And you come home, and you discover that 80 percent of all the trees in North America and in Europe have dropped their leaves. And then you read in the paper a few weeks later, oh, by the way, a quarter of those died. Well, that's what happened in the Indian Ocean during the 1998 El Nino, an area vastly greater than the size of North America and Europe, when 80 percent of all the corals bleached and a quarter of them died.

And then the really scary thing about all of this, the overfishing, the pollution and the climate change, is that each thing doesn't happen in a vacuum, but there are these, what we call, positive feedbacks. The synergies among them that make the whole vastly greater than the sum of the parts. And the great scientific challenge for people like me in thinking about all this, is do we know how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again? I mean, because we, at this point, we can protect it. But what does that mean? We really don't know.

So what are the oceans going to be like in 20 or 50 years? Well, there won't be any fish except for minnows, and the water will be pretty dirty, and all those kinds of things, and full of mercury, etc., etc. And dead-zones will get bigger and bigger, and they'll start to merge. And we can imagine something like the dead-zonification of the global, coastal ocean. Then you sure won't want to eat fish that were raised in it, because would be a kind of gastronomic Russian roulette. Sometimes you have a toxic bloom; sometimes you don't. That doesn't sell.

The really scary things though are the physical, chemical, oceanographic things that are happening. As the surface of the ocean gets warmer, the water is lighter when it's warmer, it becomes harder and harder to turn the ocean over. We say, it becomes more strongly stratified. The consequence of that is that all those nutrients that fuel the great anchoveta fisheries, of the sardines of California, or in Peru, or whatever, those slow down, and those fisheries collapse. And, at the same time, water from the surface, which is rich in oxygen, doesn't make it down, and the ocean turns into a desert.

So the question is: How are we all going to respond to this? And we can do all sorts of things to fix it, but in the final analysis, the thing we really need to fix is ourselves. It's not about the fish; it's not about the pollution; it's not about the climate change. It's about us, and our greed and our need for growth and our inability to imagine a world which is different from the selfish world we live in today. So the question is: Will we respond to this or not? I would say that the future of life and the dignity of human beings depends on our doing that.

Thank you.


Thanks for sharing this little additional piece of horror with TOD readers. (Maybe you could start TOD talks ;-) I watched this last week and was pretty depressed by it. I was not aware, for example, that commercial trawling is basically a type of strip-mining of the ocean.

The thought I've been having lately is that the massive destruction that's blatantly obvious to ecologists, climate scientists, marine bioligists, entymoligists, Doctors without Borders, foreign aid workers and so on, is not generally visible to us regular folks. This suggests a general project of making visible the invisible, making heard the unheard.

Some are already doing this work, such as Lighthawk, an organization of pilots who saw firsthand the extent and damage done by clearcutting in the pacific northwest, and decided to document it. And of course TOD readers may be familiar with Edward Burtynsky, whose work photographing oil, coal, mining and other extractive processes is highly expository. I highly recommend his film Manufactured Landscapes as a way of getting a visual grip on the scale of Chinese manufacturing, for example.

I was surprised about the trawlers, too. I always thought they were just the gigantic nets, which was bad enough. With this image, I couldn't help thinking of the Crystalline Entity from Star Trek : The Next Generation. Except that he (it?) could go on to another planet when one had been stripped bare.

There is also mention of the green revolution and how the nitrate inputs have led to dead zones. It's kind of interesting that Norman Borlaug's research, at least initially, was funded by the Rockefellers. You know, the ones who had Standard Oil. And the green revolution crops require a lot of petroleum-derived inputs. You know, just sayin' it's an interesting connection.

I know it's a terrible way to be, but I don't have much expectation of the human race avoiding disaster and taking a lot of species down with us. My main hope anymore is that I'm dead before it gets really bad. I'm in my mid-50s, so what are my chances?

I am also in my mid 50's. My expectations for my retirement are not good. Short, uncomfortable with decreasing availability of medical care. I don't really care about myself though. It's my kids I feel sorry for. They are 17, 14 and 10. The eldest is just becoming an adult as the whole thing is about to go pear shaped. We were talking about it last night. She wants a gap year after she finishes school. One minute she wants to go and help the Orang-utans, the next she wants to go help out with Medicin Sans Frontieres. It is great. That is what teenagers do. She will probably get her gap year, but I doubt that Emily who is the 10 year old will. Or if she does she probably won't be able to fly, because it will be too expensive.

As for the oceans I despair. I sailed our yacht from the UK to Australia a few years ago and witnessed first hand the death and destruction of coral reefs along our route. There were some reefs that were in good condition, teeming with fish. But there were also many that weren't. I would say it was around 50/50. And that included the Caribbean and the entire tropical South Pacific. Although we visited frequently travelled places like Tahiti, we also went to remote, out of the way islands, only accessible if you have an ocean going yacht. The destruction was indiscriminate. It was every where. If anything, the visible pollution was worse on the remote uninhabited islands because nobody cleaned it up.

All of these issues, ocean destruction, climate change, peak oil, loss of arable land, water, the declining availability of rare earth metals etc etc always come back to the single over-riding issue: Population. We as a species are in overshoot and a die back is imminent.

...always come back to the single over-riding issue: Population.

I don't think that's completely right. It's not just population -- it's also underground resource consumption per person, hydrocarbons, metals, minerals. The explosion of this kind of resource consumption has greatly exceeded the population explosion. More, it is much more the one billion of the world middle class, not the 6 billion others, whose way of life has despoiled the planet.

But underground resources are now in decline. The problem is that in order to extend the oil age by few years, we are going after the harder-to-get stuff, and doing that is multiplying the destructive effects on the surface ecology (including the oceans), which is all we'll have left when its over.

I put retrenchment and return to the soil ahead of population control. Once we are reconnected with the soil (so to speak), we'll see the importance of controlling our own reproduction. This was true of hunter-gatherers. I believe there is hope once we realize that humanity must become an intelligent manager (and member!) of the surface ecology and learn how to nurse it back to health.

I'm almost 70. I too worry about my kids and grandkids. What gives me hope is the farm/commune my daughter (and one grandkid) lives on in Appalachia. Vegetables, chickens, pigs, horses, etc. Sharing. Small footprint. The gov't ought to be helping people retrench, to build their lives in a completely different way. THere's no choice about it -- it's what has to happen.

Reconnect seven billion people with the soil? Golly gosh Dave we missed the chance to reconnect with the soil four billion people ago.
What we need to do now is turn six billion people into fertilizer so the rest can reconnect.

Rationalizing the population problem just as you have done is what will kill the species.
The wreck of humanity is playing before our eyes, yet we talk of electric cars and trains, windmills and nuclear power and backyard vegetable gardens.
Energy users and generators designed to further the expansion of us.
What we do is we block it out. We know we can't deal with it, we know we are on the population express to extinction so we, like children, put our hands over our ears and yell la, la.

I'm not going to commit suicide so you can try and live though. Nobody will. For every person that lives sustainably there are others that will use all and more that you do not use. It's an all or nothing situation now.

My hope is that perhaps some government has some really nasty virus that could swiftly take out the majority of the population without too much fuss, The Stand style.

I am one of those biologists who had a wonderful/horrific time being paid to travel to the most beautiful parts of the world and see them get destroyed. There are 10s of thousands of stories like this to tell.

One I'll share is going to New Caledonia. I went there four times. It is an amazingly unique and beautiful place, with an economy dominated by the mining industry. Where we have mountain top mining for coal in the U.S., in New Caledonia whole mountains are removed for metals, especially nickel.

A few times I got permission from mining companies to take their roads to the top of mountains so I could collect plants in remnant patches of forests. I even went looking for a tree that was perhaps an undescribed species, limited in known distribution to a single mountain. The entire habitat, I found, was gone. The mountain was simply a spiral of roads for hauling ore down.

One thing this did was make me upset whenever I see waste of stuff. In particular, I seem to have a sensitivity to battery powered toys, which invariably contain the ingredients of this mountain. Nevertheless, in spite of my pleas, the folks who profess to loving my children can't help but buy them junk whenever the opportunity is called for by advertisers, which in our culture is about once every month or two.

I tend to believe my kids would be better off if we left the mountain intact.

Are the Christmas decorations in the stores where you are yet? =-[

Memorial Day's coming up- perhaps we could turn that into a bigger consumerist opportunity than it already is. There are a lot of holidays yet to be fully exploited.

Do you have pictures from your trips you'd be willing to share- for good or ill?

Another question I had after seeing this video: are there any largely intact ecosystems even left to study / protect / treat as Zone 5? Perhaps this is how the false nature/culture dichotomy finally breaks down, when the only environment that remains is the built environment.

I'd vote for a ban on all buying of gifts for any holiday on the books, unless you make the gift out of needed things like hemming up a pair of pants/dress. Baking home grown bread(wheat and grains from your yard), or veggie dishes from your yard. Giving them something that you already have, not buying something new.

The idea fostered on us over the years has been every day of the year is ripe to made into something something day.

It is Monday the 17th of May it is TOD day and we should all give each other a home grwon barrel of oil, or cubic mile of NG, or something along those lines. And Next year we'll get the rest of the world to join us on TOD day....

Sorry to pick on you TOD but all the other groups, have got their own days.

Silly rabbit, trixs are for kids.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

The thought I've been having lately is that the massive destruction that's blatantly obvious to ecologists, climate scientists, marine bioligists, entymoligists, Doctors without Borders, foreign aid workers and so on, is not generally visible to us regular folks. This suggests a general project of making visible the invisible, making heard the unheard.

I'd like to counter that with a tiny glimmer of hope after reading (in the MSM no less) this article:

Pocantico Hills, New York (CNN) -- Oil-tainted seas, oxygen-deprived zones, overfishing, mercury poisoning ... these days, the search for safe and ethical seafood is enough to unnerve any pescetarian. For chefs, it doesn't just mean crossing another fish off our menus. The question has become how do we keep fish on the food chain?

I found one answer last year, at a fish farm called Veta la Palma.

Not in Newfoundland. Cod stocks there are still only 4% of what they were in the 1960s. Scientist think they may have permanently damaged the ecosystem by overfishing.

Here's a link to a TED talk with a slightly more hopeful outlook on the seas.

Enric Sala: Glimpses of a pristine ocean

Though I tend to think the 'answer' is in the first few slides.
(Fewer people = healthier ecosystems)

Sailing Mexico over the last 30 years I have personally seen the sea of cortez regenerate dramatically when they placed restrictions on fisheries and polution.

What this means is we would need to stop fishing or cut back to maybe 10% of what we are doing now, and end all toxic washout from rivers for the next 10+ years. That means replacing that protein food source for a couple billion people over that time period and ramping up livestock production without effluence.

Can we do it ??????????????????

As long as we are dreaming, how about moving to veganism or vegetarianism.

"As long as we are dreaming, how about moving to veganism or vegetarianism."

That only compounds the problem.

The report in the Independent has a quote from Callum Roberts of the University of York whose book "An Unnatural History of the Sea" paints a similar grim picture of human over exploitation of the seas worldwide.

This man should be in charge of EU fishery policy.

At least the North Sea seems to be beginning to respond to a more enlightened approach to conservation.

Apparently only during the two world wars did fish stocks show any signs of recovery.

As someone who has spent about 35 years diving on coral reefs and has seen a lot of this devastation first hand this talk hits very close to home!

So the question is: How are we all going to respond to this? And we can do all sorts of things to fix it, but in the final analysis, the thing we really need to fix is ourselves. It's not about the fish; it's not about the pollution; it's not about the climate change. It's about us, and our greed and our need for growth and our inability to imagine a world which is different from the selfish world we live in today.

I would strongly suggest, that as a start we immediately discard GDP as a metric for measuring our well being. We must also begin to take seriously a whole cost accounting approach in our economic activities. The concept of economic growth must be discarded completely the sooner the better.

We might also learn something from the people of the little country of Buhtan and make it a national priority to start measuring our GDH Gross Domestic Happiness. I have a feeling that we in the US are very far down on the list of happy people.

GNH indicators can become tools of accountability. The sense of common purpose embodied in a coherent set of indicators enables ordinary men and women to more readily judge, hold accountable their leaders, by checking whether these the targets are being fulfilled. Without a common vision concretized through indicators, each individual merely looks to his or her own ends, even though welfare is a shared pursuit. Not only do GNH indicators assist in building vision, they are instrumental to that vision being held in common by all citizens, building a notion of greater interdependence across time and over space.

We could start by holding BP accountable for the true cost of the enormous damages they are causing to our overall GDH. Hopefully GDH will become a part of the actuarial calculus.

As we all know what can not continue, will not! Its time to start fixing ourselves, those that can not, will not or don't want to must be discarded or removed from the rest of society and we need to incorporate this kind of accountability into a new set of rules and laws for a truly civilized society. Bhutan right now is the first nation to do this. I hope we are not the last.

I would like to see those responsible for the mess in the Gulf do hard time!

We might also learn something from the people of the little country of (sic) Buhtan...

Until recently, a small autocratic monarchy that engaged in ethnic cleansing of the Nepalis minority. A fine role model indeed...

Perhaps you are right I didn't research the country but I still find that the concept has merit. If a sociopath comes up with a cure for cancer you can still use the cure.

If a sociopath "comes up with a cure for cancer" (highly improbably under any circumstances), run the other way fast. That "cure" is probably killing the host.

(highly improbably under any circumstances)

I wouldn't be so sure...

Amy Bishop a Harvard educated PhD biologist and her husband had developed a proprietary cell culture incubator and software package called the InQ cell culture system that won a local $25,000 entrepreneurial prize in 2007 and launched a company called Prodigy Biosystems. Prodigy had raised $1.2 million in funding around the technology. The state economic development enterprise, Alabama Launchpad, reported that the product launch had been scheduled for the October Society of Neuroscience Annual Meeting.

She also took out a gun during a biology department meeting on the Huntsville Alabama campus and shot and killed three of her colleagues, including the department chair, and left three people (two professors, one administrator) in critical condition.

Would you suggest that she isn't a sociopath or that the cell culture incubator she developed should not be used based exclusively on the fact that she was involved in its development.

Interesting come back! (one of the reasons it's so fun to post here)

I'm no expert on Amy Bishop, but having skimmed her Wikipedia page, she is definitely nuttier than a fruitcake. However... let's also not forget that sociopath ≠ violent killer. There are many other kinds of mental conditions that can lead to homicidal behavior, including the paranoid schizophrenia mentioned in the Wiki.

Sociopath simply means "someone who lacks a conscience and/or the capacity to feel empathy". Contrary to popular belief and their depiction in the media, the large majority of sociopaths are not violent or homicidal. Many have no trouble fitting right in with the rest of us and leading relatively normal lives. Btw, I recently read Martha Stout's excellent "The Sociopath Next Door", and highly recommend it --cleared up a lot of my own misconceptions about sociopathy.

Bhutan until recently was a small Buddhist monarchy. The last king converted the country from an absolute monarchy to a democracy and abdicated in favor of his son. The current king is the constitutional monarch, but the country is now governed by a parliament and prime minister. Many of the people had doubts about it because they though absolute monarchy was working very well for them, but they're getting used to it.

The Nepalese were illegal immigrants who refused to cooperate with the authorities, and were deported because they would not provide proof of citizenship. Bhutan does have a problem with illegal immigration, and the authorities have little patience for people who don't obey the law. It reminded me very much of Switzerland when I was there.

Bhutan is not an easy country to get into. Westerners are required to organize their trips through a travel agency and pay a minimum of $200/day - payable in advance, and the government checks at the airport to make sure you have paid.

There's a definite cultural difference with Nepal. As you may recall, most of the Nepalese royal family was murdered under suspicious circumstances in the royal palace in 2000 and the Maoists now control the government. Actually, nobody really controls the government and it is drifting aimlessly. Economically, Nepal is going to hell in a handbasket and the birth rate is much too high.

Bhutan, on the other hand, is doing quite well following its own ideas of what a mountain kingdom should be like, and the Bhutanese would like to keep it that way. They don't want to go the way of Nepal, so they carefully control who can and can't get into the country. It's a very nice place to visit, but don't forget to pay your $200/day in advance, and be sure to leave when your visit is over because they check to make sure.

Sarkozy made a speech last year calling for GDP to be replaced by a new system that included human wellbeing and happiness.

Well that clinches it then. We all know how sociopathic and untrustworthy the French are!
They invented the guillotine ;-)

Sarkozy always looks like a Maverick to me, especialy when you see him walking, but I think he really understands the problems with conventional economics and is prepared to speak out about it.


I do understand, as I have dived only once, but it did not seem to have the life it should have had.

But we are the ones that are responsible, in general most of us collectivelly fostered it, the mess in the gulf. But you know that I don't want to put the common joe and fran in jail, the frustrations are still there.

Sadly I am reminded of the passage in the new testament where it says that in the end, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. I just thought that we needed a new one, cause we have wasted and trashed to old one. Even though personally I have faith of where I will be when I die, I have to live here on this little planet in the solar system for the time being, and it makes me sad that I've known about the disaster all these years.

Long ago I thought if we just tried harder we could do enough to turn the distruction around. Not in my lifetime. We might have to go into another dark ages and the population drop to a few hunter gathering groups in whatever is left, for things to get back on an even keel. I don't know the outcome of when and where things will happen. In fact I don't think many of us, even those that fill their days looking at all the data in all the major feilds of study, could give you a certain answer besides, I don't know but it looks bad.

Replacing the protein that used to be fish in the diets of people is going to be harder soon, when the fisheries are dead or dying, the collapse in population starts. Eating the jellyfish because they are the only thing left, will be a sad day, though they are eaten now, they aren't as tasty as a chewy white clover salad. Imagine eating a rubber band.

Just like the kudzu desert in some parts of the south, it's edible, but if that is your only diet, you'll get thin on it.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

I do understand, as I have dived only once, but it did not seem to have the life it should have had.

There is actually a vibrant healthy coral reef less than three miles due east of my home.
I can walk or bike to any of these parks...

What bothers me is that very few of my neighbors in the greater Miami area know they are there and wouldn't much care if they did.

The CEO of BP said last Saturday that the environmental impact of oil spill in the water is minor since the Golf of Mexico is very large and the few square miles covered by the oil is small in comparison.

I say F**K him and the horse he rode in on! Put the SOB in prison for the rest of his miserable life.

The GOM -- America's toilet.

That's like saying huffing gasoline is completely safe because the VOCs might be less than 1% of the air volume.

Oh, he also referred to the Gulf as an "ocean" which I believe is inaccurate.

And the Earth is a very small planet, considering the size and scope of the universe.

I saw him speak a year and a half ago. What was striking were his photos of a famed game fish, I don't recall their name, off Florida. Thirty or so years ago they were typically three feet long, now foot long ones are considered big. He used this to illustrate how people are, by overfishing, selecting for smaller fish.

Just read an article in a local newspaper about a research on bottom dwelling fish (Plaice and Flounder) in the Northsea evolutionary getting smaller to adjust for overfishing. The fish put more energy in becoming ready for reproduction then into growing. This amazes the biologists as it happens much quicker then anticipated.

And another version of this sort of thing is what is often called red tides or toxic blooms.

Some history of toxic blooms off of FLA coast:

Figure 1. Decadal representation of red tide samples with Karenia brevis counts greater than 100,000 cells per liter by month .......

If you were to compare only the two decades with the most samples collected, you would miss all the variation in the interim decades and would misidentify a shift in “seasonality.” Counts above 100,000 cells per liter (fish-killing concentrations) were least common in the winter and early spring. This window is important to manatee populations along the southwest coast of Florida. If a red tide occurs between March and May and salinities are high in the bays, red tide can move in and threaten manatees, which are an endangered species (Landsberg and Steidinger 1998). Karenia brevis along the west coast of Florida does not do well in less than 2.4 percent salt or greater than 24 parts per thousand salinity.

Red tides, boat props and oil. I'm glad I got to dive with the Manatees years ago. I don't see them having much of a chance going forward.

Red tides, boat props and oil. I'm glad I got to dive with the Manatees years ago. I don't see them having much of a chance going forward.

I saw a cow with her calf in the Intracoastal a couple of weeks ago and a lone Manatee just a few days ago. This past winter was brutal and the cold killed quite a few them in our local waters.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - More than 100 manatees have been found dead in Florida waters since the beginning of the year, mostly victims of a nearly two-week cold snap, state officials said Tuesday.

Yet I still see people driving powerboats at full throttle in areas that have signs which clearly say: "No Wake Zone, Manatees". If you try and talk to these people they often flip you the bird. I've often wished there were some device that would electromagnetically shut off engines that I could just point at them and it would disable their vessels. I'd pay really good money for such a device... especially if it were portable enough to put on my kayak. I don't think I have enough PV power to produce a decent EMP just yet ;-)

Maybe not such a far out idea Fred:

A newly developed system is currently undergoing test that will safely end car chases. It is an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon mounted within a police car; designed to interfere with the vehicles engine control computer, its estimated range is 50 meters. The obvious downside is circumstances where other vehicles are in the area and could be affected.

You'll need a bigger kayak it seems: chief James Tatoian tells Flight that a new and improved pulse blaster is almost ready. It is said to be able to scramble a car's engine chips from 200m and has now slimmed down to 55lb, though it still requires an antenna 1.2m wide. The new zapgun is apparently to be demo'd for the Marines "next month".

It occurs to me they could mount these things on bouys equipped with speed detectors. Problem is, it zaps everything within range (except human powered boats ;-)

No need for high tech solution.
Courage is the missing link.
The low tech gun, still available at a convenient retail outlet, will get to the root of the problem reasonably efficiently.

Sorry, my sense of humor grows ever darker.

Thanks Ghung!

It is said to be able to scramble a car's engine chips from 200m and has now slimmed down to 55lb, though it still requires an antenna 1.2m wide. The new zapgun is apparently to be demo'd for the Marines "next month".

I'll assume it needs to be powered by the alternator or 12 volt battery but even so that is coming awfully close to being feasible on a large kayak. Perhaps the antenna could even double as a sail. I could imagine a couple of PV panels on dual outriggers and I'd be in business! I'd volunteer to man something like that for free.

And perhaps a bumper sticker reading "Eco-jedi at work"...

Try one of these: The Ultimate PWC Repellent. Very effective. :-)

I was too quick.
New and improved technology IS the answer!


Yeah, that might work! LOL!

In this economy, perhaps a well aimed flare gun would suffice.....but one can always dream!

My in-laws love to visit Cocoa Beach. And I love the place too, especially since most of the people around there are NASA or fresh ex-military and so have a lower concentration of sheer a*sholery. But it's still enraging to see the occasional powerboater on the Banana River at full throttle.

Yep, the environment is destroyed. Tell your legislators (angrily!), no more bank bailouts or wars. Use the money to put a solar panel on every sunny-climate rooftop, and a wind farm in every wind corridor. Plus the grid infrastructure to support moving the power to where ever it's needed.

Have you seen the bags of frozen "seafood medley" at Sam's Club?

Shrimp, mussles, clams, squid, octopus, and whatever else they find compressed into cylinders of fake crab.

I imagine these humongous Chinese factory ships cruising the world's waters and sucking up all sea life and putting it through the grinder for your dining pleasure.

Talk about strip mining the ocean floor.

C. Montgomery Burns beat you to it with "Little Lisa's Slurry".

Gail - I'd like to commend you for publishing Jackson's work (and many other fine essays). I've been familiar with the material for years but it appears to be becoming more and more mainstream.

How are we all going to respond to this? And we can do all sorts of things to fix it, but in the final analysis, the thing we really need to fix is ourselves. It's not about the fish; it's not about the pollution; it's not about the climate change. It's about us, and our greed and our need for growth and our inability to imagine a world which is different from the selfish world we live in today.

For history buffs we recall that it was 75 years ago that the all too real specter of World War was rearing it's ugly head in Europe as America was struggling with want in the face of bounty. Today the possibility of violence is rising like the waters of the Mississippi, threatening to engulf us all eventually even those on higher ground. For those who sit in perpetual denial that we have now begun what John Michael Greer so eloquently refers to as The Long Descent, it is time to take stock of ourselves, the communities we live in and what all this might mean in the not too distant future.

Where will the solutions come from?

In general, schools tend to favor left-brain modes of thinking, while downplaying the right-brain ones. Left-brain scholastic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy. Right-brained subjects, on the other hand, focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity.

The Oil Drum, for the most part, appears to favor left brain thinking, asserting the logic that the same genuises of alchemy who got us into this mess will be the ones to get us out of it. But the myth of Daedalus, who gave Ariadne the magical thread to save her doomed lover from the Labyrinth, will find itself powerless to deal with the overwhelming crises that mushroom before our eyes.

Art is treasuring beauty for beauties sake...human dignity over squalor. For those of you stuck in left brain perhaps it's time to open our hearts again and look in long forgotten places of our youth and even childhood:

Rick: Don't you sometimes wonder if it's worth all this? I mean what you're fighting for.
Victor Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we'll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
Rick: Well, what of it? It'll be out of its misery.
Victor Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart.


Quote by Richard Feynman:

I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s some times taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, "look how beautiful it is," and I’ll agree, I think. And he says, "you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing." And I think he’s kind of nutty.

First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me, too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is. But I can appreciate the beauty of a flower.

At the same time, I see much more about the flower that he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean, it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter: there is also beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure…also the processes.

The fact that the colors in the flower are evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting – it means that insects can see the color.

It adds a question – does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms that are…why is it aesthetic, all kinds of interesting questions which a science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower.

It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Some of us are quite capable of thinking with our entire brains.


Yes, this is very true.

When I see the beauty of the world, especially its living systems, I see much more than most people do. I see relationships that extend back in time, across geographies, and among food webs.

A friend recently started taking a course and learning some basics of plant morphology and taxonomy and she came to me all excited and said "It is so wonderful. I think I now understand what you see when you look at a the world and it is beautiful!"

Did you then explain to her why you left science?

No disrespect to Feynman but I believe you have missed the point while making your own:

The Buddha stood beside a lake on Mount Grdhakuta and prepared to give a sermon to his disciples who were gathering there to hear him speak.

As the Holy One waited for his students to settle down, he noticed a golden lotus blooming in the muddy water nearby. He pulled the plant out of the water- flower, long stem, and root. Then he held it up high for all his students to see. For a long time he stood there, saying nothing, just holding up the lotus and looking into the blank faces of his audience.

Suddenly his disciple, Mahakashyapa, smiled. He understood!

"The Dao that we can talk about is not the Dao we mean." Master Lao Zi


"Joe I see your point...but if you part your hair on the left it'll never show."

Groucho Marx

Suddenly his disciple, Mahakashyapa, smiled. He understood!

Well maybe he did but it doesn't sound like he put much effort into his understanding, my guess is that Jason's friend's understands more deeply than Mahakashyapa ever could.

"It is so wonderful. I think I now understand what you see when you look at a the world and it is beautiful!"

And Jason certainly is able to appreciate the beauty of the Lotus in context:

I see relationships that extend back in time, across geographies, and among food webs.

My point BTW was that it is completely unfair to assume that those who have taken the time to develop their left brain have not also equally developed their right brains.

Though I'm not a Buddhist I have a hunch that both Buddha and Feynman would agree :-)

You're absolutely right FMagyar. I went back to school a couple of years ago and I took nothing but science and math courses, and I have worked as an aviator for most of my life as well. I finished through Chemistry 111 and I managed to pull a B. Passing that rite of fire meant something to me. I totally get left brain activity and I tend to prefer those sorts of activities. That's probably why I enjoy TOD as much as I do.

But I remain steadfast in my assertion that we will not get out of this many-horned dilemma with the same thinking that got us into it.

Peace Brother

FM - Bumper sticker;

Become a scientist, explore life, then develop novel ways to destroy it.


Become a scientist, explore life, then develop novel ways to destroy it.

Sounds to me like you have a very profound misconception about what science is and who scientists are.

Sure, scientists are human and like any group of humans the number of assholes in all such groups is defined by the AH coeficient which tends to remain constant across all groups. The only known group of humans in which the AH coeficient is known to trend higher than the general population is among lawyers, but I digress!

I'll go with Jason's words as a reply since you also asked him why he left science...

When I see the beauty of the world, especially its living systems, I see much more than most people do. I see relationships that extend back in time, across geographies, and among food webs.

Sounds to me like he hasn't left science at all and still is very much a scientist.

Scientists are truth seekers who use the scientific method as a tool to find it.

Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[2]

Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methodologies of knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable in order to dependably predict any future results. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently-derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. This in turn may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.

While I was born with the brain of an engineer, I am blessed with the heart of a scientist. I don't expect to understand anything. I only value curiosity, and know that I am not entitiled to understanding. This, to me, is freedom. Answers are secondary and rarely final. This is how I see science.

As George M. always signs off: "Question Everything",,,,,, even the obvious.

"Where will the solutions come from?"

From the problems. The only good that can come from this gigantic BP SNAFU oil gusher is what we learn from it: prevention, containment, mitigation, and of course, personal behavior. All the glare given it by lawyers, media, ecologists, and oil patchers ourselves will help us choose what we want. There is little good to come from a small spill, other than its size. No good at all comes from anything spilled into the ocean where it isn't noticed--generally speaking, far from U.S. and European coastal areas. This leak has the world's attention. Like ROCKMAN said: "We have seen the enemy, and he is us." --Pogo

I had the privilege of meeting Jeremy Jackson and having dinner with him in December 2009. We we both speakers at the same event, and happened to run into each other the evening before the event.

I get very upset by the condition of the ocean. I don't think that "sustainability" groups and even aquariums are really doing enough to publicize the true state of the situation. I know that aquariums had out cards with "green", "yellow", and "red" categories of sea food, but I don't think that really gets the message across. Even if one completely eliminates eating sea food in the "red " category, to me it seems like there is still a problem.

If a person goes to fancy organic stores, you find big displays of ocean-caught sea food. If you read the "Green Book, (which supposedly tells you what you need to do to be green), it says on page 68, that you should choose sustainably harvested wild varieties, as opposed to farmed varieties, because farmed varieties tend to have higher levels of heavy metals. They never tell you what is or isn't sustainably harvested. I expect a truly honest assessment of the situation is that very little of wild fish is sustainably harvested, if you consider removing the large fish and leaving only the smaller ones a problem. (Reminds a person of the stories about removing the large trees on Easter Island doesn't it?) If a person looks only at absolute numbers, and confirms that a species in not close to dying out, I suppose there is much less of a problem. I wonder if that approach is what is used to say that certain species are sufficiently plentiful to be in the "green" or " yellow" categories.

Gail - I think we must sing in the same choir because the notes of this thread have really touched my heart. If you ever come to San Diego please let me know because I would go out of my way to meet you.


I think the answer to what to eat out of the sea is nothing. Though I love sardines and smoked oysters, I could give them up, there are plants that have the Omega fatty acids in them, or I could eat home grown farmed fresh water fish.

But as it stands the oceans are still providing some food for a lot of people, and trying to tell them all to stop eating foods from the oceans will be impossible for them to comply.

We have painted ourselves into this corner, and it means we are going to have to wait for the paint to dry to get out, and starve a while, because it is slow drying paint.

No easy answers.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

Gail, I don't know if I should thank you or not for sharing this video. I'm sitting here shaking all over, this smacked me in the face real hard.

Thanks for the link and the information. That's a great video!

I've been wondering about the implications for potential pathogenicity arising from oil "eating" microbes as they process their way through the surface contamination and the plumes. Psuedomonas putida is very helpful in bioremediation of oil spills, but it does appear as a pathogen as well. Which agency/entity will be tracking negative aquatic and terran biological developments related to the spill? There's not much being said concerning this particular issue. If the 30% oxygen depletion around the plumes referred to by Dr. Joye is due to microbial activity, that's an attention getting stat.

Below are related links.

"Dr. Joye said the findings about declining oxygen levels were especially worrisome, since oxygen is so slow to move from the surface of the ocean to the bottom. She suspects that oil-eating bacteria are consuming the oxygen at a feverish clip as they work to break down the plumes."

"marine snow"--aggregates of organic material floating in water bodies--may act as microscopic, island-like refuges for pathogens, or disease-causing organisms."

"Pseudomonas putida F1 (Bacteria 6.2 Mb) is a versatile environmental isolate..."

"Pseudomonas species are opportunistic pathogens that primarily cause nosocomial infections (5). Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the most important pseudomonad species, but other species, including Pseudomonas putida, have been associated with clinical infections, particularly among children..."

If anyone is interested in learning more about this consider getting hold of the excellent documentary called 'The end of the line'. Scary stuff.


I’ve been diving for quite a few years and I’ve seen the deterioration of reefs first hand. Over time I’ve become more aware of how hypocritical I really am – after all, diving is probably one of the more environmentally unfriendly activities out there. I’ve cut back pretty severely yet I see how, although BAU is not sustainable and I rationally completely understand that, emotionally I don’t want to give it up.
WeekendPeak, or, in this case perhaps WeakendPeak

after all, diving is probably one of the more environmentally unfriendly activities out there.

Well, I guess all of us that live and work in western first world societies share the blame for much of the worlds environmental degradation and in that sense I myself am complicit.
However there are ways to have less of a negative environmental impact when one dives.

In my case I live close to the beach and there is a coral reef within swimming distance.
Often I just swim out with a dive flag, fins mask and snorkel. I also do kayak scuba diving.

I guess I'm fortunate in that I do not need to get on a plane or drive or take a boat so that I can dive. So while I still have a negative impact on the environment just by living where I do, I don't think that my diving per se can be considered as one of the more environmentally unfriendly activities...

Here's Jeremy Jackson's longer presentation: Brave New Ocean (44 minutes).

Thanks for the link.
Watching it now.

Destruction of the seas is what I've spent my life fighting against. I'd like to thank Gail for putting this up here, but I don't talk about it socially any more than death-camp survivors are chatty.

What a 'piece of work' is Man.

Gail, an excellent post.

Here's a little poem/song i wrote up inspired by this talk:

It's truly amazing to see how humans have managed to f**K up the planet in little more then a hundred years. Hundreds of millions of years of evolution of all those incredible lifeforms and species on earth down the toilet in a just one catastrophic century.

There isn`t any life on any of the other planets in our solar system. In bad moments, such as when I read something like this transcript, I sometimes wonder if there was a grand design to remove all the life off our planet to make it barren like all the others. I hope not, yet it does sometimes seem so......After all, today a headline I read was "GM sales up 40%"! How could further investment in the auto industry, which has already been (IMO) the single most destructive vector we have created, be celebrated NOW, when we KNOW SO MUCH about the horrific effects taking place not only in the oceans but everywhere else. (shakes head sadly, shrugs, logs off...)

What i find astonishing about Jackson's talk is that he didn't even get around to mentioning ocean acidification. On top of all the other pressures and abuses of the ocean, this one has the potential to 'finish off' vast ecosystems. He mentions climate change only in regards to temperature changes killing coral, but from what i've read, CO2 rise will cause acid oceans that don't have reefs, let alone the whole food chain as we know it today.

Most depressing is that none of this stuff appears even on the fringes of your typical MBA graduate's radar screen.

Just picture this: A congressional hearing on Fed Reserve oversight:

Congress-critter: Mr. Bernanke, how will this shift in credit risks affect our ocean corals?

Helicopter Ben: Huh? WTF is an ocean coral and who the heck cares?

An MBA's life's work is to extract financial energy from the system, not to protect it.

p.s. to Ben
re ocean acidification see Barett's link upthread

Jackson does talk about climate change, acidification, "rise of the slime" etc. in his full talk

Biophysical Economics 101 for MBAs

Energy forms are either potential FINANCIAL or kinetic FINANCIAL. Potential FINANCIAL energy comes in forms that are stored including — chemical FINANCIAL, gravitational FINANCIAL, mechanical FINANCIAL, and nuclear FINANCIAL. Kinetic FINANCIAL energy forms are doing work — like electrical FINANCIAL, heat FINANCIAL, light FINANCIAL, motion, FINANCIAL and sound FINANCIAL.

Got it?

We also have something called a perpetual finance machine and it doesn't require any energy at all.


Newtspan's three laws of financial motion:

1. A financial body in profit-making motion continues FOREVER along that profit-making trajectory unless acted upon by a disruptive external financial force.

2. A financial body in an interest-producing resting state remains perpetually and sustainably in such rest and continues to FOREVER produce prime interest level profits unless disturbed by non-free market evil forces.

3. For every finance creating force there is an equal and complementary (not opposite) profit producing force whereby the sum of the two complementary forces guarantee perpetual financial Nirvana.

(Left click on image to the right to re-orient yourself back to the real Newton's laws of physical motion. Finance= Money times Appreciation, F=M*A. Don't you remember?)

Equity = MarketCapital squared

PV = n R T

P = Profit per transaction (average)
V = volume or number of transactions in trading session
n = number of insider traders scooping up the profit
R = trading regulation loophole factor
T = transaction leverage factor

Good bye and thanks for all the fish

The problem in dealing with any of the issues we face is that someone always stands up and says, with tears in their eyes, "But how am I supposed to feed my children?"

Doesn't matter whether you are standing in front of the last rain forest, or the last Appalachian mountain, or on a bottom trawler in Taiwan, or wherever.

Someone with 4 or 6 or 8 children stands up and cries bitter tears about feeding them.

I'm reminded of the coal industry ad, where the woman holds her hands over her heart, and chokingly explains how all she ever wanted to do was keep energy costs low for families.

I always ask myself, why have all those children if you can't feed them ? I guess that would take all the fun out of life...

Sorry, I'm cynical today. I personally elected not to have children.

I did stop eating all fish except the occasional farmed Tilapia (yeah, they are freighted in...sigh)
I stopped eating red meat, and chicken, but do eat other animal products, such as local organic milk, cheese and eggs.
In summer, I eat only fruits & greens from my own garden, although bulk staples, such as grains, come from the local store.
I'm trying to wean the dog and the cats (all adopted castoffs from local shelters) off processed foods, but (isn't there always a "but" somewhere?) they are aging, and although the dog will eat pretty much anything I put in front of her, the cats "imprint" at an early age on certain things, and it is very hard to change them over without starving them.
Any younger ones I adopt will come in on a new regimen.

My question is : what impact does this have on the world in general ?

I see precious little self-restraint anywhere.

Afterthought : It's such automatic habit, when someone announces a new baby to gush and coo, say "oh, how wonderful !" Perhaps we ought to be saying "oh, I'm *so* sorry..." instead...they were even saying "how wonderful" on CNN about Octomom until public opinion started coming in....
How to lose friends....

Spring Tides, your efforts are commendable but I think you have visions of grandeur. Your efforts, combined with the efforts of everyone on this list, will not make one whit of difference. You are complaining about the nature of things. You might as well be complaining about the weather and pretending you can change it.

- As for pointing to our mental failures with scorn or dismay, we might as well profess disappointment with the mechanics of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. In other words, the degree of disillusionment we feel in response to any particular human behavior is the precise measure of our ignorance of its evolutionary and genetic origins.
- Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene

Ron P.

Your efforts, combined with the efforts of everyone on this list, will not make one whit of difference.

Well, it depends what you mean by "difference", but that's not necessarily true. It's even a bit of an indulgence since it obviates taking responsibility and action. There will be an enormous crash; but the way it plays out, which species are left standing, etc, are still subject to large degrees of freedom, even if we subjectively find all of such outcomes tragic from the point of view of the world we have known. And we should.


We haven't had much trouble, as a species, using our "intelligence" to go after the palatable items - curing disease, increasing longevity, growing more food, keeping warmer, satiating our craving for stimulation.

The balance, on the other side of the coin, is to control population. How come we don't, apparently, have the "intelligence" to do that? Simple tribal nomads had the common sense to do it - yet "civilization" will not.

You know, like eating the meat and leaving the vegetables. Or eating dessert first.

If someone's belief system prevents them from applying birth control methods, I think they ought to eschew antibiotics and modern medicine at the same time. And some religious sects do this.

Unfortunately, most people want the benefits without the cost, and the bill is coming due.

As Buddhism would say, "impermanence".

What I get angry about, though, is it is all very well and good for people to wipe themselves out, but why would we deliberately, willfully and, I think, adolescently, take down the rest of the biosphere at the same time ?

I was going to add "blindly" too, but I think we are perfectly well aware of it, and just choosing to ignore it, for whatever personally justifiable rationalizations people use to do what they know they shouldn't do.

Is it really necessary to reduce the combined sentience of the whole planet down to simple, multicellular life-forms like algae and segmented worms ?

"....but why would we deliberately, willfully and, I think, adolescently, take down the rest of the biosphere at the same time?"

(glances around, raises hand) "Misery loves company?"

My former spouse had this totally annoying habit of hiding chips under his jacket at the supermarket and throwing them onto the checkout belt at the very last minute, as I was running my card to pay.

Something to do with the fact that his mother was 200 pounds overweight. Of course, he would never stop *eating* the chips....

Now, why did that thought cross my mind ? Oh yeah...adolescence...

As far as population goes, perhaps the reason that zero or negative population growth doesn't catch on is because it is not in the interests in the powers that be, the super capitalists, for it to catch on. Growth is absolutely essential for the greed machine. And that machine is going to ensure through advertising and other methods to ensure that the growth treadmill continues as long as possible.

A good theory Tstreet but I don't think much of it. The powers that be don't have the power to go into the bedroom and order birth control... except in China of course.

The powers that be in India, actually tried to control their population a few years back. They ordered sterilizations, passed out birth control information and devices such as condoms. They failed miserably. The people nearly revolted.

The program was dropped of course. So unless the powers that be are dictators with dictatorial power, then they are powerless to dictate birth control.

Ron P.

We haven't had much trouble, as a species, using our "intelligence" to go after the palatable items - curing disease, increasing longevity, growing more food, keeping warmer, satiating our craving for stimulation.

None of these things we used our intelligence for involved changing human nature. Finding a cure for disease, growing more food and all that are things people desperately wanted. People are very easily convinced to do something they desire very deeply to do anyway. But just try to convince the world to do something that goes against their very nature, like stop having sex or even having only one child and you will hit a brick wall even if you have the intelligence of Einstein.

How come we don't, apparently, have the "intelligence" to do that? Simple tribal nomads had the common sense to do it - yet "civilization" will not.

You think simple tribal nomads had the common sense to control their population. Well, no they did not. It was all done for them. Very high infant mortality, mothers died in childbirth, simple diseases took most children before the age of 5 and so on. It is a myth to assume that primitive peoples held their population down. In fact they tried to do the exact opposite.

Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as take resources from others.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73.

The world is already deep, deep into overshoot! All the population control mechanisms you can dream up will not change that. And if you were dictator of the world and ruled that every family could have only one child, the population would still increase for the next quarter of a century because of population momentum.

Ron P.

For your interest, I link to a 1966 paper, the topic of which is "Population Control in Primitive Groups" from the British Journal of Sociology, describing the methods used by four "primitive" peoples, including the Pelly Bay Eskimos, the Rendille herders in Kenya, the Tikopia Pacific Islanders, and the Nambudiri Brahmins of South India (included in the paper, but not considered primitive in the anthropological sense).

It is likely that most of these practices would be deemed abhorrent by "modern" civilization, and some of them are, but, nevertheless, primitive peoples did have ways of controlling their numbers.

We have much cleaner and more palatable methods today.

By the way, it has long been known which herbs have abortifacient properties - whether one believes one should do it or not, it does occur, all over the world.

It is also likely that many of these practices have been stopped by wellmeaning westerners who took away the primitive tribal methods of population control, who never understood the fundamental necessity of the practices, and therefore never thought to replace them with anything.

And yet we evolve and our attitudes about other people change over generations and even within single life times. I grew up with racist parents in a racist community and yet I and all my four siblings are not racist.

For some reason, the opinions and attitudes of the people on this site do not at all fit the perspective of the general population. Many of us, at an earlier age, decided to take a different path and had a view of the world very much different from our parents and most of the people around us.

I cannot explain why some people seem so different than others in these matters but I don't think we can simply chalk it up to genetics or evolution, except to the extent that human beings evolve, in part, because of new information.

Perhaps spring tides and others have visions of grandeur but what is the harm. Maybe they will influence a few others who will convince a few others who will convince several others and so on. Or perhaps not. But so what? What is served by telling others that their viewpoints and actions are futile. Perhaps they are. Are you trying to make their life better?

Feeling strongly about these issues motivates some of us to take actions and to speak out, including trying to influence our congresspersons or our local town council. Some of us have had a certain amount of success by doing this. Not one whit of difference? I guess it depends on what means by "one whit". What does "one whit" equal?

You may be absolutely right. And yet some here and elsewhere will speak out and act, anyway, if for no other reason that they cannot stand by and, at a minimum, feel that they need to bear witness.

Slavery was hopeless, too. And yet it was finally abolished.

As I have said before, your presence here may be completely pointless. And yet you can and spend a lot of time providing your opinions and information. For what purpose? Don't you realize it is all pointless?

It's not our fault really. Evolution killed us.
What if our gestation period was two years, what if we were herbivores, what if we only lived for twenty years no matter what, what if we were just a little less intelligent, what if were were a lot more intelligent?

Like the doubling of Lilly pads in a lake, there was no problem for the first five doublings because there was still plenty of room for everyone. Now we are on the final doubling.

The solution to overpopulation was and is unspeakable. Like an overloaded lifeboat enough must leave, so the boat can float.
We can't address the problem until it is recognized as being a problem. In truth we are incapable of speaking the unspeakable or admitting the inevitable.

The way forward so far has been engineering. Engineered energy and food supplies and engineered efficiencies, all allowing us a little longer to plunder and ravage the planet to a point of no return.

Guys, I watched the video and read a lot of the comments and... and... I feel like crying. In fact I often do cry when I contemplate the future of humankind. And I cry even harder when I contemplate the future of life on earth. We are a plague species and we are killing our host as we devour and destroy life on earth.

The idea that we can "do something" to fix the problem is just silly. "We", that is you and I, can do something but we are not the world's people. We are only a microscopic part of the world's people. All the efforts of concerned citizens combined can be compared to pissing in the river to make the water rise.

Humanity is a plague species that is in the final stages of the overshoot of its niche. We have fouled our nest; we have destroyed the very ecosystem that has allowed us to multiply our numbers so greatly. We are like the reindeer of St. Matthew Island, we are gazing the last of the lichens that were once in such great abundance.

But still some among us still have hope and are crying out the message. An apt comparison would be a few reindeer on St. Matthew Island, a few weeks before the collapse, saying; "don’t eat so fast, the lichens are almost gone."

Ron P.

I watched this video and have also read other articles about the decline of the oceans and I tend to think we're not going to stop the death of the oceans.

Human activity is stripping the world's resources and we're crippling ourselves in the long term. Through the combination of mismanaging resources, pollution and waste and a consumer based global economy.... we're going right over this cliff to ruin.

The writing is on the wall for us.

Don't weep yet -- first check out Desdemona's collection of ocean doom stories.

"Earthlings do not yet know the meaning of suffering." -- Morbo the Annihilator

This is timely because I'm (slowly) reading "The End of the Long Summer," which is that kind of excruciating book that's very well done but it's making you so depressed that you have to keep putting it down to go out and do a little gardening in between reading a few pages ...

Highly recommended.

The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth
by Dianne Dumanoski

The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth Cover

* Synopses & Reviews
* Comment on this title and you could win free books!

ISBN13: 9780307396075
ISBN10: 030739607x

Stark exhibit, depressing -- Edward Burtynsky: Oil

Interesting photos --thanks