rant on/

Four years, ago, the Daily Mail published an article with the scary title “HALF the world’s wild animals have disappeared in 40 years” [all caps in original just to grab your eyeballs]. This came as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. I blogged on this very topic in my review of Vaclav Smil’s book Harvesting the Biosphere, which observed at the end a 50% decrease in wild mammal populations in the last hundred years. The estimated numbers vary according to which animal population and what time frame are under consideration. For instance, in 2003, CNN reported that only 10% of big ocean fish remain compared to 47 years prior. Predictions indicate that the oceans could be without any fish by midcentury. All this is old news, but it’s difficult to tell what we humans are doing about it other than worsening already horrific trends. The latest disappearing act is flying insects, whose number have decreased by 75% in the last 25 years according to this article in The Guardian. The article says, um, scientists are shocked. I don’t know why; these articles and indicators of impending ecological collapse have been appearing regularly for decades. Similar Malthusian prophesies are far older. Remember colony collapse disorder? Are they surprised it’s happening now, as opposed to the end of the 21st century, safely after nearly everyone now alive is long dead? C’mon, pay attention!

Just a couple days ago, the World Meteorological Association issued a press release indicating that greenhouse gases have surged to a new post-ice age record. Says the press release rather dryly, “The abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent.” You don’t say. Even more astoundingly, the popular online news site Engadget had this idiotic headline: “Scientists can’t explain a ‘worrying’ rise in methane levels” (sourcing Professor Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway University of London). Um, what’s to explain? We’ve been burning the shit out of planetary resources, temperatures are rising, and methane formerly sequestered in frozen tundra and below polar sea floors is seeping out. As I said, old news. How far up his or her ass has any reputable scientist’s head got to be to make such an outta-touch pronouncement? My answer to my own question: suffocation. Engadget made up that dude just for the quote, right? Nope.

Not to draw too direct a connection between these two issues (wildlife disappearances and greenhouse gases — hey, I said pay attention!) because, ya know, reckless conjecture and unproven conclusions (the future hasn’t happened yet, duh, it’s the future, forever telescoping away from us), but a changing ecosystem means evolutionary niches that used to support nature’s profundity are no longer doing so reliably. Plus, we just plain ate a large percentage of the animals or drove them to extinction, fully or nearly (for now). As these articles routinely and tenderly suggest, trends are “worrying” for humans. After all, how are we gonna put seafood on our plates when all the fish have been displaced by plastic?

rant off/

  1. Ah, some of my favorite words to read on your site: rant on. In this piece, it is the last bit that always outrages me the most, when reading these articles, that “trends are worrying”. At what point in the destruction of our biosphere does the needle shift from worrying to horrifying? Geeze!

  2. robert says:

    My absolute reason for returning to your blog Brutus–when you deign it necessary, as one with the Earth, to become pissed off.

  3. Brutus says:

    Thanks for your comments. As rants go, this one is fairly mild, so I don’t know that I’m pissed so much as exasperated.

    If I were Pavlov’s dog and responded to your encouragement, I supposed I’d have to rant more and harder. It’s apparently what works. But I don’t especially want to spend my time in a fit of pique, screaming into waterfalls like Tomi Lahren, driving traffic through indignation and clever talk. Besides, I don’t photograph so well.

    The trope about “worrying trends” is also peeve of mine, though it’s obvious why folks would want to moderate their message. Ironically, the hesitation to tell the awful truth ensures that nothing gets done and we deserve what we get.

    • robert says:

      Thanks for your reply. OK, I too am exasperated besides being pissed off. Certainly though, the next logical question might be to me: “So what are you doing about the situation?” Simple answer: as much as I possibly can and doing more every moment of breaths I have left. Without entering the trap of ego, that I left most of years ago (I’ll be 70 in January), I’ve been published in Acres, USA with a favorite article of readers (from personal feedback) being in 2010: “Back Breeding To the Future” that ‘almost’ succinctly clarifies the mission of plant breeders (and suggestions as to HOW to accomplish that mission) in these times of climate breakdown. In January 2017 I should have another article (among others I had previously written) in Acres: “Tis Better To Have Loved and Lost Than Never To Have Loved At All)”…yes my take on Tennyson revised for the World we inhabit today AND what all gardeners, farmers and plant breeders might do to assist this beautiful planet. Plus, a Kindle book: The Melancholy Cafe, a rant-on mystery novel I refer to as Friction, that lays out the dilemma we face due to many factors, but…are you sitting down? The written word as one of the great evils that may have befallen the civilized race and the planet. AND. hidden between the words and finale, the message as to what one solution to our dilemma might be considered…AND done without words. Plus, an Opera: ‘Sphere (The Most Passionate Love Triangle Never Imagined)’ composed, orchestrated and libretto all done by me on real manuscript paper with real pencils and no digital software…composed for the Earth–The Most Beautiful Planet in the Universe–I live a very simple Life…no car, low ecological footprint (will trash the computer ASAP too!), OSSI (Open Source Seed Initiative) plant breeder (check it out for confirmation if you choose) and as much as I can come up with to assist this Earth other than suicide, which wouldn’t help heal the insanity of course. So, even those who are pissed off, exasperated…whatever word one chooses to engage, can still do something more than chatter amongst themselves, which is what the Inbrednet (my term for humans only talking with themselves) invites. Besides, these are only words, are they not? I abhor the word hope, which, for me derails the possibility of ever taking action.

      Enough of ‘me’. I just ordered Morris Berman’s new book: ‘Are We There Yet?’ I recall you once having appreciated his thoughts, but seem to have had a falling out with him? I’d be interested in your reply as it might further explain your philosophical bent. Thanks Brutus, r

      • Brutus says:

        The easy answer to your comment is about Morris Berman. His books are terrific, but on his blog, he has revealed himself to be an intellectual bully and a boorish, fratboy troll. He’s always right about everything (according to him) and lacks the compassion to recognize that his readers deserve some respect as human beings (flaws, frailties, and all). I say this as an avowed misanthrope, of course. Difference is, I don’t mistreat people and rarely go on the attack. His disenfranchisement from the academic mainstream and the dominant historical narrative is a constant whine (was when I stopped reading his blog, anyway) despite his having swum intransigently against the current. Seems to me, if one acts in favor of truth instead of career, the fallout is not cause for so much indignation. I may check out his new book, but I am already familiar with his themes.

        The hard answer to your comment refers to the question “So what are you doing about it?” I judge that the propitious time to act was roughly 45 years ago when the issue of collapse (especially ecological collapse) came into popular view. As a culture or civilization, we spotted our shared dilemma but failed to address it. We moved on to other things, including renewed nuclear angst of the 1980s. So now, at this point in history, I see answers (understandings, really) but no solutions. That window of opportunity has closed, though the effects of our choices have yet to manifest fully. So your question, “whatcha gonna do?” takes on a very different meaning, at least for me.

        Guy McPherson wrote a book (with Carolyn Baker) having the subtitle How to Live with Death in Mind some years back. I never read it, but the phrase makes the issue startlingly clear because it’s not just our individual deaths, which we all know will occur in the fullness of time, but the near-term death of nearly everyone and everything. (McPherson gives us all less than 10 years, though his predictions have been wrong in the past.) It’s an anticipated disruption of historical continuity of truly epic proportion that makes my own striving and suffering seem quite trivial. My response is to bear witness and demonstrate good character in the face of it all. I’d call that simple except that most people can’t or won’t do it. Berman gets props for the first element, bearing witness, but fails on character.

  4. Robert Schick says:

    Thanks for your reply and opinion. Yes, those of us who give a damn are bearing witness and attempting to demonstrate good character in the face of it all. However, though the “propitious” time to act was, in my opinion, long before “roughly 45 years ago”, let us not mince dates with Reality: “Bearing witness and attempting…good character…” won’t save our sorry asses. or the planet that is crying out. Can you not hear its cries Brutus? Your use of grand and inspiring grammar seems merely a smokescreen to avoid doing anything that might make a difference, such as taking personal responsibility. Sorry man. I don’t want my final days to be: “I should have done something, SOMETHING meaningful and courageous for the Earth, which is all of US, not just our insane species”. And to never bow to a sociopathic narcissistic society hellbent on eviscerating all we love and hold precious. Linguistic cop-outs no longer cut it for me. That’s what ‘they’ do.

    btw: You should know that you once defended me many years past on the deteriorating Kulturcritic blog site when the moderator priest didn’t appreciate my thoughts (which were in no way a personal attack on him)…YOU were the only one among his flock (all of whom have apparently departed) who stood up to him, so I thank you dearly for that round of courage. If I recall, shortly thereafter you were, in one of your words (please correct me if my memory is incorrect): “Excommunicated.” That lead me eventually to this blog. Thanks for your work. Your reply struck my most passionate nerve: the defense of The Most Beautiful Planet In the Universe. Carry forth. Best, robert

    • Brutus says:

      As I said, the question on how to respond is hard to answer. The stakes couldn’t be any higher. However, best as I can work out, the inciting activity (let’s just summarize it as release of greenhouse gases, though it’s obviously a lot more) has grown into too big a problem to undo or even diminish without major catastrophic consequences. In effect, the cure is nearly as bad as the sickness. In the final analysis, I’d still opt for the cure because then the patient would be an amputee rather than dying (at least yet), but that’s not up to me. People whose business it is to make those decisions have already opted (repeatedly) to endure the sickness to its bitter end, taking away the ability of individuals like me to triage and adjust. So I’m forced to accept my powerlessness over anything but my own psychological response, and even that’s dissatisfactory. I rather expect to come in for criticism, even from those I normally consider allies, because doing so little appears to handily absolve me of any personal responsibility. I’ll own that. Seems to me inescapable. But you already know I’m not doing nothing. I just can’t steer the culture to a fix. No one can.

      Your mention of my obfuscation through “grand and inspiring grammar” is odd. No one has ever accused my writing of being lyrical, beautiful, or expressive. However, I can at least get the rudiments right, which is a mark of respect for my (one or two) readers. No apology for that.

      I recall having participated in discussions at kulturcritic’s blog, but I don’t specifically recall anymore having defended you. Glad to have been of service. He, too, went round the bend, or more likely, revealed his true self. I gather things got even weirder after your and my departure with a failed crowdfunding attempt to finance a film based on his novel. At that point, the curtain was definitely pulled back, so I’m glad to be gone from there. I’ve also been banned from a site called The Collapse of Industrial Civilization where I used to contribute. Another group of natural allies that eventually turned on each other. Comments are closed at a couple other sites I used to frequent where folks couldn’t manage themselves. This pattern is becoming entirely predictable: folks awaken to the problems we created, then recognized, and still perpetuate, and in their torment over the megadeath to come, accuse each other of failure to act or adopt some doctrinaire ideology. Sometimes it’s true, but accusations lead nowhere and instead drive people apart at precisely the time we all need grace and acceptance. The force of our aggregate behaviors (and in a few individual cases, decisions) will overwhelm us all, and I for one would prefer to soothe rather than accuse — except perhaps for the occasional rant.

      • Robert Schick says:

        Thank you for your kind reply. I do understand ‘where you’re coming from.’ I’d have to say our main difference appears to lie in taking action or not taking action, regardless of personal consequences. I have committed to the former–taking action. I have absolutely no other choice. Earth is the only home I’ll ever have as a human being. Best, r

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